Me and a Great Fighter Pilot

Cecil and me_croppedFew people go through life without any mentors. I’ve been fortunate to have a few whose influence greatly helped me.

Cecil Tune was one of my primary flight instructors in the early days of learning to fly airplanes. As a former Navy pilot, he flew F8s during the Vietnam War off the U.S.S. Hancock. When I decided to write a short story for a contest, I thought he might have a true story that could give me a few ideas for my fictional one, so I called him.

“Cec, I need a good flying story with a storm in it. You got any from your old Vietnam days you could share?”

He chuckled. “Sure do.”

We met for lunch, and I got what became part of the flashback in the story. The part about the Carrier Contolled Approach is true. Cec popped out of the clouds and found himself about 50 feet off the water. When he went to military power, he shot past the carrier and right into a thunderstorm just off the bow of the ship. The same thing happened to Cec’s wingman for that flight, John Allen, though he managed to avoid the storm. (As it turned out, the equipment on the carrier was out of calibration.)

Another true element in the story concerns his wingman. In my story, the fictional character, “Wolf” Pendergrass, later becomes part of the Blue Angels. That was true of John Allen. In the photo that Cec is holding, Cec is kneeling on the right end of the front row. (Click here to get a larger image.) Two men to Cec’s right is John Allen.

In the picture I’m holding, the blue object in the upper left corner says, “When you’re out of F8s, you’re out of fighters.” Cec is flying the bird at the top of the formation. If you buy Out of the Storm and read my short story, “Squall Line,” you’ll discover the emblem on Cec’s shirt is significant. He’s one of the few people who can truly repeat the opening line of the story: “I have worn the Wings of Gold.”

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