A Q&A with HAVOC

03/08/2020

Hello all! I'm back again with another incredibly interesting Q&A, this week with USAF F-16 pilot HAVOC! Enjoy!

1) What made you want to join the Air Force?

Answer: I wasn't sure that I wanted to have a flying career, but I knew that I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy because I made a deal with my dad that he would buy me a Jeep Wrangler if I got accepted to a school with a full ride for tuition. Since USAFA didn't charge tuition and it was located in Colorado where I figured I could do plenty of skiing, I chose to apply there and luckily got in. My dad held up his end of the deal and bought me a really cool 1997 Jeep Wrangler that I was able to drive once I was a 2 degree (junior year). Once I was there I became interested in flying because the entire school is centred around aviation. Although I had a pilot slot when I graduated I wasn't medically qualified, so I spent 6 years as the next best thing, a navigator on the RC-135. While doing that I worked on getting my private pilot license in my spare time. Once I was able to get my medical sorted, I applied to pilot training with the intent to return to flying the RC-135, but the first day I arrived at Vance AFB in Oklahoma for pilot training a four ship of T-38s flew overhead which was an awesome which was an awesome sight. When they had cleared from view my wife said to me "you've got to do that" and she was right. I changed my desire to fighters and was assigned the F-16 after a year of learning to fly.

2) What is your favourite moment/experience you've had flying?

Answer: My favourite moment flying came this past September, when I led the flyover for the grand opening of the Mark Tyler Voss Middle School in Boerne, Texas. Tyler was my roommate and best friend at USAFA and unfortunately passed away in 2013 when his KC-135 flying under the callsign SHELL77 broke up mid-air over Kyrgyzstan. Because of the government sequester he never received a proper memorial flyover from the Air Force at the time of his death. I remained close with his family and speaking to his dad we realized that an opportunity to right that wrong was to execute a flyover for the opening of the school that was named after him in his hometown. With the help of some of my mentors in the Redeyes of the Colorado Air National Guard, I was able to navigate the red tape the Air Force puts up concerning flyovers and get approval for likely the only 4 ship of Vipers to ever fly over a middle school grand opening. The day of the flyover, we only had 3 jets due to maintenance problems, but one of my instructors from the Gunfighters of the Texas Air National Guard was able to re-join making a four ship of Colorado and Texas F-16s. To be able to honour my best friend and provide his family some closure while flying the mighty block-30 F-16 with some of the greatest fighter pilots in the USAF and my closest bros was a feeling I will never forget. I think this picture tells the story pretty well; that's Tyler's mom waving to us. If you look closely, you can see -4 is a different configuration; we were configured for BFM and they were in an air to ground configuration.

3) What is your worst moment/experience you've had flying?

Answer: My worst moment flying came during the formation phase of T-6 flying in pilot training. Up until that point I had been doing pretty well and got a little complacent. I showed up to a flight unprepared as far as general knowledge goes, and the brief went absolutely terrible. Somehow, the instructor agreed to let me still fly, but the flight went even worse. I couldn't stay in position to save my life, and my performance degraded as the flight went on and I got more frustrated and the berating from the rear cockpit increased. Finally, when I was attempting to land the instructor had to take the aircraft and execute a go around as I was likely going to have a pretty hard landing. The entire time he flew around the pattern, knowing that I was hoping to one day fly fighters, he shouted something along the lines of "you'll never fly a fighter, but even when you're flying heavies and don't need to know how to fly formation you still need to know how to land the airplane" just with many more expletives. That flight refocused me and I haven't shown up to a flight unprepared since, but the sting of hearing that isn't something I'll soon forget.

4) What is your favourite plane and why?

Answer: My favourite plane to fly is the F-16! It's a 9G, fly-by-wire BFM machine that can do every other fighters mission as well! For something that was designed as a day only VFR fighter, it's incredible how it has been adapted over it's years of service. It really is an absolute blast to fly and I'm lucky to get paid to do it!

5) What plane would you like to fly if you never flew the F-16s or RC-135s?

Answer: If I never flew the Viper or the Rivet Joint, I would have liked to fly the A-10. Last summer when I was flying CAS missions in Afghanistan I really learned to appreciate an aircraft that was designed to do exactly that, and all the A-10 pilots I have met have had nothing but great things to say about their aircraft. It might take some time to get used to the slow speed (bird strikes from the rear!) and no radar, but still I'd love to have some time in the Warthog.