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What’s It Like to Be a Pilot of a Refueling Tanker?

Review of Charles E. Bailey’s Book:

If You Fly…Don’t Crash!

(Confessions of a White-knuckle Pilot)

For those who look up at the sky at an overhead plane and wonder what it would be like to be in the pilot’s seat, or see a fighter jet on television and wonder how it feels to be in charge of so much sky power, Charles E. Bailey’s  If You Fly…Don’t Crash! (Confessions of a White-knuckle Pilot) is just what you need to answer your questions.

A retired Air Force command pilot, Bailey served tours of duty in Vietnam, Desert Shield, Desert Storm and during the Cold War.  He is the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal.

Chuck Bailey had no second thoughts about a career as a pilot.  When he was little and asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he already knew:  a be-goggled pilot of a sleek aircraft.  And that’s exactly what he became (with the exception of a definite upgrade in the “goggle” department).  He is a case study in determination.  During Officer Training School the eight-minute mile nearly grounded the wannabe pilot.  But he persevered in spite of an injured knee and happily greeted the sun on his graduation day as a newly commissioned second lieutenant.

If You Fly…Don’t Crash! is the ultimate story of the career of one man who loved the sky and the planes that took him there. His story is rich in detailed descriptions of not only multiple aircraft, but the training programs and the bases that were his home away from home.  He makes mention of some of the more well-known heroes who flew some of them and some celebrities he met, including Shirley Temple Black and Voyager crew Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager.

Although piloting a robust piece of weaponry is serious business and not for anyone but the highly skilled, Bailey is self-effacing and laid back, peppering his piloting experiences with a delightful sense of humor.  His year of flight training included studies (“yawn”), physical conditioning (“beer drinking, etc.”) and the ultimate scary and fun part:  the actual flying.   He moved on to fast times in the T-38 Talon, a two-seater jet, during the 3576th Pilot Training Squadron, to the multi-engine KC – 135 A Stratotanker during Combat Crew Training School;  the same school where he learned General Curtis E. Le May’s vision for the Strategic Air Command (SAC).   The KC – 135 was the Air Force’s first jet powered refueling tanker.  Bailey became part of the “Young Tigers” during the Vietnam War, the hardworking crew who provided fuel to strike aircraft, and frequently leaving their own orbit paths to fly to where other pilots needed them, regardless of the dangers to themselves.

It quickly becomes clear that Bailey became an expert on every aircraft he flew, as anyone who loves what he is doing becomes.  He respected and appreciated every nuance and quirk of the plane he controlled, and I suspect, felt both relief and sadness upon landing at the end of a mission.

But Bailey’s challenges have not stopped just because he’s on the ground instead of above the clouds.

Bailey, forever having successfully faced the risks of the sky, is now living with a new challenge:  Parkinson’s disease.

But you can’t keep a good man – or a good pilot down.  Bailey plans on regaining his flying status as soon as possible.

Next time you peer up at the sky and wonder…what would it be like?…how would it feel? Pick up If You Fly…don’t Crash! (Confessions of a White-knuckle Pilot) and you will find out.

Thank you for your service, Charles E. “Chuck” Bailey.  I am glad you landed back home safely.   I hope your hands are on the pilot controls again very soon.

All the best to you.


To order If You Fly…don’t Crash! (Confessions of a White-knuckle Pilot), click on Amazon.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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