How Former Thunderbird Pilot Col. Chris Stricklin Developed an Interest in Flying


Today. We have Colonel Chris Strickland with us Karl thank you for coming up and being with us. We really appreciate she hit. Thanks Chris. It's always a great time to be here at a and I appreciate spending time with you. Absolutely we'll tonight. We're recording this that we're reporting on a Friday here tonight. Something very special is happening and you're actually launching your book with us here tonight. I am and it's an honor to do that. With such a passionate crowd about aviation to launch a book about an incident that happened to me a while back and how my family dealt with it and what it means to us today well. It's really an honor for us to to be here with you and to do that. We'll get a little bit into the book and Events Around the book but you know I one of our favorite questions. We like to ask people as just. Where did it all start? How did you I I didn't flying? That's always the question that people in Aviation WanNa know is how did you get your inspiration to take to the skies and what we do every single day from me. Small Town Alabama Emma boy my dad worked in a quarry no military in my family and I decided to fly fifteenth and I went to my counselor and said Hey hey I want to go to the Air Force Academy I WANNA fly fifteens and and she looked at me and I would love to say she was supportive but she goes. What's the Air Force Academy and so from their seventeen year old me I got my car went and found a first term senator and said Hey sir I want to go to the Air Force Academy? We sponsor me up there and I had a saying hanging you know my wall my whole life and it was cut out of a magazine it was laminated. I looked at it every morning every night and it simply said like begins at Mach two and I always had it but I didn't you know where it came from. So as I started speaking writing a book I researched it and came from a magazine Article Net back in nineteen eighty six George Plumpton wrote in popular mechanics magazine and he had the opportunity to fly in an F. Eighteen and he did about a four page spread about how it was demanding on the pilot how what it was really like to be a fighter pilot but most most importantly at the end of the article he compared the F. Eighteen to a corvette and to a young child in Alabama. The corvette was something I really loved and I said that is compared to a corvette. That's what I WANNA do with my life. That's funny. It's funny that came from an Plumpton article man. That guy got to do everything I wonder how it compared to quarterbacking the lions yeah it's amazing to does. He understand how many people he inspired what he wrote about and it was it was a true non fighter pilot article about what it was like to be a fighter pilot and the demands that are on our body and what we go through in in it just made me go. I want that so from there you did you you did attend the the Air Force Academy I did. I went to the Air Force Academy about three weeks after graduation with fifteen hundred closest friends for four years of what I like to call all basic training the whole four years and wh what kind of experience was free kind of coming out of a small town in Colorado Springs was it. Was It kinda familiar to you you or was it a kind of a brief from drinking from a fire hose. It was drinking from a fire hose the whole time and I will tell you it is a lot of competition titian. Get in the Air Force Academy as you can imagine and when you take fifteen hundred young people that are coming as the top of their class and lock them in in one building on one campus. Guess what happens when fifteen hundred number ones get together. Fourteen hundred ninety nine of them aren't number one anymore so it was demanding both physically and mentally but there was also the challenge of being in college and such a High Level College at such a level of competition and it was a great I mean I say the freshman year there from he is one of the hardest years that I ever went through my childhood because there were so much adaptation to the new way of life and and getting through the Air Force Academy and the competition to be a pilot pilot coming out of there it was just it was an amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world but even now after so many years I will admit that I love the Academy Kademi but I hated every day I was there if you know what I mean yeah that that makes a lot of sense the diesel have I know I still have dreams of being in a final exam Zama last sat for you know twenty years ago. Is that the same thing for you so that dream for me. If you remember a final final week we put all our finals in one week and we ate on base because it's a military and so we had a midnight meal that we lovingly called Scooby snacks. If you remember Scooby Doo Scooby always had scooby snacks so at midnight we would go out to get our scooby snacks and and about every night you would hear somebody goes screaming across the patio out there because they had hit that breaking point and somebody he's not getting his scooby snack. Ah Yeah so what was your progression of aircraft flew through training. How did that go so graduation? From the Air Force Academy I I went to pilot training and back then we went to the thirty seven so the tweet now they fly the t six so you do that for about six months I went to Euro NATO joint jet Pilot Training Senate Sheppard Air Force Base which is where we trained fighter pilots so after six months of t thirty seven training you get rank ordered and then you go into the thirty eight where you learned to fly a high speed jet you go supersonic for the first time learn to fly formation those type things and then coming out of the t thirty eight you get rank ordered and we have assignment midnight so you literally walk into a room with all of your instructors and your peers know spouses no friends though anybody they locked the door they walk up on stage and at the time they took a cheat off of a board that had you rank order from first to last and it was right there and start with number one you get up and walk to the board and they have magnets every airplane plane that was available to be picked and you walked up and pick the airplane you wanted. Put it by your name and you can imagine as you went down. The list got smaller and smaller so for me. I I got my first choice. The F fifteen went out of their to introduction to fighter fundamentals which is where we take the t thirty eight put a bomb on a gun side on it and we fight against the other to start getting those basic fighter type skills in and then I went off to the fifteen at Tyndall to the schoolhouse to get qualified in the fifteen then once once you get to your combat unit which was me was the thirty third fighter wing at Eglin Air Force Base. It takes about three months to finish and get certified before you're a combat ready pilot ready to deploy we overseas why so the F fifteen I mean that's a great airplane undefeated champion as we always say What was your first impression? When you get your dream you signed the fifteen? He got on the ramp at some point and you finally see the airplane. You'RE GONNA fly for the first time. What's that feeling like so if we could back it up a little bit because this happened at the Air Force Academy one of the benefits go in the Air Force Academy is we have an assignment one summer for three weeks to go out and shadow a unit and see the real air force? We call it is like for me happened to go to Tyndall Air Force Base so as a senior at the Air Force Academy I was able to get in an F. Fifteen and go fly for the first time before I graduated before I had the assignment before I'd been through pilot training and you can imagine the childhood sparkling is when I walk out and see that beast I it's the size of a tennis court for those that don't know it's about thirteen feet off the ground when you climb up and I'm just sitting there and admiration of this thing and we take off and when we airborne a home i Gosh I hate it. It is brutal it hurts and I landed exhausted. After a forty minute flight a pulling nine Jeez I mean and they didn't take it easy on me. They full up at a normal mission with me and I remember we went back into into the debrief room which has a lot of computers so it's kind of cool and about two minutes. It's in the debrief. I was not enough out of pure exhaustion. I was so tired and my instructor goes a just an incentive right for you. You can go and go if you want to and I left there going. Oh my Gosh Josh is my life's dream and it hurt. My whole body hurts. It's bigger than any workout I ever had and there was that moment of do I really want to do this and that's when I said Yep. This is what I WANNA do so that was my first flight before I went to pilot training.

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