Colonel Lloyd Anders
The other man I associate with my wings is Col. Anders. Anders was a staff flight officer at Raldolph AFB when I was going through pilot training in 1969-70, UPT class of 71-03. He was also an instructor pilot in the T-37B primary jet trainer but his rank and AFSC was as staff officer and not primarily as an instructor pilot.
My assigned T-37 instructor pilot, Captain Ryder, was fresh back from Viet Nam and, I believe, really did not want to be in the Tweet (what the T-37 was affectionately called because of its high pitched jet engine whine). He had flown back seat F-4 fighters in Nam and felt this was a real step down from that aircraft. It was, but it’s the job he was given on his return to the real world.
At this point in my training I was struggling. I was not very consistent, and Captain Ryder was having trouble getting me soloed – qualified to make solo flights – in the Tweet. It seemed one day I could fly then the next I would do something stupid and be all over the sky. Captain Ryder didn’t feel comfortable letting me go solo. So, in his frustration, he asked Lt. Col. Anders to fly with me to see if he could get me soloed. If he couldn’t, then it was on to navigation school in California, a fate no member of the flight wanted to happen to them.
When I reported to Lt. Col. Anders, I saw a slightly balding older pilot who looked more like a person my father’s age. I’m guessing he was all of 15 years older than I, making him about 38 or so at the time. Today that seems very young to me. I briefed him for our flight but, by the time I finished, it was going to be too late in the afternoon. I was told to report back the next day.
I found Lt. Col. Anders to be a laid back likeable personality and was an easy conversationalist. Not once during the briefing did he let on that this flight could be one of my last in the Tweet.
The next afternoon I reported to him with the aircraft tail number and gave my briefing for the flight one more time. We collected our parachutes and helmets and took the flight line bus out to our Tweet. For some reason I was not apprehensive about the flight. I believe it was the confidence he conveyed in my ability to complete the mission successfully.
After completing the preflight and taxying out to runway 14R I lowered the canopy, applied full military power and started slowly rolling down the runway. When we were air born I sucked up the gear and flaps and headed west over north San Antonio toward the training areas around Hondo.
The area work went fine, and we were soon headed back to base for some practice landings. We did one touch-and-go landing, then when I turned a right crosswind and leveled off, a light bulb turned on in my mind. Really, it did, just like you see in the cartoons. At that moment, flying the 37 and Steve seemed to come together, and it finally all made sense.
On my next landing Lt. Col. Anders told me to keep the throttles back. He got on the horn and told tower we would be exiting the runway and requested taxi to the RSU where he would get out. A rush of excitement went though me as I realized I was going to get my solo flight.
After dropping off Lt. Col. Anders near the RSU, I taxied to14R, lowered the canopy again and awaited clearance onto the runway and for takeoff. Once airborn I did two touch-and-go landings and a full stop. To me they were perfect. I even greased the last landing. I was so elated on the way back to the parking area, it was difficult to keep my body still in the cockpit. I had managed to overcome that first big hurdle and began to feel like a “real” pilot.
When I arrived at the Operations Center, Lt. Col. Anders congratulated me and watched as my classmates threw me in the horse tank (a custom when you go solo). I was never so happy to be soaking wet and cold. I believe I bought the first round of beer at the O club that evening.
From that day forward my flight training went great and when we graduated in October of 1970 I received, as my first assignment, a Tweet right back to Randolph. At that time, it was considered a pretty good assignment. The war was winding down and most classmates were getting heavies with lots of motors attached and too many crewmembers.
I have nothing but fond memories of these two men who made such a positive impact on my life. Both made a difference in his own way. Thank you Col. Billy Harper and Col. Lloyd Anders; I will never forget how you changed my life’s journey for the better.
PS – The last time I saw Col. Anders was when we were both stationed in Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base (commonly called NKP or Naked Fanny) in northeast Thailand in1975. At the time I was the senior director of a weapons control radar crew, and Anders was Deputy Commander for Operations, 56th Special Operations Wing. Using Google I searched for “Col. Anders and NKP, and found this site which contained his full name. http://www.kohtang.com/growth.htm . Once, knowing his full name it didn’t take long to locate him in an Antonio.
The Tweet is now retired from the USAF inventory and replaced with a single engine turboprop. Here is a nice retirement video on the Tweet’s retirement:
Just this morning my father’s uncle Stu from California sent me this link giving tribute to aviators who have help keep this world free. http://www.youtube.com/v/RU1oB8sGyYM
I hope you have enjoyed this blog. I’ve certainly enjoyed my walk down memory lane remembering that time in my life. It was also time I shared with the world two men who made a difference in my life. I hope that I’ve also been able to pass that tradition on to others.