A New Set Of Digits


(Captain Blowdri with his old C-141, photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

Last month while spending about 16 days in Tucson, AZ, I got to spend a day at Davis-Monthan AFB, the home of the military “boneyard” for their retired aircraft.  The bus tour through the acres upon acres of jets, both fighters, bombers, cargo, utility jets, as well as, propeller driven vintage military airplanes, was very interesting and nostalgic for this old USAF pilot!  I wrote about my cool adventure and all the emotions that ran through my brain that day.

Having celebrated a monumental birthday this week, and acquiring a new set digits, “60” big ones, I have been reminiscing about my days with the old “relics” of my past.  As I pondered over my trip to the “boneyard”, pleasant thoughts rushed through my brain when I thought about my time flying the T-37 Tweet and T-38 Talon during my thirteen months of USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams AFB, located just on the southeast side of Phoenix back in 1973-74.  Even more great memories lingered in my brain regarding my days at the helm of the C-141 Starlifter, flying all over the world from 1975-79.

Nevertheless, I was quite disappointed to see that just because these aircraft had gotten older, in essence they have inherited a new set of digits when reflecting their age as well, that their days of usefulness were terminated, and rather unfortunately, placed out to pasture in the “boneyard”.  It appears that we, as a culture, are quick to “put out to pasture” things that have gotten old, or been assigned a new set of digits!

Now that I have taken a medical retirement from United Air Lines, received a new set of digits (60’s), I might be getting a little paranoid that “they” are soon coming to put me out to pasture, like the aircraft that I flew in youth in the USAF!  I mean after all, I have been retired, and my time of usefulness most likely has run out!  With those thoughts running through my head, I think that I need to acquire some disguises for when I do venture out of my house.  Thereby prolonging my sense of security, and prolonging the day in which I am found out and “put out to pasture” with the rest of the old relics!

I am thinking that I need to possibly purchase a Superman costume.  What do you think? After all, I do know how to fly with over 24,000 hours of flight experience!  But I am having trouble leaping tall buildings with a single bound.  Oh by the way, I am afraid to try to stop a speeding bullet!  On the other hand, kryptonite has absolutely no affect on my strength, or lack thereof!

Oh I know, maybe even a Billy Gibbons disguise.  You know Billy Gibbons don’t you?  He is the singer for that little Texas band, ZZ Top!  You know he wears those funky wool hats, sunglasses and a beard down to his navel. “They” would never be able to discover who I really was with that disguise. Maybe yet I could get a Jerry Garcia disguise from Grateful Dead.  Oh man just one problem, Jerry died a quite few years ago……

HMMM, on second thought, not a good idea!

Maybe I could get a Bill Clinton disguise, yes that’s ticket!   Ummm no, maybe that is not such a great idea either, I remember that he didn’t have such great tailors. It seemed like his zippers always seem to fall down!

Oh I got it yeah, yeah, yeah, I could get either a Sara Palin disguise or a George W. Busch costume, after all they both have 24 hour a day security details with them.  With either I could be well protected from being “put out to pasture”.  Well nevertheless, on closer review, probably neither are great ideas!  After further analysis, with one I would need to get a boob job, guess which one!  However, and here is the kicker, with both I would most definitely need to have a frontal lobotomy!!

Is being 60 years old over the hill, or is 60 the new 30? YIIPPEE!!  Viagra anyone??

What am I to do, now that I have acquired a new set of digits? Is it paranoid time or party time, you be the judge??

Maybe I will start wearing my sunglasses at night!



Captain Blowdri’s Cool Adventure!


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

On Tuesday of this week I was able to fulfill a a trip that was 37 years in the making!  For all my flying years, and that dates back to August 1973, I have always wanted to visit the USAF boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.  The “boneyard” is formally known as the 309th AMARG (Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group) located at Davis-Monthan, AFB on the East side of Tuscon.

After making some phone calls to get the tour schedule, we decided to get over to the Pima Air & Space Museum on Tuesday morning for the 10am tour bus departure.  I was very excited about the possibility of seeing some of my old friends, the T-37 and T-38 from my USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training days at Williams AFB, AZ, and my old C-141’s that I flew during my six year USAF tour at Travis AFB, CA.

Two of my brothers, Jim and Jerry, along with Jerry’s son, Scott, decided it would be best to be on the first tour of the day which launched at 10am.  So we arrived at the Pima Air Museum a little after 9am to purchase our tickets and assure ourselves of being on that first tour bus.

As we pulled out from the Museum heading over to the “boneyard” my excitement began to grow.  Our first stop after entering the acres and acres of stored airplanes is called “celebrity row”.  In this area there appears to be one of just about every aircraft that is stored in this facility.  In this area there were C -130’s, S-2’s. S-3’s, F-4’s,F-16’s, F-14’s, A-4’s, A-7’s, EB-66’s, F-111’s, KC-135’s, EC-135’s, B-1’s, just to name a few.  There were helicopters like, the Cobras, Hueys, Sea Furies, etc.

As the bus turned one of the corners I could see row after row of the T-37 Tweet.  That is the first airplane that I flew in Pilot Training.  All those rows of Tweets instantly brought back the memories of 2Lt. Boyd L. Hammack climbing into a USAF aircraft for the very first time.  Back in August of 1973 there were feelings of excitement, exuberance, as well as feeling hugely overwhelmed at the fact that, here I really am a humbly poor boy from Fresno, getting the chance to become a USAF pilot!

Further on our bus tour stood row after row of the T-38 Talons.  This aircraft was the second plane that I flew at Williams AFB, AZ.  Seeing all these plans brought back another emotion, that of being “bullet proof”, as well as a felling of accomplishment.

However, my biggest disappointment was learning during the tour that just recently almost all of the C-141’s that were stored in the “boneyard” have been removed, cut up and destroyed! What a dramatic let down!  Nevertheless, I was informed that there was one C-141 spared and sent over to the Pima Air & Space Museum, the next stop on our tour.

As we walked around the 74 acres of aircraft in the Pima Air & Space Museum, I spotted my old long lost friend, the C-141 pictured above.  When I got closer to this old war horse, I recognized the tail number as one of the airplanes that I personally flew during my five years at Travis AFB.  There was a warm fuzzy feeling the flowed from my head to my toes.  It was like seeing an old high school or college friend that you haven’t seen, for me personally, in 36 years!  It was 1975 all over again!

As I walked up to it and touched the skin of my long lost friend, I had instant flashbacks.  There were the memories of my first trip across the Pacific, my first landing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, my part in the Saigon Evacuation in April of 1975, checking out in the left seat and becoming the aircraft commander, and many, many more pleasant memories.  I could have sat down in the shadow of my long lost friend and mulled over the plethora of “good old days” experiences that I had over those five years flying this airplane!  However, I had to move on, and with great regret I had to say good bye.

Nevertheless, the rush of feelings and memories continued to flow through my brain for hours and hours, long into the night after I left my old friend.

So as you can see, the tour through the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group was cathartic for Captain Blowdri.  This tour comes just a few days after I have received notice that my flying career with United Airlines is now history.  Therefore, this tour generated much more meaning for me now than it would have been a few weeks, months, or years ago!

Once again, I must bid adieu to three old friends and the memories that composed those “good old days”!