A Pilot's OpinionChris Thomas, Air Force Pilot:
I would like to add my two cents about my John Kerry experience. During my career as an Air Force pilot, I spent two years flying a small twin engine prop plane around the Pacific from my base in Okinawa, Japan. On one trip we had to fly Senator Kerry, his congressional aide, and a Navy Captain (Vietnam, A-4 fighter pilot) who was also in Kerry's party to various locations in Vietnam and Cambodia as part of the MIA/POW talks.
When I met him, he was wearing a shirt with a picture of his sailboat on it. I told him I had a 27' sailboat in Okinawa, he remarked "Oh I never sail on anything less than 135 feet."
Thanks, Senator, "I feel even better about the meager salary I get paid for flying you around the Pacific."
When we first flew him into Phnom Penh, he went to the back of the airplane and grabbed the pizza that was put aside for the crew and passed it around to his staff. He was never offered any pizza because they were supposed to have lunch with the Cambodian government when we landed. The pizza was the crew's only meal for that day and he ate it.
Then when we picked him up in Cambodia, he was an hour late getting to the airport. Because fuel was an issue, we could not start the engines and therefore the air conditioning until he arrived. Phnom Penh at that time was over 100 degrees with 95% humidity and we were basically sitting in a greenhouse behind the cockpit windows.
When he finally did arrive, we were wringing out our clothes from the perspiration. He walks out of the air conditioned car, into the airplane and asks us "Could you guys get the air-conditioning running, I'm a little warm?" The other pilot had to physically restrain me from going back there and picking a fight.
Then we took him into Noi Bai airfield in Hanoi. After we picked him up the next day (he stayed the night in Vietnam, we stayed in Bangkok) we taxied out, ran up the engines for take off and noticed that our prop rpm was vibrating all over the place. We taxied off to the side to look at it, but there was a good possibility that there was an engine malfunction and the engine may fail if we took off with it.
Well, Mr. Senator sticks his head up in the cockpit and says "This plane WILL take off, I have a press conference in Bangkok in three hours!" (Maybe this is an indication of how he will run the FAA).
American service members lives be damned, we had our Senatorial orders. We ran the engines again, and did not have the problem, so we took off
and made it back. During the flight, he told everyone how he had taken a Cessna (a small General aviation plane) up with a fighter pilot, and the fighter pilot remarked that Kerry was one of the best pilots he had ever seen. I don't know about other pilots out there, but it's hard to imagine a little, single-engine prop plane pilot being able to show the "right stuff."
After Kerry left the plane, the Navy Captain came up to us, apologized and said basically that "he knows Kerry is a jerk" and that we should be glad we don't have to deal with him every day. It’s your choice folks, elections are in November. Do you want a mega-millionaire ego-maniac it's-all-about-me crew-eating-pizza-ite like Kerry or maybe a Green Party candidate like Ralph Nader? Or, God forbid, maybe even re-elect George Bush, a God fearing Christian bent on protecting us from terrorist attacks on US soil?