My Dad, Major Bill Hunt, Jr., USAF, always said he flew with God.
One of my favorite memories is the night I picked up my Dad at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island. As a budding young driver, I was so proud Dad asked me to drive out and pick him up that evening. When I drove our family light blue and white station wagon through the gate, the Air Police would see my Dad's officer sticker on the car, snap to, and throw me a salute.
The best part was driving up to the fence at the runway right near the base operations building where Dad told me to meet him. The spot lights illuminated the area with all the romance only an airbase can have. I could see other aircraft parked further out on the ramp. Quietly, I waited in the night lights, sitting in the car waiting for Dad to land and talking to God in the quiet. I enjoyed sitting by myself just watching the beauty around me. I've always been fond of aircraft and airports; I was raised noticing them from age one!
Finally, I saw a T-33 land on the runway further out with screaming engine and red and green wing lights and nose wheel headlights on. In just a few minutes the T-33 jet version of the star fighter nosed right in front of the fence where I parked. The canopy opened up and out climbed my Dad down the short step ladder an attendant brought. Dad took off his white jet helmet with bug-eyed black visor and placed it under his left arm. He was dressed in a gray jet flight suit with pressure hoses looking like a space man. He walked my way passing through a gate in the tall, chain link fence. Dad got in the car and drove us home, talking about his flight.
He was a career pilot who told me about the group crash of three or four AT-6's who hit a farmer's barbed wire fence on landing when he was a young pilot in training. He told me of his war years as a flight instructor for B-17 and B-29 pilots out west. He told me of his favorite flying for many years, the C-47 "Gooney Bird,” all over the Pacific. But flying the T-33 jet proved a whole new adventure.
God and Dad once flew an incredible emergency in that jet. He took off from Andrews AFB and climbed high into the sky over suburban Washington D.C. Suddenly, his jet engine flamed out. He tried igniting it to no avail. He began doing spins and cartwheels in an attempt to shake loose gas vapors or whatever was hindering his engine's fuel flow.
"I was all over that sky!" said Dad later, “And I was praying.”
The real problem, he planned a cross-country flight, so he carried his extra big wing tip fuel tanks on the T-33, fueled to the brim. A jet should not land with such a load, because the tip tanks can touch the runway on landing, spark, and explode.
Proper procedure was to drop the bomb-like tip tanks or to bail out, letting the craft crash. But Dad flew over the heavily populated Washington DC area, house upon house. His crashing jet could take out a mile of homes or his tip tanks could fire-explode a neighborhood, and people would be killed. My Dad decided to do the impossible. But that's just what God specializes in!
"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" he called.
"I'm in flame out with cross-country, fuel-loaded tip tanks and I'm coming in."
He told the flight ground controller his situation. The airbase flight controllers hit the siren buttons summoning the crash crews and fire trucks. Somehow, they never got the message.
In just minutes, Dad eased the rapid falling jet out of the sky and gently down to the runway. No engine. He took the one chance to land: “very, very gently.”
As he landed, he glanced at his potentially, exploding tip tanks. They were live bombs. So heavy, they bounced along only about an inch or two from the concrete as he hugged the runway with his jet. He took a long roll landing with no reverse engine to break the speed. He jammed the foot pedal brakes to the floor just as he ran out of pavement, turning the jet slightly to the right.
The control tower radioed him to jump out. Dad blew the canopy off the jet, climbed out, jumped, and ran. At any moment, the slightest remaining heat or spark could blow the tip tanks. Dad accomplished the impossible and brought the jet fighter home safely.
I just asked my Dad on the phone--who is now ailing in a Veterans Home in Phoenix--if he remembers flying the T-33.
"Yes, of course." he said.
"I love you, Dad."
"Here's right back to you," replied Dad. "Bless you."
"Old soldiers never die; they just fade away," my Dad always said.
I know that includes old pilots, as well.
As for the blessing, the greatest thing my Dad ever taught me was to worship God. As a pilot, he was real close to God.
And now, he's getting ready for the most glorious flight of all.
Thanks so much Bill, for sharing this about your Dad. It takes on special meaning now that your Dad took his final flight on Christmas Day.
Be assured of our prayers for you and your family during this time of separation.
Keep writing as your thoughts are very encouraging!
Love in Christ,
Travis and La Moyne
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