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The Time I Nearly Died In Pilot Training

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2023 3:03 am

The Time I Nearly Died In Pilot Training

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 3, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, on the morning of September 11, 2001, Peter Braxton was the first military pilot in the air over the burning Twin Towers. It was his first day on the job. Here’s one harrowing story from Peter's Air Force pilot training.

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Visit for terms. And we continue with our American Stories. Up next, a story by Peter Braxton about his Air Force training, his Air Force pilot training. On the morning of September 11, 2001, that would come into play because he was the first military pilot in the air over the burning Twin Towers. Here's Peter with his story about his pilot training at the Air Force. So again, pre-war, I'm in pilot training.

I wanted to be a doctor. I'm like flying around and they, what they do is they make you solo. You have to like fly this thing alone, you know, fairly quickly within like 10 hours of flying. And you know, some of it's confidence and some of it's, can you do it? Well, I remember at that point I was like, well, I guess I'm not going to fly a fighter because there's no base near where I grew up and I'll just, I'll go fly like a C-17 or KC-10. This might be one of the last times I ever fly alone. So I'm like, you know, I don't want to make it, I'm going to make it worth my while.

So there's a, there's a problem with me is I'm more of a Cadillac guy than a Ferrari guy, right? So I like things a little loose where I can move and not restrict blood flow and all this other stuff. And you know, and yeah, you got like G suits and you're pulling G's and there's G's training.

It was so funny. I never used to, this is embarrassing. I used to, you know, you have the helmet on and I would wear the chin strap like it was a hockey, like it was just dangling. Like it doesn't even need to be there, but it's got to be connected because that's part of the rules, right? Like if it's not connected, you're breaking safety law.

So I would connect everything, but I wouldn't tighten it, tighten it, tighten it down to myself. And so I'm flying alone. I'm like, all right, here's your chance. Do all the, get it out of your system. Do it, do it all. So I start whipping this jet into full speed, entering all of these maneuvers. And then I get this bright idea that I'm going to try to fly like top gun, like upside down for a sustained period of time.

And I forgot one thing. I didn't like strap in tight. So like I flipped the plane upside down, gravity took over and I like fell out of that seat. And I remember I was like laying on the cockpit, on the glass, upside down, can't reach the controls. And the oxygen hose isn't built for this. So it's like yank in my head to the side. It's still connected. I was like, I'm an idiot.

I'm like, I'm not immortal. This is how it ends. I can't reach the ejection handles. I can't reach the stick or the throttles. And just like it, like you see the altimeter just, it starts going down. And I'm at, I think I was at seven, I hit the block 14 to 17,000 feet. And I mean, I'm going straight down and the jet is accelerating. And the vertical loss of you must've been 10,000 feet a minute.

I probably had a minute and 18 seconds left to live. And it's funny, these, the base I was at was, it was a student pilot training base. It was also a student air traffic control base. It was a zoo.

It was a bunch of little kids. And so the kind way to ask a pilot, like, what are you doing? Is they say your, say intentions.

That's the way they do it. Say intentions. That means, what are you doing? I see you. I see you. I see you. That means what are you doing?

I see on my screen that you're not, you're going to, right. It's like one of those things where your life flashes in front of your eyes and a millisecond. And I remember my grandmother, like, I don't know, feeding me or pushing me out of swing and my brain instantaneously took over and said, I'm going to fix this. We need to survive. It was like, we need to live. We can live.

We can do it. And I did this like neck push-up and I kind of like slid my leg on the stick. And instead of going straight down, I kind of sliced down through the air and the gravity kind of like helped me shimmy back in the seat. And I'm approaching like the speed limits of the airframe. And I remember, I mean, throttles idle, speed breaks out.

There's no speed limit on that. And pulling what's called to the buffet, right. Max performing the plane, they're trying to pull out of this dive that I've never been in and never been in since. And I'm like, I mean, it was, I mean, the whole thing is shaking, like in the right stuff, like the, right. The whole thing is shaking and I'm pulling out and still flying.

And I pulled back into the area and I remember responding to the control. I was like, you know, tiger two, two requests, river recovery, which is like, I want to go home. I want to go home. No more. I've had enough.

That was enough fun. And here's the issue. The issue is these planes are so old. I mean, I think Chuck Yeager, I mean, these are like 1950s era training jets.

They have a T6 now. And you have to fly the plane straight and level for one minute holding this like fast slave button to get like the INS and the, and the compass to snap into place after you're doing all these, because it kind of tumbles. And so you're like, I want to go home. And I request the recovery and I hit the button and I hit it for like, I don't know, 45 seconds, not a minute, but it looked like it snapped into place. It like, it kind of tumbles. And then it goes like this and it goes and snaps.

And I saw that happen. So I was like, all right, let go. And the controller, who was probably also a student, you know, it was like, you know, turn right zero, three, zero. And I'm like, you know, I'm, I'm going zero, three, zero. Like, what do you mean? Are you talking to me?

Tiger three, zero, three, zero. That's all you say. And they say, turn again right now, zero, six, zero. You know, so you do that.

And then they're like, say intentions. The compass never fully snapped back in. And oh, by the way, I was looking at the window. I didn't, I didn't recognize any of the stuff on the ground.

I was like flying into Mexico. I was going the wrong direction. Well, here's the problem. Well, if you don't know that you have something called no gyro, you know, I don't have any, I need, I need like you to tell me when to start my turn and stop my turn. So we're trained to do this like in an emergency. So I'm like, look, I mean, I have no gyro. I need no gyro vectors back to, and they're telling me. And then it's, it's coming to me that my compass isn't, so I re-slave the compass, straight and level, hold the finger down. And it snaps back into place. And now all, everything's making sense.

Well, here's the problem. I'm so far away that I'm running out of gas. And in the T37, we have these, these light, we call them the disco lights. There's a red light and a yellow light. When you're getting low on fuel, they start to like dance.

They'll flash on and off, like in an ambulance or something. And so I'm coming back, coming back, coming back, and I'm like, oh my gosh, I'm running out of fuel. I need direct to initial.

I need a vector direct to initial, which is where you fly in, fly with field and land. And I had obviously already said, I need, I had no, I know gyro. So they knew something was wrong and I'm running out of gas. And I'm like, you know what? Better strap in. You better put the seatbelts back on. Because if you have to eject, you know, your body's going to be torn to shreds.

You want to go out as one piece, not like a bunch of different pieces. So I really, I mean, I buckled everything up and I landed, wanted to do a full stop, pulled into parking. And one of my engines started flaming out like just automatically shutting down when I was on the ground. I think fuel starvation, I guess, or fuel cavitation, I don't know, but I was out of gas.

I was literally, I was out of gas. So I come in and it's funny, the flight commander has like a little radio and he listens, especially to the students that are solo. And he's like, what was going on up there? And we have a saying, and it's, I will tell my kids this mess up, fess up, mess up, mess up, mess up, fess up. You mess up, you fess up. So I told him, this is what happened. And remember, this is back in the day.

I mean, these guys are like gruffy fighter pilots that are training kids. He had like a, like dipped in his mouth and he takes it out and he puts it in his cup and it's disgusting, right? So disgusting. I think it's a disgusting habit. People will do it. Enjoy your nicotine. I don't really care. And he's like, you ain't going to do that again, are you?

Never, ever, ever again. And a terrific job on the production, editing and storytelling by our own Greg Hengler. And a special thanks to Peter Braxton for sharing his story with us. He also shared us the story of being the first pilot over the Twin Towers and that he was the last to find out what happened there. And it was a lesson in just doing your job and doing what's ahead of you. And we heard a lot about that pilot training in this particular story. And I love that line, you mess up, you fess up. If only we all lived by that credo, how much simpler our lives would be and better. And the story of how the training, well, it has to sort of get kicked into you sometimes through a crisis. But pretty soon the protocols and the training, well, they turn you into a professional.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-03 04:44:35 / 2023-11-03 04:50:30 / 6

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