After 2 months of preflight I was sent to Whiting Field at Milton, FL to learn to fly in the SNJ. At that time, it took 20 flights to solo the SNJ and, while I did well with my own instructor, I got "check-itis" on my checkride and almost busted it. Fortunately, I had an understanding check pilot and he let me go. I was now a pilot (or as we would jokingly say, "Six months ago I couldn't even spell "pilot" and now I are one"). We got more training in aerobatics and emergency landings before leaving Whiting. We went to Barrin Field in Foley, AL where we learned formation flying and gunnery and did carrier landing training in preparation for our carrier qualification. We were still flying the SNJ and, by now, had over 150 hours in it and were beginning to feel we were really hot pilots. On April 26, 1956, we flew out to sea and landed our SNJs on board the USS Saipan an old straight decked WWII aircraft carrier. We completed our 6 landings apiece and flew back to Barrin Field knowing we must be the best pilots in the world. I went back to Pensacola for instrument training in the T-28 before completing Basic Flight Training.
I got a couple of weeks leave before reporting to Advanced Training in Corpus Christi and then Kingsville, TX. During this time, Nancy Sue and I became engaged to be married upon my completion of flight training. In Kingsville, I had extensive instrument training in the T-28 and moved into Jet transition and Jet instruments in the T-33. During this time I developed an absessed tooth and was advised, by the dentist, that my 4 upper and 4 lower front teeth would have to be pulled. While he was at it, he also pulled a decayed wisdom tooth. I was then told a tooth extraction only rated being grounded for one day so had to return to flying the next day. Between my tooth extraction and making my new bridgework my flying began to suffer and I came very close to washing out of flight school. In the end, the board considered my
dental problems and voted 3 to 2 to give me another chance. I was given 5 extra flights and
my pick of instructors and was able to complete the course. The final phase of training was
formation, gunnery and tactics in the F9F Panther Jet, which was made famous in the movie
"Bridges of To-ko-ri". We really enjoyed this part of our training because we were now very
close to being full fledged Naval Aviators and were flying operational aircraft. On Dec 14,
1956, I finshed flight training, was designated a US Naval Aviator, got my wings and was
issued orders back to Pensacola as a primary flight instructor at NAS Saufley Field.
US Navy Flight School - 1955-1956