The plane, the paperwork and routes were no longer confusing barriers, just enjoyable challenges that made me feel intensely alive. For the most part the captains were bighearted with their knowledge; sharing tricks and tips they‘d learned. None of them had much jet time so we all looked after each other. The line was a mixture of military and civilian and we all got along as family; again, I felt privileged to be a part of this fine group.
Much of our flying was at night; at three in the morning we’d be the only plane in our sector. ATC personnel were very cooperative: “Overseas National would you like a radar vector direct to Tinker?”
“Yes sir, thank you.”
“Roger, Overseas National 9-3-2 you are cleared direct to Tinker Air Force Base’s outer compass locator, fly heading zero-nine-six, maintain flight level three-three-zero.”
While the hours were long, the flying was relaxed and most enjoyable. Sometimes I’d carry along a thermos of hot coffee, which tasted much better at altitude. I loved looking out the windows to observe stars, planets, and constellations against the ink-black sky in a brilliance I’d never experienced before.
“You see those three stars in a row? That’s Orion’s belt, now if you look to the left about four times the width of those stars you see that bright one? That’s Sirius, the brightest star in the universe; anything brighter than that is a planet.”
“Thanks Alex, where’d you learn that?”
“Pan American made us all navigators before they’d let us climb in the right seat.”
“Wow.” The jet quietly whooshed along at four hundred and eighty knots suspended between heaven and earth – it was truly a magical time.