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Friday, November 1, 2013

#BlogFormation: #Aviation History!

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Donate NOW to Typhoon Haiyan disaster relief! Red Cross: http://goo.gl/t9Y2NC
or
Text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10 to Salvation Army. 

Other links: http://goo.gl/afiYUl 
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Folks, read my Airways Magazine article, now on newsstands!







In this issue (December 2013), I have the honor of reviewing fellow airline pilot-author and new good friend, Captain Mark L. Berry's intense memoir, 13,760 Feet—My Personal Hole in the Sky.

Cap'n Mark and I met up recently on his KPHX overnight!




This is Captain Berry's third book. His first two, Pushing Leaves Toward the Sun and Street Justice, are critically acclaimed novels. All three books are available on his website, below.





Here is the opening paragraph of my review:
  Airline pilots.  Consumate professionals who train rigorously to meet every emergency imaginable.  Goal-oriented problems solvers, they learn to think fast, accomplish the checklists, and save the day.  But, for airline pilot and author Mark L. Berry, this personal tragedy came without a manual, without a checklist, and without warning. . .
To read more about 13,760 Feet, see my article in December, 2013
and/or
Visit Mark's website: http://marklberry.com
and/or
Listen to Chapter One read by the author!:
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And now it's time for . . .

Blogging in Formation Week!
Posts all week beginning Monday
This month's Theme: Aviation History!
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Today I am proud to present the lead post in this month’s “Blogging in Formation,” wherein six noted aviation bloggers team up to bring you their personal take on an aviation topic.


But first . . .




In doing a little more research, I found that November is also: National Inspirational Role Models Month (in addition to being Child Safety Protection Month, National Native American Heritage Month, Peanut Butter Lovers Month, and National Sleep Comfort Month, among others.) 


In addition, November includes many special days, such as: King Tut Day, Guy Fawkes Day, Dunce Day, Chaos Never Dies Day (no, really!), Have a Party with Your Bear Day (no, really really!), Sadie Hawkins Day, Absurdity Day and Stay at Home Because You are Well Day (Which, personally, I think should be called, “National Ferris Bueller Day.”)



And now...
BLOGGING IN FORMATION—AVIATION HISTORY
This month, I’m combining our “Aviation History” theme with “Inspirational Role Models,” and will tell you a tale of an amazing persona in our world aviation history.

North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco
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Note: The following is a “Historical narrative.” This is a true story, as close as the facts will allow. But where there are blanks in the data, I speculate on what exactly happened in the cockpit, and what could have been going through our heroine’s head at the moment.*
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Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace,
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
from little things."
—Amelia Earhart


Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor

You have not heard of Philippines Air Force pilot Mary Grace Baloyo.

She did not set foot on the moon. She did not break the sound barrier, design a game-changing jet engine or make the Smithsonian Air & Space museum.

But, as you shall see, she fully deserves our recognition, praise and gratitude.

Indeed, Grace was awarded—posthumously—Philippine's highest military award - The Medal of Valor. She is only one of four recipients, and the only female to receive it.

But, while she received many combat medals, she did not win this one in battle . . .



15th strike wing,Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor
Clark Air Base, Philippines
The day dawned hot, sticky and rainy on March 26, 2001 at Atienza Air Base in Sangley Point, Pampanga, Philippines, home of the PAF 15th Strike Wing. The base was named after war hero Major Danilo Atienza, a PAF pilot who, during a 1989 coup attempt, crashed and was killed on this very base.

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


And it is an honor to follow in his footsteps, thought 27-year-old Captain Grace Baloyo, as she preflighted her OV-10 Bronco close air support aircraft.

Little did she know how literally she would follow in his footsteps.

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor
Grace was not a Captain yet. She was a 1st Lieutenant in the Philippines Air Force. She would be awarded the lofty title of Captain posthumously, after this day, after this flight—the last of her life.

Today’s mission: a proficiency checkride and bombing exercise over Crow Valley gunnery range with her “copilot”, Air Force training Captain Ben Nasayao, and 2 other Broncos in formation, laden with inert bombs.

Removing the protective cover and peering down the intake duct, Lt. Grace inhaled the pungent odor of hydraulic fluid and burnt oil. The sound of military strike engines spooling up around her sent a shock wave of excitement buzzing up her spine.

The distinct combination of senses took her back to her earlier training days and combat missions.

In 1995, she’d joined the Philippine Air Force as an aviation cadet.

How young and naive I was! she thought with a chuckle.



Having aced all the required military courses and rigid training regimens, she later became one of only six female combat-qualified pilots of the PAF.

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


As she watched a U.S. F-18 taxi by her, Grace reflected on her active military life.


She’d seen combat action as an attack and bomber pilot in the many military operations against the Moro Islamic LIberation Front and communist insurgencies in Mindanao, the Visayas and Luzon.



Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


But being the most decorated female pilot in the PAF didn’t go to her head. To be sure, she knew, the 8 Gold & 1 Bronze Crosses, 2 Distinguished Aviation Crosses, and 4 Military Merit Medals for heroism and gallantry in action had been an honor to receive. 


But not even the Golden Eagle Merit Medallion given to me by President Gloria Arroyo herself can beat the pungent smell of hydraulic fluid and burnt oil on a hot, rainy day in the Philippines, she thought.



To Lt. Grace, the sounds, sights, and odors tasted of . . . adventure.

She pushed to the back of her head the added excitement of her pending December marriage to her fiancee, Air Force 1Lt. Ditto Nestor Dinopol.

She completed the aircraft inspection and hopped in.


Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


“EJECT, EJECT, EJECT!”

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor
Despite fighting through turbulence and heavy rain showers all morning, Lt. Grace performed a near-flawless checkride.

“Take us home,” barked Captain Nassayao.
“Yes, sir!” replied Lt. Grace, banking smartly away from the gunnery range, a thin smile on her lips.

Tonight, Nestor, we celebrate.

The anniversary of their dating was only four days away . . .


Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor
OV-10 Bronco Simulated cockpit
Lt. Grace heard a loud thunk! followed by violent shaking. A glance outside: her left engine had disintegrated in a ball of fire. Kicking the autopilot off, she fought the suddenly sluggish stick.

Immediately, Captain and Lieutenant raced through the Emergency Engine-Fire and Shutdown Checklist:

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor
“Power lever—idle!” 

“Idle!” 

“Engine kill switch—off!” 

“Off!” 

“Fire bottle—Discharged!”

“Discharged!”


Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


But the engine still burned.


“Mayday, mayday,” Lt. Grace called over the radio, “Bronco Six-Seven declaring an emergency! Number one engine fire. Request vectors to Clark International Airport.”


“Bronco Six-Seven,” replied the Tower, “turn right heading two-three-zero. Cleared to land Runway Two-Zero. Fire trucks are rolling.”

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor
As much as she dared, Lt. Grace banked the now violently-shaking plane toward the runway. Suddenly, she felt her guts lift.

They were dropping—fast. 

“We’re not going to make the field, Lieutenant!” shouted the Captain over the intercom.

She glanced below. Despite the torrential rain and near-zero visibility, she could see that they were directly over a residential subdivision in the town of Mabalacat, Pampanga province.

“We’ll make it, Captain,” Grace replied. “We—We have to.”


Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


“That’s a negative, Lieutenant . . . EJECT, EJECT, EJECT!” ordered Captain Nasayao.

“But—”

Suddenly behind her, she heard the Captain blast out of the cockpit. The angry sky rushed in, a maddening cacophony of torrential rain and gale force wind.

She reached for the Eject handle, but hesitated. She looked down. The ground was rushing up fast—and with it, homes loaded with people. Hundreds of innocent people.

Biting her lip, she let go of the handle.



Lt. Grace disobeyed the order, the last one ever given to her by a superior officer of the PAF.

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor

She banked hard right, fighting the protesting airplane.

The wild bucking Bronco screamed, cried, fought its lone rider with all its might.

But Lt. Grace remained in the saddle.

She used every muscle, every fiber, every precious moment and skill of her stellar Air Force training and combat experience to force the crippled machine to bend to her will.

Even so, she could not will it back into the air.

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor



She firewalled the good engine, racing against time to escape the population center.

The ground raced up.

Forgive me, Nestor. I won’t be there tonight to celebrate with you. Nor will I make our wedding. I love you. Fare well.



Let go, I've got you now, a new Voice spoke in her head.

This time, Lt. Grace obeyed her Superior Officer.

Suddenly filled with peace, Mary Grace Balayo let go of the burning craft and closed her eyes.

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


In a vacant lot, one block away from the nearest home, the Bronco exploded in flames.

Miraculously, the inert ordnance remained intact.

Lt. Grace alone perished, and in so doing, saved countless lives on the ground.
Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor


As befitting a hero who goes down with the ship, Lt. Grace was posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain.


For her "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty," Captain Grace was also posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor.


Philippine President Gloria Arroyo personally handed the medal to Lt. Baloyo’s parents, Romeo and Annie.



And with that, aviation history was made . . .

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor

For Captain Mary Grace Baloyo became the first woman in Philippines history to received her country’s highest military award for heroism.

This story borrows heavily from the excellent narrative at:

*Please, dear reader, don’t crucify me on the minutiae of accuracy in the Bronco cockpit scenes. I am more interested in giving you a feel for being in the cockpit of a burning airplane moments before crash. Feel free, however, to supply us with facts!


Blogging in Formation Week Continues!
Posts all week by your favorite aviation bloggers!

Philippines Air Force, PAF, cap'n aux, blog, air, aviation, avgeek, airline, adventure, Medal of Honor

Nov. 1: Adventures of Cap’n Aux - Eric Auxier

Nov. 2: iFLYblog - Brent Owens

Nov. 3: Airplanista - Dan Pimentel

Nov. 4: Smart Flight Training - Andrew Hartley

Nov. 5: Flight to Success - Karlene Petitt

Nov. 6: House of Rapp - Ron Rapp



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    "Role Models Month" continues!

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    22 comments:

    1. Love the post. Love the blog. Jealous that I wasn't invited to the KPHX overnight with you and Mark. But next time. :) And by the way...Ferris has always been my role model. :)

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Glad you liked it, Karlene!

        Mark called me last minute about being on an overnight in PHX. You can always do the same--and when I get a SEA, you'll be the 1st to know!

        And yes, Ferris is a fine role model for us, at least in life! Who among us, looking back, will ever say, "I wish I spent more time working!"

        But seriously, I hope you enjoyed our heroine's story, perhaps the ultimate role model of all. I still get teary-eyed reading her story!

        Delete
    2. Hey there Cappy.......Can't wait to get the new edition of "Airways"..........again you make the big.......time.......!!.......Dave, Luc, and I are very excited about your article review...!!.......Like I said before, "Don't forget the 'little people".......LOL.........Wish you could have made it here to New Orleans.....to meet Dave and Luc....we will next time......Jeezus ...your so in demand.........try to fit us in........Ha Ha..!!! ...anyway......again Congrats....WAIT....!!!!!...How will you now, fit your 'Big Head'...of yours..in the flightdeck......you do realize you'll have to pay extra......baggage fee...because of said big head........;))).....Lots of LOVE from the UK(Dave and Luc) Canada(GG flies in today)...and of course your 'BIGGEST'.......fan..Miss T....from Louisiana..Ughhhhhhhhhh..(I can't seem to shake those extra 10 pounds)......Check ya later......!!....Miss T,

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. So glad I missed y'all Miss T. And now GG--goodness, you're quite the popular host!

        Hope you liked the story, Dear!

        Delete
    3. I suppose it's a choice any of us who fly aircraft might one day have to make. Even the airline pilots. Yeah, you've got two engines, but fuel contamination, volcanic ash, sabotage, conversion errors, leaks, and plenty of other things can rob you of both engines at the same time. What will you do? There's no way to know for sure until you're in that "hot seat". God willing, we'll never have to find out!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Yes, Ron, I agree! I suppose it's the Ultimate Command Decision, always lurking in the backs of our minds.

        Of course in a modern airliner, there are no ejection seats or bailouts, so we have no choice. But in your aerobatic plane, assuming you've strapped that chute on, what WILL you do…?

        Call it the "Kobiyashi Maru scenario"...

        Delete
    4. Very deserving of the honor bestowed, as well as being remembered for it during Aviation History (HERstory) Month!

      I'm always amazed and humbled by what human beings are capable of doing in situations like that. I hope I never have to find out what I would do in that kind of situation, and at the same time hope that I would be able to make that kind of sacrifice to save others. Call it the Vulcan in me - the needs of the many outweight the needs of the one.

      Great post, Eric! Thanks!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Yes, I think we all can reflect on being involved in that very moment, when you KNOW you have an escape, but could stay and sacrifice yourself for others...and to think she made her decision in a split second. But, reading her past accomplishments, I think I can confidently say that she'd made that decision a long time ago!

        Thanks for the comment, Andrew!

        Delete
    5. Eric,
      What an amazing story! I love reading about unsung heroes and she tops the charts! Thank you so much for sharing this, I might never have known this amazing story.

      This kind of story is not only inspirational, but it points out how much folks sacrifice to make our world a better place.
      God speed Captain Baloyo

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Thanks, Brent!

        It's uncanny the amount of stories in our rich aviation history!

        Just read your amazing story about the American Spitfire hero who viewed the film of his crash landing 60 years later--incredible!

        Delete
    6. Wow - that is an amazing story - thank you for sharing a story that we normally would not take notice of - but that is incredible!!!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Yes, one of so many incredible stories out there that's part of our rich aviation history!

        Delete
    7. Amazing story Cappy, I don't know where you dig up these gems from but I am grateful. I am a firm believer that at such times of ultimate stress you don't think, you just act and in that act you demonstrate the strength of character within..Capt Baloyo demonstrated her character that day with an ultimate selfless act.

      All the best,

      Dave W - now back in the UK with a sore head and a booking at detox camp! :)

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Thank you, Dave! I have to credit Bunny for telling me of her fellow countrywoman, Capt. Baloyo the heroine! I have to agree with you, character is built over a lifetime, and comes into play at that critical moment in time!

        Sounds like you had an epic visit with Miss TWA. So sorry I missed y'all!

        Delete
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