Creature from the Blog Lagoon 24: Viking Valhalla

(Note: This isn’t about photography.)

It’s hard to explain how a lifetime’s worth of experiences can be lived in four short years.

As a young lad of 22, I decided that making bad debt collection calls for a bank wasn’t fun.

“Hello, Mr. Smith, can you make a partial payment this week and one next week on your solar heating loan?”

Every day my morning and evening commutes would take me past one of the runways at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Orange County, California. Five days a week I saw high-performance aircraft take off and land.

“Hello, Mr. Smith, you promised to send us a payment and we haven’t received it.”

Every year I’d go to the airshow at the base and watch military and civilian pilots fly aerobatics.

“Hello Mr. Smith, you’re two months behind on your payment. Can you please send at least one payment?”

I had to escape. My best option was the Navy.

Fast forward to January 5, 1985. Seventeen months earlier I’d been sitting in an office chair. Now, after extensive and sometimes physically and mentally challenging training, I was sitting in one of the two rear ejection seats (four in total) in an S-3A Viking, waiting for my first aircraft carrier catapult launch from USS Carl Vinson.

Why am I blathering on about this?

Today was the end of an era. The last of the Navy’s Vikings was retired in 2015, but NASA still operated some they got from the Navy. They started with four and gradually whittled that number down to one, and today was its last flight ever. I was there for its final landing at an airport near San Diego before being turned over to a museum for display.

So many experiences. So many places visited. So many great people. So much gratitude.

It’s hard to explain.

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