My aviation career began in Pensacola, Florida.
A highlight of our Fall travels was a return to Pensacola, Florida, home of Naval Aviation, with Grandson Dylan Klein in mid-October. There were several connecting points that made our visit a sentimental journey.
2011 is the Centennial Year of Naval Aviation. I began my aviation career as a 2d Lt. in the US Marine Corps at NAS Pensacola in 1961, and was present for the festivities around the 50th anniversary. In addition, quite coincidentally, my mother, Martha Grande Viebrock, was born in Pensacola in 1911, the birth year of Naval Aviation.
Dylan and I made this a guy trip: flew to Alanta from Pittsburgh, drove to the Gulf Coast, had lunch on the docks in downtown Pensacola, then spent a great afternoon at the Museum of Naval Aviation, looking at, crawling over the displays there.
We finished our day and spent the night at Pensacola Beach, feasting on crab, listening to the music from two big stages on the beach.
The next morning we got up early to play in the surf, then drove back to the Air Station to meet Harry White, Public Affairs Officer at NAS Pensacola, who took time out of his busy day to give Dylan and me a personal tour of the base. Harry is an avid historian, and has an encyclopedic knowlege of the Gulf Coast and of Pensacola in particular, going back to the Spanish influence beginning in the early 16th Century.
A lot of changes have happened since I left Pensacola, not least the physical damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Ivan leveled most of the big seaplane hangars that used to line the beach, which made the drive along the beach quite disorienting. Also disorienting was the change that has taken place because of combining military missions: there are more Air Force pilots training at Pensacola now than Navy, and the ramp at Saufley Field, where my primary training took place, is now empty. Time marches on…
Too soon, it was time to head north to Atlanta to fly home. Harry White agreed to a Gulf Coast seafood lunch to send us on our way. I know that Dylan had a good time on the tour because of his questions, and he was busy with his camera in the museum, as well as climbing over every static display with a ladder up to it.
However, when asked about his impressions of the the visit he responded like a growing, action oriented 13 year-old boy: “There was a plethora of seafood and the water was the warmest I had been in…”