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USAF T-33 jet trainer, likely number R-822. Lt. Starr during pilot training, probably at Webb AFB, Texas, 1953.


“First Impressions”
 By Lt. Col. William Starr, USAF Ret, Dec.
John Starr

April 2, 1952

 Dear Mom and Dad,

 Today I got my first ride in a jet.  I had been beginning to think that I was going to have to leave before getting up, but at last I won out and went up for a hop in a T-33.  It was quite an experience.

I went with a Captain here who runs all the jet test-hops and who I knew to be a good pilot.  To start with we went out to the plane loaded down with parachute, hardhat, oxygen mask, etc.  By the time I had climbed in and strapped on the ‘chute and thoroughly strapped myself into the plane, I began to feel somewhat like a mummy.   Then when I put on the hardhat and mask, a combination which has the characteristics of a football helmet combined with a deep-sea divers helmet, the feeling of mummification was complete.

 I had the feeling that I needed an hour and a team of horses to get me out of the seat.  Actually, though, all I would have had to do in case of trouble would have been pull two levers.    The first would have blown the canopy off, the second would have blown me right out after it.  But to get back to the flight.

 We taxied on out and took off, and although the acceleration during take off was slow, it seemed to me that one moment we were on the runway and the next we were at 5,000 feet.  By that time we had turned 180 degrees and were climbing at a great rate.

 When we reached about 12,000 feet a very strange thing happened; I began all of a sudden to feel as though I were going to be sick.  I can only attribute it to the fact that I hadn’t eaten a good meal since breakfast the day before, and also to the natural excitement.  It was most amazing to me, for as you know I have never before had any trouble along these lines.

 So there I was, trying to figure what to do if I actually urped, since it would have been a bit awkward in an oxygen mask.  Just at that point, the pilot (who knew nothing of my quandary) decided that the time had come to do a few acrobatics.  Well, that should have finished me once and for all, but for some reason it had the opposite effect.  As soon as he started to whoop it up all over the sky with a few loops, rolls, split-S’s and the like, I felt fine and really started enjoying myself.

And I’ll tell you something you may possibly have heard before; these jets are fast.  He pointed the thing straight down once and wheeee!  I didn’t think that we would ever stop short of China. 

All in all, it was quite an experience.  The only thing that I didn’t care for too much was the oxygen mask.  I suppose, though, that can be attributed to not being used to one.  If I were to use them for any length of time, I would get used to it.

 One occurrence that happened several times during the flight was rather interesting, although there is nothing unusual about it, was that we had several snow flurries in the cockpit.  It is caused by slight miss-adjustments of the refrigerator system. I had heard that it sometimes happened, but I was still a bit startled when snow began to appear in the vicinity of my feet and blow up into my face.

 Well, that is about all that has happened of interest since I last wrote so I’ll close.  Just thought that you might like to have my “first impressions”.

 Love,

 Bill