I want to remind everyone of the need to recruit new members for ANA and Gramps. The support of our members and guests by attending our luncheons is a large part of our revenue stream and the comradery that is a major part of Gramps. We also appreciate everyone’s participation in the 50/50 and the donations that we receive on a pretty regular basis. Thanks to all, but don’t forget to bring your friends and relatives to the meetings.
Also, don’t forget that we need more folks to step up and volunteer for staff positions. It is particularly difficult during tax season when I am pretty much overwhelmed. By the way, there are more phone and email scams out there this year. Just know that the IRS will never call you and threaten to sue you and demand payment, now! These are scams, do not get fooled.
Having made my business points I want to tell you how much I appreciate our members. Recently I have had the opportunity to get to know Walt Smith. Never did I know that he was a test pilot for many years. And great stories he can tell! That being said, I was also reminded of an earlier period in Gramps’ history when we had many more speakers from our membership. One such speaker was LtCol Don Tooker, USMC, who wrote a couple of books including, “The Second Luckiest Pilot: Adventures in Military Aviation” (Naval Institute Press).
Recently I received my copy of “Fly-By” the newsletter published by Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. At page 6 of the Winter 2015 issue, there is a small article about Cliff Judkins, a retired Marine aviator who was the subject of one of Don’s stories in his book. Cliff recently spoke at a recent Museum function. Years ago Cliff showed up at the end of Don’s presentation to Gramp’s to emphasize the fact that he is still alive. Here is an excerpt from a review of Don’s book to close my column: “Flying, particularly military flying, is a dangerous profession in which Lady Luck teaches over and over that unpredictable factors can kill the best and the worst pilots with terrible impartiality,” said Tooker. But as his book’s title indicates, Tooker wasn’t the luckiest pilot in the world with his one-in-a-million rescue in the Pacific. Even luckier was his squadron mate, 1st Lt. Cliff Judkins, who also experienced a flameout while refueling at almost the exact same spot as Tooker’s incident. Only in Judkins’ case, his ejection seat didn’t work and he had to bail out. Then his parachute failed. And, with only his tiny pilot chute, which is designed to help open the main chute, he fell 15,000 feet, hitting the ocean at what was estimated to be at least 115 mph.
Judkins, according to Tooker, fell farther without an unopened parachute than anyone in aviation history–and lived to tell the tale. The fillings in his teeth were knocked out upon impact and had his spleen not been removed years earlier, it would almost certainly have ruptured and he’d have bled to death internally.
Good story. Good memories of a great member of Gramps. Thank you all.