You meet the most interesting people while writing for AC. It was my article on Mary Lewis, former WASP and recent recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, that connected me with another impressive aviator, Sam McGowan.
Sam hasn’t won a Congressional medal for flying. At least not yet. But his love of the activity and service to country make him a prospective candidate, if not, for certain, a talented and skilled aviator, veteran, and now writer.
You can read about Sam’s humble beginnings in Tennessee on his website here. Sam’s interest in flying began as a kid, as B-47s and B-52s flew loud and close at night over his house in the hills.
His interest in aviation was furthered with his dad’s and uncle’s service in WWII with the Eighth Air Force. Sam himself joined the Air Force right out of high school, earning the whole alphabet soup of pilot ratings while in the service. Emerging from service at Dover AFB, Sam earned CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) ratings in Delaware.
With such ties to the East Coast and Delaware in particular for aviation matters, Sam reminded me that WAFS (as differentiated from the WASPs, of which Mary Lewis was one) were based at New Castle (Delaware, of course.) It was at that moment that Sam said he’d gotten into writing, thanks to encouragement from Robert F. Dorr, author of the book, Air Force One. Sam contributed to several of Bob’s books.
It was at that moment also that I, a writer interested in aviation, started communicating with Sam, an aviator interested in writing. How about THAT as an interesting connection?
How about this for an aviator’s inside story from Sam (my italics inserted for your edification):
“I stumbled across an interesting civilian pilot who made his mark with the military. Vincent ‘Squeak’ Burnett (aerial acrobat pilot and B-26 trainer among other important aviation talents) grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, and was an air show pilot before the war. He became a ferry pilot out of New Castle after first running a flight school. Then he caught the attention of Hap Arnold (U.S. Air Force hero and champion of the WASP) because of his experience with the B-26 and was sent overseas as a technical advisor to Jimmy Doolittle’s (combat pilot leading the raid on Tokyo, WWII) Twelfth Air Force. I actually knew Squeak when I was flying out of Lynchburg in the early 80s. He flew copilot with me a couple of times. He was [nearly 80 by then].”
I’d give my right arm to fly right seat with Squeak. I’d give the other to hear more stories from Sam. In lieu of giving up my upper-body limbs, I’ll encourage all you flying aficionados out there to click on the links to these unsung, unheralded aviation aces, servicemen and heroes to read their incredible stories for yourselves.
And then you’ll know how glad I am to have met aviation insider and guy who hangs out with heroes, Sam McGowan, while writing for AC.