National Geographic : 1965 Sep
pulled into the ghostly glow of a cloud bank and the other planes joined us. The forma tion wheeled through the sky in a kind of grand gavotte. My memories of that 8V2-hour flight are chiefly pleasant ones: The surge of sheer joy as we roared down the runway and took to the air; the beauty of the night sky above the clouds, and the soft arrival of daybreak, seen from so marvelous a vantage point; the clouds lying heavy on the ocean, reminding me of Antarctic snow and ice; the unmitigated pleasure of seeing Gibraltar to our right and the olive groves below, and knowing that we had arrived safely; the thrill of the pitch out, the maneuver by which we turned smart ly on our sides and slipped down in formation for the landing at Mor6n. Our plane had no trouble at all, no emer gencies, although two other F-100's dropped out at Bermuda with refueling troubles. But when I read my notes now, I realize that I have forgotten a thousand and one dis comforts, all too real at the time-discom forts that every TAC pilot lives with. "Feel as though the plane is strapped to my back," I wrote. "Throat burns from the oxygen... ear itches, can't get to it... head Frigid frosting on a KC-135 disappears un der a bath of de-icing fluid at Offutt AFB, SAC's headquarters. The maintenance man, one of 250,000 in the Air Force, prepares the 342 plane for a flying command-post mission.