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I have loved airplanes for as long as I could remember. My father has been a pilot since long before I was born, and my first try at flying a plane (right seat, of course) was at age four.
I have my FAA commercial, multi-engine and instrument certificates, as well as the Canadian equivalents. My father has a Cherokee 180C which he keeps at the Brampton Flying Club, and which I fly at every opportunity.
FAA Database: An online searchable database of all registered pilots, mechanics and such, licensed in the United States.
Oshkosh: In 1998, my father and I flew to Oshkosh, the world's largest annual aircraft convention. My full review (with pictures) is online for your perusal.
Fort Simpson: In 1999, my father and mother flew to Fort Simpson to visit with Alan. You can read their writeup of their 41-day trip, along with many pictures that they took along the way.
Wright Brothers: Lastly, for the historians in the crowd, my good friend Jim Sanders sent me an article which precisely and concisely details the efforts of the Wright Brothers to make their historic first flight. Jim is one of the last true heroes in this world - he was a World War II B-17 bombardier, had a stint inside a German POW camp, flew in Korea and Vietnam, and retired a US Air Force Lt. Colonel. He literally started his flying career in Curtis JN-4 "Jenny" biplanes, and finishing in B-52 Stratofortresses.
On August 11, 2005, my very good friend Jim Sanders died.
I don't know what to say. This was such a great man, and I was proud to call him a friend. The world is losing people like this, and I fear they are not being replaced with many of his caliber.
I first "met" Jim online through his BBS - I operated the same software, and we "met" on the network between them, a small foreshadow of the Internet. I can't even remember when this was, but I would make a guess at around 1986 or so. I actually did get to meet him in person a number of years later, probably around 1992. I took my flight instruction (commercial, multi-engine, instrument) in Georgia around that time, and regaled Jim with the stories and experiences I was having; he in turn told me of similar stories of his military training. A nearby aviation museum at the Warner Robins AFB had a B-52 sitting out, open, in a field, and I climbed all through it, taking pictures that I emailed to him, and describing what I saw. He wrote back to me describing in detail what it was that I was looking at, and then telling me stories about an experience he had had involving that portion of the aircraft. It was fascinating. What he thought was mundane knowledge from an average life, I soaked up like the most fascinating thing I had ever heard. He sent me part of his autobiography, detailing his military life in WWII, along with the stories of many others like him. I still have this today. He inspired a love of knowledge of that time in history in me which I still have now.
In 1998 when my father and I attended the annual aviation expo in Oshkosh, I sent the pictures I took to Jim, including one I had of me with Bob Hoover - which I was thrilled and honored to have. Jim replied with several pictures of him clowning around with Bob, along with some stories they shared together. I suppose I should not have been surprised. It seemed every time I mentioned something to Jim - current events, historical, whatever - he (of course) had an opinion, and would then back it up with direct experience, a story to tell about how things REALLY got to the way they were today. Amazing.
Five years ago when my son was born, I named him Alexander. Jim announced to me that Alex was "Sandy" - his namesake, and proceeded to send extremely generous gifts on his birthday every year since.
On his 80th birthday he invited me to come visit yet again, alas I was in England at the time and was unable to attend. He sent me many pictures of his family and friends, of which he was so proud.
Jim spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get me to emigrate from Canada to the US, telling me in no uncertain terms that his beloved country needed people like me. He was thrilled to hear that I was finally doing so this year, and when I ran afoul of the foul US immigration system, he encouraged me to no end. In fact, in the very last email that I have from him, he told me that I was not to worry; his son would be more than happy to "adopt" me to ensure that I became a US citizen. :) I have every intention of becoming a US citizen, I only wish Jim would be here to see it - I know he'd be proud of me, and that would have meant a lot.
Jim was a strong, opinionated man. His unwavering love of politics (or hatred of democrats, at least!) was spectacular. He introduced me to Thomas Sowell, a republican professor and syndicated columnist who wrote things that I know Jim would have voiced were he in the same position. He was loyal, and had unlimited love for those lucky enough to be within his circle of family and friends. I have never known someone as generous and selflessly giving as he was.
It is my great hope that should I live to be his age, that I am as lucid, clear-headed, and filled with the thirst for learning and knowledge that he had his entire life.
Jim was one of the most loyal, steadfast and kind people I have ever known.
Former Air Force Colonel James Sanders, 83, dies
James Clay Sanders' life was defined on some level, by war.
He saw death up close on many occasions and poked it in the eye.
As a career serviceman he was involved in three American wars, four if you count the cold one of the 1950s and '60s.
Mr. Sanders, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and West Knoxville resident, died Aug. 11. He was 83.
He was described by his son, Terry, as a "no-nonsense kind of person."
"Some liked him, and others didn't," Sanders said. "There was no in-between."
But Terry Sanders said he always looked up to his father.
"He was my best friend," he said.
Mr. Sanders grew up hard, his son said, a product of the Great Depression and a splintered family. His father died when Mr. Sanders was 10 years old, and he spent much of his childhood being shuffled among relatives' homes.
The result, Terry Sanders said, was that his father developed a strong self-sufficiency and a resourcefulness that would serve him well when the bullets were flying or when his fate was in the hands of his enemy.
Sanders said his father entered the Army Air Corps in 1943 and was overseas by the spring of 1944.
On D-Day, he was flying a mission over Germany. He landed in the Soviet Union, rearmed and flew back to Italy.
Forty-two days later, the B-17 on which he was the bombardier was shot down during a mission to hit an airdrome near Memmingen, Germany.
Because of bad weather, the bombers got separated from each other and were deprived of fighter support. Mr. Sanders' plane was one that opted to press on to the primary target, irrespective of whether it had fighter cover, according to a written account of the mission that Mr. Sanders left with his son.
The bombers destroyed their objective, though they suffered heavy losses. Mr. Sanders told of seeing many bombers spiraling toward the ground with their tail guns still blazing at the German fighters.
Mr. Sanders bailed out of his plane as it hurtled toward the earth and saw others jumping from their planes with their parachutes on fire.
A hard landing virtually crushed Mr. Sanders' right leg. A circuitous route and a modicum of medical care brought him to Stalag Luft III, a prisoner of war camp near Sagan, Germany.
As the Russians closed the vise on what was left of the Third Reich, Mr. Sanders was part of a forced march from the POW camp during which he surreptitiously dropped out of line, burrowed into a snow bank and waited for 14 hours as 10,000 prisoners passed by him. Then he made his way - through danger and more captivity - to freedom in France.
After the war he took a job as an ironworker, Terry Sanders said, but he was recalled to the Air Force in 1950 as the Korean War heated up. Mr. Sanders did not go to Korea but helped fill the gap caused by those who did. And he decided to stay in the military.
By 1958 he was trained as a navigator and was on board Strategic Air Command B-52s flying out of Fort Worth.
It was Mr. Sanders' squadron, Terry Sanders said, that was on alert to "hit Cuba with conventional weapons" should the October 1962 missile crisis "have escalated."
Most observers agree that October 1962 was as close as the world has ever come to an exchange of nuclear warheads.
During the 1960s, Mr. Sanders flew more than 100 "dome missions," which were regular 24- or 25-hour flights over the Polar Ice Cap or the Eastern Mediterranean toward the Soviet Union fully armed with nuclear weapons.
By 1965, Mr. Sanders was flying out of Guam on bombing runs into Vietnam.
The next year he ended his service, somewhat resenting, his son said, being told that colonels should have college degrees.
So after retirement, Mr. Sanders enrolled in Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, where he got a bachelor's degree in history and a teaching certificate.
Mr. Sanders taught in Dickson County schools - history and later shop - and then signed on as an instructor at the Nashville training and manufacturing facility for the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain.
Sanders said his father received no small measure of ribbing for being a real, live Col. Sanders who worked for KFC.
Later in life Mr. Sanders got his multi-engine commercial pilot's rating, thought he never used it as a career tool.
There is a degree of pride in the voice of Terry Sanders when he talks about his father.
"He was probably the most self-disciplined person I have ever been around."