Captain, USN (Ret.)
I am still forward deployed to the CZ (another week on this tours of almost 4) so I am coming to this party a little late. But I am just as shocked and dismayed as any who have come before me.
The internet being instantaneous for all practical purposes that including here in the CZ, but my bandwidth being very slow much more like the old 9600 baud days. Strangely, I did see a note about this pretty early on and I did recognize “Whispers” posting on Lex’s site as that of a message that someone had passed on. The” Missing Man” formation being very familiar to anyone working in the Aero-plane business and especially for one as long as I. But while it registered it did not sink in that it was Lex.
Not until I saw one of the eulogy postings did it hit me. Then I was flooded with them, nearly every place I went had a message of condolence a message of how Lex touched them. I have spent a lot of my down time reading comments on that Whisper post. Shaking my head in disbelief that Lex was and truly gone. Taken from us by too many snakes to wrestle in that wee bit of a cockpit.
Like so many others he was my inspiration for blogging as well. And like so many others he mentored me, answering questions and giving me advice from time to time. Never via a comment, always via personal touch with an email.
It is a wonder he found time to write for his own blog he was so busy helping so many fledgling bloggers. His true legacy in the ether that is the Internet is all the many hundreds of voices he helped shape.
I am proud to say that I am Lex.
In the Aviation business there is always this outcome. I have seen it many times before. Even when you don’t know the man or men in person, you know the circumstance. And always in the back of your mind it the idea that it could happen right here, right now and take you.
As an avionics technician and final checker I was many times the final arbitrator of who went flying and who did not. The simple gesture of the outstretched fist with the thump pointing one way or the other either dispatched the aircraft and all the souls onboard into the heavens or kept them there in person, another jet for them on this event or the next. It always weighed on me the fact that one thing out of place out of the millions on the Jet and the millions on the ship end, and well that is why the “Missing Man” formation is so recognizable to a career aviator. Especially the ground pounding ones, when an aircraft never returns well, that is why it is called “Missing Man”.
Aviation is a cruel mistress, sucking you in with tiny installments of almost indescribable pleasure. For years and years she Woo’s you. You taste disaster only on the edges and soon you are so hooked it is your life she wants in return. If you stay long enough, teasing one more sortie, one more cycle, one more journey to the heavens. And then she wants it all back at once. Payment in full.
We may never know what really happened in the end there at Fallon. I keep going to Lex’s place expecting that post from the other side telling in his poetic way the magic of that last flight. How the 0-dark thirty brief while mundane was necessary, how the cold morning affected A404 and how he coached her out of her chocks and up into the surely bounds of earth.
Up and away into the heavens. For surely he would return if he was every really ours for the keeping.
Rest In Peace Skipper.
BT: Jimmy T sends.