1954: Making a Marine Pilot Warrior

1954: Making a Marine Pilot Warrior

To quote a pithy Kansas farm maxim: “Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain Dance.” Back in March of 1954, Marine Drill Instructor Dave Ferman could not have picked a worse time to sign up with the Navy Flight Program at Pensacola, Florida. The worn-out, pre-World War II Navy basic training aircraft, the SNJ Texan, was on its last legs and rapidly becoming “unglued.” As a result, Navy maintenance and repair crews could not keep up with the excessive wear and tear. Various parts such as engine nacelles fell off in flight, control cables popped off their roller tracks, metal fatigue took its toll, accidents were common, and at least a dozen pilots were killed during one year.

Dave witnessed four of those accidents. During his Ground School’s outdoor graduation ceremony, two SNJ aircraft collided overhead. Since each aircraft had two tandem seats but only one parachute deployed, up to three pilots may have died in that collision. Then the same thing happened again six months later. Dave also witnessed a fatal crash during a cadet’s first solo landing, and then another cadet panicked during his first flight. He jerked the control stick back into his lap, the SNJ went straight up just after his wheels lifted off the runway, then it stalled, swapped ends, and plunged straight down to everlasting eternity.

Dave was the Cadet Battalion Commander when he was assigned a mortally pre-damaged SNJ that was declared—while he was flying it—to be not only too dangerous to fly, but too dangerous to land. After crashing in a nearby swamp, the engine, both wings, and the tail assembly were ripped off the fuselage, and the cockpit cage flipped upside down as Dave submerged unconscious under the brackish swamp water. Fortunately a Navy Crash Crew arrived at the crash site almost as soon as Dave did, but his military flying days were over.


  • Item Weight : 6.7 ounces
  • Paperback : 122 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1646699728
  • ISBN-10 : 1646699726
  • Product Dimensions : 6 x 0.29 x 9 inches
  • Publisher : Global Summit House (August 9, 2019)
  • Language: : English

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