Welcome to my Blog

I am starting this blog just as I am starting my airline career. Feel free to ask any questions, or if you are in need of any help related to seeking employment with an airline then just let me know. I really enjoy helping others in any way that I can.

This is my blog with a name that stems from a long standing joke. Damnit Bobby was a term thrown out during a fun family sports match. Damnit Bobby Airlines was destined to be a loving name given to any flight I conduct which has passengers on board

I was a flight instructor and a part 91 (private carriage) pilot prior to becoming employed with an airline. Please enjoy the blog, and feel free to comment about anything and everything.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is new

The simple answer to that question is: a lot!

Thankfully, my sister youngest sister (I'm the youngest of 4) gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She had to have a c-section, but the little lady was just as healthy as could be. She apparently didn't want to join us.... kinda like me - I was born almost a month after my due date, which would have been on my father's birthday =-).

Things have been interesting on the line this month. I seem to have developed a bit of a passion for centerline landings. I seem to nail the centerline in 4 out of 5 attempts, but missing that one centerline has me coining new phrases like: Bob, do you think the centerline is painted for deceration only? I feel the airplane more each time I get to fly it. Studying the systems and company procedures each night is a great way to help quickly develop confidence, but getting a feel for the airplane is the only way to progress with making smoother more lackluster flights. I think the best flight is the one where all of the passenger's get bored. It is a good indication to the flight crew that the passenger's are comfortable enough with the flight that they have full trust in the flight crew. Making a diversion around a later afternoon build-up can mean the difference between someone saying nice flight and someone saying.... "That wasn't fun at all".

As I continue along with the ALPA committee I am a member of, and as I progress as a new airline pilot I can't help but wonder if those passenger's flying with our flight crew think of us as amateurs or professionals. As I said before, as professionals we strive to never be wrong... we don't want to be labeled as amateurs. The only way that I can tell is from the reactions of those passengers that say something as they deplane. At the same time, I know they can not tell about my passion for aviation and learning all that I can with regards to instrument approach procedures. I have had several passengers comment about how young I look. As a freshly minted CFI, I heard the worst thing any new CFI would ever hear.... I don't want to fly with you, you're just a kid. This lady that called me a Kid was indeed an older lady, however, I assured her that this wasn't my first rodeo. The painful part came when more people continued to say the same thing. Now, I am hearing these same replies echo the cabin of the plane I fly now.

If I had grey hair, people would call me an experienced pilot. If I flew on a mainline aircraft, people would call me a professional pilot-- assuming I had great skill. Yet, doing the flying that I am I have noticed passenger's seem to think that age directly correlates to experience and skill. I do have more experience then some pilots twice my age. I do have some things to offer that other pilots can't. We are all unique in our skills and abilities. I just find it odd how people stereotype my profession.

I have two jobs. My parents own a golf car distributorship in Arkansas. On my day's off I go work for them - voluntarily. I have a strong commitment to my family, and I am willing to do anything that is needed to help any one of my nuclear family members. The family business was started by my grandfather and father. My grandfather and I became very close buddies over my youth. We did everything from fish together, to him teaching me about baseball and golf, to him teaching me about investments and how to get a good portfolio together. Something I have never told anyone before is that my grandfather was a professional baseball player. He played for the NY Yankees in the late 40's. My Father was a professional race car driver. He drove grand prix cars for Alpha Romeo (Pronounced: Roe-may-o) in the middle 60's before and during his time as a soldier in Vietnam.

My Father was an Air Commando in the Air Force, with the 311th Squadron. He was in a group that was the predecessor to the PJ's - The Air Force Pararescuemen. You just about have to be a PJ to understand what his job was, but he was a sniper for the Air Force. He held a Crypto level Security Clearance. While a POW he was subjected to things that no human being should ever endure. I am so proud of my father that I wanted to take the time to share a little bit of his experience as a POW with you all.

My dad was a good shot. His first experience with shooting a gun was with the Air Force during basic training. As he explained to me, he shot 99 out of 100 targets during his qualification trials. They asked him if he was a hunter and his answer was "No, I just listened to what the instructors told me". This lead him down a path that put him in a position where he was one of the first members of a new Air Force special operations squadron... Called the Air Commandos. He did most of his initial training at Sheppard Air Force Base - where I have also been - back in 1966. From there they moved between Florida, California, and Louisiana for their training. Skip ahead almost a year (they were on a rapid training program) and he was in the thick of the war. He ended up spending 3 tours in Vietnam, and amazingly to me his time as a POW was not the end of his service.

After a while as an Air Commando, he was tasked with training montenyards with tactics and strategies that they used. Normally, the Air Commando's operated in smaller groups than the Navy Seals (who they cross-trained with)... Dad's group operated in pairs of two. One was usually a demolition's expert and the other was some type of weapons expert. In Dad's case, they usually only sent him on espionage and/or assassination missions. This particular time they had two Air Commandos training 10 other Montenyards. During a particular fight, his squadron friend was killed. As a result of their heritage, the Montanyards didn't follow dad's orders and as a result his friend was killed by being left exposed to the firefight. The Montenyards gave up the fight and left dad alone against a platoon size force of viet cong. Dad was taken prisoner, and he was beaten so badly prior to arriving at his first camp that he has no recollection of what occurred after the Viet Cong surrounded him. He woke to find that many of the others had urinated on him, and in his open wounds. From there they forced him to do things like play Russian roulette, they shot others as he watched... they pried off his finger nails with bamboo sticks. They put him in the Chinese water torcher table.... and to describe some of his more difficult collections:

Further along his time as a POW, they placed him and 6 others in a bamboo cage that was submerged in a river. Only about 6 inches of air separated them from the top of the cage. The cage was tall enough that you could not stand on the bottom. Your only choices were to swim or hang on to the bamboo door on top. Their cage was guarded 24/7, and if you started to hang onto the top of the cage they would take the butt of their AK-47s and smash your fingers until you let go. Dad said one of them had a finger cut off because he was too weak to let go, and the soldier's constant beating on his hand caused his finger to be amputated. Then after the first few guys died (which they did not remove bodies from the cage) the mice started showing up and taking bites at those dead and undead in the cage. Dad was the only one to make it out alive. He was able to use some of the dead to help stand so he didn't have to tread water. They were in that cage for about 2 weeks he said. Their feeding time consisted of rice being thrown into the water for them. As they moved dad from camp to camp they would first tie his hands together and each time he would trip they would tie... first his ankles together, and then if he tripped again they would tie his writs to his ankles... with his wrist being tied behind his back. He estimated that at one point they made him walk "duck" style for 10 miles. He said he could see the bones in his wrists and ankles from the rope digging in so much over that distance. He knew his "usefulness" was coming up as he was not far from the Hanoi Hilton, and that meant that they were going to kill him soon. While at his last POW camp, he made friends with several others. One was an Air Force Captain who flew F-105 ThunderCheifs. They would talk to each other, even though they couldn't see each other. They were kept in cages that were around 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide... made from bamboo. They had one light in the top of them (no shade and they never turned them off). Dad said the two of them talked all the time about life back home... they even took beatings as a result of taking to each other, but it was worth it to them both.

Fast forward ahead a little, and after Dad had an "interrogation" session - which involved unusually brutal beatings and burning, he saw an opportunity. For whatever reason they only sent one guard to take Dad back to his cage. Dad said the gaurd was only 18 or younger, but this was his only opportunity. So he saw the guard had a momentary lack of attention and he stepped behind him and broke his neck, killing him. He then took the key's off of the guard's body and went to unlock all of the other prisoners.... probably about 12-15 Dad said. They knew what they all had to do. They split into groups of two and all headed off in different directions, and since it was the middle of the night they knew they had fairly good odds of survival in smaller groups. Dad paired up with the Captain he had spent all that time talking to. They headed through the forest and walked/ran for a few days. Eventually they came to a road where they knew they could wait and take some transportation. The thing was they only had one gun, the one dad took from the guard he killed to break free. So, they figured that the Captain would take a position as a wounded person on the road and the first vehicle that came they would take, using the gun as necessary. First was a scooter with what was obviously a civilian and his wife/girlfriend.... but, this was a war and they had no choice. Dad shot each one and they took the scooter. Dad drove, and as he said he drove it as fast as it would go until it ran out of gas. Then they decided to stage things to look like an accident occurred when they ran out of gas. After a while, a truck showed up with about 5 people in it. Through a combination of hand-to-hand combat and use of what bullets were left, they took the truck. They did the same thing and ran it until it was out of gas. By this time they both had been living off of rice thrown on the dirt or in the water for the last month. When the truck ran out of gas they knew they were not far from the DMZ and knew they could walk the rest of the way. Their hunger was so intense that they started looking for anything that they could find. They happened to stumble across a patrol of 10 or so North Vietnamese. They didn't care that they were out numbered, they were so hungry that they knew what they had to do. Unfortunately, the Captain didn't listen to what dad told him as far as the tactic they would use to kill everyone. The Captain was so hungry that he jumped to action before he should have. As a result the Captain was shot in his leg. They did get the food they needed, but the Captain couldn't walk anymore. So Dad did what he had too. He picked him up and threw him over his back. Dad walked for over 20 miles carrying the Captain. He continually talked with the Captain, because he knew what it meant if the Captain stopped chatting. Dad had formed a close bond with the Captain, and he promised the Captain he would get him back home to his family.

Eventually, dad came upon an Army base, but he knew his friend needed urgent care. So instead of spending time going through the process of verifying who he was with a sentry, he snuck onto the base at night. Went straight to the infirmary, and gave his friend to the doctors..... who pronounced him dead. Dad knew it, he knew had had passed away about 10 miles before they got to the base, but he didn't want it to end that way.

Dad spent 3 days recovering before he went out on his next mission.... Which he was reprimanded for since his Squadron Commander, Col. White, forbid him from any activities until the Drs. cleared him for duty. He just couldn't bear the fact that someone he cared for so much was killed by those who caused him so much pain to begin with. He just wanted to get back out and kill as many as he could. He served one more tour before becoming medically retired from the Air Force.

Today, he still will wake up in the middle of the night screaming Mad Dog, the name of a friend. He still will just suddenly get the million mile stare if someone says something that triggers a memory from then. He is an amazing person.... Ask him what it was like and he will always answer the same way. It was a mental challenge, and that is all that he will say. Ask him how he made it through, and he will say that he spent the whole time building... part by part... his dream car.... Ask him about the Captain, and he walks away.

His Commander was going to nominate him for the Medal of Honor for his actions. At that time, his Squadron was classified enough that his commander's request was denied..... It would require an act of congress, and that would bring too much attention to his squadron. So dad earned a bronze star as a result of his actions.... because that was the highest award they could give that didn't require congressional approval.

I will post the letter that dad wrote to use kids about his time as a POW... to put his own words to his experience. I think it is something that others need to know about.... but I know my dad. He doesn't care if anyone else knows what happened and he doesn't care how others feel about what he did. He cared most about the Captain, and he couldn't help him like he wanted.

Whenever I get down or feel bad, I don't have to look far at all for my encouragement. Maybe one day the government will recognize Dad. Currently, it requires presidential approval to obtain his military records. Sometimes I think about how proud of me he is, and I wonder if he realizes that it is I who am probably more proud to be an Albertson than he is of me.


  1. Incredible post, Bob. To say your dad is a true American hero is a gross understatement. Hearing such a close account of the hell that our soldiers have gone through for us to be able to be here, flying freely today really strikes a chord. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. The first time dad gave me his letter to read I was amazed. I knew he had been a POW, but he never talked about it. He never told us anything about his military career. The only he thing he ever told us that was related to his experience was that we would never have a gun in our home. Guns were designed to kill people, and the only time you should ever grab a gun is if you intend to kill someone. You don't use a gun to wound a person.

    I can't every do justice to the letter he wrote for us kids to read. He wrote it in much greater detail than I wrote. His accounts of not eating the rice because of the dead bodies in the water really hit home with me. I'm not too man enough to admit that I cried when I read his letter to us. I also know and understand that he can not tell us his experience as a POW. Mom was the one who got him to write things down so that we (his children) could understand what he went through and why he sometimes would over react to things.... For example, if I didn't do something he asked he would yell at me and be very explicit about doing things EXACTLY as told and do them IMMEDIATELY. After all, because the others didn't do that he was taken prisoner. So simple tasks have a much higher issue with him than most people. It isn't that he was ever abusive or even anywhere near a forceful father. He wasn't... he would just yell for some minor things because to him the lack of doing the task meant death or severe physical punishment.

    He had 8 broken ribs, a broken multiple gashes to the bone, one gun shot wound to his hamstring, a fractured skull, and many other wounds.... but, he was so committed to getting his Captain home (A promise he made while talking to the Captain from within their cages) that Dad carried him back to the Army base even though he was almost certain the Captain had been dead for a while. Dad just couldn't bring himself to check the Captain to see if he was alive.

    The letter he wrote us is 10 pages long, accounting many details of his escape.... everything from what he and the Captain talked about while in their cages to what it was like to be forced to put a revolver in his mouth and pull the trigger.... and they even forced him to watch them kill a guy they thought he had been friends with. I have his permission to post it, and I will do that after I get the papers tomorrow.

  3. Hi Bob,
    I'm a member of the AOPA forums and found your blog a great read. I've seen you post on the forums a long time now and I know what a professional you are. You are more experienced that some pilots twice your age! In fact I always thought you were older whenever I read your posts before I saw a picture of you, lol.

    - Mike (mycol)

    Your dad sounds like a stand up guy and is a credit to the uniform.