Final Turn in the Azores

A lot has been written over the past few years about pilots relying on the automation to fly the airplane to the detriment of actual hands-on-the-stick piloting skills. I have long been baffled by pilots’ reliance on the autopilot. But perhaps this attitude comes from my Air Force training early on and particularly from a black, black night at low altitude over the Atlantic Ocean. In October 1973, the war in Vietnam was winding to a close. For the previous three years or so, I had been flying the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter to Southeast Asia and all over the Pacific Ocean, supporting the US missions in that part of the world. Then, a new crisis: Israel had once again been attacked by Egypt, and the Air Force was tasked with supplying arms to Israel.

From its birth as a modern nation in 1948, Israel has fought its neighbors for its survival. In 1967, during the famous Six-Day War, Israel had defeated the adjacent countries (Syria, Jordan and Egypt) in one week. Six years later, on the holy celebration of Yom Kippur, it was happening again. But this time, it was against a slightly different background. The oil-rich countries of the Middle East announced that they would

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