Aero Club hears from Navy fighter pilot 

By Gary Vacin 


“Scary.”  That’s how a retired Navy fighter pilot described landing on an aircraft carrier at night during a presentation at a Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) gathering February 15.

          A crowd of 95 turned out to hear Rear Admiral Denny Wisely describe his 34-year US Navy career, which included flying 350 missions over Vietnam, Flight Leader of the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration team, and captain of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.

          During his three tours in Vietnam, Wisely became the first Navy pilot to shoot down two enemy aircraft and made 300 night landings on the aircraft carrier USS Midway.  He said he was shot down by ground fire on a Hanoi strike, but fortunately was rescued by a helicopter.

          “Landing on a carrier at night during bad weather separated the men from the boys,” he said.  “We had to hold in a stack miles from the carrier, descend one at a time, then land at one-minute intervals.”

          Wisely said his first kill came at night, when he and a squadron-mate were scrambled to attack two enemy aircraft .  The second kill came in a dog fight against Russian-built MIG 17 jet fighters.  I was able to maneuver behind the MIG and fired a heat-seeking Sidewinder missile which went right up his tailpipe, he said. 

          The best job he ever had?  Being captain of the USS John F Kennedy between 1989 and 1990. Later he served as Director of Navy Liaison for the Navy Office of Legislative Affairs, Director Warfare Systems Engineering and Architecture at Navy Space and Electronic Warfare Systems Command and Director of Operations at the Defense Nuclear Agency.  He retired from the US Navy in 1994.

          SLAC will have one more gathering this spring.  Sun Lakes resident Tom Waldron, who flew helicopter rescue missions in Vietnam, will be guest speaker at the session Monday April 18 at the Sun Lakes Country Club Mirror Room.  The public is invited to attend.