Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Share Your Story: David Lynn, Air Force C-130 CSO

Welcome to the tenth "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, etc. These posts shows future aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. More details + how to participate are here: Click Here and Get Involved

Where do you start when you have a career in something you are passionate about?  The same place as anyone else, the beginning.  I was blessed to have a dad that loves planes and helicopters.  He did a little flying himself in Hueys while in the Army, but never "lived the dream" to its fullest.  What he did do though was pass that love on to his youngest son.  

Strapping into the T-6 Trainer

Some of my earliest memories involve looking at planes with my dad.  We lived under the approach path of DFW so all growing up I remember watching the massive airliners fly by wondering what that would be like.  I used to get my dad to take us to the airport to ride the trains and watch the planes.  This was way before TSA so anyone could go out to the terminals after going through a metal detector.  We would just sit there and watch the planes come and go.  At the time I knew nothing about them, but it planted a seed that has carried me for at least 25 years.  

One of my favorite memories was going to The Boneyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, AZ.  I was only about eight years old, but I will never forget it.  This was right at the end of the Cold War when all of the B-52s were being taken to the desert to be cut up into pieces.  I remember taking a bus ride with my dad through what felt like miles and miles of solid B-52s.  They were all still clean and almost brand new looking.  It amazed me how so many planes could be in one place at the same time.  I recently had the opportunity to go back to The Boneyard and saw all of those B-52s again, only now they are all cut up in pieces rotting away in the Arizona desert.  This time there were rows of F-16s lined up awaiting their destiny.

B-52 Boneyard, Arizona

As I grew up my love of aviation never went away, but my life just seemed to be drifting another direction.  Fortunately, I have an awesome sister that encouraged me to follow my dreams.  So I enlisted in the Marine Corps as an aviation ordnanceman while I worked on my degree with every intent of becoming a Marine Aviator.  I loved most of my time in the Marine Corps and am so glad I had the experience, but long story short I started a family and my dreams of flying changed a little.  I finished my degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University (which has an awesome aviation program on campus, as well as the satellite campus that I attended), and began looking for a job in San Diego.

After no luck finding a job, I left San Diego for Austin, TX with the plan of paying my own way into commercial aviation while working at an FBO.  It was one of the more fun jobs that I had ever had because I got to be around planes all day.  It wasn't glamorous work, and downright sucked when it was 120+ degrees out on the tarmac, but how could you not love being around such beautiful aircraft?

I started working on my PPL but was only able to get in about 8 hours before my daughter was born and I just couldn't afford it.  I resigned myself to the fact that I may just have to work in a non-flying job in aviation, which was still in the right industry, just a little bit of a letdown.

Then one day I visited an old friend who is a retired USAF Colonel, and jokingly told my wife, "Maybe I should just join the Air Force!"  Well six months later I was selected for OTS and a year after that I reported to NAS Pensacola to begin my training as an Air Force navigator, now referred to as a Combat Systems Officer (CSO).  That's right, I am still not a pilot.  I still really wanted to be, but I figured if I can't be a pilot at least I can still have a job in the air.

NAS Pensacola

CSO training starts out much the same way as pilot training does in the Air Force.  You attend initial flight screening in Pueblo, CO.  If you were not familiar with flying at all it was what you would consider a baptism by fire.  Just imagine getting all of your academics for you PPL in one week, then flying five days a week with formal briefings every day, and little time for anything other than studying.  The flying itself was awesome.  We flew the DA-20, fondly referred to up there as The Mighty Katana.  For those unfamiliar with the DA-20 it is essentially a glider with an engine, but it was still a fun little plane to fly.

DA-20 Katana

Once I got back to Pensacola I started actual CSO training.  I will spare you all the boring details of academics and simulators and such, but there was still some fun flying worth talking about.  The first plane we flew was the T-6 which is the same trainer that I believe all of the US military uses.  It was amazing flying in a fully aerobatic, turbo-prop aircraft.  I got to do loops, split-s's, cuban eights, and only threw up once.  While I am honestly glad I did not end up in a fighter, it was an awesome experience.  Flying around at 20,000 ft when you have a 360 degree view, or can just flip upside down is amazing.  

Here is a GoPro video, flying in the T-6 Texan:

The other aircraft that we used in CSO training is the T-1 which is essentially the military version of the Beechjet.  The flying is not nearly as fun or intense as in the T-6, but it is always a good time flying low-level routes, no matter what plane you are flying in.

Upon completing CSO training I was assigned to be a navigator on the C-130 Hercules at Little Rock AFB, AR.  Initially I was really disappointed, but it has worked out for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with.  The C-130 is an awesome aircraft that has been the workhorse of the Air Force for at least 40 years.  There are a ton of different variants, but I am on what is referred to as a "slick" C-130 since we are strictly a cargo hauler.

It was on the C-130 that I came to really enjoy flying low-level.  On one flight in particular it struck me how awesome it was.  It was an overcast day with light rain so initially I was kind of hoping my training flight would be cancelled, so I could go home and go back to sleep, but we ended up flying anyway.  I had an experienced pilot that day so he was able to take us down to about 300 feet AGL for most of the route.  So picture this, we are in a plane that weighs about 130,000 lbs, cruising at about 210 knots, with a steady rain falling, looking UP at hills that are only 500 ft tall.  It was on that flight that it really hit me how cool flying this mission is.  I am yet to deploy on the C-130 though I hope to have the opportunity sooner than later, but it is still fun to fly no matter where we are.

Recently, I have also increased my love of aviation through blogging(, and interacting with fellow AvGeeks on Twitter.  I really enjoy writing about what I love, and even more so interacting with people who are as passionate about planes as I am. I recently had the opportunity to go to Seattle, and I actually met a handful of people that I had previously only ever tweeted with.  

That is what is amazing about aviation.  We all come from different backgrounds, have different stories, and want different things from flying, but in the end we all share the same passion.  We can sit and talk for hours about planes we saw, flights we took, or even just the ones we dream about.  Not everyone is an AvGeek, but AvGeeks are everywhere, and if you ever start to waiver in your love of flying just spend a few hours with them talking about how amazing it is and you will fall in love all over again.

Twitter: @davidvlynn

Thanks so much David for sharing how you got into an aviation career! It was really interesting to read about how you started out like most aviators, watching all of the planes come into nearby airports... it's the exact same for me! 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 

Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 


  1. David, I loved your story..and your photos are awesome! It's great to talk to you on off to follow your blog too! Fly safe and remember... enjoy the journey!

    1. Thanks for leaving the comment for David!

  2. I am a civilian private pilot with commercial, instrument and multi ratings. On on my bucket list is a type rating in a C-130. Where does a civilian go for that training?
    Nate Simpson


Thanks for your comment; I really appreciate it! Glad you are here with me on the blog. If your comment does not appear right away, it will after verification.

Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin