Retired pilot, Columbus native climbs back into T-38 sim one more time

  • Published
  • By Airman Hannah Bean
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Retired Lt. Col. James Cole, former T-38 Talon pilot and Columbus, Mississippi, native, was able to climb back into a T-38 simulator one more time during a visit to Columbus Air Force Base Jan. 16.

Cole, now 85, met members of the 14th Operations Group and reminisced about his time as a pilot. He flew a variety of aircraft during his military career, but the T-38 is one in which he was also an instructor pilot for. After 23 years of service in the military, he retired and went on to work with American Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“So much water has passed under the bridge with so many other airplanes, I was amazed I could remember final approach speed, some of the acro speeds, and so forth,” Cole said. “Other than that, there’s not a lot of difference.”

Capt. Matthew Rice, 50th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, aided Cole in the T-38 simulator while gaining an opportunity to learn new things from an experienced pilot.

“I was shocked at the amount of aircraft that he’d flown, the different organizations he’d worked for to include the Air Force and then the FAA, but overall by his candor considering the immense experience he had in aviation,” Rice said. “I wasn’t at all surprised that he was quickly able to land the jet perfectly after just a couple ‘practice runs’ which was obviously a testament to his immense capabilities as a pilot, even at 85.”

Although he’s retired, Rice said Cole’s passion for flying is still evident and it was a humbling experience to hear about how much Cole was involved with during his time in the Air Force.

“He’s easily flown more hours than most IPs combined and yet, he was probably one of the most down to earth and seemingly selfless aviators I’ve met,” Rice said. “It was an honor to get to do the sim with him and draw even the slightest bit of instructor knowledge from him.”

During Cole’s visit, members of the 14th OG were given the opportunity to show their appreciation to a fellow pilot with over 50 years of experience as an aviator. Connecting two different generations of aviators is one part of being in a rich military aviation heritage.