A local man realized a dream over 40 years in the making when he had the chance to ride along on a United States Coast Guard training mission.
Del Olson was born to be a pilot. He loves everything about aviation. In 1962 he decided that he loved aircraft so much that he joined the United States Air Force, right in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam Conflict and maintained countless aircraft, mostly reconnaissance planes, including the C-130. But during all of that time he never got to actually ride in one of the C-130 4 engine aircraft.
"Airplanes are my thing. I really wanted to be a pilot, but sometimes life takes you down a different path," Olson said.
Olson has since received his private pilot's license. He has logged 1,600 hours of flight time and previously owned a Cessna 172 that he flew to San Jose every day to work. He has a multi-engine rating and currently borrows a Cessna 140 from his cousin and flies it at least once a week from Delhi to nearby airports.
Despite his years of service in the Air Force and his countless hours of flight time as a private pilot, he had still never ridden in the C-130. That is, until he was invited to ride along on a Coast Guard training exercise in October. Olson was invited to ride along on the flight as a historian for the USCG Auxiliary F-31 based at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento. The active Coast Guard aviators based at McClellan were flying a training mission over Lake Tahoe and took eight auxiliary members with them. The group of civilian volunteers donned jump suits and boarded the C-130 aircraft at McClellan Air Force Base. The aircraft commander told the passengers there was room for two people to come up to the flight deck and observe the cockpit for the first 25 minutes of the flight.
"As soon as they said there was room for two people my hand was on the way up," Olson said.
Olson observed with experienced eyes as the pilot checked instruments, taxied out to the runway, took off and climbed to 8,500 feet. He spent the rest of the flight next to a large window in the back of the aircraft. The flight took them over Lake Tahoe, where the Coast Guard was scheduled for a simulated drop. The doors opened but conditions were too windy for Coast Guard members to actually jump. Olson said he enjoyed the low flight over the lake.
"It was just spectacular. I took around 600 pictures during that two-hour flight. It was like a dream come true," Olson said.
The experience solidified Olson's goal of becoming a volunteer pilot for the Coast Guard. Volunteer pilots receive special training and then fly their own small planes on Coast Guard orders for search and rescue, environmental, or coast monitoring missions. Olson is already in the process of logging the required flight time. The Coast Guard requires volunteers receive special training and they own their own plane, and Olson said he is working towards those steps.
"I'm 67 years old, but I think I'm a pretty spry 67. This is my time to do something rewarding that gives back to my country. I want to help make this country a safe place," Olson said.
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