Veterans Day - A Fighter Pilot's Experience

Veterans Day  - A Fighter Pilot's Experience
Nov 10, 2017
Major General (Ret) Carl Schneider
Veterans Day - A Fighter Pilot's Experience

A small plane doing acrobatics over a Texas cotton field touched the imagination of a young boy and shaped his future in one swoop. Carl Schneider grew up working on his father’s cotton farm chopping weeds through the summer and crawling along the bushes pulling the cotton off. 

“I hated working on the farm,” he said. “When I saw that plane fly over I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Schneider listened to stories his father told of his serving in the Balloon Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force organized during World War I, but it was that small air show over the cotton field that set him on his course — a course that took him around the world, allowed him to earn several degrees and fly supersonic planes.

He spent a year at Texas Technical College, before enlisting in the Army Air Force in September 1946. After basic training, he went on to remote control turret mechanics school and in June 1947, Schneider began aviation cadet training. A year later he began advanced pilot training on an experimental class of the P-51 Mustang, a single seat fighter plane that earned its stripes in World War II. 

During training Schneider was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant.

His first flight assignment was piloting a P-84 with the 20th Fighter Group under the newly organized Air Force, which became a separate branch of the military with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947. 

By September 1949, Schneider joined the 51st Fighter Group stationed in Okinanwa where he served as squadron commander and completed 100 combat missions over Korea in the F-80 fighter jet. 

“I got hit somewhere in the plane almost every mission but I was never hit,” he said. “It was a pretty tough war — I lost 22 brothers. I volunteered for another 100 flights, but didn’t get it.”