Loss of an Airman

Lt. Col. Herbert Carter (ret.) has died. He was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. There were 33 of them. It’s believed there are now only 3 left.

He and his wife were married for 70 years. She was the first African American in Alabama to earn a pilot’s license.

They met in the air, according to a CNN story on the couple earlier this year:

They’d pick a time to meet. Their rendezvous point: 3,000 feet above a bridge at Lake Martin, 25 miles away. He’d be flying a repaired AT6 trainer. She’d be in a much slower Piper J-3 Cub.

“When I’d get to Lake Martin, I’d see this bright yellow Cub putt-putting along,” he said. “I’d be real proud: She was on time and on target.”

He’d pull down and fly in formation with her. They couldn’t communicate by radio; her Cub didn’t have one. All they could do was smile, wave and blow kisses.

Seeing each other in flight created a bond. When they flew together, it was as if they were holding hands in midair. At the end of their aerial encounter, he’d peel away, only to circle back. He’d sneak up behind her, pull in front and leave her in a trail of airwash. Her tiny craft shook mightily. She’d come to expect it every weekend.

“It didn’t faze me,” she’d say. “I was the better pilot. … I just didn’t fly the fastest aircraft.”

Trust me, you’ll want to read about their love affair. You’ll thank me later.