Will `Ace' McCain Flame Out Again?Submitted by cactus1010 on Sat, 01/26/2008 - 16:09
John Sidney McCain III is known among many of his Vietnam flight buddies as "Ace" McCain. This title has not been bestowed upon McCain because he destroyed five enemy aircraft. On the contrary: It was five on our side -- in fact, five of his own. Since throwing his hat into the presidential ring, the fact that McCain was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy nearly at the bottom of his class has been publicized. His star-crossed flying, on the other hand, remains unknown to most.
Robert Timberg, author of The Nightingale's Song, a book about Annapolis graduates and their tours in Vietnam, wrote that McCain "learned to fly at Pensacola, though his performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn't love it." Timberg counts himself a friend of McCain and has written a McCain biography.
It wasn't long after arriving in Pensacola that McCain racked up the first of his five crashes, beginning in 1958, on his way to becoming a "reverse ace." As told by Timberg, "McCain was practicing landings; his engine quit and he plunged into Corpus Christi Bay. Knocked unconscious by the impact, he came to as the plane settled to the bottom."
There was, however, no engine failure with the aircraft. According to one of McCain's former flight instructors, "The engine was removed from the aircraft that afternoon, mounted on a test stand and a new propeller installed. [It] was flushed with fresh water and started. It ran just fine. So the theory of engine failure was proven false."
The instructor added that McCain was "positively one of the weakest students to pass our way, and received consistently poor marks and a number of Dangerous Down grades assigned by more than one instructor. He had no real ability and was clearly out of his element in an airplane, and way over his head even as a junior naval officer."