The Facebook post, by good friend and fellow milblogger Will Dossel, caught my eye: Breaking: Pilot dies in Israeli F-21 Kfir plane crash in Fallon. Will’s comment of “More than a little concerned about this one…” echoed my immediate thoughts.
We all….the Facebook family, Navy family, aviation family, milblogger family, know of only one pilot flying Israeli Kfirs as a civilian contractor pilot up in Fallon – retired Navy Captain and former squadron commander Carroll “Lex” LeFon. The group watching for updates grew till there were almost two dozen friends, associates, everyone, hanging on whatever news could be gleaned.
Will then passed some backchannel info he received from a friend there at Fallon, in the high desert of northwest Nevada, who saw the crash – yes, it likely was Lex. Conditions, as best as I can gather, were not ideal – snowy, foggy, squirrely winds, in a single-engined rocketship of a fighter jet, the F-21 Kfir, about as fast an aircraft of that type and size can be – the only sonic boom I ever heard while airborne, inside a Tomcat, was when we took a Kfir close aboard in a head-on pass.
Details will emerge as time passes, but the heartbreak – the absolute heartbreak – of losing not only a friend and fellow naval aviator and milblogger, a beloved husband, father and son, a true patriot and hero to this nation, will never pass.
These words, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, are key:
When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return
Lex had retired, hung up his flight helmet and g-suit, having accomplished everything in life a man could possibly ask for. But, that itch to fly stayed with him. He became qualified to fly the Isareli F-21 Kfir in an aggressor role against TOPGUN students at the naval air station in Nevada. Dangerous? Who cares? It was a job that got him away from that soul-sucking environment of a cubicle farm, and into a job he absolutely loved, a job in his blood…flying jets. The end of one of his last posts at his blog, Neptunus Lex underscored this as he talked about what it was like landing a screaming F-21 on a relatively short runway – and the drogue chute designed to help slow you down, did not deploy:
It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.
But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.
“Even snake wrestling beats life in the cube…” Living live at its absolute maximum. You gotta love it!
I met Lex only once, at the 2007 Milbloggers Conference here in DC. We had exchanged a number of comments on each others blog. He had linked to my Instapinch post about the return of the last F-14 airwing, shedding crocodile tears as he lampooned all the teary Tomcat fans (he, of course, was an A-7/F-18 pilot, single-seat to the max) – and I instantly received a couple hundred additional hits. He was good. Still, even with the cross-aeronautical platform bias and good-natured derogatory single-seat-vs-two-seat ephitets hurled in each others direction, we got together at the reception, and did some hand-flying as aviators are wont to do:
I don’t really know how to truly and sufficiently honor a man like Lex…a friend, fellow naval aviator, an absolute master with the written word. Head over to his blog and just start reading. You will come away a better person in mind, spirit and soul.
RIP and safe travels, Lex. Prayers and hugs and tears go out to your family. “Fair winds and following seas”, the traditional Navy farewell, to a carrier aviator like you means a downwind recovery. I wish you 30 knots of wind, down the angle, and the carrier with a bone in her teeth and itching to launch some aircraft. Take care, my friend. You will be…are…missed, and will always be remembered. We’ll always save you a seat in the Dirty Shirt.