Last week this column covered the 34+years Army career of Chief Warrant Officer, Grade 5, Philip P. Smith who grew up at 39 McKinley Street in Lake Placid (where his mother, Pat, lives today). Well, not exactly grew up here, because he left and joined the Army at age 17 where he earned an Associate's and Bachelor's Degree and became one of the Army's instructor pilots with 8,410 total hours of flight experience.
Where is he now?
A copy of a citation that most of U.S. civilians never get to see
So, with what I have learned about this Smith fellow in the last couple of weeks, his professional transition to civilian life did not surprise me at all.
He is the training captain for MGM Mirage based in Las Vegas, NV. He retired April 1, 2008, was hired by MGM, left his last duty assignment in Ramstein, Germany the following day and, if one considers the time differences, really started his new career the same day he retired.
Capt. Smith explains the operation at his new position:
"We are currently flying four Gulfstream business jets and one Boeing business jet. The Gulfstream's are the newest models which consist of two G550s, two G450s and one GV and all are set up for passenger comfort. We also operate one 727 that has a special interior to accommodate guests for a very luxurious travel experience.
"This aircraft will seat ten, it has a master bedroom suite and aft a sleeping compartment that will accommodate two more. All of our aircraft have Direct TV, high speed Internet, flight phones and a full kitchen staffed by two flight attendants. We operate these aircraft throughout the United States, Asia and Europe. I was hired based primarily on my experience in overseas flight operations."
Not your every-day flight
Capt. Smith related a few "anecdotes" to me from his Army career:
"I was one of a handful of pilots who were flying our empty skies on September 12, 2001. I had to pick up a general stranded in an undisclosed location and take him back to the Pentagon. We were escorted by F-17s.
"I was the first U.S. Army pilot to land in Sarajevo. I was flying an Army C-12, a small twin-engine turbo-prop, with Gen. John Abrams on board. Since the hills around Sarajevo were packed with anti-aircraft Serb artillery, we had to land at night with all the lights off. While we were approaching the airport, the tower turned on the lights for two seconds to give me a glimpse of the runway and then I landed in pitch black."
When he was flying Chinooks (the big, twin-engine Boeing helicopters) in Korea, he landed on a river bank with an engine on fire. He also flew Chinooks during the Gulf War.
Stationed in Ankara, Turkey he had to fly a C-12 back to the United States for maintenance - Smith tells it like this: "Flying those small planes is a 10-day odyssey hopping from country to country. During the longest stretch of flight from England to Newfoundland, one of my engines died right in the middle of Greenland. I managed to fly to Newfoundland with a single engine. I had to wait there for almost a week for a mechanic to reach us and another week for the airplane to get fixed, and once again, I missed my wife's birthday."
He made senior instructor pilot on all the aircraft that he flew.
Capt. Smith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Roberta (born in Venice, Italy) and their sons, Philip, 10, and Harrison, 7. He has a son Jayson, 29, from a previous marriage.