Summoned to the Sky

WW II Navy Corsair fighter

I remember it as though it was yesterday. My 5-year-old life changed during WW II when I saw a Navy fighter buzz the neighborhood. My aviation career started very early that morning. l was sitting on the front steps and watched a Navy fighter–probably a Corsair–make a low pass over our house. In retrospect it was that lucky moment that set my course for then and into the future; from a Huckleberry Finn in the Bronx to over six thousand hours in the cockpit in all types of aircraft.  My favorite:  fighters! But I also logged thousands of hours in bombers, tankers, commercial aircraft, helicopters, gliders, seaplanes and flight trainers.

On the day I retired we left MacDill Air Force Base with tickets to Iran. I was a TRW consultant to the Imperial Iranian Air Force. I had 21 years in, was a regular officer, and could have increased in rank, but I decided this was my golden parachute into a new career. I was selected by TRW for having been the Chief of Safety for the 36th Fighter Wing at Bitburg Air Base, Germany. Our wing won the 1976 Columbian Trophy for the top USAF-wide safety program.

The Iranian revolution ended that career. We returned to Tampa and as luck would have it, I was hired as a personal pilot by a very wealthy German who lived in the Bahamas. It was more an interesting-enjoyable-flying vacation than a job. We did more fishing than flying. I learned a lot about tourism and about hotel, resort, and cruise ship development and managed to fly over 1,000 hours in his aircraft.

Being a Tampa City girl, Maria got Island Cabin Fever in the Bahamas, so we compromised and moved near Boone, North Carolina, to design and hand-build a log cabin. We were not new to designing a home. When I was in the 67 TFS, we designed and had one built overlooking the Pacific Ocean near Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Designing and hand-building the cabin was enjoyable, healthy challenging work. Mountain living was a wonderful change, but in time, we realized that we were too young to be so isolated in our hollow with only bluebirds for neighbors.

We returned to Tampa, and I started Camelot Florida, a “Continue to Serve“, all volunteer, self-funded, no-staff, public-interest think tank. Our Camelot Florida vision, mission and goal (VMG) is:  Florida: First in Quality of Life and Standard of Living.  

We are involved in many projects including designing a Global Airport and the JRC: a new type of Flagship aircraft which is the C47/DC3 of the 21st century for the NASA RAM program.

Some of my local Camelot Florida Tampa Bay VMG projects have included getting Tampa to enter a bid to be an Olympics Host City, saving the Gandy Bridge, creating the Friendship Trail, and saving the Ybor City German American Club.

We have many more local and beyond projects underway, but the most important today is repurposing the northbound I-275 Howard Frankland Bridge to create a new “Cross Tampa Bay Trail”, and installing a 60-foot wide, 2.5-mile-long solar array canopy above it.

Neil Cosentino

I wrote a book of true short stories about my flying including being an aviation cadet, SAC nuclear alert duty around the world, and combat missions in Vietnam. The book was written for my family. I call it a “Familyiography“, so the young in my family can get to know more about flying. The title is “Letters from the Cockpit“. Copies of the book are in the Hillsborough County Library System and the MacDill base library. A free PDF copy is available.

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