My self-image was a fearless street kid. As a Naval Aviator I had found the perfect stage on which to play that role. On the Roosevelt, I volunteered to be the “hot cat” pilot. The hot cat pilot was entrusted to protect the carrier and all the ships in the task force.
I suited up, gave the A4B a pre-flight check, fired up the turbine, received Air Traffic Control clearance for my first leg, and departed Los Alamitos in a dense brown smog blanketing LA. I broke through the haze at 5,000 feet and was vectored to a northwesterly course, skirting the California coast.