By Jim Fursman.
Nearly 30 years ago, Dave and Susan Woltz moved to Burien. They purchased a home on the beach on the north side of Three Tree Point, built in 1912. Because of the steep hillside, the move into their home was via barge (as were the supplies for a major remodel a few years later). Soon I saw Dave riding his road bike along Maplewild Avenue. Dave and I were both flying for Alaska Airlines at the time. Eventually, we flew together on the Boeing 737-200. That was the aircraft assigned to the “Milk Run” through Southeast Alaska and into the interior of Alaska. Time spent on those flights led to discussions about why we each began flying and where that had taken us.
Dave began flying in the Navy, as did I (but at significantly different times.) Dave started flight school in 1966. He was drawn to Naval Aviation because it looked exciting. The Vietnam War was beginning to heat up. The Navy needed more pilots. Early in training, flying the T-34, Dave qualified for the jet pipeline, where he flew the T-2A and F-9.
Upon graduation, Dave received his Wings of Gold and was assigned to fly the F-8 Crusader. The Crusader was a sleek, single-pilot fighter aircraft. With its afterburning engine, the Crusader was supersonic. It had a unique characteristic: the entire wing raised up with increased lift for takeoff and landing…a challenging aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier!
While with an F-8 fighter squadron assigned to the USS Oriskany, Dave made two separate 9-month combat deployments to the Gulf of Tonkin. During those deployments, he logged hundreds of combat missions over South and North Vietnam. Those missions included a catapult launch and tailhook landing on each mission. Months of extensive training preceded each of those deployments. Physiological studies have shown that a Navy pilot’s heart rate is higher during landing on an aircraft carrier than in combat.
In addition to flying the F-8, Dave was also an LSO (Landing Signal Officer). The LSO is the pilot positioned to the left of the carrier-deck landing area, standing on a platform that extends over the water.
The LSO monitors each approach to the carrier and provides corrections to the pilot by radio or light signals. Additionally, the LSO grades each approach and landing or trap. After all the aircraft are aboard, the LSO team visits every squadron Ready Room and debriefs each pilot individually. Dave excelled as an LSO, resulting in his promotion to supervisory LSO for the entire Air Wing (CAG LSO). While a CAG LSO, Dave qualified to fly each type of aircraft assigned to the Air Wing.
As Dave’s Navy career progressed, he became an instructor in the “Top Gun” program, which began in 1969. After leaving the Navy, Dave joined Jet American Airlines as an MD-80 pilot. Jet America merged with Alaska Airlines in the late 1980s, and Dave continued to fly the MD-80 until transitioning to the Boeing 737, which he flew until retirement.
After leaving the airline business, Dave could stay in the cockpit and use his fighter-pilot skills. He flew for Air Combat USA, where two aircraft with experienced instructors took people thru Dog Fights in Italian Marchetti training aircraft.
Many military combat veterans are quiet about their experiences. I think Dave is in that group. Although our Navy pilot training was seven years apart, we still had mutual acquaintances in common. That makes sharing stories easier. Some are tragic, as might be expected. Others are uplifting and humorous.
Dave served our country with grace and strength and had a remarkable career in aviation. He is a Quiet Hero, truly a Bright Gem in Burien!