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Mon, Nov 14, 2005

Boys And Their Toys

Some People Get Two Warthogs

Is that an A-10 Warthog (Thunderbolt II, in officialdom's terms) in that toy box? Sure is. Lt. Chad Carlton's usual toy is an A-10, too; but his is a bit larger. And he sits inside it. So where did the little toy come from?

"Somebody at the show just walked up and gave it to me. Heh."

They say the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. But somebody gave Carlton (above) the one for free, and they actually pay him to fly the other, however hard he may find that fact to believe at times. You see, Carlton is an A-10 pilot with the Air Force (sorry, we didn't ask him if he was Active, Reserve or Guard).

We caught up with him at the Embry-Riddle Florida Skyfest two weekends back. He was one of scores of military pilots -- the lion's share of them Riddle grads -- in town to meet and impress classmates, pitch undergrads, and show the flag. The pilots seemed to love having an audience that asked (mostly) intelligent and informed questions about their hardware.

Along with the A-10, a perpetual crowd favorite, the military showed the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-16 Falcon, the F/A-18 Hornet, an S-3 Viking, all the training planes in the inventory, and support aircraft such as the KC-135 Stratotanker.

The connection to the past was maintained with aerobatic performances from Fowler "Big Dog" Cary in the Vintage Thunderbird T-33, and Lee Lauderback in Crazy Horse, a TF-51 Mustang (below).

If you have the right stuff, the military services have the keys to some of the most challenging, exciting and prestigious machinery that ever took to the skies. If you don't, well, there's always the Elite Forces A-10 Thunderbolt II. With Action Figure.

"Look at this," Carlton said. "Is this the coolest toy or what? Look at the little pilot. This is the coolest toy ever."

And indeed, it was a pretty cool toy. A boy (or tomboy) with a toy like that might never want to grow up. Unless, of course, the prospect of a bigger toy loomed.

Chad Carlton posed for a picture for us. "Put on your Warthog face!" --but then he had to leave.

"Sorry, can't hang around," the young man said. "I've got to get back to the jet." And he tucked his toy under his army and trotted off.

FMI: www.af.mil

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