Helicopter pilots learn to hover as a second sense, taking cues from scanning the horizon. At first this scan is very deliberate and takes extreme concentration.. It eventually becomes second nature. Years later as a maintenance test pilot I could have my head bent down inches away from an instrument -to read it carefully- and the bird would stay steady as a rock. If you can rub your tummy, pat your head and do fancy foot work all at the same time you would be a good helo driver!
It was at HT-8 where I learned my biggest problem in learning to fly. An older Navy Lt. Commander told me that I had about the best natural ability to fly that he had seen. He said I tried way to hard and that my self imposed stress was my biggest detriment. Jokingly, he prescribed 2 shots of scotch before each flight! I never tried his antidote. I believe the words of LtCdr. Villar gave me the confidence that carried me on in my aviation and other careers.
HT-8 passed quickly. The big event was hiding out in the strongest building at Ellison Field - the Officers Club during the disastrous Hurricane Camile. Soon it was down to the last week and a long cross-country flight in a Huey (UH-1D) from Pensacola to N.A.S. Glenview outside of Chicago.
Finally, at a small ceremony with no family present, I was presented the Wings of a Naval Aviator by the Squadron Commander. I was very proud to have made it. This year was the most challenging year of my life. I had made it! I was now a Marine First Lieutenant and a Naval Aviator. I had joined some pretty good company.
So this was the end ..... but actually it was just the beginning!