After seeing Top Gun at the ripe age of six, I decided I wanted to be a Navy fighter pilot. I'd go to Annapolis and end up flying an F-14 Tomcat off some far-flung flattop. Flat feet, a history of knee and ankle problems, and a general disdain for math, physics, chemistry, and rules meant that wasn't an option.
Some boys, though, were more determined than me. Foxtrot Alpha has the story of one such individual, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Howard A. Foote Jr., who in the early hours of July 4, 1986, commandeered an A-4 Skyhawk from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. And you thought joyriding in your mom's Honda Accord was cool.
LCPL Foote's flight was a mere 45 minutes. He took off from MCAS El Toro, flew over San Clemente Island, and did all the typical loops and barrel rolls we all dream of. As one might expect, there was something of a welcoming party waiting upon his successful landing at El Toro.
There's a lot more to the story, which Foxtrot Alpha delves into. That includes Foote's history as a successful glider pilot, how a high-altitude incident – allegedly inspired by a Marine Corps general who had been El Toro's commanding officer up until a few days before the incident – served as motivation to shanghai the A-4, and the legal case against him following the incident. It's really worth a read.