Korean War vet swaps stories with Luke AFB pilots

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Lee
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
He served as a test pilot for the Navy during an era when joint helmet-mounted cueing systems, which project a display into the pilot's visor, weren't available in aircraft and communication between pilots and those on the ground was difficult.

As a way to bring back happy memories of the "good old days" and celebrate his 83rd birthday, retired Navy officer Anthony Canzonetta spent time and swapped stories with pilots of the 62nd Fighter Squadron during a visit to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. June 13.

Canzonetta, flew F-9F Panther jets in the Korean War and was also test pilot. During the course of his career he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, which still affects him to this day.

His daughter, Victoria, came up with the idea for the visit.

"My father loves and treasures his days as a pilot," Victoria said. "They say Alzheimer's patients go back to the time when they were the happiest, and I noticed lately he's been talking more and more about his planes. Knowing he was unable to attend this year's air show, I thought why not contact Luke public affairs and organize something for his birthday."

The tour began with looking at various static displays at the air park followed by a stop at the end of the runway where Canzonetta could watch aircraft take off.

It wasn't until arriving at the 62nd FS that one could see Canzonetta’s humor and smile show through.

"I haven't seen him grin like a Cheshire cat for so long," Victoria said. "The guys have been so welcoming and watching him get a chance to tell his stories is the best part."

As part of the tour, Capt. Brian Dudley, the 62nd FS A-Flight commander and an instructor pilot, showed Canzonetta the current flight gear, which included the G-suit and helmet. Afterward, Canzonetta and the pilots swapped stories in the heritage room before heading out to the flightline to take photos, meet Col. John Hanna, the 56th Operations Group commander, and talk with a student pilot.

"My favorite part of the day was seeing him wear the headset and talk to the student pilot in the F-16," Dudley said. "They talked about flying and he may have also been giving our student a few tips on how to actually fly a jet, being a test pilot himself."

During their time together, Dudley and Canzonetta talked about a variety of topics from flying to Canzonetta's love for fast cars, his experience recovering from injuries, and transitioning to life as a civilian.

"It was a great opportunity talking with Mr. Canzonetta about flying and aviation and see how much things have stayed the same and how things have changed," Dudley said. "It's nice to see he's having a great time, and it's just fun to spend time with him as well."

Although Canzonetta is a prior Navy pilot, being able to spend time with Air Force pilots still felt like he was coming home, he said.

"It's been a great, great thing to come out and meet these guys, see what they're doing and how they're doing it," Canzonetta said. "I'm very pleased they invited me, and I hope I can come back. The best part was when I watched the student pilot unload out of the plane. It brought back a lot of memories."