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Sat, Aug 04, 2007

Captain Jim Lovell Shares Experiences With AirVenture Crowd

Apollo 13 Commander "Not A Stranger To EAA"

While Captain Jim Lovell (USN, Ret.) is perhaps most well known for his role as Commander of the ill-fated NASA Apollo 13 mission, which was made even more famous by the 1995 movie of the same name, many may not know of his long and extensive history as a General Aviation pilot. Lovell shared some of that history with ANN at this year's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, an event he is quite familiar with.

"I'm not a stranger to EAA; I've been here many times," Lovell explained. He is also no stranger to Paul Poberezny, founder of the EAA. "I first met Paul Poberezny years and years ago, when I was an astronaut way back in the early 70s." Lovell had flown a T-38 into Milwaukee's Mitchell Field in December for a family visit and parked the aircraft at the Air National Guard base. He returned that night and was about to climb into the cockpit when Poberezny, a Colonel for the National Guard at the time, stopped him.

"'Son, have you checked that wing?'" Lovell quoted Poberezny from their first meeting. "I ran my hand over the wing and it had all sorts of clear ice on it." Poberezny took the plane into the hangar and Lovell departed the next day after the ice had thawed. "He essentially saved my life, because if I had taken that plane off I would have never gotten off the ground, I would have been at the end of the runway at Mitchell Field."

Lovell started flying in 1953 and earned his wings in 1954. "I've flown every month since that time, except when I retired from the navy." Lovell didn't fly for 16 months following his retirement. "During that period I was getting withdrawal symptoms."

He first intended to purchase a single engine aircraft, but Lovell said lightly that his plan was shot down by his wife, who didn't like the idea of flying in a small, single-engine aircraft. Undaunted, he accommodated his wife by purchasing a Cessna 310, which he owned for five years before upgrading to a quarter share in a Cessna 441 Conquest turboprop - an airplane he and his partners later sold, which Lovell regrets. "I wish I had that airplane back again."

For the next 20 years, Lovell flew a Beech Baron E55 until upgrading to the Cessna 421 Golden Eagle he still flies today. His pioneering spirit showed in his interest and admiration of the latest technology on display at Oshkosh. "There's a lot that I'd like to fly," Lovell explained, specifically mentioning Eclipse aircraft and the HondaJet, but he did admit that he'll probably just stay with his 421.

Lovell stayed at AirVenture to introduce the showing of Apollo 13 at the Fly-In Theater. Lovell, who is played by Tom Hanks in the movie, served as a technical consultant and, along with his wife, made a cameo appearance.

"[Apollo 13 was] the most challenging flight that I had," Lovell explained to ANN, "a classic case of crisis management, a classic case also of how aircraft accidents are started - through a series of incidents - and also a case of where good leadership and teamwork and perseverance and initiate were the attributes that got us back home safety."

Prior to Apollo 13, Lovell flew with fellow astronaut Frank Borman on Gemini 7, a two week mission in 1965 to research long-duration space flight. Lovell also flew with Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on Gemini 12, a mission to research extravehicular activity. "Everybody forgot Newton's Third Law of Motion, for every action there's an opposite and equal reaction, and we were fighting the zero gravity rather than using it to help us." Gemini 12 helped NASA research those and other EVA factors.

According to Lovell, his third mission, Apollo 8, was his most important. Accompanied by astronauts Frank Borman and William Anders, Lovell went to the moon and back after NASA changed the parameters of the mission in order for the US to reach the moon before Russia, its cold war adversary.



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