Sure, you learn to fly the space shuttle and all of a sudden no vehicle is off limits to you — let’s say, for example, you wanted to drive a pace car down the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter onto the course at the Texas Motor Speedway. Yep. You can do that, apparently.
Marine Col. Doug Hurley, who has flown the space shuttle Endeavor, was himself flown onto the track in Fort Worth by Maj. Tank Sherman and his Army Reserve crewmates from Bravo Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. Sherman told After Action the approach and landing on the racetrack was simpler than putting down his helo on an unimproved field over in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“There was a lot less dust,” he said, “and I didn’t have to worry about anybody shooting at me, unless they were drunk.”
There were some similarities to a combat mission. Sherman and his crew practiced on the ground with Hurley to make sure Hurley could drive the pace car — a brand-new Chevrolet Camaro — out of the Chinook’s cargo bay as quickly and safely as possible. And just as in a tactical situation, Sherman flew to a hold point before he deposited Hurley and the pace car, so he’d be in place when race officials were set up for the landing.
But the Camaro was easier to secure than a Humvee, and there was one other big difference, he said: “All the people standing and clapping for us. That doesn’t happen out in the back 40.”