Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tough Guy

Lt. Col. Peter Byrne. What did he do? Oh not much...just flew an F-16 for 90 minutes after suffering a stroke before landing safely.
The award recipient, Lt. Col. Peter Byrne, was honored for an incident last June in which he had a stroke while flying an F-16 Fighting Falcon out of Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Colonel Byrne kept his jet aloft for another 90 minutes before returning to Buckley.

"Living through a stroke with immediate care is tough enough," General Corley said of the Air National Guardsman. "To do it while flying an F-16 is superhuman."


Colonel Byrne's decisive actions and ability to cope with the traumatic event prevented a potentially catastrophic mishap. While engaged in tactical combat maneuvers, he felt a pinching in his neck, what would later be diagnosed as the dissection of his vertebral artery.

"I could barely move my arms or hands," said Colonel Byrne, 140th Wing vice commander. "It took every bit of concentration I had just to get the autopilot on."

Fighting vertigo, pain and nausea, Colonel Byrne said his primary concern was avoiding populated areas in case he had to eject. His wingmen quickly came to his aid and flew with him for the next hour and a half, helping him stay focused.

With fuel running low, Colonel Byrne's symptoms eased enough for him to coax the F-16 back to Buckley for a perfect landing.

"By some miracle, I was able to land," Colonel Byrne said. "I credit my survival in the air to my wingmen and I credit my survival on the ground to the discipline and efforts of the crews on the ground. They saved my life. It's truly an honor to receive this award."
There's not much I can add to that.