Donnie L. Cochran
Source: Combined reports
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Life of a Hero !
Donnie L. Cochran was born July 6, 1954, on a farm near Pelham Georgia, into a family consisting of his mother and father and 11 brothers and sisters. His inspiration for flying was sparked by occasional glimpses of Navy jet fighters on various aerobatics maneuvers. Pelham Georgia is located in southwest Georgia which is located at the intersection of highways 65, 93 and 262 about 100 miles south of Albany Georgia. This writer is unsure of the base station of these Navy jets, but they were probably out of the Naval Air Station of Pensacola Florida. Cochran earned a Civil Engineering degree on a Naval ROTC scholarship at Savannah State college in 1976 . He earned his Navy wings in 1978 after completing basic and advanced Jet training. In aviation language "earning your wings" actually means that an individual has completed flight school and is now recognized as a pilot (that is, what is frequently termed a Naval aviator) capable of flying various types of aircraft (Airplanes). In 1986, Lieutenant Commander Cochran had flown more than 2,000 hours in jet fighters and completed 469 carrier landings.
Cochran answered the call of duty two times as a member of the Blue Angels precision flying team, both times following unfortunate incidents involving other aviators. On July 13, 1985, during an air show at Niagara Falls International Airport, two A-4 Sky Hawk jet aircraft collided. One pilot was killed, Navy Lieutenant Commander Mike Gershon, of Pensacola Florida and the other, Lieutenant Andy Caputi, 30, ejected from his plane and landed safely on the grounds of the Niagara Falls air Force Base. Lieutenant Commander Cochran, along with two other pilots, were selected to replace these two members of the Blue Angels precision flying team.
In this capacity, on October 4, 1985, three months following the fatal crash at Niagara Falls New York, Cochran became the first African American to become a member of the Blue Angels precision flying team in the history of its 40 year existence.
He was 31 years old. Cochran's formula for Success consisted of four parts;
On July 4, 1986 ,Cochran , along with other members of the Blue Angels, that is the Navy's elite aerobatics precision flight team, flew an A-4 Sky Hawk in a ceremonial celebration saluting the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Cochran was quoted as saying "What I am doing is not just a job, it's an opportunity. I would like to show young people the roads that are open to them in America. Nobody said, here, Donnie, apply for the team, and they will give it to you. You have to earn it".
Authors note: During research for the development of this Web site, quotes or close variations of this quotation were found to appear in most articles written by African American aviators and astronauts. And this is the reason for the creation of this Web site. African American Astronauts, Pilots and professionals in other careers whose duties do not provide the high level of visibility afforded other professionals such as sports and entertainment almost become lost in non-military history and many young African American teenagers do not benefit from the feeling of pride they are due from the efforts of people such as Captain Cochran. End of authors note.
Following two years of flying with the Blue Angels Cochran was stationed at the Naval air Station at Miramar (see Tom Cruises movie "Top Gun" that was a featured attraction in 1989). Next Cochran joined the "Bounty Hunters" of fighter squadron 2 (VF-2) while the squadron was deployed aboard the carrier USS Ranger (CV-61). After this tour, he was selected to attend the Air War College in Montgomery Alabama and during this time earned a masters degree in Human Resource Management from Troy State University. Following this Cochran reported to Fighter Squadron 1 (VF-1) in March 1992 as executive officer and took command in July 1993 until the squadron was disestablished in September 1993, then moving on to become commander of the "Sun Downers" of fighter squadron 111 (VF-111).
Cochran's second call to duty as Member of the "Blue Angels" was in the capacity of "Boss" which is somewhat of a nickname for the Leader or Commander of the flying team; This time, Cochran, was called to replace Commander Robert E. Stumpf who had been grounded (placed in a no flying status) as a result of a scandal (which the news media termed the Tailhook Scandal) relating to a party held by some Naval aviators in Las Vegas Nevada. Cochran was 41 years old and leading the Navys six plane precision flight demonstration team. The year was 1994. "I look at it (being the first African American to become leader of the Blue Angels) as an opportunity to be the boss; not black and white, but an opportunity to command a very special organization" .Cochran went on to say that " I am perfectly aware that I am an African American".
In June 1996 Cochran decided to leave the Blue angels after two assignments with the team. During his first tour he successfully made the transition from flying the A-4 Sky Hawk to the F/A-18 hornet.
Prior to Cochran's becoming a member of the Blue angels, the team; death had claimed the lives of 22 pilots while in training and or during shows over it's 40 year history of existence.
At age 42, Cochran considered himself to be an older fighter pilot than those flying with the precision flying team. Cochran said that
"I can hold my head high. I have not crashed any airplanes, none of my pilots have crashed an airplane, none of my pilots have been hurt." And that is true; he can hold his head very high. From a family of 11 brothers and sisters, born, July 6 , 1954 on a farm in Pelham Georgia to become leader and Commander of the Navy's elite precision acrobatics demonstration team.
In 1995, Cochran had accumulated more than 4,350 total flight hours in seven (7) different types of naval aircraft and completed 570 carrier landings. Today Captain Cochran is a highly decorated officer, having being awarded the Meritorious service Medal, the air Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and numerous other personal and unit awards.
Cochran said that his career objective is to "continue my Naval career as long as the challenges and opportunities are available and reflect my own desires." And we say "Go with God's blessings Captain Cochran." You are truly a Real African American Hero and we thank you for giving the African American community the role that you have played both aviation and the military.
"Glad To Be Here: My lessons learned as a Blue Angels flight leader and pilot"To Order his Latest book Click Here
Check out the Blue Angels Web page at: http://www.blueangels.navy.mil
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