Bush Ranked 22 of 53 Pilots
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Sept. 7, 2004 - President Bush was ranked in the middle of his Air
National Guard class and flew more than 336 hours in a fighter jet before letting
his pilot status lapse and missing a key readiness drill, according to his flight
records belatedly uncovered Tuesday under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Pentagon and Bush's campaign have claimed for months that all records detailing his fighter pilot career have been made public, but defense officials said they found two dozen new records detailing his training and flight logs after The Associated Press filed a lawsuit and crafted new requests under the public records law.
"Previous requests from other requesters for President Bush's Individual Flight Records did not lead to the discovery of these records because at the time President Bush left the service, flight records were subject to retention for only 24 months and we understood that neither the Air Force nor the Texas Air National Guard retained such records thereafter," the Pentagon told the AP.
"Out of an abundance of caution," the government "searched a file that had been preserved in spite of this policy" and found the Bush records, the letter said. "The Department of Defense regrets this oversight during the previous search efforts."
The records show Bush, a lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard, was ranked No. 22 in a class of 53 pilots when he finished his flight training at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia in 1969.
Over the next three years, he logged 326.4 hours as a pilot and an additional 9.9 hours as a co-pilot, mostly in his the F-102a jet used to intercept enemy aircraft.
The records show his last flight came on April 1972, which is consistent with his pay records that show Bush had a large lapse of duty between April and October of that year, a time he says he went to Alabama to work on an unsuccessful Republican Senate campaign. Bush skipped a required medical exam that cost his pilot's status in August 1972.
A six-month historical record of his 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, also turned over to the AP on Tuesday, shows some of the training Bush missed with his colleagues during that time.
Significantly, it showed the unit joined a "24-hour active alert mission to safeguard against surprise attack" in the southern United State beginning on Oct. 6, 1972, a time when Bush did not report for duty, according to his pay records.
Bush's lone service in October came at another air base an Alabama, where he sought temporary permission to train away from his assigned squadron.
As part of the mission, the 147th kept two F-102a jets — the same Bush flew before he lost his flight status for skipping a required medical exam — on ready alert to be launched within five minutes warning.
The records also indicate Bush made good grades, scoring an 88 on total airmanship and earning perfect 100 for flying without navigational instruments, operating a T-38 System and studying applied aerodynamics. Other scores ranged from 89 in flight planning to 98 in aviation physiology.