Back in the ’90s, I created a virtual version of 101 Squadron in Warbirds. One of my recruits, Flyboy, was a 12-year-old Israeli boy who under my tutelage went from turn-and-burner to a master tactician who more often than not bested me in a fair fight (but why fight fair?).
The squadron died out as WarBirds players left for other games and I haven’t kept in touch with most of my squaddies. I knew Flyboy wanted to try for flight school when it came time for his military service.
I recently received this e-mail from him (quoted with permission, and cleaned up a bit):
Hello, Mr. Webs,
It’s been a few years since i last heard from you. A few days ago, I had a chat with Viff and your name came up, so I decided to pop up and say hi.
A lot has happened since we last talked. After I left Warbirds, I played Aces High for a few years. Several Israelis played it and the 101 lived and became a powerful force but, same as WarBirds, people started leaving Aces High and eventually I found myself alone.
That was around five years ago, and several months later I got drafted and started the IAF flight course. I did quite well and was selected to attend fighter-pilot school. After a year and a half, the air force kicked me out of the course but left a window open if I ever wanted to come back.
I decided to leave the air force and went to infantry. I joined one of the elite reconnaissance regiments and in May 2007 finished my training and became operational. After about half a year, I went to the officer academy and I’ve served as an officer in my unit for more than a year.
I havent given up on my flight obsession. I started doing paragliding and kept my account open in Aces High. A few months ago, I contacted the IAF and told them I want to come back and finish what I started. This week I got an answer: they said OK! If all goes as planned, I’ll be back there in January.
There are a lot of great guys I’ve met in the virtual skies I regret I haven’t kept contact with. I guess the intensity of the army and lack of free time contributed to it. I must say I think that you have some responsibility for my choices. I still remember my first days in the virtual world when you taught me the basics of everything. I was 12 years old then (I turned 23 on Nov. 5) and that experience still lives in me. I remember sitting in the tower and listening – well, reading the text – and not understanding how a plane can both climb and accelerate at the same time. I remember learning flying in wing formation for the first time, working as a group and as a squad.
I must say I feel like I’m closing a circle here, and in a way this is my way of saying thank you. I hope my message finds you well and in a good shape.
Waiting to hear back from you,
101 “Red” Squadron, Israel
I wrote back:
Great to hear from you. Thanks so much for the warm letter.
It’s strange to think that you’re now, like, a man. It seems not that long ago that we were dueling at O’s house. I remember you kept beating me by blowing your Spitfire flaps at the top of a loop – I was pissed off at you. LOL
I still fly WarBirds once in a while but like you wrote, life gets in the way.
I’m glad things are working out for you and I’m jealous that you’ll be getting to fly a real airplane. I get to fly my dad’s Cessna 182 once every two years or so but he doesn’t like when I pull G on the turns.
Do you have to start over from the beginning or do you pick up near where you left?
I keep in touch with Viff every once in a while – we’re Facebook friends.
Keep in touch. I’d love to hear what happens.
The reply, with photos:
I’m restarting the third phase of the course, which takes place just after the first year of three. It’s where all the basic flying is done: aerobatic; low-level navigation (300 ft); instrument flying; night flying; soloing; formation flying; and basic air combat. I’m really looking forward to getting inside a plane again. although I barely remember anything.