Requiem For A Fighter Pilot

Losing a Friend

The news came as a shock. I made the connection between “missing man formation” and Lex LeFon with disbelief, hoping that it meant something else. After opening the comments section, I suddenly realized many others were coming to terms with the loss of a good friend. For the past six years, I had come to appreciate his writings, along with thousands of others (Neptunus Lex actually began 2003) which communicated patriotism, airmanship, incisive political commentary, humor and love of God and family. It was hard not to like him. Ultimately, I began commenting and I’d occasionally send a controversial article or interesting flying story to get his reaction. Here’s a a guy that earned a platform to speak: A naval academy graduate with a masters degree in systems engineering; commander of an operational FA-18 squadron, TOPGUN Executive officer; licensed  Airline Transport Pilot; and  an O-6 with a sphere of influence in U.S.Naval Training Operations spanning 55,000 sailors in the Pacific Fleet.

Last summer, I asked Lex if he could help with some background regarding another military pilot relative to a job opening and to my surprise, he expressed interest which led to subsequent phone calls and e-mails. He was smart, aggressive and had the necessary experience and background. We spent the full day together in Milwaukee where he impressed others that he had the “right stuff”.  I had proposed a tentative offer working on my team, but during that time, ATAC had as well.

Thanks for bringing me out and showing me the operation. I really do appreciate the confidence you showed but  I got a phone call from ATAC yesterday and they are making me an offer to fly Kfirs for them out of Point Mugu, which I intend to accept. You only get so many flying years. My deepest gratitude to you personally for your thoughts and prayers over a difficult time, and thanks again for considering me as a part of your team. My very best wishes for your continued success.”

 It left me to wonder “what if” but I know he wouldn’t have been happy in any other profession where the office didn’t have a stick and throttle within easy reach of the seat. It’s what he loved. You only get so many flying years.

His talented writing and wisdom attracted an articulate, high caliber, diverse group of “commenters” which I found unique in the blogosphere. I’m sure it’s awkward when everyone sort of “knows” much about the Lex history, placing him at a disadvantage when we’ve shared less about ourselves upon meeting him in person. I’m sure his wife Mary felt the same way when I greeted her on the phone with: “It’s nice talking with you!” and she’s thinking: “Who the heck is this guy on the phone?” Through his writings we became in a small way, part of the family-

 One of the things we talked about on the trip back to the airport were differences in military versus general aviation and Lex believed there were inherently more risks associated with GA: Far less rigor and quality of training, fewer defined operating limits, reduced support for the “mission” and type of aircraft. Ironically, the high risk profession  of flying tactical jets, especially an old F-21, claimed his life.

 He left us too soon. Thanks go to Bill (Pinch) Paisley who e-mailed me this picture.

Fair winds and following seas. You will be remembered.

Update:

An excellent write up by FBL on the services to honor Lex yesterday,

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11 responses to “Requiem For A Fighter Pilot

  1. Great post Bill…

  2. Thanks, Bill – that was well said. Our prayers are with his family.

    • Bob & Dave. Appreciate the comments. I agree we need to direct prayers, condolences and help to the LeFon family where ever possible.
      It’s good to have have participated with you within the “Lex” community over the years.
      B/R Wilko

  3. I still can’t believe it. We’re lucky to have known him. I hope Whisper can keep http://www.neptunuslex.com going, in tribute to the man. Sorely missed.

    • There’s a lot of activity at Kris’ Neptunus Lex Facebook page. While we hope Whisper can keep it going, the commenters are not only active but many have indicated their identities within their own FB pages. You should join in!

      • It’s saying it’s not available at the moment, but I will keep trying. Hope everything is good with you.

      • Thanks for the best wishes from Oz Chris.
        All is well here-not sure why that message came across and the site seemed to open normally. Maybe a connection was lost in the Outback??

        I went flying yesterday and had a close call with a T-Storm. Funny how I can’t think of some aviation exploit and not think about our connection to Carroll LeFon. A mentor in the blogosphere if there ever was one.

      • I once promised Lex a flight over Sydney Harbour when he revisited Oz, which he was keen to do. If you ever decide to travel down here, give me a heads up so I can share with you what I can no longer share with him.

      • You’re on mate! I apprecaite the offer and the same holds true if you find yourself in Chicago. The scenery is pretty flat and there’s no reef of any kind, but they do have Guinness…for strength!

  4. virgil xenophon

    Wilko/

    Blue Four here I know, but a really fine remembrance, Wilko. We’re all going thru our withdrawal symptoms i various ways judging from the comments at Lexs’ place. There’s part of me that is quite empty now as I contemplate the loss of not ONLY a really first-class person but also of the inevitable loss of the community–and a fairly unique one at that, even for milblogs–that had gravitated to Lex’s unique writing style and persona. A stark reminder of what should be the obvious fact that life is truly dynamic and nothing is forever.

    Hope all is well with you. Notice this place has become relatively dormant. Press of business, or had the newness worn off? What Lex did is a LOT of work, considering his other family and business obligations–I always marveled at his dedication to the effort to keep things fresh, current and interesting with just the right judicious and unique mix of humor, politics, flying matters and military policy and strategy and, last, but not least, visiting the fascinating world of our comrades-in-arms from the distaff side, lol.

    • Always good to hear from you VX.
      Lex created the gold standard of weblogs and the community he fostered was altogether unique. His posts entertained, challenged and educated and the commentary was some of the best anywhere. (P.S.-Barbancourt owes you royalty money!)
      Neptunus Lex was my inspiration for creating “Blue Side Up” three years ago this month. I was thrilled when Lex listed me as “wingman” and enjoyed our occasional e-mails.

      I apologize for the sparseness of recent postings. In fact, it does take effort at the end of the day when the press of business, as you say, demands increasingly more time. Gratefully, I’m blessed with a wonderful family including grandchildren. I really couldn’t ask for more.
      Well—maybe more time in a day. That would be nice. That’s something else that I had e-mailed to Lex: How did he do it? Putting together a post thousands would want to read takes time and he did it regularly. Awe inspiring. I have some catching up to do.

      Best wishes to you and yours, whether you’re on the left coast or New Awlins.

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