Command Module Pilot - Apollo 13

By mid-summer of 1954, Fred had been a flight instructor in the Air Force Primary Pilot Training Training Program at Malden Air Base for three years. The student pilots of Class 55-C reported for training in July. One of the four students assigned to Fred was a twenty-two year old second lieutenant named John L. (Jack) Swigert. Jr. Jack had graduated from the University of Colorado that spring with a degree in mechanical engineering. He had also earned an Air Force reserve commission through the Air Force R.O.T.C. program. In addition, he had played played end on the University of Colorado football team. During the first hours of his flight instruction, Fred recognized that Jack took to flying “like a duck takes to water.” Later in his career, as Fred recalled the more than one hundred student pilots he had trained during his sixteen years with the Air Force and Army Primary Pilot Training Schools, he mentally ranked them. In that ranking, he placed Jack Swigert among his top four student pilots. That ranking proved to be accurate in 1970, when Jack was selected as one of the three crewmembers of Apollo 13. The rest is history, as the whole world knows.

Post Script: Fred had an opprotunity to visit with Jack twice after the Apollo 13 mission, once at the University of Oklahoma City and once in Washington D.C. where Jack was serving as Executive Director of the House Comittee for Space and Aeronautics. In 1980, Jack ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected. Sadly, he died of cancer before being inaugurated. He was fifty years old. To quote an old adage: “Heroes die young.”

Letter from Jack L. Swigert, Jr. to Fred Carl Gardner
shortly after his most important flight -
the harrowing, heroic mission of Apollo 13.

Excerpt from FAA Horizons article of April 11, 1970

 High Flight Poem

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