Meet the Vintage Flights Pilots

Jim “NOMAD” Lawrence | Cullen Underwood

CDR USN / LtCol USAF (ret) Jim “NOMAD” Lawrence

Vintage Flights pilot Jim "NOMAD" Lawrence

Vintage Flights pilot Jim “NOMAD” Lawrence

I have loved airplanes and flying since I took my first breath.  There’s no greater thrill as a pilot than that micro second when the wheels of your aircraft, regardless of what you’re flying, leave this Earth and you’re FLYING!! I hung out at the local airport in Jackson, MS and began working there as a “line boy” fueling, polishing and parking airplanes when I was nine years old.

I worked as a pilot for Mr. Jim Hankins through high school until I left for Navy flight training. I was accepted for Navy flight training as a US Marine at 19 and landed my first Navy jet, a T2B Buckeye on the Carrier USS Lexington at 19.  From there I was assigned to fly the F8 Crusader, the A4 Skyhawk and the O-1 Birddog. I flew 432 combat missions over North and South Vietnam and Laos flying the A4 and the Birddog as a FAC ( Forward Air Controller-we controlled airstrikes against enemy targets ) when I was 21. I spent my 22nd birthday over North Vietnam. I transferred to the Navy and flew the A7E Corsair off the Carriers USS Forrestal and the USS Eisenhower. I retired from wearing Wings of Gold as a Commander after 28 years.

Not wanting to stop flying fighters, I was able to join the USAF / ANG and pinned on Silver Wings where I flew the A7D and A7K Corsair and finally for my last 10 years I flew the A10 Warthog. With the USAF I flew combat missions over Bosnia, where I have the dubious honor of holding the USAF record for the most SAM’s (Surface to Air Missiles) defeated in a single pass ( 6 ) along with four AAA guns and combat missions over Iraq during Operation Southern Watch.

I had the honor of being selected to attend the USAF Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, NV flying the A7 Corsair. It’s a 6 1/2 month long VERY demanding course which is like getting your PHD as a fighter pilot. It’s the Air Force version of the Navy Top Gun School. The “Fighter Weapons School Graduate” patch is one I wear proudly.

I retired from the USAF as a LtCol and ended my fighter pilot career with 38 years and three combat tours with a total of 586 combat missions.

Not ready to stop serving my country I volunteered to fly with the DOD and the Army as a recon pilot flying King Air 350’s with Task Force ODIN in Afghanistan. I flew over 800 hours in two assignments.

Outside of my military flying I flew for Western and Delta Airlines and retired from Delta as a Boeing 777 captain after 35 years. I have over 35,000 flight hours 7700 of those in single-seat fighters and the remaining time in numerous other aircraft. I love sharing the sky with others and I look forward to flying with you at Vintage Flights.

Cullen Underwood – bio coming soon