MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- When Chris Avery was only 12 years old his passion for aviation landed him in the cockpit of a plane. Taking lessons in his father’s Aeronca Chief, Avery was ready to fly from the start.
“My dad was a pilot, so I was around airplanes for a long time. It definitely interested me and encouraged me to pursue the same thing,” said Avery, a commemorative air force Corsair pilot from Vero Beach, Fla. “I started flying when I was 12 and have been doing it for more than 30 years.”
On his 17th birthday, Avery made a bold decision to drop out of high school to pursue a career in the Marine Corps. As an infantryman and later a scout sniper, Avery saw action during Operation Desert Storm before leaving the Marine Corps at the age of 29. Avery’s life landed him back with the Marines during the 2014 MCAS Cherry Point “Inspiration to Innovation” Air Show May 16-18.
“I spent 12 years in the Marine Corps and four in the Army National Guard,” he said. “I guess I pursued my dad because he was in the Army during World War II.”
Avery is now an airline pilot who occasionally performs aerobatic air shows in a F4U Corsair, an aircraft used during World War II. It was the last aircraft to use three-bladed propeller technology.
According to Avery, the Corsair is the first American aircraft to exceed 400 mph and was used primarily during World War II and the Korean War. It was designed by Vought in 16 separate models, the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history.
“Flying the airplane gives me such an adrenaline rush,” said Avery. “The only other time I’ve had anywhere close to that kind of rush was when I was a scout sniper.”
With a streak of white smoke behind him, Avery gave audience members an adrenaline rush as well.
“I think it was nice having a piece of history at the air show,” said Ruth Reels, a participant at the air show. “I think a lot of people really enjoyed seeing the Corsair and it was just a great addition to have for the show.”
Showcasing a piece of history on a Marine Corps installation and being in familiar territory is always a nice gift, said Avery.
“Being a Marine and being on the air station with this aircraft is a double whammy for me,” he said.