"He was mucking up bad, Killian told us," Linke says. "He just became afraid to fly."Jan Peter Linke served briefly in the Texas Air National Guard's 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. He was admitted to the Guard in the summer of 1972 to replace George Bush. He served until his death the following year. He was 27.
Killian has become a major figure in Bush's unfolding "Guardgate." CBS news anchor Dan Rather produced a memo signed by Killian saying he was pressured to sugarcoat Bush's service, among other things. A few days after the report, CBS backed off when other media questioned the veracity of the documents.
But flight logs released by the White House three weeks ago in response to a lawsuit by the Associated Press show a strange retraction of Bush's air time around that period. In February and March 1972, Bush switched from flying the F102A fighter jet, which the guard used to patrol U.S. borders, to a two-seat T-33 training jet. His superiors also returned him to flight simulator practice sessions.
But records suggest the extra training sessions didn't help. Logs show that in March and April 1972, Bush twice needed multiple tries to land the F102 fighter. Days later, on April 16, Bush piloted a plane for the Texas Air National Guard for the last time.
"He just couldn't cut it," says Linke. "I was let to believe he was kind of a coward."
[Update 9/30/04, 6:28 p.m. Thanks to John McCrory for his tip on a dKos thread that the Nation now has this story on its website.]
[Update 2 9/30/04, 7:32 p.m. From the Nation,
she (Linke) said that "Bush was mucking up his flying very badly and he couldn't fly the plane," Linke said. "Killan told us that he was having trouble landing, and that possibly there was a drinking problem involved in that"--which Linke took to mean a particularly debilitating one, since carousing was almost the norm in such units.
Notably, Linke's contact with Folio occurred before the White House's lawsuit-generated release of Bush's flight logs, which appeared to corroborate the thrust of her claims. Those logs show Bush in the winter and early spring of 1972 having problems landing his plane and being placed into two-pilot training planes--from which he had graduated years earlier.
Linke says her husband first heard about the opening for a pilot in Bush's unit on May 12, 1972. That date preceded Bush's recorded departure from his base, suggesting that superiors were already planning to replace him. Bush's last recorded flight came on April 16, 1972. Although his contractual obligation to continue flying would not expire for another two years, Bush would never fly again for the National Guard. In August 1972 Killian suspended the departed Bush from flying, ostensibly for his failure to take an annual physical exam. But Linke says that the physical was the result, not the cause. "He just became afraid to fly," she said.