Following his dream
Jay Consalvi never gave up on his dream to become a fighter pilot, despite major challenges to reach that goal.
The former Naval aviator has flown jets on and off aircraft carriers, in combat missions in Iraq and taught Marines how to fly jets on carriers.
A documentary, “Speed & Angels Some Dreams Are Worth Waiting For,” was made about him and another fighter pilot several years ago.
Today, Consalvi, now of Midland, Texas, is co-owner of Palmares Energy, a company that buys mineral and royalty interests in oil plays in the nation including the Bakken.
“I grew up flying in airplanes,” said Consalvi, guest speaker at the 28th annual meeting of the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot April 11. That day he had just finished a three-day trip flying a 1946 J-3 Cub from New Mexico to Minot, a plane he brought here for the air museum’s annual sweepstakes to raise money for the facility.
Consalvi also was a presenter at the air museum’s aviation camp for students held April 12.
“My dad passed away when I was real young but I think his love of flying was somehow transferred to me,” Consalvi told those at the air museum’s annual meting. He said his dad, who was in the flying business, took him flying when he was only 2 days old on the way home from the hospital.
Growing up in Canton, Mass., Consalvi said, “Some family members kept me flying as a little guy. I remember going to the airport with granddad and watching the airplanes fly and just thinking how cool it was.” He trained for his pilot’s license while in school.
“I knew I wanted to be a fighter pilot,” Consalvi said. He said he knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot since he was in the sixth- or seventh-grade.
But when he was 16 while sitting at a table at a party he was shot in the face and almost killed. A guy sitting across from him had pulled out a gun. The guy said the safety lock was on. The gun went off, hitting Consalvi in the face. He thought he was going to die. A split second later, he said he thought, “There’s too many things to do. I’ve had too many dreams…” He thought of his mother, Jane Consalvi, and his ideas to become a pilot.
Consalvi said being shot was a life-changing experience that did nothing but provide good for his life now and in the future. “Because every terrible experience you can take however you want,” he said. “You can say that was terrible and I’m going to be a sad, sad person for the rest of my life.” Or, he said, a person can make it into something good for their life.
But he was told from that accident experience he would not be able to fly fighter planes.
“The (F-14) Tomcat was always my goal,” he said.
Consalvi was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy but initially physicians would not give him a recommendation so he could fly planes.
At one point when more physicians had turned him down to recommend him for flying, his mother told him, “Do you want it to happen?” He said he did. She told him, “Just keep trying.”
And he did.
When another physician, a world renown neurovascular surgeon, checked him, he finally got the green light a medical recommendation so he could fly. “It was just like a dream come true it was amazing,” Consalvi said.
Consalvi said people get the idea from movies like “Top Gun” that being a fighter pilot looks like it’s really cool. He said the movie shows that the pilots “get to fly jets and go play beach volleyball.”
He said there’s a lot that goes into being a fighter pilot. “You have to practice a ton, you have to study all the time,” he said. During his first couple years in his squadron, he said if he wasn’t flying, he was studying to fly.
Consalvi flew F-14B Tomcats on his first deployment to the Middle East and Super Hornets on the second deployment there.
He deployed on the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, at the time the second newest boat. “It was a great ship,” he said. He deployed in 2004-2005 and 2007-2008.
Consalvi flew F/A-18 Hornets when instructing Marines in San Diego. When he was training Marines how to fly jets on carriers, he said he got to fly on just about every boat in the fleet.
Asked how fast an aircraft carrier can get a jet off the deck, he said the heaviest Tomcat catapult shot he did was 72,000 pounds 0 to 200 mph in about 1.2 seconds.
In trapping or the catapult catching the plane when it lands on deck, “You know we’re coming aboard at 140 knots… Your little hook grabs that little wire and you’re 146 knots to 0 in full power, by the way, in half or three quarters of a second. It’s still mindboggling to me. It’s such a cool ride, it’s like a rollercoaster that you have control over,” Consalvi said.
“The catapult is like the reward for all you had to deal with in getting to the boat and being on the boat. It’s a feeling you can’t get literally anywhere else in the world,” he said.
As a result of the documentary film, “Speed and Angels Some Dreams Are Worth Waiting For,” about him and another fighter pilot, Consalvi said he gets several emails a week from kids wanting to know how they can become a fighter pilot or from adults wondering how to get their kids interested.
Consalvi has also served in the Navy Reserve as an adversary pilot flying F-5 Tigers.
Now a general aviation pilot, he also likes to fly World War II planes.
When Consalvi reached the end of his Navy commitment, he decided he wanted to do something different. He moved to Midland, Texas, and got a job in the oil business. He and a buddy, another former Naval aviator, formed their own company, Palmares Energy, in May 2013. The company buys mineral and royalty interests across the nation in various plays including the Permian Basin and the Bakken.
“I’m having a good time doing it,” he said, of his life and work today, adding, “And I get to fly a Cub for three days in my life from New Mexico to North Dakota,” joking about the three days he spent flying the plane he brought to Minot.