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Cobra pilot’s mission: Come home for air show

Thomas Wisdom, like so many from Tahoe, grew up hoping to make the United States Ski Team. He didn’t achieve that goal, but he has become a member of a much greater squad.

Wisdom, 29, is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Lake In The Sky Air Show Saturday will be a homecoming for Capt. Wisdom, who will present an AH1 Cobra attack helicopter.



“I haven’t done an air show before,” he said. “The fact that I get to do it in Tahoe, basically my hometown, is pretty exciting.”

Wisdom was born in Truckee and lived in the Kings Beach-Tahoe Vista area until his sophomore year, when he joined a Vermont ski academy with a dream of making the national Nordic team.



Living 3,000 miles from his family from the time he was 16 years old helped give him the discipline took to get his wings, he said.

Wisdom earned a psychology degree from Vermont’s Middlebury College before applying for an aviation contract with the Marines.

He said superb conditioning from being a lifelong ski competitor helped him meet the physical challenges of officer candidacy school.

He started flying in flight school in January 2006 and earned his wings in April 2008.

“Ever since i was a little kid I wanted to be a helicopter salesman, not fly. Go figure,” Wisdom said from Camp Pendleton on his cell phone, which has a Tahoe number.

His grandfather, who was a retired Air Force veteran, told Wisdom if he wanted to sell helicopters he should learn to fly one first.

The narrow, twin-engine AH1 Cobra choppers are the backbone of the Marines’ air fleet. They are manned by two pilots and can reach speeds of 190 knots.

“The Cobra is an extremely maneuverable aircraft,” Wisdom said. “It’s a small and thin aircraft, which helps in the maneuverability, and it’s also inherently unstable which also helps in the maneuverability.”

The earliest version of the aircraft was used in Vietnam. It is crucial in the Afghanistan mission.

“Helicopters anywhere are a real force multiplier because we can land in places where no one else can land in and bring supplies and water and food and whatnot in places you can’t bring a fixed wing aircraft into,” Wisdom said. “In any type of conflict, any type of fight, the helicopter is a huge, huge force multiplier.”

Earlier this year Wisdom returned from an operation in the West Pacific. He said he hopes to fly in Afghanistan.

“It definitely is a dangerous job but it comes with the territory,” he said. “We train really well and we train really hard to make sure that we stay as safe as we possibly can.”

His father is Kings Beach resident Scott Wisdom, who also was born at Tahoe. Lori and Mark Horn of Tahoe Vista are his mother and step-father.

Tahoe residents and visitors will have an opportunity Saturday to meet Wisdom and other military members who risk their lives to serve our country.

“As Marines we’re proud of what we do and we’re going to go where the president tells us to go, and we’re going to fight the fight that the president tells us fight,” he said. “I do it proudly and I believe in what I do. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe in it.”

More information: http://www.lakeintheskyairshow.com.


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