Retired colonel teaching new generation at the Air Force Academy

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U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KKTV) - If you find a job you like and get paid, then it can't be that bad, right?
But what if you're 80? Would you still work?

Retired Air Force Col. Fred Porter does. Porter teaches at the Air Force Academy. He's using his lessons from war and years as a test pilot to show cadets what it takes to make an airplane fly.

"A straight edge from here to here will get you your leading edge," Lt. Col. Porter stated with an eager-to-learn cadet by his side.

Air Force Academy cadets know they have to pass Porter's class if they want to graduate. The class is led by two Air Force Academy grads, retired Lt. Col. John Body and Porter.

"He's [Porter] perfect in the aeronautics course cause he has that much experience being a test pilot that he can give them the tips and techniques that can make airplanes fly," Body explained.

But before Porter was a test pilot, he was an F-4 combat fighter pilot .

"My flight instructor when I learned to fly, before I soloed out, he said, 'Lt. Porter, flying is hours and hours of boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror,'" Porter said with a straight face.

That moment of stark terror came during the Vietnam War. Porter and his co-pilot were shot down during an overnight mission.

"Just as soon as we finished our turn to go out over the water we were hit," Porter recalled. "The left engine exploded and the airplane had flames coming across the canopy and the left wing was on fire and was totally engulfed in flames. There was no doubt we weren't bringing it back to land. So now it was a matter of 'when do we get out?'

"The last thing I saw on the airspeed indicator, there was 390 knots increasing and I thought, 'It's not going to be good for me to go out at that speed so I punched out.'"

He was rescued shortly after and was back in the air two days later.

He told 11 News anchor Dianne Derby he didn't have jitters after the near-death experience. And it is those experiences shared in the classroom that are invaluable to these cadets.

"Him [Porter] telling us all these different experiences, so many different aircraft that we don't normally hear about from like 30 years ago, so it's really cool," said Cadet 2nd Class Tate Troxell.

"It's very admirable," Cadet 1st Class Jessica Chen added. "I don't think I'd be working if I was 80, but it's cool he has a passion for teaching and letting us learn."