He served as a test pilot for the U.S. Navy during an era when Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems, which project a display into the pilot’s visor, weren’t available in aircraft and communication between pilots and those on the ground was difficult.
Retired Navy officer Anthony Canzonetta, test pilot, flew and tested Panther jets in the Korean War and during the course of his career suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, which still affects him to this day.
As a way to bring back happy memories of the “good old days” and celebrate his 83rd birthday, Canzonetta visited Luke Air Force Base June 13 to spend time with 62nd Fighter Squadron pilots and tell of his experiences as a pilot.
His daughter, Victoria, came up with the idea.
“My father loves and treasures his days as a pilot,” Victoria said. “They say Alzheimer’s patients go back to the time when they were the happiest, and I noticed lately he’s been talking more and more about his planes. Knowing he was unable to attend this year’s air show, I thought why not contact Luke public affairs and organize something for his birthday.”
The tour began with looking at the various static displays at the air park followed by a stop at the end of the runway where Anthony could watch aircraft take off.
It wasn’t until arriving at the 62nd Fighter Squadron that one could see Anthony’s humor and smile show through.
“I haven’t seen him grin like a Cheshire cat for so long,” Victoria said. “The guys have been so welcoming and watching him get a chance to tell his stories is the best part.”
As part of the tour, Capt. Brian Dudley, 62nd FS A-flight commander and instructor pilot, showed Anthony the current flight gear, which included the G-suit and helmet, with the help of 56th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment Airmen.
Afterward, Anthony and the pilots swapped stories in the heritage room before heading out to the flightline to take photos, meet Col. John Hanna, 56th Operations Group commander, and talk with a student pilot.
“My favorite part of the day was seeing him wear the headset and talk to the student pilot in the F-16,” Dudley said. “They talked about flying and he may have also been giving our student a few tips on how to actually fly a jet, being a test pilot himself.”
During their time together, Dudley and Anthony talked about a variety of topics from flying to Anthony’s love for fast cars, his experience recovering from injuries and transitioning to life as a civilian.
“It was a great opportunity talking with Mr. Canzonetta about flying and aviation and see how much things have stayed the same and how things have changed,” Dudley said. “It’s nice to see he’s having a great time, and it’s just fun to spend time with him as well.”
Although Anthony is a prior Navy pilot, being able to spend time with Air Force pilots still felt like he was coming home.
“It’s been a great, great thing to come out and meet these guys, see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” Anthony said. “I’m very pleased they invited me, and I hope I can come back. The best part was when I watched the student pilot unload out of the plane. It brought back a lot of memories.”