In the Cockpit with Legendary Hollywood Stunt Pilot Corkey Fornof
After living in Valencia, Calif., for 20 years, Fornof, father to three daughters and five grandkids, moved to Frisco, Texas, where he lives with his wife Jane. He is without question a world-renown aviator, but doesn’t sport the stereotypical, type-A, Tom Cruise fighter pilot personality. He said he never really paid it much attention and couldn’t recall his father exhibiting behaviors of the overbearing fighter jock either.
“We make friends. We like people,” Fornof said. “With my father and Bob Hoover as my mentors, they were always on top of me to be humble, be thankful that I was doing this — not many people get the opportunity to do it — never think too much of yourself, never believe your own BS and have fun with it. The other thing was, they used to tell me to fly the show for yourself. Always leave yourself a way out, and if you like it, the crowd will like it.”
Hammonds said Fornof has always been steadfast in his personality.
“If you met Corkey, you could be a complete stranger and in just a few minutes, or even seconds, you’d know that he’s just a genuine-type individual, just a good guy,” he said with a cheerfully-southern dialect. “He’s always been like that. He likes to talk airplanes, so if you have anything to do with aviation, you’ll get into it with him real quick-like.”
Pevey remembered the first time he met Fornof, at the BD-5 convention in Dallas.
“We’re just sitting there talking,” he said, “and I happened to mention where I was from, here, I’m not far from New Orleans, and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve spent a lot of time in New Orleans. That’s my home, right there in Houma.’ We just got to talking and within like 10 minutes were like best of friends. It was amazing.”
Pevey has since labeled Fornof the life of the party wherever he goes.
Though Fornof found a piece of his father’s life to follow, he wasn’t the only sibling to catch the bug.
“I’ve got a brother who retired as a captain in the Navy as a helicopter pilot,” he said. “I’ve got a still younger brother who’s a general in the Air Force. He still flies F-15’s. That’s the only way he’d stay in. He’s in charge of advanced fighter tactics at Nellis Air Force Base. He’s won every award the Air Force gives, you know.”
Unlike his brothers, Fornof never served in the military. His intention was to fly for the Navy but some unforeseen circumstances steered his life down a different, yet sometimes seemingly-parallel path.
His plan was to go through flight school with a friend of his after a couple years of college, but the program he was hoping to attend was dropped before he could enroll. By now, he had been flying air shows in the Mustang and the Bearcat with his dad and Hoover, and an admiral friend of his had him giving guest lectures to cadets at Pensacola on low-level aerobatics.
“They had a problem,” Fornof said, “with these kids getting there, soloing, and their parents down there, and every year, they’d lose one or two who’d go out and try to roll it right down the beach and roll it into the water. For some reason, he thought they’d pay attention to me, because I was their age, instead of some of the older instructors who were probably in their late 20s.”
The admiral mentioned to Fornof the Navy was considering reopening the program he was planning to attend, but he would have to get drafted first. When Fornof explained his plan to a woman at the draft office in Louisiana, who incidentally had known him all his life, she was surprised but put him through.
“In Houma, Louisiana, everybody knew everybody,” he said. “I’m standing in front of the courthouse one Friday morning at 5:30 and the same little old lady gets up and she says, ‘Is there anybody here’s who’s in college?’ Of course most of us raised our hands. She said, ‘That deferment stopped in September. Is there anybody here who’s married?’ A lot of us raised our hands. I was married. She said, ‘That deferment stopped the end of September. Is there anybody here who’s married and going to college? That deferment stopped the second week of October.’ She said, ‘Is there anybody here who’s married and their wife’s pregnant?’ And I just found out the day before my wife was pregnant. I-did-not-say-a-word. She stated it three times. She looked at me and she said, ‘Corkey Fornof, doctor Allen Ellender is my doctor and I know your wife’s pregnant! Go home.’ So I walked home.”