What is That Lake Out There…

I used to love early morning missions. It was often quiet on the flight line, cool, the sun rising, a bit of a chill in the air and so forth. Then, just after we we launched and came out of burner, we would kind of ‘glide’ through the still air. Just coasting, at 300 knots for a few moments – then reality kicked in and we would receive clearance to climb. Back to work.

Once in our assigned area we would begin our briefed profile. Aerobatics, stalls, vertical recoveries and slow flight exercises…

One morning, as we were about to “come over the top,” my student asked, “Sir, what is that lake out there?” Initially I wasn’t sure ‘what lake’ he was talking about, but I soon figured it out. Looking out the top of my canopy I would see the Sun reflecting off this huge body of water off to the East…

“Oh,” I replied, “that’s Lakea de la Gulf of Mexico” – and its grew real quiet up front…

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No BDA, but One Hell of an Airshow!

In the early 80’s I ran into (Retired) M/Gen. Peter DeLonga at an airshow at Kelly Field, TX, and he shared a great story with us – about an “airshow” he put on in Vietnam.

In 1970 he was flying F-4’s in Vietnam. However, under his command he had several other aircraft he was responsible for. One day the A-37 guys asked him if he would fly a mission with them. He said he was a bit reluctant to, but they did work for him and he wanted to show his support for them.

So one Saturday morning he suited up and took off in an A-37 with 4 250-pound bombs on board and a full load of 7.62mm ammo for the gun. He soon made contact with a FAC (Forward Air Controller) and asked for a target. There were no shortage of them…

The FAC soon briefed him on his target: a long, skinny island in the middle of a river. General DeLonga was briefed to fly 4 passes, South to North, dropping one bomb on each pass – progressively “walking” them up the island. He did as briefed, rolling in on the island, jinking like crazy to avoid ground fire and releasing one bomb per pass. When all his bombs were dropped, he was told by the FAC to begin strafing tases with the gun. And again, down the chute he came, jinking hard left then right to avoid ground fire then strafing the island, South to North.

When he had expended his ammunition he pulled off for a BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) report.

“Oh,” the FAC reported, “there is no ‘bomb damage per se.’ We just had some new Army guys show up in-country and they wanted to see an airshow! The Army guys had been sitting on the river bank, drinking beer while General DeLonga was working his ass off to put “bombs on target!” And so the War went…

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Cold War Preparation

I had the opportunity a couple-3 days ago to talk with a friend from my Senior year of high school, General H. H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden, West Germany. I knew of John O. in school, but I didn’t really ‘know’ him. I got to know him at our 50th HS reunion and have come to like him quite a bit…

The other day as we were talking he shared a story with me that is just “too good” not to share. It seems that at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis John’s father worked at a “listening station” in West Germany at the time, ‘snooping’ in on Soviet communications. Yes, we did that. One day his dad gave John an envelope and told him that in case “the balloon” went up (a soviet attack) that he should follow the instructions within. Matter of fact he had John pull the instructions from the envelop which contained a map, and had John make a “dry run,” not telling anyone. The route John was to follow was took him to a (relatively) safe place where folks were to muster for extraction from Europe. John laughed as he told me that he reckoned that from there his Mother and sisters would have a ring-side seat to watch the missiles flying back and forth overhead.

Neither of us thought much about his instructions as that was just what ‘we’ did, or at least some of us. But in the greater context of today, what a responsibility to saddle a kid with!

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Into a Black Hole

I was on a C-141A trip with Phil F. when we were tasked to fly into Bien Hoa, South Vietnam one night. Not a ‘big deal.’

Upon contact with Bien Hoa approach we were vectored to the airfield for an right-hand” overhead” VFR approach. Apparently there was Viet Cong (VC) activity in the area that night and they wanted to keep us in close to the airfield. In retrospect, dumb!

Once again I was flying from the left seat. Phil picked up the runway off to his left and gave me insight as to when to configure, and turn. Everything was going fine, for the first part of the final turn. I was struggling to look “cross cockpit” to pick up the runway, while maintaining a descent and airspeed. The problem was, there was almost nothing out there off the runway, to give cues as to my sink rate. It was what we call a “black hole.”

As I became totally focused on finding the runway Phil glanced in at the instruments and saw that we were in a 60-degree descending right-hand turn! Really not good! He called it out and I immediately reduced the bank angle and added power, arresting the sink rate. Then reacquiring thee runway we landed with our further incident. We were lucky that night as many others, before us and after us, have flown into “black holes” and were not as fortunate…

As a post script: After we offloaded our cargo and took on a new load, we were taxing out for departure when we spotted a snake on the taxiway. I have always thought of it as a cobra. Maybe, or maybe not, doesn’t matter – we slid over a bit and mashed it…

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C-141A No-Flap

There are moments in flying that never quite escape you. This is one for me.

I was flying a C-141A to Elmendorf AFB, AK with Phil F. one evening. He had taken the first leg to Dover AFB, DE from McGuire AFB, NJ. After taking on our cargo we headed North. As was the practice in those days we rotated seats. For this leg I was in the left or Aircraft Commander’s seat.

Everything was normal until we began to configure for landing. The flaps jammed at 3 percent, essentially a no-flap. I fully anticipated Phil to take control and fly as a no-flap constituted an emergency landing but he told me to continue flying.

Now, I have always loved EPs, emergency procedures. It is during these situations where I can really experience flying. Often it is during these situations where you have to have “good hands.”

So we declared an Emergency, ran the No-Flap check list and adjusted the airspeed as required – then settled into the approach. On C-141 no-flaps the aircraft was real sensitive to throttle inputs. So, once you were on speed, leave it alone! And it was imperative to have that speed just before beginning down the glide path. That night I nailed it and upon hitting the glide path all I had to do was reduce power a bit, and enjoy the ride.

The ride down the glide path was somewhat pleasurable. As advertised in training. Then the flare and landing went without incident – and we began rolling. The spoilers came out normally, and still we rolled. Then the Thrust Reversers were deployed, and we continued to roll. Without flaps this was expected, so no big deal. We had tons of runway available, and used most of it before turning off.

I never thought it was a big deal at all – I had fun with it all. But in retrospect that was one of those moments that really boosted my confidence in flying. Its one thing to perform EPs in the simulator; quite another in “real life.” I remain grateful to Phil today for giving me that opportunity as a young copilot…

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Eating Up Runway

Jim was in his office one afternoon when a young IP came in and asked to speak to him.  Mike was relatively new and was somewhat ‘white’ in the face.  Of course, Jim told him to come in and have a seat.  Then he asked what was on his mind.  Mike slowly began to share his story.

One of the maneuvers we performed in the Contact phase of T-38s was a Simulated Single-Engine Heavyweight approach and landing, to a touch and go, right after initial takeoff.  This would simulate a ‘worse case’ senerio of losing an engine right after take off.  Depending on the student, and where he was in training, we would either pull a throttle to Idle right after takeoff, or somewhere on Final Approach.  If we pulled the throttle back just after takeoff we would create a full imbalance that we would have to deal with later, so often we would wait until turning final.  However, in the beginning of training a throttle came to Idle just after the gear and flaps were retracted.

On this particular day Mike pulled the throttle to Idle just after takeoff.  It was hot that day, in Enid, OK so engine performance was nominal, but safe in and of itself.

Everything was normal through the approach and touchdown.  Then on the subsequent touch and go, the aircraft did not accelerate as normal.  It was noticeably slow and Mike was ‘eating up runway.’  Feeling something was “not quite right,” Mike began looking around the cockpit.  It was then that he discovered that one of the throttles was still in Idle!  Holy Crap!  (The student had only advanced one throttle to ‘full’ power.)

To lend a perspective to the gravity of it all, on initial takeoff we would use Afterburner, on both engines.  Here Mike was now, on takeoff roll, only 400 pounds lighter, using a just a single engine, in Military power.  Not good!

So he selected Afterburner on both engines and complete the takeoff – many feet further down the runway!

When Jim shared this story with me I cringed!  There but for the grace of God…

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For a Quarter?

CUATION: John, put down your coffee!

So, one day Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi find themselves standing next to each other in the Men’s Room. They both look down and spot a quarter in Bart’s urinal. After they finish their business, Bart reaches in his pocket and pulls out another quarter – which he tosses into the urinal, along with the other one. Then he bends over and retrieves both quarters at the same time.

When he looks up he sees Vince staring at him with somewhat of a puzzled look on his face, Bart exclaims, What, you don’t think I was going to stick my fingers in there for just 0.25 cents, do you?”

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The Program for the Nurnberg Trials…

A couple-3 weeks ago I was rummaging through an old footlocker of my Dad’s when I found this gem:

It contains the description of 22 German/Nazi defendants. I remember my Dad telling me about attending the trials, and actually seen Goering.

I want to be ‘careful’ in reading it for as you can see, it hardly has any creases in it now… more to follow.

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A few years ago I was visiting my old Air Force ROTC detachment, Det. 620 at Bowling Green State University (OH). I met a Lt. Col. who told me that she had flown helicopters, in Keflavik, Iceland while assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron.  I looked up at her “I Love Me” wall and spotted a 56th Air Rescue patch.

I was somewhat excited as I had been in the 56th Rescue Squadron many years before. Only then it was the 56th ARRS, Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Korat Royal Thailand AFB, Thailand, and we flew HC-130s. She had flown HH-60s, rescue helicopters.

“Hey, that’s cool,” I told her, “I was in the 56th at Korat!” 

Thinking about what I had just told her she said, “Oh, that’s interestinmg, I have never been to Georgia…”

Not knowing quite what to say, I just let it go…

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When we graded UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training) students after a ride there was always a block called “Judgement” on the grade sheet ‘Judgement’ was a graded item in all the different phases of training: contact, formation, nav and instruments. The grades we assessed at the time were Excellent, Good, Fair and Unsat.

Usually ‘Judgement’ was a subjective grade based upon the IP’s overall feeling of how the ride went; unless something exceptional stood out, good or bad.

I recently became reacquainted with a former Vance T-38 IP. We served together briefly in 1978, maybe 4 months overlap. I vaguely remember him and now, after talking with him a bit last weekend, wish I had known him better.

As we talked he told me how he approached ‘Judgement.’ Apparently he never gave a student an Excellent on ‘Judgement’ on a ride, regardless of how well it went. Occasionally he was questioned about it, but he never relented. Then he went on to tell me that on graduation day he would meet with his students before they ‘walked across the stage’ to receive there wings. It was then that he gave them a set of Air Force Wings, with the word “Judgement” inscribed on the back of the Wings. He said that often by the time the student reached the Wing Commander to receive his wings, he would have tears in his eyes.

I wish I had thought of that…

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