The ‘Mexican Standoff’ in New Hampshire

In 1977 Col. Wilson C. Cooney was assigned to Vance AFB, OK as our Director of Operations (DO). As he was settling in to the operations he wanted to visit our ACE* (Accelerated Copilot Enrichment) bases. I was a T-38 Wing Flight Safety Officer at the time.

B/General Wilson C. Cooney

For whatever reason ATC determined that putting the various ACE programs under the host Wing Safety Divisions was the best way to go. So it was determined that I could perform a “flight safety inspection’ with this unit by accompanying Col. Cooney with his ACE orientation at Pease AFB, NH. So, off we went.

Colonel Cooney had flown the T-38 previously, but had yet to begin his requal – but it was determined that he could fly in the front seat anyway. This decision made, by ‘not me,’ would soon come to bite me in the ass!

Our first two hops to Pease went without incident. We would land for our ‘gas-and goes,’ and I would direct Col. Cooney to shut down the engines once we coasted into parking. (It should be noted here that the T-38 engines could only be shut down from the front cockpit.)

I think we may have stayed overnight along the way because, if memory serves, we arrived at Pease mid-morning. It was a cool, sunny Fall morning that day, and we taxied in with our canopy closed.

The “reception” committee consisted of 4 or 5 SAC (Strategic Air Command) colonels and 1 ATC captain – all nicely lined up at attention. As we came to a stop they all saluted, in unison. Quite a nice reception if I might say so. In taxing in Colonel Cooney had taken off his helmet and replaced it with his service cap. He crisply returned the salute as we came to a stop – then we just sat there, staring at 4 or 5 SAC colonels and 1 ATC captain. With the engines running.

The 4 or 5 SAC colonels, and 1 ATC captain, were standing there at attention, and Colonel Cooney was sitting up front looking politely at them. And the engines were still running.

Then it dawned on me – Colonel Cooney didn’t realize that I couldn’t shut the engines down! And, with him wearing his hat, in lieu of his helmet, he couldn’t open his canopy! Well, damn! So, I sat there for a moment, kind of amused by the whole thing, then I though I had better ‘do something.’ So I unstrapped, opened my canopy then reached up and slapped the side of his canopy. He was somewhat surprised when he looked back at me and I gave him the ‘cut-off’ signal. Then he got it!

He then shut down the engines, opened his canopy and climbed out of the aircraft. Soon he was on his way with the 4 or 5 SAC colonels, leaving me with the ATC captain.

I didn’t catch up with him until sometime later – and nary a word was said about the incident. Never was, but I have sure chuckled about it over the years…

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