One I became convinced that we could teach T-38 stall and sink rate recognition better than we were, I really began to dig into things – and made some interesting observations. I was able to get into the ATC archives and found the first edition of the manual used to teach flying the T-38. Out of curiosity, I also looked at the T-33 flight manual. The T-33 was the jet used before we had the T-38. I was astounded to find that the paragraphs on stall recovery were basically the same! At the risk of oversimplification, they both essentially said, ‘Stalls are very dangerous, and if you get into one, it can hurt you.’ Really?
The next thing I did was I looked hard at the 39 stall/sink rate related accidents on file. To help understand the issue, I created a simple matrix: phase of flight (straight-in approach, final turn, short final), configuration (gear up or down, flaps up or down), winds, pattern spacing (e.g. too ‘tight,’ too wide), solo or dual, and so forth. When it was complete it was very revealing. In all cases, the throttles were the common denominator. In each accident they were found to be ‘retarded’ just before onset of either the stall or a high sink rate.
The T-38 stall characteristics are very obvious. On the other hand, the onset of a high sink rate is very insidious. Yes, these accidents were ‘stall’ related, but the real problem was the induced high sink rate. Now I had a problem!
ATC in those days was very parochial in it’s thinking. Yes, ‘they’ were open to new thoughts – as long as they were their new thoughts. I knew if I went up to Command to present my idea, I would more than likely be “shot in the face.” So I decided to put together a “package” that couldn’t be refuted. I had been taught early on, just don’t go to your boss with a problem; have a solution in hand when you go in to see him/her.
So, now that I had a deeper understanding of the problem at hand, I began to work on a solution – developing a ride in the jet, solely dedicated to exploring T-38 stall and sink rate characteristics in various configurations, in various phases of flight.
About this time I floated my idea with my former squadron commander, Nick A. who had gone to Command Stan Eval. He really liked the idea, and encouraged me to accelerate development. We were scheduled for a Stan/Eval inspection later the summer, and he thought that would really be a “feather in our cap.” So, I cleared everything on my plate and began working on the details of the ride.
As the Chief of Stan Eval at Randolph, I could get a jet just about any time I wanted to. That made things relatively convenient. From my matrix, I had somewhat of an idea of how I wanted to structure the ride. Then I sought out the ‘experience’ we had on base; guys who had flown the T-38 ‘forever.’ The ideas and suggestions then began to really flow in, and soon the ride came together. I had never in my life sat thought so many stalls or high sink rates! But I gained a real appreciation of how beneficial this ride could be.