Who Knew?

In the mid 1880’s a rather unknown Chinese laborer came to America to work on the transcontinental railroad. His name was ‘Won Dum Foc.’ When the task was completed, Mr. Foc settled in Utah, married and began a family. He took that “begetting” part of the Bible seriously, and soon there were many little Dum Focs running around. And after a while they too, became fruitful and multiplied – to where we now see Dum Focs throughout America… who knew?

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‘We Have to Start Going to Different Places’…

When we were still in training I overheard a T-38 Check Pilot once lament, ‘We have to start going to different places for our cross-country checks…’

“Well, that’s an interesting comment,” I thought to myself. “Wonder what brought that about?”

After a few moments of asking around I discovered what it was all about. Apparently ‘Buzz,’ a student in our other section, was on his Instrument/Nav Check to Tinker AFB, OK. And along the way, the Air Traffic Controllers were giving him “tips’ on what to do next. Like when it might be a good time to go off freq (frequency) for 2 minutes, to give a PIREP (Pilot Report on the observed weather), or when to ask for vectors to the TACAN Holding Fix, and what direction he ‘might’ turn in the holding pattern, and so forth. The Check Pilot was amazed at just how much help Buzz was receiving.

Well, as it turns out, Buzz’s dad was an ATC Controller in the San Antonio Center and his uncle worked the Fort Worth Center! So, Buzz had given them a ‘heads-up’ on his call sign, and he was then essentially handled with Kid gloves!

In further discussion with Buzz, he had been using his Dad all through pilot training, to keep an eye on him on check rides! While the rest of us were blowing out the sides, top or bottom of our areas, Buzz was getting radar vectors to stay within the confines of the area. Couldn’t ask for better service I suppose…

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The “Boner” Board

When we went through UPT, they had “Boner Boards” in each of the Flight Rooms. A “boner” was a “screw-up,” typically called by an IP. Each “Boner” carried a $0.25 value and was collected by the IPs. The collection was then used to buy the beer for some function or another (night flying, graduation, whatever).

The boards were constructed with a Playboy Playmate picture under a piece of plexiglass, covered by a solid laminated material of some kind.. Our names were then listed in the first column on the left side of the board. To the right of our names were 1-inch squares. When you were ‘awarded’ a ‘boner’ (or 2, or 3, etc), you dropped the money in a can, and peeled away 2,3,4 squares – revealing a small part of the playmate.

With our class there was no shortage of funds for the beer…

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Buzzing Capt. C.

When we flew in the training command at the time, we operated off of both sides of the runway. Normally a runway has to be “clear” to land however we had a waiver that allowed us to operate with 3,000 foot spacing between landing aircraft – on opposite sides of the runway. It worked well.

One day Capt. C. was in position for takeoff, on the left side of Runway 14R at Randolph AFB, TX. As his student was checking the engine instruments prior to brake release Capt. C. noticed a ‘flash’ off the right side of his aircraft. Then he saw another Tweet (T-37) roll by and for a split second, he was eyeball-to-eyeball with him! The rolling Tweet continued a touch and go while Capt. C. retarded his throttles to Idle to regain his composure for a moment before taking off himself.

During that time he (then) noticed a couple of flares that had been short off from the RSU and only then, heard the RSU Controller screaming over the radio! It happens. Sometimes we become so ‘focused’ in what we are doing that we lose sight of everything else around us. Neither Capt. C, nor his student or ‘Buzz,’ the solo student pilot in the other aircraft, heard the calls of the RSU Controller, or saw the flares!

When he got back to the flight room, Capt. C. was still HOT! It cost Buzz about 100 “Boners” that day (about $25.00).

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The Month Art “Frocked” Himself…

“In the United States military, frocking is the practice of a commissioned or non-commissioned officer selected for promotion wearing the insignia of the higher grade before the official date of promotion. An officer who has been selected for promotion may be authorized to “frock” to the next grade. Wikipedia

So, in the mid-80’s we had a guy in the 560th who made Major. He was our Squadron ‘Pretty Boy;’ always walking around in somewhat of a perpetual pose – like some sort of a fashion model on a runway somewhere. Anyway, this one monday he comes in the squadron with brand new Major’s leaves sewn on his flight suit. Spends the better part of the morning just walking around with his coffee, ‘saddling up’ to folks, and staring at his new Major’s leaves, waiting for acknowledgement! Just proud as a peacock, he was!

That Friday we had a Squadron party somewhere or another. I happened to see him, standing off with a beer, all alone by himself. So I walked over and asked him what was up.

“I’m not a Major anymore,” he replied.

“What?” I asked.

Then he went on to explain. “My line number (for promotion) was (something like) 1871. I thought it was 1781 and the promotion numbers for the month ran up to 1790 – so I thought I was good. Now, I am a Captain again.” And he was really distraught!

I could hardly “hold it in!” It was ‘kinda sad,’ yet at the same time, funny as Hell! Art had “frocked” himself! And now that he discovered the error of his way, he has to ‘de-frock’ himself. And, it couldn’t have happened to a better guy!

That next Monday morning, I happened to see Art ‘slinking’ into the squadron, as a Captain (again). I decided to leave him alone, but it’s still, Funny as Hell!

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The T-38 Follow-On Trainer…

The T-38A/C is getting old, and tired.  It entered service in 1961 and has served America well.  I had the privilege of flying it for 13 years on active duty – and I loved every moment of it!  But she is getting tired… It’s sad, for sure, to see the T-38 at the end of her tour, but it’s time.

In the late 70’s I attended a briefing on the T-38 by a couple Northrop engineers who designed it.  At one point during the briefing they said that if they had to design a replacement for the ’38 it would look a lot like the T-38.  That statement never left me.  And now, I think they did.  In this TX, I can see the T-38.  And I am sure it will do well.

I suppose my only ‘regret’ in seeing the TX come on board is, I won’t get a chance to fly it…

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“Roger that, and you can pick up the squawk…”

Gary G. was a senior captain when I got to Vance in 1975.  He had been a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Vietnam before becoming a T-38 IP.  Gary had kind of a ‘cynical demeanor’ but in a humorous way.  I never saw him use his humor in a harmful manner – but he sure could get his point across with it!

One day Gary was out in the area when the jet he was flying had a T-5 Amp, on one of his engines, let go on him.  The T-5 Amp was a device on each engine that controlled engine temperature by opening the nozzles to keep the temperatures within their operating range.  They only came into effect above 95% rpm (I think).  It was not a ‘big deal,’ but something that you didn’t want to continue the mission with.  So on this day, Gary calls for a return to Vance, then calls into the squadron to tell them what is going on.

Now, at the time, when we experienced an ‘anomaly’ with the jet we could declare either an Emergency or a Precautionary, depending upon the severity of the problem.  This would give us preferential treatment for recovery, if necessary.  So, now Gary calls the Supervisor of Flying (SOF) to advise him that he is returning to base with this T-5 amp issue.

The SOF in turn, asks Gary if he is declaring either an Emergency or a Precautionary.  Gary was a bit perplexed by the question as it really didn’t warrant either.  So he told the SOF that he wasn’t declaring anything to which the SOF replied that he (the SOF) was declaring a Precautionary for him!

Gary was somewhat taken aback.  He had never heard of anything like it.  So, he then told the SOF, “Roger that, you can pick up the squawk then!”  Meaning: the SOF could turn his transponder to the ‘precautionary setting!’  Gary was justifiably upset that the SOF was attempting to ‘fly his jet.’

I thought Gary was ‘spot on’ with his retort…


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“Where Are You Guys?”

One of the ‘additional duties’ we had in the squadron was to provide resources to the Base Exercise and Evaluation Team (BEET) for exercises on occasion.   And one day we sent 2 of our pilots to participate in a staged holdup of Base Finance – to ‘exercise’ the Base Security Police (SP).  The plan was, our 2 pilots would walk into Base Finance and announce a ‘holdup.’  There was to be a ‘little old lady’ carrying 2 sacks of ‘money.’  The ‘money sacks’ would actually be filled with scrap paper.  The ‘bandits’ would then head out to their car and drive around until the Security Police collected them and retrieved the money.  Pretty straightforward, one would think.

When our two guys walked into Finance and announced the stickup, as planned, they saw the woman carrying the two sacks of money.  She handed over the ‘money,’ again as planned, and our guys headed out the door.  Another objective of the exercise was to have Finance folks look out the window to identify the getaway car for the Security Police.  No one did, and off our guys went.  The only problem at this point was, they confronted the wrong lady at Finance and actually grabbed 2 bags of real money – somewhere around $15,000! 

So now we have these 2 guys driving around base with ’15 Large’ in the back seat, actually waving at the SPs driving everywhere with sirens and lights!  And after a while they get hungry.  So they decide to head off base to get a burger.  No problem.

They leave the money in the back seat and head inside for their lunch.  After lunch they go back to the base and drive around a bit more, again waving at the cops when they see them.  Finally they decide to contact the BEET team guys to find out when this whole thing will be over as they both have flights later the afternoon.

When they get ahold of the BEET team chief he asks, “Where are you guys?”  They tell him they have just been driving around the base.  And, oh yes, we went off base for a bit, for lunch.

The team chief then tells them they grabbed the wrong bags, that they actually have ‘real money!’  Oh shit! 

They were then able to return the money, debrief and return to the squadron – with one great story! 


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Just Point Him Toward Sky Harbor…

Mike C. once told me about a young Lt. who took a jet (T-38) out on a weekend cross country with a Flight Surgeon who needed to log some flying time.  This wasn’t unusual, I did it a few times myself.

Apparently this particular Lt. was building a reputation as somewhat of a ‘screw-up.’  Yes, we had them – not many, but we had the.  It was upon his return that Sunday that he got his “name in lights” once again.

Mike was the SOF that day and first became aware that there was a ‘problem’ when ATC called to tell him that one of his jets was diverting from Willi to Luke because of ‘high crosswinds.’  Mike asked ATC to ask the IP how much fuel he had remaining.  As it turned out, not enough to make to Luke, some 50 miles away from Willi.

Earlier, when this Lt. began his descent into Willi that afternoon, the crosswinds were below 15 knots.  But they soon increased to between 15 and 20 knots.  The ‘Solo’ (Student) crosswind limit for the T-38 was 15 knots.  For everyone else, the limit was the T-38 design limit of 25 knots.  This guy thought that, because he was a “solo” pilot flying with a flight surgeon, his crosswind limit was 15 knots, so he diverted!  Yep, we had a ‘few of them!’  So, off he heads for Luke AFB…

Mike then told ATC, “Point him to Sky Harbor (Phoenix International) and tell him it’s Luke.  He’s too stupid to know the difference.!”  And the “solo” pilot subsequently landed uneventfully at Sky Harbor, albeit without much gas remaining.

I later heard that this guy soon received an assignment to T-43s at Mather AFB, CA, with the hopes of having “adult supervision” with him when he flew…


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How Do You Spell the Name?

My second trip with Major General LeRoy Svendsen was a 3-day cross-country to Las Vegas.  He had some business out there and I was once again, his “seeing-eye IP.”

The trip was more or less straightforward until we stopped at Willi, (Williams AFB, AZ), on the return.  After a couple touch and goes, he made the full stop.  On rollout we were directed to contact Base Ops (Operations).  So I flicked over to their frequency and checked in.

“Willi Ops, Tonto 07 is on freq,” I called.

“Sir,” came the reply, “how do you spell the name?”

Now remember, I was flying with General Svendsen.  I instantly figured out that they probably had some young airman, with a bag full of letters standing at the marquee in front of Base Ops, wondering how to spell the general’s name:  Svendsen, or Svendson, or whatever.  So I asked, as we continued to roll out, “Are you ready to copy?”

“Yes Sir,” came the reply.

“B-O-B” was my transmission, and the radio went silent!  The General, listening to the whole conversation, began laughing his ass off while clapping his hands over his head!

When we reached parking there was the usual greeting party; the Wing Commander, the Base Commander, The Director of Ops and a few “horse-holders,” and one steaming base Operations Officer.  He was the fat major in the background, and he wanted to talk to me!

As we deplaned I fell in behind General Svendsen, with my eye on the angry, fat major.  He motioned for me to come over to him, and I shook my head, “No.”  By the way, I was still a Captain at this time.  As we trooped the line of the greeting party I once again glanced at the angry, fat major.  Nor he was motioning for me to come over to him by curling his fat, little index finger on his right hand.

“No,” and again, I shook my head.  That just went to piss him off even more.  Now he curled his finger at me with ever more ‘authority,’ and began squinting at me with his beady eyes, now pointing down with his index finger for me to put my person directly in front of him.  Still, not going to do it!

At this point he became ‘very animated’ and pointing to his rank, he once again then pointed down to the space in front of him.  “Okay, that’s the game,” I thought to myself, I pointed to General Svendsen’s 2 stars, and flipped him off – never to look at him again.

I also made sure that I never went to Willi again for 6 months or so…

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