…and so they are, or so it seems…
It seems like we are experiencing a mindset today of “…the Rules are the Rules”; most often in lieu of “common sense.” We used to say (tongue in cheek) that, “common sense” and “good judgement” were poor substitutes for Air Force regulations. I see a continued and growing emphasis on folks to be “compliance oriented” and “politically correct” – to “get in line” with the other kids, and play nice, and follow the rules. Home Owners Associations, school boards, State Licensing Bureaus and so forth. Everybody has their rules now, and we must all comply – or so it seems.
Now, I am not at all, against the rules – with a caveat. I think as important as any rule is, in and of itself, is the “spirit and intent” behind the rule. I was very fortunate to have spent my first two years on active duty in Aerospace Munitions as a Weapons Officer. Now that’s an organization with rules. And if you don’t follow them, you can quickly find yourself in a lot of little pieces, scattered all over the base. However, this being said, from Day 1 at Munitions School, “they” drummed into us, the importance in understanding the “spirit and intent” behind a specific rule. Most of the rules were “self-evident” – self-preservation; other rules took some explaining, but in the end, made sense.
An example from munitions remains with me today. It is a two-handed operation to properly install a nose fuze in a bomb. You take the fuze out of the box with one hand, and cradle it with the other hand as you screw it into the bomb. However, as a base is being overrun by ‘gomers’, or there are “troops in contact” somewhere in the boonies, you reach into the box with two hands, grab two fuzes, and screw them into two bombs. With the safety devices integral to the fuzes, they “probably” wouldn’t function anyway, if inadvertently dropped – the rule is kinda “overkill” in this case. But you have to know how the fuze is designed, and the “intent” of the rule to do this…
Along with this discussion came a conversation about “consequences.” There are consequences when we choose to ignore or disregard a rule – just as there are if we decide to disobey an order. And we have to be willing to accept these consequences when we intentionally break a rule. I didn’t make it a career to arbitrarily decide which rules I would follow, and which ones I would ignore – but I did make an effort to fully understand the rules and regulations I was under…
A couple days ago there was a news report about a sandstorm in Phoenix, AZ – along with this picture. It gave me chills. The last time I saw a cloud like this was in a descent into Williams AFB – just outside of Phoenix. I could see it from about 50 miles away.
We were coming into Willi from the East one friday afternoon, and we were “out of gas.” Coming into Willi from the East, you were always out of gas.
Local flying had shut down, and we were the only ones airborne. Mike Corrie was the Supervisor of Flying (SOF) on duty. I recognized his voice from an earlier transmission he made on Guard radio, announcing Willi was soon closing. The radio conversation went something like:
“Corrie-san, how you do?”
“Horriker,” where are you?”
“About 50 miles out.”
“Horriker, you no land at Willi soon, you no land anywhere!”
That was all I needed to hear!
Going to Luke AFB, of Sky Harbor International was not an option because of the direction of the storm. So, with Willi still in sight, and no local traffic to contend with, I cancelled IFR (instrument flight rules), lit the burners and aimed directly at Willi. The “rule” is, below 10,000 feet we were limited to 300 knots airspeed. On 5-mile final (or so), I was doing 450 knots!
Idle, speed brakes. Using a combination of rudder and aileron, a 4-5G turn to the left, followed by a 4-5G turn to the right – keeping in mind the asymmetrical rolling G limits – wiped off 250 knots real fast. Then the sequence was rolling out on final, gear, speed brakes (up) flaps, power on to brake the descent, idle, flare, touchdown (on speed) and rollout. We made the turn off the runway and I could see the wall of sand just about upon us. My concern was now with the engines. As it turned out, we made it to parking, shut down and were engulfed in sand! Nasty!
Had I followed the rules in this case, there is no way I would have made it. However, I would have “died legally.” Guess that is something… but not for me, not that day. As it turned out, not a thing was ever mentioned about the incident, until Corrie-san and I
shared a beer at Randolph a few months later – and laughed about it all!
So, what did I learn from the experience? The sandstorm was unpredictable – just one of those freak occasions we encounter in flying. It is not an exact science, you know. But sometimes you do what ya have to do, rules or no rules. In this case I learned I could have easily gone to 480 knots, and still made it with a small buffer on final…
Good Day, to you all!