Tommy was a young FAIP who worked for me in the early ’80s as a T-38 Check Pilot in the 56oth FTS at Randolph Field, TX. He was a good kid; highly motivated, talented and with a great career ahead of him. However he chose to take a different ‘road’ – one to the airlines. Not a thing “wrong” with that, his choice. I just hated to loose him…
A couple months before he left he had an Instrument Check due. And, as luck would have it he drew the resident “Stan/Eval Nazi” as his evaluator. I didn’t particularly care for that guy myself, as I had flown with him earlier and thought he was a “chicken-shit” evaluator. But, be that as it may, off they went.
When Tommy returned a while later I was on duty as the SOF, (Supervisor of Flying). “How did it go?” I asked when he signed in.
“Not so good Boss,” Tommy replied, “I think I dumped one in the over-run.” (Landed short).
“Don’t worry about it,” I said as I picked up our “hot line” to the RSU (Runway Supervisory Unit). Tommy left for the debriefing.
I can’t remember who was on duty at the RSU that day but I asked him if he had any comments for Tommy’s call sign. “Yeah Boss,” the noted, “he dumped one in the over-run.”
“How bad? I asked.
“About 3-4 feet,” the controller replied.
I knew this would be indefensible from the Stan/Eval Nazi’s view so I said, “Okay, here’s the deal. If there are no comments next to Tommy’s call sign when you come in, there will be a cold case of beer, of your choice, for you when you get in.”
I think his reply was something like, “No problem Boss; Bud Light.”
I no sooner hung up when the Stan/Eval Nazi showed up at the SOF desk. However, instead of saying something to me, he went over to another phone we had, and called the RSU himself. I overheard him ask about Tommy’s landing and saw that he was genuinely disappointed when the controller reported that it was on the runway! He then hung up, hesitated a moment in thought, then started out of the area.
“Is there a problem Captain ‘Schmuckenfuss?'” I asked. I wasn’t going to let him off easy.
He knew right away he had just committed a breach of etiquette by using the RSU phone without asking for permission. We just didn’t do that.
He then told me that he thought that the guy he was flying with had landed in the overrun, and was calling to confirm. I didn’t want to “light him up” too much as I didn’t want to either draw too much attention to the event, nor did I want him take it out on Tommy. I just wanted him know I was in charge of the operation at the time, and that he had breached a “courtesy.” It worked; he walked away like a scolded puppy.
And so, what do I think of it today; almost some 30+ years later? I chuckle to myself that I got away with it! And that Tommy left the Air Force with an impeccable flying record intact. In retrospect that 2-3 feet wasn’t a big deal – covering your “wingman’s six, is.”