The “Carn’s” Final Flight

As a Flight Commander, a couple things I focused on were; e’spirit de corps and heritage.  I felt an obligation to ‘those who went before us,’ to infuse these concepts into ‘the new kids.’  One of the techniques I used was to invite the graduating T-37 class (that was slated to come into our flight) to our graduating class’s last four ship briefing.  This also served to set the stage for how we conducted business in “O” Flight to the incoming students.

In Dec. ’76 we had 4-ship flight on the day before graduation.  Everyone else had completed the program, except ‘the Carn.’  He needed one last 4-ship mission.  As it worked out, there were a lot of parents at Vance that day also – for graduation.  So I had a great opportunity here…

I selected 3 students who had ‘shined’ throughout the program, to fly with us.  With our students, their parents, the incoming class and the IPs, the flight room was packed.  The briefing was fairly straight forward and soon we were on our way out to the jets.  I had coordinated to allow the parents out unto the flight line so they could watch their sons preflight, start and taxi.

The mission was unremarkable – until we reentered the pattern for landing.  It was a gorgeous, warm, clear day that day at Vance.  I told ‘the Carn’s’ IP to let him fly just enough to meet syllabus requirements, but not enough to screw up anything.

The ROE (rules of engagement) I briefed for the pattern work when we returned were as follows:  We would return with enough gas for 2 patterns each.  If the IP calls the “gear check,” then all the other IPs in the flight will fly that pattern, with the students flying the last pattern.  Furthermore, I briefed the RSU (runway supervisory unit) Controller of our flight, and asked him to “grade landings.”  I also made it clear that the ‘guy’ with the worse landing would buy the beer.

So, there we were on initial to 35L.  I asked Joe if he wanted the first, or the second pattern.  He replied the second.  (I suppose I had taught him well:  always take the second pattern when offered – it gives you the opportunity to check winds).  So, I made the ‘gear check,’ and ‘the fight’ was on!

I thought my landing was “pretty good,” until the RSU Controller hit the mic button:  “Click-click!”  Shit hot!  As I advanced the throttles to ‘military’ power, I got caught up in the moment.  RSU controllers just didn’t hand out “click-clicks.”  So I shoved the throttles into full AB – afterburner.  At the end of the runway, with a relatively light aircraft and ABs cookin’, we had a lot of “smash” when I asked for a Closed Pattern.

“Cleared closed,” was the RSU controller’s  reply to my request.  So the throttles came to ‘idle,’ a 3-4G pull that drove us into our seats,  and up we went.  First, straight up with the crisp pull, followed immediately with a sharp left roll to keep the aircraft from entering low-earth orbit.  It was during the “pull” that I heard a second “click-click” from the RSU.

“Damn,” I thought, “Marty got a ‘click-click!”  Shit hot!  I looked back over my left shoulder as I leveled off just in time to see Mart smokin’ down the runway – and straight up into the vertical he came!

“Oh God,” I thought to myself, “I hope he doesn’t break it!”  He didn’t…

Then it was Joe’s turn for the full stop (landing).  Upon touchdown, “click-click.”

“Damn,” I thought to myself, “are they handing those out today?”   Nah; as it turns out, that was just a great class – several of the students were awarded “click-clicks” that day…

The debriefing was brief itself, then we got into the beer.  I don’t remember who bought, but it wasn’t me, or Mart, or Joe or Emo…

Post Script:  I had to leave the flight room early to help Sue with the house.  We were hosting a party for the class and their parents later that evening.  Marty followed me home – we weren’t finished debriefing the flight!  I can still remember washing the sliding glass window, with Marty standing there, beer in hand – still discussing the pattern!

This entry was posted in E'spirit de Corps, The Book and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.