The T-38 Ride: Part V – Implementation, Resentment and Satisfaction

If memory serves, the T-38 Stall/Sink Rate ride was implemented into the T-38 PIT syllabus in early 1987.  Rick and I both felt a deep sense of satisfaction.  This was not an easy thing to do – create a ride and have it accepted into the program.  First we had to convince Command of “the need.”  Then we had to “find a place” for the ride.  Every ride in the program had to be justified for the dollar cost.  To create a space for our ride, something else had to be dropped.  And to make it “ungraded,” unheard of – bordering upon blasphemy!  But we did it.  As I mentioned earlier, the strength of the proposal was in the merit of the fundamental premise itself:  If our current stall training was ‘adequate,’ why we were still loosing jets and people?  The “college boys” at Command just couldn’t refute that simple observation…

My goal in developing this ride was NOT to bring recognition unto myself.  It was to “give back” to a system that gave me so much over the years.  I have always felt it an “honor” and a “privilege” to fly jets for the United States Air Force.  And for the 18 years I was actively engaged in flying for the USAF, I never lost sight of this.  This being said, it is always nice to receive some recognition for what you contribute…

In an OER (Officer Effectiveness Rating) rendered in Apr 1987, there was a 1-line comment in the “Plan and Organize Work” block.  “Helped design the T-38 stall/sink rate orientation program, which will save both lives and aircraft.”  Helped?  Are you shitting me?  From initial conception through implementation, this whole program was my idea.  Totally.  Sure I had help along the way, but to have my part reduced to that of a ‘bit player in a Woody Allen movie’ was insulting.  (Wonder if I could get that OER corrected?  lol!).  At the time, I was ‘well into’ my alcoholism, so rather than approach the rater, I just fueled a resentment deep in my belly – and I carried that resentment for many years!  Gave me yet another excuse to drink…

I think in 1987 Rick and I were nominated for the prestigious Air Force Association Hoyt S. Vandenberg Award.  We lost – to a ‘shoeclerk.’  More ‘resentment’…

On the ‘positive side,’ what remains with me today, are the many, many affirmative comments I personally received from those I flew with on that orientation ride, and others along the way.  One Lt. collared me in the ‘Auger Inn’ after I retired.  (He had been one of my “challenges” when I was the 12th Student Squadron Commander.)  He pulled me aside and said something to the effect, “Col. Holliker, that stall ride saved my ass earlier in the week.  I was in the final turn and had allowed the student to get too slow.  Then I recognized the sink rate we were falling into and was able to recover.  I don’t know if I would have seen it if I hadn’t have had that ride at PIT.”  What can you say?  It was very kind of him to say something to me that night, and something I have carried with me ever since.

From my experience in Flight Safety I learned that we don’t keep track of ‘accidents prevented.’  How many accidents has this ride prevented over the years?  Who knows?  I can tell you though, that since this ride was incorporated into the T-38 PIT syllabus, we have not lost another jet, or aircrew in a traffic pattern stall/sink rate related accident – that I know of.  And of this, I am very ‘satisfied’…

PS:  To wrap this up, I also need to mention that I also used the proposal I presented to HQ ATC as my exit paper in my Master’s degree program.  How cool was that?  (Got an “A” btw.).

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The T-38 Ride: Part V – Implementation, Resentment and Satisfaction

  1. Davd P Moore says:

    Enjoyed your articles on stalls in the T-38. In 1967 I managed to fully stall the T-38 at 1500 feet turning final. For many years following my stall , I’ve often wondered what was it that really saved my butt. Instinctively, I applied full afterburner and the next thing I remembered was being inverted at 300 feet. Now I know that part of it. I other part I knew.

    • Cheeta17 says:

      Good Morning David,

      Thank you for your comments here…glad you weren’t part of my statistical base!


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.