In the Air Force every year we had to take a minimum of two check rides (flight evaluations): a proficiency (contact) check and an instrument check.
Part of the instrument check was the annual instrument exam. This was an ‘open book’ test of approximately 100 questions. It was fairly thorough covering all aspects of instrument flying, and usually took about an hour and a half to complete.
In the mid-seventies I was flying T-38s at Vance AFB, OK. This one year the instrument exam was administered in a large auditorium by a couple guys from the Student Squadron. They sat up front, and we all spread throughout the auditorium.
It was ‘common knowledge’ that there were ‘ponies’ for the annual contact and instrument exams. (A ‘pony’ was ‘cheat-sheet’ of the exam answers. I never used them as I felt I needed the review the exam was intended for.) Anyway, this one morning our exam began around 0830. About 0900 I saw two guys head down toward the exam administrators to have their tests graded. One guy was Al, a very well respected mid-level squadron supervisor.
Although I didn’t know Al hardly at all, I liked him. He had a demeanor somewhat like the ‘Fonz.’ He was a short guy and could frequently be seen walking through the squadron with his flight suit collar turned up and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. I hardly ever saw Al smile, but that was okay…
And so this morning Al heads down to have his test graded, then he’s outta there. One of the test administrators takes the grade sheet out, the sheet marked “Annual Instrument Exam,” and overlays it on Al’s answer sheet. There are hardly any answers that line up. The grader looks kinda perplexed, moves the answer sheet one way then the other, but it still doesn’t line up. He then reaches down into his briefcase and takes out another grade sheet – the one marked Annual T-38 Proficiency Exam.
This time the answers line up perfectly. Al’s cigarette almost falls from his mouth! The grader looks up and says, “Hey Al, you grabbed the wrong pony!’ Al just about shit.
At this time the second guy turned on his heals to head back to his seat for a bit. “Not so fast Pat,” one of the grader guys said.
“Father Pat,” as I called him, as he resembled a Catholic priest more than an IP, without skipping a beat said, “Oh, I just had a question…” as he continued to his seat! Great recovery!
Al was not turned in, and we all had a great laugh from it all… and I think a lot of us ‘learned’ from it. In later years I knew of some guys who weren’t as lucky with their ‘ponies.’ Oh well…