“Bob, Who Made That Takeoff the Other Day?”

In 1980 I was working at HQ ATC Flight Safety as a T-38 Flight Safety Officer.  One day in early March, I received a call from Mary D.  Mary D. was the secretary for MGen. Leroy W. Svendsen, Jr who was the Commander of Air Force Manpower and Personnel Center (MPC).  I had known Mary since 1964 when she worked with my Mom in Wiesbaden, West Germany.  Mary wanted to know if I could fly with Gen. Svendsen for a couple of days.  A chance to fly with the Commander of MPC?  Oh Hell yes!  (MPC is where assignments are made.)

(In the Air Force, general officers had to always fly with “seeing-eye” IPs.  Policy.)

It turns out that Gen. Svendsen wants to go to Nellis AFB, NV for a meeting, then drop in Williams AFB, AZ on the way home.  Okay, I’m a starter!  So, on the planed day of departure, I  meet Gen. Svendsen in the squadron – the 560th FTS – we brief, and out the door we went.

As with protocol, our jet was ‘spotted’ just outside the squadron.  In addition, there were several senior Wing officers present to see us off.  Odd, but oh well…  It was a beautiful day for flying – clear with light winds.  We preflighted, started, everybody saluted each other and we taxied without incident.

General Svendsen had time in the T-38 so I was comfortable with him flying, until we took off.  Just after the gear came up, we went down – descended.  I have no idea how low we were, but we were low!  It was only the shoulder harness that kept me from climbing up on my seat!  And I thought I made “low takeoffs!”  At the departure end we began our climb, and my heart settled back into my chest… I had never seen anything like that.

A couple days later, after we returned to Randolph, the squadron commander pulled me aside into his office and asked me, “Bob, who made that takeoff the other day?”  Really?

I was temped to ‘take the bullet’ myself with a reply something like, “Well Sir, I did.  I saw an opportunity to show the general, and you guys, just how good I am, and that I certainly do deserve a fighter!’  But thank God, that thought passed quickly.  “General Svendsen did, Sir.”

“Well, we’ve had problems with him like this before,” Col. O. replied, and left it at that.

I went back to my office, somewhat distressed.  There is NO WAY I would let a lieutenant, a captain or a major pull a “stunt” like that, and I was so pissed at myself.  I went in and talked with my boss, then decided to take it up with Gen. Svendsen.  So, I called Mary D., and asked her if I could get in to see the general.  She invited me right up.

A short time later I walked into General Svendsen’s office.  He graciously greeted me and asked, “Are you up here to chew my ass, Bob?”  He was no dummy, for sure.

I told him that, had I seen a junior officer, or perhaps even a senior officer make a takeoff like he had performed, I would indeed, “have his ass.”

“Did the red-headed squadron commander send you up here?” he asked.

“No General, I came on my own,” I replied.

He seemed content, and then thanked me for coming up to talk with him.  And that was that – until our next flight together, when we (I) blew out two main tires!


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