Probably a good time to introduce you to Jack…
I met Jack in January/February 1975, in Vance AFB Pre-PIT. This was a flight wherein pilots became “requaled” in the T-38 before heading off to Randolph for IP school.
Jack was a tall, gangly somewhat ‘outspoken’ guy from tankers, (KC-135s – air refuelers). When I first met him, I wasn’t sure of him. But as I came to know him, I began to really like him. While some of the things he would say were somewhat ‘outrageous’ upon occasion, you sure couldn’t argue with the merit of what he said. After Pre-PIT, we were both assigned to the same flight, “O” Flight.
In February 1976 I became the “O” Flight Flight Commander. The month before we lost a T-38A and crew on a circling approach at Richards-Gebaur AFB, MO. The subsequent investigation revealed that the training for low-level maneuvering (in the T-38) was inadequate. Consequently ATC began looking at ways to enhance T-38 low-level maneuvering training. What they came up with was the “Low Closed Pattern,” wherein we would only climb to 600 feet coming off a touch-and-go, for our next pattern.
As the procedures began to come together, Vance became a “test base” for the new pattern. There were questions about timing, integration with normal ops, IP qualification, and so forth. To resolve these issues, flight examiners (FEs) in the Vance Stan/Eval division were tasked to conduct the test.
For two weeks prior to this test, it was announced that what we would see in our traffic pattern on a certain day was only a test, being performed by only by Stan/Eval FEs. Every damn day, for 2 weeks we were told of the test…
And wouldn’t you know it, on the blessed day of the test here comes Jack up “Initial” with a student who needed a circling approach to complete the mission! So about 4-5 miles out, Jack hears a guy call, “Reno 17 requests low-closed, circle.” And Jack thinks to himself, “What the hell is that?” You see, Jack had been on leave for the prior two weeks!
So he watches the whole thing as he comes up Initial. Pretty slick. Now, after coming off his touch-and-go, Jack calls, “Reno 18 requests low-closed, circle.” Without realizing that Jack is not part of the test, and knowing that “the word” had been disseminated for two weeks, the RSU controller grants Jack his low-closed pattern. Then as Jack begins to pull up into the low-closed, the controller catches his mistake and tells Jack to break out of the pattern.
Jack complies, but then comes back with, “Shoehorn, we sure could use that ‘low-closed pattern!’ Oh, gawd-damn it Jack, nooo! I would hear more of this later!
Well, as you might suspect, the phones began ringing and I soon was invited to a meeting with our Operations Officer – a meeting where I didn’t have a speaking part! I just stood there, and took one hit after another… “Gawd damn it Jack,” was all I could think of…
As I retreated down the hall, I knew I had to talk with Jack. But at this point, I was just too “hot!” I don’t know why, but as I passed out Personal Equipment room, I swung in and grabbed Jack’s helmet. I then took it to my office and shut the door.
Taking out a razor blade, I shaved Jack’s name off his helmet and replaced it with “10%”! I felt that Jack was always part of the 10% who never “got the word.”
After I cooled off, I called Jack into my office, and presented him with his ‘new’ helmet – explaining the name change. He seemed to be “okay” with it, then told me, on his way out, that they sure could have used that low closed pattern!
“Why do you hate me, God?!” was all I could think of…