Over-Gross A ’38?

Yep, you can do it, I did once…

This one weekend Butch (not his real name) and I took a T-38 to California for a weekend cross country. We flew into Norton AFB then rented a car and drove to Indio, CA. I had an aunt and uncle who retired there whom I really liked to visit with.

We had a great weekend with them and on Sunday morning they invited us to take as much citrus fruit as we wanted. They had plenty in their backyard. As it turned out we left with 5 grocery bags of grapefruit and huge lemons. It wasn’t going to be a problem as we had a pod on the jet that weekend. Or so we thought.

We packed most of the grapefruit and lemons in the pod, then stuffed the rest throughout the jet. The seat packs, pin boxes and where-ever. Never gave it a second thought. Dumb!

Start and taxi were unremarkable. It was on takeoff that things began to get our attention. I was making the takeoff to the East that morning. The first thing I noticed was the jet just didn’t seem to be accelerating as normal. Then when we got to 130 knots I began to rotate but the nose just wouldn’t lift off. So I relaxed back pressure and let it accelerate a bit more. Finally, at 155 kts, I rotated and it came airborne. Slowly. Mushy. It was really struggling! The engine instruments both looked good.

When we finally got to 300 kts I began the climb. Again, mush. After discussing it with Butch, it finally dawned on us – ‘Ya think we may have over grossed the pod?’ It had an 140-pound weight limit, and we had 5 bags of citrus on board. No idea to this day how much that weighed.

We made it to Willi, Williams AFB, AZ and landed without further incident. Give away some of our citruses for the next leg home? Oh, Hell no! Again we had a long runway and favorable winds, so off we went. This time Butch was flying.

Slow acceleration, mushy takeoff and climb, and fuel consumption off the charts! But we made it and gave the crew chief a lemon upon landing.

Would I do it again? Oh Hell No! Still today don’t know what I was thinking!?

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