Let’s Make This Look Good…

We were on a T-38A 2-ship formation approach to RWY 17R at Vance AFB, OK one afternoon. Geoff K. was the IP in the lead aircraft, flying with Marty C. I was on Geoff’s left wing with Steve S. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, winds ideal for a formation landing.

About a mile out I noticed that Geoff was lined up with the grass on the right side of the runway. Marty, in his front cockpit, wasn’t helping any. He was a rather “timid” individual, not assertive at all. For being the class leader, he actually was rather meek and mild. At that time, students were not allowed to fly the lead approach in formation landings – that’s why Geoff was flying…

Steve on the other hand, was flying the wing approach. He was an “average” student and at the time was flying a bit “wide.” I was fine with him being wide because I knew, at some time or another, Geoff would soon see that he was lined up with the grass, and correct into us.

About a half mile out from the overrun, I noticed Geoff’s head move to look out the right side of the cockpit, then back to the left side. (I later learned during the debrief that it was at that time Marty spoke up and told Geoff about his alignment!) And, wouldn’t you know it, it coincided with Steve remembering that his parents were out at the RSU (runway supervisory unit) so they could see their little boy land the T-38 in formation! (It was graduation week, and the day for his folks to visit the RSU during flight operations). So Steve decided to “tighten it up” so we could look good for the subsequent landing.

As Geoff banked to the left to align with his side of the runway, about a quarter mile out, Steve banked to the right! I immediately took control and executed a go around. Geoff completed his landing, unaware of the airshow we had just put on for the folks at the RSU. As I smoked down the runway, Tom R. came on the radio and said, “Bob, you can take care of everything in the debrief!” I later learned that this all happened so fast that Tom thought we were going to crash and he couldn’t say anything over the radio!

By the way, the student passed as I sure didn’t want to fly with him again…LOL!

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