So, one morning at Vance AFB, OK a 4-ship lined up on Rwy 17C for departure. Number 2 was on the left side of Lead with 3 and 4 on the right side. The formation was holding on the runway, waiting for takeoff clearance. Upon receiving clearance for takeoff Lead directed the formation to Channel 4, (Departure Control) and gave the formation the hand signal to run up the engines. Usually, no big deal however on this day Number 3’s radio began to “channelize,” e.g., cycling through all the channels; click, click, click…
Lead called for everyone to check in but “3” couldn’t hear him; click, click, click… With Nr.3 not checking in Lead called for everyone to go back to Channel 3, Vance Tower. And wouldn’t you know it, this was exactly the moment 3’s radio stabilized – on Channel 4! When the IP in the lead aircraft looked back at him, the IP in Nr. 3 nodded his head, indicated he was on Channel 4 and ready to go. So now Lead, 2 and 4 are on Channel 3 and Nr. 3 is on Channel 4. Not a comfortable position to be in on an active runway.
Now, keep in mind, everyone has been sitting on the runway with the engines in Mil (Full) power. Frustrated, the lead IP smacked his glare shield, looked at Nr. 3 and held up 3 fingers, thinking Nr. 3 would return to Channel 3. Not the case. Nr. 3 nodded his acknowledgment, released brakes, and took off – leaving Lead, 2 and 4 all sitting there – somewhat astonished!
So now Lead sends Nr. 2 and Nr. 4 to Channel 4, they run up their engines and takeoff, chasing Nr. 3. The RSU Controller remarked, “Now, that’s something we don’t see every day!”
Somewhere on departure they all joined up and got the aircraft in the correct positions and the mission continued as briefed.
Upon debrief, Lead asked 3 what the Hell happened. They all were aware of the radio problems Nr. 3 experienced as they took the runway. Then Nr. 3’s IP explained what he saw.
After stabilizing in position for takeoff he nodded his head that he was on Channel 4 as required. Then he saw Lead’s IP smack his glare shield and hold up 3 fingers. He took this as, “my aircraft is screwed up, Nr. 3 has the Lead!” So he nodded his head in acknowledgment, ran up his engines and took off – alone!
There was never a “routine” flight in UPT!
The first frequency-hopping, anti-jamming radios in TAC were like that. Every other word got replaced by a “click”. Plenty of WTF events.
Don’t know that I ever had that happen and I’ve made a few 4 ship takeoffs. Kinda amazed everything worked out ok. Kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I think it is a credit to our training skills that it did work! LOL! (That ‘lowest common denominator” thing!(