Those Deep Blue Eyes

Every now and then I hear a story that’s just too good not to include. This is one to them…

Last week I was down to San Antonio, TX for a gathering of former ‘Cheetahs;’ members of the 560th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) I flew with throughout the ’80s. As the evening progressed the stories began to flow. Pat shared this one about one of the early female pilots from Willie (Williams AFB, AZ). It seems he launched out on an early T-38 ride with this student, and the ride really wasn’t that good – by ‘everyday’ standards. When they came back into the flight room for the debrief, Pat knew he was going to have to ‘pink’ (Unsat) her for the ride.

As the debrief began, Pat looked up to see her leaning forward with her head resting on her raised arms resting on the table across from him, staring wide-eyed at him, with those deep blue eyes – and a large, bright smile upon her face. And so he began…

“Okay, the departure; you were 10 to 15 degrees off course on the departure, that’s a…” when he looked up at her again and saw those deep, blue eyes. “Well,” Pat continued, “that’s probably a ‘Good;’ everyone drifts off course every now and then on departure.” And so the debrief began.

“And that loop,” he told her, knowing it was terrible, but then looking up at her, with those deep blue eyes! “Well again,” Pat said, “a lot of us come over the top with 20 degrees of bank (when you are supposed to be ‘wings level’). So that’s a ‘Good’ also.” and so it went.

She passed the ride and actually went on to a very successful career as an Air Force pilot. But listening to Pat tell about being on the threshold of failing her at numerous points throughout the debrief, only to look up and see her deep, blue eyes, with her bright smile – well, he just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t fail her.

In one way or another, anyone who has instructed in an airplane has been there. I certainly have, on many occasions. And while, by the book, he ‘should have’ failed her for her lackluster performance that day, he had “that feeling” that he did indeed, had something to work with, so she passed.

Think what you might about this story, but knowing her, and Pat, this is hilarious as hell! Those deep, blue eyes…

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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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(Submitted by Rat)

We had a class graduating this one Friday evening. The featured speaker was a general of some description stationed at Maxwell AFB, AL. The squadron had been tasked to launch a T-38 to fetch him. The weather was fine, the jet was just out of the paint shop and looking good, and the DO had issued a waiver for the IP waiver to land on a 7,000′ runway vs. our normal 8,000 foot runway requirement. On the surface it appeared to be a routine, ‘vanilla’ operation. What could go wrong?

Seems like it was about a noon departure with a scheduled return about 1500’ish.  About 1400 the SOF (Supervisor of Flying) gets a call from Lt. Col XYZ who inquires about the whereabouts of the T-38 scheduled to pick up his boss (the general) to bring him to the event. The SOF tells him the jet is on the ramp and the pilot is probably in Base Ops getting his weather brief and filing his flight plan to RTB (return to base). (The pilot had called upon landing, as required, and had just told the Dispatcher he was on the ground and that the jet was still good. (The Dispatcher assumed the jet was at Maxwell) The general’s exec tells the SOF that he and his general are both standing in Base Ops, they are both pilots and there is no T-38 on the ramp. Mr. SOF now becomes concerned and has the dispatchers put out an APB (all points bulletin) for the missing jet – and tells the generals horse-holder he’ll get right back to him.

As the search for the missing jet is just getting underway, the dispatcher receives a call, “Hey, Sgt. ABC – this is Capt. P.. let me speak to the SOF?”

The SOF gets on the phone and it goes something like, “Are you OK and just where the hell are you?”.

” Well, Sir, I’m fine, thanks. I’ve been down here at Keesler AFB, MS now for about an hour and a half and there is no sign of the general I’m supposed to pick up. The weather is getting worse ( turns out he’d landed on a 6,000′ runway in a TRW ) and I think I need to get out of here fairly soon.

“KEESLER? –  KEESLER?!” the SOF exclaimed, “WHAT THE &%$& ARE YOU DOING AT KEESLER!! THE GENERAL IS AT MAXWELL.!!” And then things kinda went South for Capt. P. from there.

We then had to launch two more jets: one to Maxwell to get the general, and another to Keesler to fetch fly original jet and Capt. P. I can just imagine the cockpit conversations in both jets on the return trips!  

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“The Patrick Eight”

(Submitted by Rat)

The saga began with 8 IPs from an unnamed UPT base located in NE Mississippi hitting the road for the weekend on a T -38 four ship continuation training cross country. They launched out on a Friday afternoon . Seven of the eight were all out of Stan/Eval, Chec Section, and Wing Scheduling. The other was a line IP and my BIP. Everything was going great fine until Sunday afternoon when the 4 ship of Talons arrived on initial arrived at Patrick AFB, FL.

Seems they were on initial line abreast – a formation we didn’t ever fly in ATC. Then they pitch out, in opposite directions! Lead and 4 together followed in 8 seconds by 2 and 3. ‘The plan’ was to then fly opposite direction final turns, rejoining on final for formation landings.

So, Lead extends his perch just a little to give them a bit more time on final to stabilize and 2 delays his turn even further. Their subsequent turns and rejoin on final worked as briefed. Not so much for the second element, 2 and 3.

2 delays his turn to final for spacing on the first element. Then 3 extends even further – too far actually. As a consequence 3 rolls out ‘significantly’ behind 2. Wanting the formation to “look good,” he taps burner to gain airspeed for closure, and picks up way too much “smash” (airspeed). Instead of going around, he overshoots 3 on short final and lands long and Hot! When he gets on the brakes, he blows with tires and grinds down the wheels, closing the runway. It was at this very moment he picked ups he callsign, “Tires!”

Obviously, the chain if command didn’t see any humor in all this and they all the pilots lost their jobs. However , most recovered and went on to good follow-on assignments.

(Of Note: At the time, I was a T-38 Flight Safety Officer at HQ/ATC. The unnamed UPT base in NE Mississippi was one of my bases of responsibility to monitor. So I took the Incident Report when it came in. It took a couple cups of coffee to understand everything – What happened? How did it happen? Why would anyone do that? In their statements one of the 8 mentioned that he could not understand how it happened – he said the maneuver had worked perfectly the day before at another base! You just shake your head, and get another cup of coffee…)

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(Submitted by Rat)

Then there was the time I took a couple weeks leave and Capt.S, our Assistant Flight Commander was left at the helm. AT the time we had a student on Special Monitoring Status we were watching. Our DO (Director of Operations) had laid out a handwritten, personalized training directive in the SMS trainee’s grade book. I had carefully reviewed it with Asst Flt CC the day I’d signed out on leave, explaining to him this was “no-shitter” guidance. AT the time, he seemed to understand.

Upon returning from leave I discovered my understudy had taken it upon himself to “John Wayne” the DO’s explicit plan, because he had a better idea what the trainee needed.

My ass got a little tender over that one. The DOs normally glowing sense of humor didn’t quite shine thru in that particular instance. And my Assistant Flight Commander never quite made it to Flight Commander…

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Tough Love

(Submitted by Rat)

One of our squadron “additional duties “was pulling RSU (Runway Supervisory Unit) duties. To this end we. had to provide a crew of 4: 2 IPs and 2 students. The senior IP in charge was the Controller, the other IP was the Observer. The 2 students were assigned as Gear Checker and Recorder. A typical RSU tour might last 3 – 4 hours. At PIT we shaved off the 2 student duties and just had a Controller and a Monitor, the positions filled with an IP and a trainee. This was because at PIT our trainees were all rated – they had their wings.

JB, an IP in my flight, was an RSU Controller. One day our flight had to cover” Monitor” duties. I think the assigned guy went home sick or something. JB wasn’t doing anything so I asked him if he’d mind  covering  “Monitor”.  He said he was a Controller and “didn’t do Monitor.” I was busy with some stuff and not in a mood to be trifled with. I told him it was our flight’s responsibility to cover it, my expectation was for him to take care of it and if he didn’t somehow reach deep down and find” Monitor” in his repertoire, it would be incumbent on him to “pack his grip”.
“What do you mean by that?” JB asked.
“I mean you’re fired. Pack your grip, cruise the hall and see if you can find a desk in another flight. ”

JB suddenly achieved enlightenment, caught a ride to ” the little house on the prairie” (RSU) and Monitored for a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s just a matter of motivation…

(Can you imagine handling a situation like this today?)

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Bounce and Tilt…

(Submitted by Rat)

Rat came into my office one day with look of total bewilderment on his face. He had just flown with a Tweet (T-37) IP from across the base, who was on his way to F-16s. Sitting down with a cup of coffee he went on to share his recent experience.

He said the guy was a ‘pretty nice fellow’ and had been given a couple “fast mover” orientation rides in the ’38 before heading off to LIFT (Lead In Fighter Training) at Holloman AFB, NM. During the debriefing Rat asked him how he felt about the flight and if he had any question.s Here is where it got kind of “hinky.”

The guy reported that he felt relatively stable in “tilt,” but was somewhat uncomfortable in “bounce.” What? It took a minute but Rat finally figured out that the IP was referring to “pitch and roll!” The T-38 could indeed, be somewhat sensitive in ‘pitch’ but was fairly stable in ‘roll.’ But,”Bounce and Tilt?” YGBSM! Bounce and Tilt? Neither of us had ever heard of those terms in reference to pitch and roll…

Rat said it was kind of like taking a “guy off the street for a ride!” He went on to say that he thought that the guy was really going to struggle in F-16s – that he had a “tenuous” grip on the concept powered flight!

He must have done okay because we never heard anything more about him…

Bounce and Tilt…

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Guest Help

In our flying squadrons (ATC, Air Training Command) we typically had 6 to 8 Flights in each squadron. A Flight, in turn, would consist of a Flight Commander, an Assistant Flight Commander and anywhere from 8 to 10 Instructors. In addition we would also have Guest Help IPs. These would be individuals assigned to other jobs around the Wing, e.g., Academics, Wing Staff, Flight Safety, and so forth. Here on this blog I am occasionally using stories I have heard from others. To give them credit, I am categorizing these stories as “Guest Help.” You will also see credit given to the contributor where appropriate.

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A Lot of Barges on that Lake…

(Submitted by Rat)

Spectacular Fall day, flying VR route out to the west of un-named UPT base in NE Mississippi with a good guy – excellent student.

He’d trimmed his low-level chart down to within about an inch of the route corridor all the way around  ” so it would be easier to handle in the cockpit” (makes sense as a fleeting thought I suppose). His chart was about the size of an AF Form 70 (5″ x 8″). 

He ‘shacked’ the entry point. At the second turn, for reasons that remain a mystery to this day, he rolled out about 30 degrees short of his plotted heading and promptly flew off the route and his map. I remember thinking: it’s such a nice day, let’s see where this adventure takes us.  We were heading about 280 degrees – planned heading should have been something like 310. We smoked along for several minutes looking for his next turn point. He then pointed out an intersection a couple of miles ahead at 10 o’clock that looked deceivingly similar to the planned turn point. He remarked we were 30 seconds behind the planned timing, checked hard left, reversed to his track heading for the intersection.

He then made his next erroneous turn and pushed it up a little since he thought he was behind. Pressing on, we’d been over the delta for several minutes now, heading NW in the general direction of Memphis at 420 knots cause we seemed to be getting further behind.

Must have been 75 miles off the route by now so I inquired if he was sure of our position. With conviction, he said, “Yes sir – but  (pointing to his left) looks like a lake that size would be on the map. Do you know what lake it is?”

Told him I was thinking it looked strikingly similar to the Mississippi River aat it seemed to have a lot of barge traffic for a lake.

“Sir, it can’t be – the route doesn’t really get this close to the Mississippi.”  

Me – “Well – I’m purdy sure it’s the Mississippi River – you know we haven’t been on the route for about the last 20 minutes. How does the fuel look?

Him, ” Sir, what do you mean?  Oh, &$%*^#*&^%$ !!. “
So we toured for few more minutes, getting a close look at a couple of barges on the river, then climbed up to altitude and RTB’d.

Returning to the flight room, I had him grade the ride – and he busted himself! He sat there with his head hung and looked like he’d been through a Ford truck commercial. I then ask him if he’d learned anything today – he said something like, “Yes Sir – it’s important to pay attention to details and to have a chart large enough to cover more of the big picture.” I thought that was a good answer.

I then changed his grade to a “Good,” and told him I thought it was purdy funny, and bought him a beer.

Believe he got an Eagle out of UPT.

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Just Look at Him!

One morning I was waiting on an aircraft at the gate with a couple-3 of flight attendants. We were just about to begin our trip. One of the flight attendants asked if I had met the copilot yet to which I replied that I had not. But soon I spotted a guy with a vey ‘focused’ look on his face, heading directly toward us. I mentioned to the flight attendants that I thought this might be ‘our guy.’ and further told them I thought he would be armed as a FDFO (Flight Deck Federal Officer.)

One of the flight attendants asked how I knew to which I replied, “Look at the guy – he’s a ‘short’ guy, stomping our way with a somewhat ‘pissed off’ look on his face.”

Shortly thereafter he came us to us, introduced himself in a curt manner, then told us he was armed! The flight attendants all began laughing which caused him to scowl even deeper. Then the copilot asked what was so funny and I just dismissed it all with, “Oh, I told them all a joke earlier, and it looks like they just got it!”

Nothing more was said, and the trip went well…

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