Now, That’s Something We Haven’t Seen Before…

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!

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“Sir, Is This Legal?”

(Callsign) “CP/IP” (Cabbage Patch Instructor Pilot) came into my office one morning and asked me if I would like to fly with her in an “open jet.” I stared at a stack of paperwork and thought to myself, “why not?” CP/IP was a FAIP and I enjoyed flying with her.

It was an overcast day at Randolph that morning, early morning scud, but I knew it would soon burn off. It always did. We started and taxied and were about to the runway when she noticed the HSI (Heading Situation Indicator) wasn’t quite right. It was just kind of wandering. I had seen it before and knew that it was more than likely “damp” and would soon dry out – once it warmed up. And then it would be fine.

Once we got to the runway I called for takeoff and she told me, “Sir, I just don’t feel comfortable,” and I told her it would be fine. The clouds were just beginning to dissipate at the time and were “broken” in nature. We requested a pattern delay for a simulated single-engine heavyweight pattern and landing before departing to the area.

“Sir, I’m not sure about this,” she said once again, and I told her that we would be fine.

We took off on Runway 14L and I checked in with Departure Control. They, in turn, told us to turn to a heading of 050 degrees. “How are we going to do that?” she asked, as I gave her control of the jet. “Well, look out the window and put the runway 90 degrees to your left shoulder” She seemed apprehensive at first but did it anyway! When Departure then told us to turn left to a heading of 320 degrees, e.g., parallel to our departure runway, she caught on real fast and began to enjoy it all. From there on throughout the remainder of the pattern and subsequent touch-and-g0 she seemed to enjoy herself, never once noticing that the HSI had stabilized!

After getting airborne again, on departure leg, I pointed out that the HSI had realigned itself and explained how knowing local weather patterns and a little bit about systems could ‘save’ a (student) sortie.

Once we got into our assigned area we found a solid overcast about 12,000 feet or so. Beauty, time to play! I asked her if she had ever performed a 4-point aileron roll. “No,” she replied.

“Well, why not?” I asked.

“It’s not in the syllabus, Sir,” came the reply.

“Okay, fine,” I replied, “go ahead and try a 4-point aileron roll, with the could deck simulating the ground.”

She was a bit reluctant but went ahead anyway. She dove down to just above the (cloud) deck and began to roll, stopping at each “quadrant.” 90 degrees left bank, inverted, then 90 degrees right bank. Throughout her maneuver, the nose continued to drop toward the cloud deck, until we penetrated the deck before rolling out wings level. As far as I knew, it was the first one she had done. So I asked her if she would mind if I tried one.

I took the jet to about 18,000 feet then rolled back down onto the deck, leveling about 50 feet off the clouds. I then showed her how to begin the maneuver first by raising the nose ever so slightly before rolling. Then I showed her how to use “top rudder” to keep the nose up while in a 90-degree bank. I then leveled off and pulled up into the sky, rolling as we went. I then told her it was her turn.

This time she performed the maneuver perfectly and I could almost see her grin as she pulled up!

Nothing was ever said about either maneuver in our debrief. Didn’t have to talk about it – she “got it.” This was one of the facets I loved about being an IP – actually “teaching” kids how to fly!

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Extended Trail on a Qual Check

Just after Rick checked out as a T-38A Flight Examiner we had two Brits show up as Exchange Officers. Nick W. was being assigned to the Squadron, and Bill H. was going to Command. It turned out that they were both scheduled for their P-Qual checks on the same day, with scheduled takeoffs three minutes apart. Well, hell… the wheels began turning.

P-Qual checks for rated pilots are fairly straightforward.  And, having had the exchange tour I did, I knew that allied air forces didn’t send “slugs” to represent their respective air forces. I also knew, from their demeanor, that Nick and Bill could fly.  So, why not take the opportunity and introduce them to T-38 formation flying, and have some fun?  I approached Rick with the proposition, and he went for it.  Why not; nothing explicitively prohibited it… 

Bill and Nick were thrilled.  They couldn’t believe that the two of us were so “progressive.”  Well, again, why not?  And besides, I knew if the word ever got out, it would really piss off the ‘Command Queers.’  So did Rick. 

We briefed the mission essentially as a two-ship formation ride.  We would depart as a two-ship formation for a formation low approach at the Sequin Auxiliary Airfield, then separate for individual single-engine heavyweight touch and goes.  We would then individually head out into the area to complete the requirements of the P-Qual check (stalls, slow flight, recoveries, etc.) before rejoining as a two-ship formation. Then, after a basic formation orientation profile, we planned to recover into Sequin for some pattern work.  That done, we would once again rejoin for the recovery back to Randolph for a formation approach and landing. 

The sortie went slick, and no one was the wiser!  Bill and Nick were thrilled, and Rick and I got a lot of “giggles” from that ride for many years following.  Not only was the ride a lot of fun, we felt like we got “one” past the ‘Command Queers;’ that we put it to the Man! 

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Requesting Honors

Our cross-country missions were typically scheduled to depart on Fridays. This way the jets could be used for local flying for the first 3 flying periods. To expedite our departures, we would often flight plan sometime during the day, then just update it all before leaving.

One afternoon these two young FAIPs (First Assignment IPs) had flight planned their mission to Nellis (Las Vegas) and left it sitting on the desk while they flew their first student sorties. Bad idea. A prankster saw the flight plan sitting on one of their desks and added a code to “request honors” upon arriving at Nellis.

Going through El Paso en route was no big deal as it was a civilian operation and the code essentially meant nothing to them. However, upon arrival at Nellis it was another thing.

The first thing they noticed was an escort from Transit Alert – something not normally done. They bypassed the normal transit aircraft parking area. As they rounded the corner to parking in front of Base Operations they noticed several cars with their drivers, each one standing at the left front of their respective cars, at Attention! When the 2 Leuitenants shut down, these guys all rendered a salute! Quite a scene to see indeed! 4 or 5 Colonels saluting 2 Lieutenants!

The 2 Leuitenants returned the salutes and began to climb down from the jet. When the 4 or 5 Colonels standing in front of their cars saw the two, they all returned to their cars and took off – none of them any too happy at all! However, being aviators themselves, when they discovered what had happened, it brought them all back to how fun it once was in the Air Force and nothing came of it all.

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“Sparking Down the Runway, Say Intentions”

“Snoopy” was the RSU Controller one night when a UPT student retracted the gear early on a T-38A touch and go, and the jet settled onto the runway before the IP could react. As he watched the jet slide to a stop, all he could think to ask was, “Sparking down the runway, say intentions…”

In later flight room conversations, he expressed gratitude that the RSU comms were not recorded at the time

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What’s Wrong?

One of the things we continually ‘hammered’ in UPT was radio discipline.  Keep unnecessary chatter off the radio.  So…

JB was on a 2-ship ride with a Solo student.  The Solo was Lead.  Just as they lined up on 17R the Student looked back at JB and began frantically waving his arms back and forth over his head.  Once he saw JB looking at him, he began pushing up against the top of the canopy.  He then extended both hands and “flickered” his fingers in and out.

JB in turn, reached down, pushed the Mic button and asked, “What’s wrong?”  Shocked the hell out of the student!

“My (red) ‘Canopy Light’ is on, Sir,” came they reply… it should have been out with the canopy closed and locked.

The mission was aborted and they taxied back in…

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2 V 1

One of the ‘classics’ –

A planned 4-ship with 4 SMS (Special Monitoring Students).  The students were 2 Iranians, 2 US guys.  The Flight Commander had a lot of faith in “L,” the other IP, and me.  I lost my faith in “L” on takeoff, when he aborted leaving me with the remains.  The thing I remember the most is a pitchout for a straight-ahead rejoin with the 2 SMS students smoking past me faster than the speed of smell!  One on each side.  Of course, once they got in front of me they both had to look back at me and inadvertently began a cross-over right in front of me.  The Lord takes care of drunks and fools…

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Dollar Ride Bills? Really?

One of the additional duties we assigned the students was “Snack Bar Officer.” In this capacity, students manned our squadron snack bars for a period of 2 to 3 hours; manning the cash register, making coffee, stocking shelves and so forth. It was a “boring” job but one that had to be done if we wanted snacks throughout the day.

One day Joe was assigned “Snack-O” in the T-37 squadron at Vance. A Tweet IP came in and began preparing a couple of hot dogs. When he went to pay for them, he couldn’t find his wallet. We’ve all been there. You begin searching the top two pockets on your flight suit then gradually work your way down until you reach your last two flight suit pockets down by your boots. Not finding his wallet he looked up at Joe and told him to hold on a minute – and he left.

Shortly thereafter he returned with a couple of dollar bills. (We charged a dollar for hot dogs in those days.). Smiling he handed the bills to Joe and walked back to his flight room. As Joe was putting the bills into the cash register he noticed writing on them – turns out they were “Dollar Ride” bills!

Keep in mind that students in our day, gave their IPs a dollar when they took their first ride in a jet. Then we (IPs) would take these dollars and slip them under the plexiglass on our desks. It became a sense of pride to watch the Dollar Ride dollars begin to accumulate under the glass. To use them to buy hot dogs is just not right – kind of sacrilegious!

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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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