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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(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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