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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-20-11 06:53 PM
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More on my 'aviation career' (military) possible book.
This is pretty long.
I posted some of it several weeks ago, but I've added some.
As I said before, it's written for the guys in my pilot training class.
We're planning a 50th anniversary of our graduation back in 1964.

I'd mainly like comments on style and readability.
Again, as previously said, I'd need to 'civilian' it up for wider readership, if I ever plan to go there.
I know there's a lot of air force jargon here.


"I'll forward a more comprehensive 'whole entire life' bio later.
Here are just some thoughts, observations, and experiences during my time in the Alabama Air National Guard, following our departure from Vance, for all you guys who might have wondered what happened to a guard troop after we graduated.
Its probably more than you ever wanted to know.

Prior to pilot training
I joined the guard in March of 1963.
17MAR63 was my date-of-rank.
My decision to sign up was both fortuitous and serendipitous.

I was having a few beers one evening with a buddy who happened to be an Airman Third Class in the guard. I was trying to figure out what to do about my military obligation. Id already talked to recruiters of all service branches.

The best deal Id gotten, so far, was from the Marines. Theyd almost guaranteed me a slot in Officer Candidate School (I had a couple of years of college), AFTER boot camp.

Friends who had already joined up in various reserve programs had told me If theres ANY WAY you can get an officer's commission, thats the way to go!

That night, my buddy in the guard told me about their pilot training program.
They got a deal where you can get a commission as a lieutenant with NO boot camp or nothin! IF YOU DONT MIND FLYIN.

If I didnt mind flying
Well, I didnt really have anything AGAINST flying.
Why not?
And the deal was unbelievable.

Take some written tests.
Pass a USAF pilot physical exam.
Get a security clearance.
(My mom kinda freaked out when her friends started to call. Mildred? An FBI agent just came to ask me some questions about Butch. Is he in trouble?)
Get an immediate commission as a Second Lieutenant, and go learn to fly.
All at government expense.
They would actually PAY me to do this.
What a deal!
Where do I sign?

Soon 17MAR63 I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend.
Boom. Im a Second Balloon (Lieutenant).
Officer and a Gentleman.

A close friend had joined up with me. We both passed all the exams, etc.
(He later washed out in his first months at Williams AFB. Psychological Fear of Flying. Tough, but best for him.)

Joe said we needed one last fling before Uncle Sam got ahold of us and he had just the thing. Wed go to Myrtle Beach, SC and get jobs as lifeguards. Dont ask me why he had this thing for Myrtle Beach (Id never heard of it.) , or why he thought we could get lifeguard jobs, but anyway

I guess about the only thing more useless than tits on a boar hog is a couple of Second Balloons in the guard waiting around for a pilot training slot.
We talked to our CO and got permission to miss drills during the summer of 63.
We both had pilot training class dates in late August.

Soaway we went for Myrtle Beach. And, yes, we did actually get jobs as lifeguards at the state park. Actually saved a couple of lives.
It was a hell of a summer, socially speaking.
Every thing you ever heard or imagined is true, and then some.

The Hawg
Out of 65-C I returned to my air guard unit, the 106th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (117th Wing) at Sumter Smith ANG Base, Birmingham (AL) Municipal Airport. Checked out in the Republic RF-84/F "Thunderflash", the recon mod of the bent wing F-84.

The beloved 'groundhog', more 'affectionately' known as just "The Hawg".
And we were, of course, "The Hawg Drivers".

Our Official Motto was Alone, unarmed, and unafraid.
(OK, we were actually armed. Two .50 cal. machine guns in both wing roots. And we had the capability of carrying nuclear bombs, but thankfully they never asked me to do that.)

Our unofficial motto was We kill um with filum.

It was called the groundhog for good reason.
It seemed to love terra firma.
So much so that it used an awful lot of it to get airborne.
We carried two 450 gallon external fuel tanks under the fuselage.
I think maybe once, during an unusually cold winter, I was able to get airborne on the 10,500' long runway with full externals.
We usually carried around 250 gallons in each tank.
In summer, less.
If ever an airplane sorely needed an afterburner, it was the Hawg.
My very first take-off roll seemed to last for about an hour and a half.

At least we were 'real war'-proof.
(Viet Nam)
The 84 went obsolete during the Korean 'conflict'.

Oh, yeah...about the Hawg checkout.
There were no TF (Trainer Fighter) versions built.
No 2 seaters.
So your first take off was...SOLO!
Ditto for your first landing.
I sure wasn't used to that.

I went through a pretty extensive ground school.
Class of ONE.
Never mind learning systems schematics and diagrams from the Dash-1.
I spent most of my time in the hangar where our maintenance guys always had two or three birds in various stages of disassembly and repair, learning the mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic, etc. systems, hands on.
No need for classroom mock-ups.

When my classroom instructor and Instructor Pilot thought I possibly had my head crammed full of enough book larnin', I had to get my Taxi Check.
The Hawg didn't have nose wheel steering. That was accomplished by 'differential braking'.
Lemme tell ya, THAT took some getting used to.

I sat in the cockpit and actually started the engine for the first time.
My IP (BRAVE MAN!) squatted down on the wing next to me, with a tight grip on the canopy rail.
There was absolutely NO WAY he could physically take control if I screwed up.
He was merely a passenger.
The crew chief pulled the chocks.
"BE EASY.", the IP shouted into his headset mike. "BE EASY ON THE BRAKES!"
He had to scream to be heard over the engine noise.

I released the parking brake, slowly advanced the throttle, and we began to roll forward.
I hit the left brake to turn us onto the apron and we LURCHED about 45 degrees to the left.

After a few minutes I began to get the hang of it.

For the next 30 minutes we taxied around the guard ramp and airport taxiways until he was satisfied. I (we) taxied back to the ramp and parked the bird.
The next morning would be my first flight.
I didn't get much sleep that night.

We briefed at 08:00, take-off at 09:00.
We'd just go out and do some simple airwork for an hour, then come back and land.
He'd fly my wing and give 'instructions'.
More like moral support. , I thought.
Walking out to the airplane I thought "Holy CRAP! What have I gotten myself into?"
I had a severe case of abdominal butterflies.
Pilots are NEVER afraid., it is said.
But sometimes we do become extremely apprehensive.
I was extremely apprehensive.
Time to 'Man Up', as they say now.
Suck it up, buddy.

So I made my very first take-off without an IP either beside or behind me in the same aircraft.
The take-off was l-o-n-g, but uneventful. Go-No-Go speed on target.
I should mention here that, at the time, we had ballistic ejection seats in the 84.
Should you have an engine failure AFTER G-N-G, but BEFORE 500 feet of altitude, you were a dead man.
Pretty much.
Later we got a rocket seat mod which (so they said) gave you a zero airspeed, zero altitude capability of ejecting without 'major' injuries.
At least I felt a little better about the whole thing.

So...we went out and did basic airwork.
30 degree bank turns, 60 degree bank turns, maintaining altitude.
Climbs and descents.
You know.
Practiced some 60 degree pitchout and landing patterns (gear, flaps, etc,) at 10,000 feet.
After an hour of familiarization, we headed back to base.

Only...although the weather had been clear and sunny when we took off, when we came back a low deck of fairly solid clouds had moved in over the field.
Now we're IFR.
Why me?
ALL of my 'weather flying' in training had been under the hood.
If memory serves, if conditions did become actual IFR during a training mission, the IP was required to take over.

The Hawg had no ILS.

Birmingham didn't even have a precision approach radar.
Just surveillance and an iffy TACAN approach that always seemed to work better in practice in VFR conditions than in IFR..
So we asked for a GCA.

On the FIRST approach I broke out at 500 feet and about 500 feet to the left of centerline.
My IP said "GO AROUND!"
We did.
On the NEXT approach, we were about 500 feet to the right of centerline.
Go around.
Now my butt was biting washers out of the seat cushion.
Fuel was getting low.

During our next pattern my IP told approach "Look, I got a new guy up here and we need you guys to get us on the centerline. OK?"
On the next one I broke out at 500 feet and the runway was straight ahead.
I PLANTED that sucker.
There was nothing pretty about it.
Luckily the Hawg was a VERY tough and (mostly) forgiving bird.
I felt like kissing the ground when I finally parked it and slipped off the wing.

The RF-84-F was a unique experience for me. I learned to land it well, s-l-o-w-l-y.
Due to the limited thrust, we couldn't do touch-and-go landings.
So you got ONE practice with each sortie.
It took a while before I could really grease it on.

I also found out that what we had called "formation flying" in pilot training wasn't even CLOSE to what the pros did in reality.
Took me a while to settle into that, too.
My crew chief chided me enough about my formation take-offs, flying wing, ("Jesus, Lieutenant, were you guys in the same formation?")
until I finally learned to do it smoothly and in other than stark terror.
Our crew chiefs were our worst (and best) critics.
In REAL life, we were all civilians and more-or-less equals.
Rank had privileges on-base only.
I finally got it right.
Mind over matter.
Or something.

Air refueling was another rite of passage.

I am VERY proud to say that I hooked up with EVERY tanker, EVERY time.
Always got my gas and pressed on.
Night refueling in thunderstorm turbulence was especially challenging.
For that matter, ANY refueling was a challenge.

1. One of the best and most respected Instructor Pilots in our squadron pulled up too close after his hook-up on the KC-135 one night. Got a kink in the boom hose, which began to windmill.
Wed been warned, repeatedly, about that.
After a very short few seconds it ripped off his left wing refueling probe.
He was able to land safely.
Never knew where the probe landed.

2. I was #3, element lead, in a four-ship.
Lead was a veteran fighter pilot, WWII, Korea. An Instructor Pilot. Respected as one of the very best in the squadron.
For reasons still unknown to me, we charged in on the tanker at a very high rate of closure.
At the very last minute Jack realized this and popped his speed brakes.
Excepthe didnt call it to the rest of the formation until a split second after I saw his boards come out.

Have to say, I was damn good at formation by then. I could have stayed with him.
But the guy flying my wing was a newbie.
In considering his ability, I made a split second decision and called One-Three leaving formation. and did a slow pull up to the right, away from the tanker and formation.
I assumed #4 would stay with me, as he should have.
He didnt.
I guess he tried to stay with lead.
Somehow he and One-Two, on the other side of lead, came canopy-to-canopy in the ensuing lash up.
Busted both canopies.

I eventually found my wingman and could barely talk to him on the squadron frequency. I was able to guide him into McGhee-Tyson in Knoxville. Wed been refueling with the TNANG Squadron over Tennessee, so McGhee-Tyson was virtually right below us.
He was able to land without incident.
One-Two made in back to Birmingham, again without further incident.

Of course, there was a Flight Evaluation Board hearing.
I was called to testify as to my actions and reasons.
Dont remember the final ruling, but Jack, the formation leader, resigned from the guard shortly thereafter.

My Moment of Glory.

Four of us slick wing Second Balloons decided we would form the ANGs equivalent of The USAF Thunderbirds.
Hey, we were in our 20s and FULL of testosterone.
Wed meet up over some deserted airspace and practice four-ship aerobatics.
Loops, rolls, etc.
In fingertip and trail formations.
We got to be pretty good at it.

One morning we were out practicing.
Lead called for in-trail formation.

I was One-Three.
You know the saying, In trail, if you dont come back with black exhaust stain on your tail you aint flying close enough.

We were in tight.
As we pulled out of the bottom of the loop, my landing gear suddenly came down.
I think we were doing around 300 knots.
You could say it was a bit of a shock.
The landing gear doors ripped off my airplane.
One-Four, the guy immediately behind me, later told me that they came slicing by on either side of his canopy.
VERY lucky guy.

I looked down and saw three red Gear Unsafe lights on.
Lead sent the other two guys back to base and came in to look me over.
One Three, all three gear are hanging, but they dont look locked down.

I checked the hydraulic pressure and it was reading zero.
I put the gear handle down and nothing happened.
Still had three red lights.

One of our check pilots came up for a look-see as soon as he heard about my plight and told me Youre trailing hydraulic lines and accumulator bottles. It looks like youve lost all hydraulics.
None of your gear is locked down over center. I think you should head for the bailout area.

That is NOT what I wanted to hear.
Our controlled bailout area was a big lake north of Birmingham. The procedure was to trim full nose down while holding level flight. Then pop the canopy and punch out. Over water. Yeah, right.

OK, let me try something first.
I started yawing the aircraft, trying to sling the main gear in to the down-and-locked position. After a couple of tries I got a left main green light. I yawed more violently, using both feet with all my might alternately on either rudder pedal. That eventually produced a green light on the right main.
Then I started pulling Gs, Really honking back on the stick, trying to snap the nose gear down.
Repeated tries brought no results.

I told my chase guy Ive got green lights on the main gear, Ill take my chances with that.
Your call.
We headed back to Birmingham.
He landed first, for obvious reasons. Whatever happened on my attempt might close the only runway we could land on for a while.
(More about this later)

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sybylla Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-26-11 03:13 PM
Response to Original message
1. Now that's a cliffhanger.
I liked what you posted earlier and I also like your changes. Your conversational storyteller style is very charming. I think you include the right amount of details to get us in the plane right beside you. If you want to do this for a non-AF audience, you'd need to explain a few of your acronyms, but otherwise, I think you've done a great job.
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CaliforniaPeggy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-27-11 05:48 PM
Response to Original message
2. HOLY SHIT, my dear trof!
Cliff-hanger is right!

MORE please.

Well done.


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