Your Weekly Lex, For Strength

A little not enough gas

A quick sea story (not mine, I am only a messenger) now that I’ve introduced the concept of in flight refueling.
A friend of mine was coming back from a shore detachment in Oman, lo these many years ago. They’d been ashore for a couple of weeks, and were due back to the carrier, operating on the line at the extreme edge of the range feasibility arc for the returning fighters.
Who were also carrying a lot of captive ordnance and extra external fuel tanks – hauling trash on the wing stations increases drag, which in turn increases fuel consumption rates. Having enough gas to get aboard was going to be dicey – making it back to Oman once they’d passed the mid-point was out of the question.
After they got overhead the ship in relatively crappy weather (the North Arabian Sea in the summertime is routinely a mess), they were instructed to hold overhead until the deck could be made ready for their recovery. The recovery time had come and gone without the marshall controllers having passed along any approach instructions: The clock was ticking, the fuel was being burned and those little hairs on the back of the pilots necks were starting to prickle.
The flight lead called down to the ship and asked, if they weren’t too busy to tell him, what the hell was going on down there, anyway?
“We’re running downwind,” came the terse reply.
Which the lead thought would have been a grand thing to do back before the fighters had shown up overhead, looking to land. Turned out that the ship’s navigator had stumbled a bit over the charts, and the ship had been half way through her turn into the wind before an alert quartermaster’s mate mentioned that the recovery course would have them aground before the recovery was complete. Shoal water.
If you’re a ship’s CO and the choice is one of running 85,000 tons of aircraft carrier aground in the North Arabian Sea, or delaying the recovery until you’ve won some sea room, well – let’s just say that’s no choice at all.
Good news though! There was a USAF tanker 50 miles to the north, according to folks in air operations. The eight-ship of fighters was vectored to the north, keen to get radar contact and get in the basket, getting that few extra few thousand pounds of Air Force gas that would make their naval lives just that bit more comfortable. It was going to be tight.

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Big Day In History

On May 17, 1943, Capt. Robert K. Morgan flew the Memphis Belle against a target in Lorient, France, on his 25th officially credited mission (it was the Belle’s 24th combat mission). Two days later, on May 19, 1943, Lt. C. Anderson and his crew flew the Memphis Belle on its 25th officially credited mission to Keil, Germany.

Slow Day

Here in Wisconsin us frozen chosen knew summer couldn’t hide from us forever and yesterday it back all at once.  11 days ago we were on the receiving end of eighteen inches of snow and temperatures in the high twenty’s.  Yesterday the high temp was 92 F.  The return of summer means the return of skydiving season so after a short morning’s soak in the hot tub to loosen up the old muscles it was off to the drop zone.  Because it’s still early in the season we didn’t have many tandem customers on the books I was looking forward to a reasonably slow day, and that’s what I got.  Here are the high points.
Building and grounds maintenance: Transplant sod to fill in bare spots in front of the main door and hang photos.
Instruction: Re-train two students on emergency procedures in the skydiving simulator.
Flying: Hop in the 900 hp. Cessna 208 Super Caravan and fly a load of skydivers up to 14,000 feet.  The next load was only 4 jumpers so we pulled out the 5 passenger Cessna 206 which of course didn’t start.  As we were getting ready to jump start the plane with my truck the local FAA representative stopped by for a chat, great timing.  Flew the load up to 10,000 feet and descended to a nearby municipal airport for fuel because we don’t currently have any avgas at the DZ.  While re-fueling the 206 I met a pilot who was flying his Piper Arrow across the country and had made the stop in Wisconsin to visit his 100 year old grandmother.  Flew the 15 miles back to the DZ over rolling farm country staying under 500 feet seeing the deer and wild turkeys feeding in the alfalfa fields.
Video editing:  After landing edited two skydiving videos from the load I’d just flown.
Skydiving:  Took one of my tandem instructor candidates up for two training jumps.  The candidate is at the point of his training where I test his ability to regain stability after an unstable exit so I grabbed the side of the plane as we left causing us to tumble uncontrollably for 1000 feet before he got us under control.  He did better on the second jump.  While under canopy I realized that the wind had picked up and while my candidate and I still managed to land on the DZ another one of my candidates who was jumping with someone else landed almost one mile away.  Finished up the day with a six way speed star celebrating one of our jumpers 200th jump.
Wrap up:  After putting the planes to bed the jumpers brought out a case of beer and we all sat around in front of the building debriefing the days jumps and enjoying the sunset.  Like I said it was a slow day, pretty soon it’s going to get busy.

Ice Age

This video gives you all an idea of what kind of a year we’re having up in the great white north.  The winds were gusting up to 40 MPH yesterday, and pushing the ice off the lake, up onto shore and into the houses.  Needless to say the strong winds kept the skydivers on the ground all day and gave me a rare Saturday off to watch number one son play a baseball double header.  In addition to having to deal with the wind the boys got to play May baseball in a snowstorm.  OK, it wasn’t exactly a snowstorm but it did snow rather heavily for a few innings making things kind of interesting.  Once again, snow, in May.

More Oops


Twenty year old Californian Jack Wiegand’s quest to become the youngest person to fly around the world solo recently hit a problem: He forgot his passport. Even worst, Jack only noticed not having his passport when he arrived at his first international destination, the remote town of Iqaluit, Canada, located northeast of Hudson Bay. - Jack WiegandLuckily, Jack remembered making photo copies of his passport and visa documents the night before his hometown of Fresno, California, and he told his mom to check the copy machine. Luckily for him, it was still face down against the glass.
According to Jack’s blog, his flying adventures began on his 13th birthday when he piloted his first introductory glider and then on his 14th birthday, he became the youngest pilot in the Central California Soaring Club to solo a glider. At aged 16, Jack soloed his first single-engine power plane and now he intends to break the Guinness World Records™ title by becoming the youngest person to fly solo around the world with the trip being paid for by donations which will also benefit two non-profit organizations, Big Brothers Big Sisters and International Agri-center Ag Warriors.
Jack is actually scheduled to arrive in London today and then its on to Rome on Monday with his final arrival back in Fresno scheduled for June 8th.

Your Weekly Lex, For Strength

Learning to duck

When it’s all going horribly wrong…
When I was a young lieutenant junior grade, I was a flight instructor in Meridian, Mississippi. Some of our students were foreigners: Their countries paid their “tuition.” Sometimes we found that language barriers presented an obstacle.
We had Spanish students, for example. From Spain, you know. They fell into two categories, in terms of airmanship: Brilliant, and execrable. We determined over time that the brilliant had been selected for our flight school based on their superior skills, while the execrable had been selected based on their superior connections. Over time, we began to realize that the longer and more hyphenated the last name, the more difficult the student.
But it was none of our duty to perform a quality control function – their training had been pre-payed, and we were to get the product through the pipeline, no matter how hard it was or how long it took. I personally felt a trifle guilty about that, since they’d head back to Spain and fly AV-8A Harriers. Which aren’t exactly like riding a bike – the USMC crashed something like 100 of the first 122 they bought, and killed a lot of pilots along the way, before the AV-8B came along, with its more reliable engine and superior flight controls. But anyway.
I had a Spanish student once on a night instrument flight that kept falling below glideslope on the ground controlled approach, or GCA. At first, the controller would call, “below glideslope, going further below.” Ultimately, you’d hear, “Well below glideslope. Well below glideslope and holding.” While it’s maybe instructional to hear that in a nice, warm simulator, it’s never good to hear that, in the actual airplane, especially at night. Because the trees were still down there, even when you couldn’t see them. And a good way to find out exactly where they were was to troll around “well below glideslope.”
So I took the jet both times and told my man that it simply wouldn’t do to go trolling around well below glideslope. On the third attempt, it happened again, and I ran simultaneously out of patience and courage. I took the jet back, landed it and taxied to the line, intending to give my student a “down.” In the debrief cubicle later on, he projected an air of wounded innocence when I told him that he simply wasn’t to go that low on final: “The controller said ‘Well below glide-a-slope, si?””
“Yes,” I answered cautiously.
“‘Well,’ this means like ‘good,’ no?”
“No,” I replied. “In this case ‘well’ means like ‘bad.’ Think of it as being ‘bad’ below glideslope, very bad…”
But the seed of doubt was placed in my mind, and I called the flight an incomplete rather than a down. Which, considering the policy on failing foreign students, was a distinction without a difference, now that I reflect upon it. But anyway.
We also had a couple of Taiwan students. We were told to call them “Taiwans,” not “Taiwanese,” the latter apparently referred to pre-revolutionary natives of the island, rather than the mainland Chinese who ultimately settled there, missing, as it turns out, the “Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution.” More’s the pity, I suppose.
Of the two of them, one spoke impressive English and was a superior student. The other, whose name was Li, was superior in rank, and was impressively monoglot. Which is not at all the same thing, when that fluency is not in the language being used for instruction. He was a notoriously difficult student, much given to nodding thoughtfully in pre-flight briefings and then hurling the plan into the dust once airborne.
One night we were flying a night familiarization mission at nearly 30,000 feet with him in the front and me in the pit when the “Canopy” light suddenly illuminated. Any warning light is always brighter at night, but a Canopy light can really get your attention, at 30,000 feet at night: It could be a precursor to losing the canopy, which at that altitude would be very bad indeed – that familiar, warm, comfortable cockpit could suddenly become a shrieking maelstrom, and what’s worse, the air blast could work the upper ejection handle out of its mount, pulling it aft and launching you into the night air without the comfort of an airplane to land with. Or not, you couldn’t know. All you could do was lower your ejection seat to try to get out of the windblast, assume the ejection position (feet on the rudder pedals, heels on deck, thighs on the seat pan, back aft against the seat, spine straight, neck aligned, chin ten degrees elevated, arms close aboard) and hope it didn’t suddenly happen.
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Well the sun finally decided to come back from it’s extended vacation and start doing it’s job again.  Despite professional forecasts to the contrary, don’t get me started, we had beautiful weather this weekend allowing the gang at Skydive Twin Cities to once again take to the skies.  With our grass runway still covered with snow on Saturday we spent the day doing re-currency training  for those skydivers that took the entire winter off and I started training the next batch of tandem instructors.  For those of you that don’t know what a tandem skydive it’s when an instructor straps a student to the front of him and takes the rookie jumper for a skydive, remaining attached the whole way to the ground, hopefully.  To get a license to be an instructor you have to take an intensive training course which consists of one day of ground school followed by training jumps with an evaluator who tests their skills at overcoming challenging scenarios.  In other words I get to go up with instructor candidates and acting as a new student try and kill us both.  If the candidate manages to overcome the emergency I put us in he passes the jump, if not………well that’s what I get the big bucks for I guess.
  On Sunday our runway was still too soggy to use so we packed up the entire operation and moved to the municipal airport in the town I live in.  It has a paved runway and great facilities that are under used so we invaded the new terminal building and took over.


I did four successful evaluation jumps with two separate candidates and only feared for my life a few times.


After a hard days jumping it was time to call it a day and head on home.  Seeing that The plane had to make one more flight to get back to the drop zone in Baldwin and seeing that it would be flying right over my house it only made sense to have the pilot “drop me off” on his way back.  Hey, I’m as green as the next guy and ride sharing is important.  So as the plane passed over my neighborhood I bailed out and somehow managed to find room to land in the cemetery next to my house.  As a bonus my neighbor met me with a beer when I landed, so I had that going for me.


Your Weekly Lex, For Strength

Ohhh. Good.


Place this in the category of: “Probably too good to be true, but worth sharing nevertheless”




The correspondent who sent it my way said that it represents what it appears to: A HUD camera freeze from of an FA-18 of some flavor in a “position of advantage” over a USAF F-22 Raptor.
Little things. Like gunning an Air Force guy in his high tech gear. They just mean so much.
You have to understand this about fighter combat: Killing someone with a missile? Just business. Killing him with a gun? Now that’s personal. How can that be, you ask? Dead is dead, right?
Wrong. If you get shot with a missile, you got beat. You get gunned, you’ve been owned. A missile has a guidance loop, a processor, a logic board – it can be defeated. A 20mm round is brutally insensate, a mere bludgeon, with high explosive incendiary effects to go along with its kinetics. You cannot argue with it, you cannot decoy it, you cannot, once fairly beaten down, get out of its way.
Which somehow puts me in mind of as story from when I was stationed over in Japan. The USAF had a F-15 Eagle squadron in Kadena working “with” another USAF F-16 squadron in Korea. Now, much as there existed a good-natured rivalry between the FA-18 community in the US Navy, and their F-14 counterparts, so also did a rivalry exist between F-15 pilots and F-16 jocks. Except you could probably leave out the “good natured” part. Because in the Navy, anyway, after a moment or two’s reflection, one brand of pilot would actually cross the street to piss on the other, if in fact he was on fire.
Because of the service.
Less so in the USAF, was my strong impression. It all came from the hauteur with which the Eagle drivers, accustomed to raining long-range death from way high above viewed the mud-moving Viper pilots, no use at all in a stand-up fight, but given to pretensions. The F-16 guys on the other hand, were all too accustomed to seeing beat-down F-15s in the HUD cameras with the gun pipper on them to give much more than the back of their hand to the self-regard demonstrated by “Ego” pilots. They went at each other hammer and tongs. And that was just in the O’Club.
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