Day 2 Preflight
Part 1 in which we fly to Germany for a 4 day TDY.
At the completion of a superb day of travel culminating with a strenuous workout, we have now arrived at Hahn AB Germany. We check in to the VOQ (visiting officers’ quarters) and proceed to our rooms. I’m sharing a bath with my WSO (let’s call him Goose) who had previously been stationed there. The plan is to get settled and then head out the gate for some food and a beer.
|Front Gate (When they flew F-100s)|
I decide recovery from the trip over would be enhanced by a shower. Not feeling the need for a Navy Shower, I go for a full 6 minutes and am finishing getting ready when Goose comes into the bath and hands me a cup filled with a golden beverage. I take a sniff (one cannot be too careful when dealing with fighter pilots and WSOs) and detect notes of a minerally apple and pear. A taste, and Nirvana! My first taste of a Mosel Spätlese, and the beginning of a lifelong enjoyment of wine.
Shower over, wine consumed, we head downtown. Goose leads us to a restaurant right across the street from the main gate. We walk in. It’s Italian! Goose pleads with us to give it a chance and it’s a good thing, Dinner was fabulous. (It’s been 30 years. Hahn has been closed and converted to an airport now, but there’s still an Italian restaurant at that location. I don’t know if it’s the same one, but if ever in the vicinity, I’m giving it a try. It was that good.) Daily workout completed, sustenance consumed, we retire for the evening.
Awakening the next morning to low ceilings and rain, we call for a vehicle to take us down to our jets. It arrives in short order. Lo and behold it’s the Airman and he’s driving the VW microbus, Olive Drab 1 each.
I glance at him. He nods and says bad clutch. We climb in figuring we’re only driving on base, he probably won’t get out of first gear. We head to base operations where we meet up with the other two crews from Hahn. Goose knows them and says they’re OK. Good enough for me, we find a place to sit down and brief, then return to the VW microbus, Olive Drab 1 each and head out to the jets.
Safely arriving at the shelters, we dismount. The plan for the day is to preflight the jets then takeoff and fly to a local area to check out the systems. It will be much better to find out that a fuel tank is not feeding properly or the autopilot has a quirk within short range of multiple bases rather than over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If everything is working normally, we’ll run a couple of intercepts to burn through the gas. Since each jet has 3 bags of gas on board, the g limit will prohibit us from Air to Air. We’ll recover at Ramstein AB to brief with the tankers prior to departure for home.
I begin the walk around, and start to noticing “things”. At home, our Wing/Squadron/Maintenance Unit owns our jets and the little things are taken care of. Paint is touched up. Tires are replaced. Things in the shelters are stored neatly where they’re supposed to be stored. But these jets no longer belonged to the Hahn wing. They belonged to our wing, but the Hahn wing was responsible for maintenance. The focus of the Hahn Wing was on the transition to the F-16s and the remaining F-4Es were proverbial “red headed step children”. Moreover, I found out as I was discussing things with him, the Crew Chief was PCSing as soon as the last F-4s were gone. Most of his chatter with the assistant crew chief is about their upcoming move and out processing. The hairs on my neck got a little erect. Walk around complete; there was nothing “wrong” with the jet. She just needed quite a bit of TLC.
|OK, maybe not THIS bad, but you get the idea!|
Strap in and fire up the power unit. Intercom between Goose, the Crew Chief and I is good, we start up the engines. Both fire up fine and Goose begins his systems checks. I’m ready for the flight control checks and the Crew Chief clears me. Ailerons left, right, slab up, down, Rudder left, Rudder right…..And won’t go back to neutral. We try several things, call hydraulic and flight control specialists, no change, the rudder will not move out of the full right position.
|I don't know if this is the one, but the Tail Number is familiar and it does have a baggage pod on it.|
Well that’s about as clear a signal to abort a mission as I had ever had, so I pass the lead to #3 and shut down. They blast off.
What I was hoping for.
What actually happened
Climb out of the jet and look at the rudder. Even with no hydraulic pressure, it is still hard right. Crew Chief says they’ll get right on it, but it won’t be today. We get a lift back to base ops and contact 2ADG. They say the next deployment opportunity is in 3 days. No sweat, we’ll still get back more than three weeks prior to the wedding. Goose and I check back into VOQ. We get a call from the Maintenance NCOIC that they know what the problem is, but they don’t have that part in stock on Hahn any longer, so they’ll have to get it. The jet won’t be ready until day after tomorrow. I tell him the info from the 2ADG . He says “No Sweat”. I contact my Squadron Commander at home and tell him what’s going on and ask him to contact my Fiancé and let her know. (30+ years ago, there wasn’t instant cell phone communication available throughout the world.)
I come to the realization that I’m in a foreign country. I've never been here before AND Goose and I have a Day Off!
Stay tuned for Mosel Wines and Departure.
*What’s the difference between a fairy tale and a war story? A fairy tale starts with “Once upon a time” and a war story starts with “So there I was”.