When the sun is shining the aircraft are normally flying. Some maintenance is performed during the day, usually just enough to get a bird airborne. Many a time the aircrew will simply check that there are no red "Xs" in the aircraft 781As (the aircraft maintenance forms), talk to the crew chief about any minor problems and if the bird is safe for flight and the "right" systems are okay, do their pre-flight and launch.
For my old career field, if the jet was scheduled for air-to-ground (mud moving) and the inertial navigation system and gunsight functioned, the crew would be on their way.
|BAD Write-up, the Red X in the upper left corner means the aircraft is NOT safe to fly!|
|An "OK" write-up, it's up to the aircrew whether or not to take the jet.|
Air to air was a different story, though in a pinch, if there were Sidewinders loaded, they'd go without a radar. AIM-7s? A different story, need the radar for that bad boy.
What about guns you ask? Sorry, the F-4C and the F-4D didn't have an internal gun. The weapons weenies could mount one on the centerline station and usually did. But the early Phantoms were mud movers and missile shooters primarily. Juvat, Dave and Virgil can tell you all about that. (Being pilots they probably will, if you're buying and they've got room to wave their hands around!)
|Nah, that couldn't be Virgil on the left and Old NFO on the right. Could it?|
So when the sun was up and the birds were singing (if you could hear them over the roar of the J-79s) all was right in the world. But, when the sun went down...
|AN/APQ-109 Radar Package|
The real Weapon Control System (WCS) gorillas would come out to play.
For we loved the night, no jets a flyin', no officer-types wandering around, very little in the way of brass or the multi-striped could be found at night. (Well, Chief Colona was around. He was the finest Chief Master Sergeant I ever met, I swear he never slept. Ever.)
So we could get our work done with very little harassment.
But there was a legend on Okinawa in the mid-70s. A legend of a terrible and fearsome beast who stalked the flightline after dark. Preying on the unwary. Seeking out those who violated the one rule that this beast prized above all others.
Now look back to that lead-in photo. See that yellow thing sitting underneath the left intake? That, my friends, is a utility hydraulic cart, what I learned to call a Six Cart, or Dash-6. We WCS types used this beast to provide cooling air to the radar package and hydraulic pressure to the aircraft's utility hydraulic system, which provided motive force to the radar antenna. (That blue thing up above.)
|Yes, made for the Navy but used by the Air Force too.|
(Hhmm, that company name looks awfully familiar...
Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, on my paycheck.)
Now according to the rules, we were supposed to unwrap the cable all the way, the air hose as well. Then the cart should be placed away from the aircraft, for safety reasons. Made perfect sense. But in my entire time in WCS, I never saw it done that way by anyone.
Well, not anyone but that fearsome, semi-mythical beast which I mentioned before.
Now the legend had it that this was the undead spirit of a Tech Sergeant (TSgt) who had been killed in a horrifying Six Cart accident. Seems his airman had placed the Six Cart under the aircraft and when the TSgt dismounted from the built in boarding ladder, that TSgt tripped over the Six Cart, hit his head and joined the "choir invisible." (Blog buddy Murph has some experience with F-4 boarding ladders with which he annoyed a docent or three at the USS Midway out in Sandy Eggo, and which, for some reason, he blames me!)
|Dash-60, essentially a mini-jet engine used to provide aircraft ground power|
and bleed air for engine starts (that gnarly looking hose on top).
Stop looking at that jet. It's a SECRET, okay?
Now the legend has it that this fearsome, undead TSgt hated poorly placed Six Carts. So in the middle of the night, when all that could be heard on the line was the roar of the mighty Dash-60 power cart and the incessant whine of the Six Cart, this monster, this, this...
...would emerge from the shadows and (when no one was looking) rip the Six Cart out from under the aircraft and fling it off to the side. Away from the boarding ladder.
Of course, the WCS guys would experience a sudden loss of hydraulic pressure and wonder, "What the Hell?" Only to look out of the cockpits at the blur of their Six Cart being flung to the side.
Now if this wasn't bad enough, then, on some nights if the moon was just right, they might catch a glimpse of the creature.
For given time and sufficient opportunity, this fearsome monster of the night would lean over the Six Cart and suck the hydraulic fluid right out of it.
Hard to believe?
Yes, I know.
But I saw the beast one night, this beast we called...
I shudder even now, lo' these 3o some odd years later at the thought of this horrid beast.
The beast and his innocent victim.
*Okay, the real "beast" was an actual guy, a TSgt named Draper. He didn't actually "fling" Six Carts, nor did he suck the hydraulic fluid from them. He wasn't actually undead, he just acted that way. He and I had many a run in before he moved on from Kadena.
But he would disconnect a Six Cart with little or no warning. Until one day, he did it to the Chief! But that's a story for another day.
Some say he went to Holloman and one day wandered into the desert.
Some folks say, "he's out there still..."