|F-4J of VF-96 "Showtime 100"|
(US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation Photo)
Start hanging MERs and TERs* and wing tanks and such and it can get pretty crowded down there. Even with a clean airframe, there are doors, antennae and all sorts of other protuberances under there which just can't wait to have their pound of flesh from an unsuspecting maintainer.
|F-4 at Zaragoza AB June 1984|
(Photo by Scott R Wilson, Source)
Now that bird up above at Zaragoza is fairly "clean" underneath. There's a TER on the outboard station (where we always had a fuel tank) and what is either a fuel tank or maybe even a gun pod on the centerline station, I'm leaning towards a tank as it looks too fat to be a gun pod. (No doubt Juvat will correct me if I'm mistaken.)
But look at the gear doors and such, there is lots of stuff under there to nip you if you're not paying attention.
|F-4 sitting on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown down at Patriots Point in South Carolina|
To the left in the photo above is the nose gear strut, just aft of that is the nose gear door, the Sarge's personal favorite. That sucker gave me the best Phantom bite I ever had. I think it goes a long way towards explaining why I am so, shall we say, goofy?
It was on Okinawa, Kadena Air Base, way back in the mid-Seventies.
|Kadena now-a-days, where I worked was inside that yellow circle.|
I don't see the Radar Calibration dock, seems the base has changed a lot since '78! (Google Maps)
Up inside the nose wheel well was a container of desiccant, a substance used to remove moisture from the air going to the avionics equipment. Water and electronic gear do not get along very well! When the desiccant turned white, it was time to change it. (Brand new it was a very nice shade of blue.)
My job that day was to change the desiccant. As a newbie it was one of the few things I could do without a whole lot of supervision. Pretty much limited to, "Hey, knucklehead, change the desiccant. And try not to kill yourself doing it." (I didn't understand that last bit really, no power on the aircraft, all the safety stuff was installed. I should be fine.)
So I laid into that desiccant container like a pro. Had it swapped out, nice new shade of blue in there, and was just safety-wiring it down. That's when I heard -
"Airman! Ain't you done with that yet?"
Well, old Sergeant Jerry was on the right side of that bird and I was sitting under the bird facing forward. When he yelled my name I responded rapidly.
Rapidly and without a thought in my damn-fool head I turned to listen to my Sergeant. As I turned, to the right, rapidly, trying to demonstrate my alacrity and willingness to obey, SMACK!!!
Right side of head, meet nose gear door. Nose gear door, meet the right side of Your Humble Scribe's noggin.
Man, it's broad daylight, where'd all those stars come from?
Why do I hear birds singing out on the flightline?
Why am I laying down under the jet? Sarge ain't gonna like that.
"Hey, Goody**, you okay? Jesus, that was quite a whack you took. Why did you turn around so fast? Hey, buddy, can you hear me?"
"Yeah, Sarge, I hear you. What the heck happened?"
Sergeant Jerry explained what had happened and though I sustained no permanent (I think) damage, I did have quite a knot on the side of my head for a couple of days. Damn, that hurt, I really rang my bell with that one.
Needless to say, I learned to move much more circumspectly around the aircraft in the future. While I did sustain a few nicks and bruises from the mighty Phantom, nothing major. You might say that the jet hit me "up side the head" trying to get my attention.
Yeah, she got my attention alright.
* MER= Multiple Ejector Rack, held six bombs. TER = Triple Ejector Rack, held three bombs.
** Goody, one of my many nicknames.