Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day... Meh

Old-Time Labor Day parade in New York (Public Domain)
Will I enjoy the day off?

Of course I will.

Will I get excited as to the meaning of the day?

Here's what the Wiki has to say -
The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations", followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the Labor movement.
"Trade and labor organizations" just about says it all as far as I'm concerned.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against unions, I was once upon a time a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

A long, long time ago. And it's not like I had a choice in the matter.

But it all smacks too much of this -

(Public Domain)
The concept feels, I dunno, Soviet or Commie. So I don't get all excited about "Labor Day."

Call it a personal problem.

Doesn't faze me.


But I will enjoy the day away from work.

Happy "Don't Have to Labor Day."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

For Moose

Lt. Col. Morris 'Moose' Fontenot Jr.
United States Air Force (Read this link!)
We lost one of America's best this past week...

This is for you Sir.

Rest in peace. Vaya con Dios.

Prayers for his family and friends at this difficult time...

High Flight*
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God

Moose's old command, the 67th Fighter Squadron...

H/T to DKE

* Composed by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. RCAF, died in his Spitfire in December 1941.

The Mug

Other Bullet: "So LUSH, why are you ordering a VFA-2 mug for CAG?"

LUSH: "I'm not."

Other Bullet: "That is a VFA-2 mug, right?"

LUSH: "Yup."

Other Bullet: "And that does say 'CAG' on the order form, does it not?"

LUSH: "Yup."

Other Bullet: "So, why are you ordering a VFA-2 mug for CAG?"

LUSH: "I'm not, it's for my Dad?"

Other Bullet [Eyebrows shooting skywards]: "You're Dad's a CAG!!??"

LUSH: "Nope."

Other Bullet [Looking very confused]: "..."

LUSH: "Those are my Dad's initials, C. A. G."

Other Bullet: "Oh, okay. I get it. I think..."

And so during the recent visit of two of my offspring and the senior granddaughter I was presented with that mug in the opening photo. I do believe The WSO (aka LUSH) had the idea after reading an old post of mine. This one.

Knowing my love of things that fly (and go fast) she thought I would like the mug to add to my growing collection of Naval paraphernalia. Said paraphernalia consisting of any number of ball caps, t-shirts, cigarette lighters, patches, coins and what-have you.

She was right, absolutely correct. I can't wait to try it out.

Road Rage, Stupidity and Inattention (Not necessarily in that order...)

This photo is what you might call "foreshadowing."
From Google Maps Street View
Prior to heading on up to New England for a visit with her parental units, her sister and her niece, The Nuke had called me with some ideas for activities to partake of whilst she was visiting.

Well, to be precise, one activity.

The Nuke: "Dad, we should go to Maine."

Yours' Truly: "Maine."

The Nuke: "Yes Dad. Maine."

Yours' Truly: "Why Maine?"

The Nuke: "Lord's."

WARNING: Digression Ahead!

Now Lord's used to be a mighty fine dining establishment. Note the use of the past tense there, "used to be," not that the quality has gone down mind you. It's just that Lord's has closed. Here's what I got from Trip Advisor:

Yup, they've closed.

FWIW, my Mom and Dad were in there one day when George and Barbara Bush came in for lunch. Good thing Waylon Jennings and his party were just finishing up. Heh. (No, seriously. Waylon Jennings was having lunch at Lord's that day too.)

End Digression...

Now at the time of my conversation with The Nuke, I was not privy to this information. I only became aware of this fact just now (well, as I was writing this post, when it's your "now", the "now" of my discovery of the fact of Lord's closing will be in the past).

So, The Nuke wanted to head up to Maine (all of us being oblivious to the fact that where she wanted to go no longer existed) which is a 300+ mile round trip for us here in Little Rhody.

Now I've done this before, twice as a matter of fact. Drove 300+ miles to have lunch in Maine with my parents. Who used to have a place in Maine.

While that is a long way to go for lunch, Lord's was that good.

But all of that aside, the planning (such as it was) for the trip to Maine and the circumstances surrounding same was simply the prelude to the main topic of this post, alluded to in the title. (Up there, near the top!) But we're getting there, slowly and with the odd digression or two. But (yes) I digress.

Therefore, it was decreed by Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed by The Nuke and The Missus Herself that on Friday, the 22nd of August, we would all pile into The Missus-mobile and head to Maine. Come Hell or high water.

On the Thursday eve preceding that date, The Missus Herself said that we would be arising at 0800 and proceeding upon our journey once everyone was showered, dressed and fully kitted out for a journey of such magnitude.

All the while I'm thinking, "Maine, 300+ miles, 8 o'clock in the frigging morning. Woe is me!"

I should have realized that the progeny (Dad - I asked you to stop calling us that...) were even less likely to awaken at such a beastly hour than was I. So there was no gnashing of teeth, wailing nor rending of garments by me (though I was sorely tempted) upon retiring for the evening.

And 'lo, it came to pass that no one got up before 10:00 AM. Not even Little Bit, who is normally an early riser. Upon my arising from my slumbers I discovered that a decision had been reached vis à vis the trek to Maine.

The WSO: "No Dad, we're not going to Maine. It's too far. We're going over to Mystic to see the aquarium."

Yours' Truly: "Mystic."

The WSO: "Yes Dad. Mystic."

So into The Missus-mobile we piled (after showering, dressing and fully kitting ourselves out for a journey of lesser magnitude) and headed to Mystic.

Now shortly after getting onto one of the two main roads through our rustic and lovely seacoast town, I noted a driver in a white van whose skill at driving seemed to be less than desirable. His control of his commercial vehicle seemed tenuous at best. Don't ask me how I know these things. It's a talent which has helped me avoid many an accident.

I pointed out this driver to The WSO who was our pilot on this mission (I like to style myself as "Mission Commander" but The Nuke said, "Yeah, right Dad. Even the cats outrank you." I swear their promotions did not go through proper channels and...

Oops, digressing, aren't I?)

So the suspect van operator was pointed out to 
The WSO and she backed off accordingly, giving this fellow a wide berth. So to speak as we were following in his wake.

It was on this stretch of road that things got interesting...

The Scene of the Crime
From Google Maps Street View
I watched (with some detachment and some horror) as a few cars to our front, there was a vehicle stopped in the street. No doubt stopped for someone ahead who no doubt wished to make a left turn near that sign in the photo. A common occurrence on this stretch of pavement. Note that I said "stopped," said state of relative motion being critical to our story.

Just behind that car was a white BMW, late model, also stopped. Just behind that car and immediately to our front was that white commercial van being operated by that fellow I suspected of being less than a great driver. And that fellow was completely oblivious to the traffic stopped ahead of him.

Van meet BMW. BMW meet van. Oh, sorry! Was that your rear bumper that just came off? Is that the tinkling of tail light parts I hear gently floating onto the pavement?

Yup, Mr. Van smacked right into Ms. BMW. Then proceeded to "go around" to the Beemer's right (which as you'll note, there is no place to "go around" without climbing the curb and going off-roading).

The WSO stopped a good eight feet short of the van and we all sat there having a "WTF" moment.

The Situation
From Google Maps Street View
(a) is the position of the vehicle to the front of the Beemer,

(b) is the position of the Beemer,

(c) is the position of the white van after impacting the Beemer and

(d) is the path the white van took after the collision.

Now The Missus Herself wanted to pull around this mess and continue on to Mystic. Well, with two officers in the Naval Service and a retired Master Sergeant of the Air Force on board, this was not going to happen. After all, we were witnesses, doncha know?

While awaiting the arrival of the local constabulary, The Nuke and I dismounted the vehicle, she proceeded forward to assist the young lady driving the Beemer, who had a very pronounced bloody lip and was sobbing most piteously. I held myself in reserve, in an over-watch position where I could render assistance if needed yet still maintain situational awareness of the surroundings. After all, there was rather a lot of traffic on the road. Most of which was proceeding slowly as many of the local maroons slowed down to gawk and point.


Now van guy was sort of stumbling about, mumbling imprecations against his fate, knowing that he was clearly in the wrong. Asking if the young lady was alright, The Nuke told him (in her command voice) to go over by his van and await the arrival of the Paladins of Law Enforcement. (We could hear them coming as their station is nobbut a mile or so to the south of where the accident took place.)

Now at this point, things got interesting. See that blue arrow labeled "e?" That's the path of "enraged boyfriend" (whom I shall refer to henceforth as "Asshole") coming from the vicinity of the liquor store (out of frame to the left) and screaming imprecations and such at van guy.

The Asshattery Begins...
From Google Maps Street View
Now Asshole (who later filled out the accident report for his girlfriend, while sitting IN the Beemer as if to indicate he'd been there all along) was yelling at van guy, "You were obviously going too fast and following too closely! I'm gonna get a lawyer..." And various and sundry other things that assholes do when showing off for their girlfriends. She was just upset and bleeding like a stuck pig (facial wounds do that ya know, I've had a few).

I went forward to assist The Nuke in dealing with 
Asshole and give the young lady a wad of Dunkin' Donuts napkins (clean ones mind you) so that she could apply pressure to her bleeding lip.

My arrival in close proximity to The Nuke
Asshole, the bleeding lady and van guy was just in time to hear The Nuke :
  1. tell van guy (again) to go wait by his vehicle,
  2. tell Asshole to shut up and wait for the police to arrive and "why don't you help your girlfriend?" and
  3. let the lady know that the police and medical assistance were on the way.
Now apparently Asshole's Dad was in the vicinity and Asshole was yelling at Dad to "call a lawyer, people are going to pay!" (At this point I wondered, did Asshole's entire family live in this vicinity? Was there a herd of assholes grazing nearby? Where are all these assholes coming from?)

First non-involved party on the scene was the Fire Chief, he proclaimed himself to be said lofty personage when he asked The WSO and I to go stand on the curb, rather than on the curb side of our stopped vehicle (where we were safer I might add). The WSO and I of course ignored his instructions and I suggested somewhat sardonically that perhaps he could make himself useful directing traffic until the police arrived.

"After all Chief, though I'm no expert, I see nothing on fire or otherwise requiring the intervention of the Fire Chief. But I can see that traffic is backing up and people are slowing down to gawk."

Chiefy promptly stepped into the roadway and began directing traffic. Sometimes it's good to be authoritative in one's dealings with the local minions of town government. FWIW, the Fire Chief is a nice guy. But give a guy a badge...

The constabulary arrived on scene, they were briefed by The Nuke and they had The WSO fill out a written report (in my day the cops did that, they were good at asking all the right questions and such, now-a-days, I guess not - another sign of the Apocalypse).

The police did give Asshole a rather stern warning and suggested that if he didn't calm down they would be more than willing to put him up for the night. If you catch my drift. He did manage to shut up and control himself. Van guy fessed up to his lack of paying attention, bleeding lady received proper medical attention (the damage was mostly due to the multiple piercings she had in the lip/nose region according to The Nuke. Another good reason to avoid piercings around the mouth. Though some peoples' mileage might vary.)

Excitement over, we piled back into our vehicle and departed the scene. Eventually we did get to Mystic. Where we had a great time.

The Vicinity of the Aquarium
From Google Maps
Went to the Aquarium (on the right above), ate at the restaurant labelled "Go Fish" (near the lower middle) where my meal was absolutely superb. The WSO was heard to ask:

"How do you mess up lobster ravioli?"

Someone found a way. After the weekend that was, I doubt she'll ever order lobster again!

Behind the restaurant you can see there's an area with the label "Olde Mistick Village" (quaint, neh?) Interesting shopping and things to see. Little Bit was fascinated by the duck pond. As was I.

'Twas an interesting day.

Would have been more interesting had we driven all the way to Maine only to discover that the reason for the trip was no longer in business.

But I'm betting they would not have screwed up any lobster dishes.

It being Maine and all.

Ya never know.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Welcome, Bienvenue, Willkomen, Come on In

Not too long ago I re-arranged the sidebar (over there to your right) to align with Juvat's suggestion that he likes using it to jump to other blogs for his reading pleasure and that I had (perhaps) too much non-functional stuff at the top.

"Slide that other stuff down," he said, "keep the links to other blogs at the top."

His suggestion having much merit, I instituted that change. However, I have not been keeping any eye on that "other stuff" which is there, after all, for a reason.

What "other stuff" you may be asking yourself by now. Well this thing for one...

I happened to be down there last night (checking what I do not remember) and noticed that the number of members had gone to "44". Wonder of wonders, a brand new FNG!

Aaron has been reading my scribbling for a while and I've been reading his, he's the main man and sole proprietor over at The Shekel, a wondrous place of commentary, snark and (be still my beating heart...) AIRPLANES!

Aaron's photo, which I borrowed.

That particular photo was taken at Thunder Over Michigan, which I had hoped to attend this year. There to see thrilling aerial displays, wondrous aircraft on static display and perhaps have the chance to share a brew (or two) with Aaron and Murphy.

Alas, it was not to be. A couple of bouts with diverticulitis earlier in the year had made a large dent in my vacation time, that which remained having to be saved for family gatherings and such. Perhaps next year. (Aaron lives fairly close to where Big Time hails from. So I know at some point we'll have a face-to-face meeting.)

So, welcome aboard Aaron. Here's your FNG patch and yeah, you're buying.

And Chris Johnson, you're not the FNG anymore. I know you'll appreciate that.

For those of you wondering where the rant went, I just didn't have it in me last night.

Believe me, I tried to get all outraged and cynical but it just didn't work. I am far too ebullient a guy to stay worked up for long.

Yes, there are things which piss me off. But I'm not going to go off on that particular tangent right now.

Perhaps later I'll tell you of the fender-bender we all got to witness on the way to Mystic last week. An exciting event, much ass-hattery was involved, parts flew off cars, people with bloodied visages were seen and the police and fire departments responded. (No armored vehicles though, which I was much disappointed about.) Traffic was snarled, tempers were lost. I so need to write all that down.

Later then.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vittles and Deep Thoughts

The view from our table, looking upriver. The Warren River.
Back in July we had the opportunity to visit the Wharf Tavern in Warren, RI. I did write of that pleasurable lunch time experience, but there were very few pictures of my own accompanying that epic tale. In fact only one. Today I intend to remedy that lack of photographs. Sadly, our re-visitation of the place was marked by the food being much less tasty than on our previous visit.

As The WSO was heard to remark, "How can you possibly screw up lobster mac and cheese?"

Someone found a way. It was truly unremarkable.

The Nuke's scallops were actually quite good. My swordfish was, well it was swordfish. Let's leave it as that.

But you just can't beat the view from the Wharf Tavern. (Well you can, but not without paying an arm and a leg OR having to use paper plates at a clam shack. Fighting the seagulls for each tasty morsel.) Prices at the Wharf are reasonable, though sometimes the quality of the dining experience leaves summat to be desired.

While I'm no gourmand, I do expect consistency from visit to visit.

Oh well, there was still Guinness to be had. Though it be the canned variety, it's still Guinness. (Besides which, I like the little plunger in the can, it's like a wee keg in there!)

Moi et Guinness numéro un.
The view looking downriver, towards Narragansett Bay.
"Angry clouds" (as Little Bit calls them) across the water, though they amounted to naught.
At least where we were sitting. Can't speak for those folks under said clouds.
So we all went out to eat last Saturday instant. The weather was lovely.

Which was fortunate as we arrived at the restaurant sans reservations. The hostess seemed to react to our answer of "No, we don't have a reservation" much the same way (I expect) as if we'd walked in and said "Hi, we just all peed on the carpet in the entryway, you might want to clean that up." Or some shocked and appalled look of a similar nature.

Meh. We are perhaps at times overly spontaneous.

As to the weather, the hostess asked if we'd like to dine outside? As the weather was gorgeous and the breeze off the river tends to keep the insects further inland, we said "Why not?"

(Just now I learned that whereas we say "al fresco" for dining in the open air, the Italians don't. They will use all'aperto or fuori instead. And yes, al fresco is Italian and literally means "in the cool (air)". It's educational we are!)

A few of the boats and houses which are rather out of reach of my current circumstances.
I console myself by saying "I'd hate to live there during a hurricane!"
Still, I might like to try.
What you'd call a "working boat". Probably a lobsterman.
(Were I to hazard a guess, which I just did.)
The evening approaches, another day in Little Rhody draws to a close.
I thought the ducks were a nice touch.
Hhmm, vittles and deep thoughts. I mentioned the vittles already, adequate at best. Our waitress, while very friendly, was not on the whole very efficient. I remarked upon this very topic to The Nuke, saying that I prefer friendly over efficient. The Nuke's rejoinder was "Why can't we have both?"

I thought her attitude somewhat harsh, until it took over 30 minutes for my second Guinness to arrive. In her defense, there was a wedding reception in the upstairs party room, keeping the barkeep rather busy. When I mentioned this to The Nuke she indicated that perhaps management should hire more staff. I couldn't disagree. First world problems, neh? ("I say Muffy, just where is my second aperitif? Sorry excuse for a staff, do pass the caviar would you?")

As to deep thoughts...

Maybe later this week. The National Weather Service is calling for a rant by me any day now. The conditions are perfect for such an event. High pressure building between my ears and such.

A second squadron of ducks hove to and awaiting sunset.
Orange sky with contrails.
Night falls and the festive lights come on.
I had a great time with the daughters and the senior granddaughter, though it was far too short. We ate lots of good food, much of which was prepared by The Missus Herself, when the kids come home, the first question is always, "Where's the Korean food?"  I did imbibe a couple of adult beverages from time to time (always "a couple", one is never enough) and was regaled with tales of the Naval Service.

As always, Little Bit was spoiled terribly. It's what we grandparents do. It's in the job description.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Alan D. Monyelle. (RELEASED)
USS Ogden (LPD-5), an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Ogden, Utah. Ogden was laid down on 4 February 1963 by the New York Naval Shipyard. She was launched on 27 June 1964 sponsored by Mrs. Laurence J. Burton, and commissioned at New York City on 19 June 1965 with Captain Floyd M. Symons in command. Wikipedia
As some of you may know, The Nuke, The WSO and Little Bit have been visiting since the middle of last week. I have been absent from the blogoverse in all that time.

It's time to make that up to you. While Tuna and Juvat are amazing, incredible and talented guys, who tell amazing tales, etc., etc., they ain't the Old Air Force Sarge. (And I'm sure they are truly thankful for that!)

So, I'm back and I bring pictures and some very crudely edited video shot by our very own LUSH from the back seat of her jet. That footage features the demise of the ex-USS OGDEN.

When I first saw the footage, it rang a number of bells. Recently, Juvat told us the story of his days at sea onboard USS CORONADO, I thought that the silhouettes of OGDEN and CORONADO looked very similar. So a-Googling I went, there to discover that Ogden was an Austin-class LPD. So was CORONADO originally...
USS Coronado (LPD/AGF-11) was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named after the city of the same name in the U.S. state of California. She was designed as an Austin-class amphibious transport dock (LPD), one of seven fitted with an additional superstructure level for command ship duties. Wikipedia
So my eyes didn't deceive me! (Today at any rate...)

So with all that being said and without further ado, some RIMPAC pics and a video. All courtesy of the Bullets of VFA-2, specifically LUSH.

The view astern of USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76)
(LUSH framed the shot nicely between the Rhino tails!)

JS ISE (DDH 182) with the USS PELELIU (LHA 5) just aft

A nice shot of JS KIRISHIMA (DDG 174) trailed by two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and an
Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate. There is another ship behind the fig but she's obscured.
(I believe that's the USS CHAFEE (DDG-90) to the right of the photo)

That's the view out of The WSO's office, on her way to work.

Like I said, I had to do some editing to get the original video down to a size and format that Blogger was comfortable with. The original is kind of "bouncy" in parts as The WSO was zoomed way in. And she was in a jet. Circling a ship being bombed.

So the "bounciness" is from the original video, the choppy edits are all mine.

That's what comes of getting a cheap tool to convert video formats. (Think "free", nothing cheaper than that. And I never claimed to be anything but cheap frugal.)


I talked with The WSO today, turns out it was her camera, but a fellow Bullet (Donnie) actually shot the footage.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Guns, Eagle Style

A while back, Murphy’s Law was pining away about how he was going to spend his lottery winnings and buy an F-86.  A worthwhile expenditure to be sure, but MSgt B joined the discussion with a comment about knowing a guy on Okinawa that had one that he used to tow targets for the F-15s. 
This would be that Jet
Photo copied from Here
And that comment fired the synapses that bring forth this story.

So, There I was……*  I’m at Kadena having been checked out in an F-15 in the short course  at Luke AFB, 3 months and probably about 50 hours. Soloing in a jet on your first ride is thought provoking that’s for sure.  At least they save the AB takeoff until a little bit later.  Release brakes and punch it is eye opening.  Even on a hot Arizona afternoon, by the  time you’ve checked the engines, (Why?  I’m mean really, it’s quite obvious to the most casual observer they are functioning beautifully), anyhow, by the time you check the engines, you’re at rotate speed.  A small touch of the stick and you’re airborne, you keep pulling on the stick to keep the airspeed under control (yeah right) and avoid overspeeding the gear.  Slap them up, and you’re still pulling back on the pole waiting for the gear light to go out.  You’re now about 45 degrees nose high and tower tells you to contact departure.  (Phoenix is a busy place airspace wise).  You’re still pulling as you contact departure and they tell you to level at 18000’.  You think, piece of cake, until you look at the altimeter.  A quick increase of the g, and your vertical climb turns into an immelman and you’re level, inverted but level, at 18000’.  You’re first cognitive thought is “Gawd, what an airplane!”

So, anyhow, I’m at Kadena, been there a couple of months, deployed to Kwanju for Team Spirit, so kind of settling in.  My flight commander, in a rare turn of events, happened to be one of my students at Holloman.  He’d been an F-4 WSO and been selected for Pilot Training.  Got an F-15 as his assignment, gone through Holloman and had been at Kadena for about 2 and a half years. Pretty good guy and a decent stick. Let’s call him Jeff.  The schedule has been posted and I’ve got the first go flying on Jeff’s wing for a Dart ride.

Juvat, what is a Dart ride?  Words do not convey what a Dart Ride is.  Take all the awesomeness of flying the F-15, break out your awesomizer ray (you have one of those don’t you?) and run it completely out of awesomizer stuff, and you might have a description of a Dart Ride.  Ok, I might have gotten a little carried away on that.

A Dart Ride is an opportunity to take a pair of F-15 Eagles and shoot the  M-61 Vulcan 20mm 6 barrel cannon at an airborne target!  6000 rounds a minute.  A 100 rounds a second. 954 rounds on board, well, fully loaded. We get 200.

I’ve fired on the Dart before and frankly had a problem.  Coming from an Air to Ground background, I’d learned to strafe and shooting the gun in a strafe mission is different than shooting the gun on an Air to Air mission.  In a strafe mission, killing the bad guy is a good thing, but there are usually a lot of them, so keeping their heads down and disrupting their plan is also important.  So, in a strafing pass, you usually try to fire as few rounds as possible.  20 rounds or so is desirable, all on target of course.  Not so in air to air.

In Dan Hampton’s book “Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16” (a great book, you should read it)   his description of the various aircraft includes a description of the firing rate, number of guns and weight of the round and adds a number that tells you the total amount of metal the aircraft throws at the opponent. That took me a while to learn.  Strafe, you squeezed the trigger and released, then the gun fired.  Here, you needed to squeeze until you heard the gun and then release.  You really wanted about a hundred rounds each time.  Bullet density is going to get you the kill.

Jeff and I have the first flight of the day, we’ll actually take off before sunrise, so our brief starts about 0400.  We’re about ready to step to the jets, and I copy down our tail numbers.  I notice that the tail number assigned to me is the jet with my name painted on the side.  (“My jet” is not acceptable vernacular around here and calling it "The Crew Chief’s Jet" while technically true does not convey the meaning I desire.)  It is a great jet, Radar works well, it flies well, straight and true which is not always the case.  The crew chief and assistant crew chief are good at what they do and I have a good relationship with them.  Things are just falling into place.

It’s starting to get light as we start the jets and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, light winds, and good visibility.  We’re in the arming area, with the gun safety pin and warning  flag showing, telling the arming crew that we’re going shooting. On more normal missions, the safety pin is inserted inside the gun door, so doesn't interfere with flight.  Guns hot, master arm switch triple checked off,  we take the runway.
Departure from Kadena was easy.  Take off, put the gear up, turn toward your assigned airspace and once over water, cleared all altitudes.  We’re taking off about 10 minutes ahead of our target as we have to perform the safety check and make sure there are no surface vessels in the area.  Typically, we would climb to a medium high altitude ~25000’ or so, but not today. 

Today, as soon as we get feet wet, Jeff sends me out to tactical spread formation, about 9000’ line abreast and with an altitude split of a couple thousand feet.  I move out and start to climb a bit, but he’s pushing over and levels off at about 500’.  In a low level situation, the wingman does not take an altitude separation so as to not highlight the formation, so I level off with Jeff on the Horizon.  I notice that Jeff has not pulled the power back either, we’re still in military power, so the ocean is passing by at a great rate.

We’re approaching the eastern edge of the operating area, the sun is beginning its climb and we hear the target check in on the frequency.  Today, we’re not using any GCI, to help us with the intercept, we’ll be relying on our own  radar to handle that.  Jeff has briefed that first radar contact will run the intercept and first visual gets first shot.  Not all flight leads are that lenient. 

The target calls that he’s in the area and we are cleared to turn hot.  Still headed east, I notice Jeff’s burner’s light.  This is not hard, as it is still dark enough to see the bright white streak coming out of the back of his jet.  I light mine and am instantly through the Mach.  I watch Jeff begin to pull and I match him in a gigantic accelerating immelman, rolling out headed west at 38000’.  I glance at the radar and have a contact about 70 miles on the nose, check the squawk and it’s our target.  I get to run the intercept.

He’s at 20k and as we get to about 40 mile range, I get the "Reno" (I've got a target formation breakout on my radar) on the actual thing we’re going to shoot, the dart about 1500’ in trail of the F-86.  That’s a great advantage, since when we get to lockon range, I can lockon to the actual target and the target box on my Heads Up Display will appear over it instead of the F-86.

We’re still in the high 30’s when we get to lockon range.  I lock and my jet’s systems are spot on.  I catch a flash of sunlight off the dart and can make out the F-86 also.  I call visual, Jeff and the target call No Joy.  I talk Jeff’s eyes on the target and am starting my vertical conversion and tell the target to start the turn and look up.  I pop a flare.  (We can’t shoot unless he sees us)  All have a tally and we’re cleared hot.  

Master arm hot.  Finger off the trigger (Rule 3 applies).  I’m now almost vertical in my dive and he’s slightly off the right side of my nose.  He’s got two choices, turn into me, which would put him on Jeff’s nose or turn away from me, putting him on my nose.  At this point it really doesn’t matter, I am pulling lead by rolling the jet and he can’t deny me turning room as I’m well above him.  He turns away from me, I make a small roll to establish lead and begin the pull out of the dive as I close the range.

The pipper is settling down and the range is closing rapidly, I’m in gun range ~2500’, but pause.  I’d been making that mistake before, and didn't intend to make it again.  1500’, one last check of master arm.  It’s hot, finger on the trigger. 1200’ Squeeze and hold.  The pipper is dead steady as I hear the Gun fire.  Release the trigger and pull on the stick, still have a lot of overtake, so immediately roll to keep the target it sight.  Look back high to find Jeff and prepare to reattack when out of the corner of my eye, I see an amazing array of flashes.  The target had disintegrated and all the tinfoil parts were fluttering in the sunlight like little mirrors as they made their way to the ocean. 

Tow pilot calls “knock it off”, and we clear out of the way.  Without the aerodynamics of the dart to stabilize the cable, he needs to jettison it quickly before it has a chance to do anything bad.  He lets it go, and we head home.  Jeff does a quick battle damage check of me,  nothing, and because it’s required, I do one on him.  Not surprisingly, he’s fine. 

I, however, am higher than a kite.  I’m ready to take on anybody and everybody.  We pitch out, land, dearm and debrief the jets with maintenance.  Pull the VCR Tape and invite the crew chief and assistant to the flight debrief to watch some “really cool S**t!”.  Walking back to the Squadron, Jeff tells me I owe him a beer since he didn't get to shoot, but , he says, “I just wanted to do that once with someone who didn't start in an Eagle, someone who might recognize just how much better this jet is than anything flying.  Guess I did!”

*What's the difference between a fairy tale and a war story, a fairy tale begins "once upon a time.  A war story begins "so, there I was".

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Welcome to Oregon. We hope you brought a fire extinguisher."

Sorry for the lousy shot.  It's hard to snap a picture at 75mph.  I had to blow it up to display it here.

Oregon used to take a little heat from their old border sign stating "Welcome to Oregon.  We hope you enjoy your visit" which was a subtle way of saying please visit, but just don't stay. Now it's the more inviting "Oregon Welcomes You."  I recently returned from a quick trip up there to visit family on the occasion of the wife's little sis #1 turning 40.  When my father retired from the Navy, we moved from San Diego to a piece of property in Selma Oregon.  I’m using the term “property” vice “home” because we were moving to 5 acres of unimproved land that my father had purchased while on leave from the Navy.  He was stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station in the Bay Area and decided to take a drive up the 101, eventually finding his way up the Redwood Highway into Southern Oregon.  He fell in love with the beautiful green tree-filled landscape of the Pacific Northwest and wanted to have a share in it.

Ye Olde Oregon Homestead.  My father and grandfather built this.

What you see in that picture is a lot of green surrounding the home in the previous photo.  That’s how I remember Oregon, thick green woods filled with pine trees and former logging roads.  Except now, as you can see in the intro picture, it’s not all that green.  Sure, the trees are all still there (Environmentalists saving the Spotted Owl have pretty much killed the timber industry in the area), but the hillsides not covered in trees are all dry and brown.  Years of drought have led to the driest countryside ever seen in the PacNorwest.  And that means perfect fire conditions.

It seems like the entire state is on fire.  Not quite, but close.  So close that my brother, an Oregon Army National Guardsman was busy driving a water tanker truck into the area near this fire:
Old Blue Mountain Fire in Southern Oregon
This is the "Old Blue Mountain Fire", but  there are several others.  As I researched this post, the websites couldn't even keep up with the news reports as new fires were popping up as old ones like this were being contained.  Many due to lightning, some to unknown causes, still under investigation, which unfortunately means arson for a couple of them.

It's a little disconcerting that at least for my family, they’ve gotten very used to the smoky air, the fire reports, and the sound of the firefighting aircraft flying over.  That last one surprised me.  Due to my aviation background, I almost ALWAYS look up when I hear aircraft fly over, but it didn’t even faze them.  During dinner in the backyard of my sister-in-law’s place, both an Ericson AirCrane (formerly the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe) and a Bell 412 (UH-1 Huey) flew overhead, probably on their way to Lake Selmac to pick up another load of water.

My original intent for this post was to discuss the military aircraft that have gone onto civilian use in various roles, or to other militaries.  My inspiration for this idea came from my last post about the S-3's heading for Korea.  I got to thinking about the S-2 Tracker and how the Navy sold them to many other countries, of which some are still in use.   However, in the middle of my effort to gather pictures of those second-life aircraft, I drove into Oregon and realized there was another story to tell. 

The S-2T barely resembles its Stoof/Tracker roots, with new turboprop engines and a nosejob.
CAL-Fire, or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has a fleet of 23 S-2T 1200 gallon airtankers.  My wife's uncle flew S-2s for the Navy, then later for CAL-Fire.  These Trackers aren't operating in Oregon, but they do great work in also-fire-ravaged California.  There are quite a few former Navy aircraft in the firefighting biz as they are well qualified for the rigors of the job.

"After World War II ended, an abundance of surplus military aircraft found their way into the fledgling aerial firefighting industry.  The combination of a large payload and the high performance of many bombers, attack aircraft, and transports allowed enterprising companies to modify airframes with large tanks for carrying borate and water for dousing wildfires.  Some of these modifications were straightforward; large tanks were inserted into existing bomb bays and after the bomb bay doors were opened, the payload was released by opening valves.  Other aircraft were fitted with tanks within the fuselage, with plumbing inserted through the floor to allow for the release of the fire suppressant underneath the aircraft."

The Tracker and a buddy

The Tracker is obviously not alone.  The P-2V Neptune, P-3 Orion, and even my beloved PBY Catalina have been put to use fighting fires.

Aircraft* attacking the Rogue River Drive fire in Southern Oregon last week.
(Photo by Jamie Lusch, Medford Mail-Tribune)

These airplanes have gone from dropping torpedoes to dropping water or fire retardant on their enemy.  There are several others in the game, not just the bombers.  Tankers obviously have a role as well. 

DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, on deck in Medford Oregon 

10 Tanker Air Carrier on the job
Coulson C-130 Air Tanker

They've followed other aircraft such as the B-17, B-25, DC-3, PB4Y Privateer, F7F Tigercat and Grumman TBM Avenger.  Some of these aircraft didn't wait to be civilianized before joining the fight.  The C-130, UH-1, MH-60S, CH-46, CH-47, CH-53, (and probably others) have played a role in firefighting while still on active duty.

An Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter returns to the Madras Airport after successfully dumping water on a target area in the Logging Unit Fire.

Video Links here and here.  Turn your volume down for the second one.

These aircraft need some airborne command and control and fire-spotting to aid in their fight.  The AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter and the OV-10A Bronco assist in that role.  You probably noticed the Bronco earlier in this post.  Here's another shot.

The AH-1 surprised me.  I had no idea these had transitioned to a firefighting role.  More specifically, a fire-scouting role. 

These were being preflighted at the Weed Airport (no, not that kind of weed) in Northern California.  Probably heading for one or more of several wildfires raging in the region.  The US Forest Service has two dozen in their livery, which are used around the country.  With multiple sensors onboard, their mission is primarily Firefighter Support using an infrared thermal imager.
With the FLIR System IR camera's ability to see even the smallest of surface temperature change, areas of concern that are hidden due to smoke are now visible from the air. Using an air-to-ground frequency, the FireWatch Cobra can have a 'bird's eye view' of the fire below while the firefighters on the ground can be directed to areas of concern.
While the air attack capability is awesome and an outstanding force-multiplier, these battles can't be won from the air alone.  It takes a ton of courageous men and women on the ground to clear brush, create firebreaks, and cool down hot-spots.  In fact the young man that grew up in my room after my family sold it to his father, stood on those fire lines for a few summers while going to college;  Later graduating to become a member of the thin blue line in Benton County Oregon.

As for the fire closest to home?  As of the time I'm posting this, my brother was still on the job, but not nearly as busy as he had been.

Thousands of gallons of helicopter-borne water was poured on the Old Blue Mountain Fire Tuesday, significantly knocking out numerous hot spots within the 99-acre blaze that broke out late Monday during a thunderstorm. Early this morning, Incident Commander Steve Wetmore (ODF) reported “Old Blue is one hundred percent lined and one hundred percent plumbed,” meaning the fire line was completed overnight and a system of fire hoses now encircles the burned area. The fire is 30 percent contained. The firefighters’ objective today is to mop-up hot spots 300 feet inside the fire line and patrol outside of the fire line to watch for spot fires. Helicopters and air tankers are available, if necessary.
 I'm sure glad they're available and I'm thankful for all the firefighters keeping my former home safe.  I know they've given my Oregon family some peace of mind, they don't even look up anymore.

*Can anyone help with the make and model of this one?  Lockheed Electra?  P-3A? C-118 Liftmaster?  I'm stumped.
Authors Note:  Confirmed by Uncle Skip in the comments- DC-7