|The Pilot's Office in the F-4D Phantom II (Source)|
My two major assignments in WCS were Kadena AB, Okinawa and Kunsan AB, Republic of Korea. At Kadena we had F-4Cs and F-4Ds and a squadron of reconnaissance birds (the RF-4C, which I didn't muck with). At Kunsan we only had the F-4D. Now this story is about some fun I had on an F-4D in Korea. When it was cold outside. Oh dear, it was cold outside.
So there I was...*
Now normally I worked in the Radar Cal Barn in Korea. This was not an actual barn but was, in reality, a hangar. For aircraft. As seen below.
|Radar Cal Barn at Kunsan with a |
8th Component Repair Squadron (CRS)
(Photo by Gary Knight, from his Facebook page, I worked with Gary in Korea. A fine fellow.)
Note that I said "normally" above (Skip can tell you all about "normal," he'll mention that from time to time).
Occasionally we CRS types would get called out to the flight line to do, ahem, "real work." I guess that requires a bit of an explanation. We WCS types existed in 3 organizations in the wing. We had a guy on the Wing Staff, as a Quality Assurance inspector (I got to do that for a few months) and then we had folks in the CRS and in the Aircraft Generation Squadron, or AGS. The AGS folks worked the flight line. Think outdoors, in the cold. Well, in the summer it could be nice, as long as it wasn't raining.
The AGS folks would typically check out jets with busted radar systems and then either sign the write-up off for various reasons, or pull parts off the bird to bring them into the mock-up. The mock-up was over at CRS, we had a radar system mounted on a test bench which we could use to troubleshoot a Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) and either tweak (align) it back to usefulness or send it off to the depot for repair. Either way, we'd supply the AGS folks with another LRU which they could then mount back on the jet to repair the original problem.
(For those who must know, every F-4 had to have its radar system checked out every 180 days. This is what we did at the Radar Cal Barn. We had test equipment and such which we used to align and tweak the radar system to its optimal condition. Just like new. Well, sort of. Most of the jets were already pushing 10 years in service. That was old for a Phantom, many of which had seen some pretty hard use in Southeast Asia.)
So one day, I can't remember why**, we got the call to head out to an aircraft to remove the pilot's front radar scope, that thing with the big round glass thingee in the opening photo. Just above the attitude indicator and sporting a number of light gray knobs around the big round glass thingee. (I used to know what all those knobs did, now I'd have to look it up in a tech order. It's been a long, long time...)
Normally, (there's that word again) removing the front scope wasn't that hard. Pop two Dzus fasteners on either side to disconnect the glare shield, undo two cannon plugs on the left side of the scope, one cannon plug on the right, undo two bolts (either side of the scope, I think) and presto, Mr. Radar Scope slides right out.
Not so fast there Hoss!
I forgot one little detail, see that little green scope in the next picture? (That's the Radar Homing and Warning, or RHAW, scope, as I recall. I also recall we just called it the "ECM Scope." ECM standing for Electronic Countermeasures. This was all, dare I say it, a long, long time ago...)
One slight problem, to get one's arm through that little hole in that bracket one needs to strip down to one's t-shirt. The bracket was a really tight squeeze with a shirt on.
Did I mention how freaking cold it was that day? It was OMG cold that day. Me and Klepper were already freezing our arses off as we had not expected to have to work in the Great Outdoors that day but had anticipated being in our nice, warm hangar.
So neither of us was wearing long underwear. Now my braves, in the days before Under Armor and other sorts of new-fangled, lightweight undergarments for to keep the cold, cold air away from our precious skins, we wore long underwear, long johns as they were also called. Bulky and made you sweat like the very Devil indoors with any sort of heat on.
|Long Johns. Sexy, neh?|
Public Domain Photo
So we precious radar calibrators tended to make do with long sleeve shirts and a field jacket. (What's that? Pants? Of course we were wearing pants. Jolly jokers!)
So Davy (that would be Klepper's first name, his Christian name, ya know, his given name...) are already freezing our butts off as we are preparing to take this scope out of the jet. (As I recall this particular jet was broken, but it had a good front scope. This was known as "cannibalizing" one broken aircraft to fix another, not so broken, aircraft. Of course we had permission. Ya can't just run around taking parts from one bird and putting them on another without permission. That would be chaos, dogs and cats living together...)
I'm in the cockpit, I figure I'll disconnect the scope and then slide it out and hand it to Dave. Let him muscle it down the ladder. (For those things were somewhat heavy and kind of awkward. Dave being the younger guy, I figured I'd let him have the glory of being all physical and what-have-you with Mr. Radar Scope.)
So, Dzus fasteners popped, left side cannon plugs disconnected, ECM scope is out and...
Time to get cold. Damn cold. That is, it's time to strip down to my t-shirt, pop that right side cannon plug off, bundle back up, pass the scope to Dave and...
Now the cannon plugs on the front scope are supposed to have little wings on them for to make it easier to disconnect them in the close confines of being under the front windscreen. Both left side plugs had them, the right side did not.
Now this would happen from time to time. Sometimes a cannon plug would go bad, usually a pin wouldn't stay seated and the entire plug would have to be replaced. (And yes, Virginia, I do have a story about replacing a cannon plug on a jet. But not today...)
Someone had replaced this plug and used the wrong plug. Well, electronically it was the right plug but it didn't have the little wings. So I had to ask Dave to hand me the pliers.
|Something like these, but not nearly as fancy. (Source)|
Yes, I am still standing in the front cockpit, sans field jacket, sans shirt and yes, I am freezing my nads off. (Not to go all technical on you, but that's what we called it then, it's what some of us call it now. "Freezing one's nads off." A term almost medical in its own way. Hhmm, I wonder what the Latin equivalent of "nads" is?)
Dave hands me the pliers and I reach through that miserable little bracket with its miserable little opening...
And drop the pliers.
Yes, I may have used a few choice Anglo-Saxon epithets, a couple of naughty words in Korean and I may have gotten somewhat upset. But I calmed down, for I was a professional mind you, pulled my arm out of that miserable little bracket with its miserable little opening and retrieved the pliers. (They had just slid down towards the front of the windscreen. Fortunately.)
Pliers in hand and shaking like I was having a seizure (did I mention how cold it was) I went back in. This time the plug came off, this time I got the scope out and handed it to Dave. Who got it down off the jet and darted into the shelter to call the shop.
|Shelters at Bitburg (I circled one in yellow, I'm helpful that way.)Public Domain Photo|
Meanwhile I bundled back up as best as I could and tried to get warm again. In my heart, I felt that I could never possibly ever, ever be warm again. I was shaking, my nose was running and I felt frozen.
Now I know I've been colder than on that day. Before and since.
It could not have been less than 10°F that day, no wind.
But it was a wet, right on the coast, bone chilling cold. The kind of cold you only feel being near or on the water. Damn it was cold.
I'm shivering now, just thinking about it.
And people ask me why I only spent 7 years in aircraft maintenance.
Okay, I may be stupid, but I'm not that stupid. No sirree Bob. A couple of years later I got myself a desk job, an indoor job.
No more front radar scopes for me in the dead of a Korean winter. No thank you!
No more miserable little brackets with miserable little openings and cannon plugs with no wings and, and, and...
Okay, I'm all better now.
Like I said, that was a long, long, long time ago.
Uh no, I don't miss it. (Well, maybe a little...)
** Now I remember. The jet in radar cal had a bad scope, nothing forthcoming from Supply so we couldn't finish that jet and get the next one towed in. So Job Control sent us out to grab the scope off another jet that had multiple issues and wouldn't be flying any time soon. As one gets older, the memory seems to work in fits and starts. If at all!