It wasn't time yet for another Medal of Honor post, that will be coming soon as the end of the school year approacheth and that's when the fecal matter usually impacts the spinning air mover.
Formation school was in town this weekend, but it looked like it was only T-6/SNJs (ONLY, juvat? Like you wouldn't trade parts of your anatomy to own a T-6?) I did get this photo as the passed over Rancho Juvat.
|The structure on the left is my woodshop. They were close enough that their radial engine noise was louder than my table saw. They're tormenting me, I say!|
Finally I haven't been to a museum in a while, so I've got nothing on that front.
Which leaves what Tuna refers to as "Juvat regularly regales us of flight ops as an Eagle driver."
What can I say? I talk with my hands and have a big watch! Realizing that I had told a lot of stories, most of which details can be taken as gospel. (Really! No kidding! It's all true, I was there!)
I had to find one I hadn't told here yet. Then it hit me, I've alluded to this story a few times, but never actually "regaled" it.
So....There I was *
A newly winged pilot, I've been granted a chance at attaining the only thing I've ever wanted to do in my 24 years of living, fly fighters in the Air Force. I've made it through Lead-in Fighter Training with only a slight hiccup. (IPs should not tell a student to "Go get 'em, Tiger!" as the student releases brakes as #4 in a formation with a rejoin out of traffic, unless he looks forward to writing the comment "On rejoin out of traffic, Lt Juvat showed his burner cans to the flight lead inverted as he passed in front of the formation". Just sayin'. Besides, it was extra flying time to make up that pinked ride.)
Anyhoo, I graduated from LIFT and continued westward to lovely "it's a DRY heat" Phoenix AZ for F-4 RTU arriving there in June. We have a bit of ground school to learn the systems of the mighty F-4C and several simulator rides to make sure we understand those systems as well as the emergency procedures required to safely return the aircraft to the able hands of Sarge's maintenance brethren if something were to go wrong.
|Sarge? We've got a code 2 flyable on aisle 2!|
The F-4C was a complex aircraft and was built before a lot of thought was put in about cockpit management. There wasn't really a standardized cockpit configuration. Many switches would be in one place on one tail number and in another place entirely of a different one.
This lead to many switch errors when we got to the air to ground portion of the syllabus.
But we're not there yet.
Finally after weeks of studying the Dash-1 (available here if you're having trouble sleeping), simulating horrifyingly complex emergencies which usually resulted in a simulated ejection, numerous tests and many adult recreational beverages consumed while consulting with several known names mentioned favorably in the annals of the Red River Fighter Pilots Association in the Squadron
RTU was divided into a few sections, to include ones that concentrated on Air to Air and Air to Ground, but the first section was dedicated to see if Lt Juvat could actually take an F-4 off the ground, fly it around the airspace in Arizona, stay out of Mexico (not a given), then return to his home airfield and land the jet successfully. I would get 5 rides to gain that skill set as well as demonstrate that I could fly instruments in that aircraft. At the completion of those rides, I would get a check ride, which if I flunked would mean B-52s for me. "Ready to start # 8, Captain!"
I did not want to flunk that ride.
As an aside, I quickly found out that flying instrument approaches in the F-4 at Luke AFB in July from the front seat was monumentally easier than doing so from the back seat of a T-38 with a canvas bag blocking your view outside.
It's Monday morning, and the alarm goes off about 0300, I've got a 0400 briefing for my first ride which will take-off right at daybreak, about 0600.
It's summer in Phoenix. The F-4's air conditioner begins functioning at 20,000'. We want our missions to be over with before the combination of the Outside Air Temperature and the refractive properties of the canopy achieve a temperature that melts our flying helmets.
It really doesn't matter though, I haven't slept much. I'm going to fly an actual fighter! One that's been in a war! That's actually camouflaged.
We've briefed, stepped to the jet, preflighted, started (without any emergency indications, something that NEVER happens in the sim), taxied out, gone through the arming area and now been cleared for takeoff.
Run the engines up to 85% (any more and the airplane will start moving forward. The brakes will keep the tires from rolling, so... that's a bad thing). Everything looks normal. Brakes off, throttles through the AB detent. Nozzles swing indicating two good burner lights, and we're off.
Except, my brain is several hundred feet behind the airplane!
The nose rotates, we're airborne and the IP is calling "Gear, put up the Gear!"
Oh, yeah! Don't want to overspeed the gear doors.
Now, the IP is yelling "Burners". Oh, yeah, Sun City, don't want to wake up the senior citizens who have the Wing King's office number memorized.
We're successfully airborne and headed to our airspace. It's a beautiful day in Arizona and I'm flying a fighter!
We enter the airspace, which was somewhere near Sedona, and start our area work. That consists primarily of advanced handling, meaning High Angle of Attack stuff.
The F-4C would mistreat a pilot who did not handle High AOA maneuvering adroitly. It was considered "Poor Form" to return to base without a drag chute because you needed to deploy that device to recover from an out of control situation.
It was even poorer form to eject from an aircraft because you put it out of control and didn't have the altitude to recover it.
Neither situation arose on this flight, or thankfully on any other flight in my career.
Now, it's time to come back in and land.
We come down initial, pitch out and I configure the aircraft. The IP will demo the first one, which is a fete in and of itself from the back seat. We come around and aim at the approach end. The IP holds the stick as we settle in and just before touchdown, I feel him add a couple of rpms to the engine. We go around and as I take the aircraft, I ask him why he does that.
He replies that "it adds a little bit more cushion to the landing, making it smoother."
I come around, configure, settle in on final aimed at the touchdown zone, and as I'm about to touchdown, add a bit of power.
"Nice Landing, juvat!" I hear from the back. "Do it again!"
Which I do.
Full stop, deploy drag chute, Dearm, shut down, and debrief, my inaugural ride as a fighter pilot is complete.
We debrief in significant detail, and finally I'm dismissed. I check tomorrow's schedule and note that I'm flying with a different IP.
The next day, everything proceeds as it had the day before. On takeoff, I was only slightly behind the aircraft and nobody at Sun City needed to call the Wing King about me. The area work was fine and we RTB on schedule.
I come down initial, no back seat demo this time, and pitch out, configure and am settling in on final. I cross over the overrun and start the technique I'd learned the day before on how to "smooth out " the landing of the F-4.
As I add power and start the flare, I hear a yell from the IP, "Go 'round, Go 'round, Burners!"
Throttles slam into burner. Gears up, flaps up. I'm thinking was there something I didn't see on the runway?
The IP says "I've got the jet." and shakes the stick. "You've got the jet" and take my hand off the controls.
"What the F**K where you trying to do? Kill us?"
"Let me show you how to land the F-4!"
I configure it for him (Gear and flap controls were not available in the back seat, nor were Afterburners).
He begins his final turn and as I can tell, we're significantly steeper than we were the day before.
He's got an aimpoint in the touchdown zone and we're diving on it like a peregrine falcon going for one of Sarge's rabbits.
The jet's at the point where I'd start the flare, but he's doing nothing.
He just freezes the controls and doesn't do anything with the power.
There's, what to me anyway, a massive impact as we hit the runway. The throttles advance and as we get airborne, I'm checking everything for damage indications.
He shakes the stick and says "You've got the aircraft. THAT's how you land the F-4!"
I come around and while on downwind tie my squadron scarf around my head and yell "Banzai!" as I begin the final turn.
Put the aimpoint at the end of the runway and drive the aircraft into the runway.
"Excellent landing. Make the next one a full stop!"
Back in the debrief, we discuss the ride and when dismissed, I check the schedule, I've got another sortie again in the morning.
It's with the IP I had my first sortie with.
Back in the traffic pattern, I'm beginning my final turn (Yes, Aaron, my scarf was tied around my head) and am beginning my kamikaze attack on the runway, when I hear a VERY concerned voice in the back seat say.
"Please, for the love of god, go around. Burners!"
I comply. He demonstrates the next landing and includes the RPM boost "to smooth" the landing.
The lightbulb clicks.
As I come around to land, I ask him whether my second IP happened to be a Navy exchange pilot.
"Why, yes. Why do you ask?"
A few days later, I'm scheduled for the Qual Check. I ask the squadron scheduler what service the Check Pilot is in.
He responds "Air Force, why?"
"No reason, I just want to smoothly pass the ride."
*SJC- If you haven't been to the acronym page, this particular acronym means Standard Juvat Commentary meaning everything stated in this story is the honest to goodness truth and should be taken as hard fact, even if the story begins with So....There I was.