Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Big Time Survives the Iron Maiden

Postcard, dated 19.8.1921. Title:"Nuremberg - Iron Maiden"
(Source)
Uh, no, not that iron maiden. No, he didn't go to a concert either. He survived an encounter with this Iron Maiden, the venerable KC-135 Stratotanker, configured to refuel aircraft of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.



Now those of you without a great deal of knowledge of in-flight refueling might not get the whole "Iron Maiden" reference. Lex told the story very well, go read his tale and come on back.

Now you see, the Air Force (my own beloved service) is different from the Navy and Marine Corps in many ways, much of which have been discussed before in these spaces, but here I'm talking in-flight refueling. You see the Navy and the Corps have probes on their aircraft, which the pilot is responsible for sticking into the basket which dangles from a long hose on your standard Navy refueling aircraft. In the Air Force our birds have a receptacle and the tanker has the probe, long and rigid, which the boom operator on the tanker aircraft inserts into the receptacle on the jet requiring fuel.

I'm sure many of you at this point are collapsing into school boy tittering at the apparent lack of masculinity involved on the part of the Air Force and, gee, those aviators in the Naval Service (which includes the Marines) are really manly men, I mean probes, receptacles...

Nah, let's not go there I am even now blushing for you know we Master Sergeants are delicate and sensitive people. (Not.)

Anyhoo.

The other day our own dear LUSH contacted The Chant's Global Headquarters here on the shores of Narragansett Bay to inform Your Humble Scribe that she had called her hubby (son-in-law Big Time) over at Fallon Air Patch (NAS Fallon in Nevada) for to chat. He's there for various naval reasons which involve the employment of fast jets over the various ranges in Nevada's high desert. Dropping things that go boom (bang?) and generally going very fast and doing fighter pilot type stuff.

Anyhoo.

Big Time was fast asleep when LUSH contacted him to say "Hello."

"Uh, it's like mid-afternoon, why are you sleeping?"

"Cause I'm flying tonight at 0100 with an 0600 recovery."

Said night time aerial activity would involve in-flight refueling. At night. Ya know, in the freaking dark. With...

Drum roll please.

The Iron Maiden!!!

Now Big Time is a very good stick (just ask him) but his in-flight refueling currency was close to its expiration date, as was his night in-flight refueling currency. So there ya go, sayeth his scheduling officer, you can take care of both this very night.

Now we simple ground dwellers might think, there ya go, kill two birds with one stone. But, and I cannot emphasize this enough, one would not use that particular phrase when speaking of in-flight refueling. At night. In the freaking dark no less.

For yes, there are two aircraft, birds if you will, involved and dear me you don't even want to scratch the paint while doing this sort of thing, heaven forfend! So that particular phrase would not be used.

So yes, I was a tad "concerned," I mean I actually like my son-in-law, not only is he a good stick (just ask him) but he's a pretty good husband and Dad from what I have been told (and witnessed). Fortunately, I would be fast asleep while all this yanking, tanking, and banking was going on.

So I thought.

Fast asleep I was until I had some weird-ass dream involving people taking my crap and not giving it back, friends even. The things that pass through one's mind in the wee hours.

Anyhoo.

I came awake with a start (and an urgent need to, well, let's not go there) and saw that after fulfilling the call of Nature (sigh, I did go there) I could catch another six hours of sleep (it being midnight) before having to arise and motor off to the salt mines place of employment. Until I had a thought.

Hhmm, what time is it Fallon? Ah, it's only nine there, Big Time hasn't even launched yet. (Midnight here is 9:00 PM there, saved you the trouble of having to convert 2100 hours, it's what I do, I share.)

So now I'm thinking about tanking, from the Iron Maiden, in the air. At night. In the freaking dark, oh yes.

Sleep fled for a good ninety minutes before I was able to re-enter Dreamland (no, not the one in Nevada). I felt as though I'd paid the price of admission but had gone outside, just for a moment, then couldn't get back in as I'd misplaced my ticket stub. I did find it though.

Only to reawaken at 0400 local (which would be 0100 in Fallon, launch time in other words). Egad! Tanking! At night! In the dark!

Ah well, I guess I can sleep Tuesday night (as I write this). Maybe.

Anyhoo.

Later that very day at the Pit of Misery place of gainful employment I checked my cell phone to see that beloved son-in-law Big Time had posted something amusing on the Book of Face. Which comforted me, he had survived his encounter with the Iron Maiden. I must remember to ask him how that went.

It's best not to think too much about such things and better yet, not have a vivid imagination. I fail on both counts.

Ah, the "joys" of military aviation when one is a parent/parent-in-law...



30 comments:

  1. If you gendering the planes based on the refueling gear it gets downright LGBT right fast.

    The KC-135 goes transgender when playing with the Navy.

    The KC-10 is a hermaphrodite...

    Both are odd in they've got girly parts up front and manly parts in back...

    Now that the Navy is just using refueling pods, with manly parts up front and transgender conversion girly parts underneath...

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  2. When my son was visiting the 'Stan, I'd wake up with a start like that in the wee hours. I'd pray that his unit would be so deadly that the other guys wouldn't want to mess with them. I'd pray that whoever he was working on wouldn't die, that he would rotate home without losing one patient (he did!!), and that God would give him ability beyond his years. He did well.

    I don't miss those days...

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    1. Roger that.

      Tell your son that it's folks like him that give me hope for this country. Bravo Zulu!

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  3. I heard that the junior enlisted airman that controls the refueling probe has to have extraordinary depth perception.
    I've watched a couple of videos from the tanker's viewpoint and from the receiver's viewpoint. No thanks.
    All involved get my respect.

    I may have had just an instant of puerile thinking about the "probing" differences between the services.

    Good post.


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    1. Thanks John. Yeah, air refueling is hard, the pros make it look easy.

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    2. While lying on one's belly, staring backwards and down, even in turbulent air. They must have extra-ordinary powers of non-vomiting.

      Urg, blarg, no.

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    3. Yeah, I can see that as a problem.

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  4. Refueling was entirely dependent on the airplane being refueled and to a lesser extent on the airplane refueling. With the fuel tanks of the F-4 being loaded fore and aft of the Center of Gravity and the canopy bow obscuring the tanker in (my) normal seat height. One could get forward and high (very, very, very bad as the boomer has little room to remove the boom) quite quickly. That having been said, with proper training one could very easily refuel upside down in a thunderstorm when the alternative was jumping out of the jet several hundred miles south of Iceland. DAMHIK

    The Eagle was so much easier. The engines produced a lot more thrust at altitude, so having to light burners to stay on the boom was no longer a factor. Additionally, since the fuel tanks were primarily in the wings and thus closer to the CG and the airplane had auto trim, stability on the boom was much easier. Visibility was one of the Eagle's strong suits, so seeing the tanker also was not a problem. All that having been said, we still had folks that had difficulty "hitting" the tanker.

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    Replies
    1. Dang. Looking back at that old (most excellent) post, I can see how the front seat has limited visibility upwards at certain angles and for certain values of seat height. I'm also guessing that being a contortionist would be a good trait for a Phantom WSO.

      Another piece of the Phantom legend I had forgotten. Glad they put more thought into the Eagle.

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    2. Night tanking @ night in turbulent wx in the 4 ain't no walk in the park either, sarge, and I've done it from both seats, so TRUST me on that.. :)

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    3. You've tanked from the back seat in a Phantom?!?!?!?!?!

      Dang!

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  5. As for waking up in the middle of the night worrying about offspring in a far off land? 126 and counting.

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  6. Wonder how much harder the helio pilots have it?

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    Replies
    1. Helicopter refueling.
      https://theaviationist.com/2013/04/15/video-shows-how-difficult-helicopter-air-to-air-refueling-can-be/
      Yes it's a probe and drogue setup, but the drogue looks awfully close to the blades.

      On the other hand, the "how much harder" part of the question could have a different meaning.


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    2. John - very long probe, very long hose. What's the refueler, d'ya think a C-130?

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    3. I went back to the article where I found it video, it says that the tanker is a HC-130J Combat King II. Other than the "130" I didn't know what variant of the 130 that bird was.
      The Air Force has some data.
      http://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104468/hc-130j-combat-king-ii/




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    4. "found the video," instead of "found it video." Sigh.

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    5. Combat King II? My old service has a fondness for names like that. I wonder what the crews call her.

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  7. Yes, having been aboard a 135 during a refueling op, lying on the pad next to the boomer's position, I have a great appreciation for the abilities of all concerned.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Roger that.

      The Nuke and The WSO went up on a ANG tanker in high school (they were in AF JROTC). Exciting, from what I gathered. Of course, now The WSO has seen it from the other side as well.

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    2. BTW- One of the aircraft refueled that trip was a B-1.

      Paul

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    3. Now that must have been awesome!

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  8. Here's a video clip of a CH-53E chopping off the tip of it's own refueling probe during aerial refueling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAdpKpppZiA

    -Victor

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    Replies
    1. D'oh! You've previewed part of tomorrow's (really lame) post.

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