Monday, August 20, 2018

Bailout, Bailout, Bailout

Well....One Down.  35 to go.

Weeks that is. 

This one was about as expected.  In a variation of a joke STxAR commented with a few days ago, we prepped 650 out of 975 new laptops in time for school to start and gave them to teachers who had had no laptops before, do we get called wonderful?  No we get greeted with "Where are MY laptops?  I can't teach without them." 

No, Ma'am/Sir, you can't teach.

But I digress....

I'm sitting here in my office on a lovely, albeit warming rapidly, Sunday morn, running several scripts that need running but which I can't seem to get to during the week. (Reread para 3 if you need to ask why.)  I was trying to think of what to post about this week, Sarge having stolen all the good stories and stuff.

I swear, he's like Google sometimes.  You know what I mean.  You click on a link that you are curious about and all of a sudden all the ads you see are talking about retirement stuff. (Beans! What did you thing I was looking for?).  So, I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks, and then Sarge writes one and put's this picture in it.



Source

My first thought was "He's done it again!"

Fortunately, his post wasn't about ejecting from an Airplane.  So that means the subject is still available.

I had done a little investigating prior to commenting recently about ejecting through the roof.  Specifically, I couldn't remember if the F-15 had a canopy piercer or not.  Typically the first thing that happens when ejection is initiated is the canopy separates.  Having it remain in place is a great impediment to your longevity. Long time reader VX had remembered a friend killed in an F-4 when the ejection seat fired due to an electrical malfunction and the canopy had not separated. 

Early systems would just open the canopy a bit and the wind would rip it off.  Somewhat crude but worked most of the time (most being the operative word).  However, as aircraft became more sophisticated, wind flow over the canopy was not necessarily guaranteed.  For instance in a tail slide, the air is rushing from back to front.  The canopy is not going to separate.

Yes, tail slides happen frequently in air to air.  Depending on the airplane, they are great fun (F-15) or pretty exciting (F-4). Not in a good way.

 Nowadays, most aircraft have some kind of explosive device to separate the canopy from the jet.  Two of the jets I flew had a backup system in case that fails.  If that were to happen in the T-38 or F-15 the first thing that would hit the canopy would be a reinforced part of the seat put there to shatter the canopy allowing the seat and pilot to go on about their merry way.

The Harrier dispensed with the canopy by having an explosive cord in the canopy itself which exploded destroying the canopy and the pilot and seat went through that.
Note the canopy frame behind the hole Source

Well, that was step 1 in a long multi-stepped process, so stay tuned next Monday for the next installment.

Beans! Just kidding! 

So, I'm having difficulty maintaining flight and have made a wise decision to return the aircraft to the taxpayers.
Source

Do I stand up, hook up and shuffle to the door?  Well, no.

The next thing that happens, typically within about a quarter second is, the rocket under my seat fires, lifting the seat, with me in it out of the jet.  At that point, at least with the ACES seat in the F-15 and many others, a computer assesses quite a few parameters and adjusts the rocket accordingly.

Some of those factors, include airspeed, altimeter, vertical velocity and attitude.

As far as airspeed is concerned, anything above 450K, you're going to ride the seat for a while til you slow down a bit.  By a bit, I mean a few seconds.  If you are on the ground, stopped and needed to eject, the seat will fire, and you will be in your chute within 2 seconds.  A nice capability.

If you were in level flight, inverted, 150' above the ground (AGL), the computer would work the gimbals on the rocket to fire in such a was as to right you and once headed away from the ground, kick you out of the seat then deploy the chute.

If you were at medium altitude and below 450k, you would ride the seat for about 6 seconds to get you slowed down and stabilized, then the seat releases would work and the chute would deploy. 

Remember, in times of stress, time seems to slow.  That 6 seconds, I've been told by a buddy that jumped from an Eagle under that mode, seemed like forever.  He said he'd wondered if the seat had failed and he was riding it in at least a dozen times.

The most dangerous set of circumstances is a high speed dive.  The chart below is from my F-4E Dash-1.  The bible as far as a Fighter Pilot is concerned.  Certain sections were, in fact, memorized verbatim.  The rest were studied, reviewed, discussed, tested and digested until memorized.

So, if I'm in an F-4 in a 60o dive doing 600K and take a hit, and decide to bailout, communicating those immortal words "Bailout, Bailout, Bailout" and pull the handle initiating the WSO's bailout followed 2 seconds afterwards by my seat firing, I have to have pulled the handle about 4200' above the ground.    Even a 15o dive at that speed requires more than 1000'. 

The Eagle's ACES II seat was slightly better, but Physics is Physics, you're rushing at the ground at a great rate and the seat only functions at a fixed rate.  If the time to hit the ground is less than the time to open the chute, well........

But, time marches on and I came across this Article from Aviation Leak Week regarding improvements to the seat.  Basically, they improved it so it had a higher safe operating speed, 600K.  They also made it so things mounted on the aircrew helmet (e.g. night vision goggles etc) wouldn't interfere with the seat's operation. Also, at least for me, they made it handle big boys.  It will now handle up to a 245 pound pilot.  (only 5 more to go juvat, you can do it!)

No, I was well under that while I was flying, thanks for asking.

I found a couple of other interesting facts from this site .  I'd thought Ejection seats were a post WWII phenomenon.  Apparently the first one was built in 1910 and the Germans perfected one in time to have a combat ejection in 1942.

Reader "a bear" will undoubtedly comment about this, but apparently, the B-58 ejection system was tested using bears to ride the seat. 
Source
Research did lead me to one fact I thought was a bit disturbing.  The ACES II seat has a 94.4% success rate.  Which sounds pretty good, but that statistic is for "in the envelope" ejections.  That means the airspeed, altitude, attitude and vertical velocity, were within design parameters.  That means 5.6% of the time the seat failed when it shouldn't have.

Glad I didn't know that at the time.  Flying is a dangerous operation and we learn from every flight.

68 comments:

  1. Veeerrry interesting, as Arte Johnson used to say. Now I'm wondering who ever first thought "We'll use A BEAR, that'll do the trick!" And who was the poor sap who had to tie down the muzzle of said bear? The cartoon was a nice touch Juvat.

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    1. They were drugged and sedated, apparently. And then euthanized afterwards, probably to prevent them from taking their murderous revenge.

      The past is, indeed, a foreign country.

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    2. Re: the cartoon. If you're talking about the first one, supposedly, ("supposedly" is Swahili for "almost certainly an urban legend") an F-16 driver jumped out of his jet on takeoff after discovering a camel spider in the cockpit with him. Not a big fan of spiders, so I can see his point.

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  2. Today would be the first day of school for my newly retired former schoolteacher wife.
    I woke up a bit early this morning and considered shaking her awake while shouting, "You're going to be late for school!" Instead I decided that staying alive was more important.

    I will add bailing out of a high performance aircraft to my list of nopes.

    Very good post.




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    1. Good restraint, John, else your wife might be a widow with a very strong self-defense argument. She'd probably have gotten a reward check, in fact.

      Sometimes I even surprise myself with some modicum of restraint, which I then foolishly congratulate myself, out loud, where Mrs. Andrew can hear, and then I have to remind myself why exactly I am only supposed to hear bad thoughts on the inside of the head.

      I have no permanent holes, and all my limbs still function. My wife has the patience of a saint.

      And, yes, juvat, very good post, for an old guy...

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    2. I consider myself very fortunate to have exactly the same number of takeoffs as I have landings, and almost the same feeling to have never had a circumstance where I had to think about bailing out.

      Good judgement on your part vis a vis your former schoolteacher wife.

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  3. I got to see a neat side of the T38 seat with the guy that maintained the explosives at an particular AFB which might, ought, will remain nameless.

    It used fusing and such like used for the timing of explosives for building demolition. Things had to be timed as you said, it was really cool how they timed a burning fuse (or det cord, or whatever they used). I was spellbound.

    And your seat separators were amazing to me. You sat on seatbelts strung vertically, and when it was time to "kick you out of the seat", another charge would fire, it rolled those belts up and shot you out of the seat and folded the seat up most of the time... They had one there that had saved it's pilot, and it was closer to 30 degrees than 90.... I can't imagine the strawberry it would give you....

    Nothing was left to chance. It was really cool to have it explained one on one. The rest of the tour we went///////REDACTED\\\\\\\

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    1. Nobody I knew that had ejected had anything good to say about it other than (and this is a biggie) they were alive.

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    2. The only guys I knew who had to leave the airplane got a stay at the Hanoi Hilton from 65-72.
      I think it says something for the quality of airframe, etc., that we haven't known more guys to eject.

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    3. Yeah, I knew several of those guys also. You're right on quality though.

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  4. I remember the day I was introduced to the Phantom's ejection seats. I don't remember the last time I sat in one.

    I always checked each and every pin, the older guys told us of guys who didn't. Not pretty.

    Great post. (So it's not just me getting all the retirement advice in the mail and on line.)

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    1. Yeah, I was always very careful getting in and out of the jet, and the pin drill was one of those focused attention exercises even when solo or single seat.

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    2. I forget. Were we checking that they were all there and the crew chief pulled them? And then showed us. Hard to get older.

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    3. As I recollect, in the F-4 the crew chief pulled most of them and put them in a big red velcro bag, but the pin that controlled the handles was the last to go, and I want to say it was in the Arming area when the canopy came down that pin was pulled. I could be wrong. The Eagle, because of 0/0 seat and the AC (which worked quite well on the ground BTW), we pulled the pin as soon as we closed the canopy and taxied out of the shelter.

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    4. I remember the bag! The last pin to be pulled (IIRC) was the one on top of the seat (face curtain handles).

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  5. My dad had nothing nice to say about ejection seats. Apparently the ones in the F-84G were not as nice to their occupants as those found in the mighty Phantom II or the more mighty Eagle. Something about the seat inevitably ruined the user's elbows. He said you could always tell who the early survivors of ejections were by their permanently screwed up elbows.

    He didn't have nice things to say about the Phantom II's ejection seat performance at low level-high speed when the plane is lost due to out of control oscillations. That's pretty much all he said about it, just that he didn't like it. Considering he was a master at understatement, that didn't paint a pretty picture, not at all.

    Jumping out of a perfectly good plane? That's crazy talk.

    Glad you were able to control all your uncontrollable maneuvers so that you didn't have to leave your office rapidly. I have heard that even the newest seats still permanently damage their occupants to an extent. Something about being permanently shorter.

    So 35 more weeks until escape, going for the full pay-out? There are some nice T-6 Texans for sale, just a little bit over 200K. Plane, radial engine, Texan... you know you want one.

    And nice try getting my goat. Baaaaad man, baaaaaaad man.

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    1. Yeah, low level high speed is not a good place to abandon the airplane. Chances of survival are minimal, however they are greater than those of impacting the ground.

      Given that once you squeeze the handles, the seat is going to subject you to between 8 and 12 G's of acceleration, anything out of alignment is going to be affected. So you're going to have issues, but then most fighter pilots, as the gracefully age, re-experience the neck and back issues they lived through as youngsters. Ask me how I know.

      Much like DiNozzo, you're still the newbie, Beans. You should try and find another person and encourage him or her to post. just sayin'

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    2. And have you dog some poor schlub who can't take the heat? Nah. Beans is tough as long as you don't shoot my insole, or my clavicle.

      (Non sequitur might make sense maybe tomorrow, maybe...)

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    3. I'm quite capable of shooting myself in the foot, thank you. Don't need any help there.

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    4. And now I suddenly realized one of the many varied reasons you put me up to posting here. You were the FNG for the longest time... :)

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    5. Shack, 4, pressing!

      (Translation: "Direct hit on the Target; 4th airplane in the flight; you dropped the bomb at or below minimum altitude"

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  6. Speaking of test Bears, iirc even earlier test programs in 50s using rocket-sled-on-rails w. water pad to de-accelerate used Gorillas. At end of "sudden" stop they would reward with a banana. One day, at end of third test of day with same animal, the gorilla took the proffered banana and shoved it in his handlers face. LOL! Hence, I guess, the drugs for Bears :)

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    1. If I were that gorilla, I wouldn't shove it in his face.....

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    2. PS: True or not, the tale should be :)

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    3. I seem to remember one aviation company making a funny video about ejection seat testing and how the poor test subject was abused, blown up, set on fire and all sorts of bad things happen type of stuff. All tongue-in-cheek, making light of a deadly subject. And try as I might, all I can come up with on the inter-search thingy are stupid people at state fairs in those slingshot bouncy ball thingies.

      Let's see, early 50's, some braniac says "Hey kid, wanna strap into this rocket sled thingymabob and go real fast?" Uh, no, no no, no no no. Right up there with getting a ride from some creepy guy in a van, or accept balloons from a clown in a storm drain. Yeah, nope.

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    4. I think this may be the clip Beans is looking for:

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=M6Q6_8EyRYY

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    5. a bear for the win! That must have been after one of his family members was found to be less than compliant with the tests, so the AF went looking for a less troublesome animated test dummy.

      But your selection, juvat, is very interesting.

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    6. I remember reading about Col. Stapp in the fifties, all the while making many F-15 models and making an interesting combination of zinc dust and sulphur. Of course we had firecrackers in those olden days and you could harvest fuel from them if you were careful (meaning mostly putting your Lucky Strike out while you were under the house). Complicated, I know.

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    7. Firecrackers, Chemistry sets with real chemicals that might hurt someone, actual pistols and rifles (with the training to safely use them...Oh my, it's a wonder any of us have made it this long. Very complicated.

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    8. Mmmmm. The smell of freshly mixed gunpowder. The even better smell of freshly set-off gunpowder... And kids (and/or their parents) these days are scared of a little boo-boo.

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  7. Interesting how pilots are given a high degree of protection as opposed to soldiers. "There's the door/hatch/ramp. Now Git!"

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  8. My late step-dad had to step out of an F4U once due to a burning center-line fuel tank. He was well into the break when tower informed him he was on fire. He put the airplane into a climb, jettisoned the canopy, and stood up in the seat when a shoulder strap caught on the little light pinned on the Mae West. He had to sit back down, untangle the strap, and stand back up, all the while in a climb. After clearing the aircraft he pulled the D-ring, the 'chute opened, and he caught the opening shock just a second or two before touching down. Had he not had to futz around with the strap he probably would not have survived the landing. I still have his D-ring and Caterpillar Club pin.

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    1. I've said it more than once on this blog. I'd rather be lucky than good. Sounds like your step-dad was lucky when it counted.

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  9. Those three words are as scary as, “Collision, collision, collision! All hands man your...”
    I’m sure you get the drift.
    It’s more slow motion, but there’s lots of noise and many people involved. DAMHIK

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    1. I think you told as much of the story as needed to figure out the rest. Yikes! On sea, survivable-ish. Under or over sea? Much less survivable depending on speed and distance from surface.

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    2. I'd add or distance from nearest shoreline or ship to the last sentence. December North Pacific off Hokkaido, compressor stall on left engine, fails to restart. Started heading for Misawa. Dialed it in to INS, ~200 miles west. First non-reaction thought that went through my mind? "Damn, I'm glad I'm not flying an F-16!

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    3. Does a stealth Aircraft make a splash when it hit the water?

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    4. Only if no-one detects it. Part of the new techno-Buddhism kon.

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  10. "a computer assesses quite a few parameters and adjusts the rocket accordingly." Don't those words frighten you, even today?

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    1. Yes....about 5.6% of the time, to be precise.

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    2. At least the seats you were in weren't of the 'fire it out the bottom of the plane to avoid the tail' type, because one never ever needs to eject from a stationary or low-flying aircraft, right?

      Sometimes the things that engineers use instead of brains just scares me.

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    3. Ah yes, the early F-104. I had a long talk once with a guy that had flown them. He said the accepted technique was to roll the aircraft inverted, if at all possible, then eject. Given that it was a single engine jet and losing an engine right after liftoff, that might be a bit "sporty".

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  11. Great post, Juvat! But remember, the comma is your friend!
    "The Harrier dispensed with the canopy by having an explosive cord in the canopy itself which exploded destroying the canopy and the pilot and seat went through that."
    Consider the difference in putting a comma after "destroying the canopy", as opposed to not having one?
    The mind reels!

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    1. Commas have always been my nemesis. Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! Mea Maxima Culpa!

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  12. Plus, I'm surprised you overlooked this bit of video...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=28&v=jZiR9MHumCk

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    1. Sarge, what did you think about those 20 second delay fuses on those grenades? : )

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    2. They go well with the 300 round magazines that most Hollywood submachine guns are equipped with.

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    3. I'll confess, I've never watched that movie. Didn't know a C-123 had ejection seats (said completely tongue-in-cheek).

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  13. Fortunate to have zero zero seats in the War Hoover, and I was even more fortunate to never need them. We had a fit of uncommanded rolls off the catapult in the 80s though, and zero zero didn't help when the plane was at 90+ degrees left aileron roll 2 seconds after launch. 4 guys dead in a quick instant was the result. A couple others fared better- 2 of 4 survived. No more autopilot was the fix, which sucked, but never had an issue again.

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    1. Why would you use autopilot on a takeoff? That doesn't make much sense to me. I can see using an auto landing system, within certain parameters, but still... Are the auto systems that good or supposed to be that good?

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    2. Didn't use it on takeoff, but they cut the wires for it thinking that the automatic flight control roll system was to blame.

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    3. Did they ever find out what did?

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    4. Yeah, flying, regardless of the machine, had an infinite number of possible ways to kill you. Hence, my preference to be lucky rather than good.

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  14. Ever seen the boxes they come in? Late 1970s had occasion to take delivery of a factory refurbished Martin Baker GRU-7 (for an EA-6B) for a trainer shiny and new and entirely innocent of rockets, det cord, CADs (cartridge activated devices, not computer aided design) and other violent things. An friend was very into his woodworking and really wanted a the box they came in. In exchange for some other needed assistance in rigging the seat he got the box and arrived at the loading dock to collect it. Imagine a refrigerator sized (big double door with build in icemaker) box of mahogany, teak and the best English craftmanship. 5 strong man and a boy (and a forklift) loaded it into his pickup trunk for a slow and delicate trip home that exercised the shocks, springs,tires and everything. The front wheels were still on the ground mostly so it must be okay. Unloading without the forklift or the strong men took his whole supply of cold beer and every able bodied man in the neighborhood.


    I exaggerate a little, but not that much, and the wood went into several bookcases and a couple very nice coffee tables. Navy TACAIR aircraft of that era included F-14s with Martin Baker seats using det cord in the canopy frame that shattered the canopy upon ejection, the A-7E using the ESCAPAC-1 with canopy breakers that flipped up from the top of the seat to cut through the transparency (you were warned to never try to jettison the canopy before ejecting even if you had time because if it didn't separate completely the seat would shoot you into the canopy bow, S-3s with ESCAPACs and loads of canopy material to get rid of, A-6s and EA-6s with det cord and thundering big Martin Baker GRU-7s. The odd EA-3 Electric Whale on det from somewhere had no problems with ejection seats because it didn't have any.

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    1. As a budding woodworker, I can see why someone would go to great effort to obtain the crate.

      I'm not sure I'm all that comfortable with det cord exploding not very far from my cranium though. A rocket strapped to my but though.....

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  15. Early days in '88 I found the crew clustered on the fantail enjoying the 100 degree bright sunshine without a bit of shade as we made our 3 knot way up and down the lanes were hunting ever so slowly and carefully. It was a good 70 or 80 men gathered there in the bright sunshine for all the hours of the day except when a handful took the watch in the engine rooms or the machine guns or the bridge and pilot house where they traded the imminent safety of being blown clean off the ship, should it hit a mine, with the chance of being blown clean into the mattress festooned overhead of CIC or the pilot house. We pretty much disdained mattresses in the overhead of the either of the main machinery spaces and after I got there we also forewent wearing the silly Vietnam era flak jackets on watch down there. The bridge, or conning station was on top. You can see it on my header at my place. It was hermaculite or vermaculite or something pseudo-canvassy and the watchstanders up there had the expectation that when push came to detonation forward of the beam they'd be blown clear through it and leave hardly any flesh behind, unless they were unlucky enough to be standing under one or two of the 2X4s that made up the frame of the sun and rain shelter.

    We didn't really have a planned ejection seat sort of thing. Those back aft would probably not get more than 30 or 50 feet in the air and would be OK unless the splinters of explosively decomposing warship got in the way. Those inside the ship were pretty much screwed but inside was better by far than the endless blazing sun on the fantail. Those of us who lurked in CIC looked at the mattresses in the overhead and wondered if we couldn't have some Serta comfort mattresses instead of those shabby federal prison rejected mattresses from hell.

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    1. Now that's a story. Purposely trolling for mines? Yeah, that will make for a nice, quiet day without any tension at all.

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    2. Nope, no tension whatsoever!

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  16. Good one, we just had to open the door and jump... sigh...

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    1. Which is ok, as long as the aircraft is somewhat in controlled flight. Not so much otherwise.

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  17. "Where are MY laptops? I can't teach without them."

    I'm a graduate of education in college and taught for several years. That statement above from the third paragraph of Juvat's post just makes me sad. You can't teach without computers???!!!! Looks like a sad state to be in ... over-dependence on technology. A computer should just be one of the tools in a teacher's arsenal. Not the end all be all. It's just like saying that if you're a doctor, you can't cure someone without the aid of all the high-tech gadgetry now common in hospitals and health care centers.

    - Victor

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    1. Sounds like today's pilot's lament - "I can't fly without the AFCS!"

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    2. Victor, absolutely right. The thought which goes through my mind (but fortunately stops before exiting the lips)is "You didn't have them last year. WTF changed?"

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    3. D4,
      I'd been in the Eagle for about a year when the jet got upgraded to a ring laser Gyro INS. According to the specs, if the INS show you within 5' of your starting point on shutdown, you were supposed to write it up. Navigation skills went through the roof. Map reading skills quickly became non-existent. I had just become a Flt Commander. One of my techniques was not to have the coordinates for turnpoints on the briefing card, but would have a map with times and headings on them for distribution to the flight. I'd take off get to the start point and hand the lead off to #3. Since we'd do this in either the ROK or PI, it would tend to be pretty entertaining. Eventually, both my assigned element leads got the message. Then I started on the wingmen...

      Pretty soon, I had a fairly competent flight with navigation being a skill.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)