Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Flyby

This may(be) the first in a series of Friday posts, titled "Friday Flyby", with a big tip o' the hat to Joe over at Cranky Old Man, a fellow I read everyday. He's not as cranky as he makes himself out to be but his blog is one of my "must reads". I was looking for a Friday "theme" (see previous post) and Joe suggested the "Friday Flyby". Being an aviation enthusiast, if you will, it seems a good fit.

So I will probably (in the future) go over the week just past, hit the hi-lights and the low lights and see just what impact the "week that was" had. On me, on you, we'll see where this takes us.

Hey, what's that up there? Yup, it's an F-4 Phantom II jet aircraft in full grunt, vortices and vapors everywhere! I worked on that aircraft for 7 years, here's a picture of the chairs in my "office":

This is the back seat of the F-4. I spent probably hundreds of hours there in the days of my youth. Troubleshooting, aligning and calibrating the fire control system on this bird. Most of the things needed to do this (think switches and controls) were in the rear cockpit.

Now this is the front seat of the jet, where the nose gunner pilot sits. I've spent a number of hours (probably in the hundreds, but much less than in the back seat) here as well, working the aforementioned fire control system. About the only things we did from this seat was observe the pilot's radar display (to ensure it worked!), observed and adjusted the gun sight projected onto the combining glass above the radar scope and pull the trigger.

The trigger needed to be pulled to test the missile systems on the jet. First time I ever got to sit in an F-4 was on the ramp at Kadena Air Base, Japan (on the island of Okinawa). It was an F-4C, may have been a Wild Weasel, I cannot recall. It was a long time ago, least-wise it seems that way. If I had known that I would have a blog someday I probably would've written down the aircraft tail number. For posterity ya know.

But the point of "my first time in the jet" story is this. My sergeant (yours truly being a lowly two stripe airman at the time) was in the back seat running the BIT (Built In Test) checks while I was stowed in the front and told "don't touch anything". Normally I would've been in the back seat with my sergeant (who was supposed to train me up in all things wonderful and true as regards the care and feeding of the fire control system) squatting beside me on the left intake talking me through things.

But that day it was raining (as it is wont to do on that Pacific isle) and my sergeant wanted to check out the write up on the jet, pull parts and get back to the shop. Where it was dry. So Young AF Airman (that would be me) was stowed in the front seat, canopy closed and again told "Do NOT touch anything!"

So we're sitting there. Sarge is in the back running through his checks, Your Humble Scribe is in the front, watching the rain streaming over the canopy, the muffled roar of the Dash-60 in the background, my sergeant's muttering coming in over the headsets we're wearing, for to communicate if need be. Though my job was essentially to sit there, quietly, not touching anything.

(What's a Dash-60 you ask? It's the ground power unit we used to provide electrical power to the jet during maintenance. That's one in the next photo. The red lines indicate where the jet turbine rotors will exit the unit, should the little jet engine inside decide to disassemble itself while in use. FWIW, these things scared the living you-know-what out of me every single time I had to start one up. The first thing many sergeants will teach their young airmen is how to hook this thing to the jet and how to start it. So they don't have to.)

Anyway, there I was. Sitting in the cockpit of a jet fighter without much to do, except avoid touching anything. Of course it WAS a bit boring. So I began to daydream. My hand reaches up and takes a hold of the stick. Then, in my mind's eye, I am high over the skies of North Korea, an enemy MiG in front of me. He is yanking and banking for all he's worth but it's not enough. I am at his six o'clock position and my pipper is on him. I pull just a bit harder and increase throttle to...

"What the Hell are you doing up there Airman?"

"Uh, Sarge, I'm ah, just..."

"You're playing with the controls and making jet noises you dumbass!"

"Uh, uh..."

"It's okay, I did it the first time too. But I remembered to turn off my microphone!"

Yeah, it was embarrassing. But I still remember it, nearly 40 years ago.

Well, I guess I may also reminisce here on "Friday Flyby" from time to time. We'll just have to see how it goes. For now, I'll leave you with a song. An "old school" Air Force song which came out in the '50s for recruiting purposes. I always liked this one better than the "official" Air Force song. There's a story there, which I'll tell. Some day...

Oh, almost forgot, new banner at the top of the blog. Felt it was time for an update. The aircraft in the picture is one I've actually worked on. I believe she's now a static display at the Air Force Academy.

Static display...



  1. Wow! So happy to make any kind of a contribution!!

    This was one funny story, I'm still snickering as I can picture it. I love service humor...more please.

    My brother was a Navy Captain. In his early years he was a navigator in a P something-something following Russian subs for probably 12 hour or more shifts. He always had some wonderful stories, wish he were still around and I would have him guest post. He went on to design superior sonar tracking buoys and was one of the leads in developing an "Over the horizon" radar system. Very proud of him!

    Anyway your story reminds me of him...thanks, and once again, more please!

    1. Yes Joe, I'm really liking your suggestion of "Friday Flyby".

      Your brother sounds like he was a pretty capable and talented guy. I'm sorry he's not around anymore too.

      Perhaps he was a nav in the P-2 Neptune? The predecessor to the P-3 Orion (both from Lockheed).

  2. Wow!
    Those planes in the video make me feel old... except for the Buff, of course.
    I like your (and Joe's) Friday Flyby.

    1. Thanks Skip. I'm going to try and come up with a "Friday Flyby" logo within which I can give Joe a credit for the concept.
      I'm liking it.

      As to the video, a lot of aircraft in there which I remember from when I was a little kid.

      Except, like you say, the Buff. With that bird our great-grandchildren will be saying they remember that from when THEY were little kids.

  3. Oh, almost forgot, new banner at the top of the blog. Felt it was time for an update.

    The tail code would be MUCH more appropriate on an Israeli F-4.

    By "official" AF song, do you mean this one? That's a pretty lame version... it sounds MUCH better when sung late at night in a bar after you and yer buds have had six or eight beers. That one was always MY favorite... "Air Force Blue" sounds kinda ghey to my ears. But I like the planes in the vid, especially the B-47. Just sayin'.

    1. Israeli tail code, heh.

      Yes that's the one "Wild Blue Yonder". Now I've heard a much better version of "Air Force Blue", sung by an Air Force choir which sounded way better than the one in the video. After searching for a "good" version for quite some time, I almost gave up, but decided to stick with that video in the post. Because the aircraft were so DAMN GOOD!

      There IS a back story that goes with "Wild Blue Yonder" which I'll have to share soon. Gotta stop being a tease (noun!)

  4. Reminds me of my early days as a Huey crew chief. Sitting up front making WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP noises.

    1. It's something I think everyone who loves aircraft does.

      That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

      I was out and about and read your comment on my cell phone, no kidding, there I am, in my car, making helicopter noises WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP.

      My inner child is alive and well.


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