Monday, March 6, 2017

Five Years...

Whisper: Open Thread
By Whisper, on March 7th, 2012

When Lex “left the keys in it” for me to be a guest blogger here about a year ago, we didn’t discuss what to do in this occasion. I am at a loss. I did feel the need to provide one place for your tributes and condolences to collect. So here it is.

As Lex would say, talk amongst yourselves.

Very Respectfully,


That post from Neptunus Lex was five years ago, you can read it again here.

Five years ago tomorrow.

There were over 1500 comments on that post.

The event which triggered that post occurred five years ago today.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not a long time.

But a line was crossed. Life became different.

Not to be overly dramatic, but some of us remember exactly what we were doing, where we were, and what it felt like when we first saw that photo at Neptunus Lex with Whisper's byline.

"Oh no, what is this?"

Followed by, "No! Damn it, no!"

Yeah, Lex was gone.

While life goes on, I still look back on that day and can't shake the taste of bitter ashes...

Yet what arose from those ashes are friendships which I cherish.

This blog was started to try and fill the gaping hole left by Lex's untimely departure.

Silver linings to the dark cloud of the 6th of March, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve.

What follows is Lex's penultimate post, which seemed to foreshadow what would happen later that day. I have added below that the first indication (in the comments) that something had gone wrong.

Terribly wrong...

By lex, on March 6th, 2012

I supposed it had to happen eventually, everybody has one in time. And I had mine yesterday.

It was a good hop, really. Raging around down low, hiding in the mountains, waiting for a chance to pounce on the unwary. Although this is graduation week at the (prestigious) Navy Fighter Weapons School, and there are very few unwary students left. Still, good clean fun, and your host can say “Copy kill” with the best of them.

Cruised on back to the field for the recovery with few cares, being very nearly the first to land. The students being further away from the field at the knock-it-off, and the instructors taking advantage of whatever fuel they had left to whirl and flail at one another in the best traditions of the service. A tolerably precise landing, there’s the seven thousand feet to go board, and at 150 knots indicated I pulled the drag chute lever aft, bunting the nose slightly out of the aero-braking attitude to ensure a tangle-free deployment.

Which is precisely when nothing happened.

Ordinarily you feel a pretty good tug on the shoulder harness as the drag chute deploys. Not like an arrested landing aboard ship, mind. But the sensation is unmistakeable, as is the effect, particularly at higher speeds. Which I was still traveling at, the chute having either failed to deploy or parted behind me, there was no way to know. Look, there goes the six board. Still about 150 knots indicated. I’ve mentioned to you before how much runway the jet takes up during the take-off roll with the afterburner howling behind you. It takes up a surprising amount of pavement at idle, too. Especially with no drag chute. Time to go.

The procedure calls for full grunt, and drag chute lever forward to cut the chute if it’s a streamer. It takes a little while for the engine to make full thrust from idle, time spent nervously watching the departure end come up. At least I was still going pretty fast, so there wasn’t that far to go to get to fly-away speed. And I was light.

Tower cleared me to land on the left runway, which is a few thousand feet longer. Much to the dismay of a student whose need to land was at least as great as my own, the right runway being fouled by a drag chute, and hizzoner being low fuel state as he subsequently admitted under protest when he was asked to go-around and make room for me. But based on the timing he was now second in line for special handling. There’s a good man, wait your turn and ‘fess up first in the future. I hope you’ve learned something from this.

I was already pretty low on fuel myself, so I didn’t need to burn down gross weight. Flew about as slow as I could without risking a tail strike or hard landing, she does not like to fly slow. Still about 185 knots in the round-out. With no drag chute the book calls for aerobraking until 130 knots, and judicious use of the wheel brakes from that point on, balanced across the length of the runway remaining. You’re a long time holding the aero-braking attitude with no chute. You go  by a lot of runway. Depending upon headwinds or tailwinds and runway length, one might even shut the engine down to reduce residual thrust.

I didn’t in the event, but the brakes – and anti-skid – got a pretty good workout. When I taxied back to the line the maintenance guys told me to go away for 10 minutes. Just in case the brakes might, you know: Catch fire. Which they didn’t, so no harm done.

It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.

But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.

But it was not to be. Tout est fini.

As any Lexican will tell you, it still hurts.

Damn, just damn...


  1. Thanks Sarge.

    I keep thinking about how different my perspective was when I was on active duty. I don't think losses were any less painful, but you certainly had to compartmentalize the emotion if you were going to aviate. Without that mechanism in place it's a brutal experience.

    It's an odd thing, at least for me, to feel so very blessed to have had Lex in my life via his words on the internet. And to feel the loss so deeply having never met the man.

  2. As I was saying to The Hobbit on Saturday, I never understood the mass grieving and demonstrations that occurred when a celebrity died, like after Diana Spencer of Michael Jackson passed. Then we lost Lex and I found myself understanding. Not laying wreaths in front of concert halls, but I understood.

    Finicky Fat Guy.

    1. Many in my tribe still don't understand. Except The WSO , she read Lex, so she gets it.

  3. Sadly, Lex was unable to do the Samuel Clemens thing, "the report of my death was an exaggeration" after Samuel Clemens was reported to have died. I also am not understood with my mourning at home. That was my first cup of coffee read in the morning and my last read prior to retiring at the end of the day. With visits during the day as my workload permitted. He and I were in the middle of a thread about parachuting and being dragged across the ground when the thread was abruptly ended by this.

    It felt odd to see my post in your screen shot, it brought the day back with a jolt.

    He lives on in us, every one of us who remembers him, quotes him, blogs because of him or reads his blogchildrens writings. Gone but not forgotten.

    'Til we join him in the clearing at the end of the path.


  4. . . . and come the tears, for which I am grateful to still have for him.

    1. That's a frequent occurrence for me as well.

  5. Thanks for this. No one I know IRL understands, but this was a major event in my life. Took my wife to Ft Rosecrans, but she still has no clue. Words fail me to explain it. Allen K

  6. I only discovered Lex in late 2007, about the same time I found Ed Rasimus. As with Marcus Erroneous, both were multiple daily checks for me. I hung on every word from both. Ed suffered no fools and Lex wrote as though he was everyone's best friend. As Juvat so wisely reminds us, "there are pilots who fly fighters and there are fighter pilots." I figure Lex, Rasimus, and Juvat the latter but two of the three took the backseat to one when it came to prose. And that is a high honor. respectfully, Alemaster

  7. I still have the Neptunus Lex site bookmarked, I am just not going to delete it.

    1. Same here Jon. I will never delete that one.

  8. Test, test, 1 2 3.

  9. Ok, I guess that whatever it is is over its mad at me. Yesterday I couldn't post a comment here. Oh well. I wanted to say that I too miss Lex and the way he made us all feel as close as a good family. I dislike missing the annual get togethers, but not much I can do about that.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. I knew that was you Paul. :)

      Sometimes Blogger is unkind to Anonymous commenters.

  10. This seems appropriate for both last week's anniversary as well as this one:

    The Parting Glass

    Bruce Jones

    1. Most appropriate Bruce.

      Damn, it suddenly got dusty in here...


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