Friday, March 2, 2018

AGE, and I Don't Mean in Years

F-4s and Dash-60s, Korat RTAFB
(Source)
"Okay Sarge, that "AGE" in the title (which we're now assuming by the rest of the title has nothing to do with chronological age), what is that? It's another damn acronym, innit?"

Well, yes, yes it is.

AGE, or Aerospace Ground Equipment, were the various power, air conditioning, air start, and hydraulic units we used in the performance of our duties on the flight line. In my old line of work, we used the power/air start units which we called the "Dash-60" (or just plain -60)  but technically speaking were A/M32A-60 Generators. We used them every time we had to apply power to the jet.

Now I've written before of these pieces of equipment which were so vital to our work, that was here, and I note that there's another story I mention in that post which I need to tell, someday, POCIR. Remind me, if you think of it.

Anyhoo, we WCS gorillas used the -60 to supply electrical power to the aircraft. The crew chiefs used them for that and to provide bleed air to start the engines. Always an awe-inspiring and mind-numbingly loud experience. (If you look at the -60 in the background, you can see the black power cable semi-secured, semi-draped on the side of the unit. On the -60 in the foreground that gray hose with the black rings was for the bleed air.)

Now the -60 contained a small gas turbine engine which had the tendency to scare the living shite out of me each and every time I had to start one of those beasts. They would start with a whine and the RPMs would gradually build until the dang thing would give off this loud "WUFF!" as the engine would finally catch. Or it would just keep whining and never really light off.

Occasionally the damn things would shoot flames out of the vertical exhaust on top of the unit. Also the units had a red line painted on them which marked the plane of rotation of the wee jet engine inside. If the damn thing came apart you didn't want to be aligned with that red line. That line was the "stand here to get shredded when this damned thing comes apart" indicator. So to speak.

As you might gather, I wasn't exceedingly fond of those beasts.

Here's a video of one not starting properly, the outer panels have been removed so you can see the insides.



Did you see those flames? Now those civilian fellers were being kinda nonchalant with that damned thing. I would have shut it off as soon as it decided to just whine and not kick over. (I think it was Russ who once fell over laughing when the one we were using one night shot flames about ten feet in the air. I pretty much jumped even higher and was half way down the flight line before I realized that the freaking -60 wasn't going to explode and end me. Funny looking back on it, wasn't funny at the time.)

Now here's one that starts up real nice. (And it's got all its panels on it.)



No big WUFF!, which is a good thing. I always thought the WUFF would occur just before the damned thing blew up. Those things hated me.

I was happy in Kunsan where we had built in power for the aircraft in our hangar, no big mean noisy -60s. I don't remember what we had on Kadena, Russ?

Here's a picture of one of the beasts next to an RF-4C (reconnaissance version of the mighty Phantom).

(Source)
For those who wonder about such things (and the Wing Safety types), yes that -60 is too close to the aircraft. It's supposed to be far enough away so that if blows up, or catches on fire, or one of the billion other sneaky ways it had to kill you, it wouldn't damage the aircraft. The guy starting the thing? Oh yeah, he's toast. (But it's a museum display, so it's okay. Did we ever stretch the cable all the way out? Of course not.)

Here's a -60 being used to start the engines on an F-4E at an airshow in Cleveland a while back.



While it has nothing to do with the -60, I should mention that there was another way to start the engines on the F-4, that was called a "cart start," cart being short for cartridge. They're actually like shotgun shells (no shot, just powder) which can be used to jump start the engines. Good for bare bones bases without a lot of equipment on hand, no -60 needed.

The first time I ever saw one of these I thought the jet across the way had exploded. (Now that I think on it, that's the only cart start I ever saw, that was on Okinawa.)

Here's a video of a cart start.



Look Ma! No power cart!

Man, do I miss the sound of those big General Electric J79 engines.

Good times.



32 comments:

  1. Yup,servicing those things was my first assignment, 328th out of Minot. Just outside of " jet" city. Now, except for watching the bison roam, and no trees. Fun times.

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    1. Wow, an AGE mechanic. You guys did good work.

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  2. Oh man.....such a whiney post......:)

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  3. Reminded me of my first "cart start". I was on the wing refueling our Connie at Clark AFB when a B-57 across the line from us erupted in smoke. I was haulin' ass off the wing when the Chief with me yells "Relax! They're just startin' the thing."

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  4. Cart Starts were even more fun in the cockpit. All that smoke gots to do somewhere. And STINK? OMG!

    Now the Eagle with its built in JFS? Now that's a more genteel way to start an aircraft.

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    1. I want to say that they used black powder. One source I saw referred to them as a Coffman starter, which used cordite. As cordite is a smokeless powder, I don't believe they were talking about what I was looking for.

      Didn't the smoke smell of sulfur? (Which is what burnt black powder smells like, rotten eggs.)

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    2. Yeah, it had a devilish kind of scent to it.

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    3. Yup, so my memory hasn't failed me. Yet.

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  5. I'm also pretty sure, absent the Thunderbirds, that I never saw an F-4 as clean as the one in the first video. I'd have hated to be that crew chief.

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    1. Yeah, shiny. I guess when you're on the airshow circuit you don't want to look like a combat aircraft.

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  6. The Oliver Hazard Perry frigates got their main propulsion from a pair of General Electric LM2500s driving a single screw, and they got their electricity from Detroit Diesel 16V-149 engines that drove generators.

    I am neither a gas turbine guy, nor a diesel guy, but some sort of shipyard test required me to be in a generator room of one of the FFG-7s when the diesel was started.

    The diesels had an air starter. Oh, did I say air starter? I meant to say the diesels had some sort of demonic starting device that would get a large diesel engine from a stop to spinning at about a gazzillion RPMS, and would do so in a time interval so small that it could not be measured by any instrument no matter how sophisticated.

    And did I fail to mention that the blast of air from the starter exhausted into the small space at a volume level of about a gazzillion decibels.

    I think that the only reason I didn't need clean underwear was that a certain muscle located at the end of the digestive system was just as paralyzed by shock as all the rest of my muscles.

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    1. Oh yeah, a very high pucker factor. (I was clenching just watching that video where the beast wouldn't come up.)

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  7. Enjoyed that huffer cart start video I did, very much. Hearing that type of sound really took me back. I don't know the designator of the ones we had in the Navy (GSE vice AGE), but the sound is obviously very similar. The Hoover had it's own APU so we never needed a huffer, but the Tomkitties and Prowlers did. Good stuff.

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    1. I figured it would bring back memories for some. It did for me anyway.

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    2. Tuna,
      Did you ever get the joy of pumping up the reservoir to start the APU after the Viking had been sitting for awhile?
      There was a air/hydraulic charge stored when the aircraft shutdown. On a long weekend the reservoir would bleed off you would have to hand crank pressure into the reservoir that provided the initial spin to start the APU. Inevitably on a hot ramp somewhere mid-continent. The job usually fell to the lowest ranking officer around.
      The S-3 was a great cross country bird for the aircrews because we could go almost anywhere that had acceptable security and we could buy gas on a government card. I had some interesting experiences providing the Static Display bird at various airshows across the country.

      And yes, the "Sound of Freedom" does bring back memories.

      ScottJ (VS-31)

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    3. Scott, welcome. Always great to have another Viking on board!

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    4. Scott- I had to do that several times. We'd take shifts though to not wear out any one arm. I fondly remember a SENSO taking one for the team and insisting he do it all himself. Sorry for the Monday response. Missed this the other day.

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    5. S'okay Tuna, you're not that late, I didn't have to pull you out of moderation.

      ;)

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  8. I never worked on a Phantom in one of the hangers at Kadena so I don't know how their power was supplied. We used -60's at the Cal Docks which made the -60's more noisy than when they were running on the open flight line. I learned at Udorn to never piss off your shop chief by beating him at pinochle because he "volunteers" you to be an AGE driver for 30 days. Fun times (not). But it was fun driving jammers.

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    1. I thought we used -60s in Radar Cal on Kadena. Glad to know I'm not senile. Yet.

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    2. I question the first pic where the troops are pushing the -60's. From the first time I used a -60 in January of 1971 to my exit in 1979, they all had a self drive feature. If the -60 was running, all you had to do was lower the tow bar to engage the drive and then there was a fwd/rev switch to move the unit where you wanted it. Maybe some didn't have that feature?

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    3. Yes, they were self-propelled in my day.

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  9. Many years ago, the Navy had a so called portable fire pump ( I think it was a 500 gpm pump) that was driven by a gas turbine. You had to hand crank it to start it, it had a big primary and a small driven that would get the turbine up to starting speed. At least the one we worked one was hand cranked. The story went that the Navy did not like the way that the turbine would self destruct at times. So they stayed with the P-250 with the modified outboard motor.

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    1. Self-destructing turbine, not good at all!

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  10. "Don't stand in the plane of rotation", so what does Camera-Bubba do? I was waiting for the Darwin-Award-worthy event.

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    1. Indeed, I was half expecting that myself!

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  11. I came here this morning expecting to do a little light reading... pleased to find some totally unexpected footage from good ol' LAF (Lafayette/Purdue Airport - about 4 miles from where I sit, and where I did a little Cessna flying) Gooooo Boilers!!!

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