The AWARD WINNING Aviator Series (MWSA 2012) catapults the reader into WWII. Action explodes from the pages of novelist LC Shanle's series set in World War II. Experience the battles from the cockpits of fighter aircraft, dangling from parachutes with the Army’s Airborne over France and through the eyes of men trapped in island tropical hells. Written by a retired Naval Aviator and former Paratrooper; the author puts the reader there, as warriors engage in a titanic struggle around the globe.
This series offers a rare perspective written by an author that flew modern fighters over the historic battlefields, even from the decks of aircraft carriers that fought in the Pacific.
Ok, I admit it; I’ve been amused and perhaps have experienced a bit of schadenfreude. As one of my UAL buds pointed out last night, I was enjoying: The First Law of Naval Aviation Thermodynamics- “when the heat is on someone else…it’s off you!” The reality is, the airport police have to deal with idiots like the good Doctor everyday, in every airport in America. If you actually listen to the video you can hear passengers thanking them even after the “drag out”.
And the way the top management handled the PR? Well…there have been quite a few bankruptcies.
But I digress. Read the article below for a realistic view, and I’d point out the most pertinent part in our “it’s all about me” world. The crew was dead heading to work another flight. Which means if they didn’t go, an entire plane load of passengers would have been stranded.
PS: the other 3 passengers apparently got off with out a fight, AND I’d point out the good doctor has a very dubious past, with a long history of bad decisions. I suspect he saw a way to make a buck and that’s why he ran back on the jet.
This is a fantastic trip through time, via the Blue Angel’s jets. For a history buff in general, and an aviation enthusiast like myself in particular, its a must see video. There are a couple jets missing: the Panther, the Cutlass and the USAF trainer Shooting Star (which they only used for VIP rides).
It was also representative the 1970s et large. Big, loud and smoky; as it blasted thousands of gallons of dead dinosaurs out of the tail pipes. I had 599.9 hours in the glorious Phantom, I loved every second. But I also had 1,100 hours in the “Scooter”, the TA-4J Skyhawk. After the fuel crisis of 1973 the Blues transitioned to the more economic A-4F (The USAF Thunderbirds transitioned to the T-38 Talon). I think the A-4F show was the most precise, certainly the 6 plane landing shown in the video. Below is a picture of a TA-4J, the two seat trainer. I included it because the Blues also flew a T-bird and it is the model, in the timeframe when I flew it. As a bonus its on the USS Lexington, the first ship I landed on in 1983.
I also had a couple hours in the F/A-18D. The Hornet F/A-18A,B,C and D is without a doubt the aircraft most associated with the Blue Angels. This year will be the 30th anniversary. Most fans have only seen the Hornet show.
Oh yes, we forgot the F7U Gutless…I mean Cutlass. It lasted just a few months, and its failure with the Blues I think was instrumental in killing the dangerous “Ensign Killer’s” entire program.
I’m Irish, let’s launch in the vertical for St Patties Day!
Back in the day I got a pay-back flight from the USAF Test Pilot School. I had been instructing Candidates in the F-4 Phantom. Had a couple wild rides, they knew it so let me fly one of their F-15s. I did a vertical take off, the flight is still stamped on my mind like it was yesterday. Here is a taste:
For my A-6 Intruder Buds! I flew the EA-6B Prowler, it was a stretched A-6, and they are often confused for each other.
This is an A-6 Intruder. A two man crew, Pilot and Bombardier-Navigator (BN).
This is an EA-6B Prowler. A 4 man crew, Pilot and 3 Electronic Counter Measures Officers (ECMO).
Both were designed to go in low and fast to project power (ie blow shit up). The A-6 was a Medium Attack aircraft, its mission was bombing whether over the land or against ships. It also could mine harbors, shoot anti-SAM, Harpoon anti ship and even AIM-9 air to air missiles. But it’s bread and butter mission was hauling up to 28 (32 with gear doors off) 500 pound MK-82 (or bigger) bombs through all weather, night or day, at low level and put them on target.
Countering surface to air missiles (SAMs) and search radars through jammers and AGM-88 HARM missiles was the Prowler’s bread and butter. It was also a great Electronic Spy platform and occasionally we’d put linguists onboard as well. It combined many missions which is why it lasted 40 years in the Fleet. In fact the Marines are still flying it. I had 1,800 hours in the mighty Prowler, 550+ carrier landings 200 at night. It wasn’t easy to fly, but it was honest. And those J52-P408s could dig you out of a big hole. One would bring you safely back aboard and did four times for me.
The most feared radio call a Carrier Air Wing can hear while Blue Water is:
“Ninety-Nine School-boys…landing lights on.”
My last post featured a beautiful dusk carrier landing, I was going to show a worst case scenario (night bad weather) but realized the viewer wouldn’t see anything any way. I have two traps etched in my mind where I was so riveted to the instruments I didn’t realize how close I was until the ship’s wire yanked me to a stop. With that in mind I opted for a day zero visibility trap.
Blue Water means there is no divert, the ship is too far from shore, so you get onboard or come up the starboard side and eject, then hope they find you. It is worse at night of course, The radio call, 99, means its for everyone airborne. School-boys was the collective call sign for the Midway’s Air Wing. Landing lights on is what sent the chill down your spine. We got other blast calls: “99 School-boys max conserve.”, for example meant something was wrong with the ship, Aviators were boltering (missing the wires, it was contagious) or an accident happened on deck. While it got your attention and caused you to keep one eye on the depleting fuel gauge, it didn’t strike fear like “Landing lights on”.
In Naval Aviation you never land with the aircrafts landing lights on. We used running lights (green, red and white just like a boat) and a color coded light that told the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) what your Angle Of Attack was, (AOA is basically your speed). So, when that call was made it meant the weather was so bad, not only could the Aviators not see the boat’s lights. The LSOs couldn’t see the aircraft unless that bright landing light was on. During really bad weather fun you’d get to 3/4s of a mile (where you’d normally call the ball with your side number and fuel state) instead of calling the ball, you’d call “Clara”. That meant you couldn’t see anything. You wanted to hear: “We’ve got you, you’re a little high (or whatever) continue.” What you didn’t want to hear was: “You’re sounding good keep it coming.” That meant the LSOs couldn’t see you either, even with that VERY bright light on!
The video is from the HUD (Heads Up Display) camera of an F/A-18, it is the pilots view. Airspeed is the left box, radar altimeter is the right. At the top, the numbers are the aircraft’s heading and at the bottom is a vertical moving line and a horizontal. That is the ship’s ILS approach, and represents the proper lateral and glideslope guidance that will put you on the number three wire and centerline of the landing area. Both very important; if the line goes low…you go around for another try. Left or right and the LSOs will send you around for another try. Remember there are millions of dollars worth of aircraft and hundreds of Sailor’s with in a few feet of each wing-tip. Obviously, it is super sensitive in close, we are talking 1 or 2 feet of accuracy at 150 MPH.
Great video of an E-2C or D landing on an aircraft carrier, officially at night. This is one of the best I’ve seen for anyone who wants to know what the experience is like. The E-2 is a twin engine turbo-prop aircraft and a bit slower than Fighter or Attack jets. That helps you get a front seat view of the approach with internal communication (pilot to pilot) and from the ship.
At the top of the video is the ships view from the PLAT camera, located in the deck, on centerline of the landing area. Every space (room) on the ship has a PLAT TV in it. Your name as the pilot is also provided…everyone knows if you bolter (miss wires) who it was. That causes all hands to work longer. I personally found that pressure much higher than fear of busting ass. If you watch to the end, you can hear the Naval Aviators joking about it being a “night trap”. Even though it is dusk and there is a great horizon, officially it counts as night and is highly sought after to maintain your night qual.
A view from the other cockpit. This is some real good footage, done as I think it should be, with some real aircraft (I think). And they understand what Howard Hughes learned in Hell’s Angels: speed is relative. Notice all the scenes are either near the ground or clouds, thus the viewer sees the relative speed.
The Gutless, The Ensign Eliminator: Vought’s F7U-3 Cutlass had performance that was…shall we say underwhelming. It was so bad Navy lore has it that the F7U-3 is the sole reason we went from a flat 100 foot pattern at the ship to a descending pattern that starts at 600 feet abeam. It’s Westinghouse J-34 turbojets performance were so anemic, with gear and flaps down the Gutless couldn’t maintain level flight in a turn. Political pressure being what it was, and is (witness the F-35), as often happens the Fleet guys were ordered to “make it work”. Thus the descending pattern.
Even with the descending pattern and extreme caution being used when operating the Cutlass, 25% of them were stricken from the inventory due to crashing. Certainly, the straight deck carriers it was attempting to operate from contributed. And the entire period of prop-jet transition had a horrendous accident rate, in 1958 Naval Aviation killed more pilots than they winged. Still the Gutless will go down in history as one of, if not the, worst.
In my book Vengeance at Midway and Guadalcanal, I write about the Grumman F-4F Wildcat. I’m having a blast flying my own War Bird (Nanchang CJ-6A) with my kids. I’m working on another documentary and it will feature the Nanchang and some nice aerobatics.
I’m often asked about operating at the ship, it is indeed a one of a kind operation, like no other. I wrote this for another site this morning. Admittedly, it is a bit technical. If you have questions ask away:
It’s been a while since my last trap; 20 years or so. But, I spent a significant portion of my life flying on and off aircraft carriers. 597 traps (200 night) on 11 different carriers, from 1983 until 1995. I was also a Fleet LSO and a TRACOM (Training Command) LSO (Landing Signal Officer).
In my books I often write about carrier operations, so I have stayed in tune.
First: there are three types of approaches. Case I, Case II and Case III. Case III is for night and instrument conditions. Each aircraft or flight is assigned a holding altitude and fix (radial/DME) then penetrates on a TACAN approach, arcs to the final bearing and then picks up a raw data ILS to the ship.
The crew must push from their fix (Radial/DME)and altitude with in +/- 10 seconds of their push time, at 250 knots. You penetrate at 250 flying up the reference radial until 15 DME, turn to put the head of the needle on your wing and arc at 12 DME until you pick up final bearing FB (which is not the same as Base Recovery Course, the BRC is the heading of ship which is 8-13 degrees different depending on angle of deck landing area). The FB is aligned with the angle deck (actual landing area). Altitude is 1200′. At that point you pick up the Carrier Instrument Landing System (like civilian ILS it gives you course and glide slope info on attitude indicator). At 10 miles (DME) from ship approx you put gear, flaps and hook down; at 3 miles you intercept glide slope, pop out speed brakes and slow to on speed (optimum Angle Of Attack AOA) and start down. In the cockpit on the glare shield (dashboard), left side is a visual AOA indicator. It has two chevrons: \ / top (green), / \ bottom (red), with a yellow circle 0 in the middle.
*as this picture shows, they changed the colors to what they always should have been. Slow is bad so is now red, green is good so now it is on speed and yellow is caution, thus fast.
Rough AOA/airspeed control and landed way right on line up.
At 3/4’s of a mile the LSO picks you up for control and you transition to a visual approach: fresnel lens/meatball (glide slope), line-up (course) angle of attack (speed). At night LSOs watch for the external approach lights (same colors as indexer) for speed, engine sound for power setting, and their eye for line up and glide slope. LSOs can see deviations before the pilots and calls for corrections over the radio for example: “power” (you are low), “right for line up” (because of the angle deck, landing area moves left to right as you approach), EASY with it” (you are going high), and the one no Naval Aviator wants to hear: “WAVE-OFF!” (you scared them, or the deck is fouled and you have to go around and try again).
The LSOs also grade every pass on a 4 point scale. Each grade is posted on a board on the ready room wall for all to see. If your grades and/or boarding rate suck for too long (there is a definite learning curve) you go home.
If all goes well; you stay on speed (yellow donut in my day, now green) that keeps your speed correct and the hook at proper height/position, you land on center-line pointed down the angle deck, AND you are on the proper glide slope +/- 2 feet; you snag the three wire go to full power, click off the external lights and when you feel that welcome tug you unlock and fold the wings…then get outta the way because your Airwing pal is right behind you. If things don’t go well: high- you bolter (miss the wires) and go around, low- you get waved off, snatch an early wire (bad grade) or hit the ramp and blow up. Off centerline- you’ll get waved off (in the EA-6B Prowler 10′ off CL put the wing tip into the noses of aircraft parked on the foul line), even if you are on centerline if course isn’t correct you can end up in the parked aircraft…highly frowned upon.
Or drag a wing tip.
BTW, at sea, at night; it’s darker than 10 feet up a black cat’s a$$.
CASE 1: Is the fun approach and is for good weather. Normally it is done EMCON, no radios. Each squadron has an assigned altitude over head the ship, you circle in a left hand pattern, normally in a flight of 2 or 4. When the flight lead sees an opening he drops to 800 feet abeam ship, outside of 5 miles, and then turns 180 degrees and runs up the ship’s wake at 350 knots. At the bow the lead breaks by kissing off the flight with a hand signal and rolling into an 80 degree angle of bank turn, speed brakes out and pull 4 g’s in the turn. At 250 knots, gear, flaps and hook down. Approaching mid-ship, you drop to 600′, check distance (1 to 1 1/4 miles)and begin to slow onspeed. Abeam the LSO platform (left side/aft on ship) start a 25-30 degree angle of bank left turn, 200-300 feet per minute (FPM) rate of descent. At the 90 position of the race track pattern, be at 450′ and establish 500 FPM, crossing the ship’s wake 325-375′ and be on-speed. In the groove you gotta be wings level for 12-15 seconds, center-line between your legs, centered ball, and on speed until touch down. Fun city. Any deviation causes a down grade, the airwing competes for best squadron and Top Ten Aviators by grade average.
CASE-II is a combination of both CASE III and Case I, when weather is above 1000 feet cieling with at least 5 miles of visibility. At least one solid layer of overcast (SOCAL in June) will cause the CASE II to be used. for CASE II the crews hold, penetrate, and fly up the TACAN FB like CASE III until below the over cast. below the clouds with the ship in sight, you enter for a carrier break like CASE I.
CASE I- S**t Hot-1 approach. Same as CASE I except you have to have more speed than altitude. 550 knots indicated at 500 feet works marvelously. You must break no later than the bow of the ship or it doesn’t count. 90 degree, 5 g left turn, speed brakes out. After 180 degrees of turn slowing thru 250 indicated; gear, flaps, hook down. Ease turn to 60 degrees angle of bank. Pull toward the 90 as gear and flaps program out. You will slow rapidly and jets have significant spool up time, so put throttles in approximately 80% range. Over the wake ease roll to 30 degrees angle of bank. Rolling into groove on centerline the aircraft will squat onspeed as the engines spool up like majic. Snatch the three wire, full power, then jerk the power off as you are drug to a halt by the arresting gear. This will bounce you out of the wire as you fold the wings, so you don’t “sh*t in the wires”, causing the guy 25-30 seconds behind you to go around. REALLY fun city! A warning: John Wayne in the break often becomes Slim Pikens in the groove…its a gamble!
So what makes it hard? Deck moving +/- 30 feet is “challenging”, ship changing course is fun, especially CASE III. Ship blowing tubes (smoke out of stack) causing you to go IFR in the groove also interesting. Single engine or other emergency approaches present their own challenges. As do various things you or your fellow Aviators screw up. Blue Water, (which means no divert), also ramps up the pressure.
It is an unforgiving profession, especially when the deck is moving!
So that’s it, quick and dirty, I’ve got to go clean the gutters. If you want to read more you can go to lelandshanle.com or amazon for my books.