“Tower, Bloodhound 101, flight of four, take off.”
“Bloodhound 101, Point Mugu tower, you are clear to take off runway 11.”
I tapped my helmit over the ear then held up 5 fingers to switch my flight to button 5 for departure frequency. Easing onto the runway I hugged the right side lining up on a seam in the concrete. This gave the rest of my flight room to position on the runway. Simultaneously I checked in the flight.
Came the rapid response, confirming all 4 Phantoms were on frequency. Glancing left down the line I watched all 3 angry looking F-4s glide into place off my left wing. I could see all 3 pilots, oxygen masks on with visors down, they had the look of modern gladiators. Holding up two fingers I made a circular motion with my left hand to run up the flight to 80% power. The aircraft squated and belched thick black smoke.
Scanning the gauges as my power reached 80% I watched the afterburner nozzle position gauges pucker to half open, checked the flight controls by moving the control stick, then looked left waiting for my flight to do the same, while I gave a last visual inspection to dash two. A thumbs up was passed up the line when it got to dash two he inspected my F-4N quickly and passed a thumbs up to me. Kissing them off, I jammed the throttles to full afterburner.
The J-79-GE-8 turbo jets came alive, the RPM stabilized at 101%, the exhaust temp jumped above 550C, the after burner nozzles closed to a 1/4 position. I paused only long enough for the gauges to stabilize then pushed the huge throttles out board and forward. Boom, Boom, I countered the slight asymetry as the burners lit unevenly by tapping the right brake. The travel for the oversized throttles in the burner region was as far as it was for basic military thrust. As the burners staged I could feel all four burner manifolds program in the full 17,000 thousand pounds of thrust per engine.
I scanned the nozzle position one more time to make sure they had opened all the way. The combined 34,000 pounds of thrust began to push the 45,000 pound F-4N down the runway. The 21 burner injectors helped feed the J-79s 1500 pounds of fuel a minute. 150 knots flashed on the airspeed indicator, I maintained a take off attitude.
The F-4N left the runway so smoothly the only indication was the AOA approach indicator lights blinking on, signifying that weight was off the wheels. I grabed the large gear handle and snapped up the landing gear and began to trim nose down to hold the Phantom a mere 5 feet off the ground as it accelerated. Reaching behind the throttle quadrant I found the tiny flap handle and retracted the flaps. The acceleration was now dramatic; as I closed on the end of the runway the airspeed hit 300 knots (345MPH). I yanked the nose up to 45 degrees nose high and cranked on a 60 degree angle of bank left turn. The vertical climb indicator (VSI) pegged at plus 6000 feet per minute, the maximum indication on the gauge. The actual rate of climb was 13,000 feet per minute.
I began to ease the nose down incrementally to maintain 300 indicated. As the aircraft stabilized I glanced down to see dash four come off the deck and begin his aggresive move to get inside my radius of turn.
“Departure Blood Hound 101 airborne, flight of four.”
I transmitted on the UHF radio.
Each aircraft had rolled at 5 second intervals, Icky in dash two was already joining on my left wing. He had held his nose down until 350 knots using the advantage to run me down. Mink the section leader and in dash three was spaced perfectly between Icky and Scudder in dash four. I eased the burner to the mid position to allow my wingmen a power advantage as I continued the turn.
After nearly 3/4s of a circle I smoothly rolled wings level, and eased the throttles out of burner, simultaneously lowering the nose to 10 degrees to maintain 300 indicated. I looked back at my wingman; Icky had crossed to my right side and was in tight. Mink and Scudder were joined as a section on my left, with a space left for Icky to cross back and forth if requiered, we were in finger four formation. The flight passed overhead the field at 13,000 feet, joined and heading south west out to sea, never having left the 5 mile confine of the airfield.
“Blood Hound 101 switch LA center, button six.”
“LA Blood Hound 101, flight of four, climbing 1 5 thousand.”
“Roger Blood Hounds, continue to climb flight level 3 0 0.”
“2”, “3”, “4”.
After visually checking my wingman I loosened the formation to cruise by making a hitch hiking motion over my shoulders. Crossing Santa Catalina Island, we checked left for our next nav point, San Clemente Island, and leveled at 30,000 feet. I left the power at 97%, and accelerated the flight toward air combat……