Some fun flying from yesteryear

Zambo

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I got this story this evening, not sure if it will translate to the masses, perhaps too technical? But figured I'd share anyway for those who might like this sort of thing.

Very cool story on how they changed the A-4 to combat the loses they had back in the late 50’s

From the A-4 Association
By Naval Aviator Pat Patrick
The flame-out and ejection of 16 December 1958
The ill-fated flight of 16 December 1958 was my sixth hop in the A-4A (it was designated A4D-1 then, the older designation current in 1958.) The aircraft was still very new and had the familiar new-car smell when I manned it. All of our A4D-1s were fresh out of the Douglas Aircraft factory within the past several months. On familiarization hop number five (FAM 5) we had dropped six Mk-76 practice bombs and fired four 2.75” folding fin aircraft rockets (FFAR) on “Switzerland Target” just south of NAS Jacksonville across the St. Johns River from the small town of Green Cove Springs, Florida. Consequently this was my second bomb and rocket hop in the A-4. We took off mid-morning on 16 December 1958, rendezvoused a four-plane formation led by the executive officer (XO) of VA-44 and proceeded to the same target. We made a low-altitude, 500-knot pass over the target to set the trim tabs for release conditions and broke up the formation to establish a safe interval between aircraft. As the junior ensign, I flew the number four position. We fired the rockets first with a release from a 30-degree dive angle at about 1,200 feet above ground level (AGL) and 500 knots true air speed (TAS).

On my third firing pass I pulled up in a four-G climb and pushed the throttle forward. Instead of the usual acceleration, I felt the aircraft decelerate rapidly. My body leaned forward into the shoulder straps and I heard the engine begin to unwind. I glanced at the engine gauge and saw the RPM and tail pipe temperature (TPT) falling rapidly. The oil pressure and fuel boost flip-flop gauges went to OFF. I said the usual OH NO, with “no” as a four-letter word, then keyed the mike and broadcast, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Baker Boy 325, flamed out, pulling off the target.” I then told the XO, our flight leader, that I would trade airspeed for altitude and try a relight going over the top when I reached the optimum relight speed of 220 kt. He “rogered” and told me he had me in sight. As I went over the top of the arc at 5,500 feet and 210 kt., I pushed the nose over slightly and adjusted airspeed to 220 indicated air speed (IAS), I went through the relight procedure and waited for the TPT to start to rise. It never did. We had no fuel flow gage in the A4A; nor did we have any other diagnostic instruments like those available in current Navy jets, so I held the airspeed at 220 and tried one more relight procedure. As I completed each of the four simple steps for a re-light I read it off to the flight leader and asked him if I was forgetting anything. He told me, “no, you are doing all you can.”
I really didn’t want to eject and explain why I had just destroyed a $425,000 aircraft. During the second attempt, I saw the altimeter descend through 3,000 feet and heard the XO say, “Quit fooling with it and get out. Eject now.” I glanced up and saw that I was headed toward a small crossroads village, so I turned right toward a swampy area. I had been holding the nose up to stop the descent because the ejection seat was only good to altitudes above 1,000 feet and 125 knots IAS, straight and level. When I pulled the face curtain the airspeed was 125, altitude 1,800 foot and rate of descent about 2,000 feet per minute. When I pulled the face curtain, the canopy separated and I was blasted out of the aircraft.
So far so good, but I quickly found out that I was still in real trouble. In between my sophomore and junior years at the University of Florida, I had spent three years in the Army, during the Korean War. I had gone through parachute training as an enlisted troop in December 1952, and had 22 static-line parachute jumps while serving with the 10th Special Forces Group in 1953 and 1954. In the early stages of training we had to climb up into a tower about 20 to 30 feet high wearing a parachute harness, hook up to a cable that descended at about a 10 or 15 degree angle, jump out and slide down to the ground. The training taught us to exit the airplane in the right position and then to make a proper parachute-landing fall when we contacted the ground. There was always a grizzled old sergeant at the bottom of the slide. (He was probably about 30 years old.) As soon as you jumped out of the tower he would scream at you, “You had betta open yo eyes, look around, and see what you can do fo yo sef.” (All paratrooper sergeants had southern accents.) That translated to: “Don’t expect everything to work as advertised; as soon as you clear the aircraft open your eyes and take care of any malfunctions.”
I reached up, grasped the face curtain firmly and pulled hard with both hands. When the curtain pulled out about ¾ of the way, I heard a loud, “BOOM”, felt a sharp pain in the small of my back, and was blown clear of the aircraft. As soon as I was out in the air-stream, I could picture the instructor, who used to be at the bottom of the cable slide training device. I could hear him shouting in that pronounced southern accent, “You had betta open yo eyes, look around, and see what you can do fo yo sef.” Consequently, as I cleared the aircraft I threw the face curtain back out of the way and looked around to see what I could do for myself. It made the life or death difference, because I was still attached to the seat by the para-raft lanyard. The lanyard was a yellow nylon ribbon that connected the survival raft located under the aircraft seat to the pilot’s flotation gear.
The bright yellow-colored -lanyard was wrapped around the shoulder harness locking handle on the left side of the ejection seat holding the seat snug up against my right hip. I quickly reached out with my right hand and pulled the seat in toward me to get some slack. I then unwrapped the pararaft lanyard with my left hand, and threw the seat forcefully away from me.
Next, I felt for and found the D-ring for manually opening the parachute. I pulled it hard to try and beat the automatic actuator. It was like pulling on a well-anchored cable; it would not budge. I was plunging, head first, toward the tops of pine trees near the edge of the swamp I had aimed the aircraft at. My first thought was, “you are a dead man.” I tilted my head back, looked toward the ground, and saw a huge dark red-to-orange fireball exploding out from among the trees as the aircraft hit the ground near the edge of the swamp. I then looked down at the nearest pine tree and could see individual pine needles. My heart nearly stopped because I knew that if the parachute were not on its way out by now, I really was dead. It is eerily quiet when you are falling through the air and I could hear a whirring noise. It was the familiar sound of rubber bands popping as the parachute was deploying. Rubber bands are used to hold the shroud lines, risers, and panels in place when the parachute is packed. They make a whirring sound when they pop in sequence as the parachute opens.
The automatic actuator had fired when I threw the seat away and had kinked the steel cable leading to the D ring, which was why I could not pull it. My heart started to race again as I looked at the pine needles and tried to tell whether the ‘chute was going to open in time. I shifted away from the thought that I was a dead man, and said to myself, “Oh, S_ _ t, man this is going to be close, this is really going to be close.” I then felt a hard jerk at my shoulders when the chute opened with me falling headfirst, face down toward the trees. The hard jerk swung my feet and legs down toward the ground and straightened me out. I had no time to enjoy the feeling because I was probably less than a hundred feet off the ground. I could see to my right front (about 2:30), a Y shaped intersection where three dirt roads joined. I then grabbed the two risers in that direction and pulled down hard on them to take a slip toward the little opening formed by that Y intersection. I had to lift my legs up to clear the last pine tree, but I made it into the small clearing and smashed into the Florida sand. I tried to do a parachute-landing fall to cushion the impact, but my timing was a little off and the impact stunned my whole body.
There was almost no wind so the parachute just collapsed around me. It was a good thing because all I could do was lie there for a few seconds. Almost immediately, however, I could feel a big grin growing inside my oxygen mask as a tremendous sense of elation welled up inside me. I stood up, popped the oxygen mask off, took my helmet off and looked up at the beautiful blue sky with puffy white, fair weather cumulus clouds drifting by. Life was good. The pine needles smelled like expensive perfume and my whole body unwound as I looked up at that beautiful sky and shed a few tears of elation and relief. I hurt all over, but it didn’t matter. I was alive with no broken bones or other serious injury.
By the way the A4A parachute was only 26 feet in diameter and was designed for survival, not for a comfortable landing. My back hurt like hell from the ejection because the older seats were fired by a 37-millimeter cannon shell and were not as friendly as the rocket motors used today. The hard impact with the ground didn’t help. (Many of my contemporary pilot friends have had serious, long-term, back problems stemming from their ejections. I have been extremely fortunate and have had no long term effect at all.) We had no survival radios, so I popped an orange smoke signal device in the intersection of the dirt roads where I had landed. I then spread my ‘chute out, and stood in the middle of it to make myself more visible for rescue.
In less than ten minutes a reconnaissance version of the F9F-8 flew overhead and rocked his wings to let me know he had me in sight. He circled my position and guided the helicopter in. Roughly ten minutes later, still, I could hear the helicopter approaching and popped another orange smoke. I rolled up the parachute, held on to it to prevent it from getting sucked up into the blades and got out of the way. The helicopter landed in my little clearing and we exchanged big smiles and enthusiastic thumbs up signals. They loaded my parachute and me aboard and flew me over to the helicopter pad next to the hospital at NAS Jacksonville. The flight surgeons at NAS Jacksonville checked me over, gave me three fingers of rot gut brandy and a bottle of aspirin, then released in time for happy hour.
The Accident Investigation
The accident board had asked me for a detailed statement of what happened and I gave them probably more detail than they wanted. They did not let me read their draft report, however, until it was essentially complete. At that time the Operations Officer, Commander Jim Homyak, called me in and let me read the, almost smooth, draft. The story the report told was that the aircraft, side number 325, had flown a field carrier landing practice hop the night before and when it was returned to the line the ground crew failed to refuel it. I manned the aircraft the next morning and failed to complete the checklist including the push-to-test of the fuel gauge and check of fuel quantity. The aircraft would have had only about 2,500 pounds of fuel, which was exactly the amount that I would have needed to take off, rendezvous, get to the target, and make three rocket passes. Consequently, I had run the aircraft out of fuel and would have had no symptoms prior to flame-out. We had no low-fuel warning light in the A-4D-1. The mishap board said it was 100 percent pilot error.
While I was reading this I was picturing the huge orange-red fireball I saw while falling face down toward the pine trees, waiting for the parachute to open. I thought, “no way!” I described the fireball to Commander Homyak and he agreed to go back out in the helicopter and take another look. He found the swampy area where the aircraft impacted had been severely burned for 25 yards around the impact point and agreed that the aircraft was clearly not out of fuel at impact. He also noted that there was a substantial amount of JP-4 still floating on the water in the hole formed by the crash. The cause was changed to “undetermined.” I have been very suspicious of mishap boards ever since. We would learn on 21 February 1959 the probable cause of the majority of the large number of flameouts we had during the fall and winter of 1958-1959. That story is next. After four working days and a weekend off, recovering from the soreness, I was back in the cockpit.
This was one of about nine aircraft that the A4 community lost in a matter of just a few months. The flame-outs were occurring without any prior symptom and several were at an altitude too low to eject, so we also lost about four pilots.

Continued below.....
 

Zambo

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The flame-out and ditching of 21 February 1959.
February 21, 1959, was one of the coldest days that NAS Jacksonville, Florida, had experienced in several years. While I was briefing the instructor pilot (IP) on my navigation and weapon delivery plan, it was 27 degrees. It had climbed only to 29 when I hit the water just before noon. I was scheduled, on a Saturday morning, for a high-low navigation flight with a simulated nuclear weapon delivery at Stephens Lake target, near the end of the flight. The target was just south of NAS Cecil Field, Florida. I had two 150-gallon droppable fuel tanks on the wing weapon stations and a 1,200-pound, concrete filled, “shape” of a Mk-12 nuclear weapon on the centerline bomb rack. With me in the lead and the instructor pilot (IP) flying wing, we took off and climbed to 41,000 feet. The A-4A weighed only 8100 pounds dry and had 7800 pounds of thrust, so at light weights it climbed like a rocket. Even with the extra fuel and shape it took us very few minutes to level off at 41,000 feet, with no afterburner. (It was really impressive when you climbed out after flying a loft maneuver and then zoomed up to climb back to just over 40,000 feet from which you cruised climbed during the trip back to the carrier. I have timed the climb out from the escape maneuver at less than six minutes from 100 feet to over 40,000 with a clean A4A. The climb schedule was 370 knots indicated to .80 indicated Mach number (IMN).
We flew down the East Coast of Florida to just south of Homestead AFB, turned and crossed the Everglades, then returned up the West Coast of Florida to Deadman’s Bay. I then descended to 100 feet at 420 knots, and flew in to the target. It was an incredibly beautiful day with crystal-clear visibility and a few puffy cumulous clouds. As we cruise climbed from 41,000 to just over 47,000 feet during the high altitude portion of the flight, I could see the entire peninsular of Florida and I thought, “man this is the life for me.”
I led our two-plane formation on the final run in to the target at 100 feet and 500 knots. I delivered the weapon with a 45-degree medium-angle-loft maneuver and went over the top, inverted, while completing the half-Cuban-eight escape maneuver. We ran out away from the target at the planned 1,100-foot burst height and 570 knots indicated air speed. When clear of the simulated safe overpressure ring, we climbed to 5,500 feet, turned across the Orange River bridge, and headed north up the St. Johns River to enter the traffic pattern for runway 5 at NAS Jacksonville. Soon after crossing the bridge and near the East bank of the St. Johns River, I felt that awful deceleration again. I was involuntarily leaning forward in the shoulder straps. I glanced to my right to pick up the instructor pilot who was sliding by on my right side with full speed breaks extended. I shook my head as he went by and deployed the emergency ram air turbine (RAT) to keep electric power and hydraulic pressure while I set up for another relight attempt.
I had read everything I could find about flying since I was about eight years old, and one consistent bit of advice from all of the old aviators had been to always have a place to go when you are in trouble. They counseled that when you change operating areas you should always look around and find the safest place to go when the engine quits. I had selected the two-mile-wide section of the St. Johns River just northeast of NAS Jacksonville. My fallback plan was to fly to the middle of the river, line up with the long axis of the river, stall the airplane, and eject. That would allow the aircraft to fall into the river and do no harm to the people and houses on either side of the river. The shallow river was also a good parachute landing spot close to both helicopter and boat rescue facilities. It was also close to the hospital at NAS Jacksonville if I needed medical treatment quickly.
For now, however, runway 27 looked like a good option for a flame-out approach and, again, I really didn’t want to eject—especially since I now knew how much it hurt. I traded airspeed for altitude while turning in toward runway 27, broadcast the Mayday, and told the tower what my intentions were. The tower and the instructor pilot both “rogered” and the tower cleared me and gave me priority for the landing. As I turned through about 45 degrees of turn to go, I was now descending again through about 5,200 feet with a little excess airspeed, but not enough to make the runway. My landing gear and flaps were still up, and drop tanks still on. I could soon tell I wasn’t going to make it. The velocity vector that I drew with my mind’s eye ended in the water about 50 feet short of the concrete seawall. The flame-out approach was no longer a good plan.
I immediately shifted back to the original plan and headed for the center of the wide section of river. I still had electric power from the RAT and told the IP what I was up to. He “rogered” and I could see him doing a weave back and forth over the top of me as I headed the few thousand yards up the river. I kept bleeding off airspeed so as to reach a stall as high off the river as I could manage. When I arrived over the center of the river headed north, I pulled the nose up into the stall. I was at 2,800 feet and 112 knots. The aircraft shuttered and banged as it entered the stall and I pulled hard on the face curtain with both hands. I pulled hard three times against a hard metal stop and it didn’t budge. I knew immediately that I was dead because never before (or since) was I able to recover an A-4 from a full stall in less than 3,200 feet. (Of course, I have never practiced one starting in the very dense air at 3200 feet either.) I liked my reaction to the circumstances because my next thought after, “You are dead,” was, “At least you can look good.”
What I meant was that I wanted to show my squadron mates that I never gave up and was fighting it all the way. So, in order to “look good,” I released the face curtain and noticed that the aircraft nose had already fallen through the horizontal and was nosing over toward the river while I had been pulling on the face curtain. I grabbed the stick and shoved it further forward to increase airspeed as rapidly as possible. During the stall, the left wing had rocked down in about a near 90 degree angle of bank, so as I shoved the stick forward I was now aligned 90 degrees to the long axis of the river, headed almost due West, instead of paralleling the long axis. While pushing the stick forward with my right hand, I reached down to the emergency release handle, pulled it, and blew the drop tanks off the wings. I had wanted to land on them if I could have shot the flame-out approach, but now I needed them gone for two reasons:
1. To get airspeed as quickly as I could to recover from the stall, and
2. To have the flat undersurface of the wing and fuselage available to ditch on without having a drop tank dig in and cartwheel me at impact.
I also locked my shoulder harness with my left hand, just in case. I still didn’t really believe that I could pull this off, but that was a part of looking good. They would find me properly set up when they fished my body out of the water. When the drop tanks blew off, the airspeed needle zoomed up immediately to 155 knots and I started trying to pull the nose up to round out the descent. During the stall I had no electric power and therefore no radio, but when the airspeed came up the RAT began to function. Consequently, I again had electric power and better hydraulic boost for the controls. I pulled back on the stick until I felt the airflow just begin to separate from the wings, then I would ease off and pull again to the edge of separation. I kept it, by feel, at or near the optimum angle of attack until I rounded it off about 10 to 15 feet clear of the water. When I had stopped the descent and still had not hit the water, I thought, “Hey, maybe!”
I could hear the IP’s voice on the radio. His voice was very deliberate; he was enunciating every word carefully, because he knew he did not have time to say it twice. He said, “You had better put it on, you are running out of river.” I had planned to hold it off the water until I reached 125 knots then ease it onto the river very flat. His call was just in time because as I glanced up I could see very large trees, very close. I glanced at the airspeed indicator, saw 135 knots, and thought, “That’s close enough.” I then eased off on the back-pressure against the stick to put the belly of the aircraft onto the water as flat as I could. Because my eyeballs were now less than seven feet off the water, I could see that I was drifting very slightly to the right with a quartering tail wind. There were very small ripples on the water, which gave me good depth perception but not enough wave height to catch a wing tip. The conditions were near perfect for impact.
When the aircraft hit the water I can remember starting forward and to the right and then it was lights out. There was no pressure and no pain of any kind. I just entered a very deep sleep instantaneously. The next awareness I had was waking up with my head hanging down on my chest and the helmet feeling very heavy. I could not believe it. I was still alive. No one had ever survived a ditching in an A-4 or F-8, the two newest aircraft in the fleet at the time. I could see translucent light straight up and thought I was resting on the bottom of the shallow river. I thought, “Okay let’s get out of here.” Emergency procedures say pull the ditching handle and it will blow the canopy off and cut you loose from the seat with your parachute and para-raft still attached. So, I pulled the ditching handle on the right side of the seat and stood up. I banged into the canopy, which was still locked and closed. I sat back down and thought, “You have got to be ****ting me. What else can go wrong?” My next thought was, “I have survived this ditching and I am not going to die in this airplane.” I reached for my survival knife, which was strapped to my right calf and started to pull it out to scribe an X in the Plexiglas and bash my way out. We had been taught this for a last-ditch escape effort.
Before I got the knife all the way out of the scabbard, I thought, “Wait a minute, dummy, you haven’t tried the manual open handle.” So I slid the knife back into the scabbard and reached over with my left hand with a backhand motion and pulled the canopy handle aft. Boom! The canopy blew aft and up a few feet, but it was still attached behind the seat. I stood up, put my right foot onto the seat, and pushed the canopy further out of the way with my helmet. I was very surprised to learn that I was still on the surface and the river was just beginning to flow over the canopy rail and into the cockpit as the aircraft settled toward the bottom.
I learned later from the air controllers in the tower, who could see all of this plainly, and from the IP who was also a close-in witness, that it was only about 12 seconds from when the splash went up until I crawled out of the cockpit. The reason I thought I was on the bottom was that the huge splash was still subsiding while I was going through all of the emergency procedures and made it look like I was under water. The IP said that he could not believe what he saw. The little A4 left a small rooster tail in the water just before impact, but when it hit the water it did not plane or skip across the water as he thought it would. It dug in, stopped within the length of the aircraft, and turned almost 90 degrees to the right while stopping instantly. It then was totally obscured as the huge splash went up and covered the aircraft completely for the next several seconds. When the splash subsided, the IP was very surprised to see that the aircraft looked essentially intact and was still afloat.
I pushed away from the aircraft as it settled and inflated one side of my Mk-3C flotation gear. I then started working on getting rid of my parachute and para-raft and realized that I was tangled up with the para-raft lanyard and a couple of shroud lines from the partially opened parachute. I couldn’t get the shoulder harness fittings released with my flight gloves on. They were very slick when wet. So I took off the gloves, released the fittings, and once again reached for my knife. It was still there. I pulled it out, cut the para-raft lanyard and shroud lines, then put it back in the scabbard. Those cuts freed me from the parachute and life raft, but it was all I could do with my hands. When I pulled them out of the water I couldn’t believe what I saw— my hands were so cold they just stopped functioning. It looked like my fingers were locked in a partially curled position. I wanted to inflate the other half of my flotation gear, but the hands just didn’t work.
I could hear a helicopter approaching, and when I looked toward the sound there were two HS-3s with Marine markings just crossing the riverbank headed for me. I thought, “Well, at least one thing is going right; that is a very fast response.” As luck would have it, the two Marine helicopters were departing on a cross-country flight, returning to New River, North Carolina and just happened to time their departure right for me. One of them had an old “horse collar” rescue device and lowered it to me from a hover. My hands didn’t work, but I managed to work my right elbow through the horse collar, roll through to my right, and hook it with my left elbow too. They reeled me up and delivered me, once again, directly to the hospital at NAS Jacksonville.
The flight surgeons only kept me long enough to fill out some forms and reassure themselves that I was uninjured. I had a dark bruise under my right eye from having stretched the shoulder harness far enough to make contact with the glare shield. I also had a minor cut on my left thumb from cutting it while freeing myself from the entanglement. Other than that I was just sore all over. Every muscle and bone seemed to hurt but all body parts were intact.
The aircraft that I ejected from in December was side number 325 and the one that I ditched in February was 326. Commander Homyak announced to the ready room that I would never, ever, be allowed to fly 327.

Continued below
 

Zambo

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This accident produced several important changes to the A-4A and B and subsequently to all modern jets. Because I could not eject and was able to ditch the aircraft pretty much intact, the long-running problem with the engine could finally be conclusively diagnosed. We had lost many A-4As over the previous three months, I believe nine aircraft and four pilots.
The engines had quit with no advance warning or symptom of any kind. The evidence was destroyed when the aircraft crashed and burned. Included among the destroyed aircraft was the A-4A I had ejected from following the flameout on 16 December 1958.
Lessons Learned and Fixes
This ditching revealed the reason for the numerous flameouts. The high-pressure fuel pump spline that connected the fuel pump to the engine’s accessory gear drive was failing after only 20 to 100 hours of operation. Instead of being mounted on a firm track to keep the spline normal to the plane of rotation, the pump was mounted on four bolts. When any bolt loosened, the pump would lose its alignment normal to the plane of rotation and the spline, (which operated at extremely high RPM), and would grind itself to a nub immediately. This shut off all fuel flow to the engine instantly and a no-symptom flame-out resulted, with no chance for a relight.
All A-4A and B aircraft were grounded for inspection and replacement of the pump mounting as soon as the cause was determined. The seriousness of the problem was apparent when all remaining A-4As and Bs on the VA-44 ramp (about 60 aircraft) were inspected and about 30 percent of them were found to be on the verge of failure. Fixing this problem alone probably reduced the A-4 accident rate by a very large factor.
Additionally, the failure of the ejection seat resulted in the addition of the alternate ejection handle between the pilot’s legs to back up the face curtain, which was at the top of the ejection seat behind his head. Prior to this accident, Navy jets had had only a face curtain with no alternate handle. Later it was discovered that many crews were saved because under high-g loads they could not reach the face curtain but could grab the alternate handle and eject. Also, immediately after catapult launch the alternate handle can be activated faster than the face curtain and that has also saved some lives. So, the addition of the alternate handle proved to be useful beyond the original intent of providing a backup in the event of face curtain failure.
Seven years later, in October 1966, the Chief Petty Officer who had run the ejection seat shop at VA-44, had a confession for me on the day of his retirement from VA-125 in Lemoore, California. As the shop supervisor, he had told me at the time, that the problem with the ejection seat was a bad design. That the way the cable, between the face curtain and the actuators, was placed was faulty, but they had figured out a fix and it wouldn’t happen again. The later confession was that they had lied about the design problem. The riggers had just installed the cable wrong and it was pulling in the wrong direction when I yanked on the face curtain. A change was made that allowed the cable to be routed only in the correct direction.
Also, because I demonstrated that a pilot could survive a ditching at 135 knots, downwind, a pressure relief valve was installed in the side of the cockpit to equalize pressures and allow the pilot to get the canopy open and exit more easily under water. There had been no survivors of ditching in A-4 or F-8 aircraft up to this time, so there had been no incentive, before this crash, to be concerned about underwater escape.
Because I had had trouble releasing the parachute connections with wet gloves in the water after escape, new “Koch fittings” were also designed with serrated edges to allow actuation with slick, wet gloves.
Many lessons were learned from this experience and the key fixes were made quickly, before A-4s were allowed to fly again. In addition to all of the necessary mechanical fixes that this accident brought about, the biggest lesson learned was, “Don’t ever give up. Keep fighting it all the way, even if it is just to look good.”
Note: this was a decade before I climbed into the A-4F. A much improved version but would every once in a while flame out when doing a long idle descent from very high altitude. Always better to observe how the new thing works and get those bugs out.
It is never over until the light goes out permanently.
--
 

Detroitgator

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@Zambo

Great story... My takeaways?

  1. Training matters, especially after the "I'm dead" moment.
  2. His mentioning sense of smell after the first crash... The air smells different when you survive.
  3. I hate pilots, cuz no matter what, they always seem to be within 20 minutes of the O Club! ;)
 
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Gator By Marriage

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@Zambo , great story. As someone who has never piloted an aircraft, a lot of the more technical parts were lost on me, but I was able to get the gist. Incredible to have an insight into someone's thought process as they are in that kind of situation. I echo @Detroitgator on the training point - he clearly reverted to what he had been taught at his moment(s) of truth. It was also great to see all the future lives that were saved as a result of this pilot's actions.
I did laugh though in the beginning; hard to think of a time when a combat aircraft "only" cost $425K!
 

Detroitgator

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@Zambo , great story. As someone who has never piloted an aircraft, a lot of the more technical parts were lost on me, but I was able to get the gist. Incredible to have an insight into someone's thought process as they are in that kind of situation. I echo @Detroitgator on the training point - he clearly reverted to what he had been taught at his moment(s) of truth. It was also great to see all the future lives that were saved as a result of this pilot's actions.
I did laugh though in the beginning; hard to think of a time when a combat aircraft "only" cost $425K!
I wouldn't have believed a word of the story, but the O Club reference authenticated EVERYTHING as far as I was concerned!!!

The thing I kept thinking about the whole time I read it was, "How long is it taking me to read/digest each word of this story when in fact we are talking about seconds in real time?"
 

Zambo

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The training thing is spot on. Man, its amazing how when the schyt hits the fan you just go into brain stem power and do certain things without even thinking.

One example I used to teach when I was consulting was of a LEO who found himself in a gunfight with a driver after a traffic stop. The LEO carried a revolver. They found him dead behind his patrol car, oddly enough with 6 empty casings in his pocket. Why the hell were those empty shell casings in his pocket? Best guess is that because they always make you clean up your brass at the shooting range, rather than just dump them out on the ground when reloading, the shooters were putting them in their pocket so they didn't have to bend over later on and pick them all up. So this guy is in a gunfight for his life and he actually took the time to put those spent casing in his pocket while another man was trying (successfully) to kill him. Amazing.
 

Gator By Marriage

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The training thing is spot on. Man, its amazing how when the schyt hits the fan you just go into brain stem power and do certain things without even thinking.

One example I used to teach when I was consulting was of a LEO who found himself in a gunfight with a driver after a traffic stop. The LEO carried a revolver. They found him dead behind his patrol car, oddly enough with 6 empty casings in his pocket. Why the hell were those empty shell casings in his pocket? Best guess is that because they always make you clean up your brass at the shooting range, rather than just dump them out on the ground when reloading, the shooters were putting them in their pocket so they didn't have to bend over later on and pick them all up. So this guy is in a gunfight for his life and he actually took the time to put those spent casing in his pocket while another man was trying (successfully) to kill him. Amazing.
That incident happened I think in California. In training we never, ever picked up brass until all the shooting stopped and we had retrieved our targets; usually it wasn't until the whole session was over for the day. Hell, we weren't even allowed to pick up spent mags until directed by the tower to do so. You could actually see the impact of training in training with the immediate action drill for when a weapon jammed. Very quickly the reactions for everybody became instantaneous. I attended a school once with a guy who survived an attempted execution because the bad guy's gun had jammed after a previous shot and he did not know what we were referred to as "tap, rack, and bang." The hesitation and confusion gave the good guy a moment to escape.
 

Swamp Donkey

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7-14 vs P5 Fire Stricklin First
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, oddly enough with 6 empty casings in his pocket. .
Training scars.

You see the same with people who shoot one round, drop the gun relax grip, look at their target, wait for the range officer to yell fire again. several police videos with guys doing exactly that. In the old days that's often what it was onnthe range, fire 1 round and wait.

You actually see it in that church shooting while back also. Two guys stand upright and perfectly still drawing their guns, and get smoked for it, and the third guy draws his gun and squeeze squeeze squeeze while bad guy kills his friend and shoots the pastor.

you fight the way you train, you won't suddenly good get better in combat. Or you just do the blind panic thing, point it in the general direction and fire til empty.
 
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Gator By Marriage

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Training scars.

You see the same with people who shoot one round, drop the gun relax grip, look at their target, wait for the range officer to yell fire again. several police videos with guys doing exactly that. In the old days that's often what it was onnthe range, fire 1 round and wait.

You actually see it in that church shooting while back also. Two guys stand upright and perfectly still drawing their guns, and get smoked for it, and the third guy draws his gun and squeeze squeeze squeeze while bad guy kills his friend and shoots the pastor.

you fight the way you train, you won't suddenly good get better in combat. Or you just do the blind panic thing, point it in the general direction and fire til empty.
Preventing that was a big part of the training as well. Keeping the target covered and scanning right and left after firing; never de-cocking (yes, I'm old enough to remember the pre-Glock days) and holstering until directed to do so; drills where the target would randomly turn and engaging and firing (double tapping) on every turn; and a lot of combat courses with the mandatory use of cover. Those were good times and I remember it like it was yesterday.
I've wondered for years about just how much ammo I personally used up. I attended a firearms instructor's course once where the last week was all sub-guns. It seemed like the majority of our time was spent re-loading 30 round magazines and after a few days we all had crazy sore thumbs.
 

AuggieDosta

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Thanks for posting this story Zambo
I enjoyed it immensely for several reasons. Additionally, as great of a pilot, and survivor, this guy was, he is a better storyteller and writer.
 

ThreatMatrix

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"Okay what the Air Force would've done to secure this lake is we would have bombed it for 4-5 days... gone back to our 5* hotels. Woulda been great". LOL
 
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