The Switch Part 2, or Keep Right

Joe and I headed out from North Island in our KA-6D (the one with the living room switch to control the tail hook) to catch up with the Connie, she was steaming west under the typical low cloud cover found in the Socal ops area every morning. It didn’t take long to pick up the azimuth and dme on the tacan and zero in on the ship. Joe checked in with Warchief, filled in all the blanks for those on the carrier who needed to know ‘zackly who we were and what our intentions were, and we switched over to approach.

This is where it got interesting. The shipboard controller we contacted said he’d be glad to give us a precision approach (CCA) to the Connie, basically a talk down (the needles were out of service), but he mentioned that his radar had undergone maintenance in port and wasn’t calibrated yet. Question marks flew around in my brain pan, non-calibrated radar wasn’t in my database. Had to ask, what does that mean to us? The answer was that we might not be precisely on course as he brings us down through the clag to land.

Not precisely on course? This didn’t resonate much with me as being a big problem. If there were mountains around and cumulo-granite clouds to reckon with my worry factor might have been higher, but what the hey, how far off can it be? It’s daytime, no storms, no rain. Let’s press on.

Can you pick up on the vibes here? A jury rigged tail hook switch, a brand new never-been-to-the-boat B/N in the right seat, and now a shipboard radar that may or may not be capable of accurate guidance.

The wisdom of many years of aviation since then give me pause as I write this. Grampaw Pettibone surely would be asking, “What was this lad thinking?” My present self says “Not much” and my past self had no thought other than OK, we’ll deal with things as they come, forward with enthusiasm. Joe’s first look at the back end of the boat would be fun for both of us, right? Right! Onward!
Onward it was, through the clouds, into the descent, drop the gear, flaps, and the all important tail hook, start the approach. The approach indexers on the glare shield are not flashing, which confirms that the hook is down and the living room switch on Joe’s side is working.

The approach was sterling. Got all the “on glide path, on course” callouts over and over again, with minor deviations here and there. I was impressing myself so much with my airmanship…
Joe and I get to the point where we are just about breaking out of the overcast, there is ocean below on both sides of the jet, Joe tells me there is another ship out here, he can see the wake off to the right, and the controller gives us the call I’d heard so many times before: “three quarter mile, call the ball.”
Which is where I look up and see the ship, pick up the meatball, call paddles and continue on to trap aboard the big grey boat.

Didn’t happen that way, though.

I look up, we pop out of the overcast, and I look ahead at nothing but the deep blue sea! What the…!

Joe comes up on the ICS and says there is a carrier over here and I look to the right to see the Connie, we are maybe a quarter to half a mile left abeam the ship. Well sonovagun, that’s what the radar guy meant about “not precisely on course.” Joe’s first look at the back end of the boat didn’t ‘zackly turn out the way I intended. Nice look at the side, though.

No chance to save this approach, it’s a go around, add the power and suck the gear up to get back in the pattern, go downwind, and try again.
Wonder what Joe’s thinking over there? Wonder what the LSO thinks of my aviation skills? Bet he’s never seen a jet at the 180 going the wrong way…
Back with the controller again, now I’m getting proactive and asking questions. Can you adjust the radar? We were waaaay left of the boat when we broke out of the clouds.

Nope, can’t just change the settings, how about another approach? Hmmm, OK, let’s try again. I tell Joe my game plan, we will fly the approach to the right and see what happens.

That’s what we did, at about 2 miles from the Connie I made a turn to the right and held it for a handful of potatoes while the controller gave me the “Going slightly right of course, going right of course, going well right of course” litany. Rolled back on to the ship’s heading when I couldn’t stand it anymore and kept going with the “well right of course” callout coming over and over.
Got to the “three quarter mile…” call and we popped out of the clag with the Connie darn near dead ahead! Woo hoo, this is too good!
Joe is struck silent at this point, I make the ball call, on glideslope and correcting to centerline.

“Roger Ball”, comes the welcome response, followed by “Wave it off, foul deck.”
Fill in the language here for me. You can match my words but not exceed them, I’m sure. #$%^$ and @#*& apply. Full power, back into the overcast, downwind again. Joe talks to the controller. Now I’m silent.
Again the approach, again the right turn at 2 miles, again we hold well right of course all the way down.

Pop out of the clouds right where we should be. Good start, call the ball, deck is clear. “Roger Ball.”

Fly the ball all the way, keep it in the center, watch the line up, paddles has nothing to say. Bam, hit the deck, full power, wait for the deceleration, and…we accelerate down the deck and take off again as paddles tells me what I already know: “Bolter bolter bolter.”

Well, poop. The hook skipped over the 3 and 4 wires. You may match my words once again but surely cannot exceed them. Only one bolter, the LSO doesn’t need to repeat himself, I mutter.

Wonder what Joe’s thinking over there?

Again the trek downwind, again the approach, again the right turn at 2 miles, again we hold well right of course all the way down.
Pop out of the clouds right where we should be. Good start, call the ball, deck is clear. “Roger Ball.”

This time we hit the deck and are slammed against our restraints. Huzzah!

Joe has his first trap.

The wire pulls us back, the taxi director in front gives the hook up signal, I flip the living room switch to the off position and push the hook retract button. It all works. Joe folds the wings.

The deck is alive with moving planes and people, we are directed to a tie down spot in front of the bridge and shut down. Joe waits at the base of his boarding ladder for me to come get him. I guide him through the jet blasts and whirling props to a ladder that takes us below the flight deck.

Once below, we stop and take our helmets off. Joe is a sweaty mess, and so am I. He looks at me with a big grin and says, “That was amazing! Is it always like that?”

Once in a lifetime you are handed a straight line.  Joe just gave me mine.

“No, Joe,” I said. “Sometimes it gets exciting.”

Back To The Secondary Index 


Filed under Carriers, Flying, Naval Aviation, Sea Stories

16 responses to “The Switch Part 2, or Keep Right

  1. Bill Brandt

    Great story Busbob!

  2. John Blackshoe (planeguard to you!)

    Lex would be proud, and he probably liked Intruder guys more than Tomcat drivers.

  3. Jimmy J.

    How many of us have similar stories? Mine took place Sw of Sandy Eggo on the Bonnie Dick. Flew out to the ship to trap abopard in an A-1. CCA to below the clag – NO SHIP! I leveled off at 300 feet and flew around in an expanding square search mode trying to get sight of the ship. Nothing! Climb back to pattern altitude and give it another try. Oh crap, same result. By this time I have lost all confidence in the ship’s radar. I declare I’m bingoing back to NORIS. Twenty-four hours later a message comes to me at NORIS to return post haste. I return and get aboard with no trouble.

    The ship’s XO calls me in for a counseling session. He’s convinced I just wanted another day on dry land. (Where the girls and the beer resided.) I explain what happened and how, once before, I almost had to ditch because the ship was insistent that I keep making approaches. Instead of a week in hack and a letter in my jacket, I get a thorough ass chewing about how important it is to follow ship’s directives. He had done his duty. I was happy. It could have been worse.

  4. xbradtc

    Excellent! And you can never have too much Intruder!

  5. Buck

    Once in a lifetime you are handed a straight line. Joe just gave me mine.
    “No, Joe,” I said. “Sometimes it gets exciting.”

    Heh. Freakin’ excellent.

  6. Hogday

    Great stuff Busbob – Right Stuff. Salut.

  7. Thank you for the wonderful story Busbob. I echo Hogday–Right Stuff.

  8. Old AF Sarge

    Sierra Hotel!

  9. Snake Eater

    …it had its moments…well done. Best, Frank C.

  10. themavf14d

    Great story!

  11. Good one B2! Although I did note no mention of Joe using his radar to find the ship – or does the radar not work with the gear down and locked?

  12. Great Tale of the Sea Service!!

  13. Your great to read, thanks for your post. Will await the next one!!!

  14. Pingback: The Switch | The Lexicans

  15. Pingback: Index – The Rest of Neptunus Lex | The Lexicans

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