By lex, on March 12th, 2006
I’m feeling vaguely dyspeptic and out of sorts in this blogging thing, for all that I had a wonderful bike ride this afternoon up the coast. Carmel Valley to Del Mar, and up that miserable hill. Then down again, through Solana Beach, which soon gave way to Cardiff and then finally Encinitas. At Swami’s in Encinitas I turned around and came back the way I’d gone, to the tune of 23-odd miles or so of a very pleasant day.
So to put it all away and just write something, I thought it’d be fun to share a mini-sea story with you.
Now, I may have mentioned somewhere along the way that a pilot signals his readiness for a night catapult shot by turning on his external lights, usually by means of a pinkie switch outboard on the throttle(s), an “exterior lights master switch.”
It’s important that the switch be located there, since he’ll want to brace the throttle up against the full power stops on the cat shot – the natural tendency would be for the inertia to roll the throttle back to idle as the cat fired otherwise, which would be in so very many ways a lamentable thing to have happen, once flung into the thin insubstantial air.
Which, it must scarcely need be said, is even thinner and more insubstantial at night.
Now, having done all that is necessary to link the jet to the catapult, roger the weight board, finish the take-off checklist and run the engines up to military or even combat-rated power (afterburner), there will still be a number of fairly consequential cockpit tasks to accomplish before actuating the external light switch, signalling that willingness to leave the cold comfort of the carrier deck for the aviator’s natural element. These take only a moment or two to complete, but sometimes that moment or two is just too much to an anxious catapult officer or deck-edge operator.
At least it must be so, since I had the opportunity one dark and storm-tossed night (they are all dark and storm-tossed in the gladitorial halls of aviator memory) to hear this exchange between the S-3 crew but an instant before launched off Catapult 1 into the murk, and the Air Boss, up in his tower:
“Viking off Cat 1, turn your lights on please!”
“Wilco Boss, I’ll turn them on just as soon as I’m ready to go flying.”
Which I’d have loved to have the presence of mind to say something like that, if it had ever happened to me.