By lex, on October 18th, 2011
Was to have been a two-hop day, and during the first your humble once again led to and from the battlespace. With a shade less buffoonery than before, so that – hey, presto! – he is now a two-ship lead. Sing halleluiah!
The weather here is as perfect as possible. Winds right down the runway – the two-miles and a bit long runway – visibility unrestricted, nary a cloud in sight. The potential existence of such things as “clouds” a subject for philosophic debate. Angels on pinheads, and so on. Anti-matter. Dark matter. The Higgs boson.
We launched exactly at our appointed moment, the rejoin was unremarkable, we held on our station until it was time for us to hurl ourselves into the breach, died bravely, regenerated valiantly and very nearly got some kills there, towards the end. ‘Twas a close run thing. It didn’t hurt our case at all that there was a four-ship of Singaporean Strike Eagles, some of whom were evidently predisposed to disbelieve the possibility that they had been killed pre-merge, and who therefore rooted around in the fighter’s garden most inconsiderately. Distracting their attention, like. Kill removal would be ever so much simpler if we allowed the various sides to use Actual Missiles.
Costs would go up, however.
(Also: These our scribblings have arrested the attention of a certain TACRON lieutenant commander who shall remain un-named, but whose callsign rhymes with “Ballpark”. Who, as it turns out, spent some time in close company with a Marine captain in that selfsame unit that your humble currently supports. Who was kind enough to introduce himself to your host as having heard rumblings of these our digital scribbles. Such that our cover as an elderly contractor – to be accurate, as solely an elderly contractor – is entirely blown. It’s a damned small Navy, and the Corps is a sight smaller still. It is to sigh.)
We came back to field uneventfully, landed, debriefed and prepared for our next sortie. Scheduled, if you can believe it, to depart – and return! – after sunset. The fighters strapped themselves into their flight gear with joy in their hearts and a song on their lips, as would your scribe have done as well, were he a 30-year old Marine in an FA-18D with a WSO in the back to keep him honest, and night vision goggles fixed to his helmet in case the WSO failed. Alas, he is, and has, none of the above. And the night, it was darker than a hat full of… darker than six feet up a…
It was dark.
So there I was, pre-flighting with an actual flashlight. Strapped into the chair with the same kind of solicitous attention given by your kinder class of executioners in “The Green Mile.” There, now. This will only hurt a little. It will all be over soon.
I had my captain’s flashlight. I had a gooseneck back-up, courtesy of the kindness of strangers. I even had a “finger” light, strapped on my right index. I had my reading glasses. I was as ready as ready could be, taking all in all.
Except the pitch stab aug wouldn’t engage. And the pitch stab aug was absolutely required. Can’t launch without one.
Shut her down twice, started her three times, ran the pitch trim, checked the circuit breakers, made humble obeisance to the nightime gods. To no avail. Turned out that I would not go flying in mountainous terrain in a pitch dark night against a two-ship of angry two-seat Hornets. Equipped with actual air-to-air radars and NVDs.
I believe that I will come, in time, to live with it.
It’s a process.