Posted by Lex, on August 17, 2006
The whine of the turbines spooling up was followed by the rumble of the engines as they ignited. The exhaust poured from the tail on the F-4 as the final preflight rituals were being completed. With the aircraft on internal power, the launch crew removed the huffer hose and power cable, while the plane captain proceeded though the pre-taxi checklists. The pilot and RIO finished their checks, and closed the canopy. The plane captain stepped out to the port side and with a flourish, signaled the aircraft to taxi forward, then turn. As the bird lumbered past, the plane captain came to attention and saluted.
The identical evolution occurred again, and the second plane in the sortie taxied out toward the runway. A second pair of Phantoms waited to go, aircrews seated and waiting to be connected to the equipment that would allow them to start the engines. The apparent chaos of men, equipment, and aircraft resolved itself into a kind of order and the second pair of Phantoms was preparing to taxi as the first pair took off.
The runways were several hundred feet beyond the flight line, beyond a wide grassy strip, extending out on a manmade finger of land into the bay. Even at that distance, the sound of the Phantoms taking off in afterburner overwhelmed everything. It was beyond noise, vibrating everything with an echo of the power that pushed the fighters forward. They took off hot, rotating the gear as soon as they were airborne, and climbing hard into the bright morning sky.
The second pair followed. With the flight line quiet, most of the Marines turned and watched the takeoffs, then turned back to complete their post launch tasks. The Navy aircrews showed up, and went in to Maintenance Control. The sun climbed higher, heating the flight line, driving those that could into the shade. Tom sat on the benches outside the Avionics shed, waiting for the 0900 launch. He dozed.
The activity on the line awakened him. The preflight checklists and startups went more slowly. Crews and personnel unfamiliar with one another cautiously moved through each checklist. The whine of the small turbine in the huffer finally gave way to the sound of the J-79’s taking up their song. Shortly after that, the pilot held his hand out, thumb down. The plane captain acknowledged with a swiping motion across his throat and the noise diminished as the engines died. The plane captain climbed up and pinned the ejection seats. The crews unbuckled and climbed down. The other crew followed, interrupting their checklists and canning the hop.
Tom and some of the other NCO’s migrated over toward Maintenance Control. The Navy pilot, Lt. Cmdr Myers, according to the leather tag on his flight suit, strode past them, his RIO close behind. With all the decorum and finesse of his education, training, and prior experience as an Officer in the United States Navy, Myers got right to the point.
He leaned over counter, glared at the Maintenance Chief, and roared “Who’s in charge of this goat rope?”
Editor’s Note 08-05-18 – I do not know the identity of the guest blogger, but remember somewhere in the Wayback Machine that he was a Marine Gunnery Sgt.