By lex, on August 14th, 2008
There are a thousand memories and associations evoked for a generation of fighter pilots and bogey drivers from a glance at this YouTube video.
Fallon, Nevada in the springtime, last night’s revels fading in memory. The brief complete, boots on concrete 45 minutes prior to wheels up, harnesses tight, D-rings clinking, the knowledge that no man alive had a better job balanced by the very real awareness that professional glory – always a transient thing – or a more persistent ignominy was on the other side of your life’s next hour and a half.
Huffers moaning in morning, the smell of JP-5 kicked out of a J-52P8A engine sported by an A-4F Super Fox – an unbridled joy to straddle, or sore trial at your six or even in anything like a fair fight. Stripped down to bare metal and in the sure hands of a man who knew his business, the Super Scooter was God’s Own Jet, and part of the reason a generation of Tomcat crews grew up believing that “speed is life,” and Hornet drivers learned to pick their fights carefully, to engage with advantage.
Four g’s, ninety-right, go. Weapons checks and TACTS range check-in. Resume. Navigating by mountain range: The Stillwaters, Clan Alpine, Desatoyas, Shoshone and Toiyabe ranges. Fairview Peak, where no few good men came to an end. The airfield at Gabbs.
Fight’s on, tape’s on, push ‘em up, deploy. Fighter radars glittering through the sky like invisible electronic swords, searching, probing. Short, terse radio communications on the UHF. Grim-faced bandits capping low in the valleys, hiding, patiently waiting. Now.
Tally-ho, left eleven o’clock low – Shoot-shoot, A-4! One’s engaged, offensive. Break right! Bandit your right four, low! Chaff, flares. The mad swirl, mountains and desert floor exchanging places with cloud-torn skies and bright sunlight. Pipper’s on – tracking. Tracking.
Knock-it-off, fighters are RTB, switching Desert. See you on deck.
What a life.