posted on Sep, 4 2019 @ 04:08 PM
First off apologies as there isn't a video but it's a funny story and it didn't warrant me making a new thread. I read this from fightersweep.com and
it's told by a F-14 pilot. Forgive me for not using ATS etiquette I'm just going to copy and paste the story
THERE I WAS…I AM THE AURORA, HEAR ME ROAR
One of my favorite guys to fly with was “Lucky” Loy. He should have gotten the call sign “Odie,” after the tongue-wagging, impossibly cheerful
bounding puppy in the Garfield comics. But he walked into our Ready Room for the first time just moments after one of the most horrific mishaps in our
squadron’s history, so happy to be there, smiling from ear to ear. “Hey everybody! I’m the new guy!” The Duty Officer shoved one of the many
ringing phones in his hand and said, “Hey Lucky, just take down a number and hang up.”
Lucky was so great to fly with for a couple reasons. One, despite his goofy-happy demeanor, he was smart as #. Crazy smart, Carnegie Mellon engineer,
might have been a cyborg smart. Secondly, he was an injection of enthusiasm at the right time for a seriously salty second-tour LT like myself.
I wasn’t jaded, I always appreciated every moment in the saddle of these magnificent jets. I did, however, have a couple cruises and a few hundred
traps and was just starting to bitch about stupid stuff, like the damn scratches on the canopy glass, or when people didn’t erase the ink from the
white boards in the debrief rooms.
Flying with Lucky was like seeing everything through his eyes, mostly because he never shut his mouth. It was a constant, stream of consciousness
non-stop monologue of accidental hilarity from the back seat. No thought was too unimportant to escape his lips. And I loved it. He was saying what I
felt when I zipped between mountain peaks or ricocheted 20mm rounds off tank hulks on the Fallon range.
As my RIO, Lucky had the dubious honor to accompany me out to “The Rock,” San Clemente Island, for my stints as the squadron LSO. The Rock was,
and is, the most amazing night carrier landing simulator in the world. As we used to say, it’s more real than the real thing. It’s a long, skinny
island that sits about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, just south of its more famous twin, Catalina Island. The southern 90% of the island
contains target ranges and secret SEAL stuff. Parked at the very tip of the island there’s an airport. Well, during the day it’s an airport.
Then night falls, and the wind picks up, and the standard marine layer rolls in blanketing the sky at 800′ all the way to La Jolla, and The Rock
becomes a carrier deck without a ship. The end of the runway, where Lucky and I sat grading the jets all night long, sits atop a cliff wall 184′
high, which the constant whipping wind tries its best to suck approaching planes into. The frigid, choppy seas are patrolled by great whites. The
absence of light beneath the clouds is so absolute that it’s difficult to tell when you’re blinking. And waiting for you at the end of the
terrifying approach is a cranky, shivering LSO in an unheated shack grading your every movement.
The only solace for the LSOs was leaving. And we did that in style. I don’t know who coined it, but we all called it the Star of David departure. We
would take off into the western winds at full blower, just barely lift off and hug the runway in a speed gathering low transition, accelerate just
past the runway still level with the unseen waves for a few more seconds, and then blaze into the sky in a giant, arcing, majestic Immelman rolling
out at 16,000′ pointing straight east at Miramar.
You would keep the blowers in, accelerating to 1.5ish until you got 40-50 miles from shore, then you would slow down so you wouldn’t make the
papers. If there were other squadron’s LSO taking off before you it was an amazing sight. The Tomcat in low transition would disappear behind the
far crown of the runway; then a moment later it would reappear, streaking up into the sky and you could track the twin plumes like a comet heading
home. It was impossible not to stare at it and smile until the burner cans twinkled out.
On this night Lucky and I were the only two in the shack. Due to our squadron’s mechanical issues, the schedule had bled into the very late night
and I was anxious to get home before Miramar closed at midnight sharp. They were very strict, and the last thing I wanted was to spend the night at
NAS North Island, tantalizingly just down the road from home and hearth. So I sent my last guy, Truck, back at 23:30. Lucky and I jumped into the
dilapidated van and I drove like mad to the awaiting jet.
The Misfit Toys that were sent to San Clemente to service the planes had just barely managed to hook up air and electrical as we screeched to a stop
and ran up. We put our gear on and I sent Lucky into his seat while I quickly briefed the plane captain. I jumped up, started the right motor as I
strapped in and looked at my watch. 23:40; right on timeline.
I spun up the left motor while I pushed on the handle to lower the canopy. And pushed, and pushed even more emphatically. Nothing. DAMNIT! I made some
frantic hand motions to the plane captain that we needed a shot of nitrogen to power the *@$#ing canopy, but it was all Chinese to him. So I pressed
the intercom button, “Lucky, we need some nitrogen for the canopy. I’ve got an engine started. Can you go down and help them fill it up?”
Unfortunately, at that point Lucky was so new he didn’t even know we used nitrogen for the canopy, so that was out. So of course, I unstrapped,
double checked that the parking brake was engaged and climbed down the ladder, with the right engine still running. On the ground I had the guys get
rid of the huffer and pointed emphatically at the nite-cart.
A couple of them shuffled over and rolled it back. I looked at my watch (tick, tick, tick), then the nitrogen attachment, and then into the
nose-wheel-well, where I was fairly certain there was a Schrader valve of some sort. A couple minutes later I was turning valves wildly on the
nite-cart and hearing a satisfying hiss.
I scooted out and motioned Lucky to test the canopy lever and sure enough, it moved. I whooped and gestured the guys to move the cart as I scrambled
up into the cockpit, lowered the canopy and crossbled-started the left engine right there on the ramp. We had about ten minutes to spare as I taxied
out and spread the wings doing about 60 knots on the taxiway. Lucky called for takeoff as I made the U-turn to take the runway facing west, away from
home, and we were off. Star of David.
As always, it was a glorious ride, and this time I had my own play-by-play announcer in the back seat. We hit 16,000′ heading east and I let the
Tomcat accelerate for all she could. We were blasting through a solid 1.4 and I was staring at the beautiful string of lights of the southern
California coast when Lucky informed me that we needed to slow down. I pulled out of blower and we hung in the straps, feeling like we had driven a
car into quicksand, as the draggy F-14 rapidly shed its speed to a more pedestrian .95 Mach. I glanced at my watch as we crossed the shore a couple
minutes later, 23:55. We might just make it.