June 21, 2008
F-18 Hornet Trouble
Following is from a Naval Aviator. The Dude, pictured on left with Baby Boo a few years ago at the Air Force Academy, loves jets and jet noise and wants to fly.
Charmaine is not so sure.
The Air Force crashes about 75 jets in routine training accidents apart from the war zones. The Navy budgets two jet losses per carrier per deployment.
Producing a number of widows, orphans and grieving families.
Even training is dangerous.
Our cousin Will was an F-18 pilot after graduating from Harvard.
He assures us that Naval Aviation is safe.
Except when it isn’t.
Subject: Oyster Here . . I Think We Need To Rig The Barricade [ To Catch This Thing ] !
Here’s a personal story of an F-18 pilot’s . . at o’dark thirty . . with the carrier’s barrier in place. The barricade’s an impressive 20 foot high stiff net, that can be stretched across the deck to ‘ capture ‘ birds during extreme emergencies.
” Oyster, here. This note is to share with you the exciting night I had the other month. So There I was .
. . manned up with pins pulled on the hot seat for a 2030 night launch on the Hornet about 500 miles north of Hawaii. I taxied off toward the carrier’s island where I did a 180 and got spotted on Cat number 1. They lowered my launch bar into position and the take-off routine began. On the run-up, all systems appeared to be ‘ in the green.’
After waiting the requisite 5 seconds to make sure all my flight controls were OK, I turned on the exterior lights, then shifted my eyes to the catwalk to watch the deck edge dude move his head while clearing me, left and right.
With the back of my helmet, I touched the head rest for…what was coming.
The Hornet cat shot is pretty impressive. Particularly at night. As the cat fired, I clicked in both afterburners…and I am along for the ride. But just prior to the end of the stroke there’s a huge flash with a simultaneous B-O-O-M ! …
continue reading at the jump.
This article has been circulating on the web. Credit to John Howland’s USNA-At-Large.
Be sure to read Your Business Blogger(R) getting bested by his pre-teen Diva. And no, this is not a case study for women in combat. Read The FireDrill: Practice Success to Avoid Failure,
Your (Army) Business Blogger[R] had no business in the cockpit. My instructor was a Vietnam vet with MigKlr license plates on his truck.
He said the F-14 was a “Man’s Plane.” He sounded sexist. He explained that the old-generation hydraulics required real strength — after a couple of hours, even the manliest studs needed two hands on the stick.
No place for girls.
Or so I thought.
But I was wrong, again.
I bring the Five-kid Penta-Posse to Oceana Naval Air Station to show them how macho military men (like their father) defeated Communism.
We get invited to some F-14 training. I climb in the simulator. No photography is permitted. And a good thing, too…
Alert Readers know that the F-14 is now retired.
The story continues,
My little pink body was doing 145 knots or so just 100 feet above a black Pacific.
The aircraft stabilized . . except for the airspeed, which was quickly degrading below 140 knots. I raised my gear, but the throttles would not move any further forward despite my Schwarzze-negerian efforts to force them.
From out of the ether, I hear a radio voice say . . a single word :
‘ JETTISON ! ‘
Rogered that ! And a nanosecond later, my two drop [ fuel ] tanks, plus a 4,500 pound MER were punched seabound. The airplane leapt a bit higher.
But not enough.
Now I’m about a mile in front of the boat at 160 feet and with the airspeed fluctuating from 135 to 140, when the command radio comes up with SECOND loud and clear single-word sentence .
” EJECT ! ”
But the [ thing's ] still flying, so I respond . .” NOT YET! I’ve still got it.”
Four miles in front of the boat, I take a peek at my engine instruments and notice my left engine…doesn’t match the right — big time. It’s funny, how a quick glimpse can get acid-etched ‘ into your brain. Even though I’m still doing the Ah-Nold thing on its throttle position, the left motor’s RPM reads precisely 48%. And about that time I get a repeat urgent call :
“Nope ! — it’s still flyin.’”
At 5 1/2 miles out, I asked Tower to please get the helo headed my way as I truly thought I was going to be ‘ shelling out. ‘
At some point, I thought it’d probably be a good idea to start dumping some gas. But as my hand reached down for the dump switch, I actually remembered a NATOPS PROHIBITION against dumping fuel with the after-burners blowing.
After a second or two contemplating the threat of the unnecessary fuel weight vs the possibility of blowing myself up . . I flipped the FUEL DUMP valves open.
INSTANTLY … A SIXTY FOOT ‘ ROMAN CANDLE ‘ . . trailed along . .
At seven miles, I started a tiny climb to get a little breathing room from the sea close below, as CATCC Control chimes in with a downwind heading for the landing pattern . .[With owl-like eyes] I’m like : ” Oooh . . what a good idea.” So, I throw down my tail hook.
Eventually, I get the aircraft headed downwind to the boat at 900 feet and ask for a Tech Rep. While waiting, I shut down the bad left engine.
In short order, I hear Scott ” Fuzz ” McClure’s voice. I tell him : ‘ Okay Fuzz, my gear’s up . . my left motor’s off . . I’m only able to hold altitude by using minimm afterburner. And every time I try to come out of afterburner . . I start heading down.’
I just continue trucking away downwind . . trying to stay level . . and keep dumping fuel. It seemed like I’d been in afterburner for around fifteen minutes.
At ten miles or so, I’m down to 5,000 pounds of gas and start a 180 back toward the ship. I don’t intend to land, but I just don’t want to get too far away.
Of course, as soon I as I stuck in a small amount of bank . . I start dropping like a stone. So I end up just making a shallow bank turn giving me a 5 mile radius around the boat.
Fuzz is reading me the single engine rate of climb numbers from the ‘ book ‘ and it doesn’t take us long to figure out that things aren’t adding up. One of the things I’d already learned about the F-18 Hornet is that it’s a perfectly good single engine aircraft . flies great on one motor.
So why do I now have to use the ‘ blower ‘ . . just to stay level ?
By this time, I’m talking to the Deputy CAG and CAG who’s now up on the bridge with the Captain. And we decide I need to climb to 3,000 feet, then ‘ dirty up’ with gear and flaps to see if I’m going to have the excess power required to shoot a night approach. So, I get headed downwind . went full burner and eased up into a weak climb on my 46 % RPM motor.
Eventually it makes it to 2,000 feet where I leveled out below puffy clouds that were magnificently silhouetted against half a moon which was really – really cool. Then I started a turn back toward the boat, threw the gear down, then pulled the weak engine out of ‘ blower.’
Remember that flash/boom . . that started this little tale ?[ Repeat it here ]
I jam the engine back into afterburner. And after three or four HUGE compressor stalls and the accompanying deceleration, the motor comes back on again . . at 46% RPM.
I’m thinking my blood pressure was probably up . . and for the first time, I notice that my mouth had no saliva.
At this point I’m looking at the picket ship in front of me, at about two miles, and I transmit to no one in particular, ” You need to have the picket ship hang a left right now. I think I’m gonna be outta here in a second.”
I said the words calmly but with meaning. Instantly, the picket ship pitched out of my way. Ha! That scored points with the heavies. Ha! Here I am among jocks who deadstick crippled airplanes away from orphanages and puppy stores. It’s funny how quickly the mind can multi-focus under duress.
OK, so I’m dirty and I get it back level to pass a couple miles up the boat’s star-board side. I’m still in minimum blower and my fuel state is now about 2,500 pounds.
Hmmm. I hadn’t really thought about running out of gas.
Now, I’ve got to muster up the gonads to pull that motor out of blower again — here we go!
I’m thinking that I’m gonna end up punching out and tell Fuzz at this point :
“Dude, I really don’t want to try that again.” I don’t think everyone else who was listening in got my meaning . . but he chuckled.
Eventually I discover that even the tiniest throttle movements will cause the ‘ flash/boom ‘ so I’m trying to be as smooth as I can.
I’m downwind a couple miles when CAG comes up and says, “Oyster,we are going to rig the barricade.”
Remember, CAG’s up on the bridge watching me fly around making blower donuts in the sky. He’s also thinking I might run outta fuel. And by now I’ve told everyone who’s listening that there a better than average chance that I’m going to be ejecting. And the entire time, in the darkness below, the helicopter bubbas – God bless ‘em – have been following me around.
I continue downwind and again, sounding more calm than I was, I called the LSO : ” Paddles . . you up ? ”
“Yes, go ahead ” replies ‘ Max’ Stout, one of our LSO’s. “Max, I probably know most of it, but do you want to ‘ shoot me ‘ that barricade briefing ?”
So, in about 5 seconds . . he went from expecting me to just ‘ punch out ‘ . . to my requesting a briefing for engaging the barricade . . and it was probably causing him to borderline hyperventilate. On the other hand, his response in a calm voice was awesome to hear . . just the kind of professional voice that you would want to hear.
And at nine miles I say, “If I turn now will ‘ it ‘ be up when I get there ? I DO NOT WANT TO GO AROUND ! ”
“It’s going up right now, Oyster. Go ahead and turn.”
“Turning in now. Say the final bearing to the ship.”
“Zero six three,” replies CATCC.
” OK, I’m on a four degree glide slope and I’m at 800 feet. I will intercept glide slope at about a mile and three quarters out . . then reduce power. ”
I reduced power : Flash BOOM!
Out of fear . . I ADDED power!
Oops . . going TOO HIGH!
Pull power. Flash BOOM !
Out of fear I added power once again.
Oooops . . GOING TOO HIGH !
Flashback to LSO school,
” Today’s lecture will be on your making a single- engine approach to the barricade. Just remember . the ONE PLACE YOU REALLY – REALLY DO NOT WANT TO BE IS : TOO HIGH [ then clip the barrier's top edge with your landing gear ! ]
I start to set up a faster than desired sink rate the LSO hits the wave-off night lights.” Very timely too. I stroke the AB and cross the flight deck with my right hand on the stick . . and my left poised to reach down and grab the little yellow and black ejection handle between my legs.
No worries. I cleared that sucker by at least ten feet. By the way my fuel state at the ball call was [now low] at 1.1. As I slowly climb out I punched the radio button saying . . again to no one in particular : ” I can do this.” I’m in blower still and CAG says, “Turn downwind and after you get turned around, Oyster, this is gonna be your last look [ at the boat in the dark down here so with that in your instrument reading mind ] you can make your final turn as soon as you’re comfortable.”
I flew the DAY pattern and I gave away about 200 feet in the turn. Then like a total dumb head, I come off instruments and take peek out as I get on centerline and ” that ‘ NIGHT THING ‘ about feeling that I’M TOO HIGH ! . . grabbed me by the throat. So in error, I pushed down toward the water, close below.
I got kinda irked at myself then as I realized I would now be intercepting the four degree glide slope in the middle .. with a flash-boom every several seconds all the way down. Last look at my gas was 600-and-some pounds [about 100 gallons] at a mile and a half.
” Where am I on the glide slope, Max ?” I ask. I know I’m low because my ILS needle is . . way up there. I can’t remember what his response was, but by now my instrument’s ball shooting up from the depths.
I start flying it but before I get a chance to spot the deck I hear: ” Cut, cut, CUT !” I’m really glad I was a ‘ Paddles’ for so long because my mind said to me : ” Do what he says Oyster ! ” And I pulled it back to idle.
My hook hit 11 paces from the ramp. I hit the deck, skipped the one, the two and snagged the three wire and rolled into the barricade just 13 inches right of centerline.
Once stopped, my vocal cords involuntarily shouted, ” VIC-TORY ! ” The deck lights came on bright . . and off to my right there must have been a . . ga-zillion cranials and eyes watching.
You could hear a huge cheer across the flight deck. After I open the canopy and the first guy I see is our huge Flight Deck Chief named Richards. And he gives me the coolest personal look . . and then two thumbs up.
I will remember all of that forever.
P.S. You’re probably wondering what gave motors problems. When they taxied that last Hornet over the catapult .. they forgot to remove a section or two of the rubber cat seal. When the catapult shuttle came back to hook me up, it removed the catapult’s rubber seal which was then inhaled by both motors during my cat stroke.
Left engine basically quit even though the motor is in pretty good shape. But it was producing no thrust and during the wave-off one of the LSO’s saw “about thirty feet” of black rubber hanging off the left side of the airplane.
The right motor . . the one that kept running . . had 340 major hits to all engine stages. The compressor section is trashed . . and best of all . it had two pieces of the cat seal [ one 2 feet and the other about 4 feet long ] sticking out of the first stage and into the air intake. God Bless General Electric !
By the way, maintenance data showed that I was not fat on fuel — I had 380 pounds [ 61 gallons ] of gas when I shut down.
Again, remember this particular number as in ten years of story tellin’ when it will surely be . . ‘ FUMES MAN . . FUMES . . I TELL YOU ‘ !
Not every emergency has this happy ending. Even if that uniformed hero is not overseas, he’s still making a sacrifice and is closer to death than we comfortable civilians.