What?? Just missed you. I flew into RAF Akrotiri in an RAF VC-10 in 1998. There was some brouhaha with Greece and Turkey about S300s in Cyprus. I was at Operation Northern Watch at Incirlik. Our general wanted to get with the RAF about it and dragged me along. A great base! (You look to be a bit young to have enjoyed the Brandy Sours which was the O’Club’s signature drink)
Looks like he got you by the nose(cone)!
OK…the promised Sea Story…it’s not like I’ve got anything else to do…no really, I don’t
It was a dark and stormy night…actually it wasn’t stormy, but it was pretty dark…but before that, a bit of background is in order:
The Friends of the Navy Program: This has been going on for years. Evidently all a civilian needs to do is sign up with the Navy’s public affairs people and say you would like to ride a ship for a few days. I assume they do a background check and provide you with some basic info. Then they assign you a ship that is going underway for a few days. You show up and have fun. For this instance, we had a group of about ten folks, mostly just middle aged folks…and Lorenzo Lamas…no idea why.
The EA-6B RAG was sending second tour pilots down to the boat to re-qualify - carrier quals (CQ), day and night. They also sent a few NFOs including a German Navy (Marine) guy. Not much for the NFOs to do beyond get time and traps.
So there we were; it was a dark night…
We were drilling holes in the water while the Prowler guys and a few guys from our airwing did night CQ. It was sometime shortly after 2200…we had done the evening prayer and Taps; we were in darken ship. So I thought I’d wander up to the Flag Bridge (one level below the navigation bridge) and watch a few Cats and Traps before turning in.
When I got to the darkened flag bridge I saw that the ship’s PAO, who had “custody” of the Friends fo the Navy group, was there with his charges. A nice middle aged woman was sitting in the Admiral’s Chair while the rest of the folks were lining the port side windows 2 deep. I could barely make out the shadowy form of Lorenzo Lamas lurking there with them.
I hung back and saw another officer up there–a LCDR that was older than me (a CDR) so I figured a Mustang–probably from AIMD or Engineering. They had the tower/LSO circuit up on one of the speakers so you could hear as well as see what was going on.
After maybe 2-3 minutes I saw an EA-6B trap. Everything looked fine. Evidently he had brought his hook up, the wire was being retracted and he gotten the handler signal to move “out of the wires” - clear the landing area. I seem to remember hearing the engines as he “goosed” the power for a second to get him rolling–something I have heard thousands of times–completely normal.
Raising the hook is a hydraulic function. So is wheel brakes (I believe they press the W key) and nose wheel steering (NWS). Unfortunately this time there was a problem and the last of that Prowlers hydraulics power was spent picking up that tail hook…well they are very heavy, but that’s not the point. The point is no hydraulics means no wheel brakes and no NWS.
Also unfortunately, when an aircraft successfully lands, they are aligned towards one of three places on the flight deck where there is nothing to impede them from going over the side, the forward edge of the angle (For those of you playing at home, the other two places are the bow and the ramp at the stern).
Let us pause a moment to contemplate this predicament. The jet is about 100 feet from the edge of the angle. The engines ave just given it a healthy push and it is moving. It has cannot stop itself. It cannot turn aside.
Over the radio circuit we hear a shout of “No brakes! No Brakes!”
I moved to look out the windows to better see what is going on and was presented with what looked like somebody shooting off roman candles, accompanied by some surprisingly quiet popping sounds. Of course I realized that this is the ejection seats going off…but I’ve got to saw I was a bit disappointed by the whole thing. Oh sure, if you are riding one of those ejection seats it must be pretty exciting, but just watching it…even at night…it was underwhelming…just saying…but back to the story.
The three Navy officers on the flag bridge, the PAO myself and the aforementioned AMID or engineering LCDR all drop the F-Bomb, in succession, one right after another. We are Navy officers…it’s what we do.
I looked at the jet and saw it go over the edge. One moment it was at the edge. Then I saw a wing tipped up almost vertical. Then it was gone. It all happened faster that it took you to read about it. I was viscerally impressed by the force of gravity. If I hadn’t knew better I would have said “The Earth just sucked it down.” Amazing.
Alarms started going off. There was much “conversation” on the radio circuit. You could hear orders being barked in the navigation bridge above our heads. The lady in the Admiral’s chair clambered to get out it. Lorenzo Lamas looked befuddled.
The PAO looked at me and said, “You are in charge of them. I’ver got to go!” and rushed off to do plane-in-the-water PAO stuff. I turned to the LCDR and said, “You are next ranking. You are in charge of them. I’ver got to go!” and rushed off to do plane-in-the-water intel stuff (we actually have some radio stuff that can help).
As I was heading out the door, out of the corner of my eye I caught the sight of a parachute going by the windows, clearly illuminated by the flight deck lights…and thought, “You don’t see that very often.”
The rest of things played our rather well. We had the plane guard helo airborne so one guy was picked up out of the ocean pretty quick. I mentioned the parachute I saw…that guy landed back on the flight deck where he was greeted by (tackled to the nonskid) a bunch of aviation boatswain-mates…that must have fun…but he didn’t get pulled over the side by his chute so…
The third guy? Yeah, his parachute caught the port-side catwalk back by “EL Four” (Aircraft Elevator 4; aft port elevator). So there he was hanging over the side about 30 ft above the waves.
I have always imagined some sailor , working down in the hangar bay, glancing out the big EL-four doors and seeing a guy dangling out there…probably being blown around a bit by the wind… and thinking, “Well, that’s odd. I wonder if I should tell somebody.”
Enter Tilley: Wouldn’t you know it. The Navy has a piece of gear for just for the situation. It kind of looks like the work platform of a high-lift like they use to change traffic lights. Bit just the platform part ,with rails and an opening in the rails to step in. The top gets attached to Tilley’s hook.
I watched the following on the PLAT.
A sailor stepped into it and carefully hooked a little change across the “door” …like they have at amusement park rides. They picked it up with Tiley and hoisted it over the side, and down., out of sight of the PLAT. About 5 minutes later, they hoisted it back up. When it came into view, there was now an aircrewman in the platform with the petty officer.
The aviator is nonchalantly leaning against the railing as the thing is moved to the deck. Yeah…LOL…points for style.
The put the kit on the deck. The petty officer unclipped the chain. The aviator, shook his hand and stepped out…just as if he was getting off a ride at Disney Land.
…and that was pretty much it. The German aviator (I think he was the guy that took a swim) was asked if he wanted to phone his wife back in Germany but he said no, it would just wake her up for nothing. He was fine.
I saw the PAO later the next day and asked how the Friends of the Navy group had taken the whole event. He shrugged and said that he had debriefed them…“the breaks of Naval Air” , etc.… they seemed a bit stunned by on the whole OK.
I never saw Lorenzo Lamas again.
I was 23 at the time… I’m all for a minimum drinking age of 18. If you are old enough to serve your country, then you are old enough to have a beer IMHO. I had my share of brandy sours while I was there (94-97), although I was just an ‘Erk’ and therefore not allowed in the Officer’s Mess. There was a bar run by the American civilian contingent that was rankless. You supposedly had to be accompanied by a member to drink there but you could usually get adopted if you just showed up. So long as everyone behaved then there was never an issue. It was called Mom’s Place, maybe you remember it?
For some reason both of the club 150’s had lost their spinners. Not the prettiest airplanes but they were reliable workhorses.
You looked a lot younger! I was thinking 16!
What type of exfoliating facial treatment do you use?
Ahaha look at that shirt you’re wearing. Lookin’ all cool and yeah, just an easy flight mate, nothing to worry about. Sweating rivers lol.
@Hangar200, oh man, I can picture that, the aviator coolly striking a pose of ‘eh, whatevs’ in that basket thing. Hilarious.
Well, to be fair, you should never wear a shirt you really like to a first solo.
Nah, pink elephant effect. That sailor probably figured he was imagining things due to fatigue.
That would’ve gone away as soon as he heard the seven pipe blasts for man overboard over the 1MC, which would’ve been within a few seconds of seeing that. Or saw the flash of the ejections from the hangar bay (we had a Hornet suffer a ramp strike during night ops right after we left Australia, and the pilot successfully ejected and was picked up from the water).
May i ask… What’s the result of that?
I mean, what sort of procedure/training will a pilot that survive a rampstrike undergo to get re-qualified?
Well, that took place right off the Great Barrier Reef, and the Navy apparently declined to recover the wreck right away. Combine that with bags of trash that were improperly thrown overboard starting to wash up on beaches in Northern Australia, and it was a while before a carrier pulled in to port there again.
Honestly, no clue. I’m sure there was an mishap investigation, since the total cost of lost hardware was so high, and I guess some sort of human factors board, but I have no clue what else happened, or if that pilot flew again during the deployment or after. I had friends in the other legacy squadron at that time, but not in the Fists.
As with anything in the Navy, the answer is, “that depends”
In this case it would depend on the findings the mishap investigation. Everything from “not much” to “no more flying for you”.
We had a pilot who had had a “minor” ramp strike–one main mount hit a couple of feet on the ramp and severely damaged the landing gear. He got sent back to the states for re-training & re-qual at the RAG, then rejoin the deployment. He flies for FEDEX now so if your new big screen TV was damaged in shipment…just say’n
You mean…Lorenzo Lamas never saw YOU again. He should wish to be back in the presence of so many cool dudes (and gals at that time?)…
Best sea story yet Will!! That was an incredible read. Thanks so much for writing it up.
Please…write a book mate. Please.
C-2s are being replaced by 22s