Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
BEagle. I'm with you. The Iron Lady was (still is) a bitch. It works, but it's never pretty. Even once you're in (so to speak) there's so much that can go wrong.
Your point about the fuel flowing much faster than a UK tanker is spot on. We used to have to ask them to turn off one of the fuel pumps to prevent the 135 from rupturing the F3 fuel tanks; air couldn't get out fast enough.
Ish, I don't know about the RHAG but I remember seeing brake chutes being dragged around the circuit a couple of times. Got sent to Kinshaldy beach to collect one once. They weren't good for much after the reheat had done with them.
There was a LU jet engaged the approach end RHAG and dragged it out of the ground and sped down the runway with the cables spinning around the tail and cutting it off. Ended up ner the end with the tail on the ground and the engines dangling down.
The airframe sat in a hanger till an airframe was found that had suffered severe front end damage and a cut and shut job united the front of the first with the rear of the second and it returned to service.
I found it all a bit pedestrian, then we got around to "show me your aero sequence"... "I haven't got one, but I'll string a few together". LL demo's a slow roll, half way round during the push hard bit, an almighty bang and lots of lights forward of my right knee. "You have control" from LL.
The indications suggest some sort of bleed problem. RTB in progress.
LL "you do the approach and landing, its easier from the front" Moi "You're sure about this?" LL "Yup"
Landed, parked, groundcrew looked puzzled. Right LE flap had become unhinged and was stuck between the wing and fletcher.
LL "Don't worry, this doesn't happen all the time.
During the inevitable debriefing I was asked to comment on a/c handing during the approach in this configuration, I had to say, based on a very small sample of approaches that it seemed perfectly normal!
Nothing matters very much, most things don't matter at all.
Well, there's an adaptor on the boom with a drogue on the end", is the sum total of the brief...
Back in the 70s I refuelled off a KC135 only once Beags but my briefing wasn't as comprehensive as yours; I was just told to got to the towline & do it. On lining up with the mini-hose there didn't seem to be much to use as a visual reference, but even so I was a bit miffed to miss on the first couple of stabs, particularly as my backseat colleague was sniggering a bit.
I then noticed that someone was waving at me through the tanker's back window; subsequent R/T conversation was roughly:
Self..." What is the guy at the back of your aircraft doing?"
KC135..." That, sir, is the boom operator and he is trying to help you make contact".
Self..."Could you please aks him to stop".
Thereafter the boom/hose/drogue assembly stopped its ducking & diving routine and all went well. My looker even stopped sniggering!
In the late 80s I was on a practice parade at RAF Leuchars which was taking place outside the old Ark Royal hangar, about 100 yards from runway 09 piano keys. Whilst the SWO and parade commander were having a discussion with the standard party I was watching an OCU F4 doing a sporty overshoot. Except the overshoot didn't quite happen. The jet (charlie fit) touched down on the wing tanks which ignited the gas left in them; both nozzles and the starboard stabilator scraped the runway as the jet staggered airborne, now in full blower with one tank bent up over the leading edge. Five flaming streams set fire to the airfield grass. After dropping the gear, flaps and hook the jet engaged the cable on runway 22 (short runway with PUAG - similar to landing on a carrier). For some people a good landing is one you can walk away from. Excellent example from the qwi(p) I thought.
I've never had to eject - came close a couple of times - and the general consensus amongst the C Flight junta was that when it came to yellow and black time, it would be better to be faced with a snap decision with all the captions on, donks not working and controls ditto, rather than having to do a premeditated ejection. A bit like ripping off a plaster rather than removing it slowly, leg hair by leg hair.
So, as you can imagine, the prospect of jumping out and parking a perfectly serviceable F-4 in the warm blue waters off Stanley in the dark wasn't that appealing. The sequence of events that put us in this unpleasant predicament reads a bit like one of those "I learnt about flying from that" articles, except there was no one really to blame, just plain old bad luck.
As for night flying (sooner be in the bar), just like a seagull, you had to throw rocks to get me airborne in the dark. Rocks duly thrown, the Oreillyman and I got airborne for a fairly standard 1v1 night PIs trip against the Shetland Pilot and Big Al, accompanied by a Fat Albert tanker. Night tanking stats duly gathered, the Albert crew headed for home, leaving us to do our last few splits before heading down the slope ourselves. As things turned out we were slightly fatter for fuel than the other F-4 so, as per SOPs, they landed first.
Now, to this day, I don't know how the Shetland Pilot managed it, but his aircraft ended up tangled with the cable on rwy 27 (the strip at Stanley, for those not familiar with it, was short and made of slippery metal planking so we always took the approach end wire) and so we were told to hold off. So far, so undramatic, but after five minutes the runway was still black, and then another five became another ten, and to make matters worse the weather started doing the usual Falklands blue TAFing yellow routine. In daylight there'd have been no problem, we'd have diverted to Mount Pleasant, but in those days it wasn't open at night and to prevent the Argies paying an uninvited nocturnal visit, the runway was always covered with parked vehicles. So to resume our predicament: runway black, low fuel caption on, no scope for getting the Albert airborne again to keep us topped up, nearest div in Chile. Bugger!
The fuel situation began to get critical - the F-4 uses about 700 lbs to do a visual circuit - and we were now down to about 1,000 lbs and orbiting at 600 ft just to stay in sight of the ground. We'd already declared an emergency (PAN at this stage I think) and had requested an approach into the downwind wire, but air traffic kept saying no, vehicles etc on the runway, keep orbiting. Upgrading to a mayday didn't seem to impress them either, so with about 800lbs remaining I decided that given the choice between a warm, comfy cockpit and ejecting into a rough sea at night, we'd have to chance our arm. With the tower controller yelling at us to go around and treating us to a firework display of red flares, we took the 09 approach end wire with about 500 lbs indicated - just enough to bolt if we'd missed the cable.
The first pint in the coastel bar didn't touch the sides that night.
Last edited by Ali Qadoo; 13th Aug 2012 at 16:55.
Reason: Typos, speeling, grammer (sic)
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Nowadays, unless someone manages to black the RW intersection, the fast jets at least have some diversion capability. Whereas when only the strip at Stanley was available....
Yes, there was a perceived operational imperative back then. But when there was a serviceable tanker available and airborne, why was it planned to land first? Surely it could have stayed up with fuel available for AAR until the F-4s were safely on deck?
I hope you gave the ATCO a good debriefing once the first couple of ales had done their thing?
Flippin' right. I'm normally a fairly easy-going chap, but after I'd signed in I was still fizzing with so much adrenalin that OC 23 had to order me not to go anywhere near ATC on the grounds that my committing acts of violence on the controller would cause him (OC 23 that is) too much paperwork. Instead, he phoned the SATCO who readily agreed that the controller was in for a "your hat, my office" conversation. After a couple of beers I'd stopped shaking and I don't recall the matter ever being mentioned again.
In hindsight, I think BEagle has a valid point that keeping the tanker airborne until the last F-4 was down would've made more sense, particularly at night with MPA unavailable. At the time, we didn't really think about it and it was a generally accepted way of operating, as JTO and Courtney rightly point out. I'd be interested to know how the RN handled the risk of a foul deck (apologies to our dark blue chums if that's not the right term) during night ops in the middle of the oggin. And while we're on the topic, huge respect to anyone who operated an F-4 from a carrier - hats off to you, gentlemen.