Losing a wingman: the price we pay

Being a fighter pilot is not necessarily just a fun game; it is demanding, always serious, sometimes dangerous and particularly for when you deploy with hot guns and missiles – with no clothes in the ammo bins – just 30 mm canon ammunition as we did a very short time later… and went ready for war.

Gear down… or is it?

Recently my memories of earlier days were rekindled during a chat with a friend regarding wheels-up landings. It emphasised to me again, no matter how often you fly and how long you have been doing it, there is always something to learn, particularly in a demanding aircraft, as was the Gnat in an engine-out forced landing.

Control checks – not normally an airborne requirement

Sometimes the most thorough of checks and vital actions done before takeoff don’t always prevent an unwanted surprise later when the checks themselves are not developed to the full extent needed. Such was the case when shortly after takeoff in an RAAF Australian Sabre I encountered a significant control problem.

How to land an airliner with only 7 runway lights

Pilots are taught to use their initiative and to expect surprises. There was certainly a surprise in store for me one dark and stormy night a little over 35 years ago, but the use of initiative came in a most unorthodox way ― and not from the crew on the aircraft, but from a quick-acting van driver.

In the middle of a Cold War, Russians fish in the North Sea

I had previous experience in RAAF Fighter Squadrons and was familiar in the use of air-to-air missiles from tours in the Australian Sabre’s sidewinder-equipped aircraft. However, this mission was different where my aircraft was, itself, to become a “missile and see if they can shoot you down,” was the brief by the squadron Intelligence Officer.

Shifting snow and the point of no return

So I taxied to the threshold following a “Follow Me” jeep as I could not see the taxiway. Meanwhile my Flight Commander went to the tower to watch. Maybe he expected a spectacle – but as it happened he gave me good advice and by all accounts he got a spectacle too!