Those familiar with the song and dance teams of the 1940s and 50s are familiar with the comment. Fred Astaire was a master dancer and his partner, Ginger Rogers, did the same routines backwards and in high heels. Well, no high heels here, but an aviation story where doing it backwards was part of the event.
A Phantom C, known as a “Chuck,” took off and had a hard-over rudder. That is a really big emergency in a Phantom. It not only poses a controllability program across the flight regime, but also has some complications in terms of interface with the other flight controls and the nose gear steering. Implications include a very fast approach speed for controllability and the need to engage an arresting gear.
My plan was to do a normal overhead, pitch out and roll out on final to set up a landing attitude for the north runway, going through the fog, which was 50-60 feet thick. Roll out was routine until about 2000 feet remaining, then suddenly two gray shapes appeared ahead, just offset on either side of the centerline.
There is another Air Force base not having the notoriety of Elgin or Nellis – Holloman AFB, in the southeastern corner of New Mexico. Along the way, it has served as weapons development establishment – about ninety miles south of the Trinity site where the first atom bomb was detonated, a test base for early versions of ballistic missiles, training for Air Force and Allied aircrews, a stateside station for German Air Force units, and an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle.
The CT-39 played a useful role for years in the Air Force; it provided a good capability to transport senior officers quickly and cheaply and a platform to season young pilots, preparing them for bigger and better future assignments.
My first Counter Drug (aka CD) operation involved deploying F-15s to Howard AFB in Panama. Under the auspices of the USAF’s 12th Air Force, we took four F-15Bs down south to provide augmented air surveillance in the Caribbean as part of the grand plan to interdict drug running out of Colombia up in to Mexico and points north.
Delivery crews for Phantoms going to overseas locations were drawn from USAF Phantom units, and I was one of those on several deliveries, including one to the German Air Force, one to our unit in Soesterburg, Netherlands, and one to the Imperial Iranian Air Force. It was the delivery to Iran that, as Ollie North says, is “a story that deserves to be told.”
In 1990, I was privileged to take a team of U. S. Air Force jets and airmen to The International Space Fair, aka, FIDAE, the largest air show and exhibition held in Latin America. It was also the first time an official contingent of American military visited Chile since the Pinochet affair of the 1970s. We had three F-15s, a KC-10 and a B-52 for display and flight demonstrations.
Occasionally there are some events earning support of multiple formations for the flyover. Election years are one of those times. My own experience was in 1993 when multi-service participation was in order for the military salute to President George Herbert Walker Bush and the pre-inauguration celebration for the incoming Clinton administration.
I can think of a few times where I was on a quiet, I mean really quiet flight line. Once was when I was the commander of an F-4 squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. In the mid-eighties Seymour was a busy operation – nearly one hundred Phantoms and a squadron of KC-135s were bedded down there.
The Blackbird moved on to the active, lined up, stroked the burners on those two Pratt & Whitney J-58s and started a slow, but steady acceleration down runway center. But, now the “Aw, Sh*t!” The Blackbird veered sharply and quickly to the right side of the runway. Everyone in the tower sat up straight, and then the bird departed the runway and came to an abrupt, ugly stop.
One man stood up, expressing a need to address Col Goodson. He was a smallish, well-dressed older gentleman, accompanied by a lady in a long mink coat. He was recognized by the moderator, and stood to attention and stated his name, rank and serial number. He followed in a very assertive tone, “Colonel Goodson, I have one thing I’ve wanted to say to you since 1944.” There was a pause – a very silent one.