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The Flagship Phantom

The backbone of ARN-101 was an integrated LORAN system. This was a big upgrade in navigation accuracy and also brought much better conventional weapons delivery capabilities. Not as good as what the F-16 had, but a big improvement over earlier Phantoms using Dive Toss.

What Christmas was like far away from family

We saw some fires and secondary explosions, pretty much ensuring we had found and destroyed some supplies.  Those supplies were probably ammo that wouldn’t get further down the trail for use against our troops on Christmas Day.  Arriving at Ubon on Christmas morning, we had some plans for as much celebration as you can have while away from family and home.

Flying the night shift: a Memorial Day remembrance

Flying night combat is an acquired taste. The upside is you see virtually every time a gun or SAM engages, and know they are working on you or not. That is an upside, since during the day the tracers and flashes on the ground are not so obvious. The real downside is at night mountains and karst hide in the dark and behind the Asian clouds and thunderstorms.

Tales from the doc side

Susan Northrup is an Air Force vet and now works for the FAA at the national level. In a sidebar conversation I asked what her favorite experience was. She quickly replied, “my first fighter squadron, at Moody AFB, and going with the unit to Desert Storm.” For some reason that triggered my memories of flight surgeons I’d been stationed with, and the variety of personalities and circumstances.

One in a million: a chance aerial encounter in Laos

Cupcake checked in with his play time and ordnance. Lots of play time, but he had a time to be in the cue for landing on his carrier, and plenty of ordinance. Strangely, even in the static of UHF radios, I recognized Cupcake’s voice. I asked Jim if I could give him the brief, he OKed it, so I got on the mic and provided target type and coordinate, safe area for bail out, preferred run-in heading and threats observed. Then I paused, and said, “You ever live on Debolt Street?”

It wasn’t a fly-by

The day came for the Change of Command. The reviewing stands were close to the flight line, distinguished guests were greeted and escorted to their reserved positions at the review area. Suddenly there was noise in the flight line area. Quiet hours were in force for 30 minutes before the ceremony until 30 minutes past. What the heck?

Now do it backwards

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.

It was a dark and stormy night…

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.

All’s well that ends well… right?

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.

Battling G forces at Holloman Air Force Base

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.

Fighting the war on drugs in the Air Force

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.

Delivering F-4s to Iran

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.”

Putting on a good show in Chile with F-15s

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.

Washington fly-by: just another day on the staff

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.

Silent night at the air base

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.

An SR-71 Blackbird goes AOG – now what?

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.

Two aviators find closure after 40 years

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.