The runway for jets at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma ran parallel to the runway for prop planes. The area offshore for air maneuvers was almost perpendicular to both. Snatch took off and his wingman followed shortly thereafter. The lieutenant in the second jet had been told to join up as quickly as possible. Lieutenants want to please the senior officers and don’t always engage their brains before trying to do so. So he took an early right turn, gear up, immediately after takeoff--right in front of a C-117 holding short, ready to take off in the other direction. An F-4 in take-off afterburner is loud and violently vibrates anything it passes close to--rattling the plane on the ground and probably soiling the C-117’s pilots’ underwear.
Someone complained. Someone always complained. They called the squadron--because the VW on the F-4--the designated tail design for the Black Knight squadron--had been front and center in the windscreens of the startled prop guys. The XO, Hanley, got the call. Remember, deflecting flack away from the CO remained his main job . He stomped into the Ops office and demanded to know who was in the air.
“Why, Snatch is.” The Ops Officer didn’t mention the lieutenant.
After their ACM over the water, fuel low, the birds returned. The XO met Snatch’s plane on the flightline even before the engines had been shut down. Rumplestiltskin had nothing on Hanley for getting purplish-red in the face and hopping up and down and stamping his foot. “You’re grounded! You’re grounded for weeks!” The veins on his neck looked ready to explode.
Snatch had no idea why or what had the XO fuming. He’d taken off first and had been miles away when the lieutenant spooked the props. But he knew better than to argue. He let the bulldog chew on his ear and snarl and snap on the way back to the ready room.
Hanley grabbed the Ops O and stabbed a forefinger at his face. “Snatch is off flying for the next three weeks! Maybe longer!”
The Ops O blanched. “If Snatch doesn’t fly, we don’t have enough pilots to fly the hops to get the required hours.”
“Oh.” The XO paused, regrouped, and retreated. “Snatch, you’re back on the schedule.”
A wife or girlfriend had many reasons to complain: a move to Twentynine Palms, a yearlong unaccompanied tour while left at home pregnant, too much time having to deal with life’s uncertain turns while a husband flew off and away.
We all knew those who complained by taking off high and to the right: screaming, shouting, stomping around. Don’t know how it worked in others’ households, but my guy would not give me a good mad back. He’d just wait me out and and do what he was going to do anyway.
Pilots need to stay cool under pressure--but not with ME! I wanted my guy to have a face curtain so I could command eject both of us to rocket him out of his cool and controlled flight.
Crazy accomplished nothing and all too often left me on the tarmac looking like an idiot. I’ve learned not to be a Rumplestiltskin. I too can be a cool calm and collected pilot of my life. Most of the time.