HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Aviation Brief XX: Quick Change #2

The new CO of the squadron, Tim Dineen, a good stick and a good guy, flew an A-4 plane with a high time engine which should have been in overhaul. Engines were required to be reworked every certain numbers of hours. A ten-percent flex was built-in just in case a plane was on a cross-country when the maximum threshold had been reached. Col. Dineen flew a plane well past the flex hours, and then ran out of luck when the over-the-maximum-threshold engine quit, he had to eject, and then was ejected from his command.
They held the Change of Command ceremony the next morning in the Group CO’s office, without a marching band or printed programs, presided over by the frown of the Group Commander, and with the outgoing CO conspicuously absent.

I am so thankful that Col. Tim Dineen ejected safely when his luck ran out. And it reminds me that there are reasons for rules on maintenance.

There are also certain rules for maintenance of a marriage. Some of them remind me of the fighter pilot rules of life. One of the jobs of the fighter pilot in air combat maneuvers is to learn the techniques for neutral, defensive and offensive starts--when no plane starts with an advantage, or when the bogey or the ‘good guy’ starts with an advantage.

Marriage shouldn’t be about offense or defense--except when we defend our spouse against all enemies foreign and domestic. Marriage is about establishing common ground--neutral starts. What do we have in common? How can we get where we want to be? Who is that person I’m flying through life with and how can I help him/her be the best they can be? We need to help each other watch out for bogeys and avoid clouds full of rocks.

May all our marriages make it home without ejections, without changes of command.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Aviator Brief XX: Quick Change #1

One A-4 squadron must hold the record for the most Changes of Command in the shortest period of time--three in six months. Generally, a CO’s tenure lasted from a year to two years. Getting fired short of a year required fucking up enough that the Group CO announced he had ‘lost confidence in the ability of the squadron CO to lead.’ Some men spoke seriously of falling on their swords when faced with such a scenario. They’d rather be dead than look bad.

The first hapless CO flew into Lemoore NAS. Wanting to show the Navy that the Marines had the right stuff, he brought his flight of four overhead in a flashy, yet frowned upon, fan break-where all the planes rolled together toward the runway. Unfortunately, in concentrating on looking good, the CO neglected to deploy his landing gear before touching the aircraft down on the runway. The plane ground to a halt in a shower of sparks and crunched plane parts.

A Change of Command Ceremony was hastily arranged with a band and printed programs.

The First Fighter Pilot Rule For Life: Keep your S/A--Situational Awareness.

I need to know who I am. It is also important to know where I am and know where I am in relation to others and other things around us. This CO didn’t keep his mind focused on his immediate now. The future is created from the now of my life. If I do all I can now to be awake to this moment then my future might unfold as I envision.

I say might because, well with the best of intentions, shit happens. But if I am here and now, I can also abort a foolish, doomed landing and live to fly another day.

Are you here? Have you tried to land unprepared?