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Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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Now displaying: Category: Aviation
Oct 20, 2017

From Wikipedia:

Jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis and rarely as circadian dysrhythmia, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body's circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance trans-meridian (east–west or west–east) travel. For example, someone travelling from New York to London feels as if the time were five hours earlier than local time. Jet lag was previously classified as one of the circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

The condition of jet lag may last several days before the traveller is fully adjusted to the new time zone; a recovery period of one day per time zone crossed is a suggested guideline. Jet lag is especially an issue for airline pilots, crew, and frequent travellers. Airlines have regulations aimed at combating pilot fatigue caused by jet lag.

The term "jet lag" is used because before the arrival of passenger jet aircraft, it was uncommon to travel far and fast enough to cause desynchronosis. Travel by propeller-driven aircraft, by ship or by train was slower and of more limited distance than jet flights, and thus did not contribute widely to the problem.

The symptoms of jet lag can be quite varied, depending on the amount of time zone alteration, time of day, and individual differences. Sleep disturbance occurs, with poor sleep upon arrival and/or sleep disruptions such as trouble falling asleep (when flying east), early awakening (when flying west), and trouble remaining asleep. Cognitive effects include poorer performance on mental tasks and concentration; increased fatigue, headaches, and irritability; and problems with digestion, including indigestion, changes in the frequency of defecation and consistency of faeces, and reduced interest in and enjoyment of food. The symptoms are caused by a circadian rhythm that is out of sync with the day-night cycle of the destination, as well as the possibility of internal desynchronisation. Jet lag has been measured with simple analogue scales, but a study has shown that these are relatively blunt for assessing all the problems associated with jet lag. The Liverpool Jet Lag Questionnaire was developed to measure all the symptoms of jet lag at several times of day, and this dedicated measurement tool has been used to assess jet lag in athletes.

Jet lag may require a change of three time zones or more to occur, though some individuals can be affected by as little as a single time zone or the single-hour shift to or from daylight saving time. Symptoms and consequences of jet lag can be a significant concern for athletes traveling east or west to competitions, as performance is often dependent on a combination of physical and mental characteristics that are impacted by jet lag.

Travel fatigue is general fatigue, disorientation, and headache caused by a disruption in routine, time spent in a cramped space with little chance to move around, a low-oxygen environment, and dehydration caused by dry air and limited food and drink. It does not necessarily involve the shift in circadian rhythms that cause jet lag. Travel fatigue can occur without crossing time zones, and it often disappears after a single day accompanied by a night of good quality sleep.

Jet lag is a chronobiological problem, similar to issues often induced by shift work and the circadian rhythm sleep disorders. When traveling across a number of time zones, the body clock (circadian rhythm) will be out of synchronization with the destination time, as it experiences daylight and darkness contrary to the rhythms to which it has grown accustomed. The body's natural pattern is upset, as the rhythms that dictate times for eating, sleeping, hormone regulation, body temperature variations, and other functions no longer correspond to the environment, nor to each other in some cases. To the degree that the body cannot immediately realign these rhythms, it is jet lagged.

The speed at which the body adjusts to the new schedule depends on the individual as well as the direction of travel; some people may require several days to adjust to a new time zone, while others experience little disruption.

Crossing the International Date Line does not in itself contribute to jet lag, as the guide for calculating jet lag is the number of time zones crossed, with a maximum possible time difference of plus or minus 12 hours. If the time difference between two locations is greater than 12 hours, one must subtract that number from 24. For example, the time zone UTC+14 will be at the same time of day as UTC−10, though the former is one day ahead of the latter.

Jet lag is linked only to the trans-meridian (west–east or east–west) distance travelled. A ten-hour flight between Europe and southern Africa does not cause jet lag, as the direction of travel is primarily north–south. A five-hour flight between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States may well result in jet lag.

There are two separate processes related to biological timing: circadian oscillators and homeostasis. The circadian system is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus of the brain. The other process is homeostatic sleep propensity, which is a function of the amount of time elapsed since the last adequate sleep episode.

The human body has a master clock in the SCN and also peripheral oscillators in tissues. The SCN's role is to send signals to peripheral oscillators, which synchronise them for physiological functions. The SCN responds to light information sent from the retina. It is hypothesised that peripheral oscillators respond to internal signals such as hormones, food intake, and "nervous stimuli"

The implication of independent internal clocks may explain some of the symptoms of jet lag. People who travel across several time zones can, within a few days, adapt their sleep-wake cycles with light from the environment. However, their skeletal muscles, liver, lungs and other organs will adapt at different rates.This internal biological de-synchronization is exacerbated as the body is not in sync with the environment—a "double desynchronization", which has implications for health and mood.

Oct 16, 2017

Raymond Leopold knew he wanted to be a pilot since he was a child. He took flying lessons before entering the United States Air Force Academy, and continued his lessons with the Academy Aero Club. After graduation, he went to graduate school, earning his Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering, before attending Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training.

In pilot training, he was at the top of his class. In fact, to celebrate the fact that he was the first student to solo in a jet, his classmates threw him into the swimming pool. In the process, he was injured, herniating three lumbar discs, and was medically eliminated from pilot training.

The Air Force assigned him to a position that would let him utilize his education, and he attended night classes to pursue his Doctorate in Electrical Engineering. He followed this assignment with a stint teaching at the Air Force Academy. By this time he had become a CFI, and was selected to supervise the Balloon Club at the Academy, earning his balloon ratings in the process.

Ray's career included a tour at the Pentagon, working with aviation pioneer John Boyd. After serving twenty years in the Air Force, Ray made the hard choice to pursue a civilian career. And that's where he changed the world.

Ray was hired by Motorola, and created the satellite telephone system that became known as Iridium. In this podcast, you'll hear a recap of the incredible efforts that went into launching 77 communications satellites and the system that now enables telephone calls from anywhere on the planet.

You'll also hear about how Ross Perot was willing to bankroll Ray in his attempt to lead the first team to successfully fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon.

Oct 12, 2017

Drug testing is a way of life for pilots and other transportation workers. As a pilot, you will receive pre-employment drug testing, random (no-notice) drug testing, and reasonable-cause drug testing throughout your career.

Oct 9, 2017

Gateway Select is an innovative talent pathway for those seeking to become pilots at JetBlue. This particular Gateway Program will allow an applicant, if successful, to learn with us from the beginning and become a JetBlue pilot after completing a rigorous training program.

This unique, accessible and cost effective JetBlue Pilot Gateway Program will take a more competency-based approach to becoming a professional pilot. The Program will optimize the training of prospective airline pilots by offering early exposure to multi-crew/multi-engine operations, full motion simulator training, crew resource management, and threat and error management. Once meeting all program requirements, including the FAA's 1,500 flight-hour requirement, pilots will become a new hire at JetBlue. At that time, graduates will go through the same orientation and six-week instruction that all E190 first officers complete.

Oct 7, 2017

Misidentifying airports and landing at the wrong runway has plagued pilots for generations. Typically, the two airports are within 10 miles of each other and have similar runway orientations. But the wrong runway may be significantly shorter.

From NTSB:

Without adequate preparation, robust monitoring, and cross-checking of position using all available resources, flight crews may misidentify a nearby airport that they see during the approach to their destination airport.

The risk of an accident increases because the runway at the wrong airport may not be long enough to accommodate the landing airplane, and other aircraft operating at the airport may also be unaware of potential conflicting traffic.

Air traffic controllers may not detect a wrong airport landing in time to intervene because of other workload or radar coverage limitations. Related incidents The following incidents involving air carriers landing at the wrong airport occurred within 2 months of each other:

On January 12, 2014, about 1810 local time, a Boeing 737-7H4, Southwest Airlines flight 4013, landed at the wrong airport in Branson, Missouri, in night visual meteorological conditions (VMC). The airplane was scheduled to fly from Chicago Midway International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to Branson Airport. Instead, the flight crew mistakenly landed the airplane at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, Branson, Missouri. The flight crew reported that they were flying direct to a fix for an area navigation (RNAV) approach. They advised the air traffic controller that they had the airport in sight; they were then cleared for the visual approach. Although the correct destination airport was depicted on their cockpit displays, the flight crew reported flying to the airport that they visually identified as their destination; once the airport was in sight, they did not reference their cockpit displays. The airplane stopped at the end of the 3,738-ft runway after a hard application of the brakes. (DCA14IA037)

On November 21, 2013, about 2120 local time, a Boeing 747-400LCF (Dreamlifter) landed at the wrong airport in Wichita, Kansas, in night VMC. The airplane was being operated as a cargo flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport, Jamaica, New York, to McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita, Kansas. Instead, the flight crew mistakenly landed the airplane at Colonel James Jabara Airport, Wichita, Kansas. The flight crew indicated that during their approach to the airport, they saw runway lights that they misidentified as McConnell Air Force Base. The flight was cleared for the RNAV GPS 19L approach, and the flight crew saw Jabara but misidentified it as McConnell. The flight crew then completed the flight by visual reference to the Jabara runway. Once on the ground at Jabara, the flight crew was uncertain of the airplane’s location until confirmed by the McConnell Air Force Base tower controller. The Jabara runway is 6,101 ft long, whereas McConnell runways are 12,000 ft long.

What can flight crews do?

Adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs), verify the airplane’s position relative to the destination airport, and use available cockpit instrumentation to verify that you are landing at the correct airport.

Maintain extra vigilance when identifying the destination airport at night and when landing at an airport with others in close proximity.

Be familiar with and include in your approach briefing the destination airport’s layout and relationship to other ground features; available lighting such as visual glideslope indicators, approach light systems, and runway lighting; and instrument approaches.

Use the most precise navigational aids available in conjunction with a visual approach when verifying the destination airport.

Confirm that you have correctly identified the destination airport before reporting the airport or runway is in sight.

 

Oct 2, 2017

Aviation has been a major part of Stacey Banks' family for three generations. Inspired by her uncle, an American Airlines pilot, Stacey's father became an Air Force pilot, flying F-4s in Vietnam, then flying for United Airlines. He took Stacey up on numerous civilian flights when he was delivering cargo and checks when she was a toddler. When Stacey was a teenager, she started taking flying lessons, vowing that her father would be her first passenger once she obtained her Private Pilot certificate.

Achieving that goal came under enormous pressure when her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Finally, when she earned her ticket, her father was permitted to leave the hospital to accompany her on her most memorable flight. After her father passed away, Stacey chose to remain closer to home to help her mother, and attended Metropolitan State University of Denver, majoring in Aviation. During her internship at American Airlines, she formed her goal to be a pilot for American. She worked her way up through the piloting ranks, and finally was hired by American.

During her journey, she suffered serious potentially career-ending injuries, and overcame numerous obstacles to achieve her dream.

Sep 29, 2017

Volcanic ash poses a significant risk to aviation. It can cause problems for aircraft on the ground and inflight. This podcast discusses some issues that are significant to pilots.

Sep 25, 2017

MayCay Beeler is a spirited vivacious American aviatrix, record breaking pilot, best-selling multi award-winning author, television personality, veteran TV host/producer/journalist, spokesperson, and active FAA Certified Flight Instructor with a passion for all things flying.

Born in our Nation's Capitol, MayCay grew up in the Washington metro area. After a brief stint as a cowgirl working summer jobs in Wyoming, attending Montana State University, and graduating from the University of Kentucky, MayCay found her niche on the small screen and in the big sky. Her television broadcasting career began as a co-host for the nationally syndicated TV show PM Magazine at WATE-TV, the ABC affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her flying career took flight from these same roots.

With an extensive career in television, MayCay has worked for every major network affiliate as on-camera talent in TV news and entertainment. Readers of a local newspaper voted MayCay their "Favorite TV/Radio Personality" in a Charlotte area "best of" poll. Additionally, MayCay has worked as a TV news weather anchor for the ABC and NBC-TV stations in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

MayCay's knowledge of weather comes first hand from her flying career. She is a licensed Airline Transport Pilot and FAA Certified Flight Instructor. She set world aviation records in the experimental Questair Venture aircraft. MayCay has been named FAA Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year for the southern United States. She is a member and former chapter chairman of The Kitty Hawk Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots. MayCay represents Greensboro, North Carolina's Piedmont Triad International Airport as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Airport Support Network volunteer. Additionally, she has served as an AOPA seminar instructor pilot traveling the nation for the Air Safety Foundation. MayCay is a former charter pilot and applicant in NASA's Journalist-in-Space Project. An avid proponent of learning to fly, MayCay is the creator of The Diva Flight Experience, which empowers women through aviation.

MayCay has produced numerous TV features on aviation, including her personal accounts of flying with General Chuck Yeager; and Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager of Voyager fame. Her many adventures in television include initially learning to fly for a TV assignment; competing in the Air Race Classic- an all-women's transcontinental air race; and skydiving with the Navy Seals.

 

Sep 22, 2017

FAR Part 107 describes the process of obtaining an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) certificate. Airman Certification Standards describes the process, which involves taking a written examination by computer at an authorized testing location, and there is no practical test (checkride) involved. The FAA has provided a study guide, an online course, and a sample test. For certificated pilots, the process simply involves completing the online course with an end-of-course exam.

Once you pass the test (or complete the online course for certificated pilots) you can immediately print your UAS license, and the permanent license will be mailed to you a short time later.

Getting a UAS license may be an excellent opportunity for new and aspiring pilots to gain an introduction to aviation.

Sep 18, 2017

Michael Morales had a dream to become an astronaut, and set a goal of attending the United States Air Force Academy to become an Air Force pilot. At the Academy, he discovered his eyesight would not qualify him to become an astronaut, but he was qualified to become a pilot. He attended Undergraduate Pilot Training and then became a C-17 pilot. Shortly after qualifying in the airplane, the Global War On Terrorism started and he was deployed worldwide for an extended period, away on missions 200 days a year.

After four years, he became a C-17 Instructor Pilot at Altus Air Force Base, and later transitioned to the C-130J at Ramstein Air Base. At Ramstein he became the Chief Pilot for the transition from the C-130E, working with numerous foreign military leaders. He served two tours in Afghanistan, training Afghani pilots in English and flying.

He later became a White House Fellow, serving with the Small Business Administration, and currently serves at the Air Force Office of Legislative Liaison.

Sep 15, 2017

Airport markings are full explained in Chapter 2, section 3 of the Aeronautical Information Manual. This podcast highlights the more important issues.

Sep 11, 2017

David Berke is a retired Marine Corps officer and combat veteran. As an F/A-18 pilot he deployed twice from the USS John C Stennis in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent three years as an Instructor Pilot at TOPGUN where he was dual qualified in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and served as the Training Officer, the senior staff pilot responsible for conduct of the TOPGUN course. He then served as an ANGLICO Forward Air Controller supporting the Army’s 1st Armored Division during extensive urban combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006. He was the only Marine selected to fly the F-22 Raptor having served as an exchange officer at the Air Force’s 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron as the Division Commander. He became the first operational pilot ever to fly and be qualified in the F-35B, serving as the Commanding Officer of the Marine Corps’ first F-35 squadron from 2012-2014. He earned his Master’s degree in International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with a concentration in Strategic Studies. He is now a leadership consultant at Echelon Front.

Sep 7, 2017

There is an abundance of information about airport lighting in Chapter Two of the Aeronautical Information Manual. This podcast covers some of the high points.

Aug 30, 2017

Christian “Boo” Boucousis was a fighter pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force for 10 years. He is now the CEO of Mode, an innovative property development group that is currently developing Australia’s tallest prefabricated hotel in the Perth CBD.

Boo’s story is a real world example of how fighter pilots use the skills developed during their military careers to succeed in business.

Diagnosed with a serious medical condition, Boo could no longer fly fighter aircraft and so he decided to take the plunge into business. Using the skills and knowledge he acquired in the Air Force, he co-founded a successful humanitarian support company in the Middle East growing it to over 1,500 staff. Boo then sold that business and moved back to Australia to focus on developing affordable building methods, which was the genesis of Mode.

Boo attributes his success in business to the values and discipline he learned in the Air Force – focus, efficiency, continuous improvement and simplicity. And because of this experience, Boo fundamentally believes that the simple methodology used by fighter pilots (which Afterburner calls FLEX), can accelerate the performance of any business or organization.

Aug 26, 2017

ADS-B enables increased capacity and efficiency by supporting:

  • Better ATC traffic flow management
  • Merging and spacing
  • Self-separation or station keeping
  • Enhanced visual approaches;
  • Closely spaced parallel approaches;
  • Reduced spacing on final approach;
  • Reduced aircraft separations;
  • Enhanced operations in high altitude airspace for the incremental evolution of the "free flight" concept;
  • Surface operations in lower visibility conditions;
  • Near visual meteorological conditions (VMC) capacities throughout the airspace in most weather conditions;
  • Improved air traffic control services in non-radar airspace;
  • Trajectory-based operations providing a gently ascending and descending gradient with no step-downs or holding patterns needed. This will produce optimal trajectories with each aircraft becoming one node within a system wide information management network connecting all equipped parties in the air and on the ground. With all parties equipped with NextGen equipage, benefits will include reduced gate-to-gate travel times, increased runway utilization capacity, and increased efficiency with carbon conservation.
  • Use of ADS-B and CDTI may allow decreased approach spacing at certain airports to improve capacity during reduced-visibility operations when visual approach operations would normally be terminated (e.g., ceilings less than MVA +500).
Aug 24, 2017

This episode features more great advice from our previous guests.

Aug 19, 2017

Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) is a protocol for pilots and controllers to communicate with each other via digital means. Think of it as pilots and controllers communicating via email.

The standard method of communication between an air traffic controller and a pilot is voice radio, using either VHF bands for line-of-sight communication or HF bands for long-distance communication (such as that provided by Shanwick Oceanic Control).

One of the major problems with voice radio communications used in this manner is that all pilots being handled by a particular controller are tuned to the same frequency. As the number of flights air traffic controllers must handle is steadily increasing (for instance, Shanwick handled 414,570 flights in 2007, an increase of 5% - or 22,000 flights - from 2006, the number of pilots tuned to a particular station also increases. This increases the chances that one pilot will accidentally override another, thus requiring the transmission to be repeated. In addition, each exchange between a controller and pilot requires a certain amount of time to complete; eventually, as the number of flights being controlled reaches a saturation point, the controller will not be able to handle any further aircraft.

The CPDLC application provides air-ground data communication for the ATC service. This includes a set of clearance/information/request message elements which correspond to voice phraseology employed by air traffic control procedures. The controller is provided with the capability to issue level assignments, crossing constraints, lateral deviations, route changes and clearances, speed assignments, radio frequency assignments, and various requests for information. The pilot is provided with the capability to respond to messages, to request clearances and information, to report information, and to declare/rescind an emergency.

The sequence of messages between the controller and a pilot relating to a particular transaction (for example request and receipt of a clearance) is termed a ‘dialogue’. There can be several sequences of messages in the dialogue, each of which is closed by means of appropriate messages, usually of acknowledgement or acceptance. Closure of the dialogue does not necessarily terminate the link, since there can be several dialogues between controller and pilot while an aircraft transits the air traffic service unit (ATSU) airspace.

https://youtu.be/PweVyYqleF8

 

Aug 14, 2017

In prior Ready For Takeoff podcasts our guests have shared their advice for new pilots just starting out their flying training. In this episode we've assembled a cross-section of their thoughts.

Aug 11, 2017

This information is for training and informational purposes only. Wake turbulence is generated whenever an airplane is developing lift. The heavier and slower the airplane, the greater the wake turbulence. Your key to avoiding wake turbulence is to always fly through undisturbed air.

A Bombardier CL604 Challenger suffered catastrophic damage at FL 340 from the wake of an Airbus A380 flying at FL 350. The report is very sobering.

Aug 7, 2017

Todd Curtis served as a Flight Test Engineer in the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base prior to launching the web site AirSafe.com in 1996, capitalizing on his Bachelor's Degree (Electrical Engineering), Master's Degrees (Electrical Engineering and Business) and Doctorate (Aviation Risk Asseessment). The site consistently ranks as a top three or first page result for Google searches for airline safety, fear of flying, carry-on baggage, and numerous other airline safety and security terms. The web site has also been cited frequently by major newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington post. The site and related online properties continue to provide the public with a diverse source of airline safety and security information.

He has worked at Boeing and is a frequent guest on television news shows as an aviation expert.

Aug 4, 2017

Modern jetliners have an environmental control system (ECS) that manages the flow of cabin air. Outside air enters the engines and is compressed in the forward section, prior to the combustion section, ensuring no combustion products can enter the cabin. A portion of that compressed bleed air is used to pressurize the cabin. The ECS then recirculates some of that cabin air through HEPA filters, while the rest is directed to outflow valves, ensuring there is a constant supply of fresh, clean air coming into the cabin pressurization system at all times.

It is possible for contaminants to enter the cabin through the air-supply system and through other means. Substances used in the maintenance and treatment of aircraft, including aviation engine oil, hydraulic fluid, cleaning compounds and de-icing fluids, can contaminate the ECS. While ground and flight crews, as well as passengers themselves can be sources of contaminants such as pesticides, bioeffluents, viruses, bacteria, allergens, and fungal spores.

Possible sources of poor-quality cabin air include exposures related to normal operations of the aircraft:

  • Ozone (O3)
  • Carbon dioxide (passengers exhaling CO2)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO - Jet exhaust fumes, Ambient airport air)
  • Temperature
  • Relative humidity
  • Off-gassing from interior material and cleaning agents
  • Bioeffluents
  • Personal-care products
  • Allergens
  • Infectious or inflammatory agents
  • Cabin pressure/partial pressure of oxygen
  • Alcohol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Deicing fluid.
  • Particulate Matter (Including dust which contains microbes).
  • Dry ice used to keep food cold.
  • Toilet fluid, leaked or spilled.
  • Rain repellent fluid.
  • Pyrethroid Pesticides
  • Pre-existing illness—such as anemia, asthma, COPD, and coronary arterial disease—the stresses of flight could exacerbate symptoms.
Jul 31, 2017

For twenty-four years Mark Hasara operated one of the Air Force’s oldest airplanes, the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. His career started during the Reagan Administration, carrying out Strategic Air Command's nuclear deterrent mission. Moving to Okinawa Japan in August 1990, he flew missions throughout the Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia. His first combat missions were in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As a Duty Officer in the Tanker Airlift Control Center, he planned and ran five hundred airlift and air refueling missions a month. Upon retirement from the Air Force, Mark spent seven years at Rockwell Collins in engineering, designing and developing military fixed and rotary wing aircraft cockpits. Mark became a full-time author and defense industry consultant in 2014.

Jul 28, 2017

It was 30 July, 1972. Operation Linebacker was well under way.  Typical missions north of Hanoi would have us refueling over Laos and making “right turns” to attack targets northwest of Hanoi, or refueling feet wet and making “left turns” to attack targets northeast of Hanoi. In mid-July, some genius at Seventh Air Force figured out that we could surprise the gomers by ingressing using left turns from feet wet to attack targets to the northwest: all the SAMs (surface to air missiles) would be pointing the wrong way!

We weather cancelled on the same mission for about 10 days in a row. If there had once been an element of surprise, it was gone by the time we actually executed the mission on 30 July.  To make matters worse, COMSEC on the radios was less than perfect.  While we were on the tanker, someone from one of the escort flights asked, “Are you guys planning to ingress over Kep?” So much for theelement of surprise!

I was number Four in Walnut flight, four F-4D’s from the 8th TFW at Ubon Air Base, Thailand. Jim Badger was my back seater on his first mission to Pack 6, the area around Hanoi, at that time the most heavily defended area is history. Our new squadron commander, Sid Fulgham, was Walnut One, leading his first four-ship flight.  As we entered the target area, we dodged nine SAMs, and then attacked the target and exited to the East.

When we got feet-wet, Walnut One called for a fuel check. It was then that I realized that I was in deep trouble. I checked in with less than half the fuel of the other aircraft in the flight. There was a long pause, and then lead said, “Walnut Four, say again”. As I read my fuel again, it finally hit me how bad my situation really was. We were now somewhere over the Gulf of Tonkin and a long way from our post-strike refueling track.

Walnut Three, our deputy flight lead, was a highly experienced F-4 driver, instructor and Weapons School grad who was checking out the new flight lead. He came on the radio and said, “Walnut Lead, this is Three. Request permission to take the flight”. To his great credit, Lead knew that the mission was more important than ego, and passed the lead to Three. Walnut Three, the new flight lead, sent us over to Guard frequency, and transmitted, “Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Walnut flight. We need an emergency tanker”.  Almost immediately Purple 28 responded. Walnut Three got his radial and distance from Red Crown, a TACAN located on a navy ship out in the gulf. He signaled for me to move to the lead for flying, so I wouldn’t need to jockey the throttles to stay in formation, and he assigned me a heading. He then calculated a heading for the tanker to fly to rendezvous with us. Walnut Three then told me to slow down and start ashallow descent to conserve fuel. I pulled the throttles back and started a half-nozzle descent.

At this point I was somewhere outside the airplane, about ten feet above, looking down on an F-4 being flown by someone who looked an awful lot like me. Inside the airplane, robot George wasflying.  Jim was reading the Preparation for Bailout checklist, and Robo George was answering with short, clipped responses that would have made the Apollo astronauts envious. Only I wasn’t DOING anything. I was in total negative panic. Jim read “Stow all loose objects” and I answered “Stowed”. Only later did I realize that I had left my camera strapped to my CRU-60 connector, an invitation to smash my face in during an ejection.

While robo George was flying the airplane on a steady heading and totally oblivious to everything else that was going on, Walnut Three was getting updates on Purple 28’s position relative to Red Crown and giving him headings and altitudes to fly. At one point he gave Purple 28 a 180-degree turn to our heading. Shortly after that, real George took over from robo George, looked up and saw a tanker right in front of us, doing a toboggan refueling descent. Somehow, I was in “contact” position. I opened the refueling door and had a sudden realization that a lot of people had performed extraordinary airmanship to get me to this point. What if I became more of a hamfist than usual and couldn’t refuel? As I was struggling with my sudden self-doubt, I felt a “clunk” and heard fuel rushing into my airplane. I was getting fueled! I looked down at my fuel gauges for the first time since robo George had taken over. I had 0 on the tape and 0030 on thecounter. Roughly 2-3 minutes fuel remaining at the time refueling started. While I was on the tanker I heard another F-4 bail out one mile in trail of a tanker due to lack of fuel.  We lost several aircraft that day.

After the flight, my low fuel state was chalked up to my being pretty much a hamfist, and the aircraft was released to fly again the next day. It just so happened that Jim Badger was in the back seat of that aircraft again on another Pack 6 mission. This time his pilot was Blaine Jones, one of the most experienced F-4 jocks in the wing. They came off the target with low fuel state again!  Poor Jim thought that EVERY Pack 6 mission would be like this! Finally maintenance decided to really investigate what the problem was with the airplane, and found a malfunction with the air data computer scheduling the inlet ramps improperly.

Walnut Three and Purple 28 saved my life 45 years ago. Not many pilots could have put all the pieces together to make it work out the way Walnut Three did, with no time left to spare. I know I couldn’t even today, after flying almos continuously for over 50 years.

When I look into my children’s, and my grandchildren’s eyes, I think about how this could have ended so differently. I could have been forced to bail out over shark-infested enemy waters, with death or capture equally as likely as rescue. And I owe the last 45 years to the unknown crew of Purple 28 and to J.D. Allen, the pilot of Walnut Three.

Jul 24, 2017

Brian Webb specializes in teaching church mission teams how to travel safely around the world with a biblical perspective on safety and security. In 2011 Brian was the sole recipient of the National Training Award and received the national award for Outstanding Achievement in Training from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Air Operations.

In addition to managing a covert operations program, Brian also served as the national program manager of the agency's Primary Aviation Survival School as well as Chief of the Standardization Training Branch and he continues to work as a survival instructor.

Brian was a professional pilot by trade and a former airline pilot who made his way into law enforcement.  In 2013 he retired as a pilot and Federal Agent for the Department of Homeland Security.  He is considered one of the world's leading experts in international narcotics smuggling and airborne counter terrorism operations. In this capacity he managed covert operations throughout the US and foreign countries for 20 years.

 
 
Jul 21, 2017

In the movie Pushing Tin they made it look like fun.

It probably inspired many people to think that jet blast was fairly harmless. For starters, in the movie, the actors were most likely (simulated) being tossed around by the aircraft wake, not the jet blast. 

The wind speed 200 feet behind an aircraft at takeoff power is equivalent to a Category V hurricane!

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