just an average guy on life, gadgets, politics, and my opinion…..

Navy Plane Captain, Adventures of Being a Brownshirt…Here Comes The Night….

Bring on the Night

Bring on the Night

After about 10 hours of daylight operations,  the darkness came  to the flight deck.  It makes you  think about your mortality more than ever and I was 19 years old.  The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is not all lit up so you can see well, it’s very dark and no white light is used…flashlights  are red, yellow, green, blue, depending on your function, but no light that you can see well with.

On what they call Carrier Qualifications, the West Coast Navy operates in what is called SOCAL OPS  Area.  These are the waters from Point Conception to the Mexican border and out 200 miles are heavily used by the US Navy for air, surface and sub-surface operations including training exercises and maneuvers, live fire demonstrations.  The weather here, in my experience, is overcast, misty to rainy and colder that you might think for Southern California.

So, the night time came for the USS Enterprise in the SOCAL Ops Area.  There were three launches that night for me and my aircraft, 311.  Different pilots working on their night time qualifications.  My first Pilot was Lieutenant, Junior Grade Humphrey, he had about the same amount of time in the Navy as me , it seemed  that way anyway, and we were both worried about not getting killed that night.   Some say the most deadliest job in the world is crab fishing in Alaska and the second is on the flight deck of a Aircraft Carrier.  I’d say the Carrier is the most dangerous, they just have less casualties because of the intense training and safety practices.  But it’s very dangerous…

I strapped the pilot in, hooked up all the tubes for oxygen, radio and G-Suit.  We get the word from  the Air Boss over the 5MC, start all engines for the 2010 “Go“….clear the deck of all unnecessary personnel…it’s just us now to do the job.  If you clicked on the “Go” link, you can hear the Air Boss announcement and the F14 Tomcats starting up in the background.  The announcing system is called the 5MC…the Air Boss seems to be the loudest thing on the flight deck

Got my helmet on that has hearing protection and my  goggles are down.  It starts to rain, wind is less, about 30 knots.  We are all getting wet while we start up and its now cold because of the wind and it’s biting.

My job as Plane Captain is to mirror the flight control surfaces  with arm movements as the Pilot moves them methodically to verify that all is working well before he launches. That is, checking the Ailerons, Rudder and Horizontals and other items to check that they  are tracking properly. I do just a horrible job and the Pilot is pissed…we both just blow it off…he has to get qualified for night traps and he has no choice and I’m little help and I am questioning my abilities.

LTJG Humphrey launches and recovers successfully…he’s happy with his sucess and does not bust my chops.  Thankfully, and possibly a miracle, aircraft 311 goes down for maintenance for the rest of the flight operations.  So, I’m in my aircraft near elevator 2 with the canopy down all fogged up too, aircraft  continue to launch and  is shaking my jet with every Cat Shot off the catapult…CAT One to be specific.

So, finally to the point after all this stuff.  I was so very scarred that night and  I reflected on what the hell have I got myself into.   Working in the paper mill in my home town would not get me killed.  I was so happy my aircraft was down…I was not getting my job done…and was reflecting on maybe this is not  for me.   As a 19 year old, you usually don’t have to think too hard on what you should do with your life…the flight deck will change that thought process for you…..see you on the next story……..cheers.


Navy Plane Captain, Adventures of Being a Brownshirt…

I thought I would depart from politics and reflect back and share some of my Navy adventures. My 22 years in the Navy was in two forms, 10 years as Enlisted Jet Engine Mechanic and 12 years as an Aviation Maintenance Officer. I think I’ll post an occasional story mostly for insight for friends and relatives of what I did in the Navy.

You may have seen something on TV or you have experience with US Navy Aircraft Carrier opertions, but the people working on the flight deck wear different color jerseys to signify their function on the flight deck. The visual communication is critical, since you cannot hear because of all the jet engine noise. A Sailor wearing a Brown jersey aka as a Brownshirt is a Plane Captain who is assigned a specific aircraft that you are responsible for, fueling, cleaning, moving, inspecting and sitting in it waiting for the next thing to happen during flight operations. There are Yellowshirts who are Flight Deck Directors and Blueshirts who are Aircraft Handlers…there are more, but this is good enough for this story.

So, this is not me in the picture, but this what I was doing in 1978….I was onboard the USS Enterprise with my first experience as an “at sea” Plane Captain. I had done a few months on the beach, but the whole underway deal was quite different. So, there I was with my 6 tie-down chains and two wing-locks, Nose gear pin, and Main Landing Gear locks (for A7Es) about 125lbs of stuff. I was not yet trained for flight deck operations because we did not have time. So, the experienced guys said just watch others its easy you’ll get it.

My assigned aircraft was 311. About 7 of us were forward of elevator 2 on the starboard side, in the catwalk waiting for our jet to land on the carrier, trap as the Naval Aviators say….The Air Boss announce the first aircraft inbound….Coarsir II, 311, 2 minutes out. My aircraft is the first jet to land.

The Skipper was flying 311, he trapped and taxied all the way forward on the bow at the top of Catapult #2, the furtherest you can go forward on the flight deck. I got on the flight deck immediately and with my tie down chains and wing-locks started my way forward to my aircraft.

What you first realize is that there is 40 knots (46mph) of wind coming across the flight deck. Carrying 125lbs and leaning into 40 knots of wind seemed crazy. But, you plow on. I finally get to my aircraft and the Yellowshirt is starring at me because I am overwhelmed and hesitant on what to do next. He points to the Blue Shirts and directs them tie the aircraft down. They rip the chains from me and tie the aircraft down. I install the wing-locks, main-landing gear down-lock on and the nose gear pin. All are very pissed and give me a push to make sure I understood their unhappiness with me. It’s very fast paced on the flight deck and everyone has to be good at their job.

The Air Wing is conducting Carrier Qualifications so the pilots have to have 3 day-traps before night-traps…As the day went on I learned more and got better. That was during daylight, the night time brings on a whole other dynamic….more later…

Senator Mark O Hatfield…An American Hero….

Senator Mark Hatfield, from my home state Oregon, was against the first Gulf war in Iraq. He passed away in 2011… Mark Odom Hatfield was born July 12, 1922, in the rural logging town of Dallas, Oregon, and graduated from Willamette University in Salem in 1943. He joined the Navy and served as a landing craft officer during the World War II invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He was one of the first U.S. troops to enter Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped. In the day, he told majority leader, Bob Dole that he would offer to resign as a Senator rather than support then first Iraq war. Dole said no and he would respect his decision… another honorable WW II Statesman. In my opinion, those who have seen war up close and personal, like Iwo Jima and Hiroshima, should be given great consideration for their insight. Here is a guy who saw the real horrors of war… not the HBO series…. and stood up against a war that most of us were for…at the time. The moral of the story is…those who do not know the evil and cruelty of war, are quick to make the decision to enter war…. I was mad at Mark Hatfield at the time… I have reconsidered my sentiment…

So let me explain the “average” comment….

I was an A7E Naval Aviation Plane Captain..circa…1978 it was the summer… Lemoore California, Naval Air Station…I was a Plane Captain trainee and my first solo performance was being graded…the grade was from LCDR Scotty Mitchell…”an average sailor with a below average performance…” I have always loved this comment because I was below average…just made me want to be better…..

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