I’ve told my war story to everyone down here at least a half dozen times, so guess I might as well bend your ear for awhile 0 My nerves are still a little shaky, and I have a tendency to cry out in my sleep a lot but with the help of a bunch of Coors I seem to be recovering nicely.
Here is pretty much the way it looked from the left seat. Everything was going great up until the time I pulled it out of burner on take—off. Then we heard and felt a bang and a shudder which the IP took to be a compressor stall Not, being all that sharp on what compressor stalls feel like, I immediately looked inside to see if anything was wrong and just happened to notice the fire warning lite staring back with its beady red eve. Figuring the IP should know about it (clever lad), I remarked casually – “OH SH--!! WE ARE ON FIRE!” Rumor has it that I could be heard quite easily on the ground without using a radio, but you know how rumors are.
He, being every bit as cool and calm as me, decided the best way to verify fire was to call someone on the ground rather than look at any gauges. So while he chatted with tower I started a climbing turn to get back to the runway. After approximately 90 degree of turn, the hydraulic warning light caught the spirit of the game and began flashing. At this time utter panic finally must have grabbed me, because I finally lost my cool and did something right. I checked the pressure in both systems - the one and only time either of us bothered to look at any gauge reading. Suave work like that endears you with accident boards, believe me.
By now the whole airplane was caught up in the excitement of the sport, so the nose decided to do its part and began pitching up and down. Major Stevens, who had been looking at our shadow on the ground trying to spot abnormal smoke, looked inside to find out why the hell I was pumping the stick. He grabbed the controls and quickly found out that we were the ones being pumped. The game was damned near over.
"Let’s get out.”! Had he elected to use the more formal command of eject— eject—eject, I’M sure I never would have heard the last two. Not normally considered to be real quick with my hands, but when the fear factor is high enough I’ll race any man to the handles. Major Stevens still laughs when he tells about how little time elapsed between his command and my departure.
The ejection itself was so fantastic that I won’t even attempt to describe it in a letter. I was conscious and aware of what was happening the whole time, so I save that portion of the ride until we get together over a few drinks up there.
Although we were both uninjured, neither of us can fly yet. He hit his right elbow on the canopy rail on the way out and I tore some ligaments in my right ankle when I gracefully hit the ground like a bag of feed, so we are both too stiff and sore to go back up yet. Shouldn’t be long though.
Flying Safety put out a little booklet a while back on the subject of delayed ejection decisions. I strongly feel that the Squadron should make sure that every pilot has read the booklet and given it some serious thought. I got out, it was estimated by ground observers, at approximately 1000 feet. Just as I went out, the aircraft pitched violently nose downward, and as a result of the negative G’s and the tremendous wind blast, Major Stevens missed his handles on his first grab. In the second or less that it took him to find them and squeeze, the aircraft rolled at least 900 so that he was ejected horizontally or possibly slightly downward. Had he delayed his ejection decision just seconds, its highly doubtful that he would have made it. I’m afraid that had i been solo I would have futily attempted to recover control until too low to give the chute a chance. It would be an extremely easy trap to fall into — but how utterly ridiculous to kill yourself over a machine!!
Pleez ‘scuse above language, but I have a tendency to get highly worked up when thinking about the subject.
Just for the record — we were riding the new rocket seats with zero delay lanyards unhooked and the systems worked perfectly. Other than for wind blast, there were no extreme pressures exerted on either of us at any time — including chute opening. Hope all the Boise birds have those seats or are scheduled to get them sometime fairly soon.
That t s about all I have to say right now. Damned glad we made it, and I sure hope it's a once in a career experience. Say hello to everyone for me and be seeing you in May.
Talk about a keen mind — I forgot to say what was actually wrong with the bird.
The 14th, 15th, and 16th stages of the compressor came apart!! Must have created a hell of a mess back there and either cut a hydraulic line or just overheated the fluid to the point we lost flight controls. NO PILOT ERROR!!! YIPEE!!!!