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Author Topic: "I'VE LOST MY RIO" F-14 story  (Read 3155 times)

Offline tigershark

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"I'VE LOST MY RIO" F-14 story
« on: June 11, 2008, 03:30:50 AM »

Posted on: June 10, 2008

by Lt. Geoff Vickers

My squadron and air wing were detached to NAS Fallon, Nevada, for strike training. Most of us attended lectures all day, but I was tasked with giving the “battle-group-air-warfare commander” an orientation flight in the F-14D. As skipper of the cruiser in charge of the battle group’s air defenses, he had been spending time with the air wing to better understand how we conduct our missions. He had observed a number of the strike events through the tactical-air-combat-training system (TACTS) replays, and he had flown with the E-2C and EA-6B squadrons. He was proud that the “Prowler”’ guys hadn’t been able to make him sick.
My job was to demonstrate the “Tomcat’s” performance and tactical capabilities. Though this flight was my first without a qualified radar-intercept officer (RIO) in the back seat, I had flown with a number of aviators who had very little Tomcat experience.

The Captain arrived at the squadron a half-hour before the brief to receive his cockpit-orientation lecture and ejection-seat checkout. Once in the ready room, we briefed the flight with our wingman. I covered the administrative and tactical procedures in accordance with our squadron’s standard-operating procedures (SOP).

I told the Captain that after the G-awareness maneuver, we would do a quick inverted check to verify cockpit security. Looking back, I should have recognized his anxiety when he mocked me and said, “Just a quick inverted check?” then laughed. I didn’t realize hanging upside down with nothing but glass and 11,000 feet of air separating you from the desert floor might not be the most comfortable situation in the world for a surface-warfare officer.

I continued the brief and told the captain we would do a performance demo and a couple of intercepts, followed by tanking from an S-3. I told him if, at any point, he felt uncomfortable, we would stop whatever we were doing, roll wings level, and take it easy. I was determined to avoid the temptation to intentionally make him sick and uncomfortable.

The start, taxi, and takeoff were normal. We joined with our lead and did the standard clean-and-dry checks. We pressed into the working area and assumed a defensive combat-spread formation in preparation for the G-warm. I told him what was happening, and he seemed to remember the sequence of events from the brief. After we completed the checks, I asked him, “Are you ready for the inverted check? Do you have everything stowed?”

“All set” was the last thing I heard him say.

I checked the airspeed and confirmed it was above the 300 knots recommended to do the check, and I rolled the aircraft inverted. I decided not to really put on a lot of negative G and unloaded to about .3 to .5 negative G’s-just enough to make anything float that wasn’t stowed properly. If he was uncomfortable in such a benign maneuver, it would be better to find out then, rather than when we were racing toward the earth during a radar-missile defense.

As I started to push on the stick, I heard a loud pop, followed by a roar. The cockpit filled with smoke, and we suddenly lost cabin pressure. I first thought a catastrophic environmental-control system (ECS) had failed. I said to myself, “This is new. I’ve never even heard of something like this happening.”

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