Gramps from Yesteryear
Illustration by Robert Osborn
Before well-known artist Ted Wilbur first illustrated “Grampaw Pettibone” for Naval Aviation News in 1994, there was Robert Osborn, who in 1943 created the “sage of saftey” character. From 1943 until he stepped down in 1994, Osborn’s illustrations could be seen in the pages of Naval Aviation News. Here is a 50-year peek back in time to 1967. — Ed.
The ship and air wing were in the middle of an Operational Readiness Inspection being conducted in tropical waters. This particular A-4 driver was returning from a mission that had been normal in all respects. As he approached the 1800 position, he checked the brakes and found them to be firm. The pass, touchdown and arrestment were uneventful.
During disengagement from the wire however, the pilot noted that the starboard brake was soft. As he commenced taxying up the axial deck, he realized that the starboard brake had failed completely. He immediately announced his predicament over the radio to the air officer, opened the canopy and gave visual signals for the chocks to the flight deck crew.
In spite of several crewmen trying to restrain the wayward A-4, it continued up the axial deck. Ladders and other objects tossed beneath its nose wheel had little, if any, effect. Just about half way up the axial deck, the pilot lowered his hook. (By this time it was quite evident to those on deck that he had brake failure.)
The Skyhawk continued its jaunt and rolled over the bow on the centerline. The aircraft fortunately was stopped by the safety net from going over the edge completely. It came to rest in a 900 nose-down position with the drop tanks penetrating the nets, but holding.
The aircraft was secured immediately to the flight deck with chains and, when it was considered safe, Tilly was brought forward to hoist the pilot clear of the cockpit and pluck the A-4 from its perch.
Holy mackerel! Somebody coulda got hurt and we coulda lost an aircraft in this fiasco. It was only a year ago that ole Gramps waxed this same subject, but good. Seems like we need to take a look at this situation.
First thing this lad should’ve done was to lower the tailhook immediately to let folks know he had brake troubles. Secondly, he coulda secured that engine and used that good brake to ground-loop that bird and keep it on deck. Of course, every incident is different and no set rules can ever replace good headwork.
As the old sayin’ goes—don’t worry about what may happen to you; worry about what you’re going to do when it happens.