Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

September 1967

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.


Dire Straits

At 2130 on a dark night, the F-8 Crusader jockey took off from his Marine air station on a scheduled night radar homing mission. After an instrument climbout to visual flight conditions on top, he had some difficulty with radio communications but solved this problem by resetting the affected channels.

After completing the mission, he turned for homeplate, contacted approach control and requested a radar-controlled letdown to ground-controlled approach (GCA). Positive radar control was established 10 miles out and the driver was vectored to an inbound heading and cleared to descend to and maintain 4,500 feet.

As the Crusader pilot selected speed brakes for descent, the generator failed. Using his flashlight, he leveled off and reset the main generator. Still no electrical power. He then turned the main generator off, extended the external power package and waited five seconds for it to come up to speed. This too failed to restore electrical power and he switched to the land position which furnished power to equipment operating off the emergency bus. All attempts to regain the primary generator failed.

The unfortunate lad saw two aircraft on climbout and attempted to join them but was outdistanced. He reversed course and attempted to remain in the vicinity of his home field, but the cloud cover made it impossible to determine his position without Nav-Aids. The plagued driver then took off his helmet and attempted to use his survival radio. He made contact with one station, but communications were difficult and impossible to understand. The pilot joined a transiting C-123, but all attempts to contact it with emergency radio and flashlight met with failure.

At about 2355, the Crusader flamed out. The ill-fated driver replaced his helmet and mask, positioned himself in the seat, trimmed the bird in a slightly nose-down attitude and pulled the curtain.

The seat and chute functioned perfectly and the pilot, not knowing whether he was over land or water, did not release his left rocket jet fitting. As things happened, he landed in water, disconnected himself from the chute, inflated the raft and climbed aboard without difficulty. Once in the raft, he activated his survival radio and strobe light, which were instrumental in his retrieval one hour later.


Well done, son. You did just about everything you could, but I’ll be gosh darned if you weren’t a victim of circumstances. Of course, ole Gramps ain’t overjoyed to see an F-8 lost, but it does my old ticker good to see a feller use good common sense right up to the bitter end.