Category Archives: Grampaw Pettibone

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.

 

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

June 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.

 

Phlamed Out

This particular pair of F-4 Phantom “phlyers” was scheduled to fly as number four in a four-plane Sparrow missile-firing flight. After departure, the leader experienced an auxiliary air door malfunction and returned to base. Number two assumed the lead and headed for the designated firing range. All three aircraft attempted to fire but, owing to problems with the ground controller’s radar, they were unable to do so. The flight then departed the firing area and set up an orbit in trail to burn down fuel southeast of the home field at 10,000 feet.

After a few turns in this pattern, all three aircraft were down to landing weight and the flight leader took up a heading for the initial approach to the duty runway, simultaneously instructing the flight to join up. Number three, believing that number two had lost sight of the leader, attempted to lead him in the rendezvous. As number three approached the leader from slightly above and astern, he realized the closure rate was excessive, so he retarded the throttles and extended the speed brakes.

Shortly thereafter, all electrical power was lost, both engines were unwinding through 25 percent, airspeed was 300K and the altimeter read 1,700 feet. The distraught driver attempted to re-light the starboard engine by activating the ignition button but met with failure. (RPM on both engines was down to 20 percent by this time.)

Again he attempted to airstart the starboard engine by checking the left throttle in the OFF position, positioning the right throttle to idle and depressing the right ignition button. While the pilot was holding the ignition button, his radar intercept officer (RIO) yelled, “Do you want me to eject?” To which he replied, “Affirmative.”

After the RIO departed, the pilot turned his attention to the left engine and met with failure again. During this interlude, the Phantom continued its descent and at this moment was down to 400 feet, indicating 200 knots. Noting the acuteness of the situation, the unfortunate driver followed the example of his RIO and ejected. Both “phlyers” enjoyed successful ejections and were retrieved in short order by the station helo.


Oh, my achin’ ulcers! The board concluded that contributing cause factors to this fiasco were “the pilot’s perceptual error, which led to a high closure rate necessitating rapid retardation to the throttles, the impaired physical condition of the pilot’s left thumb (due to a previous fracture) resulting in his unorthodox grip on the throttles, and ‘body English’ which may have caused excessive lateral forces to be applied to the throttles.”

Well, I’ve heard everything now. Sure, we can afford improvement in design, but we can’t legislate against poor headwork. I seriously doubt if it would’ve helped this youngster anyway. First of all, we’ve gotta accept a missed rendezvous once in a while and take it like a man by sliding outside to a safe distance. Secondly, drivers like this fella had better bone up on the right procedure for restarting after a dual flame-out.

A little more Know and a little less Hope will save us a lot of airplanes and pilots, not to mention boosting the moral of the next-of-kin.

Grampa Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

Cover_May1967May 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.

 

Cliff Hanger

Cliff_hanger_art_vert_webThe 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.

 

Grampaw_saysHoly 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.

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

67_03_mar67_coverMarch 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.

 

Check Double Check

It was one of those nights. The Crusader jockey spread his wings prior to leaving the line and, en route to the runway, had to fold them to permit a civilian jetliner to pass. On takeoff, he noted his speed was normal but the takeoff roll distance was excessive. After liftoff, the gear was raised and the nose seemed to be sensitive in yaw and pitch. At about a 200-to-300-foot altitude after the wing was lowered, the machine commenced a series of large pitch and yaw evolutions. (PC-1 and PC-2 were fluctuating 800 pounds.)

check_double_check_osborn_art_web

Recognizing the dilemma at hand, the credulous Crusader driver attempted to lock the wing but could not get the locking handle to move into the forward locking detent. Meanwhile, airspeed had built to 260 knots and altitude to 4,600 feet. The driver then raised the wing and started a shallow right turn back toward the field, dumping fuel en route. (Angle of attack in the turn was approximately 14 units.)

Altitudes, airspeeds and angle of attack from hereon in are not accurately recalled as this pilot’s main concern was getting it back on the runway. Just before touchdown, the incredulous performer realized the landing gear had not been extended and placed the gear handle in the down position. Too late—the boneyard-bound bird landed gear up, wing up, wings folded and, after coming to rest, was abandoned by the red-faced bird man.

grampa_pettibone_says_leftGreat balls of fire! It’s a good thing this flight ended when it did, ‘cause if there was any more moving parts on this aircraft, you can bet this fella would’ve had’em all in the wrong place at the right time.

A red face is a mighty cheap price to pay for forgettin’ the checklist, but this kind of performance ain’t much of a boost to the professional standing of an aviator. If Ole Gramps had a nickel for every accident caused by people ignorin’ this handy placard, I could buy that farm and retire.

Before you push that kerosene converter handle forward next time, eyeball yourself in the rear-view mirror, ‘cause that’s the guy responsible for your safety

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

July-August 2006

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Ted_Wilbur_F-18_art

Hitting Hornets

Two F/A-18s along with another Hornet were going against a section of F-14 Tomcats on an air combat training hop. The lead Hornet, Dash-1, was positioned on the left side and the second, Dash-2, was in the middle, leaving Dash-3 on the right. Inside 10 miles of the merge (where friendly fighters meet enemy fighters) the range training officer informed both outside aircraft, Dash-1 and Dash-3, that they were simulated kills.

In accordance with Topgun adversary training rules at 5 miles from the merge, Dash-1 and Dash-3 did aileron rolls, acknowledging to all they were kills.

Dash-2 saw Dash-1 complete the rolls and shifted his lookout forward in an attempt to find the F-14s. Dash-2 started a left turn to put the opposing fighters within his missile’s field of view, assuming that because Dash-1 had acknowledged the kill he would not maneuver approaching the merge. Dash-2 did not maintain a visual on Dash-1 and figured he would pass well below Dash-1.

Meanwhile, Dash-1 got a tally on the two Tomcats and continued straight ahead, ensuring a left-to-left pass with his opponents. At just under 3 miles from the merge, Dash-1 started more aileron rolls to ensure the F-14s knew he was out of the fight, a maneuver that caused the lead Hornet to lose 1,300 feet of altitude. Unaware that Dash-1 was descending toward him, Dash- 2 continued his turn for a weapon solution.

Just short of the merge, Dash-2 noticed Dash-1 was closing on him. He tried to avoid the collision but the two Hornets hit. (Dash-1 never saw Dash-2 before impact.) Miraculously, despite extensive damage to both aircraft, both pilots managed to coax their jets back to home base for emergency landings.

grampa_pettibone_says_leftFighter guys have an old saying: “Lost sight, lost fight.” That was true in the biggest way here. Once he was called dead, Dash-1 had an obligation to remain predictable (and not descend 1,300 feet). Meanwhile, Dash-2—like everyone else in the event—had an obligation to be aware of where everyone was before maneuvering.

Once again the “big sky, little airplane” theory fails. Fortunately, they made it back, which is as much a testimony to how much plastic jets can bend as it is to the skill of these two pilots.

 

 

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

July-August 2006

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

TedWilber_Gramps_T-34_web

Power Line Peril

A Fleet Replacement Squadron T-34C Turbo Mentor, crewed by two instructor lieutenants exited the target area after performing forward air controller (FAC)(A) duties for a division of F/A-18 Hornets practicing close air support. The T-34 did not fly a direct profile back to base; rather, it started its journey home by flying along a canal repeatedly, descending lower with each pass. The pilot, who had a history of flying unbriefed air combat maneuvers (ACM) in the T-34, then headed for a nearby lake where he flew just feet above the water for nearly a minute. After that, the T-34 entered a canyon area, sometimes flying below the canyon walls.

Power lines run across this particular canyon. The towers have two static lines that run nearly straight across the top and three power wires that sag approximately 30 feet lower at the center of their droop. The lower lines are about 70 feet above the canyon floor. The T-34 was heading west along the shape of the canyon in an attempt to fly under the static lines. The aircraft flew into the lower three lines and crashed in a near vertical attitude. Both aircrew members were killed.

During the mishap board, it became known that two days before the mishap the pilot at the controls had flown a similar profile with a replacement pilot in the back seat. Just before the power lines, the pilot had pulled up, rolled the plane on its back, and remarked over the internal communication system (ICS): “We could make it under there.”
grampa_pettibone_says_left

“He thought he could make it under there.”

It’s a shame when a Brownshoe writes his own epitaph, isn’t it?

 

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

May-June 2006

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Chopper Chain ReactionChopper_art

A helicopter aircraft commander (HAC), who had known marital stress but hadn’t been through a human factors board, was paired with the detachment’s weakest helicopter second pilot (H2P) and a warfare systems operator with a history of unstrapping without telling the pilots. The crew was scheduled for a functional check flight (FCF) on an SH-60B that had just had some work done on a gearbox and driveshaft. The FCF was complicated by a hydraulic leak during the ground turn, which was fixed and completed without a foreign object damage check afterwards.

Because of schedule pressures due to a pending passenger transfer from another ship and routine meetings, the flight brief was cursory and did not include operational risk management or Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization items. The maintenance chief’s brief to the crew was even shorter. As he had a tendency to do, the HAC skipped the preflight walkaround, electing instead to trust the H2P’s assessment of the aircraft’s condition. The helicopter lifted off and the pilot at the controls performed a normal hover check before reporting “ops normal” and turning to the right and flying away to complete the check flight.

A few minutes later, the crew was performing tail rotor backup checks by moving the servo switch to the “backup” position, which caused the H-60 to lose control of the tail rotor. As the helicopter developed a rapid yaw, the warfare systems operator, who had once again unstrapped without telling the pilots, was ejected out the side door. The HAC, who had previously failed a HAC check flight because of demonstrated difficulty with reacting to tail rotor failures, elected to dump the nose in an attempt to fight the yaw with speed, forgetting that the aircraft was only at 1,000 feet. The aircraft hit the water and was destroyed, killing both pilots. The warfare systems operator was never found.

grampa_pettibone_says_leftDang! If I was one of them Hollywood-type moviemakers and this was a script, I might be inclined to say it uses every cliché in the book: failing naval aviator, bad briefs, poor habit patterns, history of performance flaws and on and on—including the ending. Only this wasn’t a movie. This was real life … and death. Gramps is still waiting for the day when these stories stop telling themselves.

Grampaw Pettibone

Phrog Phoul_JanFeb06_webspotartGramps from Yesteryear

January-February 2006

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Phrog Phoul-up

Two H-46 Sea Knights were working the field carrier landing practice pattern at night. All aircrew members were wearing night vision goggles (NVG). As the wingman troubleshot a problem on the practice LHA deck, the lead aircraft executed several landings with each pilot taking a turn at the controls. On the third trip around the pattern, the helicopter second pilot (H2P) had the controls. Passing the 180-degree position on the downwind leg, just as the H2P started the turn toward final, the helicopter aircraft commander (HAC) realized they hadn‘t secured the anticollision lights, the normal procedure once the aircraft entered the pattern. He reached out to secure the lights, but was unable to reach the appropriate toggle switch because he had positioned his seat fully down and aft. The HAC attempted to flick the switch aft using his kneeboard, but hit the cockpit dome light switch instead, flooding the cockpit with non-NVG compatible red dome lights.

The H2P instantly lost all outside reference just as he was beginning a descending, decelerating left turn toward final. Rather than scanning his instruments, the H2P continued to look outside the cockpit. He did not communicate any concerns to the HAC. Meanwhile, the senior crew chief, standing in the crew door, directed the other crew chief to go to the cockpit and assist the pilots in securing the dome lights. The junior crew chief had just started for the cockpit when the H-46 hit the river adjacent to the LHA pad at 70 knots in a nose-low, left wing down attitude. Only the senior crew chief survived the crash.

Grampaw_says

Now Gramps has known an instructor or two over the years who liked to use their kneeboards for other than their intended purpose-heck, I even fought the impulse to chuck mine into the front cockpit at the occasional conehead what needed a fast erect, as it were-but I ain’t never seen nobody try to use one as a switch flicker. But that having been said, a pilot’s first responsibility is to aviate. If them magic glasses stop working for whatever reason, especially near the ground, you got to revert to good ol’ fashion’ gauge watching. And if that don’t work, let the other guy take the controls.

Grampaw Pettibone

ted_wilbur_goshawk_art2005-web

Gramps from Yesteryear

September-October 2005

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Vestibular Valediction

Following a brief from his landing safety officer (LSO) and Lead Safe, a student naval aviator launched on his first carrier qualification flight. He was Dash-4 of a four-plane flight. Once in the pattern, the student performed two touch-and-goes followed by an arrested landing. The first catapult shot was uneventful. After a bolter, the student successfully made his second arrested landing. During the subsequent cat shot, the student inadvertently applied the brake to the right mainmount, blowing the tire.

The Air Boss directed the student to “delta easy” at pattern altitude while the carrier recovered the rest of the event. Once the other Goshawks were aboard, the senior LSO reviewed the basics with the student over the UHF, a brief that proved to be inadequate. On the final pass the student added too much power in close and just missed the four wire. During the bolter, the T-45 swerved nearly 40 degrees to the right and drifted 32 feet right of the landing area’s centerline. The Goshawk flew past the angled deck on a perilous track, and the aircraft’s right wing smashed into the port bow catwalk. The trainer crashed into the water, and the student was killed.

 

grampa_pettibone_says_left

Even if this was the first time this sort of thing actually happened, it don’t require too much noggin’ work to presage (with an emphasis on “pre”) that it might have happened. And that’s where the engineers and the test community and the instructors come in. Platforms got to support the mission. Procedures got to address everything possible. Instructors got to prep the newbies end-to-end. Can tires blow? Tarnation, yes. Is a student naval aviator likely to give in to the pucker factor and step on the binders during one of his first cat shots? Double tarnation, yes! Even old salts ain’t immune to the occasional misstep, as it were. I’ve known many a brownshoe what earned the callsign “Boom Boom” over the aeons I’ve been associating with air machines. I remember the first time I was hurled off the pointy end (and the pointy end was more pointy in them days). Woo wee, I was as wide-eyed as a possum at rush hour. Only the grace of the Maker and a hunk of Great-grandmaw Pettibone’s venison jerky stuck in my flight boot (for luck, of course) got me through that wildness intact.

Of course, this student shouldn’t have done what he done here, but Gramps has got a special place in the ol’ ticker for the Fledglings, and few things eat me up worse than seeing the system hang one of them out like this. We gotta do better by our young folks.

 

 

 

 

Grampa Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

May-June 2005

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Viking Violence

As part of an S-3 Viking squadron Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) unit evaluation, two weapons school instructors were scheduled for a flight with two squadron naval flight officers (NFO). The brief was thorough but didn’t include any mention of the fact that, in addition to the standard post-stall gyration items, the weapons school pilot would be demonstrating cross-controlled inputs to show a more violent departure as part of the post-stall gyration portion of the hop. Once airborne, the pilot entered the first post-stall gyration at 21,500 feet by holding full aft, neutral lateral stick. He neutralized the controls and recovered by 14,000 feet. The pilot then entered a second post-stall gyration at 22,000 feet, utilizing unbriefed, cross-controlled inputs; booting full left rudder and holding the stick fully to the right. The Viking departed much more violently to the left, and then began to settle into a steady-state spin. The pilot held the prospin control inputs for at least three full revolutions. As the aircraft passed through 17,000 feet, he neutralized the controls and began scanning for indications of a recovery. The weapons instructor in the right seat, an NFO, began backing the pilot up with altitude calls. At 14,000 feet, the S-3 still hadn’t recovered, and at that point one of the NFOs in the back also began calling out altitudes over the internal communication system.

The pilot continued to hold the controls neutral for a short time before shoving the stick full forward. At 10,000 feet—the hard altitude for ejection if the aircraft still isn’t showing any indications of recovery—the angle of attack was pegged high, the turn needle was full left, and the airspeed was oscillating between zero and 70 knots. The S-3 NATOPS states that a constant airspeed is one of the indications of a spin, but the manual does not elaborate on what that airspeed actually is. The pilot reasoned that since the airspeed was oscillating, he wasn’t in a spin, so he never put in antispin controls.

Passing 7,000 feet without any signs of imminent recovery, the pilot called for ejection. The instructor NFO in the right front seat initiated ejection, and as his seat fired clear of the aircraft, the rocket motors gave the pilot first- and second-degree burns on his face and neck. All four aviators were subsequently pulled out of the water by an air wing search-and-rescue helo.

grampa_pettibone_says_leftThe only thing missing in this here escapade was the pilot saying, “Watch this,” before he started his unbriefed departure. And “unbriefed” ain’t never a good thing in my experience. Leave spontaneity to the horn blowers in them Beale Street jazz bands. Aviators need to brief the flight and then fly the brief. The lack of a clear definition in the Blue Pill regarding what constitutes a spin didn’t help none, neither. Of course, at the cost of a sub-hunting tanker, the NATOPS reads a little more clearly now. All Gramps can say about that is it’s a helluva way to run a railroad.