There is a tide in the affairs of men,
With new wife and already a baby on the way, we drove her big Monte Carlo with my sprightly blue 1800E Volvo sports car in tow across the country from Philadelphia to San Diego. Except for some "black ice" in Nebraska, skidding out of control near Rifle, Colorado, and being snowed-in for days at Vail (that allowed me some skiing, but not my pregnant wife), the trip was otherwise, uneventful.
Shortly after arriving once again in San Diego, and NAS Miramar, it did not take long to determine this time things would be very different than before. On my earlier 1970 arrival, there was a war going on, I was a bachelor, and I spent over a year training in the RAG at a relaxed pace.
Now in 1976, I found that this new "peacetime" Navy to be very unlike what I had experienced before in 1972. Now I was married and starting a family. Now my training would be abbreviated, but not only because of my prior fleet experience. It was mostly because of temporary "G" limitations imposed on the F-14A, while some serious aircraft "growing pains" were resolved. Thus I unfortunately received no RAG F-14 air combat maneuvering (ACM) training while in VF-124, before joining my fleet squadron. And other needed training for us in this new aircraft was limited for a variety of other unrelated reasons. Now I would be joining my new fleet squadron VF-1 with over 30% less training than I had with my previous F-4 RAG training, and to a squadron already on cruise half a world away, rather than merely walking to the hangar next door to join it.
But especially painful were the tragic losses near the end of our RAG training of four guys within our small FCLP (Field Carrier Landing Practice) "bounce" class.
On 21 June, 1976 former POW LCDR Anderson and his RIO, "PD" Donaldson were inexplicably killed in the relatively safe and benign, night "bounce pattern." ...
[UT newspaper account]
I soon sadly learned that a good friend and someone whom I had flown with many times - Ray Chivers - had died along with his pilot Ltjg Wilt under equally strange and unexplained circumstances, crashing nearly in the same spot, again on a clear night in the supposedly safe bounce pattern.
[Second UT account]
Nevertheless despite the tragedies and our truncated training, it was still an exciting time for me. The F-14 was new to the fleet, possessed awesome capabilities, and I happily rejoined many of my old friends back in the elite fighter community. It was the best place for me to be.
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