F-14 Flight Training

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
(Shakespeare. Julius Caesar. act iv.)

vf-124 patch
f-14 patch

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]

... Then only two nights later my wife received a call at home from the squadron duty officer for me to not come in for my late night bounce. There had incredibly been another crash of an earlier scheduled bounce crew again, and my bounce period was cancelled.

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]

For the rest of us in the class, we were grounded for weeks until some preliminary cause of the two mysterious F-14A crashes within two days under the same circumstances could be explained.

F-14; only a few SR-71 and F-14A

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.

Fightertown F-14s
Night Section NL F-14A

Sea Story

When the F-14 was still relatively new it had a redundant, supposedly fail-safe design to preclude ever having asymmetric flaps and slats. One morning I proved that it was not fail-safe.

Launching out of Naval Air Station Miramar, I raised the landing gear and flaps and rolled the aircraft to the right to intercept the departure's published outbound radial. As I tried then to roll back to wings-level, to my horror, the aircraft kept rolling to the right. I applied full left rudder, left stick, and used asymmetric thrust to right the aircraft, but all to no avail.

I reached for the ejection handle. However by this time I was now inverted, and only a few hundred feet above the ground. Had I ejected then, I would have been driven into the ground and killed. So I pushed negative Gs to just to stay airborne. I found that as my speed increased (single engine in full afterburner), so did my control. I was then able to right the aircraft, planning to eject as I crossed the Pacific coastline just ahead.

Fortunately with even more speed I gained much more control. Another of our squadron's aircraft joined up with us. He confirmed that the flaps and slats on one side were fully retracted while the ones on the opposite wing were fully deployed. So I climbed to altitude to figure out my options. I had plenty of gas and thus plenty of time. Working with my squadron on base radio, they gave me the option of ejecting, or trying to come back and land....My option.

Slow-flying the aircraft, I found that passing through 230 knots. the aircraft again became uncontrollable. Nevertheless, thinking about parachuting into the cold water, I decided to try to return to base. I made an extremely fast approach and landed at 240 knots. Fortunately the runway was two miles long and the tires held together, 50 knots above their maximum design speed.

All's well that ends well.

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