Making the Ship Go Faster

As with any organization, pilots can have a rather active, funny, ingenious, and sometimes sophisticated sense of humor. Most times, however, we can just be juvenile, according to our wives.

A tale told during my Navy days probably has an element of truth to it, although I cannot be sure. This story is rooted in the tailhook Navy and is typical of shipboard humor and the quickness of a naval aviator’s mind.

On the proverbial dark and stormy night, a Tomcat crew lost an engine on the catshot. The pilot and his radar intercept officer (RIO) executed all of their immediate action procedures and cleaned up the airplane for single-engine operations. Then they headed for the marshal stack where they had to hold until all the other airborne aircraft were safely aboard the carrier.

After the ship recovered the remaining airborne air wing, it was time to take the single-engine Tomcat. All the players were up on the frequency and the LSOs (Landing Signal Officers) gave a good brief. Now that the plan was set, it was time to execute.

On final, the pilot carried it slightly high. In the middle, he realized he was a little too high, so he pulled power.

Oops! Pulled off too much power – the airplane blew through the glideslope. The pilot came back on with power. Yee-haw! He shoved on a bit too much power causing the jet to soar through the glideslope again, only this time going up.

Realizing his mistake, he pulled power once more and now the big Tomcat was in close, starting for the spud locker. Things were not looking good . . .

The LSOs – who had been alternating calls of, “Easy with it,” and, “Power, Power, POWER!” – were now screaming, “WAVE OFF! WAVE OFF!” A couple of the more weak-kneed platform observers were already diving into the net.

The Tomcat pilot selected Zone 5 afterburner, pitched to his best AOA attitude, and began climbing away on one engine. It was then the big F-14 just cleared over the lip of the rounddown and the big fighter taxied into the 1-wire.

There they were, at night, in Zone 5 with a huge blast of flame shooting 30 feet out of the good engine, while everyone was catching their breath. There they sat, in the wires with the aircraft external lights still on (which, for the non-tailhook aviators out there reading this, is code for a brake failure on deck).

The Air Boss, although glad his F-14 was safe on deck, still had to address this breach of discipline, which he did by merely calling, “Lights.”

The Tomcat crew, simply in awe of still living, sat in their jet doing nothing – with a 30-foot fire shooting out the butt of their jet. With every external light, save the landing light, blazing away in the darkness. Which made the Boss angry.

“You are not going to make the ship go any faster. Lights off on deck!” he snarled, as only a boss can.

Still, the Tomcat crew did nothing, enhancing the ire of the boss even more.


The pilot immediately pulled the power lever to idle, extinguishing the flame shooting out the back while hitting the “pinkie” switch at the same time, killing all the external lights.

There followed a pregnant silence over the frequency.

Then someone keyed up on the freq and said, “Boss? This is just not fair. Have we ever bothered you when you’re going to the bathroom?”


©2010 J. Clark

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