Yesterday, my wife found my dzus key. Afterward, I found myself thinking more about the T-28B Trojan which was the first Navy airplane I flew in flight training. Here is another memory I have from that time in my life.
There were five of us in my T-28 class. The day we started, a crusty Marine major had us sitting on the bench outside Eastline Brief. Another marine pilot, a captain, accompanied him. He was getting to know us and he wanted more information. He first question was, “OK, which one of you sumbitches has flight time?” Immediately, I started sweating. I had over 3000 hours gained by my love of flying, teaching others how to fly, and flying checks on the night routes throughout the southeast. I was… well,… experienced.
I decided I wanted to get as much time in the ’28 as possible, so I was not about to tell anyone of my previous flight time. I wanted no one to look at me and cut flights from my training just because I was already seasoned. After all, I was not seasoned the Navy way. And I wanted to fly that ’28.
I sat on one end of the bench and the major started at the other, going left to right. He looked at the ensign and said, “Well?”
“I have about 20 hours, sir.”
“OK. You’re trainable. How about you?” he asked the next officer.
“I have about 200, sir.”
“You might be a problem child. We’re probably going to have to break some bad habits.” He looks at the third officer, a j.g., and asks, “And you?”
“I’ve got about two.” I noticed there was no ‘sir’ on the end of his reply. The j.g. must have been salty and knew more about the game than the rest of us. The major looked a little irritated.
“What is that, mister? Two? Two hundred? Two thousand? What?” The j.g. clearly looked in his place now.
“Uh, two, sir. Only two hours.” The major and the captain looked of each other, smiled, and shook their heads. The major turned his attention to the officer next to me.
“How many hours do you have?” he asked.
“I have a little over 15, sir. I just soloed.”
“All right. You should be trainable.” The marine then looked at me. I started to really get nervous now. “You?”
Right then I coughed and spurt out the word, “Three.” At the same time, a ’28 backfired during an engine start on the line. Everyone’s attention turned to the ’28, including the major’s and the captain’s. I did not get the condescending question he asked the other officer. In my mind, I could hear him asking, “Do you mean three? Or 300? Or 3000?”
But the question never came.
The marine and his assistant herded us up off the bench taking us inside to further introduce the ’28 training devices we would use to learn our blind cockpit drills and emergency procedures. As we went through the door, I felt like I dodged a bullet.
I found later I would take that bullet about 10 weeks into the program.
© 2010 J. Clark