[Article by Bob McCoy- Sammamish, WA. Views expressed are those of the author, not the Living Snoqualmie website. Letters and op-eds may be submitted to email@example.com]
As we taxied our Phantom II in at Albuquerque, our drag chute billowing in our exhaust plume, we took a long look at an F-4 Phantom in the weeds off the end of the runway. I pointed out to my newbie RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) in the back-seat that the drogue-chute door on the too-long-landing-rollout aircraft was still closed. In OPS, we ran into a CDR that had just finished his Phantom refresher about a month before. When he saw me, he said, “Hey Bob, when I saw your aircraft land, I feared it would be you. I clearly remember you telling us that ‘if you don’t deploy your chute at Albuquerque, you will not be able to stop on the runway’.”
Another ‘absolute’ that we taught was that the pilot was never to change radio frequencies at night when flying below 5,000 feet Above Ground Level. The five aircrew I knew that violated the rule, were all in their mid-20s. The crash sites and memorial services were not remarkable for the partly-changed radio-frequencies. In the classroom, after stating the prohibition of night-time changes of radio-frequencies by the pilot below 5,000 feet AGL, I would state flatly, “if you break this rule, you will die.”
Before I got to be a instructor, I flew fighters for two years off the carrier. My squadron lost an aircraft with two aircrews, the ship lost 11 men in those two years. The year before I came aboard, the fire on Forrestal cost my squadron 42 lives, and the ship lost 134 souls. That’s a lot of dead people, and close investigation would show most were avoidable if proper procedures had been followed.
Now why do we care? Because there are people that know what they are talking about. They don’t care if you are a friend or not, they don’t care how you vote, what you believe or don’t. They are trying to help you by telling you current knowledge based on science. Their admonition to wear a mask in public is based on best evidence. You can believe that wearing a mask is a violation of your civil rights, or that the partial-pressure of oxygen will be too low inside your mask, or that <whatever>. You can choose to fly with a pilot like the one that flew Kobe Bryant’s last flight, the one that disagreed with the facts that the weather was below minimums, or you can opt for an experienced pilot, one akin to “Sully” who has the right stuff, has studied his aircraft, and will get you down safely. Choose wisely, your choice is important to other people’s lives, and probably yours, too.
Bob McCoy- Sammamish, Washington