This is the story of Naval Aviators relating the tale of a Hornet emergency just as the USS Constellation was getting underway for its most recent 6-month cruise (about mid 1999). The writing is rough, but elegant in places, about one heck of an exciting evening for a certain young Navy Lieutenant. 


Burt: This is just f_ckin' amazing. This is a guy who must haul his brass balls around in a wheelbarrow! This is the recounting of an incident aboard USS Constellation and an F-18 with two bad engines. The first account is from the LSO's (Landing signal Officer) perspective, and is followed by the highly descriptive and rather elegant write-up by the pilot -- which is just f_cking priceless!------------------------------------------------I had heard some of this, but this is great reading. Kinda makes flight pay seem inadequate Nick In case you didn't hear, "Connie" (USS Constellation) had to barricade (basically an emergency net of straps that catches you on the carrier deck) a 'Hornet' in only their 1st week of cruise. It worked. This is a great story. This guy had cojones of steel for sticking with the jet. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ QBall, Sorry I haven't filled you in on all the information regarding the barricade yet. It has been fairly busy around here. "Oyster" got shot off Cat 1 and fodded both motors. Initially everyone on the ship had thought he had ejected, but after several tense minutes we realized he was still in the plane. He managed to get it to level off at 80' and then eventually milked it up to 150'. It was roughly 2045 hrs and the wx was approx 1000-1500' sct variable broken (fairly dark). We were initially going to attempt to recover him single engine / half flap when he stated he was only able to maintain 0 vsi (no rate of descent) in full blower with his landing gear up (the one engine he had remaining was having massive compressor stalls that were pretty impressive even at 6miles). He had already jettisoned all of his stores and dumped down to 4.0fuel just to maintain level flight. He was unable to climb even up to 3kto do a waveoff / approach capability check. The deck was ready and we eventually decided to give him an attempt at a normal pass. He had barely commenced when he decided there was no chance. He came up the starboard side of the ship and once again everyone thought that he was going to eject. The shit coming out of his right engine was unbelievable. Throughout the evolution everyone stayed extremely calm and really pulled together to make good decisions. By now he had burned down to almost nothing on the gas. His capability to arrest his rate of descent once the approach was commenced was believed to be sufficient, but he would have no bolter capability and the decision to barricade him was made. From the time the call to "rig the barricade"; went out on the 5mc to the time it was up and ready was phenomenal. We had just barely enough time to crunch the numbers, give the barricade brief and he was commencing. We cleared the platform - I controlled and Flats backed up. His first approach was high and by the time that he started it down he was getting too far out of parameters and Flats pickled him. My stomach sank as I saw him come by in full blower with the engine making a sickening whine/pop and once again shit coming out like a salvo of flares. He cleared the top of the barricade by 10 -15'. He was down to .8 on gas and climbed only to 600' for his last approach. I think we all said a prayer for him and he took an early hook into final. I talked to him all the way down. He intercepted glide path at about 1.5 mile and this time I told him that if he needed to sacrifice a couple of knots of airspeed (fast) to keep it on glideslope with the nose to go a ahead and do so, we had plenty of wind (almost all natural). He drifted a little left in the middle and went clara (no meatball - low!) for a second and then flew just a little low all the way in to the ramp. I knew in my heart that all of the big pieces of the jet were going to make it over the ramp and gave him the ";cut, cut, cut"; call. His hook touched down about 15-20' beyond the round-down and he engaged the barricade on centerline. I have never heard anything like the cheers that erupted on the flight deck that night. Everyone on the platform was hugging and almost in tears. Our prayer was definitely answered as "Oyster" popped open the canopy and hopped out. Like I said, the teamwork that went into the evolution was unbelievable. "Oyster" was truly a hero for sticking with the jet. The airmanship he displayed to get that thing back aboard was tremendous and I hope will never have to be matched. Take Care, Max ----------Steve: A follow-up from the pilots view. For an aviator, he writes pretty good. Bill ---------- More on the HORNET barricade - this more complete message from the pilot compliments of Kris: Oyster was a former VA-196 guy who transitioned to hornets about 4 yrs ago. I have his full tale.. I'll attach it below. [quote...]...There I was. Manned up a hot seat for the 2030 launch about 500 miles north of Hawaii (insert visions of ";The Shore Bird"; and many mai tais here) Spotted just forward of the nav pole and eventually taxied off toward the island where I do a 180 and get spotted to be the first one off cat I(insert foreboding music here) There's another Hornet from our sister squadron parked ass over the track in about a quarter of the way down the cat. Eventually he gets a move on and they lower my launch bar and start the launch cycle. All systems are go on the run up and after waiting the requisite 5 seconds or so to make sure my flight controls are good to go(you know, there's a lot to be said for good old cables and pulleys), I turn on my lights. As is my habit I shift my eyes to the catwalk and watch the deck edge dude and as he starts his routine of looking left, then right, I put my head back. I hate to say this but the Hornet cat shot is pretty impressive - equivalent I would say to a gassed up K. (You agree Gato?) As the cat fires, I stage the blowers and am along for the ride. Just prior to the end of the stroke there's a huge flash and a simultaneous boom! and my world is in turmoil. My little pink body is doing 145 knots or so and is 100 feet above the Black Pacific. And there it stays - except for the knot package, which decreases to 140 knots. Somewhere in here I raised my gear which is interesting since it is not a Hornet "off the cat"; boldface. It is however, if I recall correctly, an Intruder boldface. Oops! The throttles aren’t going any farther forward despite my Schwarzzenegerian efforts to make them do so. From out of the ether I hear a voice say one word: ";Jettison."; Roger that! A nanosecond later my two drops and single MER - about 4500 pounds in all - are Black Pacific bound. The airplane leapt up a bit but not enough. I'm now about a mile in front of the boat at 160feet and fluctuating from 135 to 140 knots. The next comment that comes out of the ether is another one-worder: ";Eject!"; I'm still flying so I respond, "Not yet, I've still got it." Our procedures call for us to intercept on speed which is 8.1 alpha [AOA] and I'm fluctuating from about 8 1/2 to 11 or so. Finally, at 4 miles I take a peek at my engine instruments and notice my left engine doesn't match the right. (funny how quick glimpses at instruments get burned into your brain) The left rpm is at 48% even though I'm still doing the Ah-Nold thing. I bring it back to mil. About now I get another "Eject!"; call. "Nope, still flying."; Deputy Cag was watching and the further I got from the boat, the lower I looked. At 5 1/2 miles I asked tower to please get the helo headed my way as I truly thought I was going to be shelling out. At some point I thought it would probably be a good idea to start dumping some gas. As my hand reached down for the dump switch I actually remembered that we have a NATOPS prohibition regarding dumping while in burner. After a second or two I decided, "fuck that"; and turned them on. (Major ";Big Wave"; Dave Leppelmeier joined on me at one point and told me later that I had a 60 foot roman candle going) At 7miles I eventually started a (very slight) climb. A little breathing room. CATCC chimes in with a downwind heading and I'm like: "Ooh. Good idea and throw down my hook."; Eventually I get headed downwind at 900 feet and ask for a rep. While waiting I shut down the left engine. In short order I hear "Fuzz"s voice. I tell him the following: "OK Fuzz, my gear's up, my left motor's off and I'm only able to stay level with min blower. Every time I pull it to mil I start about a hundred feet per minute down. "I just continue trucking downwind trying to stay level and keep dumping. I think I must have been in blower for about fifteen minutes. At ten miles or so I'm down to 5000 pounds of gas and start a turn back toward the ship. Don't intend to land but don't want to get too far away. Of course as soon I as I start in an angle of bank I start dropping like a stone so I end up doing a 5 mile circle around the ship. Fuzz is reading me the single engine rate of climb numbers from the PCL based on temperature, etc. It doesn't take us long to figure out that things aren't adding up. One of the things I learned in the RAG was that the Hornet is a perfectly good single engine aircraft. It flies great on one motor. So why the fuck do I need blower to stay level!? By this time I'm talking to Fuzz (CATCC), Deputy (turning on the flight deck) and CAG who's on the bridge with the Captain. We decide that the thing to do is climb to three thousand feet and dirty up to see if I'm going to have any excess power and will be able to shoot an approach. I get headed downwind, go full burner on my remaining motor and eventually make it to 2000 feet before leveling out below a scattered layer of puffies. There's a half a moon above which was really, really cool. Start a turn back toward the ship and when I get pointed in the right direction I throw the gear down and pull the throttle out of AB. Remember that flash/boom! that started this little tale? Repeat it here. Holy f_ck! I jam it back into AB and after three or four huge compressor stalls and accompanying decel the right motor comes back. I'm thinking my blood pressure was probably up there about now and for the first time I notice that my mouth feels like a San Joaquin summer. (That would be hot and fucking dusty for those of you who haven't come to visit) I may have said "Shit!"; on the radio here but haven't listened to the full tape yet and it could have been "Fuck!" This next part is great. You know those stories about guys who deadstick crippled airplanes away from orphanages and puppy stores and stuff and get all this great media attention? Well, at this point I'm looking at the picket ship at my left 11 at about two miles and I say on departure freq to no one in particular, ";You need to have the picket ship hang a left right now. I think I'm gonna be outta here in a second." I said it very calmly but with meaning. The LSO's said that the picket immediately started pitching out of the fight. Ha! I scored major points with the heavies afterwards for this. Anyway, it's funny how your mind works in these situations. OK, so I'm dirty and I get it back level and pass a couple miles up the starboard side of the ship. I'm still in min blower and my state is now about 2500 pounds. Hmmm. I hadn't really thought about running out of gas. I muster up the nads to pull it out of blower again and sure enough...flash, BOOM! You gotta be shitting me. I'm thinking that I'm gonna end up punching and tell Fuzz at this point "Dude, I really don't want to do this again."; Don't think everyone else got it but he said he chuckled. I leave it in mil and it seems to settle out. Eventually discover that even the tiniest throttle movements cause the flash/boom thing to happen so I'm trying to be as smooth as I can. I'm downwind a couple miles when CAG comes up and says "Oyster, we're going to rig the barricade."; Remember, CAG's up on the bridge watching me fly around doing blower donuts in the sky and he's thinking I'm gonna run outta JP-5 too. By now I've told everyone who's listening that there a better than average chance that I'm going to be ejecting - the helo bubbas, god bless 'em, have been following me around this entire time. I continue downwind and again, sounding more calm than I probably was, call paddles. ";Paddles, you up." "Go ahead"; replies LT "Max"; Stout, one of our CAG LSO's. "Max, I probably know most of it but you wanna shoot me the barricade brief?"; (Insert long pause here. ......After the fact Max told me they went from expecting me to eject to me asking for the barricade brief in about a minute and he was hyperventilating. He was awesome on the radio though, just the kind of voice you'd want to hear in this situation.) He gives me the brief and at nine miles I say, ";If I turn now will it be up when I get there? I don't want to have to go around again." "I'ts going up now Oyster, go ahead and turn."; "Turning in, say final bearing."; "063"; replies the voice in CATCC. (Another number I remember - go figure) OK, we're on a four degree glideslope and I'm at 800 feet or so. I intercept glideslope at about a mile and three quarters and pull power. Flash/boom. Add power out of fear. Going high. Pull power. Flash/boom. Add power out of fear. Going higher. (Flashback to LSO school....All right class, today's lecture will be on the single engine barricade approach. Remember, the one place you really, really don't want to be is high. Are there any questions? Yes, you can go play golf now.) The PLAT video is most excellent as each series of flash/booms shows up nicely along with the appropiate reflections on the water. "Flats"; Jensen, our other CAG paddles is backing up and as I start to set up a higher than desired sink rate he hits the "Eat At Joe's"; lights. Very timely too. With visions of the A-3 dancing in my head I stroke AB and cross the flight deck with my right hand on the stick and my left thinking about the little yellow and black handle between my legs. No worries. I cleared that sucker by at least ten feet. By the way my state at the ball call was1.1. As I slowly climb out I say, again to no one in particular, ";I can do this." Max and Flats heard this and told me later it made them feel much better about my state of mind. I'm in blower still and CAG says, ";Turn downwind."; Again, good idea. After I get turned around he says, ";Oyster, this is gonna be your last look so turn in again as soon as you're comfortable."; I'm at 800 feet and hook myself at 2.8 (remember this number as I will subtract.1 every couple years until I reach the point where I say, ";It was HUGE, I flew the DAY pattern!) I lose about 200 feet in the turn and like a total dumbshit I look out as I get on centerline and that night thing about feeling high gets me and I descend further to 400 feet. I got kinda pissed at myself then as I realized I would now be intercepting the four degree glideslope in the fucking middle. No shit fellas, flash/boom every several seconds all the way down. Last look at my gas was 600-and-some pounds at a mile and ahalf. "Where am I on the glideslope Max"; I ask and hear a calm "Roger Ball." I know I'm low because the ILS is waaay up there and I call "Clara."; Can't remember what the response was but by now the ball's shooting up from the depths. I start flying it and before I get a chance to spot the deck I hear ";Cut, cut, cut!"; I'm really glad I was a paddles for so long because my mind said to me ";Do what he says Oyster"; and I pulled it back to idle. The reason I mention this is that I felt like I was a LONG FUCKING WAYS OUTTHERE - if you know what I mean. (My hook hit 11 Oyster paces from the ramp, as I discovered during FOD walkdown today.) The rest is pretty tame. I hit the deck, skipped the one, the two and snagged the three and rolled into the barricade about a foot right of centerline. Once stopped my vocal chords involuntarily yelled "Victory!"; on button 2 (the 14 guys who were listening in marshal said it was pretty cool. After the fact I wish I had done the Austin Powers' "Yeah Baby!" thing.) The lights came up and off to my right there must have been a ga-zillion cranials. Paddles said that with me shut down you could hear a huge cheer across the flight deck. I open the canopy and start putting my shit in my helmet bag and the first guy I see is our FDC, huge guy named Chief Richards and he gives me the coolest look and then two thumbs up. I will remember it forever. Especially since I'm the Maintenance Officer. The first guy up the boarding ladder is CAG Paddles. I will tell you what he said over beers someday. It was priceless and in my mind one for the ages. I climb down and people are gathering around patting me on the back when one of the boat's crusty yellow-shirt chiefs interrupts and says, "Gentlemen, great job but fourteen of your good buddies are still up there and we need to get them aboard."; Again, priceless. So there you have it fellas. Here I sit with my little pink body in a ready room chair on the same tub I did my first cruise in 10 years and 7months ago. And I thought it was exciting back then. P.S. You're probably wondering what made my motors shit themselves and I almost forgot to tell you. Remember the scene with the foreboding music? When they taxied that last Hornet - the one that was ass over the cat track - they forgot to remove a section or two of the cat seal. The board's not finished yet but it's a done deal. As the shuttle came back it removed the cat seal which went down both motors during the stroke. Again, good video for someday over beers. Left engine N1 basically quit even though the motor is in pretty good shape. It was producing no thrust and during the waveoff one of the LSO's saw "about thirty feet" of black rubber hanging off the left side of the airplane. The whole left side, including inside the intake is basically black where the rubber was beating on it in the breeze. The right motor, the one that kept running, has 340 major hits to all stages. The compressor section is trashed and best of all, it had two pieces of the cat seal - one about 2 feet and the other about 4 feet long, sticking out of the first stage and into the intake. God Bless General Electric! By the way, ECAMS data showed that I was fat - had 380 pounds of gas when I shut down. Again, remember this number as in ten years it will surely be FUMES MAN, FUMES I TELL YOU! Look forward to getting to stage five with you all someday soon. Oyster out.

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