Happy Hour Story 

                                                                                                                    FOUR                                                                                                                                      

                             LSO's ARE ALWAYS RIGHT

 

 Because of my duty as Flight Line Officer, I was a walk aboard, and didn't get to fly a Skyhawk ['Scooter" in pilot lingo] out to the ship---so I didn't get to do my A-4 Carrier Qualification Landings until late afternoon. But, there was plenty of light for me to get in my 6 traps for initial qualification.

I got a short load of fuel and was catapulted into the pattern. I would much rather have led my division into the break, but here I was on downwind. Most of the guys were doing well, and just finishing up their traps. One guy was constantly having trouble getting out of the arresting gear.

Just as I was catapulted off after my 5th trap, I realized that the guy who was having trouble getting out of the arresting gear was now in front of me. We were the only two aircraft in the pattern. Paddles told me to take extra interval. I reported the 180 with about 1000 pounds of fuel. The guy in front was delayed getting out of the gear again, so I continued my approach---but the LSO gave me a Foul Deck Wave Off, with an immediate "cleared to land." I was the only guy in the pattern at that time, and I sarcastically thanked Paddles (who was an old friend and had a nickname of "Charlie the Tuna") for his consideration in giving me a Clearance to Land. I still think the guy in front of me was clear of the landing area when Paddles gave me the Fouled Deck Wave-off.

I'm down to around 500 pounds of fuel and starting to run on adrenaline. I was also trying to remember what the pilots handbook said about the built in error in the Fuel Quantity Indicator.

So I made a short pattern and prepared to land the A4 as slow as I had ever flown it. I was down to such a low fuel state that I had visions of me and my A4 being splattered all over the fantail. Cause of accident: "Flamed out in the groove. Pilot Error. Poor fuel management."

But, I got a wire.

In the Ready Room, I was ready to give the LSO a piece of my mind. although as all Naval Aviators know, the LSO is always right. "He looked good when he went by me'' was always an LSO's out, if he needed it. Now remember, he was an old friend, and had waved me before. He saw me coming, walked directly toward me, and with an evil grin, said "Pretty good period." "Pretty good" is about as good a comment as you will ever get from an LSO. "Mostly O.K. passes, but slow airspeed on final trap." I exploded: "Slow airspeed? You creep! I was down to fumes. I was flying about as slow as an A4 can fly with a donut. And you gave me that Foul Deck Wave off too early, causing me to take it around and land on fumes!!!"

He just winked, and said: I knew you could hack it!" We were friends.

About that time, the Ready Room door cracked open and the Flight Line NCO stuck his head inside and asked if he could talk to me for a minute. Since I was his boss, I figured it had something to do with the troops or maintenance.

He walked me down the passageway a few feet before he turned and said, "Captain, you were flying #16 this afternoon weren't you?" I said he was correct, and he knew it, so why was he asking me silly questions like that. The Gunny didn't usually ask silly questions.

The Gunny continued: "Were you on some special test hop this afternoon?" I just looked at him with a big question mark on my face, and answered: "No Gunny, why are you asking?"

"Well Captain, I've been Flight Line Chief on A4's for a long time, and I know what the handbook says about carrier operations, how much fuel we can, and should be able to put in the A4." He hesitated. "But Captain, none of us can ever remember putting as much fuel in an aircraft as we put in #16 this afternoon. You must have been flying on fumes!"

Later that night, over a smuggled bottle of Jack in the Black, I told the LSO what the Gunny had said. He threw down about 3 fingers of my Jack Daniels and responded, "I got ya aboard, didn't I?"

LSO's are always right.

                                                                                                               The Count

~

LOU PRITCHETT