Breaking The Deck & How I Almost Got The Callsign Cobra
I was flying with the maintenance officer.
We’d been in Hong Kong for about five days, so you pull into port and you have a good time and go out and drink and don’t think about flying aeroplanes for five or six days and you know, the next day you pull back out to sea and you start flying again.
And you know, you’re a little rusty, you’re a little tired, you’re a little hungover, you’re, you know, whatever.
Went out and we did our area mission and I remember, there’s this thing called breaking the deck, the first plane to come into the overhead pattern to land on the ship can put on a little bit of an airshow.
You have a licence to steal so you can, there’s no one in the pattern so you’re not gonna disrupt anybody and you can come in really fast and really low and there’s a little bit of an expectation on the pilot that breaks the deck to do something outrageous.
And I came in and I was knife edge over the LSO platform which is kinda the standard for that and I pulled really hard and I just remember kind of greying out, ’cause I wasn’t in the mood and I was a little hungover.
And I rolled into the groove and I was really fast and, you know, I was on centerline but I was a little bit high and fast and I was just working really, really hard to get the plane slowed down and on glide slope and as we got to right over, you know, passing from water over steel, I could see that the ball on the fresnel lens was starting to go up.
It wasn’t going up a little bit, it was kind of like shooting off, which means I was about to bolter and I didn’t want to bolter.
So the ball went off the top, I remember it and it’s called clara high.
The ball went clara high and I was like, “Fuck!” Oops, sorry. But I pulled the power back off a little bit, which you’re really not supposed to do, pulled it off and then back on and I pulled the stick back and the plane kinda did a little bit of a Cobra manoeuvre and we were pretty nose up and I thought for a second, “Ah damn it, I missed. “I’m gonna have to go around.”
And all of a sudden the hook snagged and it just whipped us onto the deck so hard that my back hurt.
I mean it was like, ugh, you know, just slammed onto the deck and my RIO, Paul Monger, who ended up becoming an admiral, but he again was the maintenance officer and he was like, “Woof!”, I remember him saying. And we taxied off and I went downstairs and I talked to the maintenance officer, maintenance master chief, and I said, “Hey Master Chief, I’m really sorry. “I think I fucked your aeroplane up.”
“I broke your plane and we landed super hard” and he’s like, “Don’t worry about it. “We’ll go check it out.”
And I went back and checked on it maybe an hour later and he was like, “Yeah, the plane doesn’t care.”
That’s how tough the Tomcat was. It didn’t care. Nothing popped, no rivets or anything.
But the video on it, you know that the LSO Plat cam video which everybody watches and some people record, I got to see the recording of my landing and, no kidding, right as the plane’s about to touch down, you see the belly of the aeroplane and then it levels out and then it smashes into the deck and you know, I almost got a callsign out of that.
I never really got a callsign, but I almost got Cobra out of that one. It was deemed way too cool for me.
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Lions of the Sky
Aside from being a highly accomplished fighter pilot & movie producer, Paco is also a very experienced author. Lions of the Sky is his first fiction novel – a naval aviation thriller – published in April 2019.
In the world of fighter pilots, the most alpha of the alpha, competition is everything and the stakes are impossibly high. A Top Gun for the new millennium, LIONS OF THE SKY propels us into a realm in which friendship, loyalty, and skill are tested, battles won and lost in an instant, and lives irrevocably changed in the time it takes to plug in your afterburners.
Learn more here: Lions Of The Sky.
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