Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Operation 3rd Lt.

Or “What the hell is that?”

Of course, we were being exposed to the real Air Force during a two or three week (hard to remember how long) assignment during the third Summer at the Academy. I don't remember what this section did, but I reported to the Sgt. who told me I was to “assist the major.” I reported every morning at 0730. I never saw the major after noon.

Inadvertently, I may have have caused a delay of a SAC air refueling training mission.

I pestered the major for a ride in one of his airplanes.

“No, you don't have flying gear, or boots.”
“Yes Sir, I do.”
“Well, you don't have Top Secret clearance.”
“Yes, Sir, I do.”
“Oh. Well, you don't have an altitude chamber card.”
“Yes, Sir, I do.”

Finally I got permission to ride in a KC-97 tanker. At 2100 hours I reported to the crew. They made me feel very welcome. The briefing, two hours before take off, promised an interesting flight. We started engines, 30 minutes prior as briefed, and taxied out
“Where do you want me to be for Take Off, Sir?” “

“You can sit back with the boom operator, or if you like, you can stand in the cockpit door opening and hang tight.”

You can guess which choice I made. Yep, he might have been hanging his wings on the line, but he was a great motivator. Good man! My first stand-up take-off.

The throttles came up, the engines roared in unison with that beautiful sound, Old Shaky rolled and vibrated its way toward the eighty knot call. My stomach decided to vibrate in sympathy and expelled some gas. In an airplane full of fuel, that is not good timing. Someone asked, “What the hell is that?” Someone else: “I don't know.” The throttles were retarded, and an abort was smoothly performed. A debate follows, no cause can be ascertained. The hotshot truck follows, brake application chart is consulted, we are all OK, Command Post is OK, so let's go!

A second attempt is successful and I get to see three air refuelings from the boom operator viewpoint. Like most, this was a great crew.

But SAC got me back. From the office window I could see the flight line and runway. One long, boring afternoon I noticed a Husky helo doing auto-rotations. The Sergeant noticed me looking and suggested I could go watch from a closer position. I did. Again, a warm welcome, curiosity about my epaulets, and an invitation:
Wanna go up and see what we do?”

“Yes, Sir!”

For the next two hours, I bounce a couple of hundred feet feet and return to earth eight or more times huddled in the small back of a Husky. It was fun and interesting. But when it was over, I had inhaled enough fuel fumes to give me a buzz. That's what I was thinking: Payback!

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