05 August 2006

Saturday Comics-II: Of Wayward 'Dogs

There is a long-standing tradition in Naval Aviation that no screw-up goes unrecognized...just check out the variety of callsigns out there. Sometimes though, the screw-up is so monumental that it deserves special recognition -- sort of like, um, landing on the wrong carrier. Recognition is afforded not unlike re-branding a steer that wandered off its ranch and onto another. The receiving carrier "warmly" receives the errant crew with a massive rebranding ceremony before launching them on their way back to mom. Where the prodigal crew is welcomed back to open arms.


Presented herein is exhibit A in the monumental screw-up gallery. Picture this -- you've been on deployment for some few months now (including workups), your ship is not only the newest carrier in the fleet, but one of only 3 nuclear-powered carriers, one of which is in an extensive overhaul on the west coast and the other, you had relieved on station.

That's the background.

"Bluetail, Tap 103 checking in, steer for mom please"
"Tap, Bluetail. Were you a yo-yo" (E-2C ACO in the meantime is looking for 103's transponder squawk)
"Roger -- radar contact 3MH 110 for 5, heading 110, steer 075 for 120. Did you launch from 3MH???"
"Roger -- and I don't want to talk about it"
"..." (Over the E-2's ICS -- "Flight, CICO, you're not going to believe this..." between fits of laughter)
"Bluetail, Taproom 103, sweet lock, switching button 1"
"Strike, Tap 103"
"103, strike, welcome back, Charlie Oscar requests your presence when on deck"
...and it went downhill from there.
Seems that the crew for Tap 103 got the big 69 on the bow of IKE confused with the big 64 on Connie's bow, didn't give much notice to the smoke streaming from the stack on Connie's island and trapped before realizing their faux pas. Of course they were appropriately and roundly welcomed with a plethora of zappers and stenciled slogans courtesy the various corrosion control shops in Connie's airwing. A ransom message was sent to IKE demanding the turnover of our (newly received) first run movies in exchange for the wayward aviators. Were it not for the need for the jet itself, due consideration was given to leaving them on Connie, for in those days, before DVDs, satellite TV, the 'net and other forms of electronic amusement, the only real means of entertainment onboard were the infrequent smokers (boxing matches for you 'wogs) and movies. Reel-to-reel movies. Sometimes with CinemaScope to challenge the technical skills of the SDO. First run movies were rare as, well, liberty calls (of which there were to be very few for IKE on this '80 deployment). Ergo, the loss of this precious asset was not something to be considered lightly.

In the end, cooler heads prevailed, the ransom helo'd to Connie (and unceremoniously dumped on the flight deck -- no touching down here) and the wayward aviators returned. Having had time to work on their story, they tried to blame it on their lead (CAG) who had rolled into the groove, recognized his mistake and waved off at the last minute w/out telling his wingmate it was the wrong ship. Right-oh...

The bird was struck below to the hangar bay almost immediately and a sad VF-143 corrosion control crew went to work eradicating the traces of the misdeed. Joining them were two chasened aviators...

And that was the tale of the Lost Pukin' Dog...


Postscript: Perhaps it was karma afterall -- some few months later CAG hisself left the flaps down on the Tomcat he had just trapped in and crunched them big time -- enough to require a crane-off on return to Norfolk. Ship's CO said "no more Tomcats for you CAG" (this was back when CAG's were O-5s).