25 February 2007

Postcards: 14 January 1990

A feature wherein YHS dips into his photo-locker of some 40+ years.

TFOA: Things Falling Off Aircraft

Spend enough time in aviation and sooner or later you are going to lose something -- a refueling access panel, landing gear door, maybe a drop tank or MER. Other than the odd TWA (Trailing Wire Antenna) drogue that could not be retracted (a design that was anathema to E-2 aircrew and AT's alike), YHS had been pretty TFOA-lite. Until...

Date/time: 1400L/14 January 1990.
Scenario: Two-plane flight to NAS Brunswick for T-LAM shoot support.

(on squadron common)

"600, 602 -- hey Scoop, you're missing a tail"
"Al, don't yank my chain"
"No, really Scoop, you're missing a tail"
"@$#%&&" <-- over ICS
Scoop, our CAPC (Carrier Plane Commander and flying left seat) called back to YHS (who was CICO) and asked for me to take a look. Dropping the window cover it was immediately apparent something was not right with the starboard inboard stabilizer, which was laying over at a 60 degree angle from the vertical. An immediate return to Norfolk was executed with close attention paid to the flight hydraulic system in case there was a hydraulic leak from damage or loss to the flight control surfaces.

Back on deck with the plane pulled into the hangar, there was lots of head scratching as no one could remember something like this happening before. The rudder assembly was gone and the remaining stub of vertical stabilizer was almost gone too. Fortunately it later appeared that the missing rudder probably landed in either the Chesapeake Bay or one of the many wetlands that surrounded it.

Cause? Apparently the bolts holding the stabilizer in place had corroded and that combined with the vibrations the E-2's tail is subject to, led to failure of the structure. No injuries, no property damage or loss -- still and all, not the kind of phonecall one wanted to place to the CO on a Sunday afternoon...