06 February 2007

A Tale of the COD (Wherein Doc Newton Is Proved Right - Again)

So there we were, all bundled into the back of the COD -- the AIRLANT eval team headed back to Norfolk after "evaluating" the ship/air wing lo these past 3 days. Not being fond of COD flights to begin with, YHS had managed to snag a seat on the last row, or if looking at it from the perspective of the cargo ramp, first row. Regardless, at least YHS would have some leg room on the long flight back. Being an E-2 mole, one would think we'd be used to sitting in the dark for long stretches of time, with nary a window to peer from since the radar was operating. Truth be told, time in a Hummer passes quickly, provided there is a real mission. But time in the back of a COD? Ugh, please. Not even for flight hour hounds like YHS.


Back to the tale. As we began the taxi up to the cat, out of force of habit I look around to see that stuff near me is stowed. A little bit of the COD dance and we're on the cat, and just as power is coming up and we go into tension, what should catch my eye but that the walk around O2 bottle coming loose from its fitting. Now there are many similarities between the E-2 and C-2 and the fitting holding the walk around bottle in place is one of them -- a metal latch that fastens around the neck of this potential missile, pressurized to 1200 psi of compressed O2. In the E-2 there had been a spate of latch failures such that the bottle was now fastened with a velcroed cloth cover. Not so here. There was a petty officer (second class) sitting next to the bottle who recognized the budding problem and first sought to snag the hose with his boot, to no avail. Evidently thinking he could unfasten his straps, grab the bottle and get back in his seat before the cat shot he made his move -- yep, you read right and he did, almost.

Now you know, ol’ Doc Newton was a right smart fella. His Three Laws (especially #3 - For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…) have been put to the test more times than that “Press to Test” button on the cockpit overhead (inside joke to Hummer folks WRT T-handle lights). Each time, Doc was right and the tester, well usually worse for wear.

Our benighted PO had committed the cardinal sin of catapult shots – unstrapping when in tension. Sure enough, despite shouts of “SUSPEND” hollered over the ICS by the crewman in back and a chorus of aghast aviators, the catapult fired and worked as advertised. In the blink of an eye where once had stooped a 6’ 2”, 265 lb 2nd class PO, there now was nothing. Way up, all the way up…yes ALL the way up in the smallest part of the tail, where resided a couple of support structures for the cargo hatch called “chicken legs,” there, there resided the smallest ball of humanity imaginable. The load chief had unhooked as soon as we were airborne and trying to climb up the ramp to extricate the petty officer. Soon, this was accomplished and true to form, the tester was worse for wear with several injuries, the worst of which was a broken collar bone and mild concussion. We circled for a while to give the crew time to consult w/USS Boat as to whether to recover aboard or head for NAS Jax and eventually the power-that-be said to head to the beach and the hospital ashore. In the meantime, the safety officer had a quickie mishap board to convene and a plane load of not-to-happy aviators and staff to interview before we all headed back to Norfolk and scattered to the four winds.

Lesson learned – don’t screw w/Doc Newton. Man Law? Man Law…