And 015? Well, a small crew was already making steady progress at assessing her state that evening. When he left Saturday, he was surprised to see the MODEX already painted on her nose, squadron seal and Battle ‘E’, Safety ‘S’ and AEW Excellence awards applied and the beginnings of the sunburst on the tail. A long worktable was setup along one side with piles of documentation on one end and parts at the other. An intermittent stream of personnel were entering and leaving, accompanied by muffled shouts and the occasional, well, actually frequent curse. The resurrection of 160992 was well and truly underway.
“017, 126. Angels 37 heading 175. Flight of 2, speed 430 knots”
“016, 92 miles”
When the lead element of the Bluetails arrived things were pretty quiet – it was almost a week before an alert launched. Time was put to good use though in turnover with the off going E-2B Reserve squadrons and getting to know the Air Force fighters they’d be working with over the next few months. The 57th FIS (Fighter Interceptor Squadron) aka the “Black Knights” flew F-4Es and had been stationed in
Said hospitality was extended even to the point that members of each squadron were welcomed with equal enthusiasm in the other’s BOQ bar.
“Bluetail, Lead has Judy”
“Roger, Texaco airborne and proceeding to station”
You could almost hear the sigh of relief over the radio. Even with tanks, the F-4s were not like the F-14’s the Bluetails had in CVW-7. Fuel, while always a point of concern, was doubly so for the thirstier Phantom. Just the previous week the Bluetails had saved an RAF Phantom’s bacon by getting him hooked into a KC-135 in an extremis situation when the RAF tanker’s package went bad. Word was the reward was inbound on the AEW Shackletons that were conducting their monthly visit next week…
The CICO watched as his nugget ACO monitored the remaining part of the intercept and visual ID. As he did so, his thoughts turned back to
The journey had not been an easy one – many a phone call and message was exchanged between the forward deployed squadron and the Wing over parts and needed assistance. Continuing a trend established in the late 70’s, spares and money for operations were meager and cannibalization was the rule of the day. In 015’s case, it meant that there would be no crypto boxes or PDS until her arrival in
The reminder of the flight up sent needles of ice through his back and neck. Growing up in
“Garden-spot of the
All would’ve been perfect though if the Pers O had just executed an EMCON recovery. Instead, yukking it up in his characteristic laugh, he’d beat feet back to his room – and the two had individual visits the next day – the Pers O from the XO and him, the MO. While a good prank was appreciated, the fact was something had to be done, and punishment duly applied. Banned from the O-club bar for the next month (and the BOQ bars too). Smiling to himself, he allowed as how the time he was in hack allowed time for planning a little revenge on their VP buds (who continued getting under their and the fighter guys’ skins). Working in the dark of night he and a couple of other Bluetail and 57th folks “borrowed” a number of stop signs and other traffic signs from around the base, hiding them for a day until it became clear there was a major stir on base, at which point they mysteriously reappeared. In the back of the VP alert truck…
Back on deck he was met by the XO on the way to Maintenance Control. “Wilbur” he said “’Bout time to get you out of town” he said. “We received word that 015 is ready for the PMCFs and you and the Safety Officer are going back tomorrow to
“Got it XO – anything else”
“Yeah, it’d be a good idea not to go around the VP guy’s place tonight – they’re all upset about something” he said with a grin that widened to a smile…
To be continued…
P.S. Taken on the return leg back to Norfolk, post deployment (Apr 81) - 015 is behind 014.