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Fatal error.

An air group was conducting an aerial demonstration. All scheduled exercises had been running like clockwork. The finale was to be a coordinated attack on a target 2,000 yards off the port beam of a big attack carrier. The attack force consisted of four-plane divisions from each of four squadrons in the air group.

F4D Skyrays would lead, firing rockets from Aero 6A pods. A4D Skyhawks would follow with 250-pound bombs, then A4Ds and AD Skyraiders with rockets would finish the job. After the firing runs, the aircraft were to proceed to a point 10 miles astern of the ship to rendezvous for a formation flyover.

The F4Ds fired their rockets in a 30-degree run, followed closely by the first A4D division. At the end of the attack, the F4Ds and A4Ds each made a climbing left turn to reverse course. The A4Ds proceeded to close the interval, so that at the completion of the turn they were in a parade formation and 150 feet below the F4Ds. The two divisions were at about 2,800 feet at 325 knots.

Suddenly, the following radio transmission broke the silence:
 "Stand by to drop hung ordnance."
 "A4Ds are behind us."
 "Stand by to drop pods."
 "Stand by, drop."

Before a warning could be shouted, the F4Ds dropped their empty rocket pods! The pods came tumbling back through the A4D flight. One struck the A4D division leader's plane squarely on the windshield, shattered the canopy and glanced off the vertical fin. His plane slowly rolled to the right, made two complete rolls, turned inverted and plunged into the ocean. Apparently incapacitated, the pilot did not eject.

Grampaw Pettibone says:

Holy smokes! This is the first time a miserable error like this has come to Ole Gramps' attention in many a year, and I read 'em all. We lost a 3,500-hour jet pilot and it could happen again!

With expendable rocket launchers in common usage, it behooves EVERY squadron to take a real close look at their doctrine to make sure this NEVER happens again!

A high price was paid for this blunder. Don't waste a lesson so dearly bought. Pass the word!
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Title Annotation:Gramps from Yesteryear; disaster strikes at aerial demonstration
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:Falling short.
Next Article:E-2/C-2 hit major milestones.

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