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Gramps from yesteryear: two navigators. (Grampaw Pettibone).

An EA-3B Skywarrior was scheduled for a routine flight of about three hours from NAS Small Island to NAS Large Island. During the sortie, one of the navigators was to receive his navigator check flight. The crew consisted of the pilot, an electronic countermeasures operator, two navigators and the plane captain. Ltjg. Magellan was the designated Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization navigation examiner and Ltjg. Prince Henry was the navigator who was to be checked. He gathered the navigation equipment and, upon checking the sextant, found that the bubble in the sextant could not be reduced in size.

Following an uneventful departure, en route radio was contacted and the flight proceeded on course. The crew made aircraft position reports using a dead-reckoning plot. Midway timewise into the flight, the crew noted the wet compass was heading 290 degrees (the desired heading was west) and drifting northward. The main compass also appeared to be drifting.

The navigator decided to take a deviation check. When he reviewed the air almanac, he discovered that although the months were correct, he had the wrong year (1972 versus 1973)! However, the navigators interpolated the 1972 almanac for sun position and subsequently took two deviation checks, both of which were discounted as being inaccurate since neither was close to the heading indicated on the compasses.

Approximately two hours and 45 minutes into the flight, when land should have been in sight, the pilot declared an emergency. He experienced some difficulty convincing the controlling agency that his flight was lost. Direction-finding steers, some of which were completely unreliable, were received. One placed the Skywarrior overland when, in fact, no land was in sight. It became more apparent that the EA-3B would not reach land or an airport before fuel starvation occurred.

Five hours after the start of the flight, the crew bailed out. All were rescued at a position 1,000 miles off course.

Grampaw Pettibone says:

Thunderin' thunderins! Do you believe an aircraft with two navigators aboard got LOST? Sure there were extenuating circumstances--like the compass failure and inaccurate direction-finding steers--but these couldn't hold a candle to the people failures. First of all, what good are navigators when they let you down at the time you need them most. Anyone can navigate when all the electronics are working right, but real pros can do it when the chips are down. Secondly, supervision at the home station looks shaky. Why are old almanacs left lying around the navigators office and why did one navigator claim there were no other sextants in the navigation office when he discovered the one he had was less than satisfactory? Poor show.
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Title Annotation:EA-3B Skywarrior looses navigation
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Previous Article:Human tragedy. (Grampaw Pettibone).
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