Thursday, June 4, 2015


The birds were lined up facing each other in two rows of six. Here's a picture of Trip-Trey's birds lined up that way. Usually, when there was enough flightline and the lines were painted for taxiing we would stage the planes on the diagonal. But the space at Cubi Point was limited and we were only there as visitors.

Launches are a ballet of activity. Tuggers pulling the turbine generators from plane to plane. The turbines are loud, the F4s are louder still. It was a four bird launch, so that's two turbine/air generators and eight engines turning, with people moving around the planes.

It also meant that eight airplanes weren't launching. Those planes were sitting and available for maintenance. One of those planes had a gripe and the subject of our story had been dispatched to check on it. Rather than walk down the middle of the flightline where things were busy, he decided to walk behind the planes, walking behind the turkey feathers on planes that were not running and ducking under the engines on the ones that were

He missed one. The F4 Phantom he stepped behind was running. He walked into the jet exhaust about a foot and a half behind the turkey feathers. Worse, he did so at the precise moment that the pilot increased thrust to begin taxiing. An F-4 at military power generates almost 11,000 pounds of thrust. I don't know (do any of you?) how much thrust a pilot had to give it to get rolling and start taxiing.

I do know what it did.

I was sitting in the shade of Maintenance Control on the steps with the AMO, watching the launches. I was likely thinking of liberty, but anyway I didn't see him step into the jet blast. The first indication I had was hearing the AMO yell, "Jesus Christ!".

I looked up and saw him in the air. We were running by the time he stopped tumbling. He was 45 or 50 feet away from where he stepped into the blast. He flew part of it, which was good. Then he landed, bounced and skidded, which not good.

He looked a lot like someone who had taken a spill on a motorcycle. His skivvy shirt and utility trousers were shredded. He had patches of skin missing from head to foot. He was just starting to really bleed and go into shock when the ambulance arrived. He got a ride, an overnight stay, and returned the next day.

He recovered, he was young, and lucky, and in a few days he had big scabs and a story to tell. Beware of jet blast indeed. Especially 18 inches behind the engines.


rogue14 said...

I got blown off the flight deck and down a stairwell by a yellow shirt turning an A-6 while I was carrying F-14 intake covers. Got my foot stuck in a handrail, twisted my ankle.

And was happy about it! At least I was dry...

juvat said...

IIRC, the F-4 idled about 65% and it took a quick cycle to about 70-75% to get it started. Once it was rolling, idle would generally keep it going. That having been said, the kid was lucky to say the least.

Old NFO said...

Oh man... I remember that ramp well. You guys were out at the transient line. Not a lot of room! And he's lucky he lived, One wonders if he had a cranial on?

drjim said...

Amazing story.