Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last One Out is a Rotten Crewdog!

Okay, this is one of my favorite stories but I've heard different versions of it. I got it from someone who was there (and will remain nameless.) SAC made a big deal about getting everywhere the B-52's flew exactly on time. It was something about the timing of the next big war being very important but I think the whole command got a little anal retentive. Anyway when entering a low level training route the crew tried to make it exactly on the scheduled time. They did try hard because if you were late and the next aircraft scheduled in was early there was an increased possibility of an aluminum shower. So the unnamed crew of the Buff from the unnamed base was approaching low level and the FAA center hadn't cleared them for entry yet. They were about to fly past the point, when Center realized their predicament and cleared them in. The crew of the B-52 that day was seven men strong because an instructor pilot or IP from Training Flight was sitting in the jumpseat between the pilots. Anyway, the Nav realizing that the entry point was passing rapidly to their right ordered an immediate 120 degree turn. The pilot banked the aircraft sharply to the right. The IP noticed that in his attempt to get to the point on time, the pilot was wrapping it up a little too tight. As the turn bank approached 90 degrees (something that should never happen in a B-52) he yelled over the intercom, "Roll out!" The gunner who had been half asleep thought he heard "bail out," so without a second thought, he did. The copilot saw the ejection light come on and yelled over the intercom, "Who bailed out?!?" The electronic warfare officer, or EW, saw the hole in the aircraft above the empty gunner's seat and heard someone yelling about a bail, out so he punched out. The nav team saw light above them coming from the open hatches above the EW and gunner's positions and thought the aircraft was breaking up so they both punched out. The copilot looked around at the chaos flying around the cabin behind him and promptly rotated his trigger handles, squeezed the triggers, and left the plane. The pilot turned to IP, shrugged his shoulders, and also jettisoned the aircraft. At this point the IP, the only crewmember not in an ejection seat, sat stunned as the aircraft righted itself and regained straight and level flight. As far as he could tell there was not a thing wrong with the jet...except for the lack of crew and a few holes where hatch covers had been. He called the command post back at his base and explained the situation. When the screaming and tearing of hair finally died down he explained that he was going to see if the B-52 was still flyable. There was one big problem. When the pilot team left they took their seats with them. The IP really needed a seat for several reasons, not the least of which was to be able to see out. He tried sitting on equipment cases and seat cushions but nothing seemed to work. He finally set the aircraft on a course that would take it to a gradual crash landing away from populated areas, reported his position to the command post and went down stairs and jumped out the hole where the nav seat used to be. SAC send up some fighters to make sure the aircraft came down in the right place and reluctantly sent helicopters to pick up the crew. And the crew became the leper crew of SAC...until the next major screw-up.