Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Did you ever hear the one about...

...the Grumman test pilot who was shot down by 20mm cannon shells that he'd fired hisownself?

That's right, in one of my favorite strange-but-true aviation stories, an F11F Tiger kinda sorta rear-ended its own bullets.

28 comments:

Ed Foster said...

Technically, if it's over .50 caliber it's a shell, and the writer should have known that.

Yeah, my Dad was on the Midway at the time, and they made some changes to gunnery runs because of it. All the F11 pilots got a bit of kidding because of it.

That Tiger was the prettiest plane. It really didn't have the legs for naval operation, but the Blue Angels loved it, and it could just about hold it's own in a dogfight with an F8U, arguably the greatest supersonic dogfighter of the time. Less turn, more dive and climb, but the results weren't all that different at the end of the brawl.

Anonymous said...

My Dad worked at Grumman (Calverton test facility) at the time, as I did shortly thereafter. Pete Attridge was one of my mentors, leading to my career as a Marine test pilot. He was one of the old-school "silk in the wind" test pilots.

Leatherneck

Ed Rasimus said...

Picturing the ballistic arc of anything that comes off the jet is a critical skill. Bullets don't simply evaporate and it isn't difficult to intercept them in their fall. Ditto for plain old iron bombs.

Scariest one I ever encountered was an AGM-78 Standard ARM. Typical profile was to go vertical upward on launch then find the target radar on the downward trajectory. Seems that the missile decided the target was below our flight and came straight down from above through the gap between my jet and the lead Weasel. Whoops!

DouginSalcha said...

Read a story one time (don't know if it was true) about how they tried out air-to-air missiles on the SR-71. Only problem was that the missiles had a top speed of two and a half mach and the top speed of the SR-71 was something in excess of 3 mach (and the plane 'accidently' shot itself down)...

Joseph said...

Ed-

Wild Weasel? As in Iron Hand missions?

IZinterrogator said...

Not the only time a Grumman product shot itsself down, however. During flight testing, F-14 #6 shot itself down with a Sparrow. Here's the story from the pilot who did it: http://www.ejectionsite.com/F-14%20SHOOTDOWN.pdf

Me said...

Now the crucial question is this: If the pilot did this four more times, would he be considered an Ace?

Atom Smasher said...

My fave Oops anecdote is from, I think, Richard Bach's "Stranger to the Ground". Guys ferrying an F-100 or something in the SE, back seater trying to adjust seat, accidentally inflates liferaft under his seat. Apparently this was common enough they kept a razor blade taped to the seat frame for deflations. He tells the pilot what's going on, pops the raft, which explodes with a bang and cloud of talcum powder.

Unfortunately the backseater's microphone cable had come undone during his undulations and the pilot was surprised by a loud BANG! behind him and a cockpit instantly filled with "smoke" and he immediately cuts the throttle.

Both yelling but unable to distinguish anything, the backseater, already freaking, feels the engine go out and thinks it's a flame-out, yanks the handles and out he goes.

Pilot glides it into a swamp, both are okay.

Imagine THAT review board.

Old NFO said...

The F-14 is one, and I believe an A-10 fouled both engines with shell casings from firing it's GAU-8

Tam said...

Old NFO,

"...an A-10 fouled both engines with shell casings from firing it's GAU-8."

There's a difference between rear-ending your own bullets and getting rear-ended by your own bullets... ;)

Anonymous said...

"There's a difference between rear-ending your own bullets and getting rear-ended by your own bullets... ;)"

Especiually when it's something that almost literally lay lown metal so thick you can walk on it.

You readingn this I can only wonder how many WWII allied bombers shot one another down over Germany: 10+ .50 cal per each all with excitable green crews manning them , dozens of Aircraft flying tightly boxed.

I know they claimed more shoot downs than there where German planes, but all that lead had to go somewhere.

I know my dad was on the continent at the time, and he says the bombing raids where WAAAY less dangerous that all the Flak shrapnel falling to the ground 10min later.

Ancient Woodsman said...

The A-10 does not eject the casings from the GAU-8. It recovers them after they are fired.

Anonymous said...

If I recall the article correctly...

An A-10 did lose an/both engine(s) after firing it's Avenger.

Apparently the Bunsen Honeydew types had been trying different propellants for the 30mm. One batch apparently did not fully burn before exiting the barrel and the ensuing cloud of burning powder was sucked into the intakes and starved the engine of O2.

I don't remember if the aircraft was lost but given the low altitude of most strafing runs I would guess whole thing ended with a crump and a greasy black cloud.

I think the article ran in Air & Space.

Anonymous said...

I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; For, so swiftly it flew, the sight. Could not follow it in its flight. ...

Maybe Longsworth should be included in Gunnery 101?

Anonymous said...

All hail Wikipedia...

"The A-10 engines were initially susceptible to flameout when subjected to gases generated in the firing of the gun. When the GAU-8 is being fired, the smoke from the gun can make the engines stop, and this did occur during initial flight testing.[2] Gun exhaust is essentially oxygen-free, and is certainly capable of causing flame-outs of gas turbines. The A-10 engines have a self sustaining combustion section. When the gun is fired the igniters come on to ensure no flame out occurs.[13]"

From the article on the A-10.


Guess my memory wasn't too far off.

rickn8or said...

And another in the Grummann Ironworks column: A-6 ferry flight from NAS Oceana to Nas Norfolk. ATC steers them here and there, hold out thataway.

Pilot hits the seat tilt switch, BN hears a bang and looks around and discovers he's in a pilotless airplane. Radios his position and punches out. Result: one A-6 planted in Dismal Swamp.

Billy Beck said...

"Wild Weasel" -- very much like Iron Hand, but Air Force instead, and pioneering in the field of ECM/SEAD.

Bubblehead Les. said...

rick8nor: Having spent a grand total of 5 years at Dam Neck, I heard about your story. Here's 3 more: 1) F-4 Phantom flames out, goes down in the Crash Zone, where, a year later, the Va. Beach City Council allows the building of Greenbriar Mall. Heard that at the Oceana O club, all new pilots assigned to the base had to put a buck into a Fund to go to the Widows of those pilots who put it through the Main entrance. 2) Same City idiots allowed a 10 story hotel to built next to the Convention Center, right in the Landing Path for the Base. When they held the ribbon cutting ceremony, the Base Commander ordered all available planes to practice "Touch and Goes" and do their "Go Arounds" right over the Hotel. "Sound of Freedom" was so loud, they had to cut the ceremony short. 3) Tam, you'll like this one. Just left the Hilltop Movie Theater after seeing the Premiere of Star Wars. Two showings back to back, left near midnight. Heading down the back road towards my base past Oceana ( think it was Ohio Ave.), when a flight of F-14's came in from doing Night Ops. Swear to God, I hit the brakes and pulled off, because it sounded and looked like Luke and the Boys were coming right over my head on the way to the Death Star! Couldn't have been more than a Hundred feet above me! Totallly Frackin' Awesome!

Matt G said...

Les, they were just bullseying wamprats, just like in their T-16s back home, in Begger's Canyon. . .

Joanna said...

Check you out, you made Neatorama: Link

McThag said...

Solids are not shells. Shells have a payload, literally a shell surrounding said load. Caliber is not relevant.

105 and 120mm sabot are never called shells. HEAT and HESH are.

randy said...

Don't have a source other than war stories from Buff crews, but I heard of a tail gunner in the one of D models (where they actually still were in the tail like in WWII, unlike later models where they controlled the guns from up front).

He fell asleep during a training mission. Woke up as they were descending for low level practice.

The intercom had become inoperative, and seeing the aircraft in a sharp descent and not being able to raise any of the crew, he punched out.

Since, on that model of BUFF, this involved setting off a line of det cord wrapped around the part of the tail, you can imagine the hilarity that ensued from that moment on.

Ed Foster said...

Woodsman, they can short cycle the 30mm rounds out the dump chute. I live just 3 miles from the CTANG base they fly from, and 4 or 5 years ago one of the boys scattered 68 rounds (inerts, thankfully) all over my neighborhood while working on his cluster scenario.

Ancient Woodsman said...

Ed - how did you know they were inert by the empty casing? BTW, it is not brass.

The rounds are recycled back though the magazine, as the feed system is double-ended.

Ian Argent said...

In that same vein - in a couple of harder-science sci-fi series I've read (Elizabeth Moon's Herris Serrano series comes to mind, but I think Dave Weber touched on it as well) a note is made of craft that have managed to shoot themselves down with their own weaponry by incautious "tactical" FTL hops. (Kind of embarrassing to get hit by your own light-speed weaponry, don't you think?)

Will said...

Ian,
Moon's "Once a Hero", perhaps? Good book.

Ed Foster said...

Woodsman, complete, loaded shells. The State cops and AP's recovered all of them, and WFSB said they were inert. I don't know if that means they were the tungsten carbide/non-uranium rounds they make the Israelis use, or bluenose stuff.

I gather that if the round doesn't fire it's dumped over the side rather than possibly have a cook-off in the magazine.

I recall some fun times in the way back when at Twenty-nine Palms with electric primed 20mm that decided to go pop after laying in the sunshine for a few hours building up a good static electricity charge in the already sensitized primer.

OrdDisp used to blow them in place to keep the Mexican kids and donkey prospectors from snatching them.

Ian Argent said...

@Will, either that or the immediate preceding - winning colors, perhaps?

The earlier books didn't really go for space battels, and I kinda dropped the series after "Once a hero" due to too many other good books