F3D Sky Night
“ WHOOPS, I’M SORRY,” SHE SAID
Walking into flight ops at NAS San Diego, CA. my intention was to just file my flight plan and ferry an F3D (Douglas Sky Knight) to the east coast. As I was filling out the flight plan for my first leg to Albuqerque, NM, the duty officer (boss behind the desk running the show) said, “Hey, IKE, I haven’t seen you for years,” and stuck out his hand. After a few words we both discovered we were classmates who survived the rigorous training to become Naval Aviators. He remembered my name immediately, but it took a little time for me to remember his. Checking over my paperwork he casually asked, “where you takin’ her?” (The F3D) I said, “she’s going to end up at Cherry Point eventually.” With a little more ol’ buddy chit chat, he suddenly got very serious. I got the impression he had a sudden thought and I was part of it. Leaning across the desk he quietly said, “See that little gal sitting over there?” I glanced over to see who he nodded at and where his eyes had pointed, I saw a cute little LTJG in her uniform. She was probably a nurse in the medical branch of the navy. “Look,” he said, “she’s a personal friend of mine (wink), she came out here to get a ride on anything going east. She’s on emergency leave, but we’ve got nothing scheduled.” She saw us talking and smiled at us hopefully because this was her second day of hanging around waiting for a ride. “Look, pal,” he said, you’re going east. You got two seats in that thing.” “So?” I said. “Could you maybe take her with you, as a personal favor?” “Hey pal,” I replied, “you know we can’t take females on service type aircraft.” Today, they even fly the damn things. “Look,” he said, “I know the rules but suppose I got her a flight suit and helmet and told her to tuck her hair up. Who would know?” I thought about it and decided if he could sneak her on the ramp and get her on the aircraft I could get away with it, as a personal favor to him, and a hell of a risk for me. What the hell, he might one day be my commanding officer and I would have a chip to cash in, and NO PAIN, NO GAIN. It’s called CYA for the future.
He disappeared for five minutes. When he returned he was escorting a small crewman (her) in a flight suit, wearing a crash helmet with an oxygen mask dangling from it, and carrying a flight bag which probably had her suitcase and belongings inside. “Tell her to put her hand bag inside her flight suit if she has to keep it with her,” I said, glancing around to see if anyone saw what we were doing. “Let’s not push our luck. Crewmen don’t walk around with a hand bag.” “Right,” he said taking her out to my jet.
When I climbed into the cockpit I saw she was belted in, had her chute on and was ready to go. He did a good job getting her settled where she was going to ride. As I hooked up my harness and got my paperwork organized she said, “I don’t know how to thank you for doing this. My mom is sick and she wanted me to come home. I’m on emergency leave.” “That’s OK,” I said, “we’ll get you there. Glad you wiped off the lipstick, now don’t let anybody see that cute little ass or yours and we’ll be OK.” I saw her blush. “Hey,” I said. “I’ve got to put your flight bag down with my bag, as I popped open the bail out door between us and slid it down the tunnel. “Oh,” she said, “where does that go?” “Out the bottom,” I replied, “in case we have to bail out.” I briefed her on the use of the oxygen mask, a few safety procedures, especially how to pull the D ring on the chute just in case, and off we went.
The first leg to Albuquerque was routine. It took about two hours and she just sat there enjoying her first flight at 37,000 feet in a navy jet. The next leg to NAS Dallas was quite different. I noticed she was digging in her purse for something then looking all around the cockpit. I don’t know how, or why it happened, but suddenly all hell broke loose. The bail out hatch door between us opened. There was one hell of a noise and I felt a pressure difference in the cockpit. The damn escape hatch in the belly had opened, for some reason and everything (our bags) went out the bottom of the jet. What the hell did she pull or touch, I thought? No matter, it was history and we were still flying.
When we landed at Dallas I saw the lineman look at the belly of the F3D. He couldn’t miss it. “Sir,” he said as I climbed out. “There’s a big hole in the bottom.” “Yeah,” I said. “It blew off in flight.” The duty truck picked us up for our ride to flight ops where I closed out my flight plan. I told the duty officer we had a little problem on our flight from Albuquerque and said I would need maintenance before I continued. I made arrangements with a few phone calls and then said, “I guess I’ll be here a few days, can you get us a ride to BOQ?” (Bachelor officer quarters)
When we checked in for rooms the guy at the desk assumed we were both officers. That was no problem, but I sure as hell didn’t want to ask for female quarters for a naval officer flight crew member because that would have blown my cover. When we got to our rooms, (next to each other) she came into my room all flustered. “If we’re going to be here a couple of days, I’ve got nothing to wear. I can’t just go around in my flight suit.” “Well,” I said, “you’ve still got your uniform on under it, don’t you?” She sheepishly replied, “No, just my underwear on, I didn’t want to wrinkle it.” “What do you want to do?” I asked. “Well, can I at least take a shower?” “Yeah,” I said, “but this is BOQ, man country, and you ain’t a man. C’mon, I’ll go with you and make sure nobody walks in and get’s a pleasant surprise.” When she finished she put her flight suit back on but her hair, it gave it away. She put a towel around her head and followed me back to my room. “This is crazy,” she said, “we’re trapped in here, we can’t even go to the O club for something to eat.” I told her to relax, I’d figure something out. I went to the O club, got a couple of take out meals and went back to the room. She was on the bed when I got back. But, she wasn’t wearing the flight suit. She only had on a bra and panties. “It was smelly, I had to get out of it,” she said as she casually took the meal I had brought and sat at the table. She was one cool female.
“Look,” I said, “I don’t smell too good either. I’m going to take a shower. Stay here.” When I got back she was more relaxed and said, “I really screwed up, didn’t I?” “I don’t know why it happened,” I said. “Don’t sweat it but everything we owned is scattered somewhere over east Texas. That got a laugh out of her. “Now, put your flight suit back on, you’re too much of a temptation in your underwear.” She just smiled. “Why?” she asked. “Because, you just are.” She didn’t pay any attention. “Why don’t you take your flight suit off?” “Because, I’ve got nothing on underneath, I washed my shorts and they have to dry,” I said hanging them up. “So?” she said, “I’m a big girl, I’m also a nurse, think I’ve never seen one before?” I knew I was in trouble until my shorts dried.
When I dropped her off two days later I told her to take the flight suit and helmet back. She just smiled and said, “Thank you, I’ll never forget my ride in a navy fighter jet, and I’m sorry for what happened.” Then she gave me a goodbye kiss.
I won’t forget the risky favor I did for a brother naval aviator, or the one he did for me. (Wink,wink,wink). After all, I are one too! It’s a brotherhood that lasts forever.