Flights & Fancy: Thai Boom
- By R.R. "Boom" Powell
- Air & Space magazine, March 2008
(Page 2 of 3)
“Ubon tower, 602, request flyby.”
“Roger 602, how low will you go?”
“As low as you’ll let us.”
I lit the afterburners and headed down. The mechanics later said it was spectacular. At the end of the runway I pulled up, did a couple of rolls, and headed back to the Kitty Hawk. After that, life settled into routine. For a week.
No words strike fear into a junior officer’s heart like “The skipper wants to see you in his office.” After rapping on the door and hearing a brusque “Enter,” I stood at attention. Commander Bill Belay said, “What the !%@# did you do in Ubon last week?”
It seems the Thais had stormed the base at Ubon, demanding retribution for windows broken by a sonic boom. The local commanders figured out it was not one of theirs and sent the problem up the Air Force chain of command. In Hawaii, where four-stars talk to four-stars, the Air Force and Navy exchanged information on the incident. From the Navy Commander-in-Chief Pacific, it rolled back down the Naval chain, gaining momentum. For the next eight days I did not know whether I was to be court-martialed, sued, or keelhauled.
Then an officer on the embarked admiral’s staff let me peek at a message from a high level in the Air Force. It was mostly business but it ended with “Good-looking airplane in Ubon a couple of weeks ago. When’s it coming back?”
I was concerned about the aerial welfare of my pals back at the Wolfpack. In the Philippines I ran into an F-4 crew from Ubon and asked if my low flyby had led to restrictions on their flying. The pilot looked at me and said, “What flyby?”