Above & Beyond: Shooting Up a Shooting Star
There's more than one way to dump extra fuel before landing.
- By Lieutenant Colonel Alfred (Joe) D’Amario, U.S. Air Force (ret.)
- Air & Space magazine, March 2009
(Page 2 of 4)
En route, I used about half the fuel in the right tip tank, so that when I jettisoned the full left tank, the right one would not grossly unbalance me.
I arrived over the range at about 10,000 feet. The tip tanks were mounted on bomb release shackles, so I set up the bomb release panel to let go of the left tip tank and hit the release button. The tank did not jettison.
I reset the switches and tried again. Nothing. I reported my lack of progress to the control tower and circled around for another try.
In addition to the electrical method of releasing the tanks, there was a handle to manually release each tip tank. On my next pass over the range, I pulled the left tip tank release handle. It still wouldn’t go.
Mounted on the instrument panel was a red “panic button” that, when pressed, was supposed to jettison everything on all of the bomb shackles under the wings. On my third pass over the range, I literally hit the panic button. The right tip tank jettisoned, but the left one wouldn’t let go.
Now I was in a real pickle. There was no other way to get rid of the tank.
Then I remembered the briefing. I didn’t have a wingman to shoot my tank, but I was wearing a shoulder holster that held my Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol. Maybe I could open my canopy and shoot the tank.
I had a very heavy left wing, and no autopilot to help fly the airplane. Every time I took my hand off the control stick, the airplane started to roll left. I was going to have to get my pistol out of its holster, open the canopy, jack a round into the chamber (I never carried it with a round chambered so I wouldn’t accidentally shoot myself in the leg), and try to shoot the tank while flying the airplane with the other hand. The tower officer kept calling me, and to answer him I had to keep hitting the microphone button on the top of the throttle. What I really needed was a third hand.