Above and Beyond: Warner and the Whale
How we turned the A3D into a tanker.
- By Hadley Dixon
- Air & Space magazine, July 2011
(Page 2 of 3)
I had recently spent a week aboard the USS Forrestal and had ridden along on four A3D catapult shots and traps. Now I thought about the black of night with rain and more turbulence, and stopped grinning.
All our connect tests had been fuel-less—and would stay dry until we were absolutely sure of the system. After dropping many hoses and baskets on the lakebed, accompanied by snide remarks from Chase, we figured we were about ready to get wet.
Things were going smoothly when for some reason, with the hose fully extended and the refueler aircraft standing by, the system shut off. No retraction, no extension, nothing. We had considered this possibility during the planning stage: We had a cutting device called the guillotine that could be activated from the cockpit. Now, even the guillotine wouldn’t cooperate.
“Hold it,” Warner said. “I’ll go aft and see what I can do.” He couldn’t fit into the bomb bay wearing a parachute, so he unbuckled and left the chute in his seat. “Now look,” he said, “I’ll have to walk on the bomb-bay doors to get to the reel, so for Christ’s sake, stay away from that bomb-bay door switch.”
We depressurized, and away went fearless Warner, chuteless. I told ground control what was going on. I supposed they just shrugged their shoulders.
In a few minutes Warner came on the intercom. “I’m at the reel and it looks okay. But to get where I have to, I’ll be standing on the doors. Got it?” I confirmed, then glanced at the bomb-bay doors switch and light.
Suddenly I froze. The bomb-bay doors light came on—the doors were open. I prayed to hear Warner’s voice.
Then, the sweetest words ever to come over an intercom. “Holy Christ, can’t you see my chute in my seat? What in hell are you trying to do?”