Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Well another chapter begins. this time I will jump around a bit to give you some more incites into this part of my time at TTR.

Now many of you know that Nevada has a large population of wild horses. The Test Range is loaded with them. A great sight to see to be sure. Huge herds(is that the right term) roam all over the area I was privileged to see. When taking the bus to work they would be just grazing on the sparse vegetation the desert provides or playfully running around like a bunch of colts. As for colts there were many to be seen. These horses were not a bother to anyone and it felt good to know that at least here no one could harm them. The range gave them the ultimate protection from losers who thought they made good targets. The only problem they presented was to vehicles at night. Every now and then one would stray onto the road and become a casualty of fate. This got to be a big concern for the Commander of this base. He of course was mainly concerned about the safety of his troops and the expense of losing the numerous vehicles that were trashed by hitting a horse. He put out a proclamation that the next person that hit a horse would face his wrath.

First let me say that TTR was black as black at night no lights could be seen anywhere. To be able to see a horse crossing the road at night there was IMPOSSIBLE. Well two days after this proclamation by the Commander, He hit a horse and trashed his truck. Needless to say the cat was out of the bag and the fun started. Now this Commander was a great guy and had the respect and admiration of all. He was the kind of man that knew how to treat everyone as PEOPLE. He could also take a joke. Several days after his horse episode some folks had made a sort of trophy for him. It was a diorama of sorts. It had his Red truck(the only red truck on TTR) all crumpled up and a dead horse, the road, grass, cactus the whole nine yards on this thing and a little plaque with the proclamation on it . They presented it to him and he laughed his butt off. This kind of thing would not have been acceptable anywhere but at TTR. We had a special relationship that allowed us to do things that others in the USAF could not. After this event he understood the hazards of driving on the range and made no further proclamations about hitting horses.

There was as I have said two bus systems at TTR. One that operated in and around the housing area and also took us to work. Then there was one that served the secure area only. On the secure area bus I struck up a conversation with one of the drivers and learned he was a FAMOUS KNIFE maker. I believe his last name was King but I could be wrong, its been a long time. Anyway he was a great guy and carried one of his knives with him a folder. This was strange since having a weapon on TTR was a no no. But I think he was given special consideration because of who he was. A great guy with many stories to tell to anyone who would listen. Many just passed him off as just a bus driver. But a few who knew better listened. I have always learned to listen to those with life experience no matter who there are. I mainly asked about his knife making and what he thought about the Black Jet. The ride was never a long one since his route was short but it made the ride even shorter when he was driving.

Now everyone knows that the F-117 is a single seat aircraft and there are no two seat versions, not enough room in the airframe. So for a new pilot there is no chance to fly with an instructor pilot. This is where the simulator comes in. Now it is no secret that all aircraft have a simulator of some kind. But the F-117 had THE simulator. I will not go into details but lets just say when I flew the Simulator it was like flying. During desert Storm the simulator was not being used much for obvious reasons. We were given the opportunity to use it any time we wanted. I took FULL advantage of this and logged much time on it. I took off, flew missions and landed it with no problem. I am no pilot but years of being familiar with aircraft gave me a basic understanding of how they work and how to use the instruments. Something that will never be duplicated again. I am happy to have had the experience. I must say that to this day I laugh at the graphics of even today's modern video games. I will leave it at that.

I can say that I have flown two real jets before while serving in the USAF. An F-4E and and A-7K. I did not land them or takeoff but I was allowed to take the controls of both. On the A-7K flight I was able to fly the entire length of the Grand Canyon only turning around when we reached the airport closest to the end, I forget the name of it. We were at an altitude of only 1000' and I followed the winding canyon all the way. What a thrill. After the canyon we did some aerobatics. I was allowed to do an Immelman (look it up and see what it is)and vertical a figure eight and the best of all a full loop. No I did not lose my lunch. I love roller coasters and this was just a really fast one. Pulled 6 g's at one point YEAH.

In the F-4E I became a member of the Mach Club by achieving Mach 1.2. The crossing of the sound barrier was to say the least exciting. Now the plane we were in had external wing tanks and this required us to go into a shallow dive to achieve Mach 1+. We started at about 2000' and when we recovered we were only at 800'. Being in the cockpit of any fighter aircraft is a noisy event even with the helmet on. Engine noise mainly. When we broke through the sound barrier all of a sudden all I could hear was the noise of the instruments and gyros whirring nothing else. Almost total quiet. What an amazing thrill and experience. The pilot maintained mach1.2 for less than a minute but due to the fuel consumption he said that it was prudent to slow down before we became a glider. F-4E's do not glide. During our Mach run at 800' off the deck everything was a blur to me. The ground was whizzing by and you had to look forward to keep you brain from crashing while trying to focus on anything. You know what it is like when you look out a car window at the close objects they make your eyes dart back and forth if you try to actually see anything , well magnify that just a little and you know what I mean. I will never forget that ride.

Shortly before the Mach flight I was allowed to fly the length of Death Valley. Our altitude was a bit higher around 4000' but still a marvelous view. I ran an intercept on the other aircraft and since I was a Radar guy I knew how to operate the system with ease. But being on the ground and tracking something is way different than being in a moving plane with a closing rate 0f about 1000MPH. Needless to say I did not even come close to getting a lock-on.

Then the pilot took me to his favorite spot to fly He called it flying the gap and when he said gap I had no idea how small it would be. We were part of a two ship flight and the other plane took lead and I am happy they did. I got to see the most fantastic view ever in an aircraft. When the lead plane went over the hump of the gap I had a full view of the leads bottom as he went over the top. What a sight that was. We were VERY close to each other and I mean close. When we exited the gap we were over someones mining claim with a small trailer and we broke out VERY low. So low I could see great detail of the people on the ground. When going through the Gap we were no more than FEET away from walls and dirt. I mean literally only a couple of feet. What a rush! We continued this low level thing for quite a while playing grab ass with the other plane over hills and down hills the best roller coaster I have ever been on PERIOD. The ground was very close and the ejection seat I was in was just a seat at that point since there was no chance of using it, there was no time to react fast enough. Thankfully I am writing this and not some stain in the desert.

Well Time to do the work thing. More later. Mark

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