ehowton (ehowton) wrote,

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Touch & Go

The aircraft in my avatar is the Lockheed U2 which made two very important insertions into my life during my Air Force career, the last of which was in Korea in 1996 - I was the imagery analyst mission supervisor, trudging up a slippery mud hill in full Mission Oriented Protective Posturing (MOPP) gear designed against nuclear, chemical, and biological attack at three in the morning with only a red-tinted 90-degree flashlight strapped to my Load-Bearing Equipment (LBE) and dodging concertina wire embarkments during full exercises.

Good times.

But it was my first encounter with this gawkish wonder of flight which has made its most lasting impression on me. And while I'm sure I've related this story several times throughout my blog (perhaps not as its own post), it was only the other night that I was reminded of it once again. You see, a storm ripped through Anna overnight. Act of God level thunder, crashing all around the house, howling wind the likes we haven't seen around these parts in ages. The emergency sirens blared at a such tremendous volume, that for the first time in recent history every neighborhood in the city heard it. Roused the entire city from their deep slumber.

Of course I didn't find out about it until the next morning. There was chatter on the forum, my neighbor told me all about the storm the next morning as we were standing with our children waiting for the school bus, and it was on the news.

I slept through the entire thing.

It used to amaze my wife that when the children would hiccup in their cribs she'd hear it and bolt upright in bed, but laying a screaming baby between us in the dead of night would never rouse me.

6 Det "Black Cats", Osan AB, Korea (That patch is on my jacket.)

You see, when I was stationed in England, I worked 12-hour overnight shifts, sleeping during the day. My dorm faced the flightline. Did you know the U2 could perform a vertical takeoff? Neither did I! These planes were so difficult to land, that the pilots practiced ceaselessly. And believe me, when you only have a few hours sleep before another 12-hour overnight shift and your dorm faces the flightline, you tend to notice these things.

Designed for standoff tactical reconnaissance in Europe, the TR-1A was structurally identical to the U-2R. The 17th Reconnaissance Wing, Royal Air Force Station Alconbury, England used operational TR-1As from 1983 until 1991.

Because landing was so cumbersome - requiring speeding chase cars to run down the runway talking the pilot down, and because the long wingtips landed on skids, which were folded up into the wings to be replaced by long, thin 'pogo' sticks with wheels on the end which detached once the plane was airborne, the pilots performed a 'touch & go' - that is, wheels down on the runway, simulate landing, then - full throttle, straight up!

Rinse, wash, repeat.

It looks like an unassuming enough aircraft. But full throttle on that Pratt & Whitney J75 engine, especially under the strain of what is basically a glider, being forced vertical, sounded like a rocket being launched outside my bedroom door, at 20-minute intervals, eight times a day, for two full years.

Yeah, I got used to it. I had to.

And these days? Nothing rouses me from my sleep.

ehowton @ 6 Det, Osan AB, Korea
Tags: korea, usaf
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