Many of us air wingers had back seat passes but just as many never got a chance to use them.
My first look(up close) with an F-4B
Phantom was jaw dropping. A twin engine rocket with 12,500 pounds of thrust per engine. All the time I served this beast was with respect.
Our squadron was assigned TAD orders to MCAS Yuma. My MOS was 6361, Seat Shop. A bird came back from one of the sorties with an a/c gripe. Rare is the time you can get the heat exchanger to reset by running the engines to AB. The shop NCOIC told me to go to the flight line, meet with the pilot and take the bird to the end of the run way for an AB burn. Back in the 60’s, the civilian airport ran parallel to the Marines air strip.
I went to the flight line with nothing. No comm, no pressure suit, no helmet, no nothing. The bird didn’t even have a back seat, it had been removed.
I met the young LT at the bird. I knew most of the pilots in my outfit but I couldn’t place this guy. He saw my puzzled look and said, “ I’m an RIO but fully qualified, hop in.”
Now my bad feelings really started to turn up.
We taxied out to the end of the runway between the military and civilian strips. I could see the LT around the radar gear and could talk/shout at him.
I told him to go ahead and hit AB.
I should inform the 0311’s and other MOS’s that the F-4B Phantom is capable of vertical take off, if you could stand it on its tale. For this reason you don’t stay in AB long because with the power that the aircraft has no mere brakes can hold it. ie; When power plant runs this bird up for an engine check, the plane is chained to the tarmack. It has that much power.
Well, I saw the LT move the throttles into AB, both engines. (Oh boy) The whole bird is shaking with power. It doesn’t want to be on the ground. I yell up to the LT. “Take it out of AB.”
Now the bird is starting to move. Pucker power and oh shit happens at the same time. I see the LT pulling at the throttles hard but nothing is happening, we’re still in AB. We run over one runway light then another blowing a main tire.
I’m going to pause here for a little power plant 101 briefing; the throttles on a Phantom have a lock to prevent them from coming out of AB. The term used is “around the horn.” You must move the throttles to the right and then pull back. A procedure my “fully qualified” RIO must have missed in class or went to the head during this particular part of instructions.
Using my best drill field voice I kept yelling at the RIO to “go around the horn.” It worked and we finally stopped our forward movement. Even though I felt another movement. Someone asked me later, why didn’t I pop the canopy and “hop” out? The main intakes for the engines are on both sides of the bird. If I had popped the canopy I would have been hamburger at the tail of the jet.
S/Sgt James Clontz (Ret)