PERRIN PILOTS

PERRIN PILOTS AT FOSTER

by Harold Wade

During the late 1950s, Perrin AFB had a rocket detachment at Foster AFB, TX. The instructors in both training squadrons went down there for a week during summer to requalify for air-to-air rocketry in the D.

We used the Matagordo Range, out over the Gulf. The notoriously short flight duration of the Dawg was even shorter as our birds had no drop tanks installed. Re-turning to base we got in a lot of practice coasting into parking spots and checking the accuracy of the fuel guages. The engine always died when the indicator read 0.

Those of us that flew the Dawg didn't get to shoot at any MiGs but we sometimes had a little excitement. One afternoon at Foster, I pulled into the arming area with a full load of 24 rockets in the pod, pointed the aircraft away from the ramp and runway and the armament guy disappeared under the bird.

The canopy was open and my hands were out of the cockpit while he made stray voltage checks and snapped the igniter arms onto the rocket motors. This was a very tense time because if a rocket was going to fire accidently, this was the time for it. We were al-ready slightly less than welcome at Foster since some-one in our detachment had let a rocket loose on the ramp.

A very loud BOOM! shook me and the bird. For a moment I figured something on my bird had exploded. But there was no smoke or fire and the engine was running just fine. Then, BOOM! - it happened again. I looked around and saw a flight of F-100s had passed behind me and taken the runway. Lead and his wingman had created the first BOOM! as they started their takeoff roll. Then nos. 3 and 4 rolled a few seconds behind them. If anyone doesn't think the F-100 had a hard lighting burner, try sitting a few feet be-hind them when they light up!

I got my heart back in my chest where it belonged and headed for the range where a T-Bird with a 6x20 rag was to rendevous with four of us. I was #2 in the string. About the time I turned on the final attack vector, the guy in front of me shot the rag off the tow cable. So with nothing to shoot at, I turned back toward Foster. While crossing over Matagordo, I was still pulling circuit breakers and resetting armament switches since I still had a full load of rockets.

WHAM! I felt the pod slam down and at first thought it had parted company with the aircraft over an inhabited area. Wow! two coronaries in one day! What if that thing hit somebody? Who'd believe I hadn't hit the jettison switch?

Then I realized the aircraft was acting as if it had a little extra drag. Hmmmmm, maybe I still had the pod attached. But at that point I was afraid to touch any controls that might affect the pod. I'd never lost one but I knew guys that had for no apparent reason. I got up enough courage to hit the manual "Up" switch. The sweat factor decreased considerably when I felt the `clunk' of the pod come up and lock into the proper position.

That was one of the few times I got back on the ground with fuel to spare and didn't have to coast into a parking spot.


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