The Texas ANG began standing air defense strip alert on a 24 hour basis in early 1957, using Lockheed F-80C Shooting Stars. We switched to F-86Ds in late 1957. The F-86D was fast and had about 1+15 hours of fuel if the afterburner was only used on takeoff. Doing acrobatics screwed up the radar, but we did quite a bit of 'rat racing' after we had engaged our 'designated' target and were on the way home.
The electronic fuel control system was very sophisticated for the time, and when all the vacuum tubes were up to snuff, the thing worked very well. When things were up to snuff? But that was not always the case. Often something would go 'ALPHA SIERRA', and selecting the emergency fuel control switch was a good idea - ASAP! It got to be such a common occurrence that they changed the switch label from EMERGENCY to ALTERNATE!
We used to make 'lobster runs' from Dallas to Naval Air Station Brunswick in Maine. One of our pilots was going to medical school in Dallas, and his mom lived near NAS Brunswick. We'd get a flight together and go to Maine, spending the weekend on the Atlantic coast. Then we'd load up with lobsters and head back home to Dallas.
The routine was to lower the rocket tray and stuff 'chicken lobsters' (these are about 1.5 lbs each) into the 2.75" rocket tubes, using a broom handle to poke the little beggars down the tubes. We had 24 tubes, and each tube would hold 4 feet of lobsters, stuffed nose to tail.
We'd refuel in Illinois, making an 'Indy 500' type of refueling, i.e. using the center point fuel inlet while a clerk handed a previously completed flight plan up into the cockpit This required some detailed briefing on our first encounter with this base. But once several free lobsters were introduced into the negotiations, things went rather smoothly.
A rapid turn-around was required to keep the lobsters from getting too hot and dried out while sitting on the ramp. The cold and 35,000 foot altitude seemed to keep them in a sort of suspended animation condition - meaning they were still alive onour arrival back in Dallas.
Once parked back at NAS Dallas, our 'home plate', the rocket tray would be extended and the ground cre'ws would start poking lobsters out of the rocket tubes, using a wash tub to catch the little devils as they were extruded from the rear of the rocket tubes. Again, several lobsters were issued to the 'troops' for helping and cleaning the rocket tubes with a soapy brush. They needed a good cleaning to get rid of the fragrant odor of shell fish and associated seaweed and salt water. An 'attrition rate' of about 10% was about the norm for services rendered by various folks before the lobsters were dumped into the boiling water.
We were very popular with our. neighbors and the support troops anytime we made a 'lobster run'
THOSE WERE THE DAYS!!
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