YUMA JUDGE

by Bill Shields

Don Jabusch, wrote "Sabre D Tales" in the Fall 1999 issue of Sabrejet Classics, doesn't know how lucky he was not to have me as a chase judge in the 1955 rocketry exercises. A bunch of from all over Air Defense Command, were sent to Yuma for this duty. This was a real vacation from the Pittsburg weather. (I was with the 71st FIS at Pittsburg Airport.) Plus, it was a lot of fun.

A typical mission consisted of fifteen minutes of chase judging, and about forty-five minutes of buzzing and acrobatics. The chase aircraft were nothing to brag about, being ancient Dash-1 D models, with the radar replaced by lead weight to maintain the CG. But flying any type of jet aircraft sure beats anything happening on the ground. Why was Jabusch lucky? Because he wasn't flying one late morning mission that I was chasing. The weather was good, with a few cumulous clouds beginning to build up on the edge of the range. I could see the B-29 target tow ship, chugging along out there about thirty miles or so. The F-94 (that I was chasing) had good radar contact, and all was going well. That is, until I saw that the clouds were starting to build up to our level.

"Well", I'm saying to myself, "This is a good run. And that cloud probably isn't going to get in our way. And this is an all-weather Air Force. Those guys shouldn't be bothered by a little cloud. Besides, there are two of them, and they're under the hood and probably will never see it"

Murphy's Law didn't fail me. At about forty seconds out, it was very clear that we were going to be very close to that cloud. Still, my impeccible logic about 'the all-weather Air Force', and being 'under the hood', and so forth, held. We pressed on. At about twenty five seconds to go, it became even more clear that we were headed for some type of cloud encounter. I couldn't afford to lose sight of the tow ship, so I popped up about a hundred feet or so. The F-94, shall we say, 'brushed through" the plume on top of what I now knew was a thunderstorm. And they got a real good 'bump!'

I claim that it was all perfectly safe. I never really lost sight of either the Starfire or the B-29. In another second I was right back on the F-94s wing. However, the F-94 crew thought otherwise. Their reaction was first evident when the edge of the rear hood raised up a couple of inches, and two beady little eyeballs peered out at, first me, then the cloud. The rest of the event is a bit hazy. But if memory serves me correct, I cleared them to fire. They did - and they missed.

It turned out that I had not drawn just my old F-94 crew, but no less than a group commander - Colonel Ben king. This absolutely, positively guaranteed that the matter would be brought to the attention of my TDY Boss, none other than the well-known Major James Jabara. It was!

Colonel King demanded a repeat mission, plus a full explanation of the circumstances. I will omit the sordid details, other than to say that I found Jabara to be a reasonable man, who did not fire me on the spot and send me back to Pittsburg. But we did agree that, in the future, it would probably not be a good idea to get so close to a cloud.

So Don Jabusch lacked out by being elsewhere on that day. Colonel Ben King did not. I hope he is not a member of our Association (he isn't) so that I won't have to "explain myself all over again.


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


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