Buzz Job

Got this from a fellow USAF aviator, who served in Vietnam on an exchange tour with the Navy and survived 100 night traps aboard the USS Oriskany. He retired as an O-6 Wing Commander of the 67th TRW at Bergstrom. His comment prefaces the following story, written by a Marine pilot with the call sign “Crazy.”

My friend prefaced his email with this: “Never learned this trick about the HF. Sounds like a good one! But I used to listen to the Chinese telling lies about what they were doing in Vietnam. Made for interesting listening!”

The Marine’s story follows:

Just got a book from a fellow aviator yesterday and read some comments about flathatting, which in my day we called buzz jobs. It is the bane of every squadron commander and every junior officer’s dream: What good is flying one of these marvels if you can’t share the experience with someone on the ground?

My last tour in the Corps, I was flying the RF-4B Recon-Phantom. The mission and the plane were a flathatters’ dream. Ninety percent of our mission was single plane, solo sorties. We made our living “down in the dirt,” and at the time we were about the only people left in the military that did low level, VFR operations almost on a daily basis.

A normal mission for us was to leave El Toro, fly the standard instrument departure (SID), and upon crossing Saddle Back Mountain, heading for the Salton Sea, call Los Angeles Center, request descent to FL 180 and upon arrival cancel the instrument flight plan for the next 40 minutes and go VFR down into the desert. We’d usually fly pre-planned routes and take pictures of all kinds of targets, from no higher than five hundred feet and seldom at less than five hundred knots. You have no idea what real speed feels like until you’ve been 1.1 Mach at less than 100 feet! What a rush!

On occasion, targets of opportunity would pop up in the desert and the hunt was on. The only worry we usually had, was who was in the back seat. Most guys in the squadron knew within a month who the players were, compared to the passengers, and if you had a good guy back there, you could have a lot of fun. Things were a little loose then. Most of us had been to Vietnam and we were a pretty salty bunch. The kids flying in the military today couldn’t imagine the freedom we had and the limits we could stretch it to.

My secondary MOS was as a Maintenance Officer. I was also a post-maintenance check pilot and used to fly most of my functional flight tests over the Salton Sea. The desert from the Salton Sea east to the Gila Bend Range and south to the Mexican border and north to Hoover Dam was our playground. I got to know to know the area like the back of my hand.

About a month before the fateful day, one of the twidgets from the electronics shop came up to me. “Boss, the next time you’re out in the desert have the back seater crank this frequency into the HF Radio and see what happens.”

Now my family’s Coat of Arms bears a Latin inscription that roughly translates, “Beware of those bearing gifts.” Heritage and experience made me alert, and suspicious. (This bunch had already gotten me once, when they submitted, and I approved, a requisition chit for fallopian tubes).

I looked this young stud right in the eye. “What is it?”

“I don’t know if it will work in the airplane, but in the shop, with a dummy load on the antenna and on the lower sideband, we can talk to the truckers up and down the freeway out here.” He went on to say he thought it might be fun. I took the frequency, put it into my survival vest and promptly forgot about it.

About a month later, another pilot and our two back seaters set out to make a parts run to Hill AFB, Utah. Hill was the Air Force Supply Depot for F-4 parts, and I had made the acquaintance of an Air Force Master Sgt. there,  who, with adequate priming, could produce any hard to get part, regardless of the paper work. Since the Marine Corps was always sucking hind teat when it came to parts, this guy became an irreplaceable cog in my maintenance management plan. In plain English, it was easier to steal the shit from the Air Force than to get it through our own supply system. The guy was our inside man, who made all things possible.

We had the forward camera bay of the wingman’s airplane loaded with two inoperative parts (CSD generators), which we would turn in for new ones, and two bottles of Jack Daniels (primer fluid). We had a 0600 brief and by 0700 were on our way out to the aircraft.

It was a beautiful morning. The stars and moon were in all the right places, the air was crisp, and I was about to leave the surly bonds of earth once again. I used to love these early morning takeoffs! The lights were still bright and the nine-to-fivers were just getting up. Looking down on them, you couldn’t help but feel superior. The drones were just getting up to service the queen bee and here I was, high above them, seeing what they could only dream about. And I was getting paid to do it! Life was good.

I was to lead going over and the other pilot would lead coming back. At the end of the runway, we did our run-ups, nozzle checks, controls, gauges. I looked over at the wingman, he gave me a thumb’s up. “Show Time…Rock and Roll!”

I absolutely loved the awesome acceleration of the Phantom. After I rotated and got airborne, I came out of burner at 350 knots. A few seconds later I heard “Two’s up” and I looked down on him as he joined up and slid into position.

The Phantom was an airplane that could look so different from various angles. From the side, it could look sleek and fast, especially the RF with its long slender nose. But if you looked down on top of the aircraft in flight, it appeared fat and brutish, like a down lineman in football, ugly and not something you’d want to fuck with. From below, the way the wings melded with the fuselage, it once again looked rakish.

The RF-4 was the thoroughbred of the species. Like a young stallion, it just wanted to run. No fighter on the west coast that could stay with us in basic engine or burner. We probably had the last true Mach II birds left in the fleet. Time and weight had slowed all the other F-4’s down. At the top end, only the Vigilantes could give us a run for our money.

Note: I lost a race to a Vigi one day. Passing 1.8 he just walked off and left me. I asked the pilot in the wardroom later, “Just how fast is that son of a bitch?”

With a twinkle in his eye he said, “Don’t know. Never had enough gas to find out.”

Back to paradise: We’re climbing through about 23,000 feet when my aircraft gave a noticeable thump, lurched, and the Master Caution light came on. I looked down at the telelight panel. The right generator had dropped off line and the buss tie stayed open. I already knew that from the jet’s actions that I’d started losing some of the associated equipment. I reset the generator and all seemed well for about two minutes when it failed again.

Hmmm…Not looking good. I called my wingman on the radio and explained what was going on.

Now flying on one generator with the buss tie closed was no big deal, but taking off with only one was forbidden. If I continued on to Hill and landed, I’d be stuck there until the thing was fixed. We talked it over and decided the best course of action was for the wingman to go on and I’d RTB (return to base). I called LA Center and made arrangements to split the flight. That settled, I turned back to the southwest.

Hooters was my back seater that day. (He was so named because his wife had the biggest set of all the wives in the squadron). As soon as I set course, I tried to re-set the generator once again, and voila! It worked.

We were approaching the town of Thermal near the north end of the Salton Sea, with almost a full bag of gas: 13,000 lbs internal, and still had some fuel in the centerline drop tank. Standard procedures required dumping excess fuel prior to landing. But it would be a shame to waste it, so I called LA Center for clearance to descend to FL 180, cancel my IFR flight plan and arranged for a an IFR pickup in 45 minutes.

Now Marines can get pretty creative, especially living on the edge as we were in those days, and we generally flew on hot mike so we didn’t have to key it in order to have a conversation. I asked Hooters if there was any place he wanted to see.

“Naw, let’s just cruise around.” After circling the Salton Sea we were bored. Then I  remembered the note in my survival vest!

“Hey Hoots, crank up the HF radio.”

A little explanation here: As far as I know, the RF-4 was the only Phantom with HF installed so we could communicate while over “Indian territory” (North Vietnam) and out of UHF range. The frequency control box for the HF radio was in the rear cockpit and only the back seater could set frequencies. The pilot could, however, take control of the radio by simply flipping a switch, a feature obviously designed by a pilot.

The radio itself was a boomer: 300 watts output, and the whole tail of the aircraft served as the antenna. We were a mobile radio transceiver with a 17,000 foot antenna, which equates to a lot of range!

Hoots then asked me if I wanted to make a phone patch through NORAD.

“Nope.” I’ve got a new frequency for you to try.”

Hoots plugged in the frequency and attempted to “load the antenna,” which in Marine parlance meant blowing and whistling into the microphone, but no go. The antenna was not responding, a common problem with HF radios. I then said, “Let me try,” I took control of the radio and blew into the mike and almost instantly, we heard, “Breaker, breaker one nine” and all kinds of other gibberish.

Reading my mind (not hard in those days), Hoots says, “You’re Not!”

“Fuckin’ A! This is too good to pass up.”

For the next minute or so, we carried on the last rational and sane conversation that would occur in the cockpit for the next half-hour.

Hoots: “You know how many watts we put out?”

Me: “Yeah, 300. Now shut up and let me find one close.”

Hoots: “Do you know what the average CB radio puts out?”


“About 6 watts, max.”

Fuckin’ back seaters. They were always so anal retentive and tech oriented “So what?”

Hoots: “I was just thinkin’ that if you do this, you may fry a few radios.”

Me: “Naw, ain’t gonna happen.”

No sooner had I said that, we hear, loud and clear, “Breaker, breaker one nine, any station, this is Ol’ Georgia Boy. How do you hear me? Over.”

The thought occurred to me that great moments in life can be preceded by the simplest of statements! Before Hoots could throw water on this great opportunity. I keyed the mike.

“Georgia Boy, this is Recon 05. I hear you loud and clear. How me? Over.”

Immediately he came back, “Ooweee man! What kind of radio is that? You just about blew me outta my cab! Hell Bubba, I’m illegal and you pegged my needles. You a base station or somethin’?”

“Nope. I’m mobile.”

“Mobile my ass. You must be on some mountaintop around here. You better shut that thing down before the Feds are on you like stink on poo!”

“Georgia Boy, I assure you I’m mobile.”

“Yeah, right.”

At this moment I had a stroke of pure genius, if I do say so myself. I keyed the radio and said, “Where are you, Georgia Boy? I’ll prove I’m mobile.”

“Where are you?” He replied.

“Near Thermal”

“Well, hell, son. I’m eastbound just passed Desert Center. I got my peddle pegged to the metal, and I ain’t stoppin’ ’til I gets to Phoenix!”

“I’ll catch up before you get to Blythe,” says I.

“Oowee. Shit man. You ain’t fooling me. You in Thermal and you got to be a base station on a mountain top.”

“I assure you that I’m mobile.”

He then said something that was too good to be true. “Recon, Ol’ Georgia Boy is eastbound and down. You ain’t catchin’ me lessen you be in a rocket ship!”

Hoots says, “Aww fuck! Why’d he have to go and say that?”

This was going to be one of those cherished little moments in life. By now, I knew he was on Interstate 10 between Desert Center and Blythe. We had to be just southwest of him about fifty miles away. If the genies of fate didn’t urinate on the best of intentions of man, this was gonna be one for the ages!

I brought the power up and started downhill.

One of the marvels of the desert is that on a clear day from altitude you could literally see forever. For miles and miles and miles. My mind went tactical. I knew he still believed I was stationary, but just in case, I figured he would be checking his rear view mirrors. My plan was to come from the southwest—the desert. He wouldn’t be expecting that.

Hoots then chimes up. “You gonna boom ‘em?” You’re .98 and accelerating.”

Sometimes I think the only reason those guys were back there, was to bring an extra conscience along, in case your own went into fail mode, which I was fast approaching.

“Don’t think I wanna do that.” But my mind was saying, Great fucking idea, though! With both consciences in order, I backed off about 3%.

Going supersonic was now off the table so I had to think of something else. In a nano-second it came to me. A few of us had discovered that if you get fast enough and low enough out in the desert, you can leave a dust trail about a quarter-mile behind you from your shock wave and wing vortices.

Before you say bullshit I have plenty of others who can back me up. You also need to understand that low and fast was where we had to live in order to survive our mission. Some of us just liked to go a little lower and a little faster than others.

One aviator buddy saw it first-hand while flying an F-4 in the chase position on me at 5,000 feet AGL when he tried to follow me down in the weeds, up the contour of a mountain and then through a saddle in a ridge line, where he hit my jet wake, which flipped him upside down at less than 100 feet AGL and at over 580 knots.

He had been a crop duster before joining the Marines. He kept his cool, pushed on the stick and climbed inverted until he had enough altitude to roll upright. His back seater was still shaking over an hour later during the de-brief, and accused us both of trying to kill him.

Back to Georgia Boy: After less than five minutes I was now down to about a thousand feet above the ground, holding .98 Mach, and I could see the back of a white truck about 10 miles just northeast of me. I keyed the radio. “Georgia Boy, Recon 05, what color is the back of your truck”?

“It’s white . . . like my Georgia Cracker ass.”

I saw the truck ahead do a little wiggle in the road. Clearing his six!

With no other traffic in either direction for over ten miles (even the car Gods were co-operating), I told Hoots, “Man, we’re gettin’ down in the dirt…it’s Show Time!

I dropped down as low as I dared… and timed the merge for me to be in the center divider (it is very wide in that part of the desert)… just as we would pass abeam Georgia Boy. About a half mile in trail… Hoots confirmed a dust trail behind us as I moved into the center divider and keyed the radio


At this point, and at those speeds and low altitude, everything is usually a blur in your peripheral vision if you’re not looking sideways, all I remember seeing was the two biggest white eyes I ever saw. Looked like goose eggs! I didn’t see much else ‘cause I was so low and so fast.

As the cab passed my peripheral vision… I stroked both engines into afterburner and pulled up at about 5 G’s. When the nose reached 60 degrees, I unloaded and did two full deflection rolls.

Simultaneously I hear two voices: Hoots: “Holy… Sweet Peter… Mother… Joseph and Jesus… he swapped lanes!”

And from Georgia Boy: “Oh my Gawd! You are in a fuckin’ Rocket Ship.”

That was priceless, and worth whatever cost there was to pay, short of losing my wings.

Then Hoots says, “Holy Shit. You almost blew him off the road. He must have swapped lanes at least twice!”

I continued for about 2 miles and hauled the nose up through the vertical, over the top, rolled upright and started downhill for another merge—this time head on. Georgia Boy could see me, and he read my mind.

“Oh God, Puleease don’t do that!” Passing through about 5,000 feet… I regained my senses, leveled off and made a wide sweeping turn around the truck.

Now relieved of another attack, Georgia Boy got a bad case of mouth diarrhea. “Hot damn! Nobody’s gonna believe I got run off the road by Rocket Ship. Give me your phone number, Recon. I’m gonna win some money at the bar tonight. Shit fire, this is unbelievable!”

Even Hoots was laughing now. I happened to look up into the side mirror and noticed the crow’s feet around my eyes that the oxygen mask caused from my smiling. This was a wonderful moment, one I’ll never forget.

When I finally came back to reality and saw I was below 7,500 lbs. of fuel, I called him on the radio. “Georgia Boy, we’d love to stay around a play, but I’m running out of gas. We’re gonna have to break it off and head back to base.” If I’d had one ounce of gray matter still working instead of operating on pure adrenaline. I wouldn’t have said another word. But whoever said Marines were smart?

I didn’t want some Redneck calling my house in the middle of the night, drunk and trying to settle a bar bet. I wasn’t about to give him my home phone number. But my mouth engaged before my brain reacted. “Here’s the Ready Room phone number. Call me there and I’ll back you up.”

What a stupid son of a bitch I was!

The rest of the flight was uneventful. The generator stayed on line, I picked up my clearance, and flew back to El Toro. As I signed the Maintenance forms, my Chief said, “Don’t know what you did, Boss, but the CO, XO and OPS-O (the “Heavies”) are waiting for you in the Ready Room.”

Euphoria was about to turn into HACQ (House Arrest, Confined to Quarters). I’ll spare you the details. I got a butt chewing and thought I was toast, until the XO smiled when he said, “I had to answer all these damn phone calls from all over the West Coast: Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and California. 300 watts does indeed go a long way.”

One poor old lady who heard my next to last radio transmission, and was sure I was running out of gas out in the desert, said someone needs to “Help that boy.”

He then said, “What freq were you using”?

I handed him the note from the twidget.

He smiled and tore it up.

When word got around the squadron, I enjoyed new status with the troops. But I had to “check six” for a long time, especially around the Heavies.

But you want to know the truth?


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Small Stuff #1

My “Writing” folder contains sub-folder with 18 items I’ve been holding since July, 2009 to use for posts on my website. Yesterday while doing a little digital housecleaning I opened “Small Stuff” and took a trip down Memory Lane as I read each of the articles, most of which I had forgotten about. The first one I wrote based on a Novel-In-Progress Member’s attempt to write about aviation with no personal experience at the controls of an airplane. I’ve never flown a P-51, but in typical fighter pilot fashion, that didn’t stop me from pretending, and in retrospect, I did pretty well. And so, here is the first of my entries, which also represents the first post on my website in way too long.

Note: I have no idea who the NIPer was or if “Moves” was the title of his novel.


The first vibration in the rudder pedals tickled Jake’s feet through the heavy soles of his flying boots.

What the hell is that?

A quick visual scan of the instruments caught the oil pressure needle resting at the top of the yellow arc. He tapped the glass with a gloved finger with the thought that every pilot probably does that in the hope that it’s just a bad gauge, right?

A heavier shudder dispelled that notion.

Is that needle falling farther into the yellow?

His eyes locked on to the gauge, willing the needle to rise. It didn’t work. He eased the throttle back.

“New York Center, Angel Five-One.”

“Angel Five-One, New York, go ahead.”

“Angel Five-One has an oil pressure problem. I need a descent.”

“You declaring an emergency, Angel Five-One?”

“Not at this time, but I can’t stay at flight level two five zero.”

“Copy that, Angel Five-One. Standby.”

Jake hated that word at any time, and especially now. The oil pressure needle had reached the middle of the yellow arc. He throttled back, his mind thumbing through the checklist to the engine failure procedure. “I need that descent pretty quick, Center.”

“American sixteen-fifty, New York, turn left heading three two zero, short vector for traffic.”

“American sixteen-fifty left three two zero.”

“Angel Five-One, descend to and maintain flight level one eight zero. Expedite through two zero zero for traffic.”

Ever mindful of shock-cooling the engine even as it appeared to be failing him, Jake throttled back a little more as he lowered the nose. “Angel Five-One departing two five zero for one eight zero.”

The P-51 accelerated as its designers intended, slicing through the thin air with an easy grace. Jake let the airspeed build until the vertical speed needle touched 3000 feet per minute and then brought the nose up to hold that rate of descent. A solid rumble through the airplane hauled his eyes to the oil pressure gauge.

Oh, shit.

“Angel Five-One is declaring an emergency, New York. Request immediate vectors for landing.” Jake hauled back on the stick, brought the throttle to idle and punched up the nearest airport on his GPS. With the thought of what a WWII fighter pilot would have paid for satellite guidance, he did a fast mental calculation of glide ratio, altitude to lose versus distance to go. “I’m landing at La Guardia with total engine failure, New York.” He dialed his transponder to 7700 and adjusted the nose to settle the airspeed needle on the best glide speed of 175 knots.

 Radio chatter filled Jake’s headset as the controller sent airliners scattering in all directions to clear his path to the airport. His brain automatically filtered out much of this until he heard his new clearance.

“Angel Five-One is cleared to La Guardia via direct, descend at pilot’s discretion. Current weather is wind two seven zero at one six gust two two, visibility five, light rain and mist, ceiling one thousand two hundred broken, five thousand seven hundred overcast, temperature one six, dew point one eight, altimeter two niner seven five. Be advised that a heavy shower just passed over the field and there is standing water on both runways. Arrivals are using Runway Three One, departing Two Two. Which approach would you prefer?”

“Standby, New York.” Jake’s mind chewed all this information into little pieces and tried to digest it. The P-51 hadn’t been built to glide around with the engine along for the ride. Better than a crowbar, but not much. A glide ratio of 15:1 provided a Rule of Thumb: glide 3000′ for every 1000′ of altitude. Comparing distance to go with altitude to lose and a quick glance at the GPS to check the wind direction and speed led to the conclusion that he might be able to reach the field with some altitude to spare. “New York, Angel Five-One, what are the tops?”

“Delta twelve-twenty, New York, can you give me a tops report?”

“Ugh, sure, New York, tops on our departure were about fifty-five hundred. Good luck, Angel.”

“You get that, Angel Five-One?”

“Copy.” Jake’s current heading of 090 degrees direct to the airport made runway 04 the best choice to minimize maneuvering. He selected the approach page for La Guardia and found an ILS to runway 04. That would mean landing with a left quartering tailwind, not the best choice, but trying to extend his glide to better align with the wind and not being able to make it would be far worse. “ILS to zero four, New York.”

“The ILS is set up for Two Two, Angel Five-One. I’ll try to get it switched.”

“Roger that.” Lots to do, not much time to do it. The oil pressure had dropped to nearly zero, but the engine hadn’t yet seized. If the wind-milling propeller came to a stop, the stationary blades would add a huge chunk of drag and Jake’s glide figures would be shot all to hell. He followed the remainder of the checklist to secure the engine by placing the throttle in cutoff and turning the fuel selector off. He’d kill the master switch before landing, but he needed electrical power from the alternator now for the instruments. If the engine seized, the battery would take over until it died, unlikely in the airborne time he had left. He trimmed the airplane to hold 175 knots and engaged the autopilot, a modern addition to ease the pilot load on long flights in an airplane that no longer engaged in dogfights and ground attacks against an enemy determined to bring it down.

Heading mode kept the nose pointed at salvation as he selected the ILS Runway 04 from the approach page of the GPS database for La Guardia. A single punch of the direct-to button brought up a list of navigation fixes remaining on his route. He ignored all but the final fix for the instrument approach, highlighted the name, and entered it. An updated course line appeared on the moving-map display from his present position to the fix, but he didn’t select the navigation mode and fly toward it. The fix was about six miles from the runway, and if his calculations turned out to be optimistic, no options existed for extending the glide in a metal bathtub, even one as graceful as the P-51 Mustang.

A plan of action developed against the backdrop of radio chatter until Jake decided to take advantage of a procedure known as a single frequency approach. This request put him in contact with one controller, who would accomplish the coordination required to clear Jake’s flight path all the way to landing roll out. Especially in the crowded airspace around New York City, changing frequencies could wear out the fingers of two crewmembers and drive a single pilot to distraction.

Jake remained pointed at the airport for now on a course offset fifty degrees from the runway heading. He’d face a crucial decision at about ten miles from the field, to either turn right toward the final approach fix for the instrument landing and intercept the final course to land straight-in, or continue overhead the field and spiral down on top of two runways, taxiways and infield areas clear of major obstructions for a landing. This would require descent in the clouds from about 5500 feet to clear air below the broken ceiling at 1200 feet, at which time he would be faced with no more than half a minute to pick a touchdown point and put this powerless beast on the ground.

“Angel Five-One, New York Approach, radio check.”

“Five by five, New York, how me?”

“Loud and clear, sir. You are cleared to land at La Guardia. Are you still planning for Runway Zero Four?”

A glance at distance to go and altitude and a bit of old math resulted in, ” I think so — oh fuck me!”

“Say again, Angel Five-One?”

The prop ground to a halt as twelve pistons seized in overheated cylinders deprived of oil for too long. Four enormous blades came to rest in a perfect “X.” It got much too quiet. The Mustang sagged as the airspeed reacted to the increased drag. Jake lowered the nose to maintain best glide speed and replied, in clear violation of standard communications procedure, “I said, ‘Fuck me.’ My engine just seized. This will be an overhead approach, and I’ll pick the best runway when I break out.”

Silence, then, “Copy that, Angel. Emergency crews are standing by.”

I hope the hell so. He settled into the seat cushions, hauled the shoulder harness and safety belt straps as tight against him as they would go, and clicked off the autopilot. The cloud tops seemed to be rushing at him much too fast, but the airspeed indicator read 175 knots, just what he wanted. He didn’t look at the vertical speed indicator, which told him nothing that he could do anything about.

Concentration zoned Jake into the myopic world of the instrument panel as the cloud tops swallowed him up. Turbulence rattled the airframe with sounds he’d never heard with the engine operating. He didn’t particularly like hearing them now. As the GPS indicated zero miles to go, he eased the stick left with a little left rudder and entered an easy turn with about twenty degrees of bank. The ideal objective: break out below the clouds at twelve-hundred feet above the ground, over the approach end of Runway 04 and on a heading of 040, followed by a left 360 degree descending turn to a touchdown in the first three-thousand feet of the seven-thousand foot runway. Passing 4400 feet, he decided to leave the electrically operated flaps up until landing was assured but get the inoperative landing gear down early. Minus the engine-driven hydraulic pump, the gear became a set of muscle-powered wheels. He broke the safety wire, rotated the emergency handle and began turning it.

The procedure seemed to be taking forever. Jake cranked the handle as fast as he could with eyes fixed on the attitude indicator and airspeed to maintain the spiraling descent. The increased drag required about five degrees more of down pitch. A quick glance at the GPS screen showed .2 miles to La Guardia, probably to the geographic center of the airport. When the handle lurched to a stop, he shoved in left and then right rudder to yaw the gear into the mechanical locking detents. Three little wheel symbols appeared behind glass windows by the gear handle and confirmed success. Now if he could just put them on some hard concrete.

The world outside of his cockpit and the white, bouncy cotton surrounding it suddenly gave way to a view through a rain-streaked windscreen of a grey, dreary, and most-welcome scene: the murky waters of Flushing Bay, concrete ramps, taxiways, terminal buildings, two very wet runways in a “V” and the long lines of red rotating beacons of airplanes queued up in a standstill of anticipation waiting for the big show.

Jake’s brain instantly absorbed the updated information, processed it, and made the decision: Ignore the flaps and go for Runway 04. With the left wing blanking his view of the approach end of the runway,  he maneuvered toward a base leg to reach a point ninety degrees off of runway heading. As the runway came into view over his left shoulder, the words “too high/too fast” trumped his previous decision to ignore the flaps. He removed his left hand from the throttle (why was he still holding onto the damned thing, anyway?) and selected full flaps. The whining electric motor, pitching-down nose, and deceleration confirmed movement. When the runway end passed underneath the nose, Jake glanced at the airspeed, adjusted the nose up slightly to drop off a little more excess speed and picked out a point down the runway as his and no one else’s.

I’m going to chop a piece out of the asphalt when this is over and take it home to put on my mantle. 

He was settling onto the flare with a grin on his face when the gust hit him. The sudden increase in left quartering tailwind amplified Jake’s groundspeed and tried to shove the Mustang’s nose to the left. He added right rudder to counter the movement and align it with the runway, along with left aileron to bank into the crosswind and kill any drift. He let the left main wheel touch down first, added more aileron into the wind and rudder away from it to settle the right main wheel to the runway, and then eased the tail down. His view of the world ahead was now confined to the massive engine cowling. Peripheral vision picked up the clues needed to keep the pointy end of the Mustang lined up with the runway.

When the next gust hit him, the tires hydroplaned in a lake of standing water and the resulting slide to the right put Jake in the passenger’s seat. He felt the jolt crossing into the grassy infield and the hard swerve as the right main tire dug into the mud. The Mustang yawed to a stop in a spray of dirty water, the windscreen filled with the view of a Boeing 757 waiting patiently for termination of the emergency and normal airport operation.

Jake stared, not believing he was down safely, with little apparent damage, and his eyes zeroed in on a cabin window of the Boeing. A child stared back, mouth open, his hands pressed against the glass, one holding a toy airplane. It looked like a P-51 Mustang.

Laughter filled Jake’s oxygen mask. “I hope your engine works better than mine, young fellow.” 

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Beautiful Aviation Art – The Jet Age Slideshow

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header and continue reading.

My good friend and fellow fighter pilot Yago F. de Bobadilla, Maj. Gen. SAF (Ret), has assembled a PowerPoint slide show as a companion to his original collection honoring the aviators and flying machines of World War II and the artists who commemorate specific events with exceptional skill and dedication to their craft.

As the title attests, this collection focuses on how aerial combat has changed since the jet engine forever altered the flying machines that pilots take into the skies. The term “into harm’s way” is fundamentally different than in WWII, although that horrendous conflict provided a chilling glimpse into the future.

But first, some background:

Throughout the history of air warfare, combatants have struggled to achieve a tactical advantage and shift the balance of power in their direction by improving the aircraft and weaponry employed in the aerial battlefield.

Between the dawn of aviation and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, military leaders had disregarded the need for armed aircraft, believing them useful only for reconnaissance. Engineers in France and Germany, however, had been experimenting with methods to allow the pilot to fire a fuselage-mounted machine gun at an opponent without damaging his own propeller. Invention of the interrupter gear led to development of the gun synchronizer, which fostered the birth of aerial combat.

Based on extensive research of surviving German and French early WWI aviation records, the first victory using a synchronized machine-gun-equipped fighter most probably occurred on July 1, 1915 when the pilot of a German Fokker M.5K/MG forced down a French Morane-Saulnier Type L, which landed in French territory and could not be officially confirmed. Three days later, the same German pilot downed an unconfirmed Morane Parasol, and finally achieved the first officially confirmed victory on July 15, 1915 against another Morane.

Fokker M5K-MG (Credit; Wikipedia Commons)
Morane-Saulnier N with fixed machine gun at Breuil-le-Sec aerodrome 2 Feb 1916 (Credit: Wikipedia Commons)
Morane Parasol (Credit: via Wikipedia)

Sole possession of a working gun synchronizer enabled Germany to dominate the skies over the Western Front in a period known as the Fokker Scourge. Although Germany was very careful to protect this advantage by forbidding its pilots from flying over enemy territory, the basic principles involved were common knowledge. By the middle of 1916, several Allied synchronizer gears were in use, and the aerial combat arena shifted to a more equal and far deadlier contest.

Escalation has most often occurred in relatively small steps, such as extra machine guns, addition of a cannon (with exploding shells rather than bullets that rely on impact inertia alone to cause damage), or a supercharger for the engine to improve aircraft performance at high altitude.

And then along came the jet engine. During WWII, the British and the Americans both developed prototype jet-powered fighters, but Germany was the only country to employ one in combat. Imagine the shock and awe among Allied aviators when the ME-262 first appeared in defense of the crumbling Third Reich. Air warfare would never be the same.

ME-262 (Credit:

Pardon me for this interruption, but I cannot resist noting some connection between me and an ME-262 through my brother, Sam C. McIntosh, PhD in aeronautics and astronautics, in his capacity as an FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER).

The aircraft is a replica, made by a group that had the Smithsonian’s permission to reverse-engineer and restore an original non-flying example. The group built a number of replicas, one of which was purchased by an individual, delivered to Sanders Aeronautics in Ione, CA for an evaluation, and eventually sold to the Collings Foundation.

Collings hired Sam to perform a ground vibration test as a key requirement to certify the aircraft as safe for flight. The Foundation had planned to fly the 262 with the B-17, B-25, and P-51 on their Wings of Freedom tour, but it took so much runway that it couldn’t get into a number of airports where the American warbirds would go.

Here is proof of that collaboration. (HINT: This is not a painting.)

Image Credit: The Collings Foundation

In addition, a WWII vet neighbor of Sam’s saw an ME-262 for real while guarding a critical bridge at night. A sound like nothing he he had ever heard caused him to look up as the German pilot rolled in and dropped a bomb, which missed the bridge, and the soldier, thankfully. The vet is 94 years young, still lives in his house, drives a car, and plays golf twice a week. Ya gotta love it!

And finally, without further delay, here is “Beautiful Aviation Art – The Jet Age Slideshow.”

Note: I have elected not to remove the first two parts of the partial presentation previously published as posts. (How’s that for alliteration?)

Don’t forget to click on the full-screen logo to view this slideshow in all its glory!

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Beautiful Aviation Art – Part Seven Slideshow

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header and continue reading.

As stated in the post “Beautiful Aviation Art – Part Seven,” my original intent was to publish this series in six parts, but my good friend and fellow fighter pilot Yago F. de Bobadilla, Maj. Gen. SAF (ret), sent me additional examples of aviation art that deserve to be included. Text of the accompanying email follows:

I did mention that I had made a version 2.0 of my AVIATION ART – WW2 compilation, deleting some of the slides that didn’t quite meet my very exacting criteria, and adding others I had located through the web, striving all the time to avoid creating a ‘monster’ so large that my friends would be bored silly half way through the presentation.

So, as promised, I attach the PPS including only the handful of slides I have updated my presentation with; and I have also translated the captions into English. I’m pretty sure you will enjoy the crisp rendering of “Inspecting the Intrepid”, the drama and emotion behind “A Higher Call” and the incredible stroke of luck depicted in “Fastest Victory”. 

I also wanted to include some artwork related to the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the ones that had the digital image quality I demand, lacked the required ‘artistic values’ for me to give them a passing grade, and viceversa. 

So I selected “Battleship Row” even if I don’t quite like it as much as the rest. Since you’re quite familiar with the pixels-vs-quality problem, I include an image of a painting called “Pearl Harbor 0755” I would have much preferred, but did not pass the ‘image enlargement’ test. 

As an example of the opposite side of the spectrum, I also include separately “The Retreat” that with a size of only 176 KB can be blown up to your heart’s content.

But you are probably wondering how come a retired fighter pilot (MajGen is only a rank, not a way of life!), that is still quite busy as a Beltway Bandit (sorry, change that to Parkway Patriot!! I like it better!!), dedicated time and effort to these endeavors. 

Well, it started as a dare (as usual) from one of my AFA classmates. I’m from the Class of ’66 and, apart from the regular lunches of the Madrid Chapter, we organize an annual Xmas reunion and dinner with the spouses.

Customarily, as part of the celebrations, one of the class members is asked to take to the podium and deliver a speech or lecture, the only requirement being that is has to be entertaining, not too long, and related in some way to the Spanish Air Force or to aviation in general. Well, one thing led to another, and I was cajoled into walking up to the spotlight on the Xmas 2010 reunion, afraid of being boooed and bombarded with rotten tomatoes. 

So, to wrap up my story, the slides were projected on a giant screen behind me with no captions, while I briefly (but quite persuasively) described the historical events depicted by the artists. Everybody was riveted, sitting on their tables around the dining room. I even thought they had all fallen asleep!!! But they gave me a standing ovation (mostly glad that it was over after almost 45 mins) and I immediately started getting requests for copies of my speech in the form of a powerpoint presentation. I no choice but to assemble it, add the captions, find a suitable background music, and pass it around to my Academy colleagues.

What I did not anticipate, Tosh, was that in less than a month it had circulated around the globe, and I was receiving feedback from people as far as Finland, Argentina, Japan, Pakistan and even our antipodes in New Zealand!! Even a couple of the artists themselves found a way to get in touch with me, grateful (surprisingly!) that I had included some of their works alongside some of their most admired and revered aviation artists. I was awestruck, actually expecting a slap in the wrist for not having asked for permission!

Okay, so now you know the background story, and the living proof is that somebody, through that incredible network that is the World Wide Web, sent you my work and started the ball rolling for us to get back in touch after all these years.

Good night, my friend. It is 02:45 am in Spain and I am about to fall asleep on my keyboard.

Hasta la vista!


Here is the slideshow version of Beautiful Aviation Art – Part Seven

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Beautiful Aviation Art Slideshow

If you see the fighter-pilot header and/or the post title is in black, click on the title to view the featured image header.

In 2011, when I first uploaded individual slides from the PowerPoint presentations as collected by Maj. Gen Yago F. de Bobadilla, Spanish Air Force, I couldn’t find a way to embed the slide show in a post. My recent collaboration with the webmaster of the Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society, however, has prompted me to upload the entire presentation for viewing.

The process quickly morphed into a perfect example of “The McIntosh Brothers’ Pandora’s Box Syndrome,” in which a task that initially appears to be straightforward proves to be anything but, and that forced me to learn far more than I ever wanted to know about embedding PowerPoint slideshows into a WordPress site.

It should be easy, right? Online tutorials by the millions cover every possible topic imaginable. In this case, however, most of the first page of results focused on problems with achieving my objective, as evidenced by an error message that said, “Content cannot be embedded for security reasons.”

But wait! There are plug-ins that make it easy. So I try a free version of one and encounter the same error. But wait again! The paid version appears to be a possibility, so I spend $29 to find out, and when I try to download the app, here’s the result:

This is a classic example of the syndrome in action, so I try to sidestep the problem by emailing the developer, which produces the following all-too-common “it’s not our fault” response in the midst of Covid-19:

Thanks for contacting us. Your request has been received and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We currently have reduced staff and a significantly higher volume of enquiries. Our response time could be up to 4 days. We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience.

It should come as no surprise that my quota of patience does not include paying for something that can be delivered instantly and having to wait because the download link is broken.

The saga continued with multiple searches and false starts, and finally ended with a video tutorial that allowed me to use Google Slides, which had previously worked, but far less effectively than I wanted because it didn’t embed the presentation on my website.

For visitors interested in the background for the series, I’ve elected to keep the six individual parts previously published. Here are the links to them:







And so, with a restatement of my thanks to Gen. Bobadilla for creating this tribute to the boundless heroism of airmen who took to the skies as warriors in the defense of freedom and defeat the abomination of the Axis Powers, here is the original PowerPoint Slide Show presentation as collected by my friend and fellow fighter pilot Yago, with expanded descriptions of the events added by me.

Note: To view this gorgeous slide show in all its glory, click on the full screen symbol in the toolbar of the Presentation window below. Advance the slides with the left and right arrows in your keyboard, or use the arrows in the lower left corner of the full screen presentation. Exit full screen with the esc key.


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Beautiful Aviation Art Series Makes an Impression

Not long ago I received the following email:

Dear Col. McIntosh,

I serve as webmaster for the website of the Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society (AFEES).  See  It was founded in 1964 by some American airmen who were shot down during WWII and were helped to evade capture by the Germans thanks to the help of ordinary people in the occupied countries.

A cousin of mine brought to my attention the aviation art by Yago F. de Bobadilla.  It is quite remarkable and I would like to add a page to the website devoted to it.  I think that visitors to the website would be very interested to see it.  Are you the person I should ask for permission?  If not can you direct me to the correct person?  Any assistance you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Best wishes,

Bruce Bolinger

Air Force Escape and Evasion Society (AFEES)

My reply:

Mr. Bolinger,

Although I can’t speak to the currency of Yago’s email address, I’ll be more than happy to forward your email so that he may contact you.

Yago and I haven’t corresponded recently over the past few years. I would expect him to reply to me, but in case he doesn’t, I would appreciate knowing if he responds to you.

Neither Mr. Bolinger nor I have received a response, and I have decided to honor his request for two reasons: 1) Under no circumstances could I envision that Yago would have any objection to sharing the examples of aviation art in his collection; and 2) what better way to expand the enjoyment of these paintings than to share them with visitors to a website honoring American airmen who managed to evade capture and the brave patriots in occupied territories who made that possible.

I will update this post as necessary to showcase the results of this collaboration.

“The purpose of AFEES is to encourage airmen who were aided by Resistance organizations or patriotic nationals of foreign countries to continue friendships with those who helped them. AFEES had its first reunion in Niagara Falls, NY in 1964. Over the years, hundreds of evaders, helpers, family members, and friends have gathered each year to commemorate, remember, and honor all those who were involved in escaping and evading-–both the escapers and the thousands of brave, ordinary people in occupied countries who took extraordinary risks at huge cost to help these airmen.”

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Beautiful Aviation Art – The Jet Age – Part Two

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header and continue reading.

My good friend and fellow ex-fighter pilot Yago F. de Bobadilla, Maj. Gen. SAF (ret), has assembled a PowerPoint slide show as a companion to his original collection honoring the aviators and flying machines of World War II and the artists who commemorate specific events with exceptional skill and dedication to their craft.

He followed the original collection with an addendum to showcase more WWII art, then added a collection devoted to The Jet Age, and this second installment includes the next 9 slides. I hope you enjoy them and will check back for Parts 3-6, to be published about once per month.

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Tosh’s Book Cover Gallery v3.5

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header.

Here’s the latest addition to my book cover design efforts.

I began writing the Future Fiction, Sci-Fi novel Oasis in 1992 and completed 11 drafts over the next 16 years while unsuccessfully attempting to secure a literary agent and a contract with one of the Big 6 (at the time) legacy publishers.

On the advice of an instructor at the Writers’ League of Texas, in 2003 I wrote Pilot Error, an aviation mystery-thriller about airborne murder, and once again tried to secure representation of a literary agent. In late 2010, I received the first positive response with agent requests for 1 partial and 3 full manuscripts.

In March 2003, I removed the novel from consideration by the one remaining agent, who kept asking for more time, and began teaching myself how to design the covers and interiors for print and eBook editions.

I indie-published Pilot Error in November 2011, the 2nd-in-series novel Red Line in 2014, and began writing the 3rd novel Test Flight in September 2017.

A debilitating case of writer’s block halted progress for the better part of two years, until I finally realized that a common cure is to begin a new project.

Then, like the proverbial cartoon light bulb, it finally dawned on me that I didn’t need to begin yet another novel. In May, 2020, I began a final revision of Oasis, and as of October 14th, the print and eBook editions are for sale on Amazon.

My publishing imprint Aviator Writer Press has assisted over 25 authors with design of interiors and covers, but the projects don’t keep my hand in Photoshop frequently enough to prevent fumbling around with using all the available tools.

This morning, for example, the time had come to write this addition to my Cover Gallery, and I had to find my notes for how to create these 3D versions of the front and back covers of the Oasis paperback.

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Tosh’s Book Cover Gallery v3.4

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header.

Imagine my surprise when my niece, Carey McIntosh, asked for my help in publishing a book about her 25-years of living and working overseas. I had no idea she had written it, and as I would come to find out, neither did her immediate family. That began a secret collaboration lasting more than 11 months, and now that the book is published, I can showcase the cover in my gallery.

While waiting for the manuscript, I began fiddling with cover concepts. The intriguing title, Beans, Bugs & Bombs, gave me an idea that I frankly never expected to survive for very long, but Carey again surprised me by liking it.

The first version used green beans, a bug that looked like a cockroach, and a cartoon-style bomb that looks like a black sphere with a fuze. The second version featured pinto beans and a mosquito. We kept the bomb, but I couldn’t resist adding a flame burning at the tip of the fuze.

I am enormously proud of her accomplishment and pleased in the extreme that I could assist her in the publication of this marvelous book.

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Tosh’s Book Cover Gallery v3.3

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header.

My friend and fellow author Sharon Scarborough has just published Book 2 in the Texas Ranger Nightingale series. Not an Ordinary Death follows A Promise of Water with another murder and an investigation complicated by small town interpersonal dynamics and political intrigue.

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