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Skyhawk Tight Fit!

Bill came to NAF China Lake in the early 60's and was the biggest pilot we ever tried to stuff into a Scooter. The LCDR was a big man, over 6' tall, 200 pounds or so, and once in looked like a size 46 tall stuffed in a size 42 regular suit as he couldn't straighten out his legs and had to duck a bit to close the canopy. Mr. Big and Tall refused to fly the Skyhawk until we towed it in the hangar, removed the canopy, disarmed the seat, strapped him into the seat with his flight gear and used the engine hoist to winch him & the seat out so he could see which of his body parts that he was fond of were going to stay behind if he had to eject. We (line crew) always made sure the seat was all the way down and the rudder pedals all the way out in any A-4 he was scheduled to fly. If not, he would get stuck halfway in which was a bit humorous unless you were standing next to him on the boarding ladder, as he would cuss a blue streak during which you needed to keep a straight face. You then needed to help get him unstuck and out of the cockpit and adjust the seat peddles.
Well sure enough, Bill and A-4B 142787 had an interesting TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) at Dugway, Utah when a gust of wind caught the Skyhawk during a crosswind landing and turned the aircraft sideways on the runway. Big Bill couldn't straighten the Scooter out and ejected, which wasn't something he would have done unless it was his only option. When he ejected his feet apparently caught the emergency external stores jettison handles (bottom left and bottom right of the instrument panel) dumping the stores, one of which bounced off of the runway and hit the aft fuselage leaving a gash along one side. The wayward Scooter then straightened out and careened down the side of the runway knocking down the "Welcome to Dugway" sign, which bashed in the leading edge of the port wing and port gear door before it rolled to a stop at the end of the runway. Could have been worse as we went to Dugway to spray things that weren't safe to spray around China Lake, but as he was just arriving from China Lake the tanks were empty.
As I recall Pat Coleman was the TAD Plane Captain who retrieved Bill in one of the line support vehicles, and according to Pat all Bill said was - "If I had a gun I'd shoot the bleep, bleep, bleeping bleep - Skyhawk". Bill could out cuss any Blue Jacket I ever knew. After figuring that Bill didn't really have a gun, Pat drove Bill back to Ops, got the boarding ladder and drove to the end of the runway, shut the Scooter down and towed it back to the line.
We flew about a dozen NAF maintenance people to Dugway on the R-4D (aka C-117) who dismembered 787 and packed it up for a truck ride to O&R Alameda where it was repaired, repainted and returned to China Lake.

page | by Dr. Radut