Have You Lost that Lovin’ Feeling?

The Lucky Puppies were deployed to Zaragoza, Spain for weapons training when TOPGUN premiered in Europe.  Everyone wanted to go see it.

We were turning and burning all week long.  We deployed twice a year from our base in Germany. Hahn AB was notorious for bad weather, the deployments gave us two shots of 30 days in good weather to do all the things that just couldn’t be done safely back home.

Hahn AB in February.

 

The first showing was Friday night in the base theater.  As we strapped the pilots in for the last go, they were told to not screw around. Bring the jets back early and do not break them. They wanted to go see Top Gun as much as we did and they promised to not screw up the show.

Here we are in  Zaragoza, Spain. Six out of twelve jets.

FRIDAY

You send them to school and pay them big bucks and pilots still fly jets like boys on bikes.  We stood there watching as they wheeled into the pattern. Everyone is looking at their watch. Timing how long the Post Flight Inspections would take. Would we get to the 7pm showing or the 9pm? What do the pilots do? They start shooting touch and goes. Over and over. By onesies and twosies they wander in to park. And they come in broke all to hell. We even had an engine change. We were there all night working on them.

Needless to say we were pissed. To add insult to injury we worked Saturday as well. No movie for us. Then something wonderful happened. The pilots were feeling bad about screwing up our weekend. The movie was sold out Friday and Saturday and it didn’t look good for Sunday. So they all chipped in and rented the theater for us on Sunday. Our own private showing.

SUNDAY

So it’s 2pm and we were in the theater all by ourselves. Just the squadron. Officers and enlisted. Rowdy as hell.  I still pity the girl running the concession stand. For some reason it was behind the screen so she had a booth set up on the left of the stage. To fill an order she would disappear behind the curtain and then reappear with sodas, popcorn and junk. She was a cutie and every time she reappeared she would be met with hoots and howls and whistles. One of the officers finally stood up and told us to knock it off. Maybe he was talking to the pilots. Maybe to everyone. Everyone shut up.

The lights go down and the curtains open. We all stand for the National Anthems of America and Spain (that happens in military theaters). Somebody yells “PLAY BALL!” and we all sit down. The movie was great. we got loud again. The Crew Chiefs are hooting and cheering. The pilots are going, “That’s you Dude. No that’s you asshole.” A great time was had by all.

MONDAY

Everyone was still buzzing from the movie. People were already doing their favorite scenes. We already fell into “Topgun Talk”.

“Hey, you going to just sit there or do some Crew Chief Shit?”

“Holy Shit! It’s QA, break right.”

“Maddog defeats the QVI with a technical deviation.”

Sylvia on the Comm Cord.

But business is business and we still were working. When you launch a jet you’re on a Comm Cord so that you can talk to the pilot as we go through the launch procedures. There’s a button on the cord and you press it to talk. It takes three decisions to launch an F-16. The pilot is looking at his stuff in the cockpit. You’re looking for leaks and stuff on the outside. Then the aircraft itself has to decide if it wants to fly. It’s called the BIT check (Built in Test). We call it the “Funky Chicken”. As the BIT check runs, the flight controls twitch and shudder as the Flight Computer checks to see if everything is all right. It looks like an epileptic bird. Hence, “Funky Chicken”.

 

While it’s going through it’s paces I’ve got nothing to do but stand there. You’ll get your head hit if you’re under the jet. Well, I’m still hyped on Top Gun so I start singing “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”. I get to the chorus when I notice someone is singing along with me. It’s the pilot. I’ve got a hot mic on the cord and he can hear me. I abruptly stop singing. He finishes the chorus and says, “I loved the movie too chief. Flight controls clear.”

THE AFTERMATH

The Navy gets “Topgun” and the Air Force gets “Iron Eagle” (or as I like to say, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Meets the Air Force”). There is no justice in the world. But “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is still one of my good ones on Karaoke Night. We pulled that stunt on many unsuspecting ladies at the NCO club.

More Lucky Puppy Stuff

EVER FLY IN A JET FIGHTER?

HOW DO I TALK TO A CREW CHIEF?

THE BEST OF CHIPPIE’S LIST

WERE YOU A LUCKY PUPPY?

 

 

The Me-163 Flies Again!

When I first heard that the Me-163 Komet was flying again I said, “By who? Suicidal Pilots?”. The rocket take off of the combat 163’s killed a lot of pilots.   At a  2009 war-bird meeting south of Paris a replica Me 163 Komet replica built by EADS Germany was on static display and in the air. It’s a full scale replica.

Jozef Kurz, a former Me-163 pilot designed and built the replica. His goal was to replicate the aircraft as close as possible to the original. The main differences are that it’s made of wood rather than metal and is towed to altitude rather than using the rocket take off.  the flight control system is an exact copy.

The wheels fall off on take off.

Kurz painted his replica Komet in the markings of the most famous Me 163- the Me 163B flown by Erprobungskommando 16 (EK16- an operational test unit) commander Wolfgang Späte on the Komet’s first operational combat mission in 1944.  His crew chief had painted the aircraft red in honor of the Baron von Richtofen (the Red Baron). The paint added 40 pounds to the aircraft weight. Späte did not share his crew’s confidence in the aircraft’s performance and ordered it repainted in standard camouflage. No known photos exist of the red Me-163 but was described in detail in Späte’s memoirs. Kurz used the descriptions to replicate the paint job and markings.

Kurz first flew his  Komet replica on 18 June 1996 with the registration D-ESJK. Designating his glider the Me 163BS, Kurz made numerous short test flights before unveiling it at a vintage aircraft fly-in in September 1997. Its last flight in Kurz’s hands was at the Berlin ILA 2000 air show. With only five flight hours logged, Kurz sold the replica to EADS (which then had just been formed as the parent to Airbus Industrie and Eurocopter) for display in the Flugmuseum Messerschmitt at Manching, Bavaria.

Note the EADS logo under the cockpit.

Rather that let it languish in a museum, the EADS took steps to add the Me-163 to the museum’s heritage flight. Additional modifications were made to strengthen the internal structure. The landing skid was modified to allow for better ground handling. The original paint scheme was restored minus the Nazi Swastika that is banned from display in Germany.  The aircraft was re-registered as a one-off glider with the civilian registration of D-1636.

It made its second maiden flight on 20 June 2006 after which it joined the EADS Heritage Flight fleet at the Flugmuseum Messerschmitt.

By the end of 2010 the replica Komet had flown forty hours. Two pilots with the EADS Heritage Flight are rated in the glider, using a Dornier Do 27 tow plane to get to altitude. Taking 10 minutes to reach 4,000 feet, the Komet is said to be most demanding on the tow line and is much easier to handle in free flight. As the aircraft was optimized for high speed flight, its gliding performance wasn’t on par of purpose-built sport gliders but has nonetheless been a hit at air shows in Europe

The Me163 in a Wartime Promotional Film