A Trip to Pahrump

PART ONE- THE TRIP

It was December and my wife and I had just bought a Mercury Cougar from a co-worker.  We lived in Indian Springs, Nevada and with no insurance or registration, I was gun-shy about being pulled over in Vegas traffic.  Pahrump was about the same distance as Vegas, so we decided to get insurance and registration at the Pahrump DMV. We left the kids at a babysitter and headed out.

ourcar
Our car was silver.

We left Indian Springs around three o’clock.  We drove north on highway 95 and took a left for highway 160. The trip to Pahrump took about on hour. We them got our insurance and registration and started to head home.   We stopped at the Albertson’s to get diapers and formula for our baby girl.

We left Albertson’s at 1700.  Night was falling and as we “went over the hump”, cars coming down at us were using their high beams and this was pissing me off.  We crossed the cattle guard that marks the opening of the Antelope Valley, set the cruise control to 65 mph and headed East on highway 160.

THE LIGHT

We had been driving for about a half an hour when another asshole with their high beams came up from behind.  The light was so bright that it actually hurt my eyes in the reflection of the rear-view mirror.

“ASSHOLE!”

“What?”, the wife asked.

“Another asshole with their high beams on.”, I replied.

The wife turned around and said, “It’s a cop.”
“Cop?”

“Yeah, it’s got the Blue Light Specials on. He’s passing us.”

I looked to my left to see the cop pass and the wife said,

“No, he’s passing on my side.”

There was nothing but open desert on her side of the car. I looked to the left and the whole car lit up with a blinding white light. All I could see was her big 80’s hair, the back of the bucket seat and my blind side on the right. The light flashed for a second or two and was gone.  We were alone again and barreling down the 160 at 65 mph.

“That was weird.”

“Yeah, but it was a cop.”

“How do you know that?’

“Because I saw the blue lights and the headlights.”

“You’re saying, it passed us in the dirt?”

“Yeah.”

“With its headlights on?”

“Yeah, they were pointed at us.”

“You’re saying this cop passed us on the dirt, sideways at 70 mph?”

“Yeah. It must be a new kind of SUV. I’m calling the kids.”

She punched buttons on her cell and said,

“My phone is acting funny.”

“Funny how?”

“There’s no signal and the time is wrong.”

I looked at the clock on the dashboard and it was blinking 12:00. I then looked at my watch and it said, 1810.

It was then that I got an inkling of what happened.  The wife was still droning on about her SUV.

“If we go into Vegas, I’ll find one on a car lot and show you.”

“You’re not going to find one.”

“Do you know what kind it was.”

“Yeah, it was a Pleiadean.”

“A what…whatever.”

We soon made it to highway 95 and hung a right to Indian Springs.  We both felt sleepy tired.  Her period had stopped, and she had little, nasty bumps all over her arms, legs and neck.  She had also grown her “horns”.  Now, you might think her horns are weird.  I think they are weird.  However, she gets them from time to time and her doctor says they are due to stress.  Whatever, Google it.

We walked through our front door at 1922.  All safe and sound.  The trip from Pahrump and taken two and a half hours without stopping the car.  The wife went right to bed and I stayed up for a little while.  I was excited.  I knew we had been abducted and for me it was the first time someone else was with me. 

THE AFTERMATH

Our trip to Pahrump happened in December and from then until March, my wife was pissed at me.  Every time I napped on the couch or stretched out in bed; she would scream at me to “get off my lazy ass”.   In her eyes, I could not do anything right.  Every time I broached the subject of UFO’s she would get pissed.  She also said she was having nightmares about “Blue Kangaroos”. 

In March, we were stopped at a red light waiting to hit the on ramp back to Indian Springs when the wife spoke up.

“I’m not going to be afraid of Blue Kangaroos, they don’t exist.”

As I turned on to the on ramp, I got a flash of a memory.

“There were three of them,” I said.

“Yeah, but how do you know what’s in my dreams.”

The 40-minute trip back to Indian Springs was in silence as I thought of what I would do next.

When we got home, I sat her down at the dining room table.

“I’m going to tell a story,” I told her.  “Feel free to add anything you want.  If you think this is bullshit you can get up and walk away.”

“Okay”, she said slowly.

On a piece of copy paper, I started to draw.

“This box is our car.  The headlights are on and both doors are open.  The left wheels are just barley over the yellow line at the side of the road.  I am lying flat on my back and am wide awake but can’t move.  This big thing to the right of the car is the big ass light you saw. You lean over me and say,
“I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY.”

“You look up and suddenly haul ass into the desert on the right side of the road.”

“Then, quick as a flash, three blue creatures come from here and chase you into the desert.”

She looked at the drawing for a long time.  Then she snatched the paper and said, “Gimme the pen.”

She started to draw.  When she was done, she shoved the paper back in front of me.

“Yeah, you were lying there doing NOTHING!  There were three other lights on the other side of the road.  Yeah, there were three Kangaroos, but they didn’t come from here, they came from here.”

“Is this another light?”, I asked pointing to a blob on the right side.

“No, that’s the cactus the bastards ran me into.”

The T-Bird Crash at Indian Springs

INDIAN SPRINGS, Nev., Jan. 18, 1982— At 0923 PST, four T-38A’s (68-8156, 8175, 8176 & 8184) from an Air Force Thunderbirds Team crashed, one after another, into the Nevada desert, killing all four pilots.

The Diamond taking off from Nellis AFB on the day of the mishap.

The Air Force said the four planes struck nose-first into the sand while practicing a ”loop” maneuver, . ”The pilot farthest to the east hit the ground first and the other three followed within a tenth of a second, flying in formation,” said Tom Sullivan of Boulder City, Nev., who was driving to a construction job in the area at the time.

The formation was in a “Diamond” when it struck the ground.  Many reports said they were line abreast but they began the loop line abreast and transitioned to a Diamond on the downside of the loop.

The four pilots died instantly: Major Norm Lowry, III, leader, 37, of Radford, Virginia; Captain Willie Mays, left-wing, 31, of Ripley, Tennessee; Captain Joseph “Pete” Peterson, right-wing, 32, of Tuskegee, Alabama; and Captain Mark E. Melancon, slot, 31, of Dallas, Texas.

This is an aerial shot of the crash site.

The Crash occurred at Indian Springs Auxillary Field (Later: Creech AFB).  The formation struck the ground South of Runway 08/26 and North of the parking apron.  “At the speed, they were going when they came out of the loop, I just thought, That’s the end of that for them fellows,” said W.G. Wood of Indian Springs, who witnessed the crash as he drove along U.S. 95. “It happened so fast I couldn’t tell you if one hit sooner. It looked like all of them hit at the same time.”

A resident across the highway from the auxiliary base where the flight team practiced said he heard the whine of the red, white and blue jets as they climbed to a high arch, then the scream of the engines as they plunged downward to complete the maneuver.

“Then boom-boom-boom, boom-boom-boom as they hit the ground one after another,” said Loren Conaway.

As in any Thunderbird practice, the mishap was videotaped.  Tech Sergeant Alfred King was videotaping the practice for later review.  However, on the Order of General Wilbur (Bill) Creech, Commander, Tactical Air Command the tapes were destroyed.

T-Bird-Crash-Tape-19820118 (1)

After much effort, I came up with the Mishap Report. The Board was convened on 1 FEB 1982.

Cutting to the chase, these were the Board Findings:

TBird-Crash-Findings-19820119

 Thunderbird Briefing starts at 8:32.

INSIGHTS

In January 1982, I was assigned to the T-38 Section at  Laughlin AFB, Texas.  I distinctly remember a Valentine’s Day BBQ being fucked up as I was selected to accompany QA (I was the T-38 Section BPO Trainer) to inspect the stab interconnect bell cranks for cracks and installation.  This was in response to an Emergency Action TCTO. Out of 144 aircraft, two bell cranks on each aircraft, we found cracks in six.  Also, there were many cases of improper safety wire jobs.

By March, the T-38 maintenance community was convinced that failure of the stab interconnects led to loss of pitch control in Thunderbird #1.  The other pilots were “flying paint” meaning they were concentrating on aircraft position in the formation and trusted the Lead to maneuver correctly.  They never felt a thing.

The Thunderbirds are a quirky bunch.  They do not call in-flight emergencies.  They do have “precautionary landings”.  They defend their maintenance mercilessly. Reading the report, you see it leaning towards “pilot error”.  But I draw your attention to the Board Findings above.  Specifically the redacted sixth finding.  I’m pretty sure that it addressed the stab interconnect issue. They blame the trim actuators malfunctioning and distracting Lead’s attention at a critical moment.  They were barreling down at the ground and I can assure you that from interviewing T-Birds that the attention of the leader is focused solely on missing the ground.  The ground always a PK factor of 1.0. Probably of Kill.  The Leader continuously talks to the team so that all actions are coordinated.  Much of the T-Bird training is the Leader learning a cadence and the team learning to follow the cadence.  The video below are F-16’s but gives a good example of this cadence.

The report says that they stayed in the abreast loop formation, but just looking at the ground scars anyone can tell they were not in line abreast at impact. I can personally attest that the grass never regrew in that area. As a result of the crash, over the field practices are limited.  Most training now occurs north of Peanut Hill where a simulated airfield is set up.

The mascot of the Indian Springs High School are the Thunderbirds.  The team visits the school regularly.

This mural is in the cafeteria of the Indian Springs School.  Notice that the Diamond is missing and the solos (with wrong numbers) are still there.  On the day of the Diamond crash, the solos were practicing at Nellis AFB. When asked why the four aircraft were missing, the reason given was the artist ran out of room.  This mural was painted before the crash.

PLEASE COMMENT IF YOU WERE THERE…