Josh was in the second grade at good old Indian Springs School. He got RPC’ed. that Required Parent Coverence for you single types. His big brother Tony (10) was coaching him on his first RPC. Tony could go a whole week without skipping a RPC.
“Just walk up and give him the paper.”
“He’ll start screaming, but don’t flinch.”
“When he done screaming he’ll talk to you.”
Don’t say nothing but “yes sir.”
“Listen real hard because he’ll say stuff that you’ll have to remember.”
So with trembling hands, Josh approached me in the Dad’s Chair. Mom had already told me. I took the letter. Read it. Then said, “Dismissed”. Josh fled with relief.
“That was bullshit”, Tony said later. “He didn’t yell or nothing.”
Joshua had been indeed charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The weapon of choice? A cookie.
Josh was at lunch and they were serving these big ass cookies. A good six inches around. Sitting across from him was a little girl from his class. Throwing down his best come on line, well second best. His best was that he’d point to his eyes and say, “My eyes are blue.” Anyway, in this case he said, “I bet you can’t eat that cookie in one bite.” Trying not to disappoint, the girl took on the challenge. I’m sure you ladies have similar stories. In bars. Needless to say she cacked it back up on her tray. Horrified, she didn’t know what to do. A janitor saw her plight and came to the rescue. He picked up her tray and took it away.
A lunch guard monitor saw this go down and reported Joshy to the Dean. The Dean was a bitch angel with the demeanor of a Gestapo Agent professional. By the time the story got to her, it had turned into Joshy pinning the girl to the table and stuffing a fucking cookie down her throat. I’m sure that’s possible, but not in this case.
You never get to use the “asinine” in a business letter, but I did. When I attended the RPC, I handed the Dean the letter. I informed her to read carefully because the next thing she’d say would be a career altering moment in her life. She did read it carefully. When she looked up at me, she reached for that the RPC paperwork and the report and torn it up.
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 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 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.
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:
Thunderbird Briefing starts at 8:32.
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.