LeRoy Collins Commentary 88

Commentary #88
3 September 2007

S S McDonald

Steve, I thought you would like this.

There WAS another Navy tailhooker aircraft in the early 1950s with the same entrance/egress "nonsystem" as the Douglass A3D Skywarrior, i.e. the F3D Skynight...also built by Douglass. The F3D was the Navy’s first jet nightfighter. When my USNA Class went to Naval Air Station Pawtuxent River MD during 2/c Summer Cruise in 1954, we were offered JET fam flights in the F3D or TV2 (T33). I was assigned the F3D, which was boxy and ugly.

The pilot and radar intercept officer (RIO) sat side-by-side. My preflight briefing by the pilot consisted of: "this airplane has no ejection seats; if I tell you to bailout, I shall give you two seconds to unstrap and jump into that access chute between us. If you get stuck, your next sensation will be my boots kicking hard on your helmet…pushing you out ahead of me." ROGER-WILCO, I said, trying to sound professional and calm... and COOL, above all.

With that terse intro, we taxied out, got clearance for 20-minutes around the local flight pattern, a few barrel rolls, all below 10,000 ft, so we never used oxygen. While it was an uneventful flight for the pilot (who was a NAV instructor at USNA), I loved it...all-the-time poised ready to unstrap and jump down the ejection chute if my pilot commanded it.

Thus began a love affair with Naval Aviation, which has been in me for over 50 years. So you ask why did I not become a Naval Aviator?

You are too young to remember this, but during the early 1950s, jets were already aboard aircraft carriers, but they were badly under-powered for the carrier environment. The few with afterburners (e.g. F7U and F4D) had other problems which limited their use in Fleet squadrons. By the time I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1956, I could list a couple dozen friends I knew on a first-name basis, who had been killed in military aviation (in all Armed Services). Statistically, I figured I would be out there doing the same things as them, so I might be a casualty, as well. Besides, I figured I could learn to fly commercially (which I did later), but it was the mystique of submarines which lured me by then, and I could NOT learn submarining commercially.

When I was assigned to my first submarine in Key West in early 1958, I was still a bachelor...now on sub pay, so I started flying commercially during my off-hours in port. To make a long story short, I earned my private pilot license soon thereafter and was flying regularly. In August 1959, I came dangerously close to becoming one of those aviation casualties I was worried about 3 years before….at my own expense. But that is a sea story for another time...

/s/ Roy


Subject: Re: Nose Wheel GONE!

Yikes!.............Until you view what became a non event.

As I recall, A3D meant all 3 dead. I recall it was also called the LST of the air: Large Slow Target.

Thanks for the heads up. Looks like CS was not much of an angled deck.

I did not know the USAF B66 had ejection seats. The A3D had a staircase between the seats to beneath the plane, which as I recalled was the only ingress-egress. Interesting to watch the exit out of the top.

The author was at NESEP when I was at NAPS. I too looked at NESEP, but figured USNA was easier!



/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.


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