Getting down low…

It was part of our job, especially during rigging operations- That was getting the upright sequences of the ships, the names off them, and anything ‘strange’ that the crew might notice.

Low passThis wasn’t us, he’s probably right at 100 feet… We were ‘supposed’ to stay at least 200 feet…

But occasionally the weather wasn’t real good, and you had a mission to do… It did usually get real quiet when you got down low, as you didn’t want to distract the pilots… 🙂

But these guys,,,


Gave a whole new meaning to the word low… I got one flight with them out of Hachinohe, Japan back in the day. and they got down in the WEEDS…

There is a seat in the nose, which was the magnetic anomaly detector was, along with being the camera station. You can slide that seat forward until you’re looking straight out and dang near straight up or down. They were rigging some ships north of Hokkaido, and asked if I’l like to go up to the nose. I’d been sitting in the back with the operators, and ‘thought’ we were low on a couple of passes…

So I climb over the wing, weave my way down into the seat, and grabbed the camera as I saw we were inbound to another “Rust Maru”… It was probably a coastal freighter, so not real big…

Normal rig was down one side, 270 turn, stern pass, 270 turn and up the other side. I thought we were pretty low on the first pass, as I got a good shot of the name plate on the bridge wing, but when we did the 270 and came by the stern, I KNEW we were low, because I was looking straight out at the name on the stern…

Probably 50 feet off the water… Sigh… and we rolled into a 270 turn to the right.

At about 40 degrees angle of bank…

And I’m trying to remember what the wingspan is (it is 103 feet)…

And hoping we didn’t get a big wave…

Sigh… Fun times…

And the hair on the back of my neck just stood up remembering that flight…




TBT… — 16 Comments

  1. I’m afraid of heights – I’d probably have trouble walking away from a flight like that, my toes clenched onto my heels . . . :^)

  2. No, you really don’t want to distract the pilots… but I’ve got to admit, flying on the deck is just plain FUN for the guys in the front office! One does want to pay attention, but… 🙂

  3. Sounds like you miss those flights. I would enjoy it but might be white knuckling some moments.

  4. That ain’t nothing….

    There I was, knee deep in indians, I mean Taliban fighters, we were surrounded, and out numbered, and running low on water, okay, that’s from Fort Apache, but I digress.

    The Kiowa pilots assigned to the Scout Troop would often fly low enough, especially when supporting us if we were in contact, that it was nothing to find spent .50 brass inside the Humvees, on your rucks, dump pouches, etc.

  5. I too had one flight in a Japanese P2. In ’77 the US/Lockheed was lobbying hard for the Japanese to buy the P3. We (VP-40) were deployed to Misawa. We flew several senior executives on a number of flights. Part of our ‘exchange’ was a swap of crews for one the Cherry Blossom festivals. We made a fam flight for them in our P3C and they returned the favor in the P2. Didn’t do any rigging runs.

  6. We used to accuse the P3C pilots on Adak of collecting ice cubes from the floes in the Aleutians. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?

  7. During the 80s while flying BUFFs off Guam, we did RIGs and also warm ups for new ships moving into the Pacific operations area. The RIGs were flown IAW existing rules and altitudes. However, the warm ups were flown at crew discretion.

    We had one group of new guys practicing ship formations and maneuvers northwest of Guam. Our job was to find them, practice Harpoon launches, and beat them up so that if the commies came out to play they wouldn’t embarrass the USofA. My crew was a Harpoon crew so we were at an intermediate altitude with four A-4s tucked between the engine pods simulating Harpoons. The low crews located the fleet and gave positions. We fired our A-4s off and then followed up. One up tight destroyer skipper got irritated and on guard broadcast his TACAN frequency and a message for all aircraft to stand clear.

    Of course, that just sent all 12 bombers in his direction. The DO put a rooster tale of water over the bridge setting the bar for everyone else beating up that ship.

  8. Smock- Yeaj.r.- I will admit to being ‘relieved’ to be back on deck after that one… 🙂

    Smock- Can’t disagree… dammit

    Ian- True!

    Fargo- Sometimes… And then I remember how old I am…LOL

    SPE- Hell, they hide behind trees, that means they HAVE to be low…LOL

    SoCal- Consider yourself lucky! I think we relieved you in Misawa in 77! I was in VP-50.

    LL- Yep, but you wouldn’t want to try to ‘jump’ from that altitude… You’d bounce before the chute ever opened…

    Rev- I know nozzink! 😀

    Dave- Admit it, you guys were bored… 😀

  9. Hey Old NFO;

    As much as you complain about the flights….admit it…you loved that kind of stuff…something about the thrill of the razors edge…..being totally alive…every nerve ending tingling…..and knowing that one mistep…y’all were going fishing…..stuff like that is what separates us from the average 9-5ver.

  10. I use to see them coming at us and have to climb up some to miss our mast. ASW stuff was fun with all the planes and the zig zagging of the ship.

  11. Bob- That, yes! Airlines, hell no… sigh

    CP- Well, we had to get low enough to read the name, we didn’t have OUR ships memorized like we did the bad guys…LOL

  12. That’s why I stick with bombs, jumping out of helicopters and such – so much safer than that stuff there.

  13. Now THAT is flying! Any fool can steer a plane around way up high, but to bring it down practically into ground effect…

    Raz used to tell me about doing 600kts 400 feet off the deck in the 105, and here I can get in trouble for dipping my Cessna just a touch below 1000′ AGL…It ain’t right, I tell ya.