State of the writer…

Trying to decide between dazed and confused and frazzled…

Finished up a 9999 word (hey, it had to be UNDER 10000 word) short for possible inclusion in an anthology next year, and alpha read two other short stories for folks, so the last week has been productive, even if it’s not necessarily on what I wanted to be productive on.

I will always read for others, figuring it’s the least I can do for those who help me out, so there is that…

BUT, having said that, the #$#)!) muse must have gotten into the espresso!!!

She can’t stay on track worth a crap yesterday or today… I don’t think I got more than 500 or so words on any one story before the muse went haring off in a different direction! Not real good when you jump from an 1870s western to MilSF… Sigh…

The weather isn’t helping, getting colder, wetter, and nastier, which gets me grumpy because the back, knees, and ankles start ‘telling’ me about the weather changes.

Anyhoo, a little bit from the short story. This one is written in a different ‘style’, aimed at a different audience, so some folks might be confused by it, but here it is.

Comments/recommendations appreciated as always.

May 18, 1985

Moffett Field, California 0400Z

The tactical grey P-3 Orion bumped through the night skies, descending over San Jose, California, toward Moffett Field Naval Air Station after a nine hour flight off Seattle, Washington.

“Charlie Fox 232, cleared to land 32 right,” crackled through the radio.

LCDR Randy Hathaway nudged the rudder as Senior Chief ‘Scoop’ Vessels, the flight engineer, and LCDR ‘Fast Eddie’ Miller, the copilot, reviewed the lineup. LT ‘Tip’ Adams leaned forward from his position behind Randy and double checked the cockpit even though he didn’t have the landing. Fast Eddie replied, “232, cleared on the right. Say winds.”

“160 at 12.”

“Speeds are 18 and 21, Randy. Landing checklist complete.”

“OK, pilot’s power, Scoop.”

“You got it.”

Scoop looked over his shoulder at Chief ‘Hairy’ Harris and motioned for him to reset the oil tank circuit breakers. Harry did so and shoved a thumbs up in front of Scoop.

At the TACCO’s station, Lieutenant Commander Kevin James “KJ” Martin looked out the window making sure the gear was down; rechecked his harness, looked over at LCDR Barney ‘Rubble’ Roberts and received a thumbs up. He keyed the ICS and said, “Five is set in the back, gear looks good”

“Roger that, KJ,” Fast Eddie replied.

Randy called, “Short final, flaps to land.”

“Flaps to land, speed is 118.”


Randy finessed the P-3 the last 30 feet to the runway but still plopped it down the last fifteen feet.

“6000 remaining.”

“Four good Beta lights.”

“K, Full reverse.”

“Nose wheel.”

“Charlie Fox 232, right off approved when able, contact ground 236.8.”

“232 switching, night Moffett.”

Randy steered the P-3 off the runway and keyed the ICS. “Crew’s released, KJ, let em know we’re home, and get us a spot.”

KJ double keyed the ICS in acknowledgment, noted the land time on his log and did the arithmetic for total flight time. He waited for Barney to complete the in report to the ASW Operations Center and switch to the squadron’s base frequency. Barney gave him a thumbs up, and KJ keyed UHF2, called maintenance and gave the time, status and asked for a parking spot.  The maintenance chief told him to park it in front of the hangar as the bird was due for a 210 day inspection.

Meanwhile, Chief Iverson, the in-flight technician, strolled up with the first aid kit and his helmet on sideways. KJ smiled and pointed to the flight station, Iverson assumed the persona of an injured person and limped into the flight station. “Anybody up here need this? We only need a couple of ambulances for the guys in back”.

Randy shrugged as Fast Eddie, Tip and Scoop laughed.  “Sorry ‘bout that, I didn’t do it on purpose. Any major gripes?”

“Nope, we’re up and up in the back, Sir, but this ain’t a 747, we’re a little closer to the ground. Just saying,” Iverson replied.

KJ came over the ICS saying, “Randy, put it right in front; no gas, no covers. Scoop- they’re gonna do a 210 day.”

KJ then keyed the PA, telling everyone to pick up all loose gear, secure their stations and clear all codes. Barney and Tip walked through the airplane clearing all the secure equipment codes, inventoried the Communications box and signed it off.

Chief Clark, the senior Anti-submarine Warfare Operator, asked who had to go to debrief. KJ replied, “Well, since we debriefed at Whidbey, I don’t see any reason for any of y’all to go, Randy and I can handle it.”

“Sure about that TACCO? After all it took you seven minutes to get the torp off after we told you where the boat was,” the chief replied with a smile.

Chuckling KJ shot back, “Alright Charlie, you can come along and keep us straight.”

“Naw boss, we’ll be waitin’ in the parking lot.”

The bird was parked, shut down and turned over to maintenance.  Randy and KJ went to ASW Operations Center and turned in the operational message blank, debriefed again with the watch officer and turned in all the classified material.  Barney and Tip turned in the Communications box for storage. Chief Clark, the Ordnance chief and the ordnance men cleaned up the bomb bay and did a walk through on the bird.  Scoop and the second engineer did their post flight and went to maintenance to write up the gripes on the plane and sign off the daily inspection.

An hour later the crews gathered at KJ’s rental car in front of Hangar Two for the parking lot debrief.  KJ started things off by handing out beers and cokes, then did a round robin of each crewmember for comments, complaints and plans. As a Master Augmentation Unit crew, they didn’t work or fly on the same schedule as a standard reserve crew.  They flew their own aircraft or one loaned by an operational squadron.   Since most of the crew lived and worked in the Bay area, most of them were headed home until next month as they had no squadron support flights or operational commitments scheduled.

KJ and Randy walked back into the MAU’s space in the hangar and were approached by the Ops boss.  “Nice flight guys, the Skipper wants to see you both in his office.”

“OK, Willie. Hope to hell something hasn’t come up, since I just let the crew go,” KJ replied.

Commander Furness looked up as KJ and Randy knocked on the door. “Come on in guys, nice flight. Seven minutes from COMEX to weapon is a new record for us, KJ, how the hell do you do it? Especially with a reserve crew? Most of the fleet squadrons can’t even do that well.

Randy and KJ looked at each other, and Randy replied, “Shit, Skipper, look at the qualifications and experience we’ve got here,  Fast Eddie and Tip both had crews in the fleet, KJ and Barney were both first tour Mission commanders, Chief Clark has seventeen years as an acoustic operator, Henerson and Macklin both have over fifteen, Iverson is a wizard with the gear, Scoop and Rybolt both are old  B model flight engineers who know ASW as well as or better than we do, and ‘Pops’ Kanaka did his last fleet tour with PMTC as the Research and Development ordnance shop Leading Petty Officer before he flipped over to the civilian side. There isn’t a fleet crew that could come close to that, much less stay together for five years like we have.”

“Guess so, but you guys never cease to amaze me.  Randy, what’s your schedule?”

“Seven in the morning, here to LA, layover, then Sydney and back.”

“When are you going to upgrade? Or is United holding you back?”

“Hell, I don’t know, and no, they aren’t, flying right seat on a 747 ain’t bad.  Plus, if I upgrade to Captain on the 75 it would mean moving back to LA, and Julie would shoot me,” Randy replied.

CDR Furness laughed and nodded at KJ. “What about you, still looking for a real job?”

KJ rolled his eyes, chuckled, and answered, “Why get a job, skipper? It would just ruin my social life. Seriously, I finished up a security job yesterday, and I’m headed back to Bradenton tomorrow morning.  We’re doing pretty well with the FBO business, and Dad’s having a ball, which lets me run around and do other things.”

“Are you still flying airshows?” asked Randy.

“Yeah, when I get a chance; matter of fact, Little Mama is at Southwest Airmotive right now getting the annual done, and I’m supposed to fly to Tallulah, Louisiana, next month to start the year.  They have a nice little show over there with a bunch of warbirds from the CAF showing up and some real pros flying Pitts, Eagles, T-craft and some Cubs.  We usually do some fly-by’s and some acrobatics if the birds are working good and we get good conditions.”

The Skipper shook his head and said, “After what I saw you do with that P-51 here last year, I’ll never get in an aircraft that you’re driving.  I’ll never understand how the Navy didn’t let you fly.”

KJ grimaced and replied, “Shit, they claimed I wasn’t 20-20.  Said I was 20-25 in the right eye, and you know how that goes, one chance and that’s it.  I decided to try the NFO route since I was already there, besides which, if I’d gone home, then the old man would’ve killed me.  You know how he feels about doing your time.”

“Well, you guys need your rest, so thanks for a great job, and see ya next month.  your crew should be doing an ASWEX with VP-19.

Reflections: CDR Bob Furness

      Those two guys are damn good, maybe the best I’ve seen in 20 years. Too bad we couldn’t keep them on active duty. Randy’s a known entity- steady, happily married and loves flying for the airlines.  KJ’s a different story altogether- His record is outstanding from the start. A real golden boy in his first tour, special missions certified and every possible important job.  A tactical wizard- that’s what his skipper said. I wonder what would have happened if KJ’s wife hadn’t been killed during his first shore tour and he hadn’t resigned to take care of his daughter.  Wonder if KJ will ever get a real job- he’s so damn talented it’s not funny, but he plays with airplanes, has this KJM Consulting which he won’t talk about but seems to make money, has some connection with his Dad’s Fixed Base Operation at Bradenton, Florida; lives in Florida, but drills in California. Ah hell, I guess I shouldn’t look two damn good gift horses in the mouth. I’ll just take ‘em and run.

Randy and KJ got up and headed out the door, logging out with the Duty Officer to ensure their drill time was counted.  In the parking lot, they coordinated the call tree for next month, said their good-byes, and KJ jumped in his rental and headed back for the Airport Crowne Plaza. He had paperwork to do and was looking forward to a good night’s sleep and getting home to his now teenaged daughter, Jonna, who was thirteen going on thirty-one, or so she thought. He just hoped she’d behaved, as Mom had promised to have a ‘girl’ talk with her.


State of the writer… — 24 Comments

  1. Ok, so it is different…not at all bad, just different. I was a little confused in the first few paragraphs as you put all the character’s names and jobs up, but that is probably because I have no clue as to how big a crew is in the P-3, or what the stations are. But that is on me. I am sure if your audience is former P-3 folks, it all would make sense.
    I didn’t see any spellings, etc. that jumped out at me. 🙂

    So, you have set it all up…what happens next?

    And, yea!! The muse is back in action!! Even if she is being easily distracted. You can smooth the bumps out later.(Ducking and Running)

  2. The approach and landing sequence took me back, it did. I never criticized those landing as a pilot myself but experienced a few as radio and IFT. I was wondering about all the Chiefs on the crew until you got to the end. Makes sense now. You did leave out the post-flight crawl on the hot engine nacelle to install the intake covers. Good read.

  3. Loved the story. Was able to follow 95% even tho not military and no flying experience. One minor question…the story opens California at 0400zulu. It’s night there. I thought zulu times referred to a common worldwide time based on Greenwich Mean Time for coordination of operations. I’m thinking GMT is about ten ? Hours ahead of Pacific time (California) so it would be daylight at Moffett. I may be all messed up on this.
    Liked the storyline, would like to see a book that develops these characters and situation. Maybe current day mil story?

  4. Suz- LOL, yeah, if I stop drinking coffee… maybe…

    Flug- Thanks! 🙂

    RC- O400Z-7 is 2100 local. Thanks for the comments, wasn’t sure non-aviators would follow it!

  5. “Not real good when you jump from an 1870s western to MilSF”

    Why jump? Just combine the two, kind of like that Cowboys and Aliens movie a while back …. 🙂

  6. Not military nor a pilot but definitely an aviation nerd. Too bad my eyes are 20-180. I followed all of it. For what it’s worth, on a commercial flight leg from Milwaukee to Detroit, I caught a Lockheed Electra (same airframe the P-3 was based on). The pilot really greased the landing, the only way I knew we were on the ground was the slightly bumper ride, and the rumble of the gear.

  7. Just mentioning Moffet brought back memories. My dad was Officer in charge of the Link Trainer outfit during the late Fifties and early Sixties stationed at Moffet. I vividly remember visiting the blimp hanger several times

  8. Great story, but one piece has me confused —
    ‘complete the in report’.
    In what?
    Nobody else picked up on it so maybe it’s just me.

  9. Tom- NOOOOOooooooo 🙂

    NRW- That ‘occasionally’ happens… LOL

    Poodle- Glad I could bring back some good memories!

    Frank- The ‘in’ report was just that. We’re in, number of hours, status of the airplane, etc.

  10. Fast Eddie replied, “232, cleared on the right. Say winds.”
    Tower: “Winds”…

    “Charlie Fox 232, right off approved when able, contact ground 236.8.”
    “232 switching, night Moffett.”
    It’s been a few years since I sat up front, but when told to switch freqs, isn’t it normal to repeat back the freq, rather than just “switching”?

    Kinda like the idea of mixed Western and Sci-fi. Maybe more like Wild, Wild West, not Cowboys and Aliens…

  11. Vot out my secret decoder ring for a CV couple things. It’s an enjoyable vignette. The hook is, was that a training mission or something more, because a torp was pu in the water. Now I’ll read more; nice start.

    I saw Moffett Field and the blimp hangars back in the fall, on a family visit. Daughter was miffed that I knew they were airship hangars. Amazing sight to see.

  12. “Not real good when you jump from an 1870s western to MilSF… Sigh…”

    “Cowboys and Aliens” was fun flick. Something in that vein might meet a good reception. 😛

  13. I’m so stoked to be including this in the anthology. Wish I’d been more aggressive / pointed your way when we were doing the last one.

  14. WN- At Moffett, everybody knew the AC was going to pick up the other radio…LOL and No, just no… 😀

    PK- I did three tours out there, worked out of all three hangars over the years.

    WSF- As soon as I find out, I’ll post it!

    TOS- Not you too! Sigh…

    JY- Thank you, sir.

  15. I liked it, can hardly wait to read the rest of the story.

    When my daughter was in, did her last tour out of Moffett NAS, and was often in and out of P3’s. Til she was transferred to aide to the admiral. I got to tour the hangers several times. Amazing places & huge.

    Put some whiskey in that coffee, the muse will be happy to tell you a story…

  16. Hey Old NFO;

    Excellent Story, but I ain;t sure what this story is leading to..Is it a Red Storm Rising thing or just an aviation thing or something else. Just wondering or you just letting the muse “Free Range..” Still good story, I didn’t see any spelling errors and I did follow along well.

  17. Brig- LOL, small world… I really need to chat with her. We ‘may’ have been there at the same time.

    Bob- It’s for an anthology. All I can say right now. 😀

  18. It truly is a small world….had to check some old log books. If you hadn’t brought them in on the 18th (a Saturday night) I would have been sitting a few doors down chewing on some of the world’s worst coffee and working on reports from a Yankee box prosecution. Thanks for the memories.

  19. Off topic…on the left under “Other Stuff” is a Browncoat patch or sticker. I’m enough of a geek to recognize it and want one! Where, please oh please….

  20. Oh my goodness. Small world indeed. I used to live under the flight path of those beautiful aircraft in Sunnyvale. Every year, my husband and I would be at the airshow, and the P-3 was my favorite aircraft. I have not been down that way in years. Brings back more memories than you could ever believe. I am so excited about this story.

    Can’t wait to see this book out.

  21. Oh God it was fun in the reserves. You would have .com millionaires working for you becaues they LIKED IT one weekend a month or on call.