The Naval Test Center 1970-1971

The Test Center

After graduating from the Empire Test Pilots School, I was ordered to the Naval Test Center located aboard the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland.  The Naval Air Station is near Lexington Park, Maryland and it is near the shores of Chesapeake Bay.  In order to understand the beautiful Chesapeake area, one must read the book “Chesapeake” by James A. Michener.  During this tour, I flew every airplane the Navy had.  From the Phantom to the AD.  I had two mishaps, while at the Test Center.  On landing one Sunday morning I saw many deer crossing the runway.  I initiated a wave off when I saw the deer on the runway in front of me.  The Phantom was slow to respond and I hit the deer as I touched the runway.  I completed my wave off and landed on another runway.  The deer was fatally wounded.  On another occasion, I inadvertently spun the A-7 airplane while dog fighting with another pilot.  If you were to ask me before my spin if I would ever get into an unintentional spin, I would emphatically tell you, no way.  Well, I did spin the A-7 and it was unintentional.  I had spun the Hunter in England many times so the recovery was a non-event.  The A-7 spin recovery was a non-event but the spin entry will get your attention.  The spin entry is usually called a departure.  A departure from normal flight.  The airplane rocked left, right, up and down.  I remembered being rocked so violently that my head struck the canopy on both sides during the departure. We are taught to remove our hands from the flight controls to allow the airplane to settle down.  I did not heed this advice and fought the departure.  The result, I am sure, is that I was out of phase with the airplane movements and, therefore, I contributed to the spin.  Once in the spin, the airplane was as smooth as any spin I had ever been in and I had been in hundreds of spins.  I had spun the SNJ, T-28, Hunter and Chipmunk.  At the time of my spin, naval pilots were not authorized to spin jet aircraft unless configured with anti-spin devices. To my relief, applying rudder opposite to the spin direction and putting the nose down caused the spin to stop.  I went through ten thousand feet during the recovery, which is the altitude at which we are taught to eject if the airplane is not under control.  I was not under control at ten thousand feet but I did recover and landed safely.