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Bryan Martin was telling me a story from his ATC days in the Navy. One night he was handling carrier ops in the Pacific off California when a Harrier lost all electrical returning to the ship. Black as pitch, out over the ocean, this poor Navy jock tried to solve his problem and put it back on the carrier. Finally Bryan said he told him he was headed to shore, a runway, any runway. He made it to Miramar, or El Centro, got out of his plane, went to the commander's office and handed him his wings. Apparently flying a...Show more →
And then there are those pilots that become astronauts. This reminded me of a story I read about Jim Lovell:
When I asked Lovell to comment on the navigation aspects of the Apollo missions, he began by reminiscing about his early days at the Naval Academy, when the only forms of navigation were celestial and dead reckoning. To illustrate his near-earth navigation skills, Lovell recounted an experience he had in the Sea of Japan in the early 1950s. He was flying a night combat air patrol in an F2H Banshee off of the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La under adverse weather conditions. Three planes were involved, and all were to rendezvous at a particular point. At the time, navigation was accomplished with an Auto Direction Finder signal broadcast from the carrier. For some reason, the first two planes acquired the correct signal, but Lovell's instrument homed on a signal that was being broadcast from Japan. Needless to say, he failed to make the rendezvous and found himself circling, lost in the darkness. Being somewhat of an inventor, Lovell had designed a lighted knee-board for use in the aircraft. He plugged the device into the instrument panel to consult his list of radio frequencies, whereupon something shorted out and left the cockpit in total darkness. Although this added to the frightening aspects of the mission, it actually saved his life. When he looked down, he was able to discern a faint phosphorescent trail caused by the carrier's screws churning the algae in the water. He followed the trail right back to the carrier. As he came to the end of the story, Lovell smiled and said that it would have been a non-issue with GPS.