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Lessons That Live
Lessons That Live Air Group 31 A Message Japan Air Power Doomed? Where? Dilbert A Naval Aviator Fate

Lessons That Live as told by A.A.F. Pilots

Wrong Number
When things start to let go for an Army test pilot
Panic Over Chame Bay
A P-39D pilot's training mission teaches a lesson
Official Song of the Army Air Forces
All three verses and chorus
The Pilot's 23rd Psalm
by Captain J. D. Olive, with humor
High Flight
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s classic poem

Wrong Number

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The spreader bar came loose and trailed out behind, flapping in the breeze.

Ignorance is sometimes blamed for the troubles that pilots get into. Ignorance is never an excuse because the training program is thorough. Most generally errors in judgement, plain boners and faulty planning, plus the lack of alertness, give an appearance of ignorance.

It was an out and out boner, and the fact that I lived to become an older and vastly wiser pilot is a direct tribute to the Lady that's known as Luck. Shortly after I finished flying school I was detailed to assist in the flight testing of overhauled planes. Upon reporting to the test line one afternoon, the operations clerk informed me that number so-and-so was ready for an initial check hop. I wandered out and climbed into a shiny overhauled job. The engine cranked readily, checked on both switches, and the controls were free.

I took off and climbed to 2,000 feet, leveled out and made a brief check of general flying qualities, noting that the left wing was slightly heavy. My first maneuver was a whip-stall from the nose straight-up attitude. As the nose dropped sharply, a pair of 8-inch slip-joint pliers came from nowhere on the floor and hovered momentarily before my nose. I snatched them out of space, pocketed them, and made a mental note to raise hob with the responsible mechanic for being so careless as to leave them where they might jam tile controls. Next I went into a fast dive and as I did so, the spreader bar which connected the upper and lower ailerons of the left wings came loose and trailed out behind, flapping in the breeze. I decided I'd better get down from there in a hurry.

I made a landing approach, coming in "hot" to assure lateral control and consequently bounced when the wheels hit with the tail high. I hit the throttle to ease down again and imagine my surprise when the entire throttle quadrant dropped loose and dangled on the control rods which ran up through the fire wall. As I hit the ground again, the oil filler cap came off and I was blasted with hot engine oil.

Here was a clear case of plane failure and stupid ground work. Oh yeah!

As I reached the line, burning to crucify the inspector who had passed on a plane in that condition, the clerk ran out. "Lieutenant," he yelled, "you took the wrong plane. I said number so-and-so but you took number this-and-that. This plane hasn't even been finished by the assembly department!"

Yes, sir. I had been flying a plane that was literally falling apart! And the horse was 100% on me.

Panic Over Chame Bay

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I made a dive on my 'enemy' and in pulling up I lost him under my wing.

Always fly your plane through maneuvers; don't let it take care of itself while your are looking at something else. If you do get into trouble, keep calm and use your head about getting out. Panic is many a young pilot's undoing.

I was on a practice individual combat mission over Chame Bay, Panama, and my opponent and I were both flying P-39D's. The planes were fully loaded with combat ammunition, including 2,000 rounds of .30 calibre in each wing, giving this ship a very risky stall and spin characteristic.

We'd been scrapping several minutes and the combat, unnoticed by either of us in the thrill of the fight, had dropped from 10,000 feet to 5,000 feet. I made a dive on my "enemy" and in pulling up I lost him under my wing. In my eagerness to find him again, I completely forgot about altitude.

Suddenly I felt an alarming looseness in my controls and at the same time I became aware that my plane was pointing almost straight up. I reacted immediately by pushing forward on the stick — a ridiculous maneuver since I was in a vertical position at stalling speed. When I realized I could never push over straight, I attempted to drop a wing and roll out.

The plane stalled out completely; it was upside down and refused to respond to the aileron controls. I had a feeling that it was sliding vertically downward, tail-first. It had no tendency to spin; yet at the same time it refused to respond to my efforts to get a wing down. Next I tried to pull the nose through as in a loop, but my position, hanging upside down on my safety belt, prevented me from doing anything except pull straight up on the stick instead of to the rear.

By this time panic had me in its grip and I felt an almost uncontrollable impulse to release the emergency handle of the door and hail out. I realized, however, that the engine was still churning away at 40 inches of mercury so I cut the throttle back and concentrated on pulling the stick to the rear.

Slowly the nose of the plane fell through, and as it picked up speed I eased it out of the dive, expecting to snap into another stall at any second. When I finally straightened it out, although my altimeter showed that I was at 800 feet, I felt as if the waves of Chame Bay were lapping at my belly.

The lessons learned from this harrowing experience, which really lasted but a few seconds, have burned deep in my mind during the ensuing weeks. When I get into actual combat, I know I'll not make the same mistakes again.

Official Song of the Army Air Forces

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!
(Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one hell-uv-a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Nothing'll stop the Army Air Corps!

Chorus:
Here's a toast to the host of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly,
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the Army Air Corps!

Minds of men fashined a crate of thunder,
Set it high into the blue;
Hand of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew!
(God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before and bombers galore.
Nothing'll stop the Army Air Corps!

Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a gray-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
(Out of the blue, boy!)
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on.
Nothing'll stop the Army Air Corps!

The Pilot's 23rd Psalm

by Capt. J. D. Olive

  1. As the telephone operator who giveth wrong numbers, so is he who extolleth his exploits in the air.
  2. He shall enlarge upon the dangers of his adventures, but in my sleeve shall be heard the tinkling of silvery laughter.
  3. Let not thy familiarity with airplanes breed comtempt, lest thou become exceedingly careless at a time then great care is necessary to thy well-being.
  4. My son, obey the law and observe prudence. Spin thou not lower than 1500 cubits nor stunt above thine own domicile. For the hand of the law is heavy and reacheth far and wide throughout the land.
  5. Incure not the wrath of thy Commander by breaking the rules; for he who maketh right-hand circuits shall be cast out into utter darkness.
  6. Let not thy prowess in the air persuade thee that others cannot do even as thou doest; for he that showeth off in public places is an abomination unto his fellow pilots.
  7. More pariseworthy is he who can touch tail-skid and wheels to earth at one time, than he who loopeth and rolleth till some damsel stares in amazement at his daring.
  8. He who breaketh an undercarriage in a forced landing, may, in time, be forgiven, but he who taxieth into another plane shall be despised forever.
  9. Beware the man who taketh off without looking behind him, for there is not health in him verily, I say unto you, his days are numbered.
  10. Clever men take the reproofs of their instructor in the same wise, one like unto another; with witty jest, confessing their dumbness and regarding themselves with humor. Yet they try again, profiting by his wise counsel and taking not offense at aught that has been said.
  11. As a postage stamp which lacketh glue, so are the words of caution to a fool; they stick not, going in one ear and out the other, for there is nothing between to stop them.
  12. My son, hearken unto my teaching and forsake not the laws of prudence, for the reckless shall not inhabit the earth for long.
  13. Hear instrution and be wise, and refuse it not; thus wilt thou fly safely; length of days and a life of peace shall be added unto thee.

High Flight

Hailed as the first classic of the Second World War, High Flight was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. on September 3, 1941. Magee was a 19-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, who was killed in a flying accident on December 11, 1941.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence; hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.


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