“I WENT HERISTICAL WITH LAUGHTER”
Excerpts from "A Day in the Training of Aviation Midshipman" David Brunius June ]0, 1948
... I was up for an aerobatics check ride. We did the same maneuvers as in the. morning concluding with a simulated emergency. I selected a Navy auxiliary field, grass covered, and made a good landing. This is where things turned ugly. With my regular instructor, whenever I made a landing on an auxiliary field, he would take over. So while I'm rolling out I expected the check pilot to take over, only he didn't. After losing precious seconds ... auxiliary fields are not very big … I put the power on and got the nose up only to see I was faced with some pine trees just passed the fence at the edge of the field. I didn't think I could clear the trees, chopped the throttle, and put on the brakes. Gently at first, only the plane didn't seem to be slowing much so I really tromped on them.
As the fence approached I was practically standing on the brake pedals. Then it happened. The brakes did work and we went up and over. When it stopped my head was resting on the ground. We didn't have safety helmets in those days, only cloth with the earphones sewn in. The space between the edge of the cockpit and the ground was so narrow I initially didn't think I was going to be able to get out. Releasing the seat belt I fell in a ball and was able to skinny out. I met the check pilot. He had a trickle of blood coming from a corner of his mouth and blood on one of his hands. He seemed very calm and only uttered two sentences. The first: "Did you shut the' switches off?" No I hadn't. So I got back down on my belly and crawled back in to shut the switches off. The second: "This is going to go on my record." He didn't say "This is going to go on your record," which I took for granted.
This was all very depressing. I had ruined a beautiful airplane, wounded a check pilot and my Navy career was probably at an end. I was sad indeed.
A Petty Officer was stationed on the field with a jeep that carried fire extinguishers. He drove over and picked us up. He also radioed our situation in to the main base. It wasn't long before a twin engined SNB (C-18) landed and picked me up. At the time I didn't know why the check pilot didn't get on board. There were two enlisted pilots at the controls . They poured on the power and we were whizzing along when mud began to fly in the copilots window. A sight very few pilots have been privileged to see. The copilot had raised the landing gear too soon and we settled back on the field. Well, they say misery loves company and it must be true because when I got out of that plane I went hysterical with laughter. It was a scene to behold. Two wrecked planes on the field, more planes circling overhead to see the goings on below, and a student laughing his head off.
Another SNJ landed and the pilot signaled me to get on board. As we were taking off I saw an ambulance coming on the field to get the check pilot. I think he was OK since I never heard anything to the contrary.
Back at the main base I reported to Sickbay for a post accident physical. After an initial exam by a corpsman he said "You'll never pass this. Come back in the morning." I think the problem was low blood pressure. I've had a tendency for that and it must have dropped, below minimums. So in the morning I reported back to Sickbay, this time to a different man and explained I was there for a post accident physical. Doing the pulse and BP thing he said "Wow, you're the calmest man I've ever seen for just having an accident." I didn't tell him it was the afternoon before. Before leaving I reported in to the head medical officer who really gave me a chewing out for wrecking government property.
Back at the squadron no one said boo. I think they were kind to me because of having been in two wrecks. A couple of days later I flew another aerobatics check, got an up, and I was back in business. The accident report showed the brakes were locked for 297 feet. The tires were liquefying the grass and the plane was hydroplaning.
My flight jacket report for the morning flight by my regular instructor gave me a Headwork Rating in the top 20%. The check pilot report read: "Do not believe student used good judgment following landing on small field shot. After commencing take off decided safe take off doubtful and retarded throttle. Crash resulted." His Headwork Rating: Bottom 20%. Top to bottom in just a few hours. I may hold a record for having been in two aircraft accidents within one hour.