“New Guy” 1
[Stolen--with permission--from "NAVY PILOT STORIES"]: In the early fall of 1950 the Korean War was underway and waiting for reinforcements. VA-195, a Navy Attack Squadron stationed in Alameda, Calif., was busy screening and training new pilots so that the squadron could be brought to combat readiness as quickly as possible and head overseas. Dave Davidson, our exec, was one of "screeners." Dave, myself and Jake Jacobson had flown together in Dave's "Tiger" division on a lengthy Pacific cruise which had ended just before the conflict stated. The 4th member of our division had been transferred and Dave was checking the new pilots to find a replacement to fill our vacant slot. One of the new ensigns was scheduled with us for a routine night training flight. Dave assigned the new guy to fly his wing (my old spot); Jake flew section, I flew Jake's wing, number four spot.
Dave led our flight out of Alameda and over San Fran bay so that we would have a good horizon and enough lighting for practice rendezvous. Dave was not one to take a new ensign out over dark water, with no horizon, to practice what could be a very dangerous maneuver. We made a normal break and tail chase; then Dave began a wide shallow turn so that we could turn inside and join back into formation. As the new guy got close to Dave, Jake and I could see from his wing lights that he had thrown up a wing. By doing so, he totally blocked his view of Dave's plane. However, Dave, the experienced old sage, was on guard and moved his AD 2 in time so that the rookie went screaming right by; left wing straight down, right wing straight up. No way could he have any idea where Dave's aircraft was. Not a good start!
Dave called on the radio and said in a calm voice, "OK, let's try it again. Number TWO do not throw your wing up; if you have to, just slide on past, but do not block me out." We tried another rendezvous; this time it was even worse. Number TWO came barreling in at high speed, stood the AD on its wing, totally losing sight of Dave's plane. Dave made a fast climb, just in time, and TWO went skidding on past Jake and I thought the new guy had caught Dave with his wing. Dave kept his patience and then let the new ensign make a V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W join up. Then Dave called, "OK, Tiger Flight, let's close it up and head for the barn." We landed, secured the aircraft and headed for the Ready Room. Number TWO was the last to enter. Dave took a hard look at the newcomer, studying him carefully, then asked to see the goggles strapped to his cloth helmet (before hard hats-remember?). Number TWO's goggles had lens that were so dark they looked black. When asked ''Why would you do such a stupid thing?" He replied, 'Well, you see sir, by wearing the dark lens while night flying, I have no trouble with night landings. When I am ready to land, I simply lift my goggles and everything is just like daylight."
The next morning the new ensign was no longer assigned to our squadron.
1 Aviation Midshipmen Log, winter 1998; © 1998.
2 AD: Douglas Skyraider, Navy Attack plane; later called the “Spad” in Viet Nam.