Dead Stick Habit by Bruce Corgett


BuNo 153665 11SEP67


On my first flight at VMT-103, and as a Naval Aviator, I had the honor of crashing the first TA-4F. It had it's canopy jettisoned in the hanger, by a tech that was A4E trained. The canopy open and canopy eject handles were repositioned. OOPS!

After about 90 days, a replacement canopy was rigged, but not quite right. Sitting in the front seat, with zero previous time in that cockpit, I was able to close the canopy, and rotate the handle forward, which usually locks it in a detent. This one was rigged just right, so that the locking roller went right to the top edge of the detent, but didn't lock.

On lift off, the plane left the runway, and the aerodynamic canopy left the plane. It rotated 180 degrees until the hinges snapped. Then the canopy when straight back into the vertical stabilizer. It's aluminum frame sliced off 80% of the stabilizer. That's the only place on the Scooter where the utility and emergency hydraulic systems are parallel. It cut off both.

The hydraulic fluid recycles every 5 minutes. Unless its venting. Making a left downwind, dumping fuel, and lining up for my first approach, with the instructor blind and deaf in the back, I started the left turn into the runway. About at the 90 the hydraulic fluid was gone, and the stick got stiff. A gorilla can move it, by wire, but that might work on a straight in, but not a normal left turn.

As we went wide and low across Interstate 10, the instructor ejected. We did not have the selector set for both, so I needed to follow. I have extremely long arms. Long enough to prevent the curtain from firing if I kept my elbows together, as trained. " With not much time left, I went out using the alternate handle.


That was the first firing of the new zero-zero seat. It worked great, as I was descending, wing low, nose low, at about 10 feet. It's something like a 4 second delay to canopy deployment after ejection, seat separation and drogue firing. I was flying feet first above the Scooter, in formation looking down at it, when it impacted and exploded(full fuel). Then the chute opened. It looked like I was about to rejoin the plane, but the Arizona wind down the runway pushed me back enough to land in the Orange grove.

The Orange trees are 18' tall, and that's the length of the raisers. I came down centered between 4 or them, and the chute hung up nicely. My feet reached the ground, but my knees never bent. The debrief was very interesting.

VMT-103 TA-4F Crash: I was walking back to the helo after ejecting from BuNo 153665. There was a Navy squadron doing field carrier training at YUMA with their LSO on the runways with his 35mm. He got shots all the way around

I told you all that, because it was fun, but also because the CO, Bird Colonel, personally flew my FAM 1 makeup in about 10 days. I suspect he wanted to verify that I was still interested in close air support. I was.

I had three total dead stick landings in the Scooter, and none were intentionally documented. The first was enroute to Cubi Pt, and was caused by a O ring failure, zero oil pressure at 33,000. The motor didn't fail until I reduced(moved) the throttle on short final to the WWII abandoned base at Sangley Pt. The second was due to a total electrical failure over Khe Sahn during the siege, 1968. No power, no fuel transfer. 5 minutes to find you emergency field or walk home. The attachment is that one.

The third was less dramatic. Fuel dump locked open over the Ashua Valley. Got there in 5 minutes on a scramble. Dumping while making the first 2 runs, until my wingman pointed it out. Couldn't turn it off. I ran climbing for Danang, and was coming in over the Bay when the fuel exhaustion occurred. I was at 200 + knots, clean, and kept it fast as a glider. Slowly raising the nose, I dropped the gear late, after getting the flares from the runway duty PFC. He was awake! I just held it up as the speed bled off, and landed pretty normally.

I coasted into the hot fueling pits, and stopped in the right spot. I had to ignore the sneers and comments of the Cpl that ran the fuel pits. He had seen the no gear flares, and assumed I was also so ignorant that I had shut down in his pits. He politely informed me that shut down was not procedure at that location....
Semper fi. Bruce Corbett Oakland, CA.

14 MAY 2011: I watched the ejection mentioned here of the TA-4F at Yuma while I was taxing out on a weapons hop with VA-192.---fairly low ejection about 500’. As mentioned above, both made it OK.
Dave Boaz

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