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Comox, B.C.

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In February of 1982, Bill Gore and I took a cross-country up to Comox to fly target for a night excercise. Remember those?
Right after I got back from F-106 school I went flying in the back seat of the T-33 with George Sparks. We went out to W-283/5 to be target for the afternoon mission. When we got our RTB clearance (South Recovery - Direct Bumpi). George says, "Ron, why don't you take us home?" I wasn't too familiar with the local area yet and started sweating over doing the 90nm fix-to-fix to a perpendicular radial. He must have heard me mumbling while trying to figure it out - so next thing I hear is, "Why don't you pick up a heading of 086?" I replied, "Do you know that heading from all your years of flying out here?" He says, "Nope, you're right over Paso Robles, and it's a feeder fix on the approach." Sure felt like a dummy on that one. George was the go-to guy for all things pertaining to instrument flying and a very good teacher. Great sense of humor!
I never checked out in the T-33 but it was fun just to get out of town. Bill was a great cross-country buddy. We always had a fun time. Bill and I were at F-106 school at Tyndall together, too. Once we got back from Tyndall, Bill and I would go to the club together after work and practice learning the dice games. You could lose a lot of money and rounds of drinks if you didn't know what you were doing :) On the way up to Comox we did a 360 around Mt. St. Helens. This was about two years after it blow its top off. Still a little hot under the collar, though. That thing sure blew out a hell of a lot of earth!
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Once we got up there Curly met the commander of the F-101 squadron and he invited us over to his house for dinner. He and his wife treated us to a meat fondue dinner that was awesome. There was bear, deer, rabbit and think there was even some moose meat. Dipped in some great sauces, it was fantastic. He also had a whole garage full of different wines that he had collected to take home after his tour was up. We were pretty shloshed when we drove back to the Qs. Next morning we found branches from some kind of tree or big bush wedged under the bumper. Still have no idea how they got there. :) Our friend and fellow T-33 pilot, Mike Mendes, went up to Comox in Novemeber of 1982 to fly target for another night excercise. He was flying solo and on departure there was some confusion about a turn and climb instruction and impacted a nearby mountain just short of the summit. After that we always had to have two pilots in the jet for these kind of operations. It was terribly sad to lose Mike as he was a really nice guy and was well liked in the squadron. Mike was flying in T-33 #811. Although flying was such fun it's a bit sobering to realize that there were no guarantees about coming home from a sortie. Unfortunately, we also lost another of our friends in another T-33 (#262) in September of 1983. Tom Fishburn was lost just off the coast a few miles west of Vandenberg. Based on the radar returns and how quickly the plane went down as well as some testing of the inflatable life raft it was guessed that Tom had somehow caught the "Green Apple" that inflated the raft and it inflated on him in the cockpit. We watched a Col. from the investigation team inflate the raft a couple of times on the ramp with the canopy closed and there was no possibility of getting to the cutting tool on the stick in order to puncture the raft once it inflated.
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Again, in March of 1983 Bill and I went back up to Comox for another excecise. One of the days was cancelled because of a big snow storm. We had a rental car that we weren't supposed to take off base but we took off on a day trip anyway. We drove up to Mt. Washington for the day. I can't remember if we skiied - but I do remember that the weather cleared up and the Comox demo team flew around up there practicing their show. We figured they practiced up there just for us. The rental car was covered with dirt and dirty snow crud when we were ready to head home a couple of days later. When we turned the car in the guy commented on how dirty it was for not having left the base. Bill, with a straight face simply said "It rained." Perfect! In March of 1983, Willy Benton and I headed back up to Comox in a couple of F-106s for Hawksnest 1983. The Comox guys were transitioning to F-18s and they were throwing an ACM ecxercise for their last blowout. On the way up there we were trying to make our Flagpole Time and slipped into supersonic a little bit. We missed our time but never did hear anything about our speed. Whew! Jamie Mackay joined us up there in the B-model with one of our crew chiefs. We had a blast up there - the Canuks treated us great except when we were playing Crud. Those guys took no prisoners. You almost needed football pads! The Recce guys from Reno got honorable mention for there Flagpole Time. They were exactly right on time - 24 hrs. early. Oops! On one of our trips up to Comox, Bill and I drove out to one of the islands out there. We had to take a ferry and the weather was seriously windy and overcast. As I remember it, the ride on the ferry was really rough. Once we got to the other side we drove around checking out the local sights.
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It was frickin' cold, too!
On the way home we had to stop at McChord AFB to clear customs. A lot of folks at home had given us money for us to bring back smoked salmon. We stuffed it all in every compartment and crevise on the jet that we could find. As we sat on the ramp at McChord the customs guy asked us if we had anything to declare. We said "No, would you like some smoked salmon?" He said "No, I have plenty," and sent us on our way.
I ended up flying back from the Hawksnest excercise in the F-106 by myself. Since I was the junior guy I was the one to smuggle all the smoked salmon back to Fresno. The travel pod was attached up in the missle bay on the F-106 where the Air-2A was attached and was called "The Coffin" since it was about that size. I stopped at McClellan AFB for customs. The customs guy was brand new and said he wanted to inspect my luggage. In an effort to deflect him, I told him it was tied up in the missle bay and would take me about 10 minutes to get it out and then about 15 minutes to tie it back up in there again. He offered to help me with it, so, thinking fast, I told him that everything in the missle bay was classified Top Secret and that when the missle bay doors were open he would have to stay 50 feet away. He thought for a minute and then told me to have a nice flight home. Another Whew moment! "Wendy, I can fly!"
The wind was reallying howling out by the cliffs. I guess somewhere around 40 kts. steady. It was pretty wierd to be able to lean that far into the wind without falling over. Looks like about 30 degrees.
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Wandering around checking out the scenery. The end of a great trip.
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