MCARA Sea Stories

Thar She Blows, Another Whale Tale!

Everyone that ever flew the F3D-2 or EF-10B Skyknight affectionately known as Willie the Whale has at least one story to tell. I have many first hand ones and heard so many that I lose count. So I kind of like spin one off every once in a while. This one happens to be about a common occurrence with the old aircraft in the 60s when I flew it, and that is having the escape hatch door behind the crew blow open at altitude. Every time it happened it scared the crap out of you and of course messed up your ears as the cockpit suddenly lost pressurization.

First time it happened to me was in 1965 climbing out of Navy Dallas after my pilot and I had been to some meeting that required us to wear our winter green uniforms. We often hung our XC clothing bags on the bar over the escape hatch and I had done so on this flight. When the hatch blew at about 20,000 feet my bag got sucked down the escape chute and hit the trigger on the belly doors so hard they opened and away over East Jesus Texas went my uniform and shoes! Never were recovered and to this day the Marine Corps owes me for that as my claim was denied somewhere up the supply chain so many times I gave up.

Now for a real war story as related to me by a MCARA member who was in VMCJ-1 at Danang in 1968. Seems that on this day one of our sterling crews was climbing out of Danang headed north to defend the U.S. Navy when their trusty Whale’s hatch blew. Unfortunately both the pilot’s and ECMO’s kneeboard cards with all their mission briefing data got sucked down the chute but luckily the door did not trigger. The ECMO unstrapped and tried to reach their cards but they were too far down the chute. Unbelievably, he then took off his helmet, unstrapped from his parachute and crawled down the chute head first with his pilot holding on to his ankle!!! No, no he made it and like all Marines do they completed their mission.

Back in the ready room when they were relating their tale someone asked the pilot what would he have done if his ECMO had slipped and went out into the wild blue yonder. Without blinking an eye he said he would have had no choice but to throw the ECMOs helmet and parachute out and radio on guard that his ECMO had suddenly got up and bailed out or other wise who would have believed the real story!!! Say it ain’t so !!

As related to Col H, Wayne Whitten USMC (ret)