Monday, December 22, 2008

Infinite Wisdom of the Military

Before I got half way thru my hitch, I knew the military wasn't for me. A couple of examples of the military intelligence that led me to that conclusion are as follows. They sent us a guy who was a painter. We needed an aircraft painter and they sent us a house painter. This guy had about a dozen years of working in Civil Engineers as a painter, painting buildings, houses and other things around the base. When he arrived and was told he would be painting aircraft, he said OK give me a brush and a roller and I'll get at it. Aircraft painting is almost all done with a spray gun. After trying it for a few months and deciding that that type of painting was not for him, he got another job. They put him temporarily in Training. After some months in Training, he got orders that would cross-train him and he would be permanently in Training. When he got those orders he decided to get out of the military even tho he was more than half way to getting in the 20 years needed for retirement.

Another example was the guy that helped me learn what I needed to pass the SKT test for the next skill level in my job. He was what they called a squared away troop. He would spend half the night working on a plane that needed to be fixed immediately and go home for a few hours sleep and put on fresh fatigues and shine his boots and be back first thing in the morning. He really knew his stuff when it came to doing sheelmetal work on aircraft. That's why the Coonass sent us over to the SAC (SAC Sucks) sheetmetal shop for him to teach us more about aircraft sheetmetal than the basics we had learned in Tech School. It's about the only smart thing my supervisor did. One day out of the blue, he got orders saying he would be cross-trained into missiles. He was smart enough that he would have done a very good job at whatever he did, but the guy loved the job he was doing and no way did he want to change jobs. He decided to get out even tho he only needed a hitch or two to get his 20 in. These are a couple of examples of the infinite wisdom of the military.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Learning New Words

I was an innocent young 19 year old when I got to Dow Airplane Patch. I learned many new things including many new words and phrases. I don't think I had ever had a sub before and there they were called 'guinea grinders' or just grinders. After being called a 'jabroni' a number of times I learned that it meant 'fucking asshole' in Italian. I have never been able to figure out why Italians are called guineas. Worked with a guy back in the nineties that called himself the 'Mini Guinea'. He said that somewhere along the line lots of Italians were working for a guinea a day and that's why they were called guineas and the name stuck.

I learned that a 'Coonass' was a Cajun from Louisiana. My supervisor was a Coonass and so I didn't have a very good opinion of Coonasses because of that. Let's just say I didn't think he was the brightest bulb in the chandelier. They sent us another Coonass straight out of basic to become a welder and he was an even dimmer bulb.

Learned about Down East, which is a direction. According to Wikipedia it refers to the Maine coast from Penobscot Bay to the Canadian Border. Another is when sailing from Boston to Maine, you would go downwind to go East and on the return you would go up to Boston.

When I was there the people were Mainiacs, now they prefer to be called Mainers. I still like Mainiacs and the Air National Guard unit at Bangah (Bangor) still called themselves Mainiacs when I was back there in the mid-80's. While I was stationed there the Guard had F-89's that were pretty much useless. I heard that when our F-101's were flying target for their F-89's, they would sometimes get on the radio and say slow down so we can catch you. When I was back in the 80's they were a tanker unit. I got one of their decals and put it on my toolbox.

I learned how to talk like a Mainiac, and could do a passable Down East accent. A friend (a Mainiac) turned me on to the records Bert and I. If you click on the link you can listen to several of the bits on the Bert and I records. These records helped me get my Mainiac accent right. When I was about to go back there in the 80's, I used the accent to talk to the guys I was working with who were going up to Bangah. They said I was bullshitting them, that nobody talks like that. After we had been there awhile and the leadman had meet the family of waitress he hooked up with, he said, not only did they talk like I had, their accent was so thick he couldn't understand it!!

Aiyah, ain't no sonuva whorah in Bangah can beat my caw!! Aiyah!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Common Knowledge

It was common knowledge when I was in the Air Farce, no wait, that's a show on Canadian TV. Anywho, the common knowledge was that when someone flunked out of tech school they became either a cook or a skycop. One example that may prove this was when a guy I knew was removing the engine from his Volvo 544. It had a rod knock or some other problem that required a tear down. With the help of several friends he disconnected everything from the engine and four guys picked up the engine and removed it from the car. As they were about to remove it, a skycop (Air Police) walked by and said, "You know you are not allowed to do major maintenance in the parking lot." The owner of the car said, "I'm just going to overhaul the engine." The skycop said, "OK" and walked on. They carried the engine and later the transmission up to the guys room where he tore the engine apart to see what was required to repair it. We had weekly barracks inspections and before the inspection he put the engine, trans, and related parts in an empty locker. Later he took everything to the Auto Hobby Shop and rebuilt the engine.

I heard skycops would get so bored walking around guarding the airplanes that they would count the rivets on a panel on the plane. I can think of better ways to spend the day or night than walking around an airplane with a rifle in all kinds of weather.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Photo

Just put a picture at the bottom of the blog. It is the F-117A built by Lockheed in the Skunk Works. The Skunk Works were started and run by Kelly Johnson (originally from UP on the tundra) and was where many aircraft were developed and made, starting during WWII and continuing to the present day. He had retired by the time that I worked there. Some of the planes are the U-2, the SR-71, the F-104 and the Stealth Fighter among others. I worked on building the first 7 or 8 of the F-117A's while working in Beautiful Downtown Burbank.

What was ironic was that at the Lockheed Employee Store you could buy jackets, t-shirts, caps and other stuff with the Skunk Works Logo or ADP (Advanced Development Projects) on them, but those of us that actually worked there were told not to buy or wear anything with those on them. That way no one would ask questions that we could not answer.

This was another cool aircraft that I worked on. While working on it I could not tell my family about it. The Old Lady swears that while we were in La-La Land that our phone was tapped. Sometimes while talking to a friend, the connection would not be clear and her friend would ask what is wrong with the phone. The Old Lady would say, "Lockheed has a tap on the line, so we can't talk about state secrets, but we can talk about the drug deal that's going down". There would be a click and the phone would clear up!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This is a picture of a F-101B after landing with the drag chute deployed. This is the type of aircraft I worked on while at Dow Airplane Patch and at K.I.Sawyer (which I will get to after I get done with my time in Maine). This is not one of the planes that I worked on, but it is one of the better photos I was able to find on the intratubes.

This is a picture of a T-33A. Again this is not one that I worked on. We had F-101B&F and T-33A aircraft in the unit. It was on these types of aircraft that I learned the ins and outs of aircraft repair. We did less work on the T-33's than on the F-101's but the F-101's were flown a lot more than the T-33's. What was interesting about the T-33 was that when the jet engine needed to be removed for maintenance, the whole tail was removed, and then the engine was removed.

Behind the engines under the tail of the F-101 were titanium shingles because of the heat from the exhaust. This was my first encounter with titanium, but not the last by any means. About the only thing I had to do with these titanium panels was to punch holes in new ones when one needed to be replaced.

At the time I thought these planes were old as the F-101's were around 10 years old and the T-birds were older yet. Today some of the planes the services are using are 20 years old or more.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Picture In The Header

These aircraft are the coolest that I ever worked on. They were made almost totally of composite materials. The fuselage was graphite and the fairings, leading edges and control surfaces were Kevlar. There were metal (titanium and aluminum) parts but mostly it was composite. While working on these I used to joking say I was working on a plastic airplane. It was put together like a small plastic kit airplane in that it had several large pieces (sides, top, and bottom) that were glued together to make the fuselage. All the composite pieces were glued together and the metal was bolted or riveted on. But that is all 14 years down the road from where this narrative is at this point.

H/T to Chris Hanisko for putting the picture on the intratubes where I could find it. I googled "Lear Fan" and this was one of the hits that came up.

Driver's License

While I was home on leave on my way to Dow Airplane Patch, I renewed my driver's license because it had expired, or so I thought, while I was at Basic and Tech School. I found out much later, maybe after I got out of the service that my license would have been good until 30 days after I got out of the service. Anywho, I renewed my license while home on leave. After I was at Dow I received a letter from the Secretary of State's office that had been forwarded saying that they could not issue a license because of glare on my glasses. This was when they first started putting pictures on the licenses in that state. It said to re-apply at my local office but I was about a thousand miles away from the nearest one, maybe a little closer it you went through Canada. I started the process to get a Maine license and then wrote back to the Secretary of State's office saying I was stationed in Maine and could I re-apply the next time I was on leave? When it was time to go for the tests to get the license, one of the guys in the shop talked the supervisor into letting him accompany me. He could have just let me use his car, which he was willing to do, but he wanted to goof off for the half a day or however long it took for me to do the tests to get my license. He said that because my temp license was expired that I risked getting a ticket if I drove myself. I passed the tests (questions and road test) and got a temporary license. About the time I got my Maine license, I received a license from my home state with the picture area whited out and Valid Without Photo in the white area.
As long as I had that license, sometimes when I would get carded, I would get told that it wasn't any good. I'd ask why not and they would say it says valid without photo. I would ask them what the hell did they think valid meant??
So for a few years I had licenses from two states at the same time.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Dow Airplane Patch

On my last post I mentioned how when I arrived I was told stories about how bad the winters were. This photo shows what it was like after one of the worse snowstorms while I was there. When I put this photo up, I noticed my car is in the front row, the second one to the right from the guy walking in the snow. The car is a '58 T-bird so this was taken during the last winter I was there as that is the car I drove when I left Dow Airplane Patch.

This photo shows what winter was normally like while I was there. Everywhere I was stationed I heard stories about cars being buried in snowdrifts. I believed the stories at K.I.Sawyer because my car was buried a time or two while stationed there. What helped me find it was the orange Styrofoam ball atop the antenna. I also heard stories like that on Cape Cod at Otis, but the most snow I saw there at one time was about six inches.

This is a photo of the first car I bought in Maine. I got suckered because it was over ten years old and didn't have rust. I bought it from another guy stationed there who had brought there from the south. The car never was very dependable, when I first got it I had to have a head gasket replaced and the car had such low compression that when it had been run for over half an hour it didn't have enough compression to start. I would have to wait until it cooled off enough to start. I could have overhauled the engine at the auto hobby shop, but I didn't want to tackle such a major job. I either gave it away or abandoned it after getting another car. While I had this car, I bought another car, a '57 Plymouth from someone I worked with and fixed it. When I bought the Plymouth it had a broken torsion bar. I got another from a junkyard and did a couple of other repairs and then sold it for what I had in it. Didn't even get anything for all the work I did on it. Then the guy I sold it to kept bitching about all the things he found wrong with it after he bought it. I kept telling him that he only paid $40 for it and couldn't expect it to be perfect!! In hindsight (being 20/20), I should have got rid of the Ford and kept the Plymouth. Later I bought a '58 T-bird and fixed it up. That is the car that I drove when I left to go to my next base.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dow Airplane Patch

I arrived at Dow Airplane Patch in Oct and the ground stayed bare right up to Xmas. I thought I'd see my first green Xmas. Xmas Eve it started snowing and by morning there was six inches of snow on the ground. What a relief, I was spared the horrors of a Xmas without snow!! I spent two winters there and kept hearing stories about the huge amounts of snow that they would get. One story I heard was about was how people were hearing a noise when walking on one spot on a path. When the snow went down, they saw that they had been walking over a car buried in a snowdrift. I thought the winters I spent there were rather mild compared to what I was used to.

One of my memories is that when we had a squadron party they would fill the back of a pickup with ice and cans of beer. Too bad the beer wasn't of a quality to make it drinkable. Black Label beer was one that I could not choke down when sober. Once I was drunk I could drink Black Label. Narraganset beer would slide down my throat just barely. It seemed like those were the only choices, maybe the officers got better stuff, but I don't know. Anywho, we got the cheapest beers.

I learned many things while there. I learned how to work on aircraft (F-101B & F-101F and T-33's). I learned that prejudice is a two-way street. The most prejudiced guy I ever met was a black guy that I worked with. He hated whites with a passion. Also working in the shop was another black guy who would do whatever he could to help you out and it didn't matter whether you were white or black. One day the two of them were razzing me and saying that where I was from they still thought blacks were nightfighters. I slowly looked over both of them and then said, "Say, you guys would be good in the dark."