John C.

As Interviewed by Basmalah S., March 23, 2019

John C. : In His Own Words

John C. was a flight surgeon for both the Navy and the Marines. He was also in the reserves for several years. He is here today to talk about about his experiences flying off and on an aircraft carrier, and an incident regarding a jet engine. Warning: some parts may contain vivid imagery.

I had the honor and privilege of being shot off an aircraft carrier, and this is a situation where itís whatís called a steam catapult, and this thing fills up in tremendous amounts of pressure, and the pressure is suddenly released, and youíre accelerated from zero to 150 miles [an hour] in about 1.5 seconds. So you can imagine the G-force that you have with that, and then of course when it goes off the carrier, it dips down before the engines have enough power to propel you forward, and go back up again, so itís [a] pretty thrilling experience. Thereís nothing like being shot off an aircraft carrier, why the only other thing thatís close to it, is landing on the aircraft carrier.

So the way that works is that all these planes have whatís called a tail hook, and this is a hook-like device thatís very sturdy, bolted into the frame of the aircraft, which is made structurally more robust so it can do this, and once again, youíre coming in at around 150 miles an hour, and thereís four wires, and he has to catch one of these wires with the tail hook, and a good trap is second or third wire. And once again, youíre slowed down from 150 to zero [miles an hour] in about the same amount of time, maybe even less, and youíre in a three-point harness, but youíre still thrown forward, so you better hold on to the dashboard there, or you might hit something in front of you, so I had the chance to do that.

The experience was more interesting in a plane called an 86; the 86 had a side by side seating arrangement, and kind of a bubbly cockpit. So in the F4, you sat down kind of low and couldnít see everything. In the 86, you could see everything, what was going to happen (laughs). [I] flew in helicopters, just about everything that could carry a passenger, I wanted to fly in and did.

John C. describes a graphic incident regarding a jet engine.

So one night, so we got called around midnight, saying that there had been an accident, and the nature of this accident was that some poor unfortunate deck crew guy got sucked into an 87. [An] 87 was a single pilot attack plane, where the jet intake on this thing was really low to the ground, I mean four, five feet off the ground, whereas the jet intakes of everything else was probably eight feet or even more. And somehow, they were running up the engines right, I guess they were testing the engines on this plane, and they were running up the engine with function at full thrust, and somehow this kid [had] got in front of the engine [and] was sucked into it.

So somebody has to recover the remains of this guy. So that was one of the jobs the flight surgeons did. So they pull the engine on the plane, and what was left of this guy, somebody else picked out of the engine, but most of the remains were thrown all over the inside of the aircraft. So our job was to pick up as much as could be picked up, and put in containers and give the guy a appropriate burial, or send the remains home. The largest part remaining probably was about 20 pounds. Otherwise this poor soul was just ground up entirely. And it took us most of the night to do that, and needless to say, when we were done, the senior flight surgeon broke out the medical brandy, and we had a few shots.