"Got 'em lit yet?"
Another yarn that did not make the book simply because I remembered it too late.
As a rule, people do not like to lose. I know I don't. Even though public figures in business, politics or sports appear to take it well and in good spirits in public, inside they may well be harbouring "thoughts most bloody" concerning those who have bested them in whatever the field of competition. Fighter pilots usually have a highly developed competitive streak, as well they should. Unlike fields like the World Wrestling Federation showbiz machine, where "LOSING IS NOT AN OPTION!" grudge match hype is screamed out over the PA amidst flying folding chairs and steel cages, the loser is still alive. Not so in the fighter pilot world. Losing there really isn't an option in an all out shooting war.
The following story took place in the 70s in Cold Lake Alberta. It shows without doubt that this particular fighter pilot had the killer instinct and trained the way he would fight.
First some background. NATO and western ally fighter pilots have "Fox" code words that they transmit over radio to signify the type of ordinance they have just fired. These codes were used in training and in competitions and most likely in wartime to their controllers unless radio silence was necessary. In my day, "Fox 1" was radar guided missles, "Fox 2" was infra-red or heat seeking, "Fox 3" was unguided "bullets" and "Fox 4" was a mid air collision(!) Guns were, well, guns and as the old saying went "There's no kill like a guns kill". The only one to remember here is "Fox 2", which signified the launch of an air to air missle that depended on the heat of the target's tail pipe to guide it to impact. In short, no heat equals a blind missle shot.
Two instructor pilots in their respective CF-5s went airborne for a little "1-v-1" out in the area. In close formation, the lead called for his winger to break right 90 degrees from their current heading for the split and after a count of maybe 20 seconds or so called "Fight's On!" Without doubt, both lit their burners and pulled for all they were worth to the vertical trying to get an immediate height advantage in the ensuing fight. Well the CF-5 did not have the kind of thrust for that to last long and the resultant (very) low airspeed, high angles of attack and blanked inlets often caused a double engine flame out, a problem that occurred fairly often doing these kinds of violent low speed manouvering in the vertical.
"Double engine failure!...they both flamed out!" barked one of the pilots in some distress.
"OK, fly the airplane..tiger re-light" calmly replied his adversary who had managed to out climb his opponent and had him in sight. A "tiger relight" was simply pulling both throttles back to idle for a couple of seconds and then pushing them full forward. This re-set a bunch of stuff and started an automatic ignition and start sequence. For those not familiar with the CF-5, like most fighters, it had the glide characteristics of a set of car keys, so the clock was ticking and a decision was coming soon.
"OK, doing it now!" gasped the pilot whose breathing was now quite heavy. "I've got rotation...and...ignition!"
"OK be cool. Head back toward the base if you can. Got 'em lit yet?"
"They're both winding up now. Almost back up and running"
"Ya, all good now. Both lit"
"Good. Fox 2. You're dead.See ya back at the Mess"
About the Air Canada A-320 that very nearly landed on a taxiway in San Francisco, I haven' the faintest idea how this could have happened. Having flown to SFO and landed on that runway dozens of times, I don't know of an excuse in the world that could exonerate the crew. Stay tuned. It should be interesting.
Until next time, over 'n out.