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West Coast Famil

Turbo Tarling's private casebook:


Sgt Gord Patterson and Capt Turbo Tarling (Feb 15 1973)
Sgt Gord Patterson, Capt Turbo Tarling after West Coast Famil Flight in T-33 186 USNAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico
15 Feb 73

Flying with VU-32's Jet Flight was a unique experience for an air force pilot. Most of the flying in the T-33 was slow, low level and VFR in support of the Atlantic Fleet that was either nestled in the Halifax Harbour or cruising only a few miles offshore. The taskings were mostly tracking exercises (TX) for the ships, or firing exercises (FX) for the fleet and the Osborne Head Gunnery Range.


The TXs could be flown solo but the FXs required a Weapons Technician (Air) in the rear seat to operate the Delmar target-towing equipment. I made it a policy not to fly solo on any mission if I could find another pilot or one of the groundcrew to fill the seat. Therein lay the problem – CFAOs required a current High Altitude Indoctrination (HAI) certificate for anyone flying in a CF jet aircraft and few of the non-flying groundcrew had HAIs.


It was expensive and time-consuming to send personnel to Trenton or Winnipeg for HAIs that might or might not ever be used and consequently very few of the ground crew qualified for flights in VU-32’s T-33s.


The CFAOs had been written years before when the oxygen systems were less reliable, and when HAI decompression chambers were plentiful and readily available. What made it even more frustrating was the fact that our flights were generally flown at a few thousand feet where oxygen equipment was not required yet most of our groundcrew were denied the chance to fly with us.


I have to give the navy its due – when the weather turned cold and wintry, the fleet headed south to warmer climes. Bermuda and Puerto Rico were the destinations of choice – the flying was great and the beaches were superb. The groundcrew were anxious to go flying with us but CFAOs and no HAIs made this difficult. A solution had to be found.


Then I came up with a plan for a Low Altitude Indoctrination (LAI) and submitted it to Maritime Command Headquarters. The submission asserted that approval of the LAI would give us operational flexibility and efficiency, and it would be good for morale. The LAI would be given at VU-32, briefings for the seat and cockpit would be given by the pilots, safety equipment briefings would be given by safety systems technicians, it would take one-half day, there would be no cost to the Crown, the certificate would be good for flights to 10,000 feet (we didn’t specify cabin altitude or actual altitude and no one asked), and would be valid for one year. Maritime Command approved the LAI.


We immediately implemented the LAI training and soon we were taking all the groundcrew flying with us. Even the Base Commander took LAI training and I had occasion to take him flying, too.


In February 1973 I attended my last Flotex/Springboard exercise at USNAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico with a detachment of two T-33s and support crew. I learned that Sergeant Gord Patterson, one of our hard-working groundcrew, had an LAI but had not yet gone flying with us. Taking advantage of a lull in our taskings I offered to take Gord flying the next morning for a famil flight around Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as a reward for a job well done. To my surprise, he turned down the offer flat, saying that he wasn’t going to “fly in that little airplane” unless there was some purpose for the flight. A discussion ensued and finally Gord played his trump card saying, “Tell you what … you take me to the west coast (meaning Vancouver) and I’ll go flying with you.”


The next morning when Gord showed up at the hangar he looked at the schedule board and saw he was scheduled to fly with me in a two-plane formation. He jumped up and down in protest as I explained that we were flying over to Ramey AFB (on the west coast of Puerto Rico) for lunch and shopping at the PX, then a tour of the Virgin Islands on the way back. “Dammit, you cheat!” Gord protested, and I replied, “Gord, a deal’s a deal – you said if I took you flying for a purpose and took you to the west coast, you’d go flying with me, so get in!”


The 80-mile flight to Ramey AFB was uneventful, lunch was good, shopping bags were stuffed in the nose compartment, and we toured the beautiful Virgin Islands as planned. Gord had settled down, having accepted the fact that he’d been out-manoeuvred, and seemed to be enjoying the flight. I felt it prudent to prepare him for our formation overhead jet break when we got back to “Roosey Roads” so I told him to expect some “g” as we pulled into the tight turn, a change in sound as I pulled back the throttle and the undercarriage warning horn blared, and some mild noise and vibration when I extended the speed brakes. I knew he had been converted when we went into the break and I heard Gord yelling, “Wheeeeeeee!” on the intercom.


Well done, Gord, and thanks for your support and great work. It was a pleasure to work and fly with you.



Captain (A) Turbo Tarling (Ret.)
VU 32  1970-1973