because I was….inverted

Inverted flight, for anything much more than a short bit, can cause problems with a jet like this. Primarily, fuel and oil systems are made for one G or close to it flight, meaning gravity is an important contributor to getting those two elements to where they need to be, one powering the engine and the other lubricating the engine.  Dedicated air show aircraft have inverted tanks and pumps installed in their jets, allowing them to perform extended maneuvers while inverted. This Tomcat, taken at the Oceana Air show in 2005,  was simply performing a 4-point roll, so the amount of time it spent inverted was negligible.


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Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Head Raddall, DSO

A hundred years ago yesterday my great grandfather was killed, on 9 August 1918, in a wheat field near the French town of Amiens, outside the village of Caix during the Hundred Days Offensive which made up the last battles of the First World War.

Lt-Col Thomas Head Raddall DSO was assigned to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Canadian Army, and was the only commanding officer of the unit to have been killed in action. He was my mom’s grandfather, from the Canadian side of our family having settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia during his years in the military spent on this side of the Atlantic.

The Winnipeg Rifles remain a proud unit in the Canadian Army. The unit publishes a chronicle once a year called “The Devil’s Blast”, and the following article talking about Lt-Col Raddall’s death appeared in their 2012 publications:

“Thomas Head Raddall was born in Cornwall, England in 1877. At the age of 14 he enlisted in the Royal Marines as a drummer in 1891. He became a rifleman in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1895 and served on the China station from 1896-1900. Raddall transferred to the British army’s School of Musketry at Flythe, Kent as an instructor in small arms, including machine guns. An expert marksman, he was a member of army rifle teams in competitions at Bisley and elsewhere. He was a member of the British rifle team at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. He inevitably transferred to the Canadian army in May 1913 for the purpose of being an instructor in rifle and machine gun practice. He and his family settled in Nova Scotia.

When war was declared with Germany in August 1914, He was ordered to Valcartier Camp, where he joined 8th Battalion (the Winnipeg Rifles) as lieutenant ofthe machine gun section, then to overseas deployment in September of 1914. At Ypres, in April of 1915 he was wounded in head and arm. He convalesced in Canada at Halifax (his adopted home city). Upon recovery, he rejoined the regiment with the rank of captain, and was adjutant during the Somme fighting in 1916. While engaged at Vimy Ridge in the spring of 1917 he was wounded for a second time. He recovered in time to rejoin the regiment for the battle of Passchendaele, where he served as a major and was second-in-command. For his services during the battles of 1917 he was three times mentioned in Field-Marshall Haig’s despatches.

He took command of the regiment, after the brutal decimation at Passchendaele, as acting Lieutenant Colonel and was confirmed in this rank in August 1918. During this period he rebuilt and retrained the 8th battalion, and the 8th was acknowledged in First Division as being one of the best to wear the famous “old red patch”. On the 3rd of June 1918 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Interestingly enough the award was given in honour of King George V’s birthday. The criteria for the award were to have been in active combat as well as having been mentioned in despatches.

The opening day of The Hundred Days Offensive was on August 8. Beginning with a swift attack east of Amiens the regiment reached and occupied Caix Wood and the village of Caix. Their objective for the next morning was the village of Rosieres, but owing to circumstances on the 1st Division’s right, several of their units had to change front, and during the night of August 8, the regiment was moved to Hospital Wood, on their right, with orders to attack towards Warvillers in the morning. This meant storming Hatchet Wood, on a prominence in the rolling Picard grain fields, commanding a wide field of fire on all sides. It could not be by-passed for that reason.

Matters on the Canadian right remained uncertain until after noon on August 9, when Colonel Raddall received orders to attack. The wood was held by about 400 fresh German troops, with numerous machine guns. The regiment had no tank support, and the lone field battery behind them was under orders for its part in a general barrage scheme, with no shifting to particular targets of opportunity. He sent one company to circle and attack the wood from the left, another to do the same from the right. The attack from the front had to be pressed hotly, to keep the Germans’ attention away from the flanking companies, and Raddall went forward with the front attack.

The Colonel, while kneeling in the wheat was hit and knocked down by a bullet in the right arm, which was bandaged by his runner. He then rose up again and put up his field glasses, seeking signs of progress by the flanking companies. While doing so he was hit by a burst of machine gun bullets in the chest and collapsed, and gasped to the runner, “Tell Bug (Major Saunders) to take over”. In a few brief moments he was dead.
The regiment stormed into the wood from all three sides. Many of the enemy had been killed or wounded on the way that there were actually fewer than 400 Germans in the woods but after a fierce scrimmage among the trees with bomb and bayonet they killed about 100 and the rest surrendered. The regiment was in Warvillers, their objective, that night. After the battle the regiment’s padre, J.W. Whillans, brought parties to seek out the dead among the wheat and gather the bodies on the lip of the draw where the 8th began their rush towards Hatchet Wood.

They buried Colonel Raddall and 7 other officers and 59 men there, which was to become named the Manitoba Cemetery.
Total losses of the engagement also included 309 wounded and 52 missing. Amid all the carnage on the afternoon of August 9, 1918 2 VC’s were awarded. One VC was awarded to Cpl Frederick Coppins shortly before Raddall was killed and another to Cpl Alexander Brereton shortly after Raddall’s death.”

Me again:

Having visited a number of those European and North African war cemeteries during my own military deployments to those areas, I am still struck and honored by the love, the attention, the care, and dedication the local citizenry pay to these resting places. The Winnipeg Rifles family still honor their war dead, as evidence of this visit to the cemetery as recalled by these members of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum:


My Mom and Dad had the opportunity to track down Great Grandfather Raddall’s grave in France during a visit there in the early 90s, and his grave, indeed the entire cemetery, as evidenced by the previous note from the museum, was well tended with obvious love, attention and eternal appreciation.
His headstone reads:

9TH AUGUST 1918 AGE 41

A hundred years ago today. A life of service to his God and country and family ended in the last months of the first Great War. Our great grandfather’s legacy is carried on, though, through his son and daughter’s sons and daughters.

The accompanying pictures are of the Lt-Col in the later stages of his career and a shot of his headstone in the Manitoba Cemetery, Caix, France. There is a photo of the then-Sergeant Raddall holding my grandmother, Nellie Raddall Cassidy, in the early years of the 1900s.

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Been busy with trying to get the house ready to get on the real estate market here in northern Virginia. We moved in here, the Pinchettes and I, in late 2003 after I spent the summer in the Gulf (Qatar) and the associated tax-free combat-zone pay. Aside from a few rooms being renovated, not much has been done over the years so there has been lots to do. Add in some medical things – a week in Georgetown University Hospital for some foot and tendon  surgery – and you can get an idea just HOW busy.

Anyhow, we’re back on the blog and will keep up more.  Trust me 🙂


Pic of the day are two special F-14 pieces. The top photo I took as we flew into NAS Key West for a gas stop enroute to Roosey Roads in Puerto Rico.   Bottom drawing is one my Dad did from a photo he or I took at the 1985 NAS Pensacola Air Show.  Love them both.

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Live Fire Test and Evaluation, or simply LFT&E as it is called in the test and evaluation world.  Any new weapons system needs to go through a testing program where it is subjected to a small sample of what an explosive event would be like.

As the DoD puts it, LFT&E is

…an assessment of the vulnerability and lethality of a system as it progresses through Developmental Test & Evaluation (DT&E) prior to Full-Rate Production (FRP). LFT&E typically includes testing at the component, subassembly, and subsystem level, and may also draw upon design analyses, modeling and simulation, combat data, and related sources such as analyses of safety and mishap data.

LFT&E is guided by a statutory requirement for “realistic survivability testing” or “realistic lethality testing” as defined in (10 USC 2366). A system can go thru Early and Full Up LFT&E.  One of the purposes of conducting LFT&E early in the program life cycle is to allow time to correct any design deficiency demonstrated by the test and evaluation.

As you can see, this program is outlined in the US Code, so its not just some thing where you get the Mythbuster dudes (Jamie and Adam) to go out and blow stuff up next to a tank, a helicopter or, in this case, an aircraft carrier.

This photo shows the shock waves from an LFT&E test approaching the aircraft carrier USS JOHN F KENNEDY.  This, I believe, was a second LFT&E test on Big John, after a major rehab period in the yards.  The shock waves aren’t enough to cause serious damage to the ship or injury (hopefully), but it can highlight systems that can be vulnerable to the shock and impact of blast waves from ordnance or explosives.

LFT&E should accomplish the following:

  • Provide information to decision-makers on potential user casualties, vulnerabilities, and lethality, taking into equal consideration susceptibility to attack and combat performance of the system;
  • Ensure that knowledge of user casualties and system vulnerabilities or lethality is based on testing of the system under realistic combat conditions;
  • Allow any design deficiency identified by the testing and evaluation to be corrected in design or employment before proceeding beyond Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP); and
  • Assess recoverability from battle damage and battle damage repair capabilities and issues.

Interestingly, the Navy is looking to defer this test on the new class of carrier, the FORD class, until a second ship is launched and commissioned. There are so many new funky systems on the FORD – new catapults, new arresting gear, a new electrical system, etc – that there are worries that a robust LFT&E program will damage the ship so that it will need major, time-consuming repairs. Yeah, maybe that is something they should have thought about during the design phase, but whatever.

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F-22 Weapons Bay

A nice close up of the combat business part of an F-22 Raptor fighter, the US Air Force’s premier 5th generation fighter jet.  I took this at an air show at NAS Patuxent River a few years ago. Even though the Raptor had been flying since the mid 2000s, this was the first time I had seen this aircraft live and in person.  Very impressive.

The weapons bay are enclosed to maintain the aircraft’s stealth capabilities. The sharp angles of a missile profile as it hangs off a jet on a launch rail or pylon is what can give away radar position/location or radar data to an enemy system.  Hence the enclosed, internal weapons bay for air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM and Sidewinders) and a slightly lesser capability for air-to-surface munitions like the JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition.)   The F-22 can carry external ordnance and fuel tanks and would should the tactical situation dictate or allow it to operate in such a manner.

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An aircraft carrier is a small (some would say not so small) city on the sea. Physically, the ship is over 1,000′ long, weighs close to 100,000 tons and has over 20 decks or levels, from the keel all the way to the top of the island.  With over 5,000 men and women crewing the beast, they work in more than  3,000 spaces, offices, workcenters or work spaces and consume over 18,000 meals per day.

After a while you learn the maze of passageway and work center locations, but until you DO decipher the jigsaw puzzle that is an aircraft carrier, how do you get around? These helpful diagrams are all over the ship and can can help you sometimes when you have no clue where Compartment 105-17-3-L is.

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…or Dissimilar Air Combat Training.  There are myriad reasons why you would want to train against and hone your air combat skills against different aircraft, the primary one being you never know what sort of aircraft you will come up against in the air combat arena.

As I said in my book 99 CAMELOTS, another reason is that

…different aircraft have difference performance characteristics. Things like turn rate and radius, energy management, available g, aircraft size and weight and tactics can all affect how you will fly and fight against them. As the old saying goes, you fight like you train and the experience gained by fighting against dissimilar aircraft was essential in creating a successful tactical Tomcat crew. These experiences are passed down from crew to crew, from the experienced hands in the squadron to the nuggets, or new aircrew.

The back story to these photos dates back to 1974.  My dad was then the commanding officer of VF-43, a squadron of A-4 and TA-4J/F aircraft based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach with a mission of providing “bogey” or aggressor/adversary aircraft for the F-4 and later F-14 fighters on the east coast.  Basically, an east-coast TOPGUN without the classroom element. My dad and his pilots would be the “bad guys” for our “good guys” to train/fly against.

Sometimes other aircraft in need of air combat training would give them a call to set up dogfighting exercises.

In these pictures, an F-4 from VF-21 based at NAS Miramar in San Diego is in formation with a Langley Air Force Base 48th Fighter Interceptor Squadron F-106A and a NAS Oceana TA-4F from VF-43.  There was no doubt some flinging  of aircraft around the sky with great abandon would/did occur at some point, working on those air intercept and dogfight skills – one-circle fight or will it be a two-circle? Go high? Stay low? What does the situation give me? Will it be an energy fight or an angles fight? What is the turn rate and radii of the other aircraft?  Fuel states! Should I look for a bug out to live to fight another day or stay and fight it out? All these and a dozen more questions are part and parcel of air combat training.

The Air Force F-106A was a not bad aircraft in the initial stages of the air combat arena but when it lost energy, when it lost whatever speed advantage it may have at the merge that big delta wing and the size of the aircraft left it in a hurt locker. The single J-75 engine only gave it about 17,5000 lbs of thrust.  That engine on an aircraft that weighed 30,000+ lbs did not give it a very good air combat thrust-to-weight ratio.  Compare that to the 43,000 full afterburner thrust coming out of today’s 49,000 lb F-35 Lightning II engine – close to a 1:1 thrust ratio.

In the mid 70s the F-106s were being transferred to the Air National Guard and their job of USAF air defense/interceptor was being taken over by the then-new F-15 Eagle.  The F-106 was pretty much a pure interceptor – take off, go real fast, shoot the bad guys with missiles then go home. The F-15 was more of a fighter/interceptor, able to mix it up more with the enemy if needed.  This was one reason why the Air Force F-106 dudes wanted more experience at dog-fighting with dissimilar aircraft like VF-43’s Skyhawks.

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At The Ramp

A VF-143 F-14A+ (later to be a “B” designation) Tomcat is a second or two away from landing onboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON in the fall of 1992.  The crewman in the yellow shirt is the Arresting Gear Officer, the individual responsible for ensuring the arresting gear and flight deck is ready for landing.  The green shirted crewman is the enlisted Gear Petty Officer.  He communicates by various means to the below deck arresting gear operator what sort of aircraft is coming in to land so the arresting gear engines can be set for the correct weight.  When all is ready he communicates to the gear officer with a call “Gear Set, Tomcat!” and both sets of eyes sweep the landing area to make sure it stays clear.  The Gear Officer has a pickle switch in his hand that when depressed, turns a set of lights green, signaling a clear deck.  A foul deck would be red, where the pickle switch is not depressed, meaning the landing area is not clear.

Might not sound like the most interesting job in the world, but when your job is the safe landing of jet and prop aircraft every 45 seconds on a 700 x 110 foot landing area in they middle of the ocean with sometimes a pitching deck , there isn’t much room for error.

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Hickory Aviation Museum

WAY back in May of 2008 we were headed down to North Carolina to see mom and dad. Some folks down at the Hickory Aviation Museum in Hickory, NC had contacted me for some reason about the last F-14D that had flown out of Oceana and arrived at their facility for display.

I had my old F-14A NATOPS manual, the big blue book that outlined all the standardized operating procedures and “user manual”, so to speak, that I was going to give the museum.

I flew this jet twice in March of 1991 as it came off the Grumman production line, once on a 2.4 hr acceptance flight and again a few days later on a 2.1. We sometimes had refly requirements to check something that may have not worked quite right on the first flight, hence the re-fly.

It was a good visit, and this shot was where I was relating some no doubt awesome maneuver of aeronautical derring-do to a couple of the museum guys. I had my log book out to show them the flights and a bit of what went into that side of the documentation.

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A Navy Life – Brand New Naval Flight Officers

A bunch of young newly winged Naval Flight Officers from June of 1986. Graduates of VT-86 in Pensacola, these officers went to Navy F-14 Tomcats and A-6 Intruders and in the sole USMC grad, an F-4.  We had flown the T-34 Turbo Mentor, the T-2C Buckeye, the TA-4J Skyhawk and the T-47 Cessna Citation II.

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