COOL-ONES WITH COOLSTONE
Interceptor July 1975
COOLSTONE enjoyed flying target missions. One reason was that from his lofty perch at the headquarters, it was very easy, he found, to lose touch with operational problems. He wouldn’t admit specifically that he might need to go to the well occasionally to get pumped back up, nor would any of his cohorts at the headquarters. They felt with their broad and long experience in air defense matters, any gaps in currency which might exist could be spanned. They assured themselves of this daily over coffee.
Coolstone also enjoyed the target mission for another reason. He usually flew them with his boss. He could demonstrate his skill and cunning as a pilot, his quick wit, and his general affability at the bar. And, of course, while he had the boss trapped in the front or the back seat, as the case might be – and the case was usually the front seat – he could expound on current problems graphically without paper and without intermediaries interjecting their thinking. He was sure he made all sorts of points during discussions of these types.
When the Rock received a call inquiring as to his availability for a target mission, he quickly agreed to take it. He contacted his boss who was a light colonel, and the boss also agreed quickly. The colonel enjoyed these missions (in spite of Coolstone) if for no other reason than to escape from his windowless cubicle for a day or two.
On the morning of the flight, they were briefed in detail. The mission was to be flown out of Mountain Home AFB, an easy hop from Pete. The two departed with a forecast that indicated weather could be a problem all over Idaho later on in the afternoon and early evening. Ceilings, the forecaster indicated, would be about 1500 feet with good visibility at their ETA, and the fog shouldn’t set in until several hours after they had landed.
Their flight had progressed normally for about an hour with Coolstone’s constant comments from the back seat. He made little jokes, discussed business, and – when he had time – he took care of the navigation and the RT.
Center called, “Hello, Coolstone One, Coolstone One from Salt Lake City Center. We have you lOO miles out of Mountain Home. You may reduce your altitude to FL200. Advise passing through 250 and level at 200.”
“Roger, boy,” said the Rock. “We are departing 310 at this time.”
Up ahead they could see the weather was solid. The colonel suggested that they get a weather check just in case the forecast wasn’t holding up. Coolstone quickly checked with the center. They gave him 500 and 2 in light rain and fog for Mountain Home, and 600 and 2, rain and fog at Boise. The center cleared them to reduce their altitude further to 12,000 and advised them that they would be making a radar approach to Runway 30.
“Maybe we had better check with Metro,” said the colonel, “Just in case.”
“Roger,” said Coolstone.
He advised the center, contacted Metro, and was horrified to hear that Mountain Home weather was now 200 and 1/2 in rain and fog. He tried to keep the panic out of his voice when he said to the colonel, “Man, that weather changed quite a bit in the last hour or so. I’ll check Boise, too.” He found that Boise was 500 and 2 in rain and fog.
Now Coolstone didn’t like ceilings lower than 1,000 when he was flying himself and he wasn’t sure what the colonel could hack. He would rather take 500 and 2 with an ILS than 200 and 1/2 with any kind of radar approach. At that point they received a call from the center.
“This is to advise you,” said Salt Lake City, “That there will be a slight delay. A B-52 has missed an approach. Climb to FL220 and you are cleared present position direct to Mountain Home TACAN. Hold southeast inbound on the 111 degree radial between 35 and 45 nautical miles. Expect further clearance at 45.”
“Roger, boy,” said Coolstone; and then to the colonel he said, “it takes quite a while to get one of those flying towns back around, that’s 15 minutes delay. That weather must really be lousy, we’ll never get the missions off. Probably we’ll just sit there for two days.”
Coolstone had an idea. How to avoid 200 and 1/2 at any cost was primarily on his mind. So he decided to use the oblique approach. “Say, colonel,” he said, “How about going to Boise Municipal? As long as we are going to sit on the ground someplace, we would be a lot closer to a town if we land at Boise, and let me tell you, colonel, that Boise is not bad, not bad at all. We could change our destination, and they have 600 feet, so far as I am concerned, that would beat RON-ing at Mountain Home.”
“Sounds good,” replied the colonel. “Give the center a call and change our destination.” The colonel had been mentally searching for some honorable way out himself.
Quickly, before his boss had a chance to change his mind, Coolstone called the center. He changed their destination, received a clearance to Boise, and soon they were on ILS final. When they broke out they found that it was indeed raining, and there was, indeed, fog at Boise Municipal Airport. After landing there, Coolstone had to admit the colonel did a fine job. They taxied over to the guard area, disengaged themselves from the airplane and became thoroughly soaked while sprinting from the aircraft to base ops.
The colonel checked in with the division just to be sure that the instructions hadn’t changed. They had. He was advised that he and Coolstone were to proceed to Hamilton Field for target missions out of there. They would be briefed as to the details after they checked in at Hamilton. The two filed their clearance, went out to the aircraft, and preflighted it in the rain. They were thoroughly and completely soaked by the time they finished.
The trip from Boise to Hamilton was uneventful and other than being very damp and soggy, the two arrived in reasonable condition. The target briefing officer indicated they had about an hour and a half to get refueled, preflighted, and to make the mission. The pair decided they would go to the BOQ, check in, then fly the mission before they had anything to eat.
“Sir,” Coolstone said to the colonel. “I’ll take care of the reservations.”
“Fine,” replied the colonel. “Go ahead. I’ll make out our clearance so all we’ll have to do is just preflight and go, when we get back.”
Coolstone went over to the phone, called the BOQ office, and in a tone of voice that automatically denied any resistance at all, he said, “I would like accommodations for Colonel White and one other please, a suite with two beds will be just fine.”
“Yes, sir, colonel,” the clerk answered to Coolstone. “Yes, sir, we’ll fix you right up. That will be VIP suite 127. Stop by here and get the key, if you will, please, sir, and we will also sign you in.”
“Roger,” said Coolstone, “I appreciate your timely and efficient action. Speaks well for your operation!”
The pair found a car and proceeded to the BOQ office. “I’ll handle it, you sit right here, sir,” said Coolstone. “There is no point in your coming in at all.”
Coolstone got out of the car, and trotted over to the BOQ office. He signed them in, very carefully leaving off the “Lieutenant” from the colonel’s rank.
They arrived at their quarters and as the colonel entered, he said, “These are excellent accommodations, rarely have I seen BOQ rooms quite as plush as this for transient troops. What did you tell that guy, anyway?”
Coolstone didn’t answer.
As they looked around each noted the TV set, refrigerator, thick beautiful carpeting, finely upholstered and very expensive appearing chairs, and a large coffee table that looked as though it was made from mahogany, no less.
Coolstone went to the refrigerator, opened the door, and sure enough, it was well-stocked.
“Hey,” he called to the colonel. “Look at this. They knew we were coming, apparently.”
“Roger, boy,” answered the colonel. “That looks great. Tell you what we should do. We should plan ahead. Let’s make up a bowl full of martinis, fill the glasses, and put them up in the freezer compartment so they’ll be on ready when we come back.”
“Excellent idea, said Coolstone. “Excellent. Shows great foresight and that type of planning worthy of a senior officer of your status.”
They mixed their martinis, decided four – two apiece – should be about right for a start, filled the glasses, and placed them in the freezer. The car was still waiting outside so back they went to base operations.
It was dark out now, and as they preflighted their bird, the two discussed the martinis they would have as they were cleaning up, and then the large steak they would have at the club.
“Man that was real thinking”, Coolstone said, “putting those martinis on ice.”
“Yeh,” replied the colonel modestly. Then he added, “This Hamilton really has fine BOQS. Makes a person feel like a VIP, or something.”
Coolstone swallowed rather nervously – “Yes, colonel, it sure does. Well, we’d better get in and get ready,” he said. “Don’t want to rush you, but on the other hand we want to be sure and make our takeoff time.”
Approximately 3O minutes later, 150 miles due west of Hamilton, they were advised to reduce their altitude to 3,000 and that the fighters would becoming in. This they did. They were low altitude targets for F-101s; and Coolstone from his back seat position kept a constant watch for attacking aircraft. He didn’t see a one. He did notice, however, that with the reduced altitude out over the water, they no longer had their TACAN operational. They were vectored around rather aimlessly, Coolstone thought, for approximately 20 minutes. He didn’t know their specific position, of course, but he was pretty sure of their approximate location.
A big bright yellow light showed up on the instrument panel. Coolstone, with a forced calmness maintained only because of years of experience, shouted,
“What’s that, what’s that?”
He took out his flashlight and carefully read “Generator Out”.
“We’d better climb,” he declared to the colonel, and noting that they were already in a climb, called for pigeons. He received “Zero-eight-five, 150 miles.”
“That’s quite a ways out,” said the colonel.
“I want to tell you,” answered Coolstone. “I hope that battery holds up.”
They ran the checklist for electrical failure, turned off all hard to-get equipment with the exception of the TACAN, and headed for Hamilton. The lights of San Francisco were visible in the distance, and as these lights became brighter, the cockpit lights became dimmer. With only a full fuselage tank for sure, they made a straight-in approach to Hamilton from over the bay, but both pilots were rather quiet during the latter stages of the approach, excluding their heavy breathing on the interphone. The landing was a success and the two were met by an impressive group of firemen, ambulances, maintenance personnel, and the SOF. They shut down, explained their problem to the maintenance people, went into base operations, and arranged for transportation once again.
Coolstone called the driver aside and said, “Take us to the VIP quarters, if you would.” The colonel, in the meantime, was talking to the SOF. He came back over to Coolstone.
Say,” he said, “There’s not a thing open for chow. We’re too late for everything but early breakfast which doesn’t begin until 3 a.m.”
“Oh boy,” replied Coolstone. “That’s what we need – the end of a perfect day. At least we’ve got the martinis on ready.”
They flushed a couple of candy bars from the machine, and returned to their lush quarters on the hill.
They stripped from their soggy, and by now slightly smelly flying suits, turned on the TV set, retrieved their martinis from the freezer compartment, sat down in the fine chairs with their stockinged feet on the mahogany table. They sipped their martinis while watching color TV.
Coolstone had removed his pen-sized flare pistol from his flying suit pocket and laid the pistol on the mahogany table. He picked it up idly as he was watching the TV, and unconsciously fingered the trigger. He flipped at it a couple of times and finally it fired. Immediately one each ball of fire began to ricochet around the room. It bounded off the lush chairs, the lush tables; it rolled on the lush rug, it careened off the finely decorated walls. If the specifications were right, the flare had five hundred feet to go and it could only accomplish this by moving ten feet on one direction.
“Trap it, trap it!” yelled the colonel.
“I am trying to,” screamed Coolstone.
Wildly they chased it around the room. They knocked over the plush chairs and the fine table. Then the flare turned on them – and chased them. They both ran like yellow dogs until, looking over their shoulders, both charged into the wall and fell – one tenth of a second behind the flare. The flare reversed its direction as it slammed into the wall above them and the two again were on the offensive. But the ball was moving at or very near the speed of Mach 1. Finally, after its energy was spent, it slowed. The colonel grabbed his hat and tried to trap the flare under it. He missed several times, but was able to herd it into a corner. He threw his hat over it quickly, and poured his martini over his hat. Coolstone added his martini also, just in case. They waited, to be sure, and then carefully the colonel peeked under his hat to see if the fire was out. It was.
Together they heaved a great sigh of relief.
“That was pretty bad,” said the colonel. “How did it happen? What was it?”
“Oh – uh – sir, I believe it was a flare from my pen gun. lt just went off, I guess.” Coolstone added quickly, “What we need is more martinis.”
They retrieved their two extras from the freezer compartment and surveyed the jumbled, lush mess. There were small round burned spots welI distributed over the entire room and its furnishings.
10 or 12 seconds of their frenzied activity – shouting – hollering – running – pouring – had not gone unnoticed by the other tenants using the VIP quarters.
Soon there was an impressive, half-dressed group in the room, each one of which required a personal briefing as to what had transpired. The briefing was augmented by considerable liquid refreshment.
Coolstone and the colonel awakened the next morning, and as they faced once again their rather battered quarters, the colonel advised Coolstone that he had better call the BOQ office and tell them what had happened. The Rock reluctantly did so. Within minutes a knock came at the door before they had had a chance to tidy up the room at all. The colonel (light) opened the door and was faced with a colonel (bird) who had with him a fire marshal. Coolstone had to admit that the shock registered on the colonel’s (bird) face was not altogether unwarranted. The lush mahogany table was spotted, the fine expensive chairs were spotted, and the thick beautiful rug was spotted. The motif was complete with the spotted walls. Twelve martini glasses were also on the fine spotted table and the whole room smelled like gin.
The colonel (bird) asked no questions. He merely stated, “These are VIP quarters, and I don’t even know what you two are doing in them. However, you are here.” He glanced at his watch. “You now have exactly 5 minutes to get off my base.”
He turned around and slammed the door. The colonel (light) looked at Coolstone. “VIP quarters!” he shouted, with awareness dawning in his eyes. “I have been had!”
But he said nothing further, and on the flight back, Coolstone, in the rear seat, also had no comments.