Reply to Hercules vs. the Falcon

Even though I really don't want comments on these items (just like I really don't want submissions!), I sometimes get them. There were plenty about Friday's item, "Hercules vs. the Falcon", but none better than this, because it has a terrific lesson at the end:

I enjoyed your story about the "capabilities" of the Transport vs the Fighter. Reminded me of an incident that happened in the Navy back in the 1960's. At that time, F4 Phantoms were the Navy's hot fighter jets. As it happens, there was a Navy C130 transport on which a Rear Admiral (O-7) had hitched a ride. At this point in the story, the C130 pilot had to take a latrine break and put the transport on auto-pilot.

Meanwhile, a squadron of six F4 Phantoms were flying in formation and picked up the transport's signal on radar long before the C130's equipment would notice the fighters. So the squadron leader decided to initiate a little experiment in airborne psychology. He ordered the squadron to fly inverted.

Now, flying in the clouds, you don't really think much about terms like "up" and "down". It all looks the same and you just trust the equipment. So here's a Rear Admiral relaxing in the co-pilot's seat, when he sees six F4 Phantoms approaching him, ALL upside down. At that moment, the Admiral's reaction was that public opinion outnumbered his own by 6 to 1. So in a panic, he grabbed the controls and tried to invert the giant transport.

Of course, the big plane probably never rolled much more than maybe 30 degrees, but suddently the pilot came rushing out of the lavatory, still pulling his pants up, to grab the controls and steady the plane. The squadron flew by, rolling right side up, and the commander gave the C130 a two-finger salute. By the time the transport landed at its destination, the story was all over the tarmac.

The reason I remember the story so well after so many years is that it illustrates that the majority is not always right.

Posted June 1, 2009

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