A ‘Ugly Sister’ Changes into an ‘Ugly Sister’ that’s a Smokin Hot Jet

A ‘Ugly Sister’ Changes into an ‘Ugly Sister’ that’s a Smokin Hot Jet

Seven days After my first flight solo flight in the legendary T-37 during U.S. Air Force pilot training at Williams AFB in Chandler, Arizona I was taking off to fly my third solo. For sure, I was ecstatic. I was thrilled. T-37, “Tweet” as it was affectionately referred to, was a tiny Jet trainer with twin engines that had been part of the USAF inventory from the late fifties. Perhaps the pilots who piloted it were amazed when it was brand new. However, when I started training in that tiny aircraft in the early 1980s, it was called the ugly sibling of the prettier and more efficient T-38 Talon.

This Article First Appeared in FLYING Magazine

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But your first flight is always the one you love. Okay, maybe not, but not my thoughts regarding the Tweet. 

In the same way that “Willy,” the nickname of Williams AFB, was a site in which USAF pilots could learn to fly, It was also, according to the information we received in our briefing before the beginning of flight instruction, an area in which the USAF was able to train their air traffic controllers. We were warned that sometimes the controllers would make mistakes and to be skeptical and cautious if some ATC directives/clearances seemed unusual or unsafe. Blind people were leading blind people when you were a single student pilot who an instructor controller was controlling. Itwhen a more authoritative voice was heard on the radio to contradict the training controller’s less confident instruction, you realized the Supervisor Controller had gotten the lead.

After securing myself and launching the deafening continuous noise with motors with variable thrust on my Tweet, I could depart in the taxiway. It was a long taxi ride from where the Tweet was parked up to the runway in use. 

I contacted Ground with ATIS and informed them I needed a taxi to take off. They let me take a cab on Runway 30L, the T-37 runway that is commonly used, and I was given a one-mile minimum to take a taxi to the runway assigned to me. Because the air conditioner on the Tweet wasn’t very efficient, we had to taxi with the canopy completely open. It was the beginning of the season in deserts, which meant it was pretty hot.

About two-thirds way to Runway 30L After turning left onto a different taxiway, ground control is called.

“T-37 Solo [not my actual call sign], your aircraft is smoking,” said Ground in an informal tone and voice.

“Roger ground, jet engines do smoke,” was my first thought, assuming that this was the work of a controller and that he had not been spending any time with jet planes.

“Ahhhhh, T-37 Solo, be advised that your aircraft is smoking much more than normal,” was a powerful voice from ground control.

I was beginning to suspect something was going on, even though I wasn’t sure what I heard, when a voice came on the radio,, but it wasn’t ATC’s.

“Hey, Ace!” came the familiar voice. “Look over your left side. Didn’t wait for a response or a message from the instructor, who was now on a different way to get to the runway.

The smoke quickly dissipated, and my nerves calmed, and I stepped on the taxiway to the left of my Tweet. I heard the sound of “tinks” as hot metal cooled and the last drop of smoke dissipated into the cool desert air. Other T-37s, T38s, and F-5s passed by, and the pilots gazed at the poor student with his helmet on in front of his Twitter that was disabled.

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