Story - F3H Demon Landing Quilifications, 1958
Ron Miller - Over Vietnam
Lincoln Landing Qualifications
It was very early in 1958 while we were transitioning from the little F9F-8 Cougar to the big F3H Demon at Miramar that we got word of a "Carrier Qualification" exercise for us aboard Ranger. We had been doing a bit of MLP (mirror landing practice) touch and goes at the end of each flight, and were reasonably ready.
We flew the Demons up to NAS Alameda, parked them, then eased over officer's club to await Ranger's return to port, and to meet up with my room mate, a ground officer who drove up. We were in the bar at a table having a toddy and watching the approach of the big boat, when someone noticed that the Ranger's captain was sitting at the bar, and was also watching the ship come in. When asked why he was with us instead of on his bridge, he said: "Well the harbor pilot is bringing her in, and if he runs her aground they'll hang me whether I'm on board or not".
We went over to the pier and watched as she was tied up, then went aboard to find our room. After searching for a while, we admitted defeat and went to the quarter deck to ask for help. Our guide found it for us, we stowed our gear, then returned to the club for dinner. There were a couple of other squadrons aboard for the same reason we were, and we got into the usual bar talk with them. One guy was particularly loud and obnoxious as he bragged that he would get fewer "Bolters" than any other pilot. We told him that we had a guy who would beat him in the bolter department, and would bet on it. He took the bait, and was quite upset later when he found that he had bet against my room mate, our young looking non-pilot maintenance officer.
We left the harbor the next day (with the Captain on the Bridge), and commenced flight operations. You must remember that these would be the first carrier landings for this squadron in the F3H Demon, and for several of us it would be our first catapult shots, and our first arrested landings on a "fleet" carrier with an angled deck. My little entry in my log book is "WOW"! To go from zero to some 140 knots in that short space is literally breath-taking.
One of us forgot to grab the control stick and hold it back all the way, so at the end of the cat stroke, he dropped out of sight, giving the ship's captain his scare for the day. Roger was our youngest pilot, was a bachelor, and was from Aberdeen. We were together in our next three squadrons for some ten years.
Unfortunately, these were the first cat shots for the brand new Ranger, and the catapult equipment was not properly adjusted. This resulted in the bridle (the REALLY HEAVY cable which attaches the aircraft to the catapult) being thrown against the belly of our demons leaving severe damage. So, the fun and games were terminated early. But, I did get some ten fun landings on her.