Can You Fix It?


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Sink or swim – tell of a time you had to preform.

The year was 1962 and I was in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) when I received orders to accompany an Air Force tanker as an airborne maintainer. My assignment was to fix any electronic navigation equipment problems during our classified mission – refueling a fighter escort from Florida to Central America.

Following my orders, I’d brought my tools and boarded a KC-135 at 0200 hours. For security reasons my destination was still undisclosed as where I was going and how long I would be away. We departed a Northern California air base and proceeded to Orlando, Florida. There were no navigational problems. I was simply along for the ride.

During those days we completed our assignment and then headed back home. I’m not sure we’re we were – maybe over Colorado – when the navigator summoned me to the flight deck. His Doppler radar had malfunctioned, a system which displayed ground speed and drift angle of the aircraft. We were probably traveling at about 350 knots per hour air speed and bucking into a stiff 15 degree headwind, according to data he had recorded from his last reading. Without his Doppler he would be forced to calculated numerous waypoints in order to stay on course.

“Can you fix it?” the navigator asked.

“I don’t know, sir. Most of the system components are accessible from the outside, but I’ll do my best,” I said.

Sometimes when two or more power-consuming system are actuated at the precise moment the Doppler system is fetching fresh data the system would lock onto zero degrees drift and 100 knots ground speed. The only way to correct the situation was to recycle the system power. Of course the Captain had no way of knowing that.

I had him turn the power off while I went back into the cargo area and waited for ten minutes. When I returned to the flight deck he turned the power back on. After a three-minute delay the ground speed indicator read 370 knots and the drift angle was acceptable.

The navigator was relieved and I was the fair-haired boy for awhile.

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6 thoughts on “Can You Fix It?

  1. Scott says:

    Yes, it was kind of like rebooting a computer, but we’d never seen a computer, so we called it recycling the power. The only computers we knew of were those used by NORAD. Rumors only, that they were all vacuum tubes.


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