VMFP-3 RF-4B Phantom II Barricade Landing Photo Sequence

VMFP-3 RF-4B Phantom II Barricade Landing Photo Sequence

This sequence of photos was taken by my powerplants troubleshooter, Steve Harr except for the last two which I took. It was January 1984 and we were in the middle of the IO. As the supervisor I got to use a headset radio to communicate with my chief, our maintnence control, and flight deck control. That's how I had advanced warning that the RF-4B was in trouble and would be taking the barricade because the nose gear wouldn't drop. We'd drilled rigging that thing a million times and this time it was for real. It worked as advertised and I had a front row seat crouched under the wing of VQ-1's EA-3 with a firehose nozzle in my hand. The thing I remember the most was the crunching sound as it came to a halt and then the flight deck errupted in cheers.

This incident was reported in the October 1984 issue of The Naval Aviation Safety Review,"Approach" in the *"Bravo Zulu" department. The following is the text from that article;

Maj. John Yencha
Capt. Mike Healey

Maj. John Yencha (RSO) and Capt. Mike Healey (pilot in command) of VMFP-3, Det. Alpha, were on a routine reconnaissance mission during midday cyclic operations in the Indian Ocean when their RF-4B Phantom II experienced a utility hydraulic failure. Healey immediately turned the aircraft back toward the USS Midway while Yencha contacted strike and notified the ship of their situation. While holding overhead, waiting for the next recovery, the aircrew discussed their plan of action with the squadron representitive in air operations. Aircraft configuration, approach speed and the required wind across the deck were detirmined. The recovery was in progress when Healey initiated the emergency landing gear extension system which pneumatically extends the landing gear. Cockpit indicators showed the two main gear were down and locked but that the nose gear was still up. This was confirmed by the the recovery tanker. All efforts to extend the nose gear by putting negative "G" on the aircraft were fruitless. A short discussion aboard the Midway ensued and it was decided that a barricade landing would be attempted as per NATOPS. Air operations notified the aircrew of the decision and went over the plan with them. Meanwhile, below, on the deck of the Midway, all three of the arresting cables were pulled and the barricade was rigged. Flying at 5,000 feet downwind, Healey blew the flaps down and turned inbound for a five-mile straight-in approach. Paddles took control from one mile out. As the RF-4B crossed the round-down, the LSO gave the command "CUT!," and the result was a picture-perfect barricade engagement.

RF-4B in the barricade from the LSO platform - Courtesy of Curly Culp, VF-161, 1981-1984
Vic, Smitty, Chief Miller and myself running aft to "rig the barricade"
Flight deck crew in the process of rigging the barricade
Shaking out the net
Clearing the area
Arresting gear officer inspects the barricade
The RF-4B is collected in the barricade and the nose has hit the deck
Aircraft is slowing to a stop
Aircraft is stopped and crew begins to get out
Fire crews stand-by as the seats are safed
Continuing to safe the seats
Hooking the RF-4 up to the crane
Parking the RF-4 on the fore-finger of El 3
Parking the RF-4 on the fore-finger of El 3

*"Bravo Zulu", the title of the Approach department that recognizes outstanding airmanship means "Well Done". The feature used several different names before Approach settled on "Bravo Zulu". It is thought that the term was first used in WWII but the exact time and circumstances are unknown. BZ is a category of the signalman's terminology called a "governing group", and is used to set off a group of data or messages which follow the BZ.

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All photos Copyright © Buzz Nau , 1995-96 unless otherwise noted