|Project: Get Out and Walk|
|United States Air Force||Perrin Air Force Base||
F-86D Sabre Dog
|1st Lt. John Martin Bailey, Jr.|
On a bright, sunny day in early spring 1957 22 year old USAF 1st Lt. John Martin Bailey, Jr. was on a peacetime training flight out of Perrin Air Force Base flying a single seat jet interceptor F-86D Sabre Dog.
At about 11:00 a.m. during his second flight of the day his aircraft stalled while inverted doing a loop and went into an inverted spin. Despite his efforts 1st Lt. Bailey was unable to regain control and at around 10,000 feet (estimated) and at less than 100 mph with the aircraft inverted and spinning he initiated his ejection by jettisoning the canopy and then squeezed the ejection grips , taking care to lever himself up against the North American ejection seat bottom to avoid the shock to his spine due to the inverted position he found himself in.
He had ejected
farmland in the deep countryside of Oklahoma. and descending from high
altitude found time to smoke a cigarette. He sustained minor bruising
due to leg straps of his parachute.
How I became a member of the Caterpillar Club
In 1957, I was a 1st/Lt in the USAF going through Advanced Interceptor Training at Perrin Air Force Base in Sherman, Texas.
I had earned my wings in September 1956 and reported to Perrin Air Force Base for advanced interceptor training. I had about 9 hours in the F-86-D at the time of this flight. The curriculum called for one flight dedicated to aerial acrobatics and this flight was it. It was a clear March day, warm and blue. It was my second flight that day and I was probably a little fatigued.
Over the practice area, above Oklahoma, I got off a few rolls and then tried a loop. I dove into the loop at perhaps 400 mph, began pulling up but not aggressively enough. The plane stalled at the top of the loop. Upside down! The plane began violently shaking and turning. I had incorrectly been using trim to keep my controls neutral, something my flight instructor in basic training should never have taught me. The plane was totally out of control, shaking and spinning violently and I was upside down.
I realized that I could never recenter the controls using my trim tabs. I also decided I was falling faster than I had time to recover. So I decided to eject. I managed to pull myself up into the seat snugly enough that the explosive launch of the ejection seat did not ram into my spine. We left the plane, seat and all. Chute deployment was textbook, meaning I later had
black bruises across the inside of my thighs. At the time, I didn't feel a thing.
Based on time of descent, I think I must have ejected at 10,000 feet. During my descent, I smoked a cigarette. I later learned the plane itself crashed in a horse pasture, panicking the horse who had to be destroyed. My parachute landing was uneventful. The slightly rolling terrain was covered light scrub and thin saplings.
I nervously kept my ankles overlapped to hopefully avoid straddling a limb. As it happened, it was a relatively gentle touchdown with a textbook roll to break the fall. After wading through a deep creek, I got to a road, hailed a passing school bus full of third to sixth graders who giggled and stared.
The school bus took me to the first farm that had a telephone. The farm raised Pekinese dogs. I have never seen so many Pekinese. Calling from there, a rescue team picked me up and I returned to the base. There was a routine accident inquiry and after analysis of the wreckage, flight safety magazine contained an article reporting the accident, with disguised participants to protect the innocent. The article warned against the habit of routinely using the trim tabs to keep flight control pressures neutral, especially during violent maneuvers.
Except for a bitter complaint from one of the flight instructors who claimed I destroyed his favorite airplane—the one with the best radar set; I had almost no comment about losing a SabreJet. I got more grief because of my erratic formation flying.