|United States Marine Corps||Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment||
Grumman F9F-6 Cougar
10th July 1957
|NAS Floyd Bennett Field Brooklyn, N.Y|
|Captain Francis Xavier Rozinski|
Frank .. you're on fire ... get it on the ground
During the afternoon of July, 10th 1957 USMC Captain Francis Xavier Rozinski, active duty and Assistant Operations Officer of a Detachment of Reserve pilots at NAS Floyd Bennett Field Brooklyn, N.Y., was, unbeknown to him, about to become a member of the "Caterpillar Club".
The Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment at NAS Floyd Bennett had three Reserve fighter squadrons and the Navy had one. Pilots came to fly one weekend a month and a 15 day summer maneuver at one of the Marine Corps active duty bases.
We had 72 pilots 42 were airline pilots.
NAS Floyd Bennett Field Brooklyn Grumman F9F-6 Cougar aircraft were painted dark blue with an, about, 18 inch orange band around the fuselage in front of the vertical and horizontal stabilizers designating a reserve aircraft and sported a large R on vertical stabilizer.
He had scheduled four of the Reserve pilots to plan a Sunday cross country flight to NAS Columbus, Ohio, refuel, then on to Shaw AFB, Columbia, S.C. refuel and then back to Floyd Bennett.
Nearly 50 years after the event Frank recalls
"After landing at Shaw, one aircraft had a minor mechanical problem so I sent the three other aircraft to Floyd Bennett and waited about an hour 'til the other pilot's aircraft was repaired.
We took off and after climbing about 5,000 feet I felt a mild vibration in the aircraft and levelled off about 8,000 feet and had my wingman look me over and he said he did not see anything unusual.
Being familiar with the aircraft I decided there was a problem and decided to return to Shaw. I called Shaw tower and advised them of my return and that I would make one orbit of the field and dump my fuel before landing. Shaw had one 12,000 foot runway and I was about 2 miles from the field and midway (half way on the downwind side of the runway) when my wingman said .... Frank .. you're on fire.
I checked my instruments and did not see any warning lights and within 2 seconds after his first transmission he said ....
"Frank .. you're on fire ... get it on the ground.
What Frank didn't know at that time was that the aircraft fire was in the flying tail hydraulic mechanism. The hydraulic fluid under pressure was spraying from a leak and caught fire and was burning holes around the fuselage about a foot forward of the end of the tailpipe.
Frank's F9F-6 Cougar BuNo 130994 was in serious trouble. He was About 2 miles from Shaw Air Force Base Columbia, S.C, flying over farmland and he estimated, "that it would take another 60-75 seconds to land on the runway and the surrounding area was mostly wooded." He had no option but to eject.
"I turned hard away from the field, throttled back to idle about 1200-1500 feet, around 150-175 knots (but did not shutdown the engine because there were occasions when the ejection seat did not work and maybe I WOULD have to land the plane ), put in about 10-15 degree nose up on the trim, reached up over my helmet, grabbed the ejection handles and pulled hard over my helmet and head. "
The warm, peacetime summer afternoon was with its scattered cloud cover was disturbed . . by the separating canopy and explosion of the Grumman ejection seat catapult.
Frank's problems were however, not over. Although man / seat separation was automatic on the Grumman designed seat, the parachute deployment was not, and Frank could not locate the "D" ring to release his Switlik 'chute
". . . as I ejected, I had a glance at the ground as I tumbled but then I couldn't see and I did not know why I couldn't see. I reached for my D ring which was normally in a pocket on the parachute strap on the left side .... and it wasn't there ... now that was an OH SHIT !!! No sense in looking for it since I could not see so I had both of my hands furiously
( hey ... may ass was at stake !! ) searching the left side of my body. I found the D ring with my left hand and pulled hard and fast and my chute opened at about 600-800 feet.
Best feeling I have ever had in my life .... and I could see again ! I looked down and there was my oxygen mask and helmet hanging from my parachute harness. It was then I realized my helmet must have come part way off and covered my eyes while I was searching for my D ring. We had a little strap at the end of the oxygen mask at the metal connector that we wrapped around the parachute strap so in case of an ejection it wouldn't be flying around and maybe hit you in the eye. As I descended I noticed 2 kids about 10 years old running like hell up a dirt road away from me .... they may have observed the event and were scared. Later in life I should have tried to contact them. I remember hearing or reading about what to do if you end up in a parachute. "It," they said, "it will appear that the ground is rising up very fast to meet you when you are near the ground so look straight ahead and not at the ground and bend your knees slightly which I did."
I hit the ground not very hard and rolled up in a ball landing in peanut patch. After I got up I noticed the pain in my back. I think the fracture happened during the ejection and not the parachute opening or landing on the ground. As I took off my parachute harness off and was rolling up the chute, I heard a helicopter coming ( he was preparing to go up on a test flight when I ejected and was directed to me) and when he landed a crewman jumped out and came to help with the chute and into the helicopter. I was taken to the hospital where an x-ray showed the compression fracture. He had suffered a compression fracture of T9 vertebrae during ejection.
That evening a transport aircraft from Floyd Bennett with my CO aboard came to pick me up. I was transferred to the Naval Hospital at St. Albans, Long Island N.Y. and was there for observation for a week.
I flew T34 aircraft for months and then went back to flying jet fighters for 7 more years.
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