Monday, December 18, 2017

I bet you never heard about the 1956 flight of a Grumman test pilot that tested the guns, and then outran the bullets. He ended up taking fire - from himself, downrange.

Flying over the designated gunnery range some 20 miles out from New York, over the Altantic, Attridge entered a shallow dive from an altitude of 20,000 feet, as he readied to test-fire the Tiger's cannons. He fired a short four-second burst at 13,000 feet, hit the afterburners to pick up speed and then entered into a steeper dive for more speed, and fired the cannons again at 7,000 feet to clear the gun belts. Then the plane rattled, it had been struck, and Attridge's windshield buckled inward.

Having thought maybe he had hit a bird, a typical hazard when flying over coastal waters, Attridge throttled back the engine to 200 knots, and headed back to the field, the Grumman airbase on the Peconic River, near Calverton, New York.

He reported to the tower at the Long Island facility that he only sign of damage he could observe was damage to the cockpit glass, and a sizeable gash on the outboard side of the right engine's intake lip. More disturbing, however, was that he could get no more than 78 percent of the engine's maximum available power without the engine starting to run rough.

But with only a couple of miles to go, at low altitude and high drag, Attridge concluded that, with his rate of descent, he could not safely reach the airfield. Every time he tried to advance the throttle passed 78 percent, the engine growled its displeasure, sounding like, as Attridge described, "a Hoover vaccum cleaner picking up gravel from a rug."

Finally, the engine gave out. A half mile short of the runway, Attridge retracted his Tiger's landing gear, and made a dead-stick crash-landing.

 Fuel ignited, unfired ammunition started popping, and Attridge, having suffered a broken leg, and three busted vertebrate in the post-impact sequence, scrambled out of the doomed craft after cutting himself free.

 A helicopter quickly was on scene to pick up Attridge amongst the foilage, and he was carried away to receive medical assistance at a hospital in the nearby town.

Attridge continued his work with Grumman, returning to flight status less than six months later. Afterwards, he would become the project manager for LEM-3 - the first lunar module rated for human flight. It flew with the crew of Apollo 9.

 He would also go on to become vice president of Grumman Ecosystems, the company's environmental management and research venture, which resulted in advances that resulted in the digital camera.

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