Navy Exchange

In July 1962, I received a Navy exchange assignment to Navy Test Squadron VX4 at Pt. Mugu, CA. I flew F-4 Phantoms, F-8, Crusaders, A-4 Skyhawks, SNB, and the T-33. The primary mission was operational test of air to air missiles with several ancillary missions.

Cuban Missile Crisis

I was on the aircraft carrier USS Constellation for my first carrier landings.  The Cuban crises, in October 1962, became serious while we were off the coast near San Francisco.  We would have had to proceed around the Cape (South America) to get to Cuba.




First Carrier Landing - On Approach



First Landing on USS Constellation



USS Constellation - Parked on Deck




Col. Tweety with Major Corbett


Tail Spin Maneuver

A tail spin is an out of control maneuver in which the airplane rotates about an axis with the nose and tail oscillating (not a symmetrical rotation with the nose staying on a point).  It can be upright when you are thrown back into the seat or inverted where you are thrown outward into your safety harness.  The inverted is rare and very uncomfortable. 

I was doing some fighter vs fighter tests against an F8 in VX4 when he got near my 6 and I did a "save your ass" maneuver which was to go straight up at full burner. He couldn't bring his nose to bear and fell out before I did. At about 55K I came to a stop still pointing straight up. There was no unusual sensation and I didn't immediately recognize that we were sliding straight down. Then a big mistake, I pushed in some rudder - it immediately went into an inverted spin which I recognized from the negative G; I applied the proper recovery and it flipped into a regular spin after a couple of turns then came out almost straight down at about 35K. I found out the F4 will go supersonic straight down in idle.

Later my RIO, who always flew on missions with the hood up, said he knew something was unusual so he raised a corner and saw an island rotate by twice. He then asked if I had everything under control. According to him my answer was "not yet", but the “yet” sounded very positive.

Shortly after joining VX-4 the squadron acquired a T-33. The Navy had very few T-33s. It was extensively used by the USAF for training. My Squadron Commander, Hugh Batten (a WW II ACE), said “Dick, you have a lot of time in the T-33 and I want you to do spins with every pilot in the squadron (about 20). I literally did hundreds of spins. It got so boring that when I demonstrated the maneuver prior to the naval aviator practicing it I would try to tumble the aircraft. It supposedly can be done, but I never succeeded in accomplishing it.

Major Corbett

I was promoted to Major in mid-1963 while on exchange with the Navy.


VX-4 Squadron

Pt Mugu, California


The Last Carrier Landing

The day I was scheduled to go out the last time Pt Mugu was totally socked in with fog, literally zero-zero; however, the Connie was  having air ops in bright sunlight a few miles off the coast. A Colonel who was Group Commander of a couple of squadrons at Oxnard AFB (a few miles from Pt Mugu, now closed) had asked me if he could go with me sometime.  Since this was going to be my last time I asked my CO if I could take the Col along and he  said OK.  Because of the fog I thought for sure the flight would be cancelled, but both of us showed up.  I learned that if you have deck time scheduled and the carrier is taking planes aboard - you go.  My skipper wondered why I even considered not going. 

So Col. Tweety and I strapped in and taxied out.  The visibility was so bad you only could follow the white lines.  I couldn't see the runway lights except when I was even with them.  So I followed the center line and off we went.  A short distance off the coast the weather was great.  On my 3rd trap they pulled me over to the side and several white hats disappeared under the A/C.  In the mean time operations continued.  Our wingtip was about 20 feet from the A/C trapping.  My passenger said "they aren't going to keep landing with us here, are they?".  I told him I thought they would continue and they did. 
When the first one trapped we both exclaimed "holy crap", but quickly became accustomed to it.  After a few minutes I felt the plane drop slightly and I said that I thought they had changed one of our wheels.  Sure enough out they came with the bad one (a cut tire) and up they came with a hose and topped off our fuel then signaled me on to the cat.  All of this took place without
shutting down the engines.  Off we went and made one more trap before
returning to Pt Mugu where the weather had  cleared.
The picture with Colonel Tweety was taken after we had returned from the carrier.



All Dressed Up

In a full pressure suit for high altitude flight



Aircraft Flown

F-4, F-8, A-4, TF-9F, SNB, T-33