Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

(Re)-Learn To Fly

Back until sometime in 1999, I always enjoyed flying. I was never very good as a passenger in a car after I was in my first car accident (I always wanted to be in control of the vehicle after that), but I did great as a passenger in a plane. Then, something happened to change that -- I learned what makes flying actually work.

In between shipyard Eng tours, I got "shore duty" on the Carrier Group SEVEN staff, deployed on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). As part of qualifying Flag Watch Officer, we had to learn a lot about flight operations, and working in the Operations Staff "barrio", I heard a lot of sea stories from the pilots with whom I served. As a result of learning more about what could go wrong in the air, I found that I was, frankly, kind of scared to fly -- every unexpected dip made me unreasonably afraid something bad was going to happen. Of course, I ended up flying more in the next 4 years than I ever had before (including six trans-Atlantic flights and two carrier take-offs). I'm doing better now the few times a year that I fly, but I'd still rather drive if I could.

I bring this up because I'm flying off to visit family today in Nebraska -- the Land of the Dial-Up Internet Connection. As a result, expect light posting for the next week. Please use the comments on this post as kind of an "open thread"; I suggest telling about when you were most scared aboard a submarine. (A reader suggested this a while back, so now's as good a time as any.) For me, I was probably most scared during my first deployment on USS Topeka (SSN 754), when we were doing an Opposed Unrep exercise with USS Ranger (CV 61) and her skimmer escorts in August 1992. (For long-time readers, I first talked about this episode here.) We'd done our first "attack" on the ships, gone deep to reposition, and were coming back up to PD to take a look around and re-engage. I was on Fire Control, and was stacking dots when the OOD noticed a sharply breaking DIMUS trace on the AVSDU. We did an emergency deep when we got to about 80 feet, but, looking at the dot stack I had and the really small range I was coming up with, I thought for sure we were gonna get hit. As it was, we were saved by the "Big Ocean, Small Ship" principle. Never again did I fear for my life when on a submarine; even the flooding that got called away during our initial dive on USS Connecticut (SSN 22) didn't worry me too much -- probably because I was aft, the "flooding" was forward, and we were in shallow water.

What's your story?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had an incident on my 1st boat. It was my 1st patrol as sonar supervisor, and we had just completed a patrol in the Med, a port call in Naples, and were headed home in the open waters of the Atlantic.

I wasn't scared at the time it happened, because I was too young and stupid and trusting. Also I was the on-watch sonar supervisor, so I couldn't see everyone's expressions at that particular moment.

We were at PD doing a flooding in the Engine Room drill. They flooded water into Aft Trim for an angle to simulate the flooding. We'd practiced this many times. However, this time, the valve never got shut, and more water than intended unknowingly went into the tank.

Then we lost propulsion. Then we lost a few hundred feet of depth in about 10 seconds. We were at PD, I glanced at the sonar display, glanced back the depth gauge - that quick - and we were deep.

The CO ordered a 5 second emergency blow, and then a 10 second. We made it to the surface. I poked my head out into control, because surfacing had affected sonar and sonar is supposed to be informed of such things.

I had not realized the drill had gone sour. My chief shoved me back in the shack and tried to explain, but he had genuine fear and what he was saying wasn't making sense. I could see it on his face, as I did for everyone else in the Control Room. Including the skipper. Which I didn't understand at the time, but looking back, now I know.

There's no reason to be scared now, of course. But I now realize how close we came to death that day.

6/04/2008 5:22 AM

Blogger david said...

I flew a lot for the first 30 years of my life: military brat, divorced parents, then I joined the Air Force. But somewhere around age 25 or 26, I began to get nervous when I flew. Really nervous.

And then, in 1995, I took a very bumpy flight from SFO to Denver. Thought for sure we were going down. Did some research, and like you, too much knowledge yielded even more dangerous thoughts about everything that *could* go wrong, even though the science behind flight makes logical sense.

My next few flights were white-knuckled. And then 9/11 happened, and flying became ever more of a hassle.

I've flown only twice since 9/11, and now that I'm retired from the military, I can't imagine ever flying again. I'll drive, take a train, or even Greyhound.

6/04/2008 6:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve seen fire, flooding, death and one honest-to-goodness jam dive on the boats. The flooding at 700 ft and the pyro going off in the 3” launcher with the breech open scared me but the time when I was the most scared, I can’t talk about.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa

6/04/2008 8:27 AM

Blogger reddog said...

I always considered my life forfeit whenever underway on nuclear power, in a submersible deathtrap. That way I was never afraid and always felt I had cheated death upon my safe return. It's a good strategy. I got happier the longer we were out.

6/04/2008 3:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There we were, on the USS Santa Fe off the coast of Florida in a storm in '94. We were heading back into Cape Canaveral less than a day after leaving due to a bent radar mast.

We never submerged, but had the OOD in Control due to the bad weather. I was the mid-watch OOD, and around 02.00 we decided to send the OOD and look-out back up.

The lookout and I climbed up the ladder and opened the hatch. Water immediately began coming in, but not to the point that it seemed unsafe. We headed up to the Bridge and set up our equipment. I stuck my hand over the side of the sail and put my hand in the green water as the waves rose up the sail. About every 15 seconds a wave would come up to the top of the sail, and a few went over.

Unbeknownst to me the XO was yelling for us to come back down. We couldn't hear him, and the phone circuit was not yet working. My main concern was looking for other ships and not getting knocked over by a wave.

Finally the XO came up and pulled us down. The lookout disconnected his harness and went down. I turned around to disconnect and realized that I had never connected my harness to anything, it was still connected to my shoulder.

I looked back at the water churning and realized that if I had been washed over there is no way they could have even attempted to find me. That would have been it. I was a bit shaky after that, and was afraid to say anything to anyone when I got back into Control. But I came up with a rule: if you can touch the water from the Bridge, head back down.

On the USS US Grant I watched the Control Room lower hatch come loose, slam shut, and barely miss the JO who was heading up to the Bridge. I could only say "Holy S*&^%!," but the other JO was a little more affected by the event. He was shaking for a good hour after that and cussing at the PO who rigged the hatch. That would have crushed him like a bug.

I have more sea stories, but would appreciate a cold beer before launching into more.

6/04/2008 4:10 PM

Blogger Bryan Lethcoe said...

Event 1:
T-hull, surface transit, bridge manned, OOD announced "aft main ballast tanks venting, shut the aft main ballast tank vents".

That took a good second or two to sink in, and I observed the CO/XO head up to control. I headed to the engineroom from my stateroom quite quickly, and somehow arrived in shaft alley before any ER watchstander to order the Aux Aft to shut the vents he was opening (clearly followed the wrong procedure during RFD as he was opening the vents manually).

Event 2:
As DCA I had to enter the forward escape trunk during Alpha trials to see what was leaking - I thought for sure that I would encounter a fully flooded trunk. Fortunately it was just a misaligned valve (manual operator outside the trunk indicated shut but valve in the trunk was cracked open).

Event 3:
We were playing games with another boat (we were the deep boat, greater than the depth required to EMBT blow) when it came time to shoot a waterslug from the 3" launcher. I felt the need to go watch them shoot the slug due to the launcher having issues during refit, and headed aft. As I reached the the FC/MC WT door I heard flooding called away in the MC (3" launcher space), which I assumed was due to the 3" launcher not returning to battery or some such nonsense. I got there in time to see a bunch of water, but it was not flooding, so I made sure to counter with "Controlled SW leak" on the 4MC to keep us out of trouble.

I have a few more, probably even more scary (including fire in O2 generator at 0430, which ended up being some capacitor losing its magic smoke), but my memory is fading.

These are not as bad as others clearly - I would every now and then have that loss of depth control (in the wrong direction) nightmare...

6/04/2008 7:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

aboard the U.S.S. Topeka i was a visitor and unknowingly left my ball cap on in the officers mess. I thought for sure i was going to have to buy beer for the entire senior staff. I didn't even have five bucks on me at the time! All in all that's nothing compared to what all of you have came across.

6/05/2008 12:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must have had a real messed up A-Gang. 3 of 4 mishaps you mentioned were all preventable. Scary.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa

6/05/2008 8:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about being trapped under the ice for 18 hours after executing an unintentional ice picking manuever when a fault in the hovering system caused us to become 20,000 pounds light in a matter of seconds? We suffered damage to the sail and several masts, we were unsure if the screw was damaged as the OOD initially ordered a higher bell in anattempt to regain deoth control - we were not sure if the shaft was stopped before the allision. We were saved by McGuyver that day - an inventive IC2 wired the O2 generator power pack into the BCP to restore the depth control system.

6/05/2008 9:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had just came back from chow and relieved the launcher watch so he could eat. This was back in 1972 in the days when Torpdeomen ran the missile compartment of SSBNs.

Having just qualified to stand the watch on my own as a young TM3 on my first patrol a couple of weeks earlier, I was quite proud of my accomplishment and was just settling down and enjoying some coffee when the alarm went off for the IC/T2FA making a God-awful noise.

Those of you who know what the piece of equipment is also know what kind of gas it is constantly sampling the missile compartment atmosphere for. Those of you who don’t know will have to remain in the dark on this one.

The missile compartment rover was off somewhere and the Missile Tech of the Watch had disappeared as well. I jumped out of my chair and ran over to the panel to see the needle was “pegged” all the way to the right. While I was darned scared, I did remember the procedures and I started shifting to higher scales in order to get a stable and accurate reading. Trouble was I had shift to the highest scale and it was still pegged!

I was just about to sound the Missile Emergency alarm when about this time, the Missile Tech of the Watch came back and at the same time my LPO, TM1 Walters, came back from chow. My LPO immediately started asking what the heck I had done to the IC/T2FA. I said it just went off and I didn’t break it! I don’t blame him, I would have asked the same thing of a young and inexperienced watch stander.

He had the MT3 who normally did the PMs on this gear to start checking it and he said it looked like it was for real. Walt, as we called him, had me call the Torpedo Room to have the watch light off the IC/T2PA to double check the readings before sounding the Missile Emergency alarm. He was in the process of breaking it out and stating it up when the alarm stopped and the readings went back to normal.

Everybody had sweat pumps in fast speed on that one. We were in transit to Charleston then for a pre-overhaul off load and were scheduled to come up and ventilate in about an hour anyway, so Walt did not report it that I know of. Never did find out what actually happened, or if they did, they didn’t tell me about. I just know I was mighty satisfied not to get any blame for anything on it so I kept my mouth shut about it.

Chief Torpedoman

6/05/2008 10:30 AM

Blogger Bryan Lethcoe said...

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa,

Two different boats, and the WEPS owned the 3" Launcher.

Had good A-Gangs, but many things happened coming out of the yards for the first time, and the Aux Aft in the MBT incident was newly qualified - he got a rigorous upgrade, to say the least. At least he followed a procedure (albeit the wrong one...).

6/05/2008 7:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming out of a refit, we did a Deep Dive to retest some work. We did it rite after chow so we went from 1st section to 2nd to Deep Dive bill in half an hour. I was the deep dive ERS and the minute I relieved every station called up and wanted some thing, the whole ER bilge was full but I knew it was cool because the the UL was pretty inexperienced and was taking a long time to SD the evap and I got some pumps running on it and then on my way aft I stopped, ... stared,... reach out and stuck my hand in an over flowing funnel, which was ice cold. Unencumbered by the thought process as it were I took off full tilt through the 88 boat ERll obstacle course. I think it may be a record. Just as I popped up into UL I saw the ul leafing through the ssm and he says "wheres the evap shut down?" so I did a quick SD and when I got to the feed the p was pegged and the relief was lifting. problem solved. turns out I had left the bypass cracked on the surface and my relief and his relief who were both newly qualified didn't shut it when we dove. that would be it was all my fault. I never knew what it meant when people say their 'blood ran cold' till the moment I realised the bilges were filling with very cold sea water and not hot distillate. I'm sure if anyone had seen they would had sworn I was a ghost.

6/05/2008 8:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6/05/2008 10:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1972 on USS Barbel SS-580 on the last day of the second week of PCO ops, we came close to losing the boat. We were submerged and snorkeling in the waters between Lanai, Kahoolawi, and Maui. Battery charge in progress, full load on three engines, Prarrie Masker Keel, Girth, and Screw so all the main ballast tank vents were open to allow the keel Masker air bubbles to vent through the top of the ballast tanks.

Shortly there after, one of the PCO's came out to the conn and relieved OOD and started an approach on the USS Observation Island in preparation for a Sierra Two Lima (Remember those?) an underwater hull survellance. The plan was to continue the battery charge within a mile of the OI, secure and ventilate, then continue the approach.

The seas were absolutely flat. As we made the approach, the PCO on # 1 scope ordered 4 half-a-foot depth changes. At 57.5 feet water started to be sucked over the lip of the aft end of the head valve. On a 580 class boat, with three engines full load you carried a 1.5 inch vacuum in the boat. The snorkel head valve electrodes on a 580 class were located at 0, 120, and 270, nothing directly behind. engine room bilges started to fill up, needed to carry an up bubble, and thats when shit hit the fan.

The inspection covers on the generator on # 2 engine (bilge engine were loose. Water got into # 2 generator which was on full load, tripping the breaker, starting a cascade which tripped every circuit breaker in the boat and starting a fire in the propulsion cubicle in maneuvering.

No electrical power in boat, fire in manuevering, no propulsion, 4 feet of water in engine room bilges, no hydraulic power, all main ballast tank vents are open and we're sinking stern first. We reached over 700 feet before the last MBT vents were closed by hand and we initiated an emergency blow.

Key comments during this event. Off lookout slamming the door open to the goat locker yelling out, WAKE UP WE'RE SINKING!!!! WAKE UP WE'RE SINKING!!! Then slamming the door shut. PCO on the conn after we're on the surface, "Well thats my first no-shitter!"

We drove barbel back to submarine base on the surface and tied up about 2300 that night. Another fun day on submarines!!!!

Keep a zero bubble.......


6/06/2008 12:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about leaving drydock after having the parker check valves worked on..and then heading out to sea with a few of them "draining" like a river, or about the time when we were snorkling for orse and a fire at the desiel was called away...once it was found that it wasn't a fire, but instead the exhaust had a hole so it basically vented into the fwd compartment. And they had everyone in the FWD compartment don EABs for like 36 hours so that they could "recreate" the situation. How about an a-nav getting fired for not plotting where the boat we were rabbitting for was supposed to be and then trying to come to PD with no sonar and a leaking periscope. All this on the same dang boat in less than 4 years time (yeah it was so not fun being on the Dub-V.

6/06/2008 8:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you're relaxed on the plane and pretended that YOU are the pilot - just like in your car!! {paste grin here}

Have a wonderful vacation already!

6/07/2008 2:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ORSE team had just stepped out of maneuvering when we began to recover the electric plant from a fire drill. Upon reenergizing the NV bus, an RCP started in fast speed. As I was bringing the 2MC mic to my mouth, I glanced over at my Eng (whose eyes could've easily been mistaken for Japanese anime), who shook his head slowly left-to-right. I looked back to my left to find one of our remaining drill monitors had already unhooked the mic. We secured the pump and I sweated over a critique that never happened.

6/08/2008 2:05 PM

Blogger montigrande said...

Please note that I typed this in and then went back and XXX’ed out the stuff that might be sensitive, you have to fill in the blanks.

This event happened when I was the XXLCPO onboard the SSN-XXX out of XXXXXX.

It was your typical “workup” evolution/drill day onboard and I was lucky enough to be the morning-watch EWS. The EDMC and the rest of “us goats” had just re-re-re-arranged the watch bill and gotten us in the “optimum” positions. The midnight watch had graciously finished the drill prep checklist, implying that the whole boat was ready for the fun to commence.

Owing to some unknown forward (coner) issue we failed to slow and get at sat X/X trim just prior to the drill set. We later found out that we were about XXK heavy aft when the set started. The standard “stop the shaft” and a pump shift (XX/XX to XX/XX) not difficult- getting us ready for the main event. The “gagger” of the morning was an unisolable steam line rupture. We took our normal actions and met in shaft alley, I got a head count and reported to the boys in the box. I got up the ladder to look for “steam” in around the EPM controller and the EDMC gave me the wave (with a piece of sheet). The AEA and I went up to shift propulsion on the order and when we got it, he did quite well…almost. The poor bastard couldn’t get the clutch to engage.

I guess this would be an appropriate time for some background on the old EPM. We had a hassle getting shifted to the EPM when undocking (SRA) and on each maneuvering watch since. I would know as I was the Maneuvering watch EWS. Each time one of the magic M-divers would come back and touch it (the clutch) and things would happen. In the end there was a pinhole in the bladder on the XXXX XXXX. On this particular morning the “magic” guy was a drill monitor in ERF.

Things didn’t seem to be going that poorly from where I stood, the steam suit guys were doing their thing, I could hear some machinery starting and stopping according to the established scenario, just my poor little EM3 (SU) looking like I had kicked him in the junk. It was then that I looked into the XXXXX window and noticed that the XXXX was spinning, ASTERN. Not fast mind you but spinning none the less. It was then that I heard an alarm that I was not expecting, that’s right three blasts on the old diving alarm and all hell broke loose. Well not all hell but all of those things that you would expect after 3 blasts on that alarm.

Obviously, we secured the drill and in the debrief we found out that we were at a XXX degree up angle (felt about right for that drill), we were heavy aft and sliding backwards at XX knots passing XXX feet when the CO ordered the blow. It was not as nearly as scary when it was happening as it was when we found out what was really going on.

6/09/2008 11:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would have to say I also was the most worried doing an underhull. Watching the 17 year olds control the boat just feet from the "enemy" made me a little queazy. Early 80's USS Portsmouth

6/09/2008 3:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was the early 90's and I was a CT on a mission in the pacific on a boat with an adventerous skipper. I was off-watch and sitting in the small space forward of the torpedo room, reading a book. Suddenly I heard that oh-so-famous nursery rhyme. I suddenly couldn't breathe. Another boat, same general area, we heard clicking in the water coming over the sonar. Turns out it's shrimp or lobster or some other biologic. I go into the Conn and ask the quartermaster, "Just where are we?" He points on the chart and I nearly crap myself. Wish I could give the details, but those of you in-the-know are probably nodding your head right now...

6/29/2008 9:40 PM


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