This comes under the heading “truth is sometimes stranger than fiction”.

That is a TAV-8B assigned to VMAT-203 in Cherry Point. They experienced hung landing gear (repeat gripe on that jet) and contacted base for troubleshooting.

The EP involves cycling some circuit breakers, cycling the gear, and requesting a visual inspection.

If none of that works (which it didn’t), you blow down the gear. 

At some point, the squadron let the MAG CO what was going on.

He was worried that if they blew the gear down and the nose gear still hung up, it would crack the frame of one of the scarce T-birds. He directed that the pilot do a gear up vertical landing. It would crush the strakes and probably FOD the motor, but it’s better than cracking the frame. He directed the mattresses to be placed under the nose.

When the pilot heard about all of this, he refused to do it unless he heard it directly from the MAG CO. The MAG CO got on the radio and told him to do it. The landing was pretty unremarkable, despite the photos. The mattresses suffered an un-contained failure and sent a shower of metal springs and coils through the engine turbine blades. The damage was limited to the engine (Fodded), and the strakes (crushed).

Expensive, but not the end of the world.

This is when the story gets even weirder. Once the jet was in the hangar, relatively undamaged, an EZ-go golf cart came flying into the hangar and smashed into the jet, causing some D-level repair damage. 

It turns out that LCpl. Schmuckatelli was huffing keyboard cleaner before making his parts run in the EZ-go. He got really dizzy, lost consciousness, and the cart went out of control. It drove directly into the hangar at full speed through a gap in the hangar doors and smashed the jet. You couldn’t make up something that bizarre.


  1. 1981, NAS North Island, HS-10 Hangar — doors were open less than 8′, inside, several SH-3 “Seakings” under repair. One is in phase, meaning its covered in workers from the rotorhead to the cabin, under the sponsors, everywhere. With a roar, a small car shoots the gap coming into the hangar. The unconscious driver seized up minutes earlier and his car was doing high speed donuts in the parking lot outside. Now it was time to switch from frightening to dangerous, with a shattering smash. The car struck the helicopter on the back of the sponson, ripping away one of the bird’s three contacts with the ground. Rotorhead attached to the ceiling by way of chains, nothing could stop the uncontrolled roll – squids were jumping every direction to get away from the gored bull. The car bounced away where we got it stopped, the helo rolled almost completely upside down, ripping itself free of its attachments like a deranged patient fighting off IV tubes. It was grotesque… and loud! One of those slow motion things that seemed to last forever. Then we stepped back, looked at the mess, and all of us went across the street to get lunch at the geedunk, knowing we’re all going to be doing paperwork and answering questions for hours.

  2. And, if they’d followed SOPs and blown the gear down, the airplane would’ve been completely undamaged and flying again probably the next day. MAG CO should be court-martialed.

  3. Why couldn’t the pilot simply connect the landing gear actuation system to his anus? Then he could energize the system manually and blow the gear down with a fart.


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