Brad Sharp – Caterpillar Club

Brad SharpMay 13 (Friday), 1960: Flying an F-100D. I screwed up so badly I didn’t care to talk
about it for nearly 50 years!

I hit the range tower at Range 1 at Indian Springs AB (now Creech AFB). The hit buried a 6×6 post that holds up the antenna into my left wing clear to the spar. With fuel and hydraulic fluid streaming out, I decided to recover at Indian Springs, and when I put the gear down the left and nose failed to extend. So I retracted all gear to make a belly landing, but they stayed down. The North American tech reps recommended a bailout rather than landing with that configuration. So I went to Range 3 (the nuke target) and pointed at Dogbone Lake near Groom Lake in the Nellis AFB gunnery range and ejected. Landed almost on the run-in line for the nuke practice drop. The result of this idiotic caper was:

Hospital checked blood and urine and announced that, “That pilot was drunk when he was flying that aircraft (later they recanted because they realized they used the wrong agents for analysis)!” Then the Wing Commander (he was pissed!) wanted to have me court-martialed. The JAG said, “No.” Then he had me grounded and transferred as FAR FROM THE FLIGHT LINE AS POSSIBLE. That turned out to be with Civil Engineers which was located near the Interstate to Salt Lake City. Then he ordered an F.E.B., and while waiting for that, I had the job of writing the housing brochure for the new Cape Hart housing across the freeway. Things like “No fences without prior approval,” and “Do not flush sanitary napkins down the toilet because it will stop them up.” I wrote the whole brochure for that. Meanwhile the F.E.B. took place.

My defense was that I really screwed up. Because of two guys named Ralph on the board it was decided I could have another chance and they let me keep my wings. Wing Commander was pissed! He rejected an assignment I was given to fly F101s in England and gave it to Jerry. Then came a really neat assignment to GCI school. He called me into his office and personally handed the orders to me. But when I finished GCI school, personnel sent me back to Nellis into the MSQ unit there under the command of 12th AF. The Wing Commander was pissed again! Did that for about a year when a classified assignment came in. Wing Commander handed me those orders also, and off I went to SEA with a .45 automatic full of Cosmoline and was assigned to 2nd Advon, which later became 7th AF. After that came Luke AFB and the road to recovery because of the many friends who stood by me at both Nellis and Luke.

A couple of things I learned: I’ll NEVER fly close to range one tower, but if I do, I’ll do it GOING STRAIGHT DOWN! And NEVER EVER fly when Mr. Hosmer is airborne. Keep Smiling.

~ Brad Sharp