A Remembrance of Times Past
I arrived at Brooks AFB, TX in October 1956 as a brand-new second lieutenant just out of pilot training and the C-54 Palm Beach AFB Transport Training Unit. I was scheduled to be co-pilot on a short ten-minute ferry flight from Brooks AFB to Kelly AFB a couple of weeks after my arrival.
The aircraft commander, a long time major and assistant operations officer, was in command with an experienced flight engineer, M/Sgt Michael Namatka, and me, who didn’t know beans. Major Grosse (God) casually mentioned that he was trying out a new pair of glasses. He must have been at least 40 years old. We had a saying: to be a major you had to be fat, bald and 40. What could go wrong on a ten-minute flight?
The major made a normal visual approach to Kelly’s runway 33 but leveled off about 50 feet high with the nose up in the landing attitude. He asked the engineer for manifold 10, which Sergeant Namatka set. I knew we were in big trouble! I said, “You’re high, major.” He did nothing, waiting for it to touch down. Just as it was about to stall, fall to the runway and drive the gear up through the wings, I did the unthinkable! I added a significant amount of power. With about 40 inches of manifold, the airplane staggered down to the runway and made a fairly decent touchdown. The engineer said, “Nice landing, major,” and he growled, “It wouldn’t have been if Tincher hadn’t thrown the power to it.” For a while I was sure I would be court martialed and kicked out of the service. I had usurped God. Nothing more was said, but I haven’t forgotten.