The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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The original complement assigned the air group aboard this ship was 50% F6F-5N and 50% F6F-5E. The ASH gear on the E's proved completely unsuitable for night interception work. Also the gear gives the plane unacceptably bad handling characteristics in carrier approaches and at high speeds. As a result the planes are used only for search work and any night work wherein the radar will be of assistance in homing on the YM. Since sufficient N's to cover all commitments have been received, the ASH gear has been removed and the E's converted for day use only. Recommendations have been made to make the complement 100% F6F-5N planes plus those photo planes deemed necessary by higher authority (in our case one).
The TBM-3D planes have proven eminently suited to the job assigned them. Since it was felt that little use would be made of the free guns and since the turret is a lot of freight to carry around and not use, the turret and tunnel gun have been removed from all planes. This has proved sound practice in that there has been no call for the free guns and the resultant weight-saving has allowed for a variation of fuel and bomb load that otherwise would not have been possible.
The use of half and three-quarter bombay tanks has allowed an endurance up to ten hours when starting out with two 500 pound bombs or four 100 pound bombs but the use of these tanks introduces many difficulties. In the first place, the installation is a difficult one to make, the time necessary being an average of 1 1/2 hours per plane. Then, if a plane has a tank installed and is to be used without the tank, the time necessary to drop it and re-synchronize the bomb racks is about a half-hour per plane. Since either may be required, a spotting problem that can and does grow to proportions during night operations is present. With the advent of the 100-gallon wing tanks, this problem appears to be solved as they can be left installed at all times; if they are to be used, well and good, if not they can be dropped with ease in a matter of minutes. They are easy to install and no re-synchronization of bomb racks is required. Further, the bomb load that may be carried is as versatile as it ever was carrying these tanks, for, with the weight of the turret and the tunnel gun removed, the plane can still be launched with a 2000-pound bomb load and one or two wing tanks full. The big disadvantage is the adverse effect on the speed, hence the range for the additional weight of the fuel. In order to more effectively carry out the missions assigned, however, the pilots must be, and are, willing to take this disadvantage, which will only be apparent until the extra fuel is expended and the tanks dropped.
Several VT(N) aircraft are equipped with RCM electronic gear. Considerable use can be made of this equipment by night groups. Most personnel, being unfamiliar with this new development, do not realize its full advantages. Some of the positive uses which have been developed are listed below:
It is advisable to give specially trained RCM personnel as much chance as possible to operate in the air. In addition, several regular aircrewmen should be checked out in the use of the gear.
The RCM gear is well designed electrically as well as mechanically. No breakdowns have occurred during operation. The shock of numerous catapult launchings, carrier landings and continuous vibration during flight have caused no serious difficulties. It requires the same routine maintenance needed for any electronic gear, such as periodic sensitivity and calibration checks, and inspection of cables and fittings. Bare metal parts must be protected from rust and corrosion.
Due to the frequencies involved some special test equipment will be needed. Word has been received that such equipment will soon be available.
Even though the TBM-3D is equipped with an AC/DC generator its 1200 watt AC output is not deemed sufficient. Therefore, this group uses an 800-1-C to furnish the AC power for the RCM equipment.
The gear weighs approximately 200 pounds, 165 of which is readily removable when desired to do so for full bomb and fuel load flights.
Maintenance of planes for night work requires an exceptionally high degree of efficiency. There are many cases wherein the pilot will dud an airplane at night when he would take it off during daylight. The engine must be running 100%, radar gear operating properly, and the radio not even the slightest bit weak. This latter is a very important point when it is realized that the loss of radio when airborne can very easily mean the loss of the plane and its crew. As a result, exacting maintenance work must be followed on a twenty-four-a-day basis to insure that duds are kept to an acceptable standard.
Daily checks of all planes that are to be used during the ensuing night must be made by pilots. The pilots know the planes as no one else does and they know the requirements necessary; as a result, checks by plane captains or even by the technical officers aboard will not be satisfactory. These checks by pilots are made beginning at about 1600 when the availability for the night is fairly well established and when the use of the pilots for this purpose will not interfere with their sleep. Further, this time allows for respotting of the deck before the first usually scheduled flight.
Radio and IFF maintenance are combined in the same gang aboard this ship. A system has been set up wherein all radios are replaced at regular intervals by others which have been checked and calibrated on the bench. The system works as follows: A list of planes is made up; the first day it is planned to replace the radios of the first six on the list; this is done provided there are no radio failures or complaints after flights; should there be, the radios of the planes having the trouble are replaced; these planes are moved up on the list to replace some in the first block of six; the remainder of the block of six also have their radios replaced; the following day the same procedure is followed and even if there are no failures or complaints, the radios are still replaced. IFF maintenance is handled in the same manner. IFF is positively checked on deck, as is the radio, prior to each takeoff.
As has been stated, positive two way communication is required for night work. In order to provide this a second ARC-1 radio installation has been made in all VF(N) planes. This installation has been approved by ComAirPac and should be accomplished before a plane is allowed to fly. Furthermore, the planes should not be launched for a night flight unless both sets are operating properly. Future VF(N) planes delivered to fleet units should have this installation made in rear areas as the work necessary is a time consumer and difficult to accomplish in the combat zone.
A large number of radar duds may be expected until maintenance personnel gain experience. A system of preventative maintenance must be set up or many duds in planes that have been operating satisfactorily for some time will descend all at once. A system similar to that used for years in engine maintenance is being evolved. The difference in the radar gear is that the time-in-use factor must be considered as well as the time-in-flight factor. It has been found that periodic checks of the gear are necessary even though not used as there is considerable deterioration due to collection of moisture and "just sitting". A standardized system of checks is expected to be promulgated by the Electronics Section of BuAer in the near future following the tour of temporary duty aboard of one of the officers from this section.
It may be expected that the radar gear on replacement planes will not be in tip top shape. The aforementioned deterioration takes place enroute to the forward area and to date no corrective action has been apparent. As a result, maintenance personnel must make plans to go through a complete check of the equipment upon receipt of the planes aboard.
Whenever wings are folded on the flight deck during high humidity or precipitation, a high percentage of radar duds may be expected from accumulation of moisture. This is particularly true in F6F-5N and in one case after six hours of rain resulted in 20 out of 20 as duds.
One of the big problems facing the Air Officer is the degassing on the hangar deck vs. radar checks. Put-puts used in checking the radars are not fireproof and they can not be used while degassing is in progress. No hard and fast rule can be set for this refereeing as the priority of these two operations depends on the tactical situation, the necessity for planes, the present availability, and the operations contemplated. As a result it has been the practice to have this question referred to Fly Control for decision each time it arises. As will be shown later, a Watch Officer is on duty at all times in the combat zone in Fly Control; he is qualified and authorized to make the decisions on this question. This arrangement has worked satisfactorily and with the minimum of strain on all concerned.
In general, then, it can be assumed that the problems of the night carrier will follow those of the day carrier closely with a higher state of efficiency required. Structural maintenance will be found to be more necessary in the early stages of the game in that the "normal" landing of the pilots at night (until such time as they gain the proper experience) will be a hard one that will cause a great deal of wrinkling in the planes. This wrinkling calls for careful analysis and repair work, for, on the one hand, planes must not be jettisoned that are repairable, while on the other, the obvious results of flying planes that are not safe can not be accepted. If personnel experienced in the type of planes aboard are not on hand it is recommended that experienced service representatives of the companies concerned and/or ComAirPac Structural Section be assigned to the ship for temporary duty of a month or so at the beginning of its cruise.
The deck lighting used successfully on this ship is comprised of the normal night lighting furnished carriers with the exception that the flush-deck lights have not proven satisfactory. Borrowing an idea from the INDEPENDENCE, a set of lights, hereinafter known as "Victory Lights", have been installed. Since their use was started, the planes have lined up with the deck many times better and not a single plane has gone over the side.
The victory light consists of a vertical member on deck 6" by 21" and constructed of rubber (similar to "stop" signs which may be run over by cars) with the after side painted white. A strip painted white and of the same dimensions is painted on the inboard side on deck, the 21" dimensions being fore and aft. A small (20-watt) light is mounted on deck to shine on the vertical member at an angle of 45°. (Deck guide lights are recommended for this light but to date they have not been available and a homemade housing has been in use). The lights are controlled by a rheostat. They are placed as far outboard on deck as possible and still form a straight line from the number one barrier to the ramp. Nine are in this line on the port side and four on the starboard side abeam of the first four on the port side. Four lights are all necessary on the starboard side as the pilot only uses them to line himself up after the cut and he can't see further aft on deck than the fourth light at that time.
The standard red deck edge lights on both sides are arranged with every other one turned out on the starboard quarter 30°. This allows the pilot to pick these lights up early and has proven a big help in aiding pilots to line themselves up with the deck sooner than was the case before they were turned.
The combination of the pilot being able to line himself up earlier and the wider span of the victory lights has proven its worth in operations. Pilots are also universal in their acclaim of the improvement in depth perception with the loom of the victory lights as contrasted to the direct light of the flush deck lights. The flush deck lights are kept open to be used only as a standby in case of a failure of the victory lights.
The standard ultra violet landing light with the luminous suit for the LSO has been very satisfactory. In addition, the LSO is provided with a VHF set to "talk pilots in" when necessary in addition to the visual signals. He wears standard headphones and is provided with a lip microphone. The mike control button is installed on the handle of the right paddle and makes for simple operation by the LSO. The VHF set is tuned to the landing channel so that the LSO is continually apprised of the situation in the landing circle and of the information being given planes by SNAPPER.
Also installed at signals aft is an Aldis lamp fitted with a yellow filter. This light is used as a "fourth turn" light and also to check wheels, hook, etc. of a plane in doubt on these subjects when the plane makes a pass close by for this check.