Biographical Notes re
Charles A. (Chuck) Stone
Page 1 of 4 Pages, of Chapter 7,
A NEW DIRECTION
|Our Wing Commaunder, Colonel Coleman, called me in and said he had an important job for me. Recently one of our B-47s had come spinning down out of the clouds because the A/C had become hypoxic (lack of oxygen). The airplane landed safely, streaming fuel out of its over stressed structure. The airplane was determined to be Class 26 (junk). Our Wing had been having some other problems with survival equipment. Colonel Coleman told me it would be my task to look into every possible element of our survival equipment supply, management and application structure and fix whatever I found wrong. I was reassigned to the Wing Headquarters Squadron as part of this change.
I arranged to go to Scott AFB, IL, and take in a survival equipment training course. Returning to Lincoln, I began digging into supply bins, talking to people, developed a periodic newsletter on the subject and gave lectures at gatherings of interested troops. Colonel Coleman seemed pleased with the results and I soon found myself installed at the Wing Ground Training Officer. In all truth, this was a job that most flying officers looked down upon with disdain. Unfortunately, I had this personality defect that if thrown into a pile of horse manure, I immediately started looking for a pony. This harks back to the pledge I made to myself when recalled, remembering the fiasco of my day of graduation as a rated pilot. When I was sworn in at recall, I pledged to myself that if I were asked to sweep the hangar with a push broom, I was going to have the cleanest hangar on the base. I intended to enjoy being the new Wing Ground Training Officer, despite the general attitude that air crews were just too busy with air issues and there was no time left to deal with ground training requirements. My challenge was to find ways to make these neglected, but required and important, training programs fit into their tight schedules.
As I got my feet on the ground, I realized that one of the main reasons for non- compliance was the lack of standardized reference resources for Squadron Operations Officers and Air Crew Members to know where and when training options were available. Schedules changed quickly for an individual crew due to weather, maintenance, illness, etc. I soon had designed a workbook that contained all of the elements of our ground training requirements with training slots (entry blanks) for each workday of the coming week. I had key flying squadron members appointed to meet with me weekly to fill in the blanks, based upon known flying schedules, etc. We would have this meeting about Thursday and using the new copy machine, now available on the base, I would run off copies of the filled-out document for distribution to each Operations Officer and each crew in each squadron, by late Friday. As the scheduled week began to unfold, everyone involved had a document in hand where they could put and take people in the schedule to deal with day to day changes. This took lots of work hours on what might have been off duty time, but I was determined to make it work.
In the meantime, my pilot rating was not gathering dust. The base had two B-25s for administrative use, based out of Base Operations. My near 1,000 hours in this aircraft came in handy and I was soon giving flight checks to many rated people that did not have access to B-47s or KC-97s. There was many a day when I worked a full schedule in the office and gave flight checks in the evening and after dark. A visiting safety inspector was critical of the quality of the B-25 check lists and I volunteered to write a new one from scratch. The resulting check list ended up being used at other SAC bases with B-25s assigned and it caused 8th AF Headquarters to try and get me transferred to their Headquarters. My supervisors managed to dodge that bullet and I remained with the 98th. You may be sure that I was just glad to hang on to my flying status. When my back was bent out of shape, I could skip a few days and just do my ground job.
There was a time while test hopping one of the B-25s, the aircraft’s right engine burst into gas-fueled flames just after touch down. The copilot, engineer and I got the heck out as soon as we could stop the airplane. While the copilot and I were trying to clear out of the immediate area, we noticed the engineer had a hand fire extinguisher and was trying to get foam up into the engine nacelle. The raging fire was diminishing so we both went back to give him a hand. The base fire trucks were just arriving and we kept passing him fresh foam bottles until he had the fire killed. Inspections determined they had failed to reconnect a gas line during their maintenance process. Fresh fuel had accumulated in the nacelle, in flight, and had caught fire at touchdown with the change of airflow over the exhaust stacks. I was able to get a Commendation Medal for the gutsy and faithful engineer and he certainly deserved the recognition.
|As time went on, they got in a T-33 and I was able to get a check-out in that aircraft and log some occasional jet time. The B-25 remained my workhorse for the balance of my time at Lincoln.
I was comfortably settled into my ground training and flying routines, even though the shadow of the back problems and uncertainties were always waiting in the wings. Something crystallized in my mind and I realized that the Air Force was where I really belonged and I wanted to make it a career, for sure. I broke the news to Nell at breakfast one morning and she said “Well Chuck, I have already known that for at least six months.” She was game and we made a deal with my parents that we would donate to them whatever equity we had built up in the hotel/resort business in return from being relieved of whatever debts were still owed. They were sorry to learn that we would not be back to stay, but understood and we closed the deal. I felt relieved to have made the commitment with a sense of finality. Whatever lay ahead with the back problems would be worked out, in their own good time.
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