A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dumping Drop Tanks with a 1911

Landing a Lockheed F-80C with a full drop tank on one wing and an empty one on the other is nigh impossible. Military pilots are not often as well versed in the sidearms they carry as they are in the aircraft they fly. When a full tank refused to jettison, Lieutenant Colonel Alfred D’Amario found a solution.
"Finally, it dawned on me that I could reach the gun with my left hand. I jacked a round into the chamber, opened the canopy, and, with the gun in my right hand and flying the airplane with my left, I tried to point the gun at the front end of the left tip tank, far enough forward so as not to hit the wing. I pulled the trigger—and missed.

I was so anxious I forgot that a semi-automatic pistol reloads after each shot. I manually jacked another round into the chamber while ejecting a round over my shoulder. The only way I could hit the tank was to lean down and aim along the barrel of the gun. I put my head down and sighted at the widest part of the tank and about two feet from its front.

The bullet punched a hole through the near side of the tank and went out the other side. I quickly squeezed off two more rounds. Now I had six holes in the tank, and I could see fuel streaming out."
"I started to put the gun back into the holster, but now it was loaded, and I could accidentally shoot myself. While I was trying to figure where I could safely stash it, I held it in my right hand—the same one holding the control stick, so the gun was pointed at the instrument panel. Great, I thought, now I’ll accidentally shoot the panel. I moved the gun to my left hand, and the tower officer called again. I had to depress the microphone button on the throttle with my left hand and the gun was in the way. Finally I said The hell with it, opened the canopy, pointed the gun out, and fired until the clip was empty."
You can read more about the account here.



Blogger bdickens said...

Why didn't he just engage the thumb safety?

11:22 AM  
OpenID reflectoscope said...

Good save! In re-fuelling them, it was necessary to fill one tip tank halfway, the other full, and then top off the other one. I'm so glad I never had to do that, and that the Bugs I worked on had single-point refuelling.


12:14 PM  
Anonymous OrangeNeckInNY said...

Why didn't he just put the safety on and holster it?

12:25 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

This is the coolest story of the day on the web.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous StxRynn said...

Hey Xav!

My uncle gave me a stack of Reader's Digest magazines when I was a grasshopper. It was as tall as I was. When I saw they were from the 50's thru the 60's, I started reading them. I remember this story from one of them. Haven't thought about it in many moons.

Just another reason we need firearms on airplanes! Especially in competent hands that know how to hit their targets!!

Excellent trip down memory lane!


3:42 PM  
Anonymous Lt. S. Bachelder said...

Whoever would design fuel tanks on the wing tips needs their head examined.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Sounds like that Wing Wiper needs to spend a little more time at the range learning to use and handle his weapon.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By my account (granted its only parochial school math...) he had discharged 5 rounds.
#1 miss
#2 rolling around the cockpit
#3 hit
#4 hit
#5 hit
So that would mean he would have 2 rounds left.
Why didn't he just fire the last rounds straight up into the air....
Also, didn't the fuel tanks have something called fuel cells in them? Rubber bladders or soemthing that wouldn't leak fuel if punctured?
Oh well, a great story in its own right.


8:45 PM  
Blogger CM said...

I'm thinking that training with sidearms wasn't a priority with some pilots, hence the reason why he wasn't completely comfortable with his gun.

Since this was an older jet, I doubt that they had the rubber safety bladders that are found in planes today.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Neutrino Cannon said...

Since the F-80 is a post WWII jet, I would be really surprised if it didn't have rubber "self-sealing" inserts in its internal fuel tanks, since those were seen to make a huge improvement in reliability. Drop tanks I could see just being aluminum shells for reasons of economy.

I wonder about designs that hang stuff off the wingtips. Heavy things like fuel tanks especially must really muck up roll rates.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Weer'd Beard said...

Maybe Xavier or somebody knows this better. I've read that the thumb safety wasn't fully trusted for much of the service career on the M1911/M1911A1, hence why the gun was carried Condition 3.

Of course right now my S&W1911Sc is riding in my holster loaded +1 Cocked-and-locked, and I'm entirely unconcerned about the gun ever "Just going off".

When did this switch occor?

1:53 PM  

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