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Tophatter Aircrew

February 24th, 2011 · 11 Comments · F-14 Tomcat

Posted these pics on the Tomcat Territory page of Facebook this evening.  As I look back on all these images and pictures and memories, I do so wish I had taken ten thousand more pictures than  I did.  I took my camera on almost every hop I flew on, but did not use it near as much as I wish now.  Hindsight, I guess.  Perhaps the “I’ll have plenty of time in the future to take pics” thought that rarely pans out was my thinking.  Now I’m retired from that part of the Navy, so most of THAT access – to the piers, the flight line – is gone now.  This getting old stuff sucks.

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Dave “Doc” Hicks and Randy “Cock” Roach, during our 88-89 Med cruise.  I  saw both these guys at the Tomcat Sunset weekend in 2006. Cock (a call sign that, in all honesty, is benign and harmless but would be completely and totally and utterly persona non grata in Today’s Navy) , in complete keeping with his eclectic and absolutely wonderful personality, wore a kilt with his mess dress uniform – accented by a goatee. Gotta love it.  Doc and I went thru 1989 FFARP with a perfect 23-0 kill ratio. I wrote about that here.

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Shawn “Flea” Smith (a former RIO-retreaded into a Pilot) in the front seat with our Executive Officer (XO) , Doug Law, in the catbird seat.  Flea once told me about night carrier landings.  He had spent  a tour or so as a RIO (back seat) before being accepted for and going back through .  The terror – the absolute white-knuckled-stick-gripping-hand-sweating-stomach-churning- terror – of night carrier landings is something no RIO sitting three and a half feet behind a pilot will ever understand or recognize.    He didn’t-  until he got up in that front seat and had to start landing on a carrier at night.  I may exaggerate a tad, but not much.  He was fun to fly with, though.

Camelot 102, the jet you see above, could have been a bad-luck jet.  The senior aviators in the squadron had their names on one side of the canopy and their call-signs on the other.  The names on the canopy rail, JW Orrison and Ron Nash, seem innocent enough, but the other side belied the true nature of the jet…the callsigns were “Grumpy” and “Nasty“.


Business end of a TA-4J Skyhawk training command jet.  This is from my cat officer days on IKE. This might have been flown by my old squadron mate Kevin “Q” McHugh, who was in an instructor pilot in the Training Command then and whom I saw and caught up with on the news of other squadron mates and such when he was out to the ship.


11 Comments so far ↓

  • Steve

    I’m with you Pinch. I can’t find the few I managed to take back then. Now they’re like gold.

  • Bob Kelly

    This NOT getting older sucks even more. I think that we have the habit of forgetting all the crappy stuff and remembering all the other stuff.

    Good to hear from you with a post. I was down near your neighborhood in Stafford last weekend visiting my favorite Marine Captain (Son in law). Nice area.

  • Jim Doran

    I remember “Nasty” from somewhere. But when I was the Tophatter Gunner in ’78, Grumpy was a LT and he earned his call sign. :-)

    • John Orrison

      Aw Gunner – you know I was just joshin’ – seriously hope everyone is doing well as we dotter into old age… Grumpy (2 time Tophatter)

      • Pinch

        Grumpy! Just looked at my log book and my first VF-14 hop was with you :) Good to hear from you.

        • John Orrison

          I was just playing with Google and came onto this. It is always good to see you guys who keep the memories alive. Back when the world wasn’t upside down and things that were good were good. Seems nowadays that which was good is bad and vice versa. Insane times. Glad to see you are doing well.

        • John Orrison

          BTW – love your pics. Quite a talent!

      • van

        Grumpy, how’s it hangin? Remember pre flighting 106 on 1/3/87 wearing no dry suits, with salt spray in our faces, and thinking….this would be a bad night to go in the water. We made it buddy. Cheers!

        • John Orrison

          VAN! Where are you? I heard you were an attorney in Pcola? I’m an old retired fart from both the Navy and Delta (Northwest.) Life is good, especially after that night….

  • van

    Pinch, don’t forget twas me and Pud who bestowed on you your callsign. Your 401k must be huge. Good to see you’re doing well!

  • Jim Doran

    Grumpy, Where are you located now?

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