How Many AIC’s Does It Take To Burn Down A “6”? By Randy Ryan 87FIS We had a large batch of new 43’s and they all received OJT at the same time. Came the day it was time to make the first unaided launch so what do you do? There were four of them, I know, I counted them twice, and we decided that between the 4 they should be able to launch a 6 pretty effectively.
I had to launch myown bird so I wasn’t wittiness to the events leading up to the fire, but it went something like this. Start signal, no combust, bleed starter, start signal, no combust, bleed starter, start signal, no combust, bleed starter, etc,etc, unknown times. My bird was taxied and I’d climbed into Delta 1 and we pulled around to the front of the shelter, C row, spot 1. I saw to next start signal, heard the starter pop and light hard and then I saw the flare. The starter area of the bird was hidden from my sight by the MD3 in the 2nd spot, but them I saw the flames lash out from under the leading edge of the right wing. The airplane was 590099, the bird I trained on and crewed as my first. I jumped toward the door and grabbed AIC Walker D. Conley by the jacket sleeve and we rounded the front of the truck to see flames from main gear to main gear forward to the front edge of the missile bay doors and couldn’t tell how far out the back. I grabbed a fire bottle as we rounded the MD3 and waded into the flame pulling what seemed to be a 500LB-fire extinguisher. As I chased the flames under the bird I stepped into the fuel and slipped headfirst into the fire only to be instantly chilled by a blast of CO2 coming from the other side of the aircraft. Major Nieme (can’t remember his first name) was on the other side and saw me fall and hosed me down long enough to get up and rejoin the battle. Shortly we had the fire out and looked around. The bird had a black belly but no damage and the fire was caused by, I bet you OM guys know, bleeding the starter onto the floor instead of into a drain can. When the started finally combusted it torched and the rest so they say “is history”. We went to the front of the bird to find the cockpit vacant but no ladder on the side. Turning around found the pilot, I can’t remember whom he was, peeking around the corner of the shelter, helmet still on and visor down. Wonder he didn’t break his leg. We inspected the airplane, strapped it back onto the pilot and launched it. Yes, I stayed with the pups and showed them AGAIN the proper way to bleed a starter and fire up a bird. Major Nieme, I hope you’re well where ever you are, I got out of that one with no more then a scratched knee thanks to you, you were where you were I’m sure by assignment of a higher power I’m convinced. The 500LB-fire bottle by the way wasn’t really. It seems that when we turned the corner around the MD3 it rolled over on it’s back and in the excitement of the moment we never noticed. It was in trying to pull it toward the airplane that caused my slip and fall in the fuel. Once on it’s wheels it rolled just as advertised.