Gun problems happen. When they happen on an A-10, you really don’t fuck around. Working at Arm/De-arm (or End of Runway), you get trained on what to do when problems happen. I’ve dealt with numerous hung (pilot tried to drop/fire but it didn’t) bombs/rockets & a couple hung A/TGM-65 Maverick missiles. The only time I was ever concerned, was the day a pilot came back with a Gun Unsafe Light.
Let me throw a little background out there before I start the story:
The EOR crew consists of a group of weapons troops, and a crew chief. The weapons guys take care of the munitions, and the crew chief does a final look over the aircraft for any major issues that may have popped up during taxi (you can ask Dynamic Flight 405 about problems occurring during taxi...).
Davis-Monthan AFB “12 End” EOR. The setting for our little story.
By the time this story happened I’d already deployed to Afghanistan once and had a run in with a C-130. I was considered a “seasoned” crew chief and EOR was kind of a working break from normal day to day stuff. You needed to know your shit, as it was the last chance to catch issues before the pilot took off, but it was also more relaxed than the normal “launch, recover, wrench” day.
So... in the EOR shack, we had a radio which was tuned to the tower frequency so we could hear the jets “squwak” (contact the tower with their status prior to landing). There are codes that indicate aircraft status (Code 1 through 3 with 1 being no issues, and 3 being hard broke/major issues). The call comes in, “Hawg 1 (not the real callsign, I forget what it was) is calling an IFE (In Flight Emergency) for 2. Gun Unsafe Light. 1 soul on board, 4000 lbs fuel...” So we get up from playing the PS2 one of the weapons guys brought and we get setup. For a gun or missile problem, we had to point the jet at the “Gun Butt”, a 10’+ tall thick (I want to say 6’+ full of sand) corrugated steel wall. This is supposed to stop/slow down any errant rounds/missiles (yeah right, but whatever). Those Jalops familiar with the A-10 know that the Avenger is mounted about centerline in the jet. Because of this, I made it a habit to NEVER stand directly in front of the jet when I was marshaling, especially when the gun was unsafe or armed.
The 12 End Gun Butt circled
Painted on taxiways, are a yellow taxi line. The pilots are supposed to follow these because of weight limits on aprons, etc. So I position myself about 4-6 feet off the taxi line to the gun butt and proceed to marshal this aircraft in. For some reason, the pilot lines up directly on me. So I move farther over. So does he. By the time I stop him, he’s 10-12 feet left of the taxi line (he was getting close to the asphalt areas pictured). Normally, I’ll hook up a comm cord and talk to the pilot and give him instructions (all safe, hands clear?), and bullshit with them. This time, all he got was hand signals because I was so angry. He was a 1st Lt., student pilot and I was going to make sure he never did this again. After the weapons guys got everything they could safed up (they couldn’t get the gun pin in if I remember right), I gave the pilot the signals to shutdown the aircraft per our procedures.
I dropped the ladder and climbed up to the cockpit. The pilot smiles at me and says, “Hey Chief, thanks fo..” I looked at him and said, “Don’t you EVER, point a fucking jet with an unsafe gun at me, or any other ground crew again! The taxi line is there for a reason, look where you’re at!”
This is the wrong way to marshal, and is what the pilot did to me (not actually me though).
His eyes got as big as saucers when he realized what he had done. I think there were a dozen or so, “OMG I AM SO SORRY. HOLY SHIT, I CAN’T BELIVE I DID THAT. I AM SOOOOOO SORRY MAN!” After a few minutes, I calmed down and we actually talked about it (we had to wait for someone to come get him). He totally understood where I was coming from and was happy I didn’t slap the shit out of him. We shook hands, he went on his way, and we went back to work on the other jets coming down.
This A-10 had a gun malfunction that blew apart some of the gun mechanism, causing the nose landing gear to become locked up. The pilot did a great job of bringing her in on her belly.
About a week later, I would get into a shouting match with a Major over him not listening to me during another IFE, but that’s another story...