In the first week of October of 68 I strapped myself into a seat on Rivet Ball. I was on the way to Shemya. I was exhausted. Before takeoff I threw a blanket over my head and fell asleep. I awoke to see one of the crewmembers with his arm slightly extended and hand point down to signal that we were on approach to Shemya. Even today on a commercial flight whenever I hear the engines throttle back indicating descent for landing I make that gesture to my seat companions, hoping that they will mistake me for an aviator. When I got off the plane Col Ratto greeted me with a smile. In his eyes anyone deplaning from Rivet Ball no matter the reason had to be among the best people in the world.
I had met Col Ratto earlier at Eielson. I was at my usual spot at the Eielson Officers club bar feeling sorry for myself. I saw Capt Younkin, the 6th SW avionics maintenance officer, pointing me out to two men. One appeared to be gaining weight and entering the lovable old guy stage of life. The other was a taller man with a shaved head turned bronze in color from their recent trip with Rivet Ball to Johnston Island for the long range Soviet ICBM test. They came over and the shorter man said to me, "Ratto, tell me about this LN16. How long does it take to align?" I told him that if the plane was not in a cold environment it would take about 3 minutes for the gyros to get warm enough to apply power to their spin motors, if the aircraft was stationary another 15 minutes for the platform to come to a level, that is find the direction of gravity, and another 10 minutes to gyrocompass, that is determine the direction of north. All in all it would take about a half hour before the system would accurately navigate an aircraft in motion. Col Ratto said, "That's not going to hack it. Rivet Amber will be kept in a hangar but we have to be able to scramble within minutes. Can you help?" I was noncommittal but I might be able to help.
The next day I went over to wing headquarters in Ptarmigan Hall. I saw a Major who was a Rivet Ball navigator. He was talking to a Captain…"So Reggie asks me what was the steepest bank angle I had ever seen? I told him 55 degrees. He says we're going for a record and turns the bird on its wing. We rapidly lose altitude falling through the air with Reggie theatrically laughing all the way." I butted in before he could start another Reggie Urschler story, "Sir, how flat is it in the hangars at Shemya?" The navigator said, "If you go there take some tennis shoes. You walk on hard concrete all the time. The hangar floor has got to be fairly flat. They don't built anything with sloping floors and the wing tips of Ball are parallel to the second landing of the hangar." I knew now I could reduce the alignment period from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. However, it would depend on the skill of the yuke operator in maneuvering the aircraft. Indeed, the Rivet Amber ground support NCOs at Shemya had the skills. I thanked the navigator and as I left I heard, "Reggie was on an inspection flight, of all things, when he spots a trawler…"