Tech Rep  

Thomas M. Simundich

One of the problems of the LN16 was its stellar performance (joke intended). A common complaint from the navigators was that it did not track stars. One reason could have been that the navigators did not enter an accurate GMT time into the LN16 computer. Well they weren't about to let me fob the problem off so easily. I had to admit they would not have screwed that up. I would have to troubleshoot the problem. Even though the LN16 had a desiccator I suspected that the glass window of the star tracker inertial unit that fitted into a hole on top of Amber was fogging up. In order to check this out soon after a flight someone had to go on top. I told the TDY Offutt NCO assigned to the LN16 that I would go with him. In order to get on top of Amber the ground crew would reach out of the pilot's side window, grab a hand/foot indent that was covered by a hinged plate above the window, pull themselves out of the window until they could stand on the window frame, put a foot into the hand/foot indent, lean forward and place the other foot on the curved fuselage. Then they were on top. I got as far as getting my body half way the window. The NCO, already on top, was shouting encouragement, "It's easy Tom. Just grab the hole and pull yourself out." I thought I probably could get on top but getting off was another proposition. You would have to lie prone on the curved fuselage, find the hand/foot indent by feel and then blindly transfer your weight to the window frame. I could picture myself missing one of these steps, sliding off the plane and breaking a leg. I didn't know what my status was as a civilian. Would a military doctor, if they had one on the island, treat me? Would they send a military plane out to medivac me? With this prudent reasoning I didn't go on top but I wasn't fooling myself. I was CHICKEN! I now appreciated that the ground crew was as courageous as the flight crew.

The LN16 did have a major malfunction during the time Amber was operational at Shemya. A gyro failed. The radar required a signal from the LN16 indicating the aircraft roll angle from a reference roll attitude. Without the gyro there would be no roll signal or for that matter any navigation information. This put the Rivet Amber mission in jeopardy. This was serious enough that the pilot Bill Ernst came to the LN16 lab in the hangar. I demonstrated to him that without the gyro the inertial platform would tumble. We needed a gyro and there wasn't one on the island. I don't believe he followed everything I told him but he could read me. I seemed confident in my analysis. He calmly said that we would have a gyro sent from Eielson on the next day's crew change flight. He left the lab and went to the rec room and read a magazine. My guess is that it was Field and Stream. As soon as the tanker arrived carrying the Amber replacement crew they carried the small box containing the gyro to the LN16 lab like a priest and his acolytes bringing the sacrament to a sick patient.

Logan Delp
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Dick Maddux (HAC)
Logan Delp (HAC)
Bob Seymore (HAC)
Jim McConnell (HAC)
Bob Kubo (HAC)

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