[Aewa] Chutes

Arnott, Scott scott.arnott at zeltech.com
Mon Oct 13 23:39:14 CDT 2008

My very limited memory remembers the comments about grabbing the junior,
smallest, or largest guy and throwing him down the chute to clean off the
But, I'm sure I'm confused!

-----Original Message-----
From: aewa-bounces at aewa.org [mailto:aewa-bounces at aewa.org] On Behalf Of Kent
Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 12:25 AM
To: AEWA Email Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Aewa] Chutes

Carl Brewer wrote:

> Can I infer from that chutes are now back aboard the E-3's. <snip>


I thought that Navy course was part of the "Naval Flight Officer"
curriculum that was adopted to allow aeronautical rating for 13Bs.

> I served when we had them, then we didn't. Many stories as to why they


> taken off the a/c.

I was at TAC headquarters at the time (the fall of '79, as I remember)
and worked the project. In a nutshell:

The parachutes imposed a terrible weight penalty. Some elements of the
wing's leadership wanted them gone -- so we in DOA (later DOY) got the
tasking to prepare a recommendation to the DO (then-Maj Gen Larry Welch).

There were two major considerations:
1. The fact that there was only one bailout chute for the whole plane,
and the number of people flying was getting larger with each mod.
(Original design included a second in the aft, somewhere between the
picnic area and the galley.) It became patently obvious that even in
the best of circumstances, some (most) would not be able to get out.
2. The most experienced flight crew members asserted -- some quite
vigorously -- that there were no situations that might require a bailout
that couldn't be resolved with an emergency landing. The majority
opinion was that even over water, a ditching offered higher
possibilities for survival than a mass bailout.

Obviously, we couldn't just depend on opinions and strong feelings. We
looked at studies, mostly compiled by Boeing, of "bailout" experiences
with -135-type airframes (i.e., big body, swept wing, relatively high
stall speeds, etc.)

Simplifying the findings: if the aircraft was controllable enough to
allow aircrew members to bailout, the aircraft was controllable enough
to land. If the aircraft was not controllable enough to land, the
rotational g-forces prevented a successful bailout.

The old WWII image of the heroic pilot holding three burning, one
turning while the rest of the crew got out just didn't work in the
modern swept wing airplane. The possibility that sometime, somewhere
there might be a scenario where we could bail out and survive was
vanishingly remote -- and was far overbalanced by the training and
logistics costs, and the operational penalties of the extra weight.

We put together a briefing for General Welch. He listened without
interruption, then said that we had presented a very logical and
defensible proposal. "But I'm not the one who has be convinced. You
have to sell it to those crewmembers."

He told us to do a study the crewdogs' beliefs and desires, and then to
prepare an educational, informational-type briefing that would address
what we'd learned and how the findings applied to the E-3 crews.

As you might expect, the survey showed that flight crew members
supported getting rid of the chutes almost 100%. The attitudes of
those aft of the forward latrine were much different -- about 70/30
against? (It's been a long time.)

After the survey's results came back, we built a briefing that focused
on the mission crew, that pointed out all the things that we'd
discovered in our research. I don't remember who actually did the
briefings at Tinker. (Uncle Jesse might.) But, after everyone had had
an opportunity to hear the pitch, and after a "decent interval" to let
the dogs ponder the imponderables, General Welch approved the removal of
the chutes.

I guess the E-3's history has validated the decision.

~kent graham

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