[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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