Recollections of a Sailor in Transit, North Island. 1954...

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Note: Bob asked me, the Yeoman of this Site. to research this incredible Story to find out if there was others who could confirm it as it seems rather incredible... however after many tries of running the story past our Shipmates who were aboard HANCOCK at that time, or in the vicinity of North Island, even up to Miramar, no confirmation was forthcoming... so I'll leave this up to you to let the Yeoman know your thoughts on the matter. I'll post your responses below the story...


This Story has been validated by Captain Robert Van
Arsdol hence is not a
Sea Story but True History given Orally...

Reported by Bob Schlocker, SN (at the time, that is), USN
In Transit North Island awaiting his Permanent Duty Station...
Time of this Story: 1954

Report on 22 Feb 2009, the Yeoman received word from Bob Schlocker regarding an incredible event he witnessed...

It was around June of 1954 and I was TAD at NAS North Island waiting for my ship to come in, so to speak.

At that time I was the plane captain for a few old tired TBM Avengers. It was a beautiful day, early PM and clear as a bell. I had just unchocked one, for a pilot to use to get flight time. Instead of pulling out, he chopped the throttle and called me up on the wing. He pointed out to me a jet that was circling the base at around five thousand feet. It had taken off of the carrier Hancock CVA-19. They had been testing the first steam powered catapult ever used. The ship was about 200 miles off shore.

During launch the rig ripped off his landing gear and he had lost all hydraulic power. The idea was to have him head out toward the sea and bail out so the jet would crash at sea. The pilot was listening to the conversation of the jet to the tower and he relayed it to me. He circled the base two or three times and finally said OK this is it, I am gone.

We saw the canopy come off and then we could see the seat and pilot tumbling toward the ground. He kept falling and falling and when almost out of sight behind the buildings in the foreground we witnessed the popcorn like opening of his chute. It felt like an hour to us watching him fall and the relief that we felt was unbelievable.

The next thing that we did was to look and see where the jet was going. At first it looked like it was heading out to sea but then we realized that it had banked and was heading back over the base. We both got down and got on the tug that I was driving and watched as the jet was making a circle around the base getting lower each time as it went directly over our head.

The pilot with me wanted to rush to the tower to call his wife who lived on the edge of the base, but then realized that it would do no good. The jet kept circling directly over our heads and he got on the back of the tug and said "you watch where you are going and I will watch the jet and tell you which way to turn". It made five or so passes over our head and on the last pass it was so low we could see the hanging hydraulic lines.

It is amazing to me that we wished it would crash each time before it got back around to us, and it made no difference to us how many people could die as long as it crashed before it reached us each time.

We watched as the jet went out of sight behind some buildings and waited for the explosion and smoke from the crash. A second later we heard the yelling and screaming coming from the tower that told us that it went into shallow water making a perfect water landing 100 yards from crashing into the Hotel Del Coronado on the beach.

A few moments later we were at the tower where the pilot was after being plucked out of the water by a chopper. He was soaking wet and kept saying "I couldn't get out of the fuc*ing seat. He had hoped to land on dry land but miscalculated.

The next day we had the plane on our hanger deck waiting to be disarmed and it was in good condition with a lot of wavy aluminum on the bottom.

I have had reoccurring nightmares for many years after the fact and still now and then, wake up in a sweat with this thing landing and exploding on me. Just yesterday I sent an email to the Webmaster historian of the Hancock hoping I could find somebody that was on board at that time. The funny part of the story was that aircraft were forbidden to fly over Point Loma where all of the retired Admirals and captains lived and when they called the tower wanting to know who the pilot was who kept buzzing their homes the answer was "sorry sir but there is no pilot in that jet".

On 29 May 2009, Bob wrote the Yeoman stating that the Story was confirmed by a Captain Robert Van Arsdol, and hence we now have confirmation of the truthfulness of this event as reported by Bob Schlocker...

In an Email to Capt Tom Wimberly, USS Hancock Association Officer who did some searching himself, came up with the following from Capt Arsdol:


The info about both Cutlass crashes is what I told you Sunday and is, to the best of my recollection, the way I remember it. I'm not 100% sure that it circled the hotel twice, but that is what I was told after the incident. You can quote me, but it has been more than 50 years ago.

Bob Arsdol

Note by Jake: Hence we do have confirmation as to the type of plane which was circling was in deed a F7U-3 Cutlass, not an F-4D Skyray, and that the incided did take place as previously reported by Bob Schlocker. So thank you Captain Arsdol and thank you, Capt Tom Wimberly for doing this research for us.


Some other 'follow-up' mails from Bob Schlocker revealed other interesting things.. I'll let him tell you in his own words...

Sent 30 March 2009...

Jake, thanks for all of your work, I feel vindicated. I knew it was not an F4D Skyray because right after discharge I went to work at Douglas aircraft and did major installations of flight components before delivery to the military.We had to work with acceptance pilots and repair any problems they found during test flights.

Note by Jake: We fairly well determined that the plane in question was the ill-fated F7U-3 Cutlass as the Navy had very swiftly discovered it not fit for Carrier service, as it was not powered enough for carrier landings. (See the LCDR Jay T. Alkire and Charles Faulkner Memorial Gallery on this Site for more information on this incident which was referred to as the 'other' Cutlass by Capt. Arsdol above). Page loads extraneously.

Bob Schlocker also shared two other incidents he recalled in the same Email sent 30 March 2009...


Just a few other things that may be of interest to those who were in that area during that time frame, One morning we had four jets from NAS Miramar fly in and one of them lost power at 10,000 feet and could not restart. We were pretty much socked in that morning with a ceiling of about 5000 feet. I was standby for the crash crew and the only crane operator, so found my self and others out next to the runway. This Marine pilot broke through the fogbank high and hot and inline with our longest runway, gear up with full droptanks. Wow, he was really moving fast and touched down on the droptanks and skidded most of the runway with no fire and jet fuel spilled all the way. A few moments later the other three jets made a low pass over and landed on another runway. Someone had given them a ride to the crash scene, and they asked him what had happened, and his answer was a very cool "no big deal, flamed out and had to deadstick her in".

Another, but very sad incident was a navy pilot lost power over the city and dove his jet directly into a vacant lot to avoid killing people on the ground. We flew over the site about ten minutes after it happened, and there was nothing but a big smoking patch of black earth with no sign of aircraft debris. That pilot should have been given highest award that the navy had to offer. Any info on this incident would be appreciated.

- Bob Schlocker

Submitted 2/22/2009
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