Abdul See Great Water
Before embarking on
the "war stories" I would like to point out that while I am poking
fun at situations that can be considered humorous (from a safe
distance in both time and space), I am not ridiculing a national
group at large. Americans grow up in a "robot society" we are
surrounded by machinery from the moment we are born. It's difficult
to see life the same way as a person from a less mechanized culture.
We also tend to be less fatalistic than Islamic cultures. ("God
helps those who help themselves" vs. "Allah wills").
The real humor lies
in the differences between the cultures, and not within
the culture itself. I have had my turn myself. I recall being
on a street corner in Tokyo acting like a typical American and
having passersby shake their heads, click their tongues, suck
in some air and mutter "henna gijin. (crazy foreigner)"
So if I pick on Abdul,
it is only with respect. Besides, I will never under estimate
a potential adversary.
was this son of a used camel dealer, named Abdul ...
The Islamic way of
life puts total faith in Allah. As applied to flying (or driving),
this means that if Allah wills you to have an accident on a particular
day, you will have an accident no matter how safely you fly. On
the other hand, if Allah wills to protect you, no amount of daring
will harm you.
I went through pilot
training at Moody AFB, GA. (Near the big "O" in Okeefenoke) in
1970-71. We had a number of foreign students in class 71-08 including:
Iranians, Vietnamese (one of them looked more like Chinese), Danes,
Texans, Cajuns, Marines and Yankees (That's where I fit in - I'm
from Brooklyn. That not only makes me a Yankee; it makes me a
It was a quiet day
at Moody Airpatch as the T-37 student pilots were doing their
"crash and dashes" on the inside runway. The normal radio calls
on the mobile frequency were interrupted by the single phrase,
"Abdul lost!" The mobile controller, an instructor pilot, grabbed
the microphone and said in a calm voice which belied the inner
panic gripping at his intestines, "Abdul, tell us what you can
see". The response was, "Abdul see great water". "Good Abdul,
don't fly over the water".
This wasn't much help.
From southern Georgia, he could either be looking at the Atlantic
Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. If it were the latter, there was
a good chance he was wandering around over some of the restricted
ranges at Eglin AFB. Some of these ranges were used for ground
to air and air-to-air gunnery. Abdul had a good chance of being
skewered with a redeye missile or sidewinder. (Imagine the headlines
- "IRANIAN FLYING AN AMERICAN MADE AIRCRAFT, SHOT DOWN BY MISSILE
Search radars all over
the southern United States were galvanized into action to find
an aircraft that may or may not have its transponder turned on.
In fact, the only thing we were sure was on was the radio, since
he was talking on it. About an hour and forty minutes after Abdul's
take-off time (in an aircraft with a supposed fuel endurance of
only an hour and a half), he radios back in; "Abdul see airport".
"OK, Abdul, land!".
After another anxious
30 minutes elapse, the base receives a call from a Fixed Base
Operator (FBO) at an airport about 90 miles away. The FBO, a local
Georgian, is convinced that he's just had a close encounter of
the worst kind. He couldn't understand Abdul's English (come to
think of it, the locals couldn't understand my English either
- or was that Brooklynese). However, he did recognize the Air
Force markings on the aircraft, so he called the nearest Air Force
Base, which eventually patched him through to Moody.
I could just picture
it: a T-37 does a tactical overhead approach at a Unicom controlled
field. After scattering any local traffic, it lands, taxis loudly1
across the lawn, stops, and out steps a pilot speaking a foreign
language. I don't blame the FBO for being a little bit apprehensive.
An hour after the phone
call, a driver and instructor pilot take off in a fuel truck to
rescue Abdul. Upon reaching the airport, they find the T-37 parked
too closely to other aircraft to get the fuel truck in safely.
The instructor decides to taxi the plane to the fuel truck on
a clear taxiway. He starts up the engines, advances the throttles,
and flames out. So much for Abdul's fuel reserves. Allah apparently
had something better on His mind that day than getting rid of
- The T-37 may not be the loudest aircraft in the Air Force
inventory, but it leads all polls for making the most obnoxious