The next story about Abdul concerns his antics in the traffic pattern.

The tactical overhead pattern starts at an initial point 3 to 5 miles off the approach end of the runway at about 1000 ft above the ground. The aircraft flies along the centerline extension of the runway at high speed (at speeds up to 250 knots unless the flight manual specifies a higher speed) until reaching "the numbers" (the approach end) where it "breaks" to downwind.

The Tactical Overhead Pattern

The run-in from the "initial" point to the numbers is called "initial". The "break" is a 180 degree steep bank turn. Only a "weenie" would use less than 60 degrees of bank. Actually, you do play the wind a little so sometimes the bank is steeper, and sometimes more shallow. Complete the turn so as to roll out on "inside downwind" or as it is more commonly called: just plain "downwind".

During the break, the pilot reduces power, puts out speed brakes, lowers flaps, drops gear and slows to a normal downwind speed. The pilot flies the downwind leg so as to execute another 180-degree turn to final. (The placement of this leg is as far out as a half mile for something like an F-4 to about 1500 ft for an O-2). There really isn't a base leg; just one continuous turn to final.

The place at which the turn to final is initiated is called the "perch" (I don't know why), and this point varies from aircraft to aircraft. A real pilot plans the final turn so as to rollout on final and flare simultaneously. (I've done that a dozen or two times out of the 800 landings I've had in the O-2). Fighter type aircraft (and trainer jets) usually have a half-mile final.

The purpose of the overhead pattern is to keep the aircraft out of small arms fire as much as possible. Theoretically, the area surrounding the airfield should be secure. In the case of the O-2, I could execute the entire pattern within the field boundary. Yes, C-130s, and even C-141s can do overhead patterns!

Anyway, Abdul is tooling along initial in his "Tweet1" with number two engine on fire. The mobile controller notices the smoke trailing the aircraft and broadcasts "On initial, bail out, you're on fire!"

No response from the aircraft.

Abdul calls the break, and again mobile control announces, "In the break, bailout, you're on fire!"

Still no response.

The controller recognizes the call sign (not to mention the accent). Fortunately, he has one of Abdul's countrymen in mobile control with him to monitor take off and landing times. He hands the microphone to the Iranian, switches the transmitter to GUARD2 frequency, and says to him, "Tell him to bail out!" The Iranian shoots off a rapid order drill in Farsi, and Abdul "punches out"...

So did another Iranian student who happened to be airborne elsewhere in Georgia at the time. It seems he heard the voice of Allah on the radio telling him to do so!

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. There have been several cases of "Lead, bailout, you're on fire!" Do you know how many guys out there go by the name of "lead"?

The next time you watch original Star Wars scene where 1001 X-wing fighters tangle it up with Darth and the Death Star (no, that's not a rock group), you'll hear, "You've got one on your tail". That was supposedly a long, long time ago. Will we ever learn?


  1. "Tweet" is one of the many names for the T-37 trainer aircraft. It is also known as "Tweety Bird," the "6600 lb Dog Whistle" and "The Air Force method for converting expensive jet fuel into noise" It is another drafted Cessna. In reality, this one was actually built to government specifications. As total noise goes, it's not the loudest aircraft in the Air Force; it hardly "roars" at all. However, at taxi power, it has beaucoup decibels in the high frequency range. Imagine Godzilla scraping his fingernails over a black board the size of the flight deck on the USS Enterprise

  2. 243.0 MHZ -it's monitored constantly by military radio receivers