Last Saturday, 17 July, Patriots Point was the site of a reunion for five members of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1973. Their service in the United States Navy was performed in various warfare specialties: CDR Dalton was a surface warfare officer and later supply officer, CAPT Watt was a naval flight officer in the P-3 Orion, CAPT Stewart was a surface warfare officer and later an intelligence officer, CAPT Zimet was a naval aviator flying in the LAMPS helicopter and CAPT Krisiak was a naval flight officer in the S-3 Viking.
While touring the USS Yorktown with their wives, stories from their past began to naturally bubble up. I always try to get a good story out of our veterans who tour Patriots Point. I figured that the helo pilot, Mike Zimet, would have a scary one and he didn’t disappoint:
As a young LAMPS pilot Mike was conducting a pinkie CQ (sun down, but not dark yet!) for night landing qualification and he needed six night landings to complete. He had four landings as a squall line began to approach the ship. Air ops were about to shut down, when Mike told the ship that he could get the remaining two out of the way before the weather arrived. Unfortunately for Mike the weather closed in quickly and the ship suddenly vanished in the mist of the storm. As he made a penetration into the weather to find the ship for landing, his helicopter went from 480 feet and 80 knots air speed to 800 feet and 0 knots airspeed. His bird had begun to rotate and he thought – worse case scenario – the tail rotor was decoupling, except he was spinning left (the wrong way). Mike quickly recognized he had inadvertently entered a waterspout!
There would be no more attempts at the ship in this weather as his aircrewman had painted the beach on their radar. Short on fuel they headed for dry land. Crossing the beach, the fuel quantity indicator showed 100 pounds of fuel (a plus/minus instrument) and at first all they could see were jungle and water. Finally a very small spit of sand showed itself and Mike was able to land with one wheel on dry sand and the other in salt water. What a night finale!
The next day he would get his bird refueled and make an uneventful return to his ship.
Here is a close up of our USNA ’73 and wives reunion. Patriots Point salutes these officers and their wives for their service to our great nation; it was great to have them onboard Yorktown and hear their stories!