Skip to comments.U-2 pilot receiving Kolligian trophy
Posted on 06/05/2003 9:10:03 PM PDT by Excuse_My_Bellicosity
6/5/2003 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper will present Maj. Jeffrey Olesen, a U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, with the 2002 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy during a June 13 ceremony at the Pentagon.
Olesen, assistant director of operations for the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron here, will receive the award for safely coping with an in-flight emergency during an October 2001 Operation Southern Watch mission over Iraq.
Flying above 70,000 feet, U-2 pilots normally operate their aircraft at full power. However, three hours into his mission, Olesen's aircraft began to experience rollbacks, a condition in which the engines revolutions per minute would decrease momentarily to a midpower setting and then increase back to full power.
Faced with uncertain engine operations, he knew the mission was over and turned his thoughts to the landing ahead.
"I remember during initial training an instructor told me it doesn't matter how long a sortie is because once you take off all you can think about is, 'Now I have to land this plane,'" he said. "Predictable flight characteristics are essential to landing this aircraft. The only other alternative is to land without engine power like a glider."
Olesen looked to his instruments for indications of what was causing the rollbacks.
"By ruling various causes out, I decided I had a mechanical problem in the engine, he said. So, I thought about what I could do to fix that.
The U-2 has two primary operating modes. The first mode is computer regulated to provide optimum performance at altitude while the secondary mode removes the computer and offers mostly mechanical flight control.
"The flight manual states switching to secondary fixes almost any engine problem, so I switched out of primary," Olesen said.
Immediately the entire aircraft began to vibrate.
"It was so severe I couldn't even see. It was like someone grabbed me and shook me violently," he said. "Without thinking, I knew I had to get out of secondary quick. So, I felt for the switch, one I could not actually see, and put the engine back in primary."
As Olesen flipped the switch, he did not know if the aircraft would hold together or if the engine would stop completely.
Although his aircraft once again began operating smoothly, the original problem also resurfaced.
"At that point, I turned back toward home still trying to figure out what was wrong with the engine, (which was now experiencing) more severe and frequent rollbacks," he said. "I soon found at idle the engine didn't rollback; however, it became stuck there no matter what I did with the throttle. At that point, the plane operated like a glider."
Flying in this mode, Olesen could not maintain altitude.
Realizing he could not return to the base, he notified other aircraft in the combat support package of his intent to land at another location and began his spiral from high altitude to the landing site.
Gliding down into landing position required perfect timing to line up on the runway. To compound this difficulty, he would land without the assistance of a chase car.
"Once that final turn (toward the runway) was made, I was committed, he said.
If Olesen turned the aircraft too late, it would hit the dirt short of the runway resulting in a forced ejection and loss of the aircraft. On the other hand, if he turned too early, the aircraft would have floated and landed too far down the runway, rolled off the end and he would also be faced with an ejection and loss of aircraft.
There was no checklist covering a descent from such a high altitude with an engine in idle, forcing Olesen to create new procedures to safely land the aircraft.
"It was all a guess as to when to start that turn," he said. "Thanks to good training, I guessed right."
Using what he called a failsafe technique, Olesen took the plane down and brushed the runway with the landing gear. He went back to about two feet off the ground and, now confident of where the runway was, successfully brought the aircraft down for a landing.
For his airmanship on this mission, Olesen has won several safety awards including 12th Air Forces Outstanding Airmanship Award for 2002 and the 2002 Air Combat Command Outstanding Airmanship Award.
According to Olesen, winning (these) awards is a good way to focus on the team aspect of mission accomplishment.
"(The awards) draw attention to Beale and the hard work each member does here to support the vital U-2 mission," he said.
The Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy is presented each year in the name and memory of an Air Force pilot, a first lieutenant, who was declared missing in the line of duty when his T-33 aircraft disappeared off the California coast Sept. 14, 1955.
The trophy, a symbolic representation of an Air Force jet pilot surmounting a marble base, was established to recognize outstanding feats of airmanship by aircrew members who by extraordinary skill, exceptional alertness, ingenuity or proficiency, averted accidents or minimized the seriousness of the accidents in terms of injury, loss of life, aircraft damage or property damage.
The trophy, established in 1958, is the only Air Force individual safety award personally presented by the Air Force chief of staff. (Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service)
You need to ask??? In the Air Farce, if you don't crash, you get an award. And if you crash, you get an award named after you. You win no matter what you do. Except for the B-1s and the Buffs, the Air Farce should be disbanded. Turn over all of their tactical iron, specifically including the A-10s and the gunships, [and what few F-15s they have with hardpoints] to the US Army, period. And give all of the electric airplanes [F-16s] to the Taiwanese. [Unless the US Army has a use for them]. The bluesuiters [with the exception of the bombers and the tankers] are tits up useless and are guaranteed to be awol when it comes to giving the Army close air support. Also, they can't fly off boats and in this day and age that is a deal buster. Just ask any Army infantry commander which he would prefer, Air Farce or Marine close air support. Particularly when the Marine F-18s are close by on the boat and the Air Farce is still noodling with some sand goblin for landing rights a few months down the road. Performance? In Kosovo the blue suiters were blowing up civilians in buses and trains from 15,000 feet. Did I say civilians? Correction - collateral damage. Ever since they were established, [that is to say, separated from the Army] they have had a severe cultural attitude problem when it comes to air to mud. This attitude is totally ingrained, so there is nothing for it but to disband the tacair princelings and give their machines and their mission back to the Army.
John then set his radar to "double bang" which meant that he would listen for twice as long between active radar transmissions. This, in effect extended the surveillance range from 200 to 400 miles. He saw the aircraft at 350 mile range and asked how in the heck this aircraft would be able to glide for that distance. There was no response so he gave the vector and then double banged the height finder on the GCA. The aircraft was above 100,000 feet!
Within 30 minutes a C-130 with no markings landed at the field and cordoned off the runway. Several MIB entered the GCA van, confiscated the radar tapes. Anyone who saw or heard must keep their lips buttoned otherwise the offending personnel would spend a year at Thule!!
John stood outside and watched the U-2 come in. This was in 1959 and he only told me about it once the Gary Powers story hit the front page!