Aviation Editor Geoffrey Thomas launches a new series covering some of the bizarre, crazy and humorous things that have happened to him covering aviation over the past 48 years…
A wild July storm in 1984 heightened the tension for the upcoming assignment to cover the arrival of the USS Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy’s new super carriers.
I was going to fly out to the giant flat top, not in a benign helicopter to be gentled place on the deck but instead in a twin-engine Grumman C2 transport, dubbed the COD for Carrier Onboard Delivery, that would virtually crash onto the deck and pull a gut-wrenching 4Gs as it picked up the arrestor wire.
You see I suffer — badly — from motion sickness and nothing I had heard of what was to come gave me the slightest comfort.
The nerves took a battering as I boarded the C2. Instead of spacious 747 cabin I was seated in what seemed like a flying coffin — cramped, dark, just two windows and all passengers faced backwards.
Before I sat down, I had to don a lifejacket, helmet and ear muffs to suppress the noise as there is no insulation on the C2.
Our loadmaster delivered the safety drill in a very nonchalant tone.
“If we crash into the water right ways up the exit is here in the ceiling — if we are upside down it’s in the floor,” he said.
Dread fill my mind and I felt sick and we hadn’t even left the ground.
“Watch my hand. When I shake it like this we are going down [to land].”
The two-hour trip out was not too bad considering the weather below but my nerves, which had settled, were about to be jolted.
Our eyes were transfixed on the loadmaster waiting for the signal of our approach to landing.
Almost as soon as he waved his arm our plane dropped like a block of concrete and we entered the buffet zone below.
This wasn’t the sedate approach to Perth Airport to which I had become accustomed.
I was in the Navy now!
Our pilot battled the wild weather, pushing then pulling the throttles and struggling to keep the wings level as he lined up on the pitching deck.
I was in a cold sweat.
Suddenly we crash-landed onto the deck and caught the arrestor wire and that is when I lost it.
It being my breakfast.
I couldn’t move and two huge sailors came on board to carry me off the C2.
The admiral took one look at me about to collapse into his lounge and said “get that boy to sick bay”.
The sailors had me out of the admiral’s suite in a flash and down five flights of stairs to the doctor.
“Ah yes…you have come in on the COD.”
Clearly my condition was not new to the medical team.
“Take one of these (Phenergan) and one of these (Ephedrine), lie down and you will be fine in 30 minutes.”
Yeah right, I thought. The last time I was this ill was when my sister talked me onto the Gee Wizz at the Royal Show and I was sick for 24 hours.
But to my amazement, 30 minutes later I was up and about and beaming — I had discovered the cure for my motion sickness.
Two years later, another trip to the same carrier I was able to put the Phenergan to the real test of another arrested landing (you don’t need the Ephedrine).
But this time, we had to make two attempts before a successful touchdown on the third approach which added to the stress on my stomach.
On the first the tail hook didn’t pick up any of the three wires and we took off and on the second we had a wave off because the wire wasn’t ready.
And just to be certain the Phenergan worked, this trip involved a catapult take-off, another amazing experience.
I carried Phenergan with me ever since.