Cold War Era

Former USAF Fighter Pilot explains why Flying across the pond in the F-4 could be miserable, but pond crossings in the F-16 were absolutely wonderful

‘Flying across the pond, US to Europe, in the F-4, could be miserable at times. In contrast, my pond crossings in the F-16 were absolutely wonderful,’ Charlie Noak, former F-4 Phantom II and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the US Air Force.

Often fondly referred to by pilots as ‘across the pond’ they are talking about flying across the North Atlantic between North America and Europe.

Flying across the pond for the first time can be a daunting prospect. Being out of radar coverage, powerful weather systems and sometimes freezing surface temperatures are enough to make any pilot think twice before a flight.

Charlie Noak, former F-4 Phantom II and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the US Air Force, recalls on Quora;

‘Flying across the pond, US to Europe, in the F-4, could be miserable at times. In August of 1986, I flew from Illinois to Wildenrath, West Germany. My autopilot was inoperative, so I had to hand fly the airplane for ten hours. Three times I asked my backseater (Weapons Systems Officer – WSO) to try and fly. Each time, he put the plane into a WSO-induced oscillation, and I had to take the stick back.

‘The right wrist seal on my ant-exposure (poopy) suit was so tight that I finally had to cut it open. Trying to fly while taking a piss into a piddle pack (1-quart sized polyethylene bag with two dried sponges on the inside), did not go so well. When we landed, my numb right hand couldn’t hold up the drogue chute handle, so I dropped that on the approach end of the runway. Once taxied into parking, the greeting crew of blokes found me trying to choke the life out of my WSO. I was unsuccessful.’

He Continues;

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‘In contrast, my pond crossings in the F-16 were absolutely wonderful. The auto pilot always worked, there was no WSO that I had to talk too, and I used a Texas Catheter (like a 10 x thick condom with a tube coming out the end. It attaches to the p***s with some flexible tape. You can easily fill all the piddle packs that you want. I was comfortable, well hydrated, and alert for the entire 10 to 12 hour flight.’

Noak concludes;

‘Flying West to East always leaves you jet lagged. Chasing the sun, East to West is much better. You just fall asleep when you arrive.’

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  • Author sounds like a really great guy to fly with … took a screwed up Mx jet trans Atlantic (blamed WSO evidently), poorly fit anti-exposure suit, small male appendage, sub-standard flight discipline upon landing, CRM poster child … great dude to have in any squadron … 🤣

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