Then a few years later. I was still a student, or undergoing transition as itÕs called. Position was Kval¿ya in Finnmark at about 1000 feet, surrounded by steep mountainsides which peaked a lot higher. Speed 450 kts. Aircraft, an F-104G. Suddenly the plane was shaken by a large bang and a series of bopp, bopp, bopp. A quick look at the instruments told me that the engine was about to quit. I could not believe my eyes, still my left hand started executing the well trained procedures. Throttle back to cut-off. Ignition on. Throttle idle. There was only one checklist for compressor stall. It said: Throttle MIL (full power without afterburner). The theory from Lockheed was that the engine had stalled due to operation "outside the envelope" which meant outside the operative parameters like altitude or angle of attack. To me, this procedure was impossible to follow. All instincts and experience from compressor stalls in the F-5 told me to be careful. I could sense the engine starting again and stabilizing on IDLE. I pushed the throttle gently forward while keeping one eye on the rpm and another on the speed-gauge which was coming down towards 300 kts. Slowly the engine powered up and as it reached 92% I started to ease a little. Then the shattering noise came on again.
At that point I seriously started to consider ejecting. Below me was water and to the sides, the steep mountainsides and this was autumn. The anti exposure suit had not yet become obligatory and I had been stupid enough to leave it at home. I turned the plane slightly towards one side, as to be closer to land while going through the procedures again: SHUTOFF -IGN -IDLE. The engine lit up again, but this time I had learned. I kept it carefully on 90% and there it kept running. These percentages measure engine rpm. and are not directly equivalent to thrust produced. Almost all the thrust appears at the last 5% because at this point the engines exhaust-nozzle closes. Flight IDLE would be around 75%. 90% was just enough power to stay airborne. It would even enable a gentle climb. I needed to get to an airport, and Troms¿ turned out to be the nearest. I set course for it, and called up the radar-control with a mayday, mayday and a short description of the situation. This resulted in a stream of questions which were important enough, but right then, at 15000 feet, the engine stalled again. Now I had other things to concentrate on, and I asked them to keep quiet for a while.
This time was a little less urgent and I tightened the parachute straps before starting to relight the engine. Now I knew two things: Not more than 90% rpm and not above 15000 feet. I was now happy to re-establish contact with ground control and told them I was holding over Troms¿.
"Just tell me when you want to land" the controller said. I was quite unfamiliar with the airports in northern Norway and after thinking it through, I realised I had started to relax too early. Troms¿ was a civilian airport with a short runway and no arresting cable at the end of it. I knew the landing would have to be done with take-off flaps and an approach speed of 190 kts. This required tight control by the engine and the engine could not be trusted right now. The odds were not good enough. I got the weather report for Bardufoss. There were clouds and steep mountains. On And¿ya, conditions were better, but it meant flying over the open ocean of Andsfjorden for at least 15 minutes. What if the engine quitted and I came down in the water with no anti exposure suit? Bardufoss had a rescue helicopter, And¿ya did not.
I asked the control to scramble the helicopter at Bardufoss and make it fly towards the route I would be on. Control came on and told me the squadron commander wanted to speak to me. This was like an old bad experience with a glider-instructor repeated. "Line engaged" I replied, this was my emergency, nobody elseÕs. What would he know that I could make use of at this moment? I made up my mind and started flying over the ocean. If the engine quit in an F-104, it was like flying a space-shuttle. The optimum glidepath was about 1 to 5 and a turn of 360 degrees would cost you 16000 feet of altitude.
Downwind was at 11000 feet and final at 5500. Speed should be 260 kts. even if optimum glide was at 245 kts. You were supposed to take aim at a point one nautical mile short of the runway and level out at 500 feet. Now came the critical part. The landing gear could not be extended until you were certain to reach the runway. Any misjudgement on this could lead to a critical loss of airspeed and a sudden decent, too rapid for a successful ejection.
I felt relieved to sight the airport. I positioned myself on downwind, 11000 feet, but there was a cloud layer. The airport disappeared , but I had to continue to the point I assumed would be right before turning in. Descending through the clouds I let the airspeed build up to have some extra energy, in case of any misjudgement, an old glider-technique. When the runway reappeared, I was doing 300 kts directly towards it, and it was coming at me too fast. I popped speed brakes, but was still above gear-speed. "Shit - it will hold" ...Gear down! Still 250 kts and the end of the runway was approaching fast. At that point I pulled the throttle and the rumbling noise from the engine that I had been only too familiar with by now, reappeared. This time I was not looking at any of the instruments, only focusing on the end of the runway. I felt how the plane was twisting as the big General Electric J-79 engine stopped completely. From the tower they could see black smoke trailing the aircraft. The rest was gliding. Passing the edge of the runway I was doing 200 kts. A nice gentle touchdown, wait for dragchute speed, 180 kts - pop, what a delightful sensation of shoulder straps tightening as the chute opened. There were no power brakes, no anti skid, no nose-wheel steering.
Later that night I was almost kicked out of the officers mess for showing up in the bar wearing flight suit. That was against regulations. Ordung mu§ sein. The Air force can not make exceptions due to minor snags. Later it came to my knowledge that Lockheed sent their representatives to countries operating the F-104G to introduce a new procedure for compressor stalls: "Start the engine and let rpm build to a point two percent below where it stalled". As you see on the picture, the engine was severely damaged by a screw which had been ingested some way or another. It was never clarified.
Greetings from Dag Myhre
This article is part of a broader one, norwegian only, published in Flynytt