I am James M Plemmons,Smsgt. retired. I was assigned to the Automatic Flight Control Section of the 509th AMS in September 1969 at Pease AFB. We were slated to become a FB-111 unit. I got up to the 55 personnel, some were to work on the aircraft and a few were to be working in the field shop. We got our first FB in December 1970. Col Winston Moore was the Wing Commander, and flew the first FB into Pease. I went to school at Carswell in October 1969. I had been assigned to the B-58 Flight Control system for almost eight years before leaving Little Rock and going to Thailand for a year, then to Pease.
We had some "first" problems encountered with the F-111. Pilots had to get used to the self adaptive gains system. In flight the gain system would automatically trim the elevators to adjust for the speed and altitude of the aircraft. When the pilot would do the High or Low CADC tests, there was a relay in the Feel Trim unit that would be unlocked for the gains, and therefore the stab would drift either up or down. I remember the first no rotation on take off that we had at Pease. It was in the spring of 72, in Late April. I got a call from the Command Post and was told that the aircraft had no rotation on take off, and the SOF (Safety Of Flight Officer) was on the way in to pick me up. We went to the end of the runway where the aircraft was sitting there still with engines running, and the fire trucks were in attendance. Col Buck was the Chief of Maintenance, and Col Luke was the DCO (Deputy Chief Operations). My chief of maintenance asked me what did I think was wrong, so I told him that the stabs was not at TO(Take Off ) position as the aircraft was sitting. I told the Fire Chief to let the brakes cool off, and then have the ground crew send him back to the maintenance area, and I would talk to the pilot. We got the plane back to the maintenance area, so I got on the head set and asked the pilot what happened, he told me he cross checked the airspeed indicator at the 100 Knot speed, and all was fine but when he got to rotation speed and pulled back on the stick, he put it in his lap and there was no nose respond, so he pulled back the throttles, and got on the brakes, getting hot brakes, but getting the plane stopped. I asked him to go through the flight control checks so I could see if he had any binding, they were all smooth in pitch and roll axis, so I turned my attention as to his TO(Take Off) procedure, I asked him if he tried to rotate at too low air speed, he informed me he had not, and it was apparent to me he had never reached take off speed, because he could not get the nose up. I asked him a few more questions, then I came back to the question of rotation speed, and the airspeed indicators. He informed me that the Mach/Airspeed indicators were working fine, because that was the last thing that he checked before he took the active. He had insisted that he was at Take off position on his stabs. So I told him OK, I will turn you back over to the crew chief, so he can shut your engines down. I had already made up my mind as to what happened. I went back to my office and as I was walking in, my phone was ringing, it was Col Buck, my Chief of Maintenance. He wanted to know if I had any idea what was wrong. I told him my theory was that he did the High/Low CADC test and didn't hit the TO trim button , before take off, like the -1 tells you to do. I took time to call the tower and asked if they held the aircraft at the end of the taxiway before they let him take the active. They informed me that he had to hold ten minutes before they let him take the active, at this time I would have bet my stripes that he sat there and did the High/Low CADC check. and when he was cleared to take the active, he rolled off the tarmac and lined up for take off and went into afterburner ,released the brakes and shot down the runway, and when he got to rotation speed, the surfaced had drifted to the point that he had not enough movement to get the stab back to where it would deflect him up. I got another call from Col Buck telling me, the pilot said I was full of crap, that he did not do the CADC checks at the end of the runway. I had put the aircraft on impoundment status, and red X. SAC and 2nd AF got into the act. I informed them there was nothing wrong with the flight control systems, that there was pilot error, plain and simple, it was a mistake. I wanted to release the AC and put it in the air with a FCF and or have a high speed taxi check down the runway. SAC said no FCF, but agreed to the high speed, taxi check out. Lt Col Volker from Stan Board Eval was to give me my taxi check. I will never forget this, he got the aircraft at the end of the runway and called me on the radio and asked me just what I wanted. I told him to take the active and then do either a high or low CACD check, the stab would either drift up or down, and then for him not to hit the take off trim button to put the surface back for takeoff, but just takeoff! He wanted to know what would happen, so I told him that when he got to rotation speed, approx 145K and pulled back on the stick, the nose more than likely would not respond, and for him to throttle back and brake. He informed me there was no way he was going to do the test without the barrier in place. The barrier was put out for him, and we started the test. When he did the high test the stabs drifted up. He released the brakes and shot down the runway, did the 100 knots cross check and on to rotations speed. He pulled back the stick and put it all the way into his lap, no nose response. He stated saying 'No Rotation, No Rotation', so I started telling him in response, shut dow the engines, shut down your engines, he throttled back the engines, and got stopped before getting hot brakes. I thanked him and went back to the shop. The phone was ringing as I got into my office. Col Buck was on the phone informing me the pilot, had admitted he had performed the CADC checks and forgot to hit the Take Off trim button before he started his roll.
We had outstanding crews on the FB-111A, they listened and did not make the same mistake twice.