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"Flat Hatting"


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While doing research on my 2nd cousin,I found out he was almost dismissed from the Navy for "Flat Hatting".

How common was this practice of flying way to low around training bases?

Thanks Bob

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Johnny Signor

It may not have been "too" common but it did happen, usually after a fighter pilot had scored either his first "kill" or made "ace" , but they did have to have an "understanding" C.O. or they could get in some hot water !

 

There were some bomber units that had some do this too .

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Sgt Saunders
You mean like "Maverick" buzzing the tower in Top Gun?! :o

 

More like Buzz Rickson's stunt in "The War Lover"

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Johnny Signor
More like Buzz Rickson's stunt in "The War Lover"

 

Yeah , that was a good one !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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We've all seen it at airshows or on the Internet like below but when something goes wrong then the hand wringing begins. There are enough rules that address when/where such flying is appropriate that for me who was once bold but is now old maybe I should be thankful my little Champ only does 80 knots. At least then when I forget I am old and try again to be bold I might actually have, well a flying chance.

 

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FKE/is_6_50/ai_n27864455/

80 years of fatal fun …by Derek Nelson

Fill in the date, Choices are: 1912, 1920, 1943, 1951, 1957, 1966, 1970, 1980, 1985, 1992

 

July-August 1995

 

--A NavCad died in a crash after making several low passes over a beach in an F9F-5. His "own automobile, parked 75 feet to the right of the wreckage path and 716 feet from the point of impact, was severely damaged when struck by the aircraft's tailpipe and tailpipe shroud."

 

--"Hedge-hopping will not be tolerated ... No spins on back or tail slides will be indulged in as they unnecessarily strain the machines. [Regulations for Operation of Aircraft]

 

--A P-3 overseas served as platform for during a holiday celebration in April: the pilot then took. the aircraft on a "1ow-altitude island tour," descended to 300 feet without clearance, hit a cableway wire and crashed, killing all six crewmembers and two civilians on the ground.

 

--This year, flat-hatting caused three fatal accidents. In each one, the pilot was trying to attract the attention of friends or relatives on the ground. One occurred with a stone's throw of the pilot's house.

 

--Frank McClean flew his biplane through the Tower Bridge over the Thames River in London. He soon crashed into the river, but survived.

 

--Before taking off on a cross-country, an OV-10A pilot told his wife he was going to fly over his uncle's farm. He circled the farm, did aileron rolls, hit some 50-foot trees and crashed, destroying the aircraft and killing himself.

 

--"Four British officers and airmen were court-martialed for flying their planes unnecessarily low over the countryside ... one officer flew so low that he collided with a motor car on a highway." [Royal Air Force Journal]

 

--Headline in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: "Pilot killed in crash told parents to watch flight." Two Air Force captains from Barksdale AFB were flying a T-37.

 

--Both members of an A-6 aircrew were killed when they demonstrated a low-altitude roll over a farm in South Dakota belonging to the pilot's family who were watching the airshow. Neither aviator tried to elect; one mans body was cut in half and was found by his uncle.

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The navy thought it was a big enough problem that they put out the book "Flat Hatting Sense' to warn of the dangers of flying low. Part of the series of 'Sense' books that were distributed to Naval Aviators in WWII and Korea. Mark

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It was a common problem in WW2, just research the number of aircraft lost in stateside crashes alone, thosands of aircraft lost, thousands of aircrew killed in "training" accidents.

 

Now granted not all were flat hatting, but many were. You men, feeling immortal, and with high performance aircraft.... bad comination.

 

I know of an incident locally that happened during WW2... glider pilots were trained in my area, and many small grass strips were used to practice landings and take offs in light observation aircraft... One man, an early 20's Corporal or Sergeant glider pilot trainee, picked up the 16 year old son of a grass strip owner, took him up in an Army observation aircraft, and while "flat hatting" flew it into the ground killing himself and seriously injuring the 16 year old...

 

The first time I think I ever heard of the term was in I think the mid-1980's when a Navy aircraft, I think maybe an EA-6B, hit an observation cable car cabl or something, in the Austrian Alps or miuntains in Italy or some such place, dropping a car to the ground and killing all on board? Something like that anyway.

 

MW

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Garandomatic

Dad's buddy had a Stearman and later a T-6. That's all he ever did. We have a long field out back, maybe 500 yards, and the house and barn sit up above it. Slightly. Can't be more than 20 feet above the field level. I actually looked DOWN at that stearman more times than I can tell you. He truly was a phenomenal pilot, and I believe he was licensed for aerobatics. What gave me goose bumps was when he "divebombed" us with the T-6. Didn't get as low, but then again, it was moving a lot faster. No way in the world my kids will have as cool, or random, of a childhood as I did. All you had to do was wait, and something cool would most likely happen, especially when you heard that Pratt & Whitney in the Stearman rattle the house on his way to turn over his buddy's strip before he came back for our buzz job.

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It was a common problem in WW2, just research the number of aircraft lost in stateside crashes alone, thosands of aircraft lost, thousands of aircrew killed in "training" accidents...

While completing biographies for fallen in Vietnam, I came across a couple of these incidents involving Phantoms which were so incredibly tragic, with everything else that was going on, to lose pilots and in one case several airmen on the ground...

 

I don't think we called it "flat hatting" but, it's the same thing, "hot dogging" probably instead. Military aviation is extremely unforgiving, one small error of judgement, one unexpected glitch - ends it all for nothing, in an instant.

 

The NCOIC line chief on my first permanent party flight line told me early on words to this effect which I never forgot, "Uncle Sam's Air Force is allowing you to take care of this $6 million dollar airplane. See to it that you return it to him as you found it."

 

Having been a risk-taker myself in the motorcycle domain, however, the impulse to push a fast big gnarly machine to the limit is a passion I easily comprehend. But for accidents of fate, I might well have been tempted...

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The navy thought it was a big enough problem that they put out the book "Flat Hatting Sense' to warn of the dangers of flying low. Part of the series of 'Sense' books that were distributed to Naval Aviators in WWII and Korea. Mark

 

You can read that booklet here: http://aboutww2.com/flat-hatting/flat-hatting.html

 

Here's the intro:

 

flathat1.jpg

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Garandomatic

Hard to believe it's been almost 20 years since the Stearman. He had that Texan within the last 10 years, though. Talk about going under bridges, Dad's buddy (the 155th Vet in my signature) towed an American flag under the Vet's memorial bridge here in town. Now, it's higher than the Spitfire's bridge mentioned earlier, but the cop got my dad's buddy's wing numbers by looking down. Big trouble, even 30 years ago when I think this happened. Cost him his commercial pilot's license. The man was a hoot right until the very end.

 

 

That's....A GREAT STORY!!

And the truth about growing up in simpler times. :thumbsup:

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Here is a good flat-hatting example... most have probably seen the tragic end. The pilot had a history of this, it is interesting when you read the entire story on this final crash, and all his things he did with no consequence prior to it.

 

 

The full story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_Fairchil...Base_B-52_crash

 

I didn't know a B-52 could so some of those things.

 

MW

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  • 1 month later...
5thwingmarty

There is a book called "We Came to Fight a War" about a B-17 pilot from the 99th BG. He was court-marshalled after the war for killing a man on the ground while buzzing a base and speant time in Leavenworth for it. He was also stripped of all his combat awards.

 

I have also seen a video of a B-52 flying very low doing steep turns over an airbase, being flown as I recall by a General who liked to do this. The plane stalled out, crashed and killed everyone on board.

 

On a less tragic note, my dad said the day they opened the Arch in St. Louis a guy flew his plane through it ( and then lost his license).

 

On a more positive note, my dad was a crop duster who flew Stearmans. I have a set of photos showing him flying over a field. In the first photo the plane is banking down toward the field. In the second it looks like the plane is coming in to land. In the third it looks like the plane has just touched down. In the fourth the plane is flying past the flagman, who is standing in the wheatfield with the wheat up to his waste. The wheels of the plane are still just skimming the top of the wheat. I don't think he ever admitted to flying under a bridge, but he said he flew back and forth under the cross-country power lines all the time.

 

Marty

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Frank Speer, in his book about flying with the 4th FG, "One Down, One Dead" recounts Group Commander Don Blakslee's talk with the new pilots. He discussed the rules and training regulations they'd had in the states, and how it was to promote their safety, and that the expectations were the same in the 8th AF. He then went on to say that he expected that every time they flew that they would break those rules. "BUT DON"T GET CAUGHT!"

 

Johnny Godfrey in his book "Look of Eagles" talks about the same thing when he returned from combat and was flying at a training base. He got in trouble for flying too low.

 

The problem is, you are asking young men to risk their necks in combat flying high performance airplanes. They have to be able to push it to the edge, and ride it. Sadly some cross the line.

 

There was a reason they put the call letters on the lower wings of the fighters in England after the war ended. To help the locals ID the guys doing all the low flying :)

 

364th5YL.jpg

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"Snatching", not "flat hatting".

 

When C-47 was snatching CG-4A glider, the C-47 flew close to 20' above ground level, then, at contact with the loop, had to pull up at full power.

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