Dudley Henriques

F-14 at Pax River

For just plain beauty and excitement, I can remember one evening at Pax.
We took the #619 engine test bed F14 from Strike up for a short local hop. We briefed IFR, went zone 5 and plowed on up through the overcast. I happened to look in the canopy bow mirror and saw two distinct tubes from the AB's burning tunnels behind us as we climbed. There was a perfectly straight open layer of about 500 feet width between the two cloud layers we were going through.
When we hit it in the climb, it was like a flashbulb going off.
Instant light...then instant gray again. We topped at about 25K and punched out in the clear twilight. The sunlight was bathing the top of the cloud layer below us. We did a slow diving roll and recovered straight and level just feet above the stratus layer, supersonic. [We were cleared in the corridor].
It was like the light show from 2001 Space Odyssey. A great moment!
Sad part was that Strike lost the 619 two weeks later in a flat spin accident.