Seaplane Story 4: Communicating

When a squadron returned from deployment in WESTPAC, sailors were discharged or transferred and were replaced by new men. Training took place all day, every day. Flight crews were flying almost every day and sometimes flew two or more hops per day. The Navy tries to fit all the activities into a standard day that ends at 4:00 PM. That way everything can be secured and the single men can be ready to hit the mess hall on time. However, with all the training flights going on I was never sure what time my last flight would get in.

For a couple of years, we lived in Navy housing in Coronado that was located right on San Diego Bay. It might have been 10 or 15 yards from our building to the water’s edge. Looking east, we had a great view of the bay and the San Diego skyline behind it.

When the seaplanes landed they came in from the ocean, heading east, and crossed over the Silver Strand which is the name of the isthmus connecting the city of Imperial Beach, on the south, with the city of Coronado, on the north. In some places the Strand is only 200 or 300 yards wide and accommodates the highway and a strip of public beach and that’s it. After crossing the Strand the planes turn to port (north) and fly up the bay. At the point where the plane passes our apartment in Navy Housing, they were probably only 50 or 75 yards off shore. Pat knew the side number of my plane so she recognized it when we flew past. Sometimes we would be shooting touch-and-go landings and would go past the house over and over. Pat would sometimes sit out on the grass and wave when we went by. We were close enough that I could recognize her from the plane. I had a window (or port) beside my position at the radar and one time, as we flew past. I picked up a white rag that I used to clean the radar screen and waved it at the window as we went past Pat. She saw the rag and later that evening we were talking about it and she said “why don’t you wave that rag when you go past for the last time of the day and I’ll know when to start supper?” It sounded great to me so that’s what we did from then on. Of course, it didn’t last long. The novice pilots learned how to land  and take off and the whole training atmosphere evolved and the flights got longer. Pat and I had a good thing going while it lasted.

Dave Thomas
Revised February 16, 2015 

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