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A True Story of the
Survival of the Most Stupid

Normally the Darwin Awards are issued annually to celebrate Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, the basic principal of which is "survival of the fittest". The Darwin Awards honor "those who improve gene pool by removing themselves from it".

The working assumption is that members of various species who demonstrate a reasonable amount of physical fitness or mental acuity are better suited to survive in the cruel world in which we live. Nature will weed out those less fit to survive, gradually improving causing stronger, faster, smarter individuals to dominate.

In most cases, the winners of the annual Darwin awards are not alive to receive their awards... they typically are dead (Population Control Volunteers, as they are sometimes termed). .. a certain result of doing something incredibly stupid. For example, a very mild example would be getting crushed to death by a candy machine while trying save a quarter by tipping it over to cause its contents to fall out of the little bins.

There are many Darwin award sites on the internet..here's a couple of links to them for some additional reading on the topic.

reddit Darwin Award pages
Urban Legends

The story below is true, almost worthy of the Darwin Awards, except (fortunately) there were no serious permanent injuries. If you were involved in this incident, and aren't too ashamed to have your side of this story published, or want to correct any details, please let us know. But you have to include your name.....

A Good Cigar
at 35,000 feet


Sometime in 1982, (tail number unknown) a Norton crew was returning from Pope to Norton after a stateside airdrop mission. The pilot in the left seat decided to light a cigar. Another pilot, in the jump seat, complained and donned his oxygen mask. In response, the left seater covertly disconnected the jump seater's mask from the oxygen regulator hose, with the intent of putting smoke into the hose.

Accidentally, lit cigar ash entered the oxygen regulator hose, before the hose was reconnected. The jump seater smelled the smoke and selected "Emergency" on the oxygen regulator. When that didn't help, he removed the mask to clear the smoke. When he disconnected the mask from the regulator hose, a "2-foot" sheet of fire leapt from the hose.

It ignited an oxygen-fed fire that spread to the flooring. To put out the fire, the left seat pilot shutoff the crew oxygen system. At about the same time, the engineer while switching to "MAX" airflow, inadvertently hit the bleed duct overheat test switch, shutting off the engine bleed valves and disabling the air-conditioning packs.

The crew started a descent but soon became hypoxic. The crew oxygen system was again turned on. The fire re-ignited with a fireball large enough to melt components on the Flight Engineer's panel. The crew eventually extinguished the fire, reset the bleed valves, and recovered to Vance AFB, in Enid, OK. Members of the crew suffered only minor injuries (but major embarrassment).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006: By some strange internet serendipity I got two separate emails within the last day or so providing a little bit more info on the above incident. Here's the first:

Monday, April 10, 2006

In case you were wondering about the qualifications of the crew, here they are.

The gentleman in the left seat (the one with the cigar) was either the chief of squadron stan eval or the ops officer. Either way, he was a well placed and highly qualified crew member. The right seater was an FEAC. (He was the only truly innocent).

The guy in the jump seat, the one who hated cigar smoke, was just a basic aircraft/airdrop aircraft commander.

Although I wasn't on duty at the time, I was a duty officer at the command post in Norton when this outstanding display of airmanship occurred. The guy who was on duty talked to the crew and his impressions were that this was a really big deal.

There was so much smoke in the cockpit that they couldn't see the instruments. They also inhaled so much smoke, (remember, they had to turn off the oxygen) that they were very very hoarse.

Mike Caliguire
C-141 A/B
Norton AFB, CA
15th MAS 1978-1983
McGuire AFB, NJ
732 MAS/ALS 1986-1998

Monday, April 10, 2006

The pilot (who latter became a wing FE) with the cigar who ignited the oxygen was thereafter nick-named "Torch". A few years latter he had the misfortune of being on the aircraft that had a wheel-well fire at Twenty-Nine Palms MCAS. A short mat runway. The fire was caused by leaking spraying hydraulic fuel on hot brakes as the plane pulled into parking. No one was hurt but it took a few weeks to patch the plane up and get it back to Norton. The event did not help is image.

Question, Did you ever hear of the Camp Fire girls?

The squadron had a couple of female pilots who were tagged with that nick name after completing an over water trip in the 80's. One really screwed up but the other was included in the dig because of association.

On the aircraft there was a small oven that could heat up a few frozen meals. The pilots ordered frozen meals but the oven was broken and they were left with a long flight with nothing to eat but a ice-cube dinner. One of the gals made several attempts to heat her meal with an Aldus lamp ... not enough heat. (Note: the Aldus Lamp was originally developed to flash Morse Code instructions between ships)

She then decided on a really bad idea.

She cut off the top of a coke can stuffed it with paper and lit it on fire and placed the frozen meal on top of it. Thus was born the Camp Fire girls.

It didn't help that a few months later, when flying with Doctor Death (a co-pilot who liked to tote around a large hand gun) she put the wrong coordinates into the in-flight computer and took the plane two hundred miles off course just before entering the Canadian ADIZ.

After a year or so she moved on to another flying outfit at another base where she changed her surname back to her maiden name.

Kent Davis
C-141 Nav 1972-1991

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