by Charles Comstock
This is another of the many varied missions flown by the aircraft and men of the 552nd
Airborne Early Warning and Control at McClellan AFB, California. Greased Lightning was the
code name for a mission in which the 552nd AEW&C utilizing their Super
Constellation aircraft with their airborne radar platform to try to locate and track the
B-58 Hustler, a supersonic jet bomber, making a high altitude flight over the Arctic
Circle from the Far East. Greased Lightning to me turned out to be a bucket of worms
We had to get de-iced before we left Eielson AFB, Alaska and it was very early in
the morning. Before we had left McClellan AFB, California the navigators were told
not to depend on the Central Gyro Reference System (CGRS). Well, would you believe
Murphys Law, that is just what they did and we got lost. The other Connie was
behind us and I think they also got lost. By the time we got to station, we were
definitely lost and heading for Siberia. We had an overcast sky condition and the
navigators could not determine their position since no star shots could be made. The
pilot requested that I put out a MAYDAY call and see if anyone could pick us up.
Thank Heavens, the last White Alice (BMEWS)* heard our call and gave us a vector back to
Eielson, in 30 degree increments, in turn we would give the heading to the other
aircraft. We had the other aircraft on our radar so we knew that they were following
us. We had to climb the Connie up to 29,100 ft and with the fuel load and the weight
of the airplane, we were just hanging on the props. We did get a star shot at that
altitude and was able to make it back. I had my .38 Smith and Wesson** with me. If
we had of crashed, I don't think the pistol would have killed a polar bear, but it gave me
a little confidence. I don't know if the other aircraft in Greenland or Japan saw the
B-58, but we sure didn't. After we got back to the base, the officers stayed out in
front of the barracks for about an hour trying to figure out what they were going to tell
them back at McClellan. I have no idea what was said.
We had a Hawaiian with us on the trip and during our time off, we went into town.
There, they had Moose Burgers. We stuck our head into a bar and had a beer.
There were 3 Eskimo women in the bar and when they saw the Hawaiian, they really gave him
the smiles. That is about all that I can remember about Greased Lightning, hope it is
of some help to you. It was interesting though. Note: The CGRS had a mode of
operation called DG (Direct Gyro) which did not use the input from the C-2 Compass located
in the left wing. When you fly that far north the magnetic lines of deviation varies
greatly. This was the mode that was supposed to be used in the far north or south. (Dean
*BMEWS Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
** A 38 cal. S&W pistol was part of of a survival vest worn on some
Charles "Chuck" Comstock retired from the Air Force in October 1977 as a Senior
Master Sergeant and resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. His Air Force career began as a ground
radar operator. He later became a crew chief on the Super Constellations at the
552ndAEW&C Wing at McClellan AFB, California, and flew on them for eleven and one-half
years supporting various type missions. One such mission is described above.
His e-mail address is: email@example.com