Anybody Remember the WIFF?



An F-15 driver asked me about my 10-23 story where I tucked in behind a Phantom then stayed with him through the first part of a lazy eight. He didn’t think a B-52 could do a lazy eight. Then I told him how we used to WIFF during AR. He said he’d have to see a video or picture to believe it. Can you believe that? He thought I was making it up.

The WIFF was a confidence maneuver designed to separate the men from the supermen until the end of the Cold War.

Some of you have to be old enough to remember the WIFF from Castle. (Heck, some of you are old enough to remember Polesti.) My first time was in mid-1987. Al Doi (remember him?) was my instructor on three of my five sorties, so he’s the one I remember most. I also flew with Smith (the famous dragging brake during takeoff into the overrun Smith) and another guy, I think it might have been Gordo Balanski but my memory is cloudy there.

Anyway the WIFF wasn’t exactly a lazy-8 like in pilot training, we adjusted power during the maneuver. We pulled some power on the downside after the turn to keep the speed from building too much and we pushed it in at the bottom as we came back up. We weren’t looking at the attitude indicator back in the bomber, eyes were on the tanker. But it sure looked pretty much about 90 degrees as we sliced down.

After I was at Castle and assigned to the 330 CFIS–around 1989–they changed the regs and tried to limit the bank to 55 degrees. I remember the initial scoffing at the limit, because the airplane couldn’t slice down until at least 70 degrees. The maneuver became outlawed after SAC was foreclosed-on and we weren’t based with the tankers anymore.

If I remember some more details of the maneuver correctly, the tanker started to roll with about 20 degrees of pitch. But I can’t remember how nose high we wound up. I do know that we stayed within aircraft limitations at the time (now the bank is limited via regulation).

Portable cameras weren’t as common back then. The only picture I have is the one posted–taken from a tanker and used on the going-away plaques at CFIC for years.

Anybody have any better pictures–Andy or Britt or Yak? Anybody got any better stories–Ponch or Doug or Larry? Anybody remember when they first started doing the WIFF–Elwood or DB or Dragon? Anybody know if WIFF stands for something–James or Bob or Moses? Maybe obscene–John or Pat or Ted? Or is it just a variation of wifferdill?



5 Responses to “Anybody Remember the WIFF?”

  1. Ponch says:

    Chuck and all,

    Yes the WIFF… as I said I flew the WIFF with Yuke Smaby. Don’t remember the specifics of the maneuver other then the purpose of the demo was to show you that if the two aircraft and pilots were in sinc with each other and they both understood the aerodynamic interaction between the jets, that “any” attitude could be achieved successfully in contact. It was a confidence and teamwork maneuver.

    I remember that we did get just a bit past the 90 degree bank on one of the series of maneuvers. The WIFF was a dynamic process, not just one big turn. It was a series of lazy-chandelle type maneuvers (without the 180 degree turn reversal) that started out small and increased with each reversal until the target attitude was achieved –or sometimes exceeded—hence the name WIFF.

    This concept was re-enforced on the subsequent CFIC MITO sortie where we had to do a 12 second MITO with the tanker and achieve a contact shortly after flaps up – below 200 feet – on the departure, then fly contact through the climbing turn on the CID.

    Also I remember Yuke abusing me hard on the night sorties when we re-fueled and had to maintain contact thorough many turns, climbs and descents over and over again. I remember never being so tired and wrung out post flight. I also remember some harsh thoughts I had for my instructors every time the tanker turned and started climbing or descending.

    At the time I didn’t understand the purpose of the pain…only that it was painful. As on my last BoB this level of training and the detail involved was to prepare us for any mission and any situation in the future.

    Mine came just three months after returning from CFIC. We ended up in IRAQ short on gas and carrying a load of new weapons on converted cruise missile pylons… yes a WESP.

    The drag was more then expected, hence that’s why we where short on the gas… big time….enough so we needed an extra refueling to make it to the post strike base.

    We asked the AWACS and we got a snap vector to a group of tankers holding south of the border. Well snap vector was not part of the SAC lexicon and neither was the anchor refueling that we where headed for. I don’t think any one in SAC could spell anchor let alone fly it with the jets in the configuration we had.

    Oh bye the way… did I mention it was at night and the tankers were orbiting right in the only cloud deck in this part of the world.

    Well Andy and Bob worked their magic and got us close enough behind the tanker to make visual contact.

    I can’t remember how many times we had to chase the tanker around the orbit with radar before we got close enough to see them. I do remember that every time we made an orbit, chasing the tanker, the fuel gages got lower and lower. We were already well below what we needed to get to the post strike. When we finally got contact the vis in the clouds was to the point we could not afford a disconnect and pre-contact position. We would not have been able to get back.

    I remember a feeling of relief when the gas started pouring in to the tanks…until the crazy turns started as we went around and around. It took every bit of concentration I had to stay connected. Then out of the soup, an F-4 showed up on our wing in full afterburner yelling on guard to “GET THE BUFF OFF THE BOOM NOW!”

    I guess he snap vectored to the biggest return he had on his radar…which was the two of us… with only fumes left. We had enough gas to afford a little break but not enough to get were we needed to go.. so I backed off the boom.

    No way could I afford to loose sight of the tanker and go through the blind man’s bluff rendezvous again…so I opted to slide to the right on the tanker wing then back off to the F-4’s wing position to wait our turn, again. A few more turns in this formation and the F-4 took a disconnect, rolled inverted off the end of the boom, and disappeared into the night soup with not even a thank you.

    We slid back into contact and started suckling again. By this time I was exhausted. We had already been airborne long enough to see the sun rise and set and it was already near sunrise again. We discussed our low fuel state with the whole formation of tankers (we were a three ship with Russ Bennet and Gary Konnert on our wing) they agreed to drag us towards the post strike base while we were refueling. I remember being filled with gratitude for the gesture and told them we owed our first borne or what ever they wanted.

    The whole point of the story is that we were prepared for this by the blood and sweat at CFIC. The confidence and skills that it took to do what none of us had ever done before, under the most adverse scenario you can think of, was forged by the tough curriculum at CFIC.

    This curriculum including, the WIFF, was the creation of men who had their turn in the meat grinder and understood the need for blood sweat and tears during training to forge aircrew who had the confidence and skills to do anything.



  2. The Chuck says:

    A great war-story! Grit, sweat, and tears — how many BUFF stories like this are there? Plenty I’m sure. Here’s a good place to post them. Plenty of room.

    Thanks for the comment, you’re a great American bomber pilot.

  3. DB says:

    Sorry Chuck I don’t have any additional pictures of the WIFF. As far as I know the WIFF was being performed at CFIC in 79 when I checked into Castle for initial qualification training. We tried to accomplish the WIFF on every sortie, weather permitting. We had to expand the A/R block an additional 7000 feet (1000 up and 6000 down, I believe). I know that the fun of the WIFF was largely dependent upon the skill of our CFIC tanker IP. We had a couple that could make the manuever a little more exciting. One was “Two G” Willie who seemed to use max roll rate into the manuever and pulled hard at the bottom of the leaf. The other was Kirby who tened to roll into the manuever like he was doing an 8-point roll. Others like Tom, the tanker branch chief, Dave, and Ned were smooth as butter on the controls and I used to eat me flight lunch during their WIFFs. I know of one bomber CFIC IP who fell off the boom near the bottom of one leaf and blew through the bottom of the A/R block plus an additional 6000 feet before he got the airplane under control. Not all CFIC IP were checked out on the WIFF and I know very few candidates were allowed to attempt a leaf since it was supposed to be a CFIC only demonstration. Of all the A/R demos we accomplished, I disliked the lateral control demos the most.
    A couple corrections on the posts: the guy who had the dragging brake and took the G-model into the dirt past the overrun was Dave VanOrso. The IR was Ron Baughman, IE was Rick Carroll and IG was Mike Rook. The only injury was the EW candidate that decided to exercise his instructor option and not strap in for T/O. He soon became a 180 pound bowling ball as the aircraft departed the prepared surface. Gunner Rook was the only guy to jettison his hatch. There is a photo taken by the mishap board that shows a helmet still attached to the oxygen hose hanging out the hatch. That’s Gunner Rook’s helmet; in his haste to depart the plane he forgot to unhook his O2 and got hung up climbing down the rope; Ron Baughman yanked the helmet off Rook’s head (I think Ron was motivated to get out of the plane also). Dave ended up as the Ops Officer at Minot, but ran into some trouble, but was allowed to retire. Last I heard he was flying for a regional airlines. That accident resulted in a complete review of all the CFIC demos. It was determined that not all the i’s were properly dotted and several of the t’s were not crossed so the command (under the fighter command at that time) started limiting our manuevers.
    In Ponch’s reply he mentioned MITOs behind the tankers. On sorties 3,4,and 5 (the pilot pros) we would do a cell departure (30 seconds) vice a MITO (12 seconds) (SAC times not ACC times. The tanker would depart and go through their regular after T/O clean-up and establsh 280 KIAS. We would take-off (220 dry) and after flap retraction would pick up 350 KIAS and use visual cutoff (Wx permitting) when we got the flaps up and before south-bound leg of the SID. Most of the time we wanted to be in precontact by the time we passed abeam of Merced. During the departure is when the booms would demonstrate the boom-turns etc. Once we got to precontact, the pilots had navigation for the rest of the sortie. I used that time to screw-up the OAS to the maximum and test various theories on programming the OAS. The first time I did one of these I was still in DOVB, but had been selected for CFIC. Everything was normal until we started to accelerate to 350 KIAS, when the tanker bloomed into the FLIR scope. It seems that they couldn’t retract their gear and forgot to tell us about it. We ended up flying under them as we attempted to slow down to 280 KIAS. We ended up asking for a right turn direct Friant and didn’t get A/R that sortie (made up for it with additional stalls and falls and pattern work).

  4. The Chuck says:

    Thanks for the comment, especially on the dragging brake scenario. I hadn’t been at Castle very long on my CCTS tour when that happened. The jet was in the overrun for a while during the investigation. My memory failed me concerning the IP onboard.

    I was stationed with Rick Carrol at Air Command and Staff College, he was drafted to be an ALO prior to his retirement. Last I heard he returned to Alabama–working in Birmingham I think.

    Ron Baughman was at the Air Force Doctrine Center while I was there. In Summer of 1999 I had started an email discussion on doctrine problems at PSAB and Southern Watch. I had signed my email “The Chuck” and somehow in the process of it getting forwarded around the GIG, people thought it was Chuck Horner–wrong Chuck. The conversation got interested as the thread made the rounds. By the time they figured out it was a doctrine weanie at PSAB, Ron Baughman had already replaced me. So caught the grief from the one-star.

    He still made O-6.

    The Chuck

  5. deej says:

    Couple of things:

    1. I have some great pics of the Whiff and some footage if I can pull them out. Dave Legard and I went up together (just after the 55 degree limitation) and tried to see where the old BUFF would roll. Found out the issue was really getting enough bank in at a fast enough rate to get the tanker’s nose tracking through the horizon. Seems to me about 60 degrees was acceptable, but 70 was more comfortable. I know of some pics that are greater than 90 degrees and have heard the remark that, “seems it would have been easier to just roll through, but …”.

    2. Funny you mentioned about Dave’s dragging brake. I was outside of the squadron smoking a cigarette and talking to Bob Bruley when the a/c ran off the end of the runway and into the Atwater orchards. I had a similar incident the first day the runway was opened back up. The a/c would not fly at unstick. Trim was OK, so I pushed the throttles up as far as they would go (screw the EPRs) and I remember seeing the busted BUFF off in the Atwater orchards coming up fast. Funny, but I had never gotten such a clear view of the approach lights before. Foxtrot called over CP freq that he thought we might have scraped the lights, but after he inspected them, no issues. We left the gear down on climbout (something Alpha got on my case for afterwards) as once we got airborne, we climbed like a banshee. Once we felt the gear cooled (and I removed the seat cushion from my posterior), we sucked up the gear and continued on our mission. Declared the IFE on the way back and was met by more people (including Alpha) than I care to remember. After ripping the a/c apart, I was told they found the wrong filters (10 micron vs 100 micron) in the brake hydraulic system. Every BUFF had to be checked and they only found a couple with the wrong filters. If not for Dave’s incident, I shudder to think what could have happenend with a less experienced student and/or IP at the controls. Dragging brakes are nothing to mess with. After debriefing (with Alpha and Boeing engineers) we all went back to the shop for a few brews. Of course, Alpha thought I should have sucked the gear up right away to get climbing and then put them back down. Maybe, but climbing wasn’t an issue right after we got airborne and I didn’t want to risk putting hot brakes underneath our seats. I know Dave went through hell over this incident.

    3. I left CFIC in July of 1992 (got there in summer of 89) and I have considered it an honor and privilege to have served with the finest aviators the AF had to offer. Unfortunately, when we became the 330th CFIS (no longer a Branch, but a Squadron), things did change (I think Billy Richey was the last CFIC Branch Chief and first CFIS Squadron CC, with JJ Parker the second SqCC. However, the only demos I know of that were modified were the loss of engine on the runway and the WHIFF. Fortunately, the candidates (we never called them students as we instructors were their “students”) got to see every demo. We had a great group and anyone who had the privilege will certainly remember the words “Fire in the hole” and their reaction immediately after hearing those words. We sure went through some desks!

    Thanks for bringing back the memories and as soon as I can figure out how to post to this site, I’ll post a pic of the WHIFF (one that’s not on the plaques).

    Best regards to everyone!

    Paul DJ (DeeJ)

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