Murphy's Law: Semper Gumby In Action


April 7, 2009: The official U.S. Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis ("Always Faithful"), but the unofficial motto is Semper Gumby ("Always Flexible", as Gumby is a claymation cartoon character noted for being flexible). An example of this occurred recently in Afghanistan, when a U.S. Navy F-18E fighter was refueling, and snapped off the "basket" attachment used by the tanker to guide the F-18 fuel probe to the fuel pipe. The basket was stuck on the F-18's fuel probe, and it was only with some difficulty that the fighter pilot was able to land at Kandahar airport.

The aircraft had become aerodynamically unbalanced by the probe. Worse, the basket might come loose at any moment and smash into the aircraft, or even the cockpit. Once on the ground, the fighter pilot asked if there were any F-18 mechanics there to remove the basket and check for any internal damage (from the refueling probe being twisted around by the basket as the aircraft landed). There were often some carrier aircraft mechanics at Kandahar, to take care of minor problems with F-18s operating over Afghanistan. But not today. There were, however, some marine helicopter mechanics, and they offered to take care of the problem. The aircraft maintenance officer on the carrier approved, and the marines removed the basket, and then checked the F-18 for any internal damage. They were looking for mechanical problems, as the F-18s diagnostic computers were able to check for any electronic or electrical problems. After 20 minutes, the marines had finished their work and declared that the F-18 was fit to fly. The F-18 then took off and returned to its carrier. Semper Gumby.


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