But I'd spent my fair share of late nights out on the hard stands doing engine runs and other maintenance tasks, and I knew that many times your imagination would get the best of you if you let it. The hooting of an owl or the rustling of dead leaves could easily be mistaken for something more sinister on a moonless night. I dismissed my co-worker's story as a poor attempt to unnerve me and nothing more.
But the story stuck with me even after I got to RAF Alconbury. The base had been built prior to WWII, and I discovered that Army Air Corps B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses had flown missions from the base. That in itself was rather bone-chilling, as I knew that many of the men who flew with the bomber crews out of Alconbury during that time never made it back, and many who did, died inflight before the bombers returned to base. I'd seen the old movies made by combat photographers of ambulance crews pulling charred bodies from the wreckage of bombers that had crashed on landing, and something told me that some of the those crew members might still be lingering around the airfield waiting to fly that next mission that would never come.
There were just two of us qualified to do flight control maintenance, so guess who got to install a stabilator trim actuator that first weekend we were there? The Technical Sergeant I was with had no intention of working past 5:00 PM, so I found myself finishing up the job so he could go back to his quarters and then hit the NCO Club. I was none too happy about spending Saturday night in the tail section of an airplane, but there wasn't much I could do about it. It wasn't long before everyone else in the hangar left for the evening, and it got deathly quiet other than the sound of me rummaging through my tool box.
Now the cavernous old hangar I was working in was built to accommodate large bomber and transport aircraft, so there was a lot of empty space between the much smaller Phantom jet I was working on and the front entrance to the hangar. After securing my tool box, I realized all the exits to the hangar were closed and locked except for the front door, and I was going to have to turn off the hangar lights and walk at least 100 yards from one end of the hangar to the other in the dark. I looked around for another light switch, but there was no other way I could kill the lights except from the central power control. So I made sure the front door was open, and I pushed the mushroom shaped button that plunged the hangar into near total darkness. Slowly, I felt my way along the wall, groping in the dark and keeping my eyes fixed on the open door.
I was almost two thirds of the way across the hangar when suddenly I heard the distinct "thunk" of the lighting relays kicking in, and in the blink of an eye, the entire hangar lit up like a football field. Had I turned off the lights while someone else was still working? No, I was the only one there, but to be sure I hollered out to see who had turned the lights back on. Nothing. No response.
I walked back over to the light switch and hollered out once again. Still no response. That was strange, but there was nothing I could do about it. There was no one else in the hangar, so I didn't have much choice other than to turn the lights out again and make my way back to the entrance one more time. At least the lights didn't come back on the second time!
What caused the lights to come back on? Maybe it was just a defective pushbutton, but it seemed rather odd that the lights would come back on since the button was spring loaded to the "OFF" position. Or perhaps it was a phantom crew member positioning himself on my "wing tip," turning on the lights to safely guide me home...
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Edited by earth_spirit, 16 October 2008 - 09:55 PM.