By Tommy H. Thomason
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
On 4 November 1981, a visiting Marine pilot flying an RF-4B made his first catapult launch in a Phantom, which required a bit of finesse with the stick. At the time, the technique was to use full aft stick when the catapult fired and then ease it forward to keep from over rotating. Obviously his timing and/or final stick position was off because the pitch attitude reached about 60 degrees as shown in the picture. Fortunately, the Phantom was light (internal fuel only) and the engines in afterburner. Since pitch control was not very effective at low speed (the reason for starting with full aft stick), he elected to lower the nose to the horizon with rudder (think hammerhead turn) and then roll out. I surprised that the guy in the backseat stayed with him but the unusual attitude recovery was successful and they continued back to their base in Japan as planned.
For more on this incident and much more on the RF-4B, see this CD on the RF-4B by Lee R. DeHaven and Richard Rentrop: https://www.amazon.com/RF-4B-Phantom-USMC-Tactical-Reconnaissance/dp/0980109205