Run Over by a Carrier

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Jerry ‘Turkey’ Tucker was with the Blue Angels during the last years of the F4’s then stayed on for the first two years of the A4. During Viet Nam he flew F8U’s. He’s now a senior Captain for Southwest. Here’s his incredible true story of falling off a carrier while inside his aircraft. yikes It wasn’t just all fun and great looking chicks!

Another combat day in Viet Nam and Turkey was waiting to be launched. There was a problem with the aircraft in front of him, so they pulled it off the cat and put Turkey in his place. He wound it up, gave the salute and waited for the launch. He felt it start to go . . then nothing. His aircraft was moving down the deck . but no acceleration. He pulled the power and was on the brakes . shut it down . . then found himself teetering over the leading edge of the flight deck. He felt the Crusader rocking with each movement of the ship as he talked to the Air Boss. Air Boss told him to stay in the cockpit . . that they were trying to hook his aircraft to a tug . . and that several sailors were trying to hold his tail down to change his tilting aircraft’s center of gravity until it was safely hooked up. The ship rocked with another swell. And over he went, falling down toward the water below. As it fell, the aircraft rolled on its side.

Turkey recalls that he could now see the ship’s bow plowing through the water. He didn’t know which was worse . . seeing the water coming up at him . or seeing the carrier slicing through the water toward him. When he’d been teetering over the bow, he’d thought of ejecting. However, he was worried about being run over by the ship. But now he was in the water and he felt sick as the bow of the carrier hit his F8U. He was sure he was a member of the living dead. And was just along for the ride.

He remembers the hit, and the terrible ‘snap’ as the ships bow broke his aircraft in two, just behind his cockpit. Turkey now realized that he was still alive and that he was sealed inside the Crusader’s cockpit module. The water was so clear and he could see all of the ship’s bottom as he was bounced and bobbed along. He remembers every bob and hit along the ship’s bottom as chunks of his cockpit’s plexiglas were gouged out by the barnacles on the carrier’s hull.

He was thinking he might come out of this alive, as fear struck him again when he saw the ship’s screws spinning like hell. And he was heading straight for them. The sound of the screws was terrifying. He now visualized being chewed up as he felt a sudden surge of speed bringing him closer closer to the screws . . knowing he was being sucked into the vortex created by them. He continued accelerating and watched in horror as he passed through the screws themselves. Miraculously, he was unharmed.

Disoriented and rolling violently in the screws wake, he suddenly saw the sun and noticed he was bobbing on the ocean’s surface. He said his heart rate was so fast he could feel his heart thumping in his chest. He tried to do so something to get out but he couldn’t control his shaking hands. He tried several times to blow the canopy but didn’t have the hand coordination needed. Until his third try.

He blew the canopy and immediately realized he’d made a mistake as the cockpit capsule filled with water. Then sank. Going down fast. About 35 to 40 feet beneath the surface, he extracted himself from the cockpit. When he got to the surface he was greeted by a helicopter and a rescue swimmer who jumped out of the helicopter to save him. During the helicopter ride, Turkey said he couldn’t thank GOD enough . . and praised the Lord all the way back to the ship.

They got him on the ship and to the Doc. And Turkey recalls a comical but serious moment when the first thing that came out of his mouth was: ” You can bet your sweet ass that next time I won’t blow that bleeping canopy!”

Like one day all of this might happen to him again, right?

Updated: August 22, 2011 — 3:06 PM


  1. This didn’t happen. I am friends with Mr. Tucker and asked him about it.

    I believe there was an aborted carrier launch once and he barely stopped before reaching the end of the flight deck, but he never went overboard. That was it.

  2. Mr. Davis, what year did you receive your wings?

  3. Hi all. My name is Jerry Tucker. I was a Lieutenant in the US Nave flying F-8Js off the USS Hancock in 1970-1972. I did have a catapult malfunction in the first launch of my second cruise is in the Gulf of Tonkin. On the cat shot the aircraft spit the bridal after five to ten feet into the shot. I was able to stop the plane about ten feet from the end of the flight deck. I did not go overboard. As a matter of fact I received a citation for saving the aircraft.
    To the reader Gary, Mr. Davis was correct in his comments about the event and he heard the facts from me. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have wings but he got his ears when he was born.

  4. NFO wings in April 1971. I heard this exact story in the training commend at Pensacola. It was essentially the same in every detail. If it didn’t happen to Mr. Tucker, then did it ever occur and to whom?

  5. i was and aq fire control technican who worked on the f4 phantom for three yrs and did two cruises aboard uss saratoga cva 60 assigned to first cruise was to the north atlantic , mediterannean then back thru the carribbean. second to tonkin golf ,yankee station north vietnam.we had a serious mishap and lost a good a6 driver on thanksgiving 1972 and one i reflect on to this was of interest to hear the jerry tucker incident and cant help but commend him for his accuracy of the matter.i did see him perform with the blues in 73 and one of our great pilots became a part of the blues in al cisneros great man as well

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