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It Came Out of The Sky

It Came Out of The Sky

It Came Out of The Sky

by Tom Owens

Teeth clenched; Second Lieutenant Jim Kubicki’s knuckles turned white as his hands ground into the steering wheel of the aircraft.

‘I must be out of my mind. Why did I volunteer for this?’ Kubicki thought.  Kubicki recently graduated from the Air Force Academy and had only standard flight experience.  Assigned to the Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base outside Kansas City, Missouri, Kubicki was about to live test the new rocket-propelled ejector seat in the F-102 Delta Dagger, an interceptor aircraft.  

The pilot, Captain Bill Withers, called back to the co-pilot.  “How you doin’ back there, Kubicki?”

“Ready and waiting for the test, Captain,” Kubicki replied. 

‘Good thing the captain can’t see me,’ Kubicki thought and took a deep breath. 

The Delta Dagger reached 10,000 feet in altitude and its cruising speed of 600 miles per hour.  The air traffic controller at Richards-Gebauer confirmed clearance to conduct the test. 

“Ready, Kubicki?” Captain Withers asked.  “We’re right above the target.”

“Affirmative, Captain,” Kubicki said.  “Standing by to eject.”

The new Advanced Concept Ejection Seat required only a single action to jettison the hatch and launch Kubicki through the opening. 

“Proceed, Kubicki. Eject,” Captain Withers instructed.

Kubicki jerked the lever under his seat, activating the rocket.  With one even stroke the hatch blew off and the ejector seat catapulted straight up, cleanly separating from the Delta Dagger.  Kubicki broke into a cold sweat and clutched the arm rests as the seat powered upward. 

The ejector seat and Second Lieutenant Kubicki peaked after a 200-foot climb.  His parachute deployed and the seat-man-separator motor fired, releasing Kubicki from the ejector seat. 

Captain Withers toggled the wings of the aircraft, hoping his co-pilot might see him.  The Delta Dagger banked to the east to return to base. 

The wind that day in late April 1966 was out of the north and gusted forcefully, stronger than forecast.  Kubicki spotted his landing target, a plowed field near the bridge over the Marais des Cygne River.  He pulled hard on the steering lines of the parachute, struggling to avoid the trees that bordered the river and touch down as close as possible to the target.

Second Lieutenant Kubicki looked back and saw the ejector seat plummeting south of the drop target. 



The same breezy, clear morning Dave Owens watched the red and white plastic ball intently from the edge of the pond.  The bobber on his fishing line darted back and forth.  It bounced around, went under the surface and popped right back up. 

“Keep the tip of your pole up and wait till the fish pulls the bobber down deep,” his mother Anne advised.  “He’s still nibbling on that worm.”

Dave’s brothers, Tom and Bucky, were standing together, fishing on the same bank. Their mother had brought her boys to the family property for some fishing and a picnic. 

Dave was more patient than most 12-year-old boys with an eight-foot cane pole in his hands and a worm on the hook.  Now the bobber plunged hard; Dave jerked up to set the hook and tightened his grip.  “Mom, it feels like another bluegill,” Dave said as the fish yanked down and out, furiously desperate to wrap around a stick and break free. 

Dave pulled the fish out, grabbed the line and drew the fish close to admire the blue and purple pattern on its gills and the fiery orange belly.  He turned around to show his mother.

Tom turned toward his mother. “Mom, why does Dave always catch more fish?”

“You need to try harder, Tom,” Anne replied.  “Watch how patient Dave is with the bobber.”

“Look at me, I’ll catch more fish than both of you,” Bucky, the youngest brother, said. 

Anne smiled and felt content that her boys were connecting with the property in the countryside she and her husband bought nine years before.  By herself now, she wasn’t able to bring the boys here as often as she wanted. 

Dave set his cane pole on the bank and reached for the bluegill to remove it from the hook.  Tom and Bucky watched Dave grab the hook with one hand and with the other hand fold down the sharp dorsal spines.

Something moving in the sky caught Tom’s attention.  He looked up and saw a gray blob, falling fast, just above the trees.  Tom grabbed Bucky’s arm and pointed. The blob slammed into the top of a large red oak tree and descended, tumbling in stages, shredding small branches, booming as it hit a large one, cracking, shredding more branches, booming on another limb and slamming into the ground with an emphatic thud.

Small branches and leaves continued to trickle down in the wake of the grab blob that plowed down the side of the oak. The large branches dangled and swayed, permanently disabled. 

The boys looked at each other in silence, wide-eyed, then toward their mother. 

“Mom, what was that?  Did you see it?”

“I don’t know.  I had my back to it.  Do you think a tree fell down, maybe?” Anne said.

“No, Bucky and I saw something fall from the sky, a big hunk of something. Whatever it was, it landed right over there by Walnut Creek.  Let’s go look for it.” Tom urged. 

Anne and her boys walked down the gravel entrance road in the direction of the crashing sound.  They didn’t have to go far.  Some forty yards inside the forest sat a gray metal object with a flat piece protruding up from the base. 

“Wow, look, Mom,” Bucky exclaimed.  “There it is.  Let’s go see.”

“All right, boys, let’s be careful. 

The brush had not leafed out yet, leaving the object in plain view. As they approached, they saw it was a big seat, all gray metal with shoulder harnesses and a head pad.

“What do you think it is?” Dave wondered aloud.  “Where did it come from?”

Tom looked up and pointed. “Heck, it came from up there.  We saw it.” 

“I know what it is,” Bucky said confidently.  “This came from a UFO, a flying saucer.  They sent it here for us from outer space.”

“Mom, can we keep it?” Dave asked.

“Yeah.  It fell on Owens property, so it’s ours now,” Tom declared.

“All right, boys.  But you’re going to have to haul it out of these woods to the car.  Will you be able lift it into the trunk?”  Anne thought to herself that this must be a seat from an airplane but wanted to indulge her boys’ imagination. 

“We’ll do it, Mom,” Dave said. 

The three boys lugged the seat out of the timber, stopping to catch their breath several times.  Anne helped the boys lift the seat into the trunk of their tan Oldsmobile F-85. Dave used fishing line to tie down the trunk lid for the drive home.

The boys rolled the seat out of the trunk when they arrived home in the Western Hills neighborhood of south Kansas City.  Once they hauled it to the backyard patio, they took turns in the chair from the sky. 

“I’m Sky King and I’m flying my plane over the mountains,” Tom said, impersonating the hero of a popular TV program. 

Dave made believe he was Steve Canyon, of comic strip fame, fighting evil forces.  Their sister Mary said she was John Glenn and orbited the earth over and over. 

Bucky insisted that the seat came from a UFO and said he was a strange visitor from another planet, like Superman.  Then he became an astronaut in a space capsule.  Bucky did not give up his turn easily. 

“Come on, Bucky, let your little sister get on there,” Anne said. 

“Ok,” Bucky said.  “Di, there’s room for you here.  Come sit with me.”

Streak was the family black and tan beagle with a white stripe on his forehead that gave him his name.  Streak romped about as the kids took turns on the ejector seat, stopping to sit and yelp and swish his tail across the clover and dandelions. 

The kids went inside as each day’s adventures concluded. The silent shadows of the evening settled over the ejector seat.  Streak lay next to the seat, waiting for the moon to rise, then sat up, tilted his head back and bayed at the sky that produced the gray blob. 

A few weeks passed as the Owens kids fabricated scenarios and fantasized about the places they could go in the seat from the sky and what they could achieve.  The possibilities were endless.   

Eventually, Anne thought she should alert the Air Force about the seat.  She knew it probably ejected from an Air Force plane.  As much fun as her kids were having, it seemed like the right thing to do. 

Anne called Richards-Gebauer Air Force Base and spoke with an officer.  “I have a piece of equipment that may belong to you.  I think it’s an ejector seat from an airplane.”  She gave the address.

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be there with a crew in twenty minutes,” the officer said. 




“Captain, the Colonel will be happy that we recovered the ejector seat, don’t you think?” Airman First Class Welsh said from the back seat. 

“Damn straight, Welsh.  The Colonel hates losing equipment.  Looks bad on the reports,” Captain Knauer said.   “Besides, recovered equipment makes us look diligent, you know, like we’re doing our jobs.”

Captain Knauer looked at Airman Welsh in the rearview mirror. “And we score a few points in the performance reviews when we come up for promotions,” he added.

“Roger that, sir.  That won’t hurt one bit, will it?” Airman Peters added. 

The two Airmen were dressed in their olive-green fatigues. Captain Knauer wore his blue dress uniform with the gold winged eagle above the decorations and ribbons on his jacket.  Captain Knauer pulled their gray Plymouth Belvedere in front of the Owens house on Holly Street.  “U.S. AIR FORCE” was painted in white block letters on both sides. 

Anne led the three men to the backyard.  “My kids have been playing in the ejector seat.  I hope that’s ok,” she said. 

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Captain Knauer interjected.  “This is official property of the federal government.  You should have left it untouched where you found it.”

“Well, I didn’t know.  The kids playing with it seemed pretty harmless,” Anne said. 

“Let me explain something to you, Mrs. Owens.  Our country is involved in an armed conflict overseas.  We wouldn’t want our technology to end up in the wrong hands, ma’am.  It could be used to harm the United States,” Captain Knauer stated.  He stared down sternly at Anne through his mirrored sunglasses.

“Well, I’m so sorry.  But I guess you should have taken better care of your sensitive technology,” Anne replied.  “Anyway, here it is and as you can see, my children have not damaged anything.”

“By the way, is the pilot who ejected ok?”

“Yes, ma’am.  The pilot made a successful landing close to the target.”

Tom held Streak, who gnarred and strained on a leash.  He and Dave stood off to the side, watching the tense exchange between their mom and Captain Knauer.  Bucky remained unmoved in the ejector seat.

Captain Knauer turned to the ejector seat.  Tom saw Bucky reflected in the captain’s mirrored sunglasses, sitting stoically with the shoulder harnesses fastened. 

“All right, son, you have to get out of the seat now,” Captain Knauer instructed.  “We need to take it back to the base.”

Bucky piped right up. “No, sir.  We found this on Owens property.  That makes it ours.  And we brought it here.” 

Captain Knauer pursed his lips and exhaled.  He had not anticipated any resistance, especially from a freckled eight-year-old boy.

Captain Knauer took a deep breath, stepped toward the ejector seat and crouched down to Bucky’s eye level.  “Ok, young man, how about you and I make a deal?  You let me take the ejector seat and I’ll give you and your brothers model airplane kits.  F-102 Delta Daggers, just like the plane this seat came out of. Now, how would that be?”

Dave and Tom shrugged their shoulders and shifted their feet.  Streak howled at the strange being behind the mirrored sunglasses.  Bucky looked toward his mom, who nodded. Bucky surrendered the ejector seat to the U.S. Air Force.




The school year ended and a week later the Owens boys were in their second-floor bedroom, absorbed in building their Delta Dagger model airplanes. 

“I think I’m going to use flat paint on mine,” Tom said.  He turned to Dave. “What are you going to use?”

“I’m going with gloss.  I want to make it shine,” Dave said.  “Bucky, how about you?”

“I don’t know,” Bucky said glumly.  “Doesn’t make any difference.  That man with the sunglasses didn’t send any decals with these kits. I wanted some good decals.” 

Bucky faced his brothers. “We gave up that seat too easy.  Remember, you guys told me President Kennedy wanted us to get to the moon before the Russians. How are we going to do that now?”   

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