We had just landed at Jacksonville Naval Airstation in an SH-2f Seasprite helicopter and were making a long taxi on the ground to reach a spot where we would take off again for Mayport only 15 miles to the northeast.

The Pink Plane on the Flight Line

JAX is one of the most impressive military bases in Florida and a huge naval air station with one of the largest concrete aprons I had ever seen. It looked big enough to park 300 planes on easily. JAX was also the headquarters of the Navy’s Atlantic Air Wing and the hub of aviation anti-submarine warfare on the East Coast, so there were at least six squadrons of P-3 Orions stationed there. The four-engined Orion was made by Lockheed and was a deadly sub hunter that could stay in the air for more than 10 hours.

The planes were a feature on that airfield that day. At least a dozen could be seen in a paint scheme of gleaming white on top; their bellies gray underneath. Except for one, which looked like it had been painted pink from behind the wings to the tail. As we taxied by it I keyed the intercom, “Why do you suppose they painted it pink like that?”

I was still pretty green as an SAR aircrewman and I’d just stuck my foot in my mouth. There was a long pause and then the HAC (Helicopter Aircraft Commander) in the right seat said, “Looks like somebody walked into a spinning prop. It makes a pink mist.”