Sally’s Alley

by L. D. Alford

Sally’s Alley is a bar right off the flight line at March AFB. I always wanted to visit the place. It is one of the most famous aviation bars in the country. Today, all these small hotspots are going the way of the dinosaurs. The Air Force policies on drinking in addition to changes in the society and the overall crew force have caused many of these rare aviation icons to shut down.

I got my chance to visit Sally’s Alley when I lost a generator on a C-21 (Lear 35) that I was flying for the Air Force. There’s a lot more to the story. At the time, I was a new MP (Mission Pilot) in the C-21. The C-21 program was very new in the Air Force. I was in one of the first classes out of the RTU (Replacement Training Unit) at Scott AFB. I had previously been an MP and a flight lead in the OV-10. Because of this, my unit’s scheduling tended to partner me with pilots who needed a little experienced supervision. The pilot I was flying with at the time was a guy with some interesting issues. The first was he had the smallest bladder in the world. I’ve never known someone with so small a bladder who was a pilot. From my experience in the OV-10 my bladder was equal to at least 4 hours—that was the average mission length. The OV-10 had a relief tube, but there were reasons you didn’t want to have to use it. The most important was that most of them were very slow to drain. You could spend the better part of five minutes waiting for it to empty—when you gotta go, yah gotta go. The next was that there was no autopilot in the OV-10. That means you had to use one hand for the stick and the other for…well you get the idea. The next was the opposing problems of potential organ capture or resurge from the tube. We had one guy who got stuck in the tube at altitude and had to stay that way until he landed—ouch. Then, sometimes at low altitudes, the tube would burp—usually on you. The last reason to not use the tube was that the crew chiefs usually became irate when you returned home with a dribbling tube and they had to clean the system out. The next time the tube might not work at all. It was always better to keep it available for emergencies. This was obviously before the military issued piddle packs to everyone. So I had a well trained bladder, the pilot I was looking after didn’t.

Even though I was an MP, the other guy on the orders was the official PIC (Pilot in Command). You shared the flight time, but he was the final authority. Like I said, they put me with this guy to keep an eye on him. In addition to his small bladder, he tended to miss little things like speed and altitude limits. I think his small bladder caused a back up of all that bad stuff in his system and maybe affected his brain.

The C-21 did have a toilet. It sat secretly under the jump seat. The only problem with using it was that after you used it you had to get it cleaned out, which meant going to a base or airport with those kinds of aircraft services. Not all airports or military bases can clean a potty. Plus, the potties in the C-21 were embarrassing to use. They sat right behind the cockpit with a flimsy curtain at the front and back—no privacy. They also tended to leak and stink when used. We told our passengers about the toilets, but we didn’t encourage their use. The pilot with me used it almost every flight.

This was how small his bladder was. Once on a quick hop in the weather on the east coast, we were flying an ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach to a major airfield, and he said, “Hey, co. I have to go.”

I said, “I’ll take the approach for you.”

“No, that’s okay, just hand me a coffee cup.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“No way. Hand me a coffee cup right now.”

“Okay.” I handed a cup to him.

“Here, take the aircraft for a minute.”

“I’ve got the aircraft.”

He undid his zipper, “I’ve got the aircraft.”

“You’ve got the aircraft, pilot.”

One hand on the stick and the other with the cup, he filled the cup right to the brim. Then he tried to hand the cup to me. I shook my head, “There is no way I’m going to touch that.”

He continued to fly the approach all the way to landing while holding a completely filled cup of…It was good he had reasonably good hands. I do think he spilled some on himself—I wasn’t watching. I was watching the runway and the approach. He didn’t try to bust airspeed or altitude limits on that approach. For that I was very happy.

This was the guy on the way to March with me. We had a plane full of passengers. We were supposed to drop them off at March and reposition for another flight. As usual, he had to use the toilet on the aircraft. I told him, “Hey, March doesn’t have any services. We can’t get the toilet cleaned out there.”

“That’s okay,” he replied, “We can get it serviced when we get back to Offutt” Offutt was our home station.

He cranked out the potty, pulled the curtains, and the plane was filled with a distinctive stench. His bladder wasn’t the only thing that was small. So there we were with a filled potty flying into March AFB that had no flight line services for toilets and the temperature on the ramp was over 110 degrees F. This will become important later.

I flew the landing for that leg. On final approach we heard a bang and lost the right generator. We had some other strange indications before tower called, “Swift 61, you’re right engine is trailing smoke.”

My pilot became very agitated, “Should we shut it down? Do you think it’s okay.”

“Just look at the engine instruments. Everything is still running great. Let’s just land and let the fire trucks take care of it.”

“Okay.” He completed the checklists—he was usually good at that.

After we landed, the fire trucks chased us to the ramp and opened the right engine cowling. By that time, we had evacuated the aircraft and when the fire department called everything safe, I went over to check out the problem. The right hand generator had exploded. There didn’t seem to be any damage to the aircraft or the engine, but the generator was toast and that meant we were stuck for the night.

After we called home for help, we locked up the aircraft, went to billeting, got a VOQ (Visiting Officer Quarters) room, and went to Sally’s.Alley.

Sally’s Alley was just as I imagined it. It was an old style bar with heavy dark wood, a real wooden bar, and wooden booths. The ceiling was covered with dollar bills signed by crews and pilots. The walls had patches and scarves hung all over them. It was decorated in late WWII and fit perfectly with the aviator experience, except…there was hardly anyone there—oh well. We hung for a while and yakked with Sally. Then I had the great idea that we should sing Sally’s song to her. I pulled the other pilot up on a table and we sang Sally’s song:

“Sally in the alley sifting cinders.

Lifted her leg and farted like a man.

The blast from her bloomers broke six windows,

And the cheeks of her ass went clap, clap, clap.” At this point the aviator is supposed to clap his hands three times.

Sally didn’t like her song. I’m not sure why. We couldn’t get the rest of the guys to join in—they were afraid Sally would cut them off or do something to their beer. We left. Sally’s wasn’t everything it was made out to be.

The next morning, GLASCO (the C-21 contract maintenance) came out and fixed the aircraft. We were fragged (scheduled) to RTB (Return to Base) to Offutt. That was a good thing. By the time the aircraft was fixed it had sat on the ramp in 110 degrees for over 24 hours. The interior was a good 140 degrees. The potty was cooked and everything in it. Because of the smell, we couldn’t have used the aircraft to fly any passengers anywhere. Our maintenance probably had to remove and replace the potty. I don’t think they completely removed the smell from the plane for six months—and I had to fly back in it.

I think one selection criteria for pilots should be bladder and colon capacity and control. So much for Sally’s.

The author is a retired Air Force test pilot. His other aviation, technical, and fiction writing can be referenced at

– The End –

March Air Reserve Base – Sally’s Ally is somewhere right off the flightline

The tower at March ARB and fire trucks

AF C-21A (Lear 35)

C-21A Cockpit