Written on 8/9/09:
Well I’m Back and will try to write another episode of my flying career.
I think I will go back to the busy year of 1960. I really don’t remember exactly the chronological order of these experiences but just the year.
The worst earthquake and tsunami, they say in the history of the world, but I would say the known history of the world as I don’t think they have any way of knowing the whole history.
We were still stationed at Dover AFB in Delaware and I was still flying the C-124 though later in the year I changed assignments to the C-133. We loaded up with relief supplies for Puerto Monte, Chile in Houston and had crew rests in Lima, Peru and Santiago, Chile. Another crew would continue on at each stop and we would pick up the next A/C coming through then we would shuttle between Santiago and Puerto Monte with that A/C for the rest of the time we were on that mission or till they would rotate the A/C back to the states, then after several missions we would then return to the States as other crews were worked into the system. We were amazed on our first flight into Puerto Monte to find only a 7000 ft. 150 ft wide concrete strip up and a plateau above the town with no taxiways or even a paved road connected to it. They had just recently poured the runway and for the first flight in there; they had to remove the hay and straw that they had covered it with to prevent the concrete from drying too fast. We were the first flight in that day so we landed and taxied to the end where we turned crosswise to the runway and opened our clam shell doors in the front, let down the ramps (which you could drive truck transports in or out on) and also we had an elevator in the rear of the cargo compartment with which they could also load and unload cargo. As they started unloading us another C-124 came in over the top of ours and went to the other end, turned crosswise and started unloading; he had not been on the ground very long and a third A/C landed over the top him and taxied down next to ours and did the same, then another A/C (All C-124s) Landed over the two of us and went down by the one on the other end….we had 4 C-124s on the ground at the same time. After we were all offloaded the third A/C to land took off over the top of the two at our end, then the one next to us took off going the other way over the on A/C left at that end then the next one off had to go over only one and the last had the whole runway left to themselves. It was a very interesting operation and that went on for many days. After the first day we just shuttled back and forth and rested in Santiago. There were other crews shuttling between Lima and Santiago and other crews from the States to Lima. The A/C would come in loaded to Lima change crews go right on to Santiago pick up a new crew who would take the load to Puerto Monte and bring the A/C back empty where crew would take it to Lima and another crew take it on back to the States, or wherever for another load. I don’t know exactly how long this operation lasted but I believe that we were out over 2 weeks before we came back to the states with a layover in Lima.
That was the operation: Very interesting in itself but I was starting to really confident as an experienced Flight Engineer. We had a few mechanical problems during that time. One was the Auto Pilot went out and the pilots were upset, it turns out that one C-124 had a gear collapse on landing and they had it setting off on the side of the runway; I grabbed the 2nd Engineer, we went over and took the box out of the crippled A/C and exchanged ours and luckily we had an A/P back. The Pilots were ecstatic! In fact, as I recall, I robbed quite a few small things from that broken C-124 over the time we were there. We called that cannibalizing, or midnight requisitioning; even though in this case we did it in broad daylight.
Another interesting thing about that trip was that I was only a staff sergeant. And my 2nd engineer was a master sergeant. He had just recently transferred to MATS (Military Air Transport Service) from SAC (Strategic Air Command) I was a bit intimidated at first as I thought he might be the most experienced but it didn’t take long to find out that while he had been flying for almost 20 years that he had very little actual flying time. In SAC he was on the KC-97 in flight re-fueler; they got a lot of pre-flight experience but then they would sit in the bunker waiting for an alert; they would live in that bunker for several days. They would go out daily to check the A/C over, get it ready to go and then maybe set there on alert for a week or so, when they would rotate to time off for awhile. It turned out that he had only a couple of thousand hours flying time during that 20 years. All of us in Mats who had been flying for any time, at all, had much more experience as we were getting a thousand hours each year flying all over the world with little maintenance support, while on the road, other that the Flight Engineers. When we came back to the States I was working the panel on our descent into Houston when I felt a little nibble on the #3 throttle and since I had experienced that before I informed the AC that we would probably be laying over there as we had blown and exhaust stack on that engine; everybody on board Laughed thinking there was no way I could know that but it proved to be so and we had to wait for the parts before the mechanics could get us back on the road. It was interesting that when we got back to the States the other engineer informed me that he had learned more on that one trip than he had learned in all his previous years on the KC. Several years later I had the same experience here in the Utah Air Guard while we were shooting touch and goes at the SLC airport. As soon as I felt it I told the AC that we had better stay on the ground as we had blown a stack; he didn’t want to quit but finally stopped as I strongly insisted. The other Engineer who was one of our veteran check airman went out on the wing to look at the engine while it was still at idle and was amazed to find that I was correct, so that training flight was over for the night. It was very easy for him to confirm the problem in the dark.
I am going to have to finish this story at this point; I have been without this computer all week as they were building up a new lap top for me which is finished now but I don’t have all the stuff transferred to it; Jeff is going to help me with that tomorrow and I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back to this project, so I’m going to send this before it gets lost or something in the shuffle.
I do want to say that I am ever grateful for the time I spent in the AF. I wasn’t much of a military type person but I certainly got some good training and experience which enabled me to make a descent living for many years.
I do wish I had been a better tourist and seen more of the world than just from the air; I had plenty of opportunities but just didn’t enjoy playing to tourist by myself; I thought maybe I’d be interested later when Mom could be with me but by the time I hung up my BIG wings I was not interested in traveling anymore and Mom doesn’t feel like it either; it won’t be long now till we’ll be able to go anyplace desire without wings!
Till Next Time