|20 Jul 1970||McGuire AFB, NJ||Dover AFB, DE||70021||0.5 hrs|
|20 Jul 1970||Dover AFB, DE||Elmendorf AFB, AK||70021||7.6 hrs|
|21 Jul 1970||Elmendorf AFB, AK||Yokota AB, Japan||60146||8.0 hrs|
|23 Jul 1970||Yokota AB, Japan||Cam Ranh Bay AFB, Vietnam||40613||5.8 hrs|
|23 Jul 1970||Cam Ranh Bay AFB, Vietnam||Yokota AB, Japan||40613||3.0 hrs|
|24 Jul 1970||Yokota AB, Japan||Elmendorf AFB, AK||70008||7.4 hrs|
|26 Jul 1970||Elmendorf AFB, AK||Glenview NAS, IL||40616||6.0 hrs|
|26 Jul 1970||Glenview NAS, IL||Andrews AFB, MD||40616||1.7 hrs|
|26 Jul 1970||Andrews AFB, MD||McGuire AFB, NJ||40616||0.8|
|Total flying time||40.8 hrs|
- This mission was my initial Aircraft Commander checkride. I was listed as the Aircraft Commander on the flight orders and I was responsible for making all operational decisions during the trip, but I had a crusty old Major who had been flying longer than I had been aware of my surroundings on the jump seat. His goal for the trip was to torment me with constant questions and "what if" scenarios.
- Although I had been flying into Vietnam on a regular basis for over a year, this had to be the time that Cam Ranh's power would fail while we were on final approach. With no runway lighting or nav aids and in the middle of the night, we had no choice but to execute a missed approach and take up a holding pattern over a nav aid which was still operational. Fortunately, the power was restored in about 45 minutes and we were able to return to Cam Ranh and land. Another 5 minutes and we would have had to divert to Saigon or Bien Hoa.
- There were two general scenarios on the return portion of one of these missions. One could leave Vietnam and go to Kadena AB on Okinawa (at that time, the Garden Spot of the Pacific) and return home with a nearly empty aircraft, or one could go back to Yokota AB and return home as an AirEvac, carrying the seriously wounded GIs back to hospitals in the U.S. Naturally, on my checkride, I drew the much more difficult and demanding of these choices.
- AirEvac missions were heart-rending enough when one saw the condition of the "passengers", but there were also some additional operational requirements which had to be met. Many of the injured could not use oxygen masks and the medical personnel (we carried at least one physician and a staff of specially trained nurses) would have been severely hampered in coping with medical emergencies enroute with oxygen masks in place, so we had to have enough fuel to descend from any point enroute to 5000 feet and fly at that altitude to a suitable airfield which could care for the patients. Since a jet engine's fuel consumption increases drastically at low altitude, in a Pacific crossing this could have been a problem to almost any aircraft except a C-141.
- Just to make my checkride a challenge, Elemendorf decided to close their long instrument runway in honor of our return. This necessitated what is called a "circling approach" (at night, of course - MAC pilots rarely saw the sun from an aircraft cockpit on the westbound trips). This approach is accomplished by flying the published approach to the main runway which was closed, leveling at a safe altitude, and then visually flying the approach to the open runway. Elmendorf adds to the excitement with high terrain to limit your maneuvering area. My self-criticism in the log book indicates I landed a little "long" (too far down the runway) - so far the only error I thought I had committed on the checkride.
- Our next stop was an airfield I had never seen before - a naval air station complete with a non-standard runway, non-standard approach lighting, and very narrow taxiways. The Navy definitely marches to a different drummer.
- When we finally got to Andrews, I was starting to breathe a sigh of relief since I had only another 45 minutes to home at McGuire. Although I knew the long landing at Elemendorf would certainly be the subject of a long post-mission debriefing from my mentor/tormenter Instructor Pilot Major, I was completely destroyed when he told me to ride the jump seat for the last leg. I was certain that he was going to bust me and that I had failed my Initial AC check.
- That Major (I wish I could remember his name) let me sit and stew in the jump seat to McGuire, through the aircraft parking and securing, and all the way into the debriefing room. We sat down and he proceeded to tell me that I had just turned in the best Initial AC check he had ever given. The only criticism was that I landed a tad long at Elmendorf, but that it was a safe approach and landing under difficult circumstances (a few months later another C-141 flew that same approach and parked on the hardstand with pieces of evergreen tree embedded in its wing). That was it - the debriefing only lasted about a minute. I was now a fully-qualified C-141A Aircraft Commander!
Revised: 24 March 1999