In order to qualify as an
aircraft commander I had to learn the Vietnam way of doing things,
practice landing big airplanes on little airfields, then
check ride to prove it.
When I arrived in country there was a bit of a lull
and not many missions to short fields, so my checkout took longer than
All C-130 pilots had received months of training
and Pope AFB
some did not pass the in-country checkout. Instead of becoming
aircraft commanders they spent their tours in operations jobs and flew
only for currency requirements.
Danang and Hue, July 31
12:30 ayem in Rocket City (Danang). I finally
reasonably well if I do say so myself. My
instrument crosscheck is still a little slow.
Now at Hue. As we
came in I
noticed somebody (hopefully the good guys) lobbing rockets into a
nearby dark hillside. Hue has virtually no support facilities for
airplanes and as is customary at all such bases, we cuff one prop
to the max blade angle) so that if we can't get our engines
started normally we could get a buddy start
("airstarting" that engine
with the propwash of another airplane positioned directly in front).
Waking Up on Top of a C-130, August 1
back to Tan Son Nhut
about 7 this
morning with eyeballs like
sandpaper. It took
20 minutes to taxi in because we were taxiing in the opposite direction
of most traffic--most people here fly only in the daytime.
We had an
expected aerial port delay at Cam
crawled up on top of the airplane and sacked out. And it's
disorienting to awake at dawn lying atop a C-130 and wonder where you
After stops at Cam Ranh,
Quinhon, and Phu
Cat we headed for
Pleiku. At Phu Cat it had been completely clear. Just
mountain at Pleiku they were calling the weather 200' overcast with 1/4
mile visibility. We shot a GCA approach down to minimums (300')
then went missed approach without ever glimpsing the runway!
First Instrument Approach, August 2
Returning from Pleiku to Cam Ranh. I flew the leg from Phu Cat to
Pleiku today. Like yesterday it was low overcast at Pleiku, but
this time we broke out at 400' and landed. Not the world's best
approach & landing, but it was the first instrument approach I'd
made since April!
Homeward (which is to say Tan Son Nhut)-bound and all
of a sudden we're skimming along the water at 200' watching an
airstrike on the beach.
Djamap August 5
Djamap was about 10 miles from the Cambodian border. It was also
known as Bu Gia Map and Firebase Snuffy. It had been abandoned
four years earlier, then reactivated for the 1970 Cambodian
incursion. The place is now a nature preserve.
just departed Djamap
for Tan Son Nhut.
We took in a combat
team and an adverse terrain
forklift and brought out an
airplane-full of pallets. Djamap was just our first stop of
the day--the fun has just begun. Djamap
is a 3600' dirt
strip about 10 miles
It's on route 309 on your
Esso roadmap. It's the one that's marked "NOT USABLE".
The flick The
Berets was based on a battle that
occurred at Djamap when a lot of guys were killed. The place
was abandoned, then re-occupied when the Cambodian operation began.
only have about 2 frags a day going to short fields now, but you have
to get a certain amount of short field work to
complete a SEA checkout. Sigh.
Bad Weather, Good Day: August 18
had a good flight today. We had a one ayem show and tho I only
got 4 hours' sleep last night I felt pretty good. I flew the legs
from TSN to Phu Cat, Chu
Hue/Phu Bai to Danang, then Phu Cat to
TSN. We had a good bit of weather and I did a pretty good job if
I do say so. Woodie Woodworth (and the whole crew) is a pleasure
with. I feel quite lucky to have him as an IP.
At Hue the weather
was 600' overcast with rain and we were in the soup. The TACAN
off the air and radar said they couldn't paint us because of the rain
(what good is a radar if it can only be used when the weather's
The one remaining instrument approach is an ADF/NDB,
I made a zig-zag to get lined up
with the runway and got the beast down safely albeit I landed rather
long. It was minimum weather for an ADF and I think I did a
pretty good job.
The departure was hairy too. We got a rather
complicated clearance via the 340 degree track to the RS radiobeacon
(ADF). The beacon was some off-the-wall unit not even listed in
the aviation publications. Then as we got airborn and were about
to go into the soup again they changed our clearance via the 340 degree
track to the OF radiobeacon (which we'd never heard of either) and for
a minute it was all assholes and elbows retuning ADF's and finding out
where this other station was as we mucked around in the soup.
wrote an Operational Hazard Report (OHR) on Hue
Departure Control for
changing a clearance at a very critical time. They had ample
opportunity to give us the change before we got airborn and into the
The official response to my OHR was that the pilot should always be
prepared for changes. Thanks.
was a pretty satisfying
flight. Some IP's won't allow their students to make decisions,
but that's half the job of being an AC. Wooodie, I'm glad to say,
let me do things however I wanted short of crashing the airplane.
And I think I made pretty good decisions.