October 13, 1970
For two weeks I'd been trying to get my instrument check ride out of
the way, but each day I tried, the airplane du jour was so broken
it couldn't be flown.
I was finally scheduled for a check flight on a round-trip to
Vietnam--we called such a trip an "out-and-back". Our orders
were to fly to Bien Hoa
return. In addition to being a check ride, it was my first trip
as the aircraft commander and
my first flight with my own crew, so I was pumped! The flight
engineer was also
getting a check ride, and after our previous mechanical problems we
were paying especially close attention to the airplane's
condition. The airplane checked out just fine so we cranked it up.
We taxied out and the engineer brought the outboard engines up to
normal ground idle, which sped up the airplane a bit. I applied
the brakes to slow us down and nothing
I tried the brakes a second time and still
got no braking. So I
told the copilot to turn on the auxiliary hydraulic pump and select
emergency brakes. Those worked! (If this had happened
while we were landing on a short field we would have been in
trouble.) We tried normal brakes again and they worked very
erratically, so we switched back to emergency brakes and taxied back
in. We picked up some maintenance guys and did a taxi
check. This time the brakes worked just fine! We never
found out what went wrong, but since everything was working again we
pressed on out to the runway.
At CCK we were tenants on a Chinese airbase--that is Chinese as
in Republic of China (Taiwan), not People's Republic of China
(mainland). The military there was on
a high state of alert, ready to go to war at any moment. Before
we reached the runway, the Chinese scrambled their F-104's, and in a
rush to take off, one taxied under
We were carrying 21 tons of fresh vegetables for the troops in
Vietnam. To avoid refueling in Vietnam, we also carried enough
fuel for the round-trip, 18 tons. At this heavy weight we made a
very slow climbout and could only reach 18,000 feet--below the
preferred altitude for this route.
But the trip to Bien Hoa was
uneventful and I made a really good GCA (ground-controlled radar
approach) and a grease job landing. I hoped this impressed the
After a Bien Hoa heartburn hamburger I returned to the airplane to
return to CCK. But meanwhile the plane had been loaded with 2
passengers and 5 pallets of cargo whose destination was Cam Ranh Bay
So I called up Herman Billy (call
for the CCK command post) and asked what was going on. They told
me that while in Vietnam I was under the control of the Vietnam command
post (call sign Hilda). Apparently someone at Hilda had decided
could make a little stop at Cam Ranh Bay on our way back to
Taiwan! OK, whatever...
So we flew TAC VFR (visual flight rules in the clouds with radar
flight-following) to Cam Ranh
Bay, where I flew a very good VFR approach and landing. I filed a
new flight plan to CCK because the original one was only good for
returning directly from Bien Hoa. I made a disappointing ILS
(instrument landing system) approach and landing at CCK. So after
doing well all day long I ended my check ride on a down note. But
at my check ride debriefing the flight examiner had only praise
for my flying and my crew management. Hurray!
It was a funny feeling to be flying south on W300 and be able to look
out the window and see Red China.
On the way back I spent 45 minutes dividing up the flying time among
the 5 pilots because so many parts have to balance out:
- IP + CP + FP = total time
- Day + night = total time
- Day VFR + Day instrument = Total day
- Night VFR + Night instrument = Total night
- Other crew members log day and night VFR.
everything both horizontally and vertically is like a
numerical crossword puzzle. Just for myself I logged 11 different kinds
of flying time!
I signed off the forms so the crew chiefs could get their
$65 combat pay
and did up a complimentary writeup in the 781 (maintence form)
because the crew chiefs were quite helpful and the airplane was
well-maintained. Maintenance is such a
negative job that I like to say so when somebody does a good job.
Everybody writes up the bad jobs. Few write up the good jobs.