RTU was the acronym for Replacement Training Unit. I think it was
called this because they wanted to replace our previous concept of
flying with a different one: combat airlift.
Combat airlift is all about delivering the goods to places that are
inaccessible to airline-type airplanes. That means landing on
short, unprepared airfields, and when even that isn't possible, doing
First Day of Flying, April 27,
My first landing was more of a crash-and-dash than a
practiced backing the airplane and did a windmill taxi start (which was
sort of fun).
Valuable practice. In just a few months, backing the airplane
and doing windmill taxi starts
pretty routine. But that was the easy part.
Landing in the Dirt, April 29 - May 3, 1970
That was the hard part. To land on short dirt airfields
what was euphemistically called
"max effort" landing technique. We flew the approach to the
few knots above the power-on stall speed to minimize touchdown speed
and landing roll.
In my previous flying we strived for grease job landings in the first 1000' of a 10,000' runway
new requirement was to touch down in the first
of a 3000' runway
. To put that 97'
airplane into that first 100', you don't try for a grease job--just
on into the ground.
While approaching and landing you're focusing hard on flying
that airplane, but you must immediately
force your brain to re-focus on stopping
it. When the
main gears touch the ground (and before the nose gear touches down) you
have one second to get on the brakes and put the props into
reverse pitch. The deceleration is reassuringly strong as you
slow that 50-ton beast. Not much runway remains and the props are
creating a dust cloud that is
quickly catching up to you
the dust cloud will overtake you and you
won't be able to tell whether you're going off the side
of the runway. (Did I
mention that it was only half the width of the airplane?) If you don't brake hard enough
you'll go off the end of the runway
. So you
reduce the power "just
enough" until you stop the airplane. And then your legs shake.
After my first in-the-dirt landing at Ft. Bragg's Normandy Landing
Zone I wrote this to Gloria:
God had meant for this beast to be landed on 3000' of dirt
He would have equipped it with tennis shoes or at least a tail hook.
The Normandy LZ was about 1/3 the length of a commercial airport and
made of red clay. Lots of C-130's
practiced there and each time one landed or took off, the runway
disappeared in a dust storm for about 30 seconds--not a
problem unless you are about to touch down.
In this picture
the dust cloud is
overtaking the airplane and the copilot has put his hands on his head
shouting, "We're going off the end!" Or maybe he's just holding
the headset closer to his ears to drown out the noise.
Landing on a short field at night is tougher because you lack visual
of nice approach lights and runway lights there are a pair of lights
100' before the runway, a pair of lights at the approach end, and
another pair 100' down--about 1 candlepower each. You just
descend down through the darkness toward the middle set of
lights. Suddenly the landing lights illuminate the ground
and two seconds later you drive the airplane into the dirt.
"Any landing you walk away from is a good one."
Troop Drop, May 6, 1970
It's midnight--just got down from my flight--what a gaggle. We
had 7 aircraft in the formation. Only 2 got airborn
together. 3 had maintenance problems, we were late getting our
paratroopers, and there was one runway abort. We just flew the
low-level & drop by ourselves--probably just as well.
Nighttime at St. Mere LZ May 9, 1970
By the time we
got back to Pope, one guy had a landing gear problem and had to chain
the gear down, another had a runaway trim, another had a fluctuating
prop, another had false indication of a crash position indicator
unlocked, and we had a smoldering VOR set in back. I think every
aircraft had something wrong. Nothing dangerous, but just a pain
in the the neck. On ours, the
loadmaster disconnected the cannon plugs to the recalcitrant dynamotor
and that cured the problem (we still had to land and let the fire chief
examine it and get the wing commander's approval to take off again).
we took off and... latched onto the wing of another guy near the
drop zone. His copilot turned on the green light too soon and
they dropped about a half mile short of the DZ. The LZ's were
because they were too muddy, but I got some good landings in at Pope.
After a successful night troop drop we headed for St. Mere LZ for night
After we'd made 2 landings another aircraft
had a momentary fire warning on takeoff run. He
asked us to go back to Pope & bring some maintenance men out to St.
Mere to fix it.
Meanwhile there's always a fire engine at the LZ just in
case. The firemen decided to check things out and got the fire
engine mired up to the axles in mud. So we got the ALCE (AirLift
Control Element) to send out a wrecker for the fire engine, a guard for
the airplane, and a bus for the crew.
Last flight at RTU May 15, 1970
maintenance reasons, so 3 of us pressed on. Half way
route our elevator trim failed, but we got the drop done OK and we
landed OK using the emergency trim.
cranked up, so our navigators jumped on that one. I still needed
an assault landing to complete the check, so we hopped onto the #3
airplane. I got in the seat and made a max effort takeoff.
About 20 seconds later the nacelle overheat light illuminated.
That's grounds for an engine shutdown. But the light went out
shortly thereafter and we pressed on.
I made a
landing and Pope and it was a good thing we did, because as we taxied
off the runway the engineer noticed massive hemmoraging of hydraulic
fluid from the flap well. That airplane must have had just one
takeoff & landing in it.
But we did
complete the check and
that's what counts. The flight examiner is going to Eglin AFB
next week PCS, so he was thoroughly FIGMO and didn't even ask me any
questions... What a piece of cake!