The PROPEOPDEMREP "President's Own" Office of
Diego Garcia Air Force Base in Action!
PHOTOS FROM 8 YEARS FLYING BACK AND FORTH TO
DIEGO GARCIA AND MASIRAH ISLAND OMAN WHILE I WAS IN
MILITARY AIRLIFT COMMAND (THE PREDECESSOR TO AIR MOBILITY COMMAND)
BTW, ALL THE C-141S ARE EITHER IN MUSEUMS OR PART OF YOUR NEW CHEVY...
THEY ARE ALL GONE, AND YOU CAN FIND OUT WHERE AT C-141 HEAVEN
The future President for Life of the PPDRDG with his C-141 on a pre-revolutionary visit to the island, 1987.
I was a C-141 "Star Lizard" pilot from 1979-1987, and although I had over 3,500 hours in the airplane (and another 1,500 in Boeing 737s), I rarely took photos of my comings and goings, even on Diego. In fact, I never took enough photos of what I was doing in the USAF, because somehow I always figured I'd get a chance to go back and take them some other time! After DG however, I was sent off to headquarters jobs, and never "flew the line" again, and so missed taking that final, best photo. So, you'll have to put up with the ones I did get, shown below.
WHY IN THE HELL WERE
In the year I was on Diego, and in the preceding 8 years of flying in and out, nothing else of importance happened! Here's the way it worked: Military Airlift Command C-5s and C-141s brought cargo and people to Diego Garcia, mostly via Clark Air Base in the Philippines, but some via the Atlantic/Mediterrainian route (through Egypt to Nairobi or Mombassa, or if the Sudanese were acting up that year, via Jordan, Saudi and Bahrain on contract DC-8s). Then the cargo was resequenced and flown to Masirah Island, off the East Coast of the Sultanate of Oman, where a USN supply ship crew would laboriously offload the aircraft, break down the pallets by hand, sling them under a helo and fly them out to the ship. Since there were no 463L pallets stockpiled at Masirah, the "retrograde" cargo had to be built up, again by hand, on the same pallets the inbound cargo came in on. In the early '80s the process took about 6 hours on the apron before the upload was complete, and the crew headed back to Dodge. NASA has a great photo posted on their oceanography web site of Masirah Island showing the wake of the USS Enterprise off the southeast coast. (There's also lots of other great island photos, including Diego's).
In those 6 hours, the C-141 crew often got to ride out to the supply ship in the chopper. The crews on the supply ships were always very helpful and had remarkably good morale, considering that sometimes they'd been away from home for six months or more, and had only had 3 or 4 port liberties in that time! I guess they lived by the old "Joy through Work" concept - they sure as hell had a lot of work. The helo pilots told me they just quit logging time when they hit 120 hours per month (the max time they were supposed to fly), and just kept on flying. Some guessed they were flying 150 hours per month, every month.
Sometimes, the whole battle group would be swinging at anchor off the coast, and we could hitch a ride out to the carrier. I got to tour the USS RANGER there on one of my early trips to Masirah. The whole group was right there about 5 miles off the coast. They were anchored in a row, with the current perpendicular to the line, so the ships were all parallel to each other. I asked the air boss if we could shoot an approach to the Ranger's TACAN, or get a GCA from their radar, but he politely demurred (actually it was more like "Hell NO!") Apparently a few months earlier a B-52 had gotten a GCA to a carrier in the EASTPAC, and everyone was told to knock off such shenanigans. However he had no problem with us "flying by" the group after take off as long as we talked with him on the radio, so when we left, I just "trooped the line" at about 500 feet above the water, and maybe a half mile off their bows. Probably not very impressive to the brown shoe fighter pilots on the RANGER, our big old lumbering C-141 in the pre-CATS days.
Everybody I knew always flew over or by the supply ships, usually at the request of the Captain or XO. It was just our little way of saying to those hard working, forgotten squids out there on Gonzo Station that we cared enough about them to give them a big, lumbering, wing-waggle at the end of a hard day's work. The Captain of the USS SHASTA took a video of us flying over the ship ("make sure you clear the masthead, its 162 feet off the water"). If you read this, Captain, e-mail me - I'd love to get a copy of that flick......
Unfortunately, I can't accurately say how often I was out at Masirah, but I think it was a half dozen times or more. Considering an "Oman Turn" was a 70+ flying hour, 10 day trip, those six trips would represent about 700 of my 3,500 hours in the C-141, quite a bit more than the average line pilot. The reason I'm not sure how often I went out was that the Air Force computerized all our flight records, and I never bothered keeping my own record until November 1981. I actually had 2,700 flying hours before I started keeping my own log book showing tail numbers, other crew members, and most importantly where we went! I'd been flying the C-141 for a over 1,000 hours by that time and looking at those pencil notes in my "MAC Purse" I see I flew out to Diego 15 times and up to Oman twice in the 49 months after that that date. If the ratio held, I guess I went out another 6 times to Diego in '79-'81, but I know I went up to Masirah several times during that period from Jun. of 79 through Oct. 81 (after which I started keeping a log).
Here are some photos I took on a mission to Masirah (in 1981 I think) when I was an Instructor Pilot in the 8th Military Airlift Squadron. The supply ship was the USS SHASTA. After this run to Masirah, we flew a support mission to the SHASTA at Masroor, Pakistan, and were the first U.S. Military flight into Pakistan after they sacked and burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in 1979 (concurrently with the Iranian takeover of the Embassy in Tehran. Although the Pakistanis didn't take anyone hostage, two US Marine Guards were killed while protecting American Soil there at the Embassy. Unfortunately, as usual, I didn't have any extra film, or had some other lame excuse for not taking photos up at Masroor. Sorry.
SPECIAL UPDATE 27 OCT 03:That's a U.S. Navy C-2 COD (for Carrier Onboard Delivery) on the ramp behind 50280. There was often a COD waiting at Masirah for the people we brought in, if they were important enough for the carrier on station to need immediately. Later on, when I was on Dodge in '87-'88 the Navy used S-3s for COD, and flew direct from DG to the battle group, and so Masirah became a lonely, cargo only stop. The crewmembers on the ramp are MSgt Dallas (flight engineer on the left of the photo) and Capt. Rittenhouse, who was getting a "Route Familiarization Flight" (practice for his imminent Aircraft Commander checkride). Giving "route fams" was my primary responsibility as Chief Instructor Pilot of the 8th MAS.
From: "David Goss" <email@example.com>
So CINCMAC decided to prove that that he was part of the Army's Air Land Battle Doctrine cheer leading team and would risk big expensive jet airlifters when the war started; in fact, he would train all the MAC crews how to cross the FEBA to put whole battalions of paratroopers or other bullet stoppers behind Russian lines in support of the Army's then-fashionable, but ultimately discredited "AirLand Battle Doctrine." Each C-141 wing went from 2 airdrop-qualified crews per squadron to 12, and the remaining 24 "strat" crews in each squadron would learn how to navigate low level and land at the bases secured by the preceding dirt darts. "Selected" pilots were sent to the MAC CATS at Nellis AFB, NV. I was among the select few. I was all fired up about CATS, believed in it, and so on. Looking back, I realize I was probably sent because other pilots (the ones with professional futures) were busy that month or needed to play a round of golf with the wing commander the weekend the class started. Just kidding, Col. Tenoso (retired as Lt. Gen. in '97). I guess I just spent 20 years or so getting snookered into lots of hard work by Colonels who today don't remember my name! Oh well. In my next reincarnation, I'll know better. At least I got a real cool patch out of the deal:
Like I said, I really believed in CATS, and figured 50%, maybe 65% of us would actually get across the FEBA, thanks to my brilliant instruction. Or maybe it would have just been during the reloading periods for the Russian missile crews. Anyway, I really thought CATS mattered, and that everybody should think combat every day. So, when things got boring in the fall of 1987 after the War with Iran (Earnest Will), I decided to ask various crew members I'd trained if they wouldn't mind practicing a "low escape maneuver" on their way back to Clark AB in the Philippines. This essentially is a low maneuvering turn to avoid being seen by enemy radar by staying below the radar thus hiding in the earth's curvature shadow. I then proceeded to take some videos of the flights, and the photos you see below. The crews were more than happy to oblige, as we all (in the lower ranks out there on the fringes of the empire) believed at the time we would be called upon to use these skills shortly over Ishfahan or Tehran.
In the series of photos below, the pilots, who as I remember (but would never swear) were Capt. Dave Fillipini and Lt. Col. Gary Keethler (there were two separate maneuvers photographed) went on to speed up the lagoon side of the west arm of the atoll, over flew the yacht club, accelerating to around 300 Kts., and then did a steep pull up maneuver over downtown. After the second call from Captain Barker, the NSF Commander, complaining of the disruption of a regatta, I stopped asking for the fly-bys, and things went back to being boring on DG.
As for CATS, the part where the strat crews were trained in it died shortly after Congress approved the purchase of the C-17, and was not used in Desert Storm. However, the airdrop buildup and training was instrumental in the invasion of Panama in 1989, when over 25 drop zones were used simultaneously. From my personal observations during OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, no C-141s entered the AOR. A sad, slow end for a beautiful old girl.
There was in fact, one other use for Diego Garcia in those days. You needed to stop somewhere for fuel on your way to other interesting destinations. Ever wonder how the mudmen of Afghanistan got the equipment they needed to turn the tide of the Soviet's "airwar" up there? Did you really think they got their stuff shipped out in tramp steamers, and carried in a caravan of camels and yaks? Do you think they might still use DG for the same or similar purposes today?
My name is Harold Humphries. 65-0256 had less than 300 hours when I was assigned with 6 others to crew on her in October 1966. Wet behind the ears, the first day on the tarmac. Lou Caricalla, my boss, was the crew chief of 65-0256 at Travis, when she came through, with wounded, going to Texas to the burn center. Lou told me just go in and open the rear troop doors, then to jump out and help hook the hose to refuel. Easy, right? All I remember is seeing the guys with burns so bad, the only thing white was the white in their eyes. Don' t remember jumping down. Grew up fast!
The best four years of my life. 256 had over 3300 hours by 1970. In 1997, I went to an air show in las Vegas and she was there. The major told me she had seen 65-0256 at Mc Cord AFB. [editor's note: When they moved the C-141s out of Travis, they must has put her at McChord. I only flew her once, out in the system, from Clark to DG to Masirah Feb. 11-16, 1982, and she was a Travis bird then.]
In 1967 65-0256 took Bob Hope on his Christmas show. The winds were high all night before it was to leave for LA to pick up him and his crew. Engine #1 cover hook has been beating up all staters and roters, we pulled off all the engine covers, had to use a broom handle to slow it down. Called the engine shop to measure the damage. Jesus Christ, you thought the President was flying on it. Every General on the base pulled up. An E-9 under stress gave a go to go. A buck Sergent Red X'd it. We never changed a engine so fast, in about 1 hour, but could not trim it, because of the wind.
During Tet 1968, 256 came back to Travis after 3 week in the system with the air pack stuck in cold position - you'll love this - would not shut off, would not respond to any thing. Cold air full blast. An 8 hour job to change the pack out. The maintance officer told me it had a mission before it ever came back, it came back full of only dead boys, full, top to bottom. We were told just get enough fixed to go. All the tacs were out, CADC, one radio was working, plus the cold air problem. We got most of radio, radar etc. fixed, washed out the inside as one of the metal coffins leaked. Reloaded with supplies. The maintance officer a major, plus the Squadron Commander, and he signed off the forms. He told me not to fix the air pack, it was going with as it was. If the new crew had a problem, to let him know. Well, this 1st Luey was a little put out with the cold air. I called the major, he told them to put on their cold weather gear and shut up... As we blocked it out you could see the blast of cold air just pour down the pilot window.
During Tet, we were running out of flight crews, and had to used some reserves. Those guys were from WWII, and 256 had came back fuel leaks, rudder pedal steering hydrolic leaks, but these guy, they just wanted to fly. It was a minium of one or two NORS [Not Operationally Ready - Supply, i.e., no spare parts available] aircraft on the gound. We had 60 C-141s at Travis and they were all out. Remember it was Tet, plus the Korea crisis.
65-0255 and 65-0257 were also in our flight, we 250 to 260 in our flight. In 1968, during a local night training mission, 0257 doing night drops, and had a jeep that was not secured on pallet correctly. During the release, the pallet and jeep came out standing up right, took out rudder hydro system, riped the pressure door out, and damaged the ramp. The loadmaster crapped in his pants, and 0257 was on the ground for a year, As we had to baby sit her. GNORs. The factory did all the repairs. The poor crew chief was a former B-52 crew chief. He was assiged to her after she was grounded, and he worked his butt off to get her up. Being GNors it had the lowest priority. It took a month after the factory finished to get it flying again. Day after day, it was one thing after another. It would abort at take off, over heat this, warning light that, this leaked, this was missing. This poor thing was stripped. We all had to help. We would sit in the truck, waiting to see if would abort, and it always did. The poor flight crew, was a training flight crew, that was assiged to shake her down. We got know them very, very well. Man did we party after she finally pulled up her landing gears.
0255 blew an inboard tire on take off. Took out outboard. The pilot could of not done a better job. He jettisoned the fuel and transferred over to the left wing. Landed on the left side (on the good side) and came to a stop, just to drop the right side down. The problem was low air pressure. The tires were not checked.
One early morning in 1969, blocked out 0256, we had just switched to plastic pitot covers, from canvas. The flight engineer was not using his check list. Forgot to take off the pitot covers (was not on my check list). The plastic melted inside. No airspeed. Believe me, they had to send out a chaser to give information to come back and land. I thought of only how I was going to pay for a C-141 at $350 a month.
Travis was a very busy base, we also had the 5th bomb wing and a C-131 squardon. When they had a alert. the base came alive. KC-135s taking off every 30 secound, then the 52's. We also were on standby. I loved it. The C-5A's were just being built, they were not there yet. The base was building the hangers etc., when I got out.
Also, Just a few months ago, remember the Alaskian Air DC-9 that when down off the coast of California? My first thought when they said the pilot radiod a stabizier problem was that we had a the same problem with the worm gear in C-141s. In fact a McChord one stripped out a gear coming out of Camrahn Bay. We had to pull the tube off and check for metal, and put in new desiged fitting to lube. The whole fleet had to be refitted. In the early days, the pressure door and ramp had a lot of probems because of heavy use. We did not have a lock system, we had incorret readings, the factory had to modify the locks so the loadmaster could inspect each lock on the ramp and plus there was new cam lock along the pressure door, plus a net.
They also put in an All Weather Landing System. I don't think the pilots trusted it [editor's note: I never did]. We knew how to preflight it, but it never seem to prefight correctly. The factory techs never seemed to know what to do with it. The toilet aways caused probems too - it leaked. I knew 256 like my daugther - I always had a CADC on order before it came back. We worked the crew chief system and eventually I had 6 others working for me. I would get the call at Clark. I would have to call my crew. As the war boiled down we would have to double up on other crews, since every one was getting out.
Every one I worked with loved it. I'm still in touch with Harland Hall. We worked together. He stayed up in the Northern California area. He and his wife kept a eye on my son when he was in the Navy for me. He was a fight enigeer on a C-130 for the Navy. Harland would have him over for dinner. Give me updates. He should of stayed in - had great job. He joined the AF reservse. The Air Force was good to me. I was a SSgt under four years.
Harold's latest news: 09/13/00 - found 65-0256 at Wright
she is a C model now. On her way to total upgrade with all the
and whisles. 65-0257 is on display at March mususum in Califoria,
retired. She'll miss the boneyard.
September 2008 update: The last C-141 flight took place when 66-0177 flew to her permanent home at the USAF Museum on May 6, 2006. All the C-141s were sent to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB AZ and broken up and sold for scrap - the ones pictured above and about 100 more - except some fuselages used for training at various tech schools, and these:
- Dover AFB DE Museum.
Read everything you ever wanted to know about C-141s at Mike Novak's C-141 Heaven!
The airplanes in the above webpage article wound up this way:
- Destroyed in a mid-air collision with 66-0142 over Montana, 30 Nov
with the loss of all crewmembers. Flying hours:
See photos of her and a description of the accident here.
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This, and everything else I write and every photo I produce is copyrighted by Ted A. Morris, Jr.