I was sitting “Alert” at Korat RTAFB, Thailand on 11 Apr 1974 when we were “scrambled.” As it turned out, we had to take an airman with acute appendicitis from Korat to UTapao RTAFB. It just happened that my copilot was my roommate, Alan K.
Alan had come to HC-130’s (rescue C-130’s) from WC-130’s (weather C-130’s). He had a great deal more time in C-130’s than I did at the time, but I ‘outranked’ him; therefore I was the AC (aircraft commander).
(Yes, we refueled helicopters upon occasion…) Anyway, we were ‘scrambled’ (alerted) at 1954L. At Korat, our alert commitment was to be airborne 30 minutes upon receiving notification during the day, and 45 minutes at night. That evening we launched 41 minutes after being ‘scrambled.’ (We spent 41 minutes awaiting arrival of the patient).
It turns out that the patient was suffering from acute appendicitis, and had to be air evacuated to Utapao RTAFB which had better hospital facilities. So, patient on board, off we went.
The ‘after actions’ report lists the arrival as “routing landing.” The landing in actuality was anything but ‘routine!’
Utapao RTAFB has an 11,500 foot runway. It was used for B-52 operations during the Vietnam War. That night about half of it was ‘closed’ for runway repair. Apparently they had a crane or something setting on the runway, additionally to it being torn up. To make things even more ‘interesting,’ it was night, and raining like hell. Swell! In addition, we were at “combat weight.”
I briefed the approach then reached over and tapped Alan on his arm. I motioned for him to remove the left side of his headset and asked him if he “wanted the landing.” Alan had about 10 times more experience in the C-130 than I did at the time. (I had maybe 150 hours in the C-130, at best!) “Nah,” he replied, “you’re doing fine.”
That moment defined a turning point in my flying career that I have never forgotten. It reinforced a confidence that I had in myself, and I never wavered since.
I put the airplane down on “brick one,” threw the engines into reverse and we stopped “on a dime!” The C-130 is an incredible aircraft, and that night I learned a great deal more about it.
As far as that “shoeclerk” listing the landing as “routine,” I wish he had been in the cockpit with us that night – on final during the torrential rainstorm, and when the crane came into view during roll-out! Routine! LOL….