“…Take the Bus!”

Just after I upgraded to IP (instructor pilot) in the HC-130 I would be assigned to fly 4-hour ‘locals’ with various pilots requiring currency and the like. Often we would take off and fly to one of several other bases in Thailand: UTapao, Thakli, Ubon, Udorn NKP and so forth. We would ‘shoot’ a couple instrument approaches to either a low approach or a touch and go, then head off to another base for the same. It was kind of fun, and beat just flying around the flagpole.

One afternoon I was set up as an IP for a 1000 hrs. 4-hour sortie. As it was, we really didn’t have that much to accomplish on this particular sortie – so we decided to head South to UTapao and have lunch. And while at lunch, we just might get in to some shopping at the local on-base jewelry story. They were known for “good prices” there.

The navigator on our flight that day was ‘Buck.’ He was an ‘adequate’ navigator with a reputation for continually being late, and also for being a bit of a ‘whiner.’ By this time, I had had a couple of experiences with his tardiness for alert. In addition, my roommate had spoken to me about Buck being late quite a bit. By now, everyone was just getting tired of always waiting on Buck!

When we got to UTapao around 1100 or so, we landed and shut down. Then I specifically briefed the crew that we would be departing precisely at 1300 hrs. I even looked at Buck and asked him directly, “Buck, what time are we leaving?”

“One o’clock,”” he replied, in front of the crew. And, off we went.

At 1300 we all were strapped in the Herk; everyone except Buck! So, I called for the “Engines Starting Checklist.”

“Sir,” someone said, “we don’t have our navigator.”

“So what,” I replied, “I don’t need him!” I wasn’t pissed, just resigned. And I wasn’t going to stand for his callous attitude anymore.

Once we were airborne I contacted the squadron and asked for our squadron commander. Once he checked on freq I briefed him on what I had done – I left Buck at UTapao.

The Boss didn’t seem overly concerned at all. I think he had heard of Buck’s lackadaisical attitude toward missing report times. So I pressed on back to Korat.

Upon returning I caught up with the Boss at the Stag Bar later that afternoon. He bought me a beer and I asked about Buck. He laughed! He then went on to tell me that right after my call to him, Buck called and asked that we be turned around to go back and pick him up. Then the boss told me that he told Buck “to take the bus!”

Thai Baht Bus

Now that wasn’t going to be an easy task, or a ‘pleasant’ ride by any means. Usually overcrowded, hot and noisy – and Buck was in a flight suit! The baht bus from UTapao ran to Bangkok, then stopped. Buck had to wait until the next day to catch another bus ‘upcountry’ to Korat. But he was “okay;” his wife had an apartment in Bangkok.

The next day he rolled into the squadron, somewhere early afternoon. He came up to me and told me, “I don’t appreciate you leaving me behind.”

I just stared at him and replied, “I don’t appreciate you continually being late for reports. Your turn!”

He glared at me for a moment, then turned and walked away. And that was the last time I know of him ever being late – for anything!

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