Into a Black Hole

I was on a C-141A trip with Phil F. when we were tasked to fly into Bien Hoa, South Vietnam one night. Not a ‘big deal.’

Upon contact with Bien Hoa Approach we were vectored to the airfield for an right-hand Base turn to final approach. Apparently there was Viet Cong (VC) activity in the area that night and they wanted to keep us in close to the airfield. In retrospect, dumb!

Once again I was flying from the left seat. Phil, in the copilot’s seat, picked up the runway off to his right and gave me insight as to when to configure, and turn. Everything was going fine, for the first part of the final turn. I was struggling to look across the cockpit to pick up the runway, while maintaining a descent and airspeed. The problem was, there was almost nothing out there off the runway to give cues as to my sink rate. No horizon, just what we call a “black hole.”

As I became totally focused on finding the runway, Phil glanced in at the instruments and saw that we were in a 60-degree descending right-bank turn! Really not good! He called it out and I immediately reduced the bank angle and added power, arresting the sink rate. Then reacquiring the runway, we landed with our further incident. We were lucky that night as many others, before us and after us, have flown into “black holes” and were not as fortunate…

As a post script: After we offloaded our cargo and took on a new load, we were taxing out for departure when we spotted a snake on the taxiway. I have always thought of it as a cobra. Maybe, or maybe not, doesn’t matter – we slid over a bit and mashed it with the nose gear…

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One Response to Into a Black Hole

  1. Tom Butcher says:

    I had a King Cobra stand up in front of me at NKP Thailand. Scared the living hell out of me! USAF of course.

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