For pilots it was all about the landing. A grease job landing
could redeem your pride after an in-flight screwup.
Conversely, an ohmygod landing
color your attitude for
mostly read the checklist and worked the radio, but it was
for them to practice the stick and rudder stuff so they could upgrade
also. Pilots swapped roles
so that when the weather and
destination were favorable, the copilot became the pilot in command and
made the landing from the right seat.
Destinations like Tan Son Nhut
, Cam Ranh Bay
, and Danang
were good for
this. They had forgiving 10,000' asphalt runways so if your
landing wasn't going quite right
, there was enough runway to
recover and get the bird down safely.
But there were also "challenging" destinations
with lousy weather, a
metal or dirt runway
, and 1/3 of the length in which to stop the
bird. Shoehorning a fully loaded C-130 into Dong
, Quang Tri
or Khe Sanh
was always "interesting" and
the aircraft commander made
these "max effort" landings
Young Aircraft Commanders
RR and I were both copilots flying C-141's
out of Travis
in 1969 and
1970. We lived in the same apartment complex on East Tabor in
Fairfield. I volunteered for C-130's and had been flying them for
a few months when he also arrived at CCK as a green AC.
Operation Lam Son 719
began in early 1971
and it was all hands on
deck. Every crew was called on to deliver the goods to
"challenging" destinations. On one of these missions, RR made a
really bad landing.
Pilots always kidded that any landing you walk away from was a good
one. And if you screwed up big time, what was the worst they
could they do to you? Send you to Vietnam?
We young pilots really respected our flight engineers. The
engineer was typically the oldest (30 or even 35 years old!) and most
experienced man on the crew. And he'd seen it all.
RR's flight engineer had seen some bad landings, but this day the landing was
bad. The airplane
was not broken, but the flight engineer was so shaken that he got off the airplane and refused to get back on it with RR
in command! I haven't heard of this kind of thing before or since.
He wouldn't even fly back to base, so the plane and crew were now
stuck at a remote field. It would be a mortar magnet if the plane
stayed overnight, so the situation was radioed back to flight
operations in Saigon. They brought in an instructor flight
engineer on the next available C-130. He flew out with RR's crew
and the flight engineer flew out on the second bird. RR and
his engineer probably had to take no-notice
, but nobody got