PPRuNe Forums - View Single Post - Global Aviation Magazine : 60 Years of the Hercules
Old 29th Mar 2016, 09:11
  #4249 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 85
Keeping the Show on the Road

Many of the recent posts have echoed the theme of working together to keep the show on the road. Here is one example of how we used to work as a team to ensure that we could hand over a serviceable Hercules (C130 A-Model) to the crew that the following day would fly on up to Thailand or Vietnam, or both.

In the mid 1960s I had the great pleasure, as an RAF pilot, of operating with No 36 Squadron RAAF that was based at Richmond, just outside Sydney NSW. When I arrived, in 1965, the first Australian contingents were being deployed to Vietnam and our Squadron was tasked to provide regular support through 'services' operated at least weekly via Butterworth on the west coast of Malaya.

As there was confrontation with Indonesia, we couldn't fly the direct route via Darwin (this came later) so made our first day's sector Richmond - Pearce (near Perth, WA). On the second day we flew to Cocos Island for refuelling before going on up to Butterworth sneaking around the top end of Sumatra (if we got too close our 75 MHz airways marker beacon receiver would flash, reputedly from a harmonic of the Indonesian gun radar, causing us to ease out to sea just a little bit more!).

Inevitably we reached Butterworth at dusk when rays from the setting sun flickered off the three-bladed propellors - and from time to time triggered an engine fire warning! The drill was to shut down the engine and fire one shot of extinguishant into it, but not a second unless there were clear signs of flames or smoke. Generally, the warning, if it came, occurred only as we were on finals, so the remaining flight time was going to be brief.

We had no RAAF ground engineering support at Butterworth, so after we had parked the aircraft the flight engineer would make ready to inspect the engine, assisted by the captain, the loadmaster would attend to the cargo which might include perishable commodities such as fresh Australian milk, the navigator would hasten off to arrange accommodation in both Messes, and I, as the co-pilot, would go across to the RAF line engineers and borrow steps, tools, etc to enable the inspection to proceed and a replacement bottle of fire extinguishing to be installed (we always carried two spares).

It didn't matter how long the job took, for the crew that had brought the previous Hercules up the week before would take over the following morning and fly the aircraft into and within that part of Vietnam where the Australians were based, then on to Ubon in Thailand for the overnight stop (to keep the aircraft safe). When we had finished the task, the Officer's Mess bar would probably have closed, but the Sergeants' Mess would still be open and that's where we all went. The officers first removed their hats and rank badges (epaulets) before trudging through the palm trees to join the flight engineer and loadmaster. All was prearranged! On arrival, our NCO crew would take us to the senior SNCO who would formally welcome us to the Mess and invite us to have a beer. We, having learnt beforehand of this gentleman's name, would politely thank him for the welcome but decline the beer for this would already have been acquired by our crew. I had then, and have now, the greatest respect for those SNCOs for the support they gave to the aircrew who, they knew, would likely be flying to the war zone in the very near future or who had just returned from it. Fantastic support that I shall never forget! We then awaited the arrival of the next 'Service' flight from Richmond before completing whatever tasks were required and subsequently taking the aircraft back home to Richmond.
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