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Yet Another War Story (long)


YAWS: A rare tropical skin disease (really!). However, in this case,
it means "Yet Another War Story."

Q:  What's the difference between a Fairy Tale, and a War Story?

A:  Nothing, except Fairy Tales start off with "Once upon a time."
    War Stories start off with "No shit, this really happened."

In days of yore (1979 to 1982), I was hauling Tactical Trash for the
345 Tactical Airlift Squadron (TAS) in Yokota AB, Land of the Rising
Yen Rate. One of the missions our squadron had was a Taxi and Shuttle
Service between Kadena AB, Okinawa and Osan AB, Korea with intermediate
stops at Taegu AB, Korea and Kunsan AB, Korea. (Or as I used to bill it,
"Non-stop Whisper Prop Service to Taegu AB with continuing service to
Kunsan and Osan AB, Korea").  We would fly down to Kadena on Sunday,
and alternate days flying Kadena - Osan, Osan - Kadena.

Anyway, that's the way it was supposed to go. On this particular
trip, everything went normal until our first day in Osan. On climbout
for our first Osan - Kunsan run, the aircraft experienced a sharp and
sudden but not too violent yaw. It was accompanied by a "vroom" noise
coming from the left side of the aircraft. A very quick scan of the
instruments indicated that most of the stuff on number 2 engine was
rolling back. My first impression was that number 2 flamed out.
However, another 2 seconds of investigation revealed that Prop RPM was
normal, Hydraulics were normal, Generators were normal, Oil pressure
was low, but within limits, turbine inlet temperature was normal, fuel
flow was way down, but not zero, what was zero was torque. These are the
indications of a "prop decoupling" in a C-130. Simply stated, I had what
looked like a perfectly good engine, and perfectly good prop. Only thing
was they were no longer connected to each other.

So feather number 2 and return to Osan. The Air Force regulations
governing the operations of C-130s says that you should declare an
emergency whenever you are landing the aircraft in an unusual
configuration. Landing with all 4 engines still operational is the
unusual configuration for the C-130, but we declared an emergency
anyway. (3 engine work in the Herk is "no sweat" - I really does have
it where it counts). ("The 130 will fly on 2 engines, 3 engines is
hardly a chore, why some of the oldtimers tell me they've seen it flying
on 4!" - old drinking song).

After landing, I got a chance to see the damage for myself. Normally,
the most you can see when you look at the back of a C-130 engine is 2
or 3 stages of turbine blades. I could see daylight on the other end of
that tunnel! I seems that a blade or two in the first stage compressor
broke loose. These were eaten by the second stage ... There were no
later stage compressors, and no turbine. I was basically running a
ramjet for a while as I was spewing engine parts over Western South

We spent several days in Osan. One of those several days, my navigator
got drunk, got in a fight with a bar girl over the possession of his
wallet, got involved with the local police(1). Got him out of the country
before things got too hot. We picked up a spare navigator, and continued
the wait.

(1) At least this time I didn't have to bail one of my crewmembers
out of jail. (I haven't seen it in print, but I think it's part of an
Aircraft Commander's job description).

The big day arrived, the plane was finally fixed. As we approached the
airfield, we could see that right next to our C-130 on the MAC ramp
(the most visible, and accessible part of the airport), is parked an
SR-71.  It was surrounded by MPs with M-16's and guard dogs which
looked only slightly less vicious than the MPs. Curious as we were, we
decided against getting a closer look. (Being laid "spread eagle" on
the ramp, kissing concrete with an M-16 barrel pressed against the back
of my skull isn't my idea of a fun time).

So, we prepared the Herky Bird for takeoff. The SR-71 was ready to go
before we were, so we stopped to watch it taxi out and take off. The
MAC ramp is about mid field, so we figured we'd get a good view of the
blackbird breaking ground. It did get abeam us, but at that moment, it
was pulled out of afterburner, drouge shoot deployed, and smoke and
parts came falling off the bottom of the aircraft. (Upon later
reflection, it seemed like a blown tire). The SR-71 then takes to the
grass, and winds up about 45 degrees off runway heading, and about 100
feet into the mud. The canopy opens, two pilots pop out and go bounding
away across the infield.

"OK, guys. Let's run it (the checklist) backwards. Looks like were not
going to have an on time take off." I went into the command post and
quietly and calmly told the duty officer, "When all the colonels and
generals get done with jumping through their assholes, tell them I only
need 3,000 feet of runway." I pulled up a comfortable chair in the crew
lounge and dozed off.

They were quicker than I expected. In only two hours, they called me
back into the command post and told me, "The Commander PACAF, and
CINCSAC (that's a total of 8 stars) say that if you can get the
concurrence of CINCMAC (another 4 stars), you can take off."  I
retrieved a rather largish tome from my hernia bag(1) (where I kept my
required pubications), and pointed to the paragraph in MAC Regulation
55-130 that said that C-130s only need 3,000 feet (peacetime). I
flipped to the back of the book and showed them General so-and-so's
signature. We took off from mid field heading away from the wounded
bird about 40 minutes later.(2)

(1) Old MAC adage - "You can't take off until the paperwork exceeds the
gross weight of the aircraft."

(2) I checked the NOTAMS. Osan was closed for a week. We were the last
bird out.

We had an hour or so normalcy as we got to Kunsan without further
incident, and then Taegu. On our takeoff out of Taegu, during "gear
up," the #3 engine hydraulic pump warning light came on. I told the
co-pilot (who was performing the takeoff), "Leave it alone and continue
the takeoff." (I get so one-tracked-minded when it comes to making a
safe takeoff).

In a C-130, you can't turn off a hydraulic pump without turning off the
engine.  (It's a mechanically connected pump, not electrical). There is
a "turn off" switch which causes a solenoid valve "downstream" to snap
shut and a motor driven valve "upstream" to close more slowly. This
traps about a gallon of hydraulic fluid in the pump to keep it cooled
and lubricated. This way, you can "isolate" the pump, and keep the
engine running.  It is the pilot's option to shut down the engine or to
keep it running.

After some switch flipping, hydraulic fluid level checking, and
consultation with the engineer, I elected to shut the engine down. We
discovered the real problem after landing. The "upstream" motor shorted
out and closed. There was no fluid trapped in the pump, no cooling, no
lubrication, however, there was an excellent opportunity for an engine
fire (or worse) if (more like when) the pump disintegrated. However, we
knew nothing about the seriousness of the problem just then.

I couldn't go back to Osan (the only base in  Korea with maintenance to
fix this sort of thing), so I had to press on to Okinawa. Fortunately,
there were plenty alternates along the route.  By the time they got the
hydraulic problem fixed (a day later), we were on the leading edge of a
typhoon. We were heading out to the aircraft in the crew bus (a
"bread truck" with no windows). The navigator (our 4th this trip - I
won't explain how we lost numbers 2 & 3), was sitting up front where he
could look out the door. When the driver asked us which C-130 was ours,
he responded, "The one with all the fire trucks around it." I thought it
was his idea of a bad joke. It wasn't.

It took maintenance several hours to get the malfunctioning fire
detector fixed. By this time, the winds were up to 40 knots direct
cross wind. I watched a KC-135 nearly "buy it" on take-off before me.
This is one time this pilot added every bit of the gust factor plus a
few knots and jerked it off. We immediately weathervaned into the wind,
but we were airborne safely and headed back to Yokota.

Enroute, the fuel pressure light for number 1 engine came on. This is
almost always a faulty indicator, but it's supposed to indicate fuel
contamination in the line. As we were discussing the possibility of
shutting it down, the number 4 prop started to "flux" (rpm not steady

The situation was:

   Number 1 could flame out at any moment. This would undoubtably cause
   a decoupling (see above). Not desirable, but survivable.

   Number 4 could "runaway" - no big problem in flight. There was a good
   possibility it would "hang" at the "gate"(1) on landing.

                               - or -

   We could shut them both down and fly on two engines. This ranks right
   up there with "kissing concrete" as my idea of a fun time.

(1) The gate is the region on the throttle quadrant where you go from
flight idle to ground idle. Ground idle produces much more drag than
flight idle. "Hung" props stay in flight idle. It causes you to change
heading in a hurry.

What I wound up doing was to keep all four engines running, land the
aircraft, bring all 4 throttles slowly to flight idle, have the copilot
shut down numbers 1 and 4 simultaneously, bring 2 and 3 over the gate,
and into reverse and continue the landing roll.

And you wonder why I gave up flying to play with computers. (Generally
speaking, the crashes are more survivable).

As the Beach Boys said in "Sloop John B."; "This is the worst trip I've
ever been on."

Actually, "normal" missions were nowhere near this bad. I was just
"snakebitten" on this one. (So what did you expect from a pilot named
Dan FLAK -- I was thinking of changing my name -- to SAM Flak -- come
to think of it, it does sound like a name from "Catch-22").

I did much better 2 days later when I had to evacuate another C-130 out
of the path of this same typhoon.

P.S. No shit, this really did happen.

Up next posting ... "The URGE to KILL (a maintenance line chief)" or
"How my nosewheel fell off at Tinian."
{psivax,ism780}!logico!slovax!flak  :  {hplsla,uw-beaver}!tikal!slovax!flak
Dan Flak-R & D Associates,3625 Perkins Lane SW,Tacoma,Wa 98499,206-581-1322

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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