CAPTAIN MIKE DACIEK STORIES
MICHAEL R. DACIEK
29 HATHAWAY LANE
HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO 80130
“Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”
Dear Reader, What you have seen so far is Captain Mike Daciek’s beginning to his own history mostly about his Military and Civilian aviation life interspersed with the most important part of his life, his family. For more than 53 years I have called Mike Daciek “The Polish Prince!” He is Polish and he is a prince of a fellow. PP it is!
Mike and I began our airline careers the same day. July 5, 1967 was and is our New Hire date when we joined the original and historic Frontier Airlines.
We were both hired by Captain Johnny Myers. Likely, everyone hired in those days was hired by Johnny Myers. He was a good fellow, a great pilot, and, since he hired Mike and me, he must have been an excellent judge of people. Both Mike and I will always hold Captain Myers in the highest regard for giving us the opportunity for a life well lived. For, certainly, we both have.
When Mike and I met we were among 12 other pilot new-hires all from a wide range of backgrounds. Mike was the oldest and, therefore, the senior member of our nefarious group. I was the youngest eventually albeit there was a fellow named H. Koch who is, yet t’day, shown as the youngest in our class. Trouble is, none of us ever saw this fellow. Ever! So, by default I became the youngest with a ten-year difference in age. Mike was 35 and I was 25 (seems like five minutes ago)… We’ve been friends ever since.
Back in those days, for some unexplained reason, there were countless “Polish jokes!” No one, I mean NO ONE could measure up to the Polish Prince at telling “Polish jokes!” He was literally a prince at spreading humor and he remains so as he creeps up on his eighth decade of brightening peoples days! Yup PP is special. I just know you’re gonna like his story! It begins with his Polish crest of arms. Then I interrupt (something I’m well suited for). Now, it is again Mike’s turn to tell his story. Don’t let the serious expression on his youthful photo fool you. Mike is famous for brightening dark rooms…
Sometime prior to June of 1943, an event occurred which seemed just like another exciting moment soon to be forgotten. It was early morning and I was awakened abruptly by a startling noise, louder than a thunderstorm or a locomotive, right above our house. I jumped out of bed alarmed and very excited. The noise rapidly diminished to a humming sound which then suddenly began to increase in intensity. Oh, my! Where’s my brother? I ran into my sister’s bedroom – gone! Then my parent’s bedroom – gone! I ran to the window as the noise got louder. I witnessed my entire family in their pajamas looking straight up at the sky. Holy cow…it’s an airplane! I ran outside and joined them in absolute wonder as the plane performed rolls, loops and strange gyrations to descend above our heads. It was a big fat single engine airplane and flew very fast as it skimmed the tree tops, flying out of sight. We thought he was leaving. We began walking toward the house when all of a sudden there it was again, flying straight and level, extremely fast, wings rocking. Suddenly, it flew straight up and slowly disappeared. No one in our family knew anything about aviation so we just stood in silence soaking in what we had just witnessed.
Finally, I asked my brother, “What kind of plane is it?”
“I don’t know,” He said, “but it could be a military airplane.”
What an awesome sight. At that precise moment I vowed, someday I’m going to be a pilot. I couldn’t wait to tell my teacher! She told me her brother was a pilot in the Army and he had sent her a book with all of the fighter airplanes. She said, “You can have it! I’ll bring it to you tomorrow!” After receiving the book I was looking at the pictures of Army Air Corp military fighter airplanes. Bingo! I saw the airplane that buzzed our home. It was a P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed, “The Jug.” I showed my brother who agreed, but said, “I heard of a Navy pilot from West Virginia who buzzed his home in Mingo County. Maybe that was him. ”I stared at Joe Jr. and emphasized my words, “Navy pilots don’t fly P-47 Jugs!”
Now the rest of the story.
In 1985 a book became a bestseller called “Yeager,” an autobiography by General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos. I knew of Yeager’s major accomplishments and being an Air Force pilot I had heard many a “war story” from pilots who rubbed shoulders with him during his fabulous career. I personally felt no close connection to him until I read his book.
I learned we were both West Virginia hillbillies who talked funny (I still do), spent time in paw-paw patches, (a semi-tropical fruit with a taste halfway between a banana and a peach) familiar with stolen watermelons, “white lightning,” snake hunts, fishing, slopping hogs and wringing chicken’s necks. And we both joined Uncle Sam’s Air Force as teenagers.
Second, we were practically neighbors because he lived in Hamlin, forty-five miles due north of Crystal Block where I lived. He was in his early twenties and I was close to ten.
On pages 23, 24, 25 of Yeager’s book, he writes about his assignment to Wright Field, Ohio in mid 1943 as a test pilot for the P-39. He used that opportunity to check out in a P-47 Jug and flew it regularly. He was thirty minutes from Hamlin with two hours of fuel and he terrorized the natives on a regular basis in and around Hamlin buzzing folks at 400 MPH. And everyone knew who was flying; he was Hamlin’s only fighter pilot.
Third, I believe it was Chuck Yeager who buzzed our home in Crystal Block, W.Va., and caused me to make and keep that vow, Someday I’m going to be a pilot.
He changed my life in a matter of five minutes by exposing me to something I had never seen before. I’m now in a position to give five minutes to another small child who might have a yearning to be an author or a pilot…or both. That’s why I enjoy speaking to elementary school students about reading, writing and flying.
United States Air Force (HD)
The Korean War was in full swing on 24 September 1952 when I arrived at Sampson Air Force Base, Geneva, in upstate New York, to begin 12 weeks of Basic Training. I almost blew it from the get-go! At 04:30 that morning I woke up and dressed, had breakfast and left to meet Dick Johnston, my best friend who had signed up also. We headed for downtown Newark to catch a bus for Sampson Air Force Base. The harassment started the moment we stepped off the bus and lasted all day long. You’re herded around like cattle. Twenty-two hours later at 02:30 we’re finally at clothing supply to pick up our military clothing and bedding from a huge long narrow table. All of us were tired as hell and longed for a good night’s sleep. An Airman Second-Class is stretched out on the supply table, his head resting on one elbow, watching us pass by, one by one. His fatigue uniform looked as though it had been bleached 10 or 20 times in scalding hot water. His fatigue cap was frayed around the brim to give him that old soldier’s look. (Actually, he looked like a 16 year old). He eyed me up and down and said, “What’s your name?” Not again! I stopped and stared at him and said sarcastically, “What’s yours?” He said, “I’m your Drill Instructor.” I stood there in silence, oh dear; I’m in deep do-do, not sure how to respond. The Supply Sergeant yelled, “Move your ass!” a phrase which I would hear many times in the future. As luck would have it I never saw that Drill Instructor again.
We had 61 basic airmen in Flight 2056 and had entered the drilling phase. On our first break we began to ask one another about plans for our Air Force careers. When I announced my goal to become a fighter pilot they asked me many questions. “Do you have any college?” I said, “No, just college preparatory course in high school.” They laughed and said I wouldn’t pass the test for pilot training. I shrugged, “The worst I can do is fail! I’ve already passed the flight physical. Besides, while I’m in a warm classroom all day taking tests, our flight is scheduled for KP (mess hall duty) from 0430 hours in the morning till 1730 hours that night.”
The large exam room teamed with applicants and my heart skipped a beat, thinking my chances were pretty thin. After all the exams were collected a sergeant appeared to announce that only three airmen had passed the test. The first two names called out weren’t mine. The third name called no one answered. He called it out again, which sounded like Daycreek. I yelled, “Is that Michael?” He said, “Yes, D-A-C-I-E-K!” I had passed the test for pilot training! Now the bad news. Due to a backlog of pilot training classes, it could take three to six months to enter training. I chose navigation school, immediately available. I just turned 19 years old and the cut off to go to pilot training was 26 1/2 years of age. I figured the training I would receive as a navigator would help me later when I attended pilot training. I would be a commissioned officer and flight crew member, halfway to my goal of being a pilot. It never occurred to me that I might wash out of navigation school and pilot training would be just a dream not come true.
That night my flight stood outside the barracks. As I approached them I took on a forlorn appearance with my head down as though I was very sad. A few of them began to shout, “You flunked the test didn’t you!” I threw my arms up into the air and yelled, “I passed, I passed!” Dick was the first to congratulate me. Others gathered around me offering their congratulations and patting me on my back. My happiness runneth over.
I had orders to report to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, Texas, on 1 January 1953, as an Aviation Cadet, or so I thought. Ellington was a navigation training base but the Air Force had other plans. Instead I was assigned to a barracks with 60 other “Casuals” (Future cadets) and placed on OJT (On the Job Training) status as an aircraft mechanic working on the flight line. I reported to a crusty throated master sergeant whose first order was to get him a quart of prop wash. (Prop wash is the air coming off the back of the props). I answered, “No disrespect, Sergeant, but I can’t do prop wash. Maybe one of the other new guys can find it for you.” He laughed and informed me that as of today I would be assigned to the flight line at1600 hours preparing C-47s and T-29s for night flying. My job was to drain the sumps of water, (The water collected at the bottom of the fuel tank), refuel the aircraft, clean the windshields and interiors, make sure the log books were available and updated, empty the butt cans, and help launch the aircraft by standing fire guard while the engines were being started. I then pulled the chocks and directed the pilot out from the parking spot. I was to remain available to meet the aircraft for parking when returning from flight. Generally every flight would return prior to 2400 hours at which time I was free from duty, unless an aircraft was late returning. After every flight most of the aircraft engines would be covered with oil. I used the butt cans to catch the gas while draining the sumps. I would saturate a cloth with the gas, and then wipe down the engines. When I did the walk around with the pilots prior to flight they would make statements like, “Airmen, these are some of the tightest engines I’ve seen in a long time. Most engines leak oil all over the place.” I would answer, “Yes sir, these engines are really tight. Our mechanics do a great job.” Incidentally, the only mechanical work I was allowed to perform was changing spark plugs.
Every day some of my barracks buddies would receive orders to proceed to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for three months Preflight Training. It was like basic training all over again, only worse, with major emphasis on constant harassment, military discipline and physical conditioning. One night after I returned from work I was shocked to find an empty barracks! I thought the Air Force forgot about me. The very next day I received my orders to proceed to Harlingen Air Force Base, Brownsville, Texas, bypassing Lackland to start navigation training. Praise the Lord!
HARLINGEN AFB, TEXAS
My assignment to flight 53-19 C, flight D, along with 17 other cadets, came with great joy. I hustled off of the bus, dropped my duffel bag off my shoulder to open the barracks door when suddenly an upperclassman pushed the door open. I struggled to drag my bag through the door and he said, “Move your ass!”Do they all say that? Three months later most of my former barracks buddies showed up from Lackland and now I was their upper classman! Now I could say, “Move your ass!” Rank has its privileges.
The big day had arrived. It was our first flight in the T-29, a twin engine flying classroom which could seat about two dozen cadets, each station fitted with navigation instruments. I was seated on the right side of the aircraft next to a window with a good view of the right engine. About an hour into the flight I plotted my first fix on my chart and looked out the window to double check my position. I noticed a trickle of oil on the left side of the engine. I watched it for a while and decided it wasn’t severe enough to mention. While working on the flight line at Ellington, a little oil on the engines after flight was considered normal. My navigation instructor stopped by my station to check my work. As he bent over my chart he looked out the window and was startled at what he saw. He asked me if I knew about the oil leak. I said yes and he asked me how long. I said about 45 minutes, maybe more. He yelled, “Forty-five minutes!” and ran up the aisle to the cockpit. In seconds one of the pilots returned to check the leak. Without hesitation he returned to the cockpit while I looked out the window to watch the engine. The prop was slowing down and finally stopped in the feathered position to reduce drag. The pilot announced over the PA system that he had shut down the right engine due to an oil leak and he would be making an emergency landing at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. We were instructed to put on our parachutes and take our seats with our seat belts fastened. We landed without incident.
As we taxied in to park we saw a huge transport aircraft nearby and asked our pilot if we could take a close look at the airplane. He said, remain together. Soon ten awestruck cadets stood under the wing of an XC-99, one of history’s largest six engine transport airplanes stationed at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas.
“Would you cadets like to see a B-36?” Our heads turned to see an air force officer dressed in a tan short-sleeved summer uniform. The sunlight flashed off of his silver senior pilot wings. “What’s a B-36?” I asked, still mesmerized by the huge five story tail of the “Aerial Goliath” XC-99.
“It’s Strategic Air Command’s intercontinental bomber,” answered the tall lanky pilot. He reminded me of Jimmy Stewart. He pointed across the field. “It’s parked between those two hangars. The Air Force owns 385 of them, our biggest deterrent to another world war.”
Joking, I asked, “Is it bigger than the XC-99?”
He laughed, “The XC-99 was built after the B-36 and has the same tail, wings and engines. I think you’ll find it more interesting than the transport. This model is the RB-36H, a reconnaissance aircraft as well as a bomber. It can do photo mapping from horizon to horizon and also do spot jamming of enemy radar.”
“Let’s see it!” yelled Cadet Red Coates.
“I’m Captain Banda,” the pilot said, smiling. “I’ll be your tour guide today. Follow me!”
What we saw was a huge airplane with a wingspan of two-hundred-thirty feet, almost as long as a football field. Standing at the nose of the Peacemaker, Captain Banda pointed at one of the engines. “There are ten engines; six reciprocating engines with pusher-propellers, nineteen feet in diameter, mounted on the rear of the wing and four J47 turbojets, two on each wingtip, modified to run on aviation fuel.
The wing measures seven feet thick at the wing root, tall enough to work on the engines in flight, if need be. This large wet wing carries enough fuel to fly 10,000 miles without mid-air refueling! It also enables the B-36 to fly above 40,000 feet, out of reach of most piston fighters and early jet interceptors. Its maximum take-off weight of 410,000 pounds makes it the largest bomber in the world.”
Cadet Charles Fletcher who was standing right in front of Captain Banda, asked, “Why do we need an airplane like this?”
“Good question,” replied Captain Banda. “The Cold War began in earnest after the Berlin airlift and the 1949 atmospheric test of the first Soviet atomic bomb. The Russians had become belligerent and antagonistic and we needed a deterrent to keep them at bay. American military planners sought bombers capable of delivering the very large and heavy first-generation nuclear bombs.”
Cadet Fletcher said, “Yeah, that sounds good but too bad it’s obsolete!”
“SHUT UP. FLETCHER! We yelled in unison, shoving him to the back of the flight. Some guys have no savoir fare.
Captain Banda ignored him. The B-36 is the only American aircraft with the range and payload to carry such bombs from airfields on American soil to targets in the USSR, as storing nuclear weapons on foreign soil is diplomatically delicate. The nuclear deterrent the B-36 afforded may have kept the Soviet army from fighting alongside the North Koreans and Chinese armies during the Korean War.”
“When did the military first design the B-36?” asked Cadet “Ski” Wislosky.
“Another good question,” Captain Banda said. “Actually it all started in 1941 when the United States feared it would be drawn into World War II and would have to bomb Nazi-occupied Europe from bases in the United States. We needed a plane capable of carrying 10,000 pounds of bombs on round trips of 10,000 miles.
The B-36 was in competition with the Northrop B-35, our country’s first flying wing, a plane way ahead of its time. (Northrop built the B-2A Spirit thirty years later). The B-35 had an 8,000 mile range with just 2000 pounds of bombs and was very difficult to fly. The B-36 was contracted in September 1945, one month after the war ended. The first plane flew in 1946 and entered production in 1948 just in time to thwart the Russian menace.”
“Why do the Russians fear the B-36 so much?” I asked. “Don’t they have similar aircraft and weapons?”
“Another good point,” Banda said. “We have the Mark 17, thermonuclear weapon, otherwise known as the Hydrogen Bomb, capable of killing everything within a one hundred mile radius, possibly including the B-36 flight crew.”
Wow! That got our attention. “Is that a joke about the flight crew,” I asked?
“Unfortunately, no!” Captain Banda paused for a second. “During the live drop test in the Pacific, a B-36 dropped a three megaton weapon. The over-pressure from the blast damaged the plane so badly that the aircraft limped home, was grounded, and turned into scrap metal. It’s my opinion that a B-36 cannot outrun a twenty megaton blast. We just don’t talk about it.”
Cadet Al Reis asked, “Have any airplanes and crews been lost since the B-36 went operational?”
Captain Banda stiffened. “Yes, unfortunately over the first two years we lost nine airplanes and over seventy fatalities. Military flying, even with ten engines, is a risky business. When you consider the scope of our mission, global flying under extreme conditions, we’ve really done quite well.” Dumb-founded, we all nodded in agreement.
Banda continued. “We will never attack first so we keep forty percent of our three-hundred-eighty-four B-36s airborne around the clock. Every time a plane lands, another one takes off, flying an average of twenty-four hours on every flight. We have a “Failsafe” or “Go-No-Go” point en-route to our target which is sent in a code whether to proceed or to return home.”
Cadet Allen Heather raised his hand. “How large a bomb is it?” Captain Banda put a finger across his lips and spoke in a low tone. “I’ll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone.” Playing his game we all whispered, promising not to tell.
Banda continued. “It’s approximately twenty-five feet long, five feet in diameter, weights twenty-one tons, and can be carried internally in two bomb bays.” Grinning, Captain Banda added, “We carry two in case the first one misses. After all it’s just a twenty megaton bomb, one thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Actually we carry two for a second target or bring it home for later use.”
Cadet Bob Grimes asked, “Can we see the inside of the airplane, Captain Banda?”
“Okay,” Banda said, “but the cockpit instrument panels and the navigators’ stations are all covered with black tarps so no peeking. It’s classified top secret.”
We entered the aircraft from the left side which took us into the radio compartment. From there we scanned the cockpit, flight engineer and navigators’ compartment. Captain Banda squeezed in among us. “If all engines function normally at full power during the pre-takeoff warm-up, the lead flight engineer might say to the AC (Aircraft Commander), ‘six turning and four burning.’ Erratic reliability might lead to the wisecrack, ‘two turning, two burning, two joking, and two smoking, with two engines not accounted for.’”
We all laughed. Captain Banda asked for a volunteer to enter the pressurized twenty-four foot tunnel (paralleling a bomb bay) which takes you back to the camera compartment. “The smaller you are the better,” Banda said. Cadet Jack Nichols entered the twenty-five inch diameter tube by lying on his back on a wheeled trolley and pulled himself through via an overhead clothesline pulley.
Banda cautioned Nichols, “While crew members are in the tunnel they don’t push against the skin of the aircraft as it is very thin and easy to puncture. In flight, while pressurized, we always close the door behind us because if you have a rapid decompression it will shoot you out like a bullet!”
From the camera compartment was another eighty-five foot tunnel (Paralleling two bomb bays) which took you back to the ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) compartment. It featured six bunks and a galley for rest and relief on a long mission.
Beyond that was the rear gun turret. The defensive armament consisted of six remote-controlled retractable gun turrets, and fixed tail and nose turrets, a total of sixteen cannons, the greatest firepower ever carried by a bomber.
Banda continued. “As you can see it’s a large, versatile aircraft requiring many crew members. A standard crew complement is fifteen but we’re always training new people so we might have twenty-five to thirty aircrew members on board.”
Someone yelled from outside the B-36 that our plane was ready to go so we thanked the captain and rushed back to our T-29. We all agreed that none of us had any idea that such a plane existed.
Back at Harlingen we talked a lot more about what assignments we would get after graduating. Everyone wanted to go to MATS (Military Air Transport Service), TAC (Tactical Air Command), or ATC (Air Training Command). SAC (Strategic Air Command) was definitely out of the question!
Our next T-29 flight was a Night Celestial mission using a sextant to take star sightings of three different stars, called a three star fix. I practiced with a sextant night after night outside the barracks shooting the stars and now it was time for the real thing. This aircraft had four astrodomes, a hemispherical transparent dome fitted in the cabin roof to allow the use of a sextant during astro-navigation. To do this required a 360-degree view of the horizon. The astrodome was devised to allow an uninterrupted view of the sky from horizon to horizon. You performed pre-calculations at your desk for your three star fix which was normally computed one hour apart: 10pm, 11pm, etc. You shot each star for two minutes (an aircraft actually travels through the air in a cork-screw fashion lasting two minutes) and if you were delayed and missed the precise time, you had to do the pre-calculations again. Since there were only four domes and twelve cadets, you had to coordinate the use of the domes and the times of the shots. The lights in the cabin were all turned off in order to see the stars. We had shielded lights on our desks to do our plotting. Everything was running smoothly until a cadet, who I didn’t recognize, entered my dome to take a star shot right at my pre-calculated time. He stood on the platform with his head up in the dome. I tugged on his flying suit and said, “Move your ass!” He was very polite and apologized, saying he was unaware that I was getting ready to take a shot. I never saw him again during flight.
After landing we were standing outside the aircraft when the pilot, a captain, approached the stranger and said, “Major, did your celestial navigation practice work out okay?” Oops! Fortunately it was dark, and I quickly ducked behind the other cadets. I made a mental note not to say, “Move your ass!” anymore. Win some, lose some.
Can’t Forget Matamoros!
Our first day at Harlingen was indoctrination day. One of the biggest subjects was Matamoros, Mexico. Don’t go there! Some of our airmen have crossed the Rio Grande never to be seen again! The women down there have diseases unknown to mankind! IF by chance, you ACCIDENTLY cross the border, posted on the bulletin board are a few of the bars to stay away from. Some of the cadets checked the bulletin board to make a mental note of those places.
So where did we go on our first open post? My new roommate, Bob, insisted on Matamoros! We caught a bus to Brownsville and disembarked by the Rio Grande Bridge. Just across the mighty (dried up) Rio Grande River was Matamoros. We walked across the bridge without being stopped by anyone for a passport or visa. The difference between Mexico and the USA was startling. We were looking at a shantytown full of small wooden or metal shacks with dirt streets. These poor people were living in squalor. Small bare-footed children chased us asking for money. We made a big mistake by giving a few cents to two of them. In seconds we were surrounded by small kids with their hands out. We finally eluded them and were now in the center of the business area as darkness descended. The shops were full of tourists buying cheap trinkets, leather goods, Mexican clothing and lots of pottery. I said to Bob, “I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible thirst for a cold beer.” Bob asked one of the shop owners, “Where’s the local watering hole?” This was my chance to use my vast knowledge of Spanish. “Donde esta cerveza, por favor, Amigo?” The owner replied in perfect English while pointing, “Six blocks that way and three blocks that way, Yankee.” Roger that!
Leaving the business area we were almost in total darkness, but we stayed the course finally picking up the bright lights. We entered the lighted area which ran for five or six blocks on a dirt street. It reminded me of a mini Las Vegas with all the neon lights over the connected bars. Mariachi music blared from every other bar played by four or five musicians. They wore the standard Mexican costumes, sombreros and short jackets playing violins, trumpets and guitars. We bar hopped, drinking cervezas, enjoying the music.
At one point we were crossing a street and Bob grabbed my arm and said, “See that yellow light at the end of the street, that’s the Yellow Bar, one of the bars posted on the bulletin board.” I shook my head, “What’s so great about that?” He said, “Let’s go check it out!” I shook my head again. “No way, José, we should stay in a lighted area. We have no idea what’s down there.” Bob laughed. “Okay, wise guy,” I said, “Why is it so isolated?”
Bob answered, “You pussy cat, nothing’s going to happen, come on let’s go!” He started walking toward the bar. I couldn’t let him go by himself. I yelled, “Okay, but it’s in and out…fast!” It was so dark you couldn’t see the potholes and we were stumbling every few steps.
Like ghosts, shadowy figures surrounded us! One of them reached out for me and I shoved him away. A flash light came on and not 6 inches from my face was a pistol. Shyet , they’re going to rob us! Then I saw they were wearing uniforms. They’re policeman! I took my wallet out of my back pocket with my left hand and my Swiss Army knife out of my pocket with my right hand. I held my arms up above my head, clenching the knife in my fist so it couldn’t be seen. I blurted out, “We’re Americans, no habla Espanol!” The Mexican police captain stepped out of the darkness into the light and barked out a command at the policeman with the pistol who immediately holstered his weapon. The captain asked, “What are you doing here?” I looked around looking for Bob who had disappeared. I answered, “I was going to the Yellow Bar.” He said, “There’s been a stabbing in the yellow bar.” Oh dear, I’m standing there with my hands above my head holding a knife. The captain said, “You don’t need to worry. The stabbing was in a fight between two Mexican nationals. You can put your hands down, you’re free to go.” I said, “Gracias!” and started walking at a fast clip toward Main Street, stumbling along the way. My adrenaline had kicked in and my heart beat quadrupled! I could see Bob standing in the middle of the street. I stopped, still in the dark and yelled, “Bob, come on, let’s go to the Yellow Bar, nothing is going to happen!” He yelled back, “What happened to you, are you okay?” I came into the light, “Yeah, I’m okay. You missed a great party. LET’S GET OUT OF THIS HELL HOLE!” I walked right past him. You can stay here if you like but I’m leaving. He followed. “What happened back there? Where you robbed?” Disgusted I said, “They were police officers. One almost blew my head off! I’ll explain it to you when we get to Brownsville.” My confrontation had now turned to anger toward Bob. We walked in silence to the bus stop. As we sat on the bus headed for the base my anger subsided and I decided to talk. Bob had a muddied shirt and ripped pants. “What happened to your clothes?” Bob paused and said sheepishly, “When I turned to run I stepped into a pot hole and fell on some rocks. I slid about 6 feet, ripping my pants.”
I laughed, “Those are your new rusty pants.”
Bob said, “Yeah, I’ll send them a bill.”
I explained what had happened and he apologized for dragging me to Matamoros, and then running away. I accepted and said, “I didn’t have to go but you need to take a course on Situational Awareness. Be on the lookout because I’m going to get even.”
Graduation day, September 1953
Our buddies next door! Me A parade in our honor
MATHER AFB, CALIFORNIA
We received our orders to proceed to Mather AFB, Sacramento, California for Advanced Navigation Training. We were split up into two different classes, high altitude navigation and low altitude navigation. I was assigned to high altitude and would be flying in the T-29 once more learning the Q-24 Radar System for navigation and bombing. Later I would fly the B-25 twin-engine bomber learning visual bombing with the Norden Bombsight which could also be used for killing drift for photo mapping on reconnaissance missions.
The big day finally arrived for our first in-flight radar mission. This T-29 aircraft had a different configuration for radar training of only four cadets. Immediately behind the cockpit was a master radar station with many switches, knobs, buttons, flight instruments, etc. which appeared overwhelming. As training progressed it became more simplified. It was manned by one student with the other three students at auxiliary stations with video tubes for monitoring the main radar returns. We rotated into the master station in a clockwise direction.
Two student navigator positions T-29
Where There is Smoke There’s Fire
Weeks later we were on our last scheduled radar training mission in the T-29. Flying had now become routine. That was about to change. Suddenly the cabin was filled with thick smoke and our instructor attempted to call the cockpit over the intercom. It was dead! He yelled out, “Standby, I’m going to the cockpit!” He quickly returned and said, “Put on your parachutes and go to the rear of the airplane. The pilots are descending down to below 10,000 feet, and are depressurizing the airplane in preparation for bailing out.” He went back to the cockpit for further instructions. He quickly returned and said, “It’s okay to open the door. There will be one short ring of the alarm bell for preparation to bell out. It will be followed by six short rings, meaning to jump.” I was first in line near the door and opened it. The noise from the left engine was so loud we had to yell to be heard. I cinched up my parachute straps one more time and braced myself in the open door waiting for the bailout signal. I could see a small town below on the edge of a farm which would be a good landing area. Regardless of our position there was no doubt in my mind that I would jump. The worse emergency in an airplane is a fire, and where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
The vacuum effect formed by opening the door created a tremendous suction and in seconds the smoke was all gone. Our instructor ran back to the cockpit to inform the pilots. He then returned and said, “The emergency is over, you can return to your seats. There was evidence of a hydraulic leak onto the electrical wiring of the pressurization system. When they depressurized the airplane and turned the system off, the smoke ceased.” Heavens to Murgatroyd! There’ll be dancing in the Cadet Club tonight! We landed back at Mather AFB without incident.
The last phase of training would now be done in the B-25, a twin-engine medium bomber used by the Doolittle Raiders in World War II to bomb Tokyo. It had a Norden Bomb Sight, top secret in World War II. The Germans wanted to capture it as bad as we wanted their Enigma, a code sending device for the German military to communicate with their forces anywhere in the world. We finally captured one after damaging a German U-boat on the surface. It was quite complicated and it took cooperating with the British to break the code. Now we could monitor all the coded messages sent by the Germans. It helped shorten the war.
The Norden was installed in the nose for bombardier training which could also be used as a drift meter. Killing drift was critical for keeping the aircraft on a straight heading for accurate photo mapping. Photos were taken with a 70% overlap and if the airplane was drifting one way and then the other, the final result was a picture looking like a snake. The Bomb Sight was used for visual bombings only and was more accurate than radar, it had a CE, circular error, of 750 feet, whereas a good CE on radar, was1400 feet.
What worried me about being in the nose of the aircraft was how to get there. You had to wiggle through a 4 foot tunnel, abut 2 foot by 2 foot square, on your stomach. You had to push your parachute ahead of you and once inside the nose, put your chute back on. How in the hell would you bail out? That’s not much of a problem in peacetime, but when the bad guys are shooting at you in combat, that’s a whole new ball game. One would pray that a bomb burst would blow the nose off, and you tumbled out! Fat chance!
I received my commission in January, 1954 and was free to move off base. The Three Amigos, Mike, Bill and Herb, rented a ranch style home in North Sacramento with beautiful landscaping. We were also given three weeks off.
We pinned on our Observer Wings in July of 1954 and waited for our new assignments.
Top-Pilots Wings Middle-Observer Wings (Radar-Navigator-Bombardier)
Bottom-Standard Navigator Wings
I reported to Travis AFB, Fairfield, California, my first operational assignment with the 5th Bomb Wing, 31st Bomb Squadron. Upon arrival at Travis I went to the flight line to report to Major Bo Bowers, 31st Operations Officer.
My first question was, “What airplane will I be flying, Major Bowers?”
Major Bowers stood up and motioned for me to follow. We walked to the window and looked out. The ramp was full of B-36 Bombers! “You’ll be flying as a Radar-Navigator-Bombardier on the ‘Aluminum Overcast,’ the RB-36H Peacemaker.”
“Oh, joy!” Now all the special training made sense.
My first day on duty was a riot. This was an organization with lots of experienced airmen, the best of the best. The majority of enlisted men were staff sergeants and above and the officers were mostly majors and lieutenant colonels. They hadn’t seen a second lieutenant in years, and as I walked down the hall they slammed up against the walls clearing a path, snapping to attention while saluting me.
Now that’s more like it, this is the way it should always be!
There were four Observer positions in the nose of the aircraft directly below and slightly ahead of the pilots. It was the best seat in the sun room surrounded by plexus-glass. However we would be the first ones to arrive at the scene of the crash! The photo navigator’s position was on the left front over the Norden Bomb Sight. The weather navigator’s position was on the right front where he could take weather sightings and operate the nose gun. Behind him was the radar navigator’s position and opposite him at his back was the navigator’s position. Each of us had been trained in all four positions so that if one was incapacitated someone could man his position. I loved radar navigation but when I discovered I was expected to do in-flight maintenance on the Q-24 Radar System I picked navigator. My job was to navigate the aircraft from takeoff to the pre-IP, Initial Point, for the radar navigator or the photo navigator, depending on the weather, to take over for the bomb run. The radar navigator had to check out a maintenance kit before each flight, inventory it and write off an acceptance. Months later the radar went out and when the in-flight kit was opened it was full of news papers. Surprise!
Average duration of the mission was 24 hours and during that time we would be rotating from seat to seat to fulfill our yearly training requirements. Our chest-type parachutes were stowed next to our seats, if needed, all we had to do was grab them and snap them into place on our chest harnesses ready to bail out. Halfway through our mission, on a really dark night, under overcast clouds in smooth air, suddenly the aircraft began to shake like a golden retriever after a swim! All instruments went dead and the lights went out, leaving us in total darkness lasting 10 or 15 seconds. When the lights came on all of us were all in our primary positions with our parachutes on! The shaking had stopped and all systems came back on as though nothing had happened. All four of us just stared at one another and started laughing uncontrollably. We couldn’t believe how quick we responded, ready to bail out! The Aircraft Commander said we flew through some clear air turbulence. The Flight Engineer said a couple generators dropped off the line momentarily.
On another night celestial mission after about 20 hours of flight time it was time for me to shoot a three star fix. To do this, I had to go upstairs into the pilot’s cockpit to use the periscoptic sextant which was mounted between the pilot and engineer seats. The engineer’s seat faced aft. They had their seats all the way back making it difficult for me to maneuver. It was necessary for me to be able to pivot in a 360 degree circle to shoot three stars 120 degrees apart. One of them had to move forward. The AC, (aircraft commander), a lieutenant colonel, had his seat in the recline position with his head all the way back, snoring and his mouth wide open. He was sound asleep. I checked on the flight engineer, Joe Miller, whose head was resting on his desk. He, too, was sound asleep. This ten engine aluminum overcast was flying through the night sky like a ghost ship! The Air Force had started a new program training young officers to be (APE), Aircraft Performance Engineers, on the B-36. Joe was a second lieutenant and this was his first flight in the B-36. His instructor, a major, had left him unsupervised while he took a nap in one of the bunks. It wasn’t a tough decision to make on who I was going to wake up. I reached around the lieutenant and turned all the lighting rheostats down on his instrument panel and woke him up. I said, “Did you have a nice nap?” He blinked his eyes, “I wasn’t asleep!” I said, “How are the engines?” He stared at the panel, “What the hell!” He couldn’t see a thing! I said, “Relax, I turned your lights down, now please move your seat forward so I can take a star shot.”
The “Peacemaker” served its country for thirteen years, 1946 until 1959, bridging the gap before the B-52, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and nuclear subs came into play and NEVER DROPPED A BOMB IN ANGER. Why? Strategic Air Command under Curtis Le May kept forty per cent of the fleet airborne around the clock because we had only fifteen minutes of warning time to respond if the Russians launched a missile attack. They knew they couldn’t stop over 150 airplanes and Armageddon was inevitable. A STRONG MILITARY CAN PREVENT WAR!
This bomb is a Mark 17 Thermonuclear weapon weighing 43,000 pounds, 25 feet long, killing everything within a 100 mile radius. Drops were made from above 40,000 feet with two drag chutes to slow its descent so the aircraft could escape the bomb blast…which was debatable. Of the 385 B-36s made, configurations varied. Some aircraft carried two Mark 17s and one Mark 6 Atomic weapon. It weighed 6000 pounds, killing everything within a 10 mile radius, like the “Little Boy,” dropped on Hiroshima in WWII. Our crew dropped a dummy Mark 6 on a radar reflector mounted on a barge in the middle of the Salton Sea in California. The plane rose immediately 500 feet! If you scored a “Shack,” hitting the target dead center, it destroyed the barge which slowed down further bomb drops until the barge was replaced, the price of success!
Me- Phyliss Dobson-UNK-Flight Engineer-Emile Banda (Co-pilot) Dick Morgan (photo nav) Dottie Morgan- Joan
After returning from our honeymoon, Major Bowers informed me that several aircraft had been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. He had arranged a flight for me to go to Guam as a courier officer on a C124 Globe Master, Old Shaky, 200 rivets per hour. He said, “You will be responsible for various and sundry B-36 maintenance parts from aircraft engines to Nuts & Bolts so don’t let that airplane out of your sight. Your route of flight will be from Travis Air Force Base to Hickam AFB in Honolulu, Hawaii. You will remain over night and depart for Wake Island at 1200 Hours. You remain over night at Wake Island and from there it’s nonstop to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.”
Although I hated to leave Joan so soon after our honeymoon, this trip was a vacation in disguise. I had never been to Hawaii or Guam. I couldn’t wait to walk along Waikiki Beach and visit Diamond Head. We landed at Hickam Air Force Base around 1500 hrs. I checked into the BOQ, took a shower, put on an Aloha Shirt and hopped on a bus for the Ala Moana Hotel near Waikiki Beach. I reserved a room for the night for maximum time on my sightseeing tour. My instructions from the Aircraft Commander were to call base operations dispatch no later than 0830 hours the next morning in case our take-off time had been changed. I hoped the flight would be delayed.
The next morning at exactly 0830 hours I called dispatch. The dispatcher told me that the take-off time had been moved up from 1200 to 1000 hours and the crew was in Base Operations filing their flight plan. “What!” I yelled, “I’m the Courier for the cargo on that airplane. Tell the Commander I’m on my way, please don’t leave without me!” I had an hour and a half to check out of the hotel, catch a cab to the BOQ, change into my uniform, pack my bag, check out, request transportation to base operations and hope to board the airplane prior to 1000 hours. By the time I arrived at base operations it was 0930 and the C-124 was taxing out for takeoff. I asked the Officer of the Day to drive me out to the active runway in his flight line vehicle where Old Shaky was doing its engine run- up. We parked off to the side of the aircraft where the pilots could see us. I contacted them using the radio in the vehicle. I said to the pilot, “This is Lieut. Daciek, your Courier Officer, may I come aboard?” The pilot replied, “My loadmaster will open a hatch for you to enter, follow his instructions.”
After entering the cargo compartment I climbed the ladder into the cockpit to talk to the pilots. They laughed when they saw me because my uniform was soaking wet. I think the temperature and the humidity was 90 degrees. I said, “You guys were going to leave me, right?” The aircraft commander said, “There’s another plane leaving for Wake Island two hours behind us. You would have caught up with us at Wake.” I was just a little bit hot under the collar because they were amused at my situation. I said, “Yeah, you knew that… but I didn’t!” I went back to the cargo compartment, stripped down to my shorts, and hang my clothes up to dry out. By the time we arrived at Guam all was forgiven and had become something to laugh about. How many Courier Officers have lost an entire plane along with its cargo?
Mike & Teresa TAFB1955 Mike&Joan 1954Ford Convertible TAFB
In early 1956 Strategic Air Command was beginning to remove the B-36 from its inventory, which now gave me my opportunity to apply for pilot training. It was approved, and I received orders to report to Bartow Air Base in Florida no later than 9 July 1956.
BARTOW AIR BASE. FLORIDA
Summer of ’56
“Hot damn,” I said to myself, while standing on the Bartow Air Base flight line. “I’m finally here! This is true happiness.” I watched a steady stream of T-34’s enter a left down-wind to land on runway 27.
I soaked in all the sights and sounds of aviation. It was a perfect day down south, and I was feeling great, enjoying the white puffy clouds set against the bright blue sky. Later, in weather-101, I would learn to call those clouds cumulus.
Almost four years after joining the Air Force, I was a step closer to becoming a fighter pilot. My Navigator wings would be going into my top dresser drawer, replaced by wings of eagles.
Black smoke rose from an area straight south of the airfield, and my gaze drifted to its spiral, now getting thicker. It interrupted a otherwise beautiful view.
“Wonder what’s causing all that smoke?” came a voice from my left.
“Probably a plane crash,” I answered, with a glance towards the voice. I was joking, of course, trying to be witty.
We both stood in silence, staring at the billowing smoke. I then turned to introduce myself to this unexpected visitor. “Hi,” I said, extending my hand, “I’m Mike Daciek.”
He took my hand, “Glad to meet you, Mike. I’m Bob Stein.”
Bob displayed a friendly grin along with a very firm handshake. With a grip like that, I figured he’d just finished a Dale Carnegie course, or read Norman Vincent Peale’s, “The Power of Positive Hand Shaking.”
I eyed his gold Lieutenant bars and the lack of wings on his uniform. Every new student pilot I’d met from our class was a first lieutenant; all were rated navigators, except for a finance officer, an armament systems officer, and an air police officer.
Bob explained that he had been in an earlier class, but had taken an emergency leave to go home, which led to his being slipped back into our class.
When Bob talked to you he looked right into your eyes and his questions were direct and penetrating. We talked for about fifteen minutes. Correction, I answered questions for about fifteen minutes. Who is this guy, son of Clarence Darrow? But he seemed genuinely interested in me, something I seldom experienced.
A flight instructor walked by with two students, parachutes dangling from their shoulders, looking in the direction of the spiraling black smoke. I waved at the instructor, catching his eye and called out, “What’s with the smoke, Sir?”
He approached us and stopped to explain. “That was John Hobler. John taught engineering at the ground school for years, waiting patiently for a flight instructor slot. He finally made it and that was his first student. They had entered downwind converging on another T-34. Hobler’s aircraft made a violent, evasive maneuver up and away, entered a high-speed stall, resulting in a spin. They were too close to the ground to recover.”
He swallowed as his voice began to fade. “He was my best friend and I have to go tell his wife.” He turned and walked toward the parachute shack
“Damn, Bob,” I muttered after the instructor was out of voice range. “Wasn’t my timing just wonderful?”
“How were you to know?” Bob asked, trying to cover my embarrassment
I’ve thought about that accident many times over the years and it left a very important message. Be vigilant, flying can be hazardous to your health.
BEECHCRAFT T-34A MENTOR NORTH AMERICAN T-28A TROJAN
During primary training student pilots were programmed to fly 40 hours in a T-34 and 120 hours in the T-28.The instructor pilots were civilians that flew in the military during World War II. Most student pilots soloed between 12 and 16 hours of flying time. The additional time was spent learning aerobatics. After 40 hours you were given a check ride by a regular Air Force Check Pilot. You moved on to the T-28, an airplane equal to most WW II fighters, practicing aerobatics, night flying and navigation cross-country flights. One of my instructors was a Flying Tiger pilot in WWll. Two exciting events happened in the month of August; I soloed on my 23rd birthday, 6 August1956 and our second child, Karen Elizabeth, was born on the 28th day of August
T-34 Check ride
After reaching 40 hours of flying time in the T-34 my table was approached by a civilian who said, “Which one of you is Lieutenant Daciek?” Surprised, I snapped to attention, “That’s me, sir!” He said, “I’m Mr. Sutton, Director of Flying Training, I’ll be flying with you this morning. What would you like to do?” I said, “I like aerobatics.” He nodded his head, “So do I! Let’s take turns, you do one and then I’ll do one!” We did barrel rolls, cuban eights, aileron rolls, immelmans, loops and spins. That was the most enjoyable flight… ever! When we returned to the flight shack he said, “Nice flight, Lieutenant Daciek,” and walked out the door. I did not know that was my final check ride in the T-34. I was expecting a military check pilot and when I was cleared to fly the T-28 I thought the flight school had overlooked me. (There will be more about that much later).
Mike- Mr. Reid-Bob Thorworth-Julio LaPuente, Spanish officer
I had completed all of my T-28 requirements with 10 hours of flying time to burn flying solo. That allowed me five, two-hour flights, of aerobatics and sightseeing. On my third flight I was coming out of the bottom of a loop flying from North to South doing about 250 knots. Suddenly, right in front of me, was a T-28 in level flight on an easterly heading! I did not have time to make an evasive action! My right wing tip came within an inch of hitting his rudder. I remember the pilot’s head snapping to the right just before I passed behind him. I had just executed a perfect fighter pilot “pass” on an unsuspecting aircraft. However, if that aircraft was dual my pilot training days were over. I kept my airspeed right at 250 trying to put as much space between us as possible, praying it was a solo student. I looked back and saw the airplane turn and was following me. I slowed down, maintaining my heading, acting as if nothing had happened, waiting for the aircraft to pull up alongside. When he did I nonchalantly looked his way and it was solo! Oh, joy! He was motioning with both hands, imitating a dogfight and he was eager to get it on! I waved him off. You idiot, I almost killed both of us! There’s nothing like a mid-air collision to ruin your day. My legs started shaking so bad I had to take my feet off the rudder pedals. I went sightseeing the remainder of the flight and told no one what I had just done.
One would think I had learned not to improvise while doing aerobatics. While flying solo I decided to tack on a barrel roll coming out of the bottom of a loop. We’re supposed to do clearing turns between maneuvers. Instead of leveling off for a few seconds I yanked back on the stick too abruptly and blacked out, exceeding about 5 Gs. (Today’s fighter pilots wear G-suits which automatically inflate to prevent blackouts.) I wasn’t unconscious, just couldn’t see. I immediately reduced the back pressure on the stick and the lights came on. I never completed the barrel roll. That was another event I kept to myself.
One day, you’ll walk out to your airplane, knowing it’s your last flight. And one day you’ll walk out to your airplane not knowing it’s your last flight.
In five minutes my last flight in the T-28 would come to an end, but not quite the way I had expected. I had flown almost two hours and I was cruising along in the southwest corner of the aerobatic area close to the airport. I executed my clearing turns and entered a 2 ½ turn spin and came out the bottom at least 2500 feet above the ground. I made a 45 degree entry to my initial heading of 270 degrees for a 360 degree overhead landing on runway 27 at Bartow Air Base. I descended to 1500 feet above the ground traffic pattern altitude at a speed of 270 knots with the throttle at idle trying to slow down to 250 knots. All was going according to plan except for one very important point. Five miles from the runway my 800HP engine quit! I was a glider! I did my emergency procedures while scanning engine instruments and I noted my cylinder head temperature below 85°C. We were taught in ground school to never let the cylinder head temperature drop below 85 degrees C because the engine might quit. They were absolutely correct! I called the tower and told her that my engine was running rough but I had plenty of airspeed and was confident that I could make the field. I did not declare an emergency. “Screamer” had a reputation for being easily excitable under emergency situations and didn’t belong in the tower. (One of my buddies had to make a dead stick landing in a T-28 earlier and she was so flustered, asking rapid fire questions, he turned off his radio so he could concentrate on his emergency. He made a successful approach and landing). As the approach end of the runway passed under the nose I pitched out beginning my 360 degree descending circle in a left pattern, planning on using the gear and the flaps at the proper time to ensure I could make the runway. I had set the throttle about an inch forward, and as I started my turn from base to final the engine suddenly started running! I immediately advised the tower that my engine was running smoothly. I had so much airspeed I actually had to pull the throttle back to idle and crossed the fence at 90 knots. I was relieved that the engine had restarted so that I could taxi to the ramp and park as though the engine had never quit. If I wrote the engine problem in the log book I would have a lot of explaining to do. I sat in the cockpit suffering from a guilt complex. Spinning out of the sky is not the recommended way to enter the pattern! I’m glad I didn’t tell the female tower operator the truth. She would have panicked and broadcast to the world that she had another “glider” entering the pattern. I guess I wasn’t the smartest rat in the barn but I managed to graduate.
FLYING IS THE 2ND GREATEST THRILL KNOWN TO MAN. LANDING IS THE FIRST!
BASIC PILOT TRAINING, GOODFELLOW AFB
In February 1957 I arrived at Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas along with Joan, Teresa (2), and Karen (1). We lived off base in San Angelo and I began my multi-engine training in the B-25, the North American , twin-engine medium bomber. It could fly over 300 MPH at 15,000 feet and was made famous as the Doolittle Raider aircraft which bombed Tokyo in 1942. The following story, TIMING, is a true story about my first solo flight. I changed some of the names except for myself and my co-pilot, Buck Loggins. Buck graduated from West Point and chose the USAF in order to enter their flying training program.
I turned my head to glare at my new flight instructor. You retard, this isn’t a negative perspiration situation!
He poked a rigid finger at the cockpit windshield and barked: “Don’t look at me, watch for other planes!”
We were cruising a thousand feet above the Texas desert in a B25, a twinengine retread from World War II. It was August, at least a hundred and ten degrees in the trainer, and my flight suit was soaked. I wiped my brow with the back of my hand.
I glanced briefly out the corner of my eye at my soul mate, Buck Loggins, sitting on the jump seat. Let Buck try this sweatbox! I wanted to shout at Lieutenant Lance Kelly, our instructor.
Without warning, for the sixth time since our early morning takeoff, Old Dragon Breath retarded a throttle to simulate an engine loss and called, “Engine failure!”
Instantly the left engine, still at cruise power, began turning the plane to our right. I shoved in full left rudder to compensate, pushed both fuel mixtures to rich; the propellers to full increase, and advanced the left throttle to Maximum power.
After confirming the right engine had failed, I pointed at the button to feather its propeller. If Kelly nodded, I’d push it and stop the prop blades knife-like to the wind for minimum drag.
“That’s enough,” Kelly said, reaching for the flight controls. “Unbuckle and give Loggins a chance.”
Kelly began flying the plane, brought the right engine to cruise power, and I unstrapped.
The next morning at our briefing table, Kelly asked me if I was ready to solo.
“I was born ready, sir!” I answered, cross checking Buck’s eyes, catching his nod.
“Good,” said Kelly, handing me a flight plan form. “You are scheduled for takeoff at oh-eight-hundred, in aircraft Seven-Eleven. Loggins will be with you. Mike, you fly in the left seat as aircraft commander.”
He stood up quickly and said, “Enjoy.” He spun on his heel and left the flight shack.
Grabbing Buck’s arm, I whispered, “Let’s go terrorize the natives.”
Excitement rose as we approached our aircraft. Buck started the external walk-around and I climbed up the ladder into Seven-Eleven, moved forward to the cockpit, and slipped into the left seat. Buck soon followed, settling into the co-pilot’s seat, grinning like a little boy in a candy factory.
“What’s up? I asked.
“Ain’t this just heaven?” Buck said, staring out the window. “Imagine, seventy-two piston engines all firing at the same time. That tower operator is going to be busier than a one-legged man in a 100 meter dash. I love it!”
We completed the “Before Starting” checklist and I pushed the starter button. Left engine start was normal, but number two, on our right, took many more cranks and finally ran in sync.
We taxied to position for engine runup among three dozen B25s, angled at forty-five degrees, perfectly spaced like racehorses at the starting gate.
SevenEleven,” radioed the Goodfellow controller. “You’re cleared for takeoff.”
“Roger Tower,” transmitted Buck. I steered to the white runway centerline, advancing both throttles, the engines reaching maximum power. Buck pointed at the right fuel pressure, indicating low, but within limits.
We broke ground and climbed rapidly.
“Gear up, flaps up, climb power,” I requested.
I eased the throttles back an inch and Buck reset the props. I pointed to the right fuel pressure gauge. It had dropped below normal.
We traded glances, and I leaned to tap the glass on the gauge. The needle dropped to zero. Damn!
The engine was still running smoothly, which suggested a faulty gauge, but I was convinced there was a leak.
“It doesn’t figure,” said Buck. “The engine’s running normally. So what’s with that needle?”
“I don’t know for sure, but let’s keep climbing,” I answered. “We might need the altitude.”
As we ascended, Buck scanned the aircraft systems manual for information on fuel leaks. My mind raced, suddenly realizing that this one could be for real!
“Remember what they taught in ground school about fuel leaks?” I asked.
“Extend the gear,” Buck answered.
“Precisely, my dear Watson,” I said, both of us nodding.
“The gear down creates suction effect,” recalled Buck, “drawing any fumes inside the cockpit.”
Cruising at eight thousand feet I mentally reviewed my single-engine procedures.
“If we smell fumes, don’t retard the right throttle,” Buck cautioned.
“Thanks Buck.” His warning was a good one. We didn’t want to disrupt the airflow across the engine for fear of igniting fumes. I took a deep breath, signaled down with my thumb, and said, “Gear down.”
Fuel fumes instantly filled the cockpit! I reached for the right mixture, pulled it to idle cutoff, and pointed at the right fuel valve.
Buck twisted it off, the engine shut down, and my left leg tensed. I was pushing on the left rudder to compensate for yaw, an uncoordinated turn.
“Feather number two,” I said.
Buck poked the feathering button and the right engine shuddered, but its prop continued to spin.
“It didn’t feather!” yelled Buck.
“No kidding, Dick Tracy!” I exclaimed, imagining the wind milling prop throwing us out of control.
Buck leaned forward, twisting to his right. “It’s still wind milling!” he shouted. “There’s too much drag!” His skin was flushed and the veins in his neck bulged.
“Gear up!” I yelled. Streamlining the aircraft would reduce the drag.
“Hold her straight,” Buck motioned with his left hand toward twelve o’clock. “We’re still turning.”
“I’m standing on the rudder,” I said, my leg fully extended, the rudder bottomed out. “We have to trade power and altitude for control.”
“Gotcha,” Buck answered, through clenched teeth.
By manipulating airspeed and power, we were able to control the yaw and head straight for Goodfellow.
Buck looked dubious. “We can’t make it descending a thousand feet a minute, Mike. Wanna bail out?”
“No way, Jose,” I said. “Let’s slow it down till she approaches stall. Reduced air flow against that prop might be just enough to allow it to feather.”
Airspeed decreased rapidly as I stopped our vertical descent, but I could feel a bucking motion in the controls—the first indication of a stall. Will my chute open? I wondered, tightening my straps.
As the aircraft surged forward and the yaw to the right reversed, our airspeed increased suddenly. It felt like a roller coaster ride traveling full speed downhill.
Buck twisted to his right looking out the window. “The prop feathered!” he reported, motioning with thumbs up.
“Hot damn!” I shouted. “Let’s get this baby on the ground!”
“Goodfellow, this is SevenEleven,” transmitted Buck. “We’re declaring an emergency. Our right engine’s shut down due to a fuel leak. We lost fuel pressure. Have fumes in the cockpit.”
“Roger, SevenEleven. What’s your position?”
“We’re at five thousand feet, twenty miles northwest, inbound to Goodfellow. Estimate pattern entry in ten minutes.”
“Seven-Eleven, say fuel remaining and number of souls on board,” requested the controller.
“Two solo SOBs,” (Souls on board) Buck answered, smirking, “and two thousand pounds fuel.”
“Roger, SevenEleven,” the operator said, pausing. “We’ll alert the crash crew. Winds are two-five-zero degrees at ten knots. Active runway is two-one. Altimeter is 30.01. Cleared for approach and landing.”
“SevenEleven, Roger,” Buck answered.
As Buck talked to the tower, I thought about the critical point when making a singleengine landing. When I put the flaps down at three hundred feet and one hundred forty-five miles per hour, we were committed. No go-around possible. No second chance. It’s all in the timing.
I reduced the power on the left engine and began our descent to Goodfellow.
Suddenly I felt a burning in my chest. I looked at Buck. His hand was over his mouth suppressing a cough.
“Mike, I feel nauseated. What’s–?”
“Damn it!” I said, grabbing my oxygen mask. “Buck, oxygen…!” I gasped, donning it, inhaling pure oxygen. My chest heaved and then relaxed as my breathing returned to normal. We’d been breathing raw fuel fumes.
As Buck adjusted his mask, he checked the condition of the engine. His head snapped back! “Fuel gushing from right engine!” he blurted.
What more can we do? The mixture off, the fuel valve closed, the engine shut down, and still fuel is flowing.
“Here we go again!” I yelled, rechecking the straps on my chute. Dark perspiration stains showed on my flying suit and along the edges of my chute straps and seat belt. I looked at Buck. “This definitely is a positively profusely perspiration situation!”
“Dear-oh-dear,” he responded resignedly, exaggerating a nod.
We were descending steeply, about to enter the traffic pattern, and I suddenly knew. “Buck, fuel has pooled inside the engine nacelle compartments and now that we are nose down, it’s spilling out.”
“Yeah,” Buck said. “Maybe when we level off it will stop. Right now it’s streaming out like smoke in an air show.”
Our earphones crackled. “SevenEleven, are you aware of the fuel streaming from your right engine?” The tower operator’s voice had gone up a couple octaves.
“Affirmative! Nothing we can do. Seven-Eleven entering final, straight-in,” Buck added.
“SevenEleven, you’re cleared to land,” advised the tower operator. “Fire trucks standing by.”
“Flaps ten,” I said.
“Flaps ten,” Buck acknowledged.
“Buck, the instant we’ve stopped, you evacuate first,” I said, signaling, and calling for gear down.
“Gear down,” Buck echoed, checking for three green lights, calling, “Three green.”
We descended to decision point—three hundred feet—with my airspeed indicating one hundred forty-three, and I increased the power.
“Looking good,” Buck said.
“Full flaps,” I called.
Adrenaline filled me as we descended the final fifty feet. I began reducing power, pulling back on the control column, rolling in the back trim, waiting for the wheels to touch.
“A greaser,” Buck boomed. “You keep performing like that and someday you’ll be Air Force Chief of Staff.”
“It’s all a matter of timing; as for Chief of Staff, I’ll just settle for completing pilot training,” I replied.
On the landing roll, I flipped the battery switch off, cut the left mixture, and the left engine went silent.
“Everything off , Buck!” I shouted, and his hands became a blur, like Liberace playing Malaguena.
“Checklist complete,” Buck reported.
Airspeed indicated seventy miles per hour and decreasing. We coasted with no electrical power and two dead engines, like a canoe on a placid lake. We were down and the danger of fire was greatly reduced.
“Whoa, big fella,” I softly muttered as I stopped the aircraft, setting the brakes. I looked around for Buck. He was gone.
As I scrambled down the ladder, someone called and I turned to see Buck talking to our Squadron Commander, Colonel Dougherty, waving for me to join them.
“Lieutenant, you did one fine job,” he said, shaking my hand. “You set her down on the sweet spot.” I had to smile. “Thank you, Sir. It was a team effort. However, the credit should go to my instructor, Lt. Kelly. Yesterday he made our lives miserable practicing single engine landings. If he were here, we’d be tempted to kiss him. Right, Buck?”
Buck grinned, “Speak for yourself, I’ll just buy him a beer.
North American B-25 “Mitchell”
There were two flights at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Comet and Condor, with 35 student pilots in each. We had 11 first lieutenant and 24 second lieutenant student pilots in Condor Flight. Fifteen first lieutenants were instructor pilots and our eleven first lieutenant student pilots out ranked them all because we were previous navigators with more time in grade. Our oldest guy, Bob Thor, was 27 seven years old and a respected officer and gentleman. Why is this important? Happy Hour at the officers club was about an hour old. When I came in I saw Bob talking to a pilot that wasn’t a part of Condor flight. When I joined them I remained silent. The stranger appeared to be lecturing Bob instead of enjoying a happy conversation. I heard him say, “So you chose bombers instead of fighters…you must be some kind of coward!” Oh dear, not another drunk! Before Bob had a chance to respond I interrupted the obnoxious one, “Did you just call my friend a coward? Do you fly
B-25s?” He said defensively, “Yes I do, I’m an instructor in Comet Flight!” I made an open-palms gesture, “So that makes you a coward too!” He glared at me, “Who do you think you are?” I laughed, “I know who I am. I guess you’ll have to find that out on your own.” I turned to Bob, “Let’s go to the bar and have a drink, shall we, before our young immature juvenile delinquent gets physical. The beer is on me.”
The next morning in the flight shack my instructor handed me a note from the flight commander requesting my immediate presence. I reported to Lt. Horne’s office where he asked me to explain my incident with one of the flight instructors from Comet (comic) Flight. Lt. Horne knew me because he authorized a “NO PANIC AWARD” to me after my successful single-engine landing on my solo flight. He had also flown with me on an instructional flight. I explained to him in great detail what occurred. Lt. Horne said, “That’s not the way Lt. Brown informed me. He said you interrupted a conversation with Lt. Thor, were belligerent and disrespectful, and called him a coward.” I said, “Lieut. Brown is shifting the guilt. That was exactly the attitude he was displaying toward Lt. Thor, triggering my intervention. Have you talked to Lt. Thor?” Lt. Horne shook his head, “No, I don’t have to. I believe your story. One of my flight instructors had a similar confrontation with Brown during Happy Hour and Brown ended up in the hospital. The guy can’t handle alcohol. He should have learned his lesson. That aside, I don’t want this incident to go beyond my office. This confrontation can be resolved very quickly with your cooperation.” I said, “What does Lieut. Brown want?” Horne smiled, “He wants your apology.” I was appalled! “And exactly how am I to do that?” Lt. Horne shook his head, “You’re not going to like this, but he wants to meet you outside the flight shack. You have to salute him, say you’re sorry for calling him a coward and he will dismiss you. You are to salute him again, do an about-face and depart.” I bristled at the thought, “Never, not in a million years! This is juvenile!” “Listen up, Mike,” said Lt. Horne, “See these silver pilot wings on my chest. You’re within two weeks of having your wife pin pilot wings on your chest. Don’t let a fool like Lt. Brown rain on your parade. Swallow your pride, apologize, and you won’t ever see him again.” I thought for a few seconds. “Okay, you’re right, but it must be done in private. I hope you’re
correct about never seeing him again. It won’t be pretty!”
Later I confided in my flight instructor, telling him about Lt. Brown. When I told him Lt. Horne revealed one of his instructors had a fight with Brown, putting him in the hospital, he grinned and said, “That was me, I roughed him up pretty good.”
The next prank Bob pulled on Al was a classic. We had just arrived at the flight shack and Bob told Al their instructor wanted to be the first aircraft airborne this morning and for Al to go out to the flight line and do a walk-a-round of AIRCRAFT NUMBER 127645 in preparation for flight. The procedure was to enter the cockpit, check the log book for write-ups, and check all switches for proper positions. Go outside the aircraft, starting at the nose from about six feet in front, looking left and right for any abnormalities. Al looked to his right, starting at the wing tip and then back across all the way past the nose to the left wing tip. THERE WAS NO WING TIP OUTBOARD OF THE RIGHT ENGINE!
We were in the flight shack watching out the window, hysterical from laughter. Al looked back at the flight shack and put his head down in total disgust, knowing he had been the brunt of another prank by Bob, his flying partner! We were still laughing when the flight instructors entered the building wondering what we were laughing about. We told them and they started laughing! When Al came in he walked over to Bob’s table and put his finger on the end of Bob’s nose and said, “One of these days, Bob, I’m going to kill you!” Of course he didn’t, but revenge was always a possibility.
Condor Flight was about to get their wings. The only thing left was to finish
solo night flying, so we were scheduled for one last flight. We were told we could do anything we wanted to do, just fly the required hours. Bob and Al were professional baseball fans. Bob rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Al rooted for the Chicago Cubs. Bob was designated the aircraft commander. Al suggested, “Let’s take a thermos of coffee, some cookies and popcorn, and we’ll just fly around in circles and listen to the ballgame.” There was an ADF radio on board used for navigation, but you could also tune in a local A.M. radio station. In flight all aircraft are required to monitor the tower and Guard channel, an emergency frequency. The chatter was interfering with their listening to the baseball game, so Al turned down the volume on their main radios. After about an hour of flight the control tower called Condor flight, “Attention all Condor flights, at the order of your squadron commander, you are to land immediately. Night flying is cancelled.”
I landed and went to the Officer’s Club to wait for Bob because it was my turn to drive. Over an hour later Bob shows up and he’s not a happy camper. I had ordered a beer for both of us and he picked up his schooner and downed it without taking a breath, using the open throat method, of course. I said, “What took you so long?”
He said, “I just returned from the Colonel’s office where I received an angry butt chewing of enormous proportions!” Surprised I said, “What happened?” He said, “Al turned down the radios in order to listen to the baseball game so we never heard the recall message.” I sat up straight in my chair. “Oh boy, this is going to be interesting!” Bob answered, “Oh yeah, when Al turned the volume control back up I heard the tower talking about a missing aircraft. I called the tower and asked them if there was something we could do to help.” The tower came back, “What’s your call sign?” I said, “Condor 44356.” The tower responded quickly, “You’re the aircraft we’re looking for! The rest of Condor Flight landed an hour ago. Your commander cancelled night flying. I’m calling him right now, stand by.” I said, “Whoa, let me guess. Our Colonel requested the honor of your presence.” He said, “Yep, we had a really nice chat. That’s why I’m so late.”
After standing up and moving a good distance from Bob, I said something I just couldn’t resist. “Do you think, Al, your loyal co-pilot, the one you’ve pulled so many tricks on, could have set you up?” Bob glared at me, pondering what I had said.
I reminded Bob that I was driving us home and not to hurt me. (I still think revenge was the motive,) Bob was awarded his wings and toasted Al at our graduation party for his cleverness and originality. Al denied it. Bob had met his match.
SEWART AFB, SMYRNA, TENNESSE
I received my orders to report to the 513th Troop Carrier Wing, 345th TCS, on 1 October 1957
Bill Howe-Engineer- Mike Daciek
“When you try to place a square block into a round hole, you’ve initiated the first step into changing a mundane routine operation into a predictable, “AH CRAP!” situation.”
Mike Daciek- 1959
Once upon a time…
The C123 Provider entered service in 1955. It had two Pratt and Whitney R-2800 piston engines, carried two pilots, navigator, crew chief, load master and sixty fully equipped paratroopers, or 16,000 lbs. of cargo, or it could be converted to carry fifty litter patients, six sitting wounded and six attendants.
It was well regarded for Tactical Troop Transport for its ruggedness and reliability and ability to operate from short and unimproved airstrips. How rugged was it? Well, the most well known C-123 was called “Patches.” It served in Vietnam flying low level defoliant and insecticide spray missions. During that time it received over 1,000 bullet and shrapnel hits. Crewmen wounded onboard received seven purple hearts.
Its name is derived from the metal patches that cover many of its battle scars. Its other name was “Measles,” because maintenance crews painted each hit red. “Patches” is on display at Wright-Patterson Aviation Museum.
As rugged as it was, the first aircraft lost in South Vietnam was a Ranch Hand C123B-56-4370, shot down on 2 February 1962. By war’s end a total of 54 C123 aircraft were lost.
From 1957 thru 1961 I flew C-123’s out of Sewart Air Force Base, Smyrna, TN. Combat Airlift was the C-123 forte so we spent a lot of time at all the army forts in the world, stretching from the Rio Hata DZ/LZ (Drop Zone/Landing Zone) in Panama to remote Dew Line sites in Alaska. In between we spent Mondays thru Fridays at exotic places like Ft. Campbell, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Lewis, Ft. Benning, etc. If it had “Fort” in front of it we were there.
One morning after roll call our Operations Officer, Maj. Seagull, asked me to see him in his office. (We called him that because he squawked all day, crapped all over everyone and you had to throw rocks at him to make him fly). My additional duties were training officer and squadron parties, so it wasn’t an unusual request.
As I entered his office I asked, “Sir, are we having another squadron party?”
“No, not this time, it’s about Operation Indian River. Our squadron has been tasked to fly fourteen aircraft to Larson AFB, Wash. From there we will work with the 22nd Infantry and the First Battle Group out of Ft. Lewis. Our C-123’s will move them into the Selah assault zone in the Yakima valley.”
This was good news. For a minute there I thought we were heading to Ft. Campbell or Ft. Bragg again. My second thought was, why is he telling me this? Why isn’t he telling everyone?
He continued. “As usual we are short experienced personnel and this is really a big deal. The CO (Commanding Officer) is ecstatic that we were assigned the mission. He has assigned Captain Fuze as mission commander and you will be his co-pilot.”
Oh, wait a minute, I thought. Captain Fuze, who fly’s even less than Maj. Seagull, is going to lead fourteen aircraft into a 1200 ft. assault strip.
I had flown with just about every AC (Aircraft Commander) in the squadron and not once had I seen Capt. Fuze in an airplane. So, I just spurted out, “Shouldn’t he be flying with an instructor pilot.”
Major Seagull leaned forward in his chair placing his folded hands on his desk, head down, as if to pray. Slowly he raised his head and stared at me.
That’s a bad question, I thought. Do they teach staring at West Point?
“Captain Fuze is a qualified AC and all of our other Captains and IP’s (Instructor Pilots) are on other assignments,” he said. “You are our most highly qualified copilot so that’s why you have been selected to fly with the Mission Commander.”
I pondered that remark. Was that a compliment? Was Captain Fuze selected because he was the most qualified or is he the only one available? Was I really the most qualified or was I the only one who would go anywhere, anytime, with anybody? I think it was the latter.
I wanted to say, big whoopee but that would not be prudent at this time. “Thank you, sir,” I said, trying to sound sincere. I wanted to say that the Squadron Commander is qualified, Major Seagull is qualified, the Supply Officer is qualified and the Maintenance Officer is qualified, but are they proficient?
I found out early in my Strategic Air Command tour of duty that sometimes qualified only means the little boxes have X’s in them. Another reason I knew this was because I was the Squadron Training Officer and excelled in filling squares. We can all land a C-123 on a dry, hard surface, 7000 foot runway on a calm day at high noon.
Already I was praying for good weather. If you break down on a short dirt assault strip the field is closed and the entire mission is jeopardized. The other aircraft have no place to go. And we’re flying the lead aircraft. Not good.
Maj. Seagull stood up. He said, “I understand your concern and I agree Capt. Fuze may be a little rusty so I’m scheduling the two of you for a local flight tomorrow. Be sure to practice several assault landings. Any questions?”
Once again I thought, are you kidding? “No questions, sir.”
While flying the next day, fairly windy, Capt. Fuze lost an engine coming out of reverse on a couple of his assault landings. We discussed the proper technique to prevent that and he did okay on the remaining landings.
I knew very little of Capt. Fuze’s background except that he flew combat missions in WW11, including D-day at Normandy and other major campaigns.
After our final Squadron briefing for the Indian River mission, many of our pilots gathered at the Officer’s Club for coffee. Capt. Fuze’s name was mentioned and a copilot referred to him as a “Nervous Nelly”. Another said he had a short fuse which I found extremely appropriate for a person so short and a name like Fuze.
It sounded like gossip to me so I just kept my mouth shut.
On 3 May 1958, fourteen aircraft took to the sky in formation on a 1730 nautical miles, or about seven and a half hours of actual flying time, from Sewart AFB to Larson AFB, just south of Tacoma, Wash. The first leg took us to Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City, South Dakota for refueling.
About halfway there I mentioned to Capt. Fuze that I hadn’t been on a SAC (Strategic Air Command) base since I left Travis AFB where I flew as radar-navigator-bombardier on a B-36 bomber. SAC commanders were very particular about who landed at their bases so you needed PPO (prior permission only) to land there.
“Yes, that’s true,” he said. ”Colonel Man, our CO, took care of that personally.”
Nine-hundred nautical miles and four hours later we landed at Ellsworth AFB, a rather enjoyable flight with clear smooth weather all the way, and fourteen in-commission airplanes parked at base flight.
We were being briefed by Captain Fuze in Base Operations for our next leg which we filed single ship, IFR (instrument flight rules) due to en route weather, when a heavy set, crew cut, cigar smoking Major stormed into our briefing.
Zeroing in on Captain Fuze, he said, “Captain, who’s in charge here?”
“I’m Captain Fuze, Mission Commander, Sir.”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing landing fourteen TAC (Tactical Air Command) airplanes on my airfield?”
Oh my, I thought, that’s no way to talk to my flight leader.
“We landed here to refuel,” Capt Fuze answered, his face turning slightly pink as he moved toward the Major.
“Don’t you know this is a SAC base, Captain?”
“Yes, I do, but I don’t know whoyou are.”
“I’m Major Bowers, Operations Officer, and you’ve landed fourteen airplanes on my field without PPO.”
“I have PPO,” with Captain Fuze moving closer still. “If you check your records, you’ll find that my CO, Col. Man got the approval in the customary manner.”
“I don’t recall any PPO from a Col. Man.” Now they were standing nose to nose.
“Then maybe you should check with your dispatcher or someone who does know?” It was more of a statement than a question.
Uh Oh, I thought. How do you spell insubordinate?
The Major glowered at Captain Fuze, puffed on his cigar, turned, and hurried away.
Minutes later he returned, cigar in hand. “You’ve got a problem, Captain Fuze.” Now he was saying Captain with a great amount of sarcasm. “There’s no PPO.”
Capt. Fuze turned beet red and shook his head. “No, I don’t have a problem. You have fourteen problems sitting on your ramp. What I want to know is, are you going to give us the fuel or not?”
The Major was speechless. More thoughts of disobedience ran through my head.
Capt. Fuze said, “So, is it a yes, or a no?”
The Major retreated without an answer. I wondered if he would return with a couple of Air Police Officers to haul our fearless leader away.
After a few minutes a staff sergeant appeared and advised Captain Fuze that refueling was approved and please leave as soon as possible.
We had just witnessed a “short Fuze.” I wondered when “Nervous Nelly” would show up. It wasn’t long.
Our next leg ran 830 nautical miles across many mountain ranges; the Rockies, Wind River, Bitterroots, Cascade, with many peaks exceeding 10,000 ft. And here we were flying unpressurized below l0,000 ft. As we crossed the Rockies, Captain Fuze suddenly became awfully interested in our position. “Where are we?” he asked.
I looked at the VOR/DME and said, “We’re on the 265 degree radial of the Billings VOR, 42 nm/dme.”
“I know that,” he said. ”What’s the name of that lake and town down there?”
I reached inside my brain bag and pulled out an ONC aeronautical chart, studied it, and showed Captain Fuze our position. These questions went on for about two hours. What’s that river, are there any emergency airfields near us, what’s the name of that mountain? Now I knew I was flying with “Nervous Nelly.” I’m thinking, this guy needs a tour guide, not a copilot.
Finally I said, “Capt. Fuze, this is wearing me out, can’t we just use the low altitude en route chart and fly the airway system?”
I saw the color of his face begin to change and quickly asked myself, why did I say that?
Well, I got a lecture on the importance of knowing the aircraft position at all times and being able to locate the closest landing field in the event of an emergency.
After that, I simply said,” Roger” and continued with my map reading. That’s when I found that “Roger” is a great response when you don’t know what else to say. We made it to Larson AFB OK.
Well, the big day came. Fourteen aircraft departed Larson at sunrise, flying one minute in trail, headed east for Ellensberg VOR, about ninety miles away. Then we turned south for twenty miles descending into the Yakima Valley for landing at Selah LZ.
Our load was two vehicles, a jeep and a ¾ ton truck, plus six infantry men. After landing, we would clear the runway, open the ramp, discharge the vehicles and troops, and taxi for takeoff as the load master closed the ramp. We would watch the second aircraft land and as he cleared the runway, we would take off. Following this scenario, all aircraft would be airborne in less than fifteen minutes.
However, that’s in a perfect world. When I radioed the LZ, I got the bad news. We were landing to the north and the winds were out of the east at ten knots gusting to fifteen.
UM doggies, right at our max for cross-winds landings. That’s what you get with a high wing and narrow landing gear. Oh well, at least we’re not landing on wet PSP( perforated steel planking) which can be as slippery as snot on a brass doorknob.
We touched down within the first 100 feet right on air speed. Captain Fuze dropped the nose to the ground, entered reverse smartly and applied the brakes. Real good. Coming out of reverse, the aircraft drifted to the left and he shoved the left throttle forward to correct back to the center line, leaving the right throttle in the idle position. He should have pushed it slightly forward to keep it running. The engine stalled and he stopped the aircraft at the end of the runway.
He attempted to start the right engine and I suggested he let me do that while he taxied clear of the runway. He agreed and pushed up the power on left engine to get it rolling. He had to make a 100 degree turn to the right and backtrack to the taxiway. His second big mistake was turning the nose gear full travel which was 60 degrees before moving the aircraft forward.
Meanwhile, I started the right engine. It took a helluva lot of power to turn because the nose gear was acting like a brake in the cocked position and screaming bloody murder! He turned the nose gear back towards neutral and we moved off the runway. Although the runway was fairly flat, we had landed on the side of a mountain and the taxi way ran uphill. We straddled the left edge of the taxiway and the load master called for permission to open the ramp. Captain Fuze stopped the aircraft to unload.
Now we were ready to taxi again. But he did it again, cranking the nose gear full travel without moving forward. I heard a creaking noise, and I thought, he’s going to break the nose gear steering cable, and then it happened! There was a loud cracking noise and the aircraft nose flopped to the left about ten degrees and we started rolling backwards down the hill! (That’s a wonderful feeling).
Captain Fuze yelled, “No brakes” and added power to stop the roll.
OMYGAWD! We were in deep kimchi!
I pointed at the emergency air brake bottle to his left and yelled, “Actuate the air bottle!”
He pulled up the levers, firing the bottle and the airplane stopped rolling. The crew chief and load master stuck their heads into the cockpit and demanded to know what was going on. I saw that the hydraulic pressure and quantity gauges were zero.
I yelled, “Jump outside using the rear doors and chock the aircraft, and use rocks if you have to. Remember, we’re leaving the engines running until we’re chocked so don’t go forward!”
By this time, the second aircraft had landed and called us on the radio. I answered, “We’ve lost our hydraulics. Can you clear us by leaving the taxiway and cutting across the field? If you can’t do it, you’ll have to advise all the other aircraft not to land.”
Seconds later they called and said, “No problem, we made it fine.”
I answered, “Great! Radio back to the other aircraft that there’s a disabled aircraft on the field, but it’s off the runway and it’s possible to taxi around them.”
As I said that, the aircraft began to roll backwards again!
Captain Fuze had repositioned the air bottle actuating lever back to the normal position, releasing the air pressure.
I yelled again, “Fire the air bottle again and leave the levers up. We only have three applications!”
Well, we stopped again. Fortunately, the two sergeants were still inside the airplane. They thought we were trying to kill them. They finally chocked the plane and we shut down the engines. Then we used wing tie-downs to keep the plane from rocking in the wind and there we sat.
I really enjoyed sitting there on the side of the hill watching the other planes land and take-off. Especially the wonderful sign language my buddies used as they passed me by. They really loved me! I could hardly wait to go to the club that night.
We were surprised to find that the nose gear steering hydraulic actuator had popped its head off like it had been guillotined. Voila! No hydraulics.
Larson AFB flew in a chopper with an air compressor, hydraulic fluid and a new actuator. We were back at Larson AFB by 1500 which was truly amazing considering our situation.
The only evidence that anything went wrong on that flight was the write up on the form 781, which read: Lost hydraulic system due to rupture of the nose gear steering actuator. Activated emergency air bottle.
Corrective action: Replaced nose gear steering actuator. Purged hydraulic lines and re-serviced hydraulic system and emergency air bottle.
Except for that incident, the rest of the three day mission went off as scheduled.
Our squadron was commended twice by an army general and an army colonel, praising us for a flawless performance. If they only knew! I was a slow learner but I kept my mouth shut on that one. Incidentally, for some unknown reason the army engineers had covered the runway with sharp granite rocks which were cutting large deep gouges and furrows in our tires. Had it not been for a quick response from a C-130 crew bringing in new tires, we probably would not have completed the mission in time. Almost every main gear tire had to be changed before the last mission was flown.
Colonel Man was given command of a C-130 squadron. Captain Fuze received a promotion to major and transferred to wing headquarters. I received a promotion to captain, became an aircraft commander and an instructor pilot.
The Air Force operates in mysterious ways.
My crew was dispatched to Fort Benning, Georgia, Jump School for new recruits. Five jumps are required to get their wings. This took five days of flying, Monday through Friday. Lt. Dave Brown was assigned as DZO, Jump Zone officer, accompanied by an Air Force staff sergeant, a qualified paratrooper. They had a radio equipped three-quarter ton truck on the drop zone to communicate with the air crew, giving wind speed and direction and provided green or red smoke to signal drop or no drop in the event of radio failure.
There were two barrel-chested jump masters positioned at the rear of the cargo compartment by the two exit doors. It was summer so all they wore were fatigue pants and tight T-shirts which showed their bulging muscles. If a new recruit froze at the door they would place a foot on his rear and shove him out. There were two overhead cables running the full length of the cargo compartment for the paratroopers to hook up their static lines. These static lines pulled the parachutes out as the troopers exited the door. Another cable ran across the cargo compartment, anchored just aft of the exit doors. The jumpmasters would stand close to the doors, reach up with both hands and grasp the cable to steady them as the jumpers went by. They didn’t wear parachutes so if the aircraft hit unexpected turbulence or if we banked the airplane abruptly the jump master could tumble out the door. As the last paratrooper exited the aircraft the jump masters would hang onto the cable and stick their heads out the door to see if the novices landed on the jump zone. If you’re wondering why I’m telling you this…stand by for the rest of the story.
On the last day the jump master asked, “Would you do me and the newly qualified paratroopers a big favor?” Puzzled, I asked, “What’s that?” He said, “Would you make a real low-level pass over the drop zone and wiggle your wings as a congratulations to our class?” This is what pilots live and die for! “Of course I would, with pleasure!”
I briefed my co-pilot and load master on the plan, cautioning the load master to make sure everything loose in the cabin was secured. Stowed in a large box were huge tie-down chains for securing heavy equipment such as trucks, jeeps, etc. I told Lt. Brown, the DZO, I would be flying from the north to south across the drop zone and he probably wouldn’t see our aircraft until we were real close due to being so low. He said, “I’ll be standing on top of the truck so I can pick you up sooner.” “Roger that!” I then told my co-pilot, “Dave Brown and I are close friends and he burned me real bad on a prank. I told him we would be coming from north to south but we’ll fly from south to north. He’ll be standing on top of his truck looking for us and we’ll scare the hell out of him!”
We were skimming the tops of the trees and upon reaching the edge of the drop zone we descended even lower. Dave was using binoculars, his back to us, while I salivated. I had to pull up to go over his head. Then I pushed the nose down to descend to about ten feet above the ground. According to my loadmaster this is when the crap hit the fan. He closed the chain box but…but …he failed to lock it. My pushing the nose of the aircraft down so quickly created negative Gs. He looked back to check the jump masters and couldn’t believe his eyes. They were both holding on to the cable, their bodies parallel to the aircraft floor as though they were flying. They gradually swung back down, coming to rest on the cargo deck, unscathed! At the same time the chains had came floating up out of the box pushing the lid fully open. It stayed open and most of the chains settled back into the box. Unaware of what had transpired the co-pilot and I enjoyed watching the startled paratroopers ducking to avoid a beheading. I did a 180 and flew a little higher over the drop zone to wiggle my wings. The loadmaster came up to the cockpit to brief me on the wonderful time the three of them enjoyed in the back during the low-level pass. Also, the two jump masters wanted to talk to me on the ground. That worried me.
When they approached me they weren’t smiling! I apologized profusely and they began to laugh and one said, “Captain, that was a little bit more than we asked for but very stimulating and damn enjoyable! We just wanted to see you and learn your name so we can avoid flying with you again.” They walked away. I scored again! Now I have to deal with Dave Brown after he changes his shorts.
Scooters were a great source of transportation, saving the wives two trips to the base. We took them on our airplanes saving the government the cost of providing military transportation at our destination. We lost that privilege when a C-130 pilot left part of his cargo at an overseas base in order to carry his scooter home.
What’s with that?
Mike 345th TCS Crews & two scooters
If anyone wanted to find Ray King, Mike Daciek or Bob McGill, go to the base gym and we would be in the handball court knocking that little black ball around. Our Operations Officer, Captain King, found time to romance “Winnie,” one of our flight nurses and before long Bob and I were best men at his wedding. It happens like that.
Meanwhile, at the Daciek household, Mary Kathleen, 6 Nov 1958, and Mike Eugene, 8 Jan 1960, flew in, landing at the Sewart AFB hospital. The guys weren’t always gone!
Things do not always go as planned. My squadron was ordered to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in 1958 and the following was reported in the newspaper after disaster struck.
TRAGIC PARACHUTE MANEUVER KILLS FIVE.137 INJURED WHEN HIT BY GUSTS.
The paratroopers were tossed about the drop zone by treacherous and shifting wind gusts. The victims, among nearly 1,400 taking part, were dragged across the rough drop zone by billowing parachutes (quick releases were not installed at that time) which they were helpless to deflate. None of those hospitalized was believed in serious condition.
The men jumped from 1,250 feet, aiming at the drop zone, which is two miles long and one mile wide. Some were blown into adjacent wooded areas; the others were dragged through puddles of water and across stumps and rocks.
Newsmen, medical corpsmen and other non-jumping personnel on hand helped some of the entangled paratroopers collapse their filled parachutes and free themselves. Helicopters were called in to evacuate the injured.
“The guy who collapsed my chute for me looked like Santa Claus at Easter time,” said Sgt. 1/C DANIEL KLING, St. Louis, who suffered severe cuts and bruises.
“Guess I went clear across the drop zone.”
The five who were killed were blown against trees and rocks by the wind gusts or strangled by the suspension lines when they were unable to collapse their parachutes.
Maj. Gen. W. C. Westmoreland, 44, who assumed command of the 101st earlier this month, jumped with the 502nd, his 70th jump without injury, but he was dragged 300 feet across the ground.”I just couldn’t run as fast as my chute was going,” he commented
Westmoreland said wind readings of 10 knots (about 11 1/2 mph.) and under were made at drop time. Drops are permitted unless wind velocity exceeds 12 knots. “The injuries sustained resulted from an increased wind velocity or gusts following the drop,” the general added. Authorities declined to estimate the velocity of the gusts.
The pressure was on! Weather delays were built into the Operational Plan and if there was one more delay the mission had to be cancel. Many of us believed the only thing saving Westmoreland from court-martial is the fact that he led the jump without being injured. The opinion among those witnessing the event claimed he jumped from the weather aircraft. The troops jumped later. Generally trial missions were flown in advance to test flight conditions. Sometimes dummies were dropped. Westmoreland had jeeps waiting to drive alongside his parachute which the soldiers chased and collapsed his chute. Wind reports always include the gusts, ten gusting to twenty. Nuff said.
One never knows when the unusual will happen. We were flying a three ship night formation drop on the Suchon Drop Zone at Ft. Bragg. It rained all day long and you could see pools of water glistening from the moonlight. Night formation flying takes fierce concentration to stay tucked in real close to the lead aircraft. All interior instrument lights are turned down to increase your night vision. All you can see are the lead’s dark shadow of an airplane and its navigation lights. I was flying the right wing when my co-pilot commented on the large pools of water as we neared the Drop Zone. Six minutes out the co-pilot turns on the red light in the rear to signal the paratroopers to stand up and prepare to jump. One minute out the co-pilot issues a verbal warning and the paratroopers hookup. Now they wait for the green light and out they go. I’m watching for the first paratrooper to exit the lead aircraft and I will yell, “Green light!” As I waited, straining to see, someone in the exit door took a picture and the bright flash blinded me! I never saw the lead jumper exit so we flew across the Drop Zone without dropping. As we maneuvered to make a racetrack pattern for another attempt we received a strike report that several of the paratroopers landed in waist deep water short of the leading edge of the DZ. My run was canceled. Luckily no one drowned! These are reasons why paratroopers mistrust pilots. Shades of D-Day. Paratroopers were spread out all over Normandy, France, which really confused the Germans.
When my commander learned that I had not dropped I received a big “Atta Boy.” There are times when one keeps his mouth shut. When I shared my “No Drop” with one of my buddies flying the left wing he wouldn’t believe my “Blinded” story and scolded me for not dropping. Because he dropped, he thought I should have dropped. It’s possible the commander might have questioned him why he dropped and Captain Daciek didn’t. It’s likely I would have dropped.
I believe paratroopers are taught that jumping out of airplanes is safer that landing in one, especially if there’s something wrong with the airplane. On another flight we had to shut an engine down due to a fire warning indication about twenty minutes from the DZ. I informed the jumpmaster that we were returning to Ft. Campbell to land. We had a full load of experienced troopers and learning of our decision they showed their displeasure by stomping up and down as hard as they could on the metal cargo floor which vibrated throughout the airplane. I asked the jumpmaster, “What the hell is going on back there?” He said, “They all prefer to jump because landings are more dangerous.” I said, “We’re closer to Ft. Campbell then to the DZ and the FAA rule is to land at the nearest suitable airport. If unable to maintain altitude and airspeed, that’s a different story.” I couldn’t believe his response. “Just let us jump right now. We don’t need a DZ!” Paratroopers, you gotta love em! We made a safe landing with them on board. I think he meant it.
The 2nd Aerial Port Squadron, commanded by Captain Marvel, provided communications for operations from the drop zones or landing zones. They used a radio controlled truck on the DZ /LZ. We could fly them into a LZ, offload in seconds and depart ASAP. Since they were qualified paratroopers we could make an airborne drop along with their trucks. Captain Marvel was an avid parachutist who lived for jumping out of airplanes. He was intense, tall and lean, with muscles as strong as bridge cables.
It was a Saturday morning, and I had to drive out to the squadron. I noticed a lot of activity on the baseball field and a helicopter hovering overhead. I spotted Marvel with a parachute standing by a row of hundreds of parachutes. I asked a bystander, “What’s going on here?” He said, “Captain Marvel is attempting to establish a world record by making over 200 jumps in one day from that helicopter which is landing to pick him up. He’s made five jumps already!” I was impressed. “The tax payers better not hear about this. How long has this been going on?” He said, “Not long, the helicopter takes him up to jump altitude, which appears to be damn low, Marvel jumps out, hits the ground, discards the chute, and puts on another one. By that time the helicopter is back to pick him up.”
The base commander stopped his car next to me and asked, “What the hell is going on?” I told him. He said, “I never authorized this!” He jumped out of his car and collared Marvel, reading him the riot act and canceled the jumps. Marvel kept saying, “But, but, but…” The commander said, “But, my ass, you tell that chopper pilot to fly away… right now! And get those parachutes out of here. The show is over!” Marvel said, “Yes sir, I can explain if…” The commander cut him off, “Stop right there, you can explain this fiasco to me Monday morning in my office at 0800 hours!” Captain Marvel received a verbal reprimand, lucky fellow.
C-123 Instructor Pilot
Soon after being appointed an instructor pilot I received a request from our squadron Operations Officer to fly with one of our new pilots who had failed to upgrade to co-pilot. I received instructions to spend as much time as necessary, four hours if needed, for me to train him up to co-pilot standards. It sounded like a direct order to get him upgraded regardless of his proficiency. The scuttlebutt within the squadron about this new officer made me wonder why he failed to perform, a West Point graduate and son of a general, should fare much better than most, if it was true.
We started out with the normal routine of stalls and falls before we entered the traffic pattern to shoot some landings. He seemed rather lackadaisical and at ease thus far. I asked him if he wanted to observe one of my landings first and he said it wasn’t necessary. I had to take the controls away from him on his first attempt. I then made a demonstration landing before turning the aircraft back over to him. He managed to get the airplane on the ground after too high an airspeed, rounding out too high, feeling for the runway, drifting off the center line, making a hard landing in a crab, 2,000 feet down the runway, halfway between the center line and edge of the runway. We departed the traffic pattern and did some air work, made some instrument low approaches and he did surprisingly well on the toughest instrument approach of all, the ADF approach. Now it was time to take another stab at the traffic pattern. The landings didn’t go well.
I had a canned form listing all the maneuvers with blocks for grading purposes. When I returned to operations the major’s first question came right at me, “Well, do we have a new co-pilot?” I handed him the graded form and he examined it and asked, “Why isn’t there a grade on single-engine landings?” I said, “He didn’t make any. He couldn’t make a decent two engine landing even with my help!” He stared at the form shaking his head, “How long did you fly?” I said, “Four and one half hours, sir” He rose up from his desk, “You mean to tell me you spent all that time with him and couldn’t check him out!” I nodded, “Yes sir, this guy is going to kill himself along with others if he is allowed near another airplane. I’m not going to enable him to do that.”
Sewart AFB Pilot Killed
Less than a week later a Murfreesboro newspaper article read: A Sewart AFB pilot, flying a T-34 Mentor out of Murfreesboro Airport with a college student, entered icing conditions, crashed, killing both of them. Prior to that time Sewart AFB had cancelled all flights until further notice due to severe icing conditions. Evidently pilots in Tennessee were aware of the severe icing through weather station reports, radio bulletins and NOTAMS, (Notices to Airmen), except for one individual, thinking he was a pilot.
I received notification of orders transferring me to RAF Sculthrope in England with concurrent travel of my family. I would have 30 days leave followed by TDY (Temporary Duty) to Stead AFB, Nevada for Escape and Evasion Survival School, thence to JQC training (T-33 Jet Qualification Course) at Randolph AFB, Texas. My reporting date, January 1962, to 47th Bomb Wing, RAF Sculthrope, a twin-engine jet B-66 medium bomber base. I was ecstatic over the assignment because single-engine jet training was the first step to flying fighters, my goal from that day in West Virginia when Chuck Yeager did aerobatics over my house.
1961 Dad-Mike-MK-Karen-Teresa Jun 61-Sewart Officer’s Club-Joan-Mike
Glitch # 1
The movers arrived at 0800 hours on the 3rd of August, 1961. The furniture would be packed in large crates for the shipment overseas to England. I inspected the crates and they were rotten, infested with bugs. I called the Base Transportation Officer and insisted that new crates be provided and he agreed. There were none available and new ones would be built and it would take all day. I had notified my parents that we would be arriving in New Jersey on my birthday, 6 August, so I had to slip my arrival to 7 August.
Glitch # 2
We had a great birthday party and a week went by when I received an urgent message from Sewart canceling my vacation and ordered to proceed immediately to Randolph AFB, San Antonio, Texas for JQC,T-33 training. They discovered the JQC program was being canceled and the last class would start in one week. I was supposed to go to Stead AFB, Nevada, in September for Survival School during good weather and the family would remain with my parents. I returned to take them to San Antonio. Fortunately, I had planned ahead to have hold baggage (cribs, ironing boards, etc.) sent to Texas where the family would join me while I checked out in the T-33. I rented a 60 foot trailer in Shertz, Texas, right outside Randolph AFB. We settled in and after two weeks passed I was called into the Commander’s office.
60 foot Trailer-MED Tess Joan Karen MK ? Evaporative cooler
My previous bank sent a letter to my Commander reporting a bounced check and the USAF frowned upon officers writing rubber checks. “That will be reflected on your ER!” (Efficiency Report). I called the bank and it turned out it was their mistake and they sent a corrected letter to my Commander. Whew!
Glitch #4 A humdinger!
In June, 1961, Russia started saber rattling again with the construction of the Berlin wall. Then they threatened to close down the Berlin Corridors which allowed the USA, France and England to travel in and out of East Germany into Berlin. President Kennedy began steps to counter Russia’s provocative moves by starting a military buildup in Europe.
Presto! I received a telegram from the 314th Troop Carrier Wing Personnel Officer, Captain Daniel J. Livinghouse, (A name that will go down in infamy) informing me that my concurrent travel to England had been cancelled due to the threat of war.
Damn! My furniture was on its way to England! This really complicated matters requiring numerous telephone calls to Sewart AFB hoping to arrange a furnished home in base housing. No! I certainly wasn’t leaving my family in Shertz, Texas in a 60 foot trailer! And after finishing here I had to go to Stead AFB in November for Survival School. Striking out on everything I tried to do I finally called Mom and Dad in Newark, New Jersey. I asked if Joan and the four kids could live with them until I completed school in Nevada. This would get me home prior to December. Dad said, “It will be a tight fit but we’ll work it out.” Whew, what a relief!
While all this was happening it had become harder for me to concentrate fully on my T-33 flight training. For example, Captain McCallister was questioning our class on emergency procedures and my mind was in New Jersey wondering if I could find a furnished home with four children before leaving for England.
I heard Captain McCallister mention my name and heard part of his emergency question. I answered it and he said, “Captain, everything you said was absolutely true…but…that wasn’t the emergency procedure I asked for.” Everyone laughed! I was embarrassed because he had caught me day dreaming. I just shook my head looking for a place to hide. Well, first the bad check and now this. I’m developing quiet a reputation. Captain Mac let me off the hook by moving on.
The flying initially was troublesome after flying a two-engine truck for four years at a top speed of 140 knots and using every muscle in both arms to make 30 degree bank turns. I’m struggling with “needle, ball, and airspeed” and the instructor is screaming, “Watch out for traffic! YOU’RE GOINNA GET US BOTH KILLED!”Now it was 300 knots and a stick between your right thumb and fore-finger in a 60 bank with the instructor screaming. “MORE BACK-PRESSURE!”
As my flying time increased I became more comfortable and was actually enjoying the flights! I flew with two or three instructors and I’m sure one of them thought I was hopeless because one day, out of the blue… you’re getting a check ride today!
T-33 Check Ride
21 September 1961
Captain Frank W. McCallister Jr, Check Pilot, and I walked across the ramp toward our waiting T-33. This was the day I had been waiting for since I was nine years old.
Captain McCallister said, “It’s all yours!” He was a man of few words. I did all the ground checks and climbed into the front seat and he took the back seat. I handled the radios and flew the airplane. It was like flying with a ghost!
During our climb he said, “Take me to the aerobatic area and level off at 20,000 feet.” What? With only 30 hours of T-33 flying time not one minute had been spent doing aerobatics! My last aerobatics was performed in a T-34 and T-28 in 1956, five years earlier and I loved it! For the last four years I had been flying a C-123, a twin engine low and slow aircraft.
At 20,000 feet he said, “I’ve got the aircraft. Place your hands in your lap, close your eyes with your head down.” I had no idea what he was up to.
I could hear the engine noises going from full power to idle. I felt the “G” forces pressing me down and then easing. My shoulders swayed from side to side as he apparently was making turns both left and right and other gyrations. Is he trying to give me vertigo!
Finally, he said, “You’ve got the airplane.” My eyes flew across the flight instruments quickly noting the airspeed rapidly building toward 300 knots and the attitude indicator showing the aircraft upside down. I pulled the power back to idle and did an aileron roll as we were diving! I popped the speed brakes while pulling the nose up to level flight. As the aircraft slowed I retracted the speed brakes and set the power for cruise.
He said, “Take me to Randolph!”
As we walked across the ramp he said, “You’re cleared to solo tomorrow.”
What an unbelievable check ride! One I’ll never forget!
NOT ONE WORD OF CRITICISM! AMAZING!
I graduated and received orders to report to Survival School in Nevada ASAP. But first I had to take the family back to my folks in New Jersey. While there I managed to obtain a copy of the letter written by the Secretary of State announcing the Dependents Ban on concurrent travel. It stated that the ban did not apply to those receiving their orders prior to 1 September 1961. Voila! I received my orders in July and my furniture was in England. Logic would make one believe that my family was free to go with me. Livinghouse disagreed! He said the furniture was not in England but at a port waiting to be shipped and he could get the furniture back. Also, he had further information concerning my status which cancelled my concurrent travel. By this time I was in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, far away from civilization, doing “escape and evasion,” while hunting for squirrels and rabbits.
When I came out of the woods in late November I called Livinghouse. He said my furniture had left for England on two different boats but my concurrent travel was not approved. “What!” I said. “You do not know what you are doing! I’m going to take action to see that my family joins me in England even if I have to pay for their commercial travel. I’ll be going over your head because you are incompetent!” A nasty letter will follow.
There are a thousand details, large and small which has to be done, especially when you have two TDYs between stations. Detailed planning can’t be redone overnight. When you reach out for help someone has to step up to the plate. The 314th Wing at Sewart AFB said I belonged to the 47th Bomb Wing at RAF Sculhthrope. The 47th Bomb Wing said I belonged to Sewart AFB until 2 January, 1962 and neither one did a thing. Fortunately, my mother and father agreed to house my family in Newark until the matter was resolved. I had no idea that it would take months!
We owned a 1956 Mercury Voyager station wagon which I left with Joan because the car was too big for the narrow streets of England. Someone broke into the car and stole my tool box which really didn’t matter because it went with the car.. I bought another station wagon in England which was about the same size of a German Volkswagon. The kids laughed at it when they first saw it!
I ended up reporting, alone, to RAF Schulthrope as ordered on 2 January 1962. Even after signing in to the 47th Bomb Wing and going through the military channels, letters, and phone calls, everyone was sympathetic but no corrective action taken.
On I March 1962 I sent a two page letter to New Jersey Congressman Addonizio explaining my plight. He sent a message to my Base Commander demanding an immediate response on why approval was not received for Captain Daciek’s family to join him in England. It sat in the Command Post for two days before it was brought to the Commander’s attention. He called my boss and asked him if he knew anything about Captain Daciek’s congressional inquiry. No, he didn’t. My boss asked me if it was true. “Yes sir,” I said, “It’s definitely true.” He appeared stunned. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I said, “I’ve sent letters to the Secretary of the Air Force, three bird colonels, a light colonel, and two captains without corrective action. Why should I bother you with my problem?” He picked up his phone and dialed a number. “Yes sir,” he said, “It’s true.” They talked awhile and my boss hung up the phone and looked at me, shaking his head, “He’s not a happy camper. Now tell me the whole story.” I did. He agreed that I had done everything properly by going through the chain of command without success. He laughed and said, “It took a lot of gonads to contact a congressman. It might bite you on the butt someday… but I don’t blame you one bit.”
Addonizio arranged for an Air Force, four-engine C-118, rigged for passengers, to fly my family, the only passengers on board, non-stop from McGuire AFB in New Jersey to RAF Mildenhall, UK. I met my family in front of RAF Mildenhall Base Operations. Six months had passed with Joan and kids living in cramped quarters with Mom and Dad. It was tough living but not as bad as what was yet to come for Joan and the kids. Passport picture
1956 Morris Minor
We packed the luggage in the back of my newly purchased 1956 tinny-winny Morris Minor “Woody” station wagon. Teresa, Karen, Mary Kay, and little Michael sat snugly in the back seat laughing at the cute little circus car. Sometimes we drove on the wrong side of the road to our new quarters at Kings Gate. We were headed for the quaint little town of Sheringham, about 20 kilometers from the base. Our furniture finally caught up with us.
We were on the second floor with no furnace for heating. All the fireplaces had been sealed. It was “bloody” cold with the wind from the North Sea blowing down the unused chimneys. A meter at the base of the stairs took shillings to turn the electricity on. One shilling lasted about 24 hours. If you forgot to feed the monster you could be in the bathroom (yep, we had one) and the lights would go out. I bought two paraffin (kerosene) heaters at the Base Exchange to heat the apartment. We moved them around like we were playing chess! I bought paraffin every time I gassed the car.
We lasted there one month and moved into a really nice home on the ground floor called The Lodge. It was a Duke’s home at one time and our dining room had French doors opening onto a garden full of flowers and a gazebo. It was heated by steam heat from radiators in every room.
The base was closing and rumors were strong that we would be transferred to France. If we wanted to see London it better be quick. “Trooping of the Colors” is held in London annually on a Saturday in June on Horse Guards Parade by St. James’s Park,[ The Queen travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace in a royal procession with a sovereign’s escort of Household Cavalry (mounted troops or horse guards). After receiving a royal salute, she inspects her troops of the Household Division, both foot guards and horse guards, and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. We made it and I took 8 MM films of the event. The Queen did not look too happy after sitting on horseback for hours. Evidently the Royal Coach was not available.
The Royal Coach is used for the Coronation of British Sovereigns
Teresa 7 years, Dad 29, The Lodge, Sheringham, UK, 1962
KAREN TERESA-DAD TERESA-KAREN
TERESA-KAREN MK- MIKE-E MK-MED-TESS-KAREN
Sheringham was Joan’s happiest time in the Air Force because of Beatrice & Cecil Storey. They became our adopted grandparents. They were always there for Joan & we shared many happy times together.
Storey’s Romany Rye The Lodge-1968 Candy Store
In July 1962 I was ordered to report to the 366th TAC Fighter Wing, an F-84F single-engine jet fighter base located in Chaumont, France. Wow! When one door closes another opens, I’m finally going to fly fighters! However, do not bring your family with you due to a lack of base housing. When Charles DeGaulle kicked the nuclear forces out of France the French people moved into our three base housings. Upon re-activation due to the Cold War “heating up,” military families had no place to live. The base is located in a rural farm area with extremely limited housing on the economy and many homes are without adequate plumbing and electrical amenities. The Housing Officer must make an inspection to see if the rental house is acceptable.
When I reported to the Base Commander he informed me I would be assigned as Base Operations Officer which is NOT a fighter assignment. Slam! I had to fly the Gooney Bird, a C-47, reciprocating twin-engine transport tail dragger. I found out the COC, Combat Operations Center, one of the most hated jobs in the Air Force, was desperate for jet qualified pilots. I had to fly jets to work there. I called the COC Chief to arrange for an interview. He said, “Are you jet qualified?” I said, “Yes Sir, I checked out in the T-33 last September.” He said, “I can use you right now. Come on over!” I laughed, “I’m presently Base Operation Officer and the Base Commander assigned me to that position.” “Well son,” he said confidently, “that’s going to be changed!”
When I checked into the COC at 0600 hours there was a captain Duty Controller and the COC Chief there to greet me. I introduced myself to the captain and explained why I was there. He put on his flight cap and said, “I sure am glad to meet you, Mike. We’ll I guess I’ll be on my way. See ya, Chief! It’s been fun,” and he walked out the door. I said to the Chief, “Where’s he going?” He said, “Back to his squadron, the 389th. He’s an F-84F fighter pilot who volunteered to work here temporarily until a replacement showed up. That’s you.” I realized at that point that I had jumped out of the kettle into the fire. “You mean the two of us are going to man the COC 24 hours a day, seven days a week?” He said, “That’s right, I’m expecting five new jet qualified pilot replacements from the states any day now. Until then, I work days, six to six, and you work nights, six to six.” Some days you’re the dog and some days you’re the fire hydrant.
I left my family in Sheringham, and the 1960 Vauxhall Station Wagon for Joan’s use. I lived in the BOQ, Bachelor Officer Quarters, until locating a home in late July in La Chapel, a farming village 17 km from the base. I rented it from a Dutchman who was returning to Holland for an undetermined time. I tried to explain to Joan the condition of the house by saying, “Living in England was like going back 100 years, and living in France is like going back 400 years. If I was making a World War ll movie this house would be a perfect hideout for French guerilla forces.”
The kitchen sink had a miniature pump like one you would find in a farmers barnyard 100 years ago. The sink was slanted so the water would be funneled into a channel which emptied through a hole in the wall, dumping into the farmer’s yard next door. He didn’t seem to care.
We were desperate to reunite the family and in the meantime I would search for a better home. The Air Force gave me three days off to return to England to retrieve my family. (Try moving from one foreign country to another foreign country in three days.) We drove to Dover at the southern tip of England to cross the Channel on a ferry boat. Looking back we could see the White Cliffs of Dover and soon arrived at Calais, France. (Watch the CD, 1962/63, for the Channel Crossing).
The first taste of France occurred at a restaurant in Calais and it wasn’t the food. Joan had to use the lady’s room and asked the waitress, “Où sont les toilettes s’il vos plait?” The waitress pointed at a door and Joan followed her direction. Joan quickly returned and said, “The waitress must have pointed at the wrong door, there was only a hole in the middle of the floor.” The waitress assured Joan that she was in the correct place. There was no other toilet. So, being desperate, Joan went back in and squatted over the hole. Before she was finished a man walked by and said, “Bon jour, Madame,” tipped his hat, and walked out the door. Joan was mortified!
While we were ordering, Mary Kay, age four, told the waitress she didn’t want French fries, she wanted American fries. The food was good and soon we were on our way to Chaumont driving our British made Vauxhall. This next event showed us what the French thought of the English. As we drove through a small town people stared at our car. A teenage boy picked up a rock and threw it at our car, breaking our windshield! Welcome to France!
In early August, 1962, we arrived at La Chapel around 1700 hours and I had 40 minutes to unload the car and leave for the base. I had forgotten to buy any food. I arrived at the Combat Operations Center at 1800 hours for my overnight 12 hour shift. I had no way of communicating with Joan through the night because there were no phones in the house or the village. Ah, the military life can be such great fun!
When I returned the next morning at 0700 hours (I stopped along the way to scrounge up some food) I received the greatest reception any father could hope for. Joan gave me the longest hug and the children couldn’t wait their turn. A storm had unleashed its fury right over the village. The high winds rattled the wooden shutters with booming thunder and steady flashes of lightning, lasting over an hour. Then the lights went out! It was pitch black with no flashlight, candles or matches. Joan gathered the kids, two hanging on each arm and two hanging on each leg and slowly made their way into the bedroom where all five slept, on and off, through the night. Since the feather bed sagged in the middle, they slept in a cluster with Joan on the bottom!
The house was a one story, ugly grey stucco, so typical of many homes in France. It was so dirty Joan spent hours cleaning with a spray bottle in one hand and a bucket in the other. The house sat on one third of an acre leaving room for a garden and a dirt driveway for one car. I had to park on the property to leave room for the cattle drive which went by the house twice a day. I entered the driveway through a double gate which, once closed, made it impossible to see the car from outside. (More about this later). The tax system was so archaic any incentive to make any upgrades to homes was avoided. If you painted the exterior or added a closet (it was considered another room) your taxes went up. The property was surrounded by an eight foot fence, half wood and half stone wall. There was no basement but there was a crawlspace about 5 feet high with a dirt floor and a winemaking vat the size of a standard American bathtub along one wall. The rest of the dungeon was littered with old cast iron wine racks and empty wine bottles.
After a couple of days I realized there was a walled-off room with wallpaper covering what once was a door way. I went up into the attic with a flashlight, (yes, I bought two, with candles and matches) pulled up a slab of wood and lit up the mystery room. Surprise! I saw a large box which at first appeared to be a coffin but turned out to be a large toolbox.
After three weeks of searching for another “Chateau” without success we contacted Mr. & Mrs. Storey, our adopted grandparents, in Sheringham. We asked them to arrange for Joan and the children to return to the Lodge, if available. It was but we would have to rent furniture since The Lodge was empty. In late August I paid for
a commercial flight for Joan and the children to fly from Paris to London where the Storey’s met them and accompanied them on the 90 mile train to Sheringham. The Storey’s were terrific grandparents showering love and kindness on Joan and the kids. Joan signed a one year least, effective 01 September, 1962.
After dropping off my family at the airport in Paris I broke all speed records returning to La Chapel to gather my belongings which I had packed in advance. I was due at the COC at 1800 hours to begin my 12 hour shift and could make it without any delays. I did not know Charles DeGaulle, France’s president, was in the area and he was normally protected by his Secret Service as well as garrisons of strategically placed soldiers at selected check points. I needed 10 minutes to pack the car and 20 minutes to the COC. It was pitch black with no street lighting or auto lights in sights. At 1720 hours I had the pedal to the medal. Suddenly, in my head lights, I saw several dark figures scurrying about as I blasted down the road. As I made a 90 turn to the right for La Chapel I looked back to my right and could see about three sets of headlights heading my way! I turned off my headlights and entered the gate. My house was enclosed by a high fence. I closed the large double gate behind me so they wouldn’t be able to see my car. As I packed my car in the dark I could hear them driving back and forth shouting in angry tones. They didn’t stay long at all which really helped me. However, I had to drive back through the check point! I had worn my uniform to Paris and I hoped they recognized an American officer before they shot me!
I drove very, very, slowly approaching the check point with a truck across the road and a truck on each side. Coming to a stop I was surrounded by soldiers with automatic rifles. One positioned himself against the hood of my car with his gun at the ready. I rolled my window down and stuck both arms into the air. A Major bent forward, his head almost inside the window, looked me over and said, “American?” I said, “Yes sir,” and pointed to my wings. Pelot, Capitaine, Chamount Air Base!” trying to speak French. He asked, “Parle vous Francais?” I said, “Un peu,” signaling a small amount with my right hand. “Very well,” He said, “I will speak English.” I said, “OK.” All the soldiers laughed and mimicked me saying, OK, OK, OK! Evidently they had not heard that American expression before. The Major raised his right hand and they stopped laughing. “Was that you who drove so fast through our check point about thirty minutes ago?” frowning at me. “Yes sir! It has been a long day. I drove my family of five to Paris for a flight home and I returned to La Chapel to pick up my belongings. I have to be at work in twenty minutes. If I am late I will be heavily penalized! He nodded his head and said, “Je comprends, I will not keep you any longer.” I said, “Merci beaucoup.” He laughed and said. “OK, Bonne chance!” As I drove away, I yelled,”Au revoir!” Hot damn, the uniform paid off.
I walked into the COC at precisely 1800 hours.
Meanwhile I continued my search for a decent home inside downtown Chaumont where the “acceptable” rentals were located. If I could just speak French or I could find an English speaking French realtor it would make my search a lot easier. Discouragement had set in! I looked for a restaurant with a bar and sat down at the counter wondering how to ask for a cold beer when a young girl asked me what I wanted. I struggled to ask for a beer in French and said to myself, to hell with it, I’ll speak English. “A bottle of beer, please.” She said in perfect English, “You’re an American from the air base, aren’t you?” How perceptive for a young child? “Yes, I am. You seem to be awfully young to be working in a bar. Is there an age limit?” She said, “I assure you I’m old enough but if I’m not, my father owns this restaurant.” She placed my beer before me, “Do you like French beer?” I said, “I like all beers. My father owned three beer gardens and gave me beer before I could walk!” She laughed and said, “We French drink wine before we can crawl. How did you find our restaurant?” I said, “I’m looking for a house to rent and they are very hard to find.” Her eyes widened. “What kind of house do you need?” I said, “I have a wife and four children living in England before being reassigned to Chaumont and we’re in need of housing.” She asked, “What is your rank?” I raised my eyebrows and placed my beer on the counter, “How does that matter?” She said, “There is a woman who lives down this street who finds homes for Americans and she prefers to deal with officers.” I nodded my head, “Well, I guess I qualify, I’m a captain. How do I talk to her, my French is very bad?” She said, “I will write an introductory letter in French for you to give to her.” Are you kidding me, my prayers have been answered? She continued, “Her name is Madame LaFave and she speaks broken English well enough to make a deal. I must warn you that she is a very tough, sly person and will try to get as much money as she can. She lives with her 16 year old daughter just down this street. She is a survivor of the war years and has a disreputable past.” Below is the note she wrote.
I am the Captain, and I would like to rent an apartment or a house. Ms. Pansel gave me your address, saying that you have a very lovely apartment that will be available starting in September. Would you be so kind as to let me visit it, and tell me what your terms are.
Sir, I thank you so much
I finished my beer and hurried down the street locating Madame LaFave’s address in minutes. Her door entrance was right on the street. I knocked on the door and a young girl answered. As I handed the note to her I could see a woman in the background dressed in a white slip with her back to me. She was standing at an ironing board apparently unaware that her daughter was talking to a stranger. Her daughter read the note and yelled at her mother who quickly rushed to the door, slamming it in my face. I could hear them arguing with one another and then silence. After a couple of minutes the door opened and there stood this smiling, middle age woman with gold in her teeth. She was dressed in a brown shaggy fur coat with a couple pieces of the coat hanging loose from the backing. She invited me in and told me there was a very nice apartment immediately available. It was close by within walking distance.
I liked it, we agreed on a price and the deal was done. I couldn’t believe I would find a “nice” fifth floor apartment in the town of Chaumont with a four person elevator, (or one large American refrigerator), steam heat, hot and cold water, and an indoor toilet. The young girl bartender had appeared before me like a guardian angel.
Of course there were some negatives such as, no light fixtures, just wires sticking out of the walls. No window coverings, electrical converters needed to operate our American appliances, along with cleaning and painting. I painted the entire water closet (toilet), pipes and all, with white enamel paint and replaced the dirty, wooden, cracked, toilet seat with a brand spanking new, shiny, black, plastic seat. I told Joan, “When we depart France we’ll leave the light fixtures and window coverings but we’ll replace the wooden toilet seat and take the new black seat with us as a memento of Parc Beau Site. It will make a great picture frame!” She wasn’t impressed with the idea!
Our apartment building, called Parc Beau Site, is not in the high rise condos pictured below, but in the small black roofed building partially covered by the trees. We had a small balcony overlooking the park and a small lake to the left of the picture. Directly across the park we could see a small shopping center with a bakery shop. This was important because our oldest daughter, Teresa (7 years old), and Karen, (6 years old), wanted to set out on their big adventure without Mom or Dad to buy a loaf of French bread. They had been there several times with their mother and knew the routine. We gave them the correct amount of money and a note. We watched from the balcony as they ran across the park. They did not have to cross a street as the bakery had an ‘open stand.” In minutes they walked away with a two foot long loaf of French bread being carried by the both of them walking side by side. Fortunately it was well wrapped in paper because they dropped it on the grass. Teresa picked it up by one end and began to run, dragging it across the park with Karen in close pursuit! We were watching every move, enjoying the show. Joan cut off a small end piece which had been dragged through the grass. The bread was delicious!
In early July 1963 Colonel Smith requested my presence in his office. We have seven Duty Controllers in the COC and he wants to talk to me. He returned my salute and said, “Captain Daciek, have a seat.” That was a good start. Generally if you’re in for a good ass chewing they make you remain standing. He said, “The entire wing is being relocated to Holloman AFB in New Mexico in about three months. I’m informed we will be working out of old buildings built in World War II, mostly tar paper shacks.” I raised my hand, “Excuse me for interrupting, Sir, but I think I should tell you my three year overseas tour of duty isn’t over until 2 January, 1964.” He nodded, “No problem there. That can be resolved.” I shrugged my shoulders. He continued, “We need a new 366th TFW Command Post to be operational when our first aircraft arrives overhead at Holloman and I think you’re just the man for the job.” Oh-oh, when a senior officer starts talking like that, standby for the ram! He’s probably interviewed the others and they turned down the job. He continued, “You’ll be given the architectural designs and communications requirements for the contractors. Your job is to monitor their progress, insuring the work is completed on time.” A thousand thoughts rushed through my brain, one being, this isn’t part of my job description but maybe I can make a deal. I cleared my throat. “Sir, I think you’re aware that I volunteered to work in the COC in order to build up my jet flying time.” He said, “Yes, I’m aware of that, what’s on your mind?” Well, here goes. “I’ll take the job if you can guarantee me a fighter assignment within three months after my arrival at Holloman.” He gave me a thumbs-up, “You can count on it.” What he said next blew my mind! “There’s a C124 Globe Master coming through Chaumont tomorrow on its way to Holloman. We can get the paperwork started and have Bachelor Officer Quarters, BOQ, reserved upon your arrival.” That hit a nerve. My voice raised four octaves. “I’m not a bachelor; I have a wife and four children living in downtown Chaumont.” He started to speak and I cut him off, “You’re not familiar with my overseas deployment thus far. I had concurrent travel to England and it was cancelled after my furniture was shipped. It took three months to straighten the mess out and have my family finally join me in the UK. Base housing had been closed to new arrivals because in four months the base would be closed. I scrambled to locate a home off base, moving twice. I was sent to Chaumont, unaccompanied once again, because base housing wasn’t available, which I’m sure you’re aware of. It took me three months to find a decent home in Chaumont. So now you’re asking me to go back to the USA UNACCOMPANIED with one day’s notice! No deal!”
He stared at me for a good thirty seconds. I thought my goose was cooked. He tapped his chin about three times with his index finger, finally waving it in the air and said, “Standby one, I have to make a call.” I heard him tell his secretary to connect him with USAFE Headquarters. I left his office for about 15 minutes and when I returned he was off the phone. He winked at me and said, “Here’s the deal. An Air Force C-118, configured for passenger travel, three weeks from today, will fly you and your family non-stop from Chaumont to Holloman AFB, New Mexico where base housing will be provided for your family. Also, we will make all arrangements for your furniture to be packed and moved, without you lifting a finger. Is that a deal?” Where the hell were you when this merry-go-round started back at Sewart AFB in 1961? I accepted.
When Madame La Fave received notice we would be leaving Parc Beau Site this set off a never ending series of unannounced visits in which she became a bossy old witch. She seemed concerned that we might be undoing some of the major upgrades to her rental. Of course we would not take the window coverings and lighting fixtures we had installed as was the French custom. Just as a joke I told Joan the one thing I intended to keep was the new black plastic toilet seat. I said it would make a great picture frame!
As luck would have it I had to work the day the movers were to arrive so my last words to Joan were, “Be sure to instruct the man in charge to remove the new toilet seat and replace the old, putrid, wooden, cracked toilet seat which is stored in the basement.” That would be my last parting shot at Madame La Fave! Charlie, A French man, was the man in charge who spoke good English. Joan asked him to come with her to “la toilet” where she pointed at the black toilet seat and said, “We want to take it with us.” He looked at her in total disbelief and said, “Madame, it will leave a big hole in the floor!”
The down side of the move was a lost oil painting of Joan who had sat for hours posing for a female British artist in Sheringham. I assume it’s over the mantel of a French farmer’s home somewhere in Haute Marne County.
July 1963, Holloman AFB
HOME AT LAST
We were grateful for a pleasant flight and happy to be on the ground IN THE GOOD OLD USA. Our family quickly moved into our new home. We didn’t mind that it was temporarily furnished with the bare essentials until our furniture would arrive from France.
On 12 July 1963, the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing officially moved to Holloman Air Force Base. It was a Research and Development base and many years had passed since a combat unit within the Tactical Air Command (TAC) had been stationed there.
Holloman Air Force Base wrote its name in the annals of American history in the 1950’s and 1960’s. On December 10, 1954, Lt. Col. (Dr.) John P. Stapp received the nickname “The Fastest Man Alive” when he rode a rocket propelled test sled, Sonic Wind #1, to a speed of 632 miles per hour. Additionally, Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger Jr. stepped out of an open balloon gondola at 102,800 feet in an attempt to evaluate techniques of high altitude bailout on August 16, 1960. Capt. Kittinger’s jump lasted 13 minutes reaching a velocity of 614 miles per hour. That jump broke four world records; highest open gondola manned balloon flight, highest balloon flight of any kind, highest bailout and longest free fall. A final noteworthy event occurred on November 29, 1961 when ENOS, a chimpanzee trained at Holloman’s HAM facility (Holloman Aero-Medical Laboratory).ENOS was the first U.S. specimen launched into orbit. ENOS was launched in a Mercury-Atlas capsule that completed two orbits around the earth and was safely recovered three hours, 21 minutes later.
By the time the Command Post was up and running, we were fully manned and ready for the first flight of four F-84F fighters to check in on our new radios. It was an exciting moment hearing their first call on out tactical frequency and listening to their chatter. All four squadrons arrived safely after crossing the Atlantic with over four in flight refueling, even with external fuel tanks. There was a wild party at the Officer’s Club the next night!
The first time I met our new Wing Commander, Colonel Wessen, I told him about the promise made by Colonel Smith at Chaumont to assign me to a fighter squadron within three months of my arrival at Holloman. He knew nothing about it but said, “I’ll try to honor that promise.” That gave him room to use the standard phrase, “The needs of the Air Force come first” whenever he wanted me to remain in the CP. This actually gave me more time to build up my T-33 flying time to become more competitive with the high time fighter pilots rotating back to the States from Vietnam. The word was out that the 366th TFW was programmed to replace the F-84’s with the F-4 Phantom, a twin jet supersonic aircraft, so Holloman was the place to go. We kept an up to date roster of all the squadron pilots in the CP and it really hurt every time I saw a new name appear.
Joan was pregnant with our fifth child when we realized we needed a home with a fenced yard for the kids to play. I rented a southwestern ranch style residence in Alamogordo, fifteen minutes from the base. West and adjacent to Holloman AFB was the White Sands Missile Range on the desert floor, 4,090 feet above sea level. In a matter of minutes, one could go from the White Sands National Monument with pure white sand dunes to a lush greenbelt area at Cloudcroft, a small tourist town, 8,668 feet above sea level.
Las Cruces was a 50 minute drive to the southwest across the White Sands Range. When we told the kids it was the home of Billy the Kid, a cowboy gunslinger who spent much time in jail for killing people, they begged me to take them to see the Kid. When we arrived to the main street of Las Cruces we came upon a full life size photo of Billy the Kid. As we stood there studying it, Teresa said in amazement, “HE’S A MAN!”
As a Duty Controller in the 366th Wing Command Post, I had to exercise extreme judgment in handling my position as I was the Commander’s direct liaison with higher headquarters. As a result, I spoke with Colonel Wessen on a daily basis. After four months had passed, I reminded him of his promise as tactfully as possible, for me to fly the F-84. He said, “I haven’t forgotten, it’s just a matter of time.” I decided not to mention it again and by November, five months had passed.
Twenty-two November, 1963 became one of America’s most memorable days. I had just returned from an out and back flight in a T-33 to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. Upon my return, I entered the Command Post and was informed that President Kennedy had been shot. Radio and TV stations reported: Shortly after noon today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas.The suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was later killed by Jack Ruby in a Dallas police station.
One of my pilot friends who belonged to a glider club out of Alamogordo Municipal Airport invited me to join him one Sunday afternoon to observe the operation. It was a glorious day, calm winds, not a cloud in the sky. It was a festive occasion with children laughing and adults excited about watching their first glider flight. The club had one dual glider and, if it was available, my friend would take me up for a short flight. The club had just received a new single cockpit Schweizer SGS 1-26 glider which was being readied for flight. My friend commented it was a very tricky glider to handle for a novice. This was interesting because I overheard someone say the glider pilot had not flown a glider in 5 years. The tow plane, an open cockpit bi-wing similar to a Stearman, was started and ready to go. The entire family of the glider pilot was present. When I learned the name of the glider pilot, it was the same one that tried to spin the F-84F in France and had to bail out. Then I realized the pilot of the tow plane was the same pilot that had talked him into intentionally spinning the F-84. By this time the tow plane started down the runway hooked to the glider. After both airplanes were airborne, suddenly the glider pitched up into a very steep climb angle, abruptly pulling the tail of the tow plane up, causing the tow plane to descend. The glider pilot then dived his glider which allowed the tow plane to start climbing again. To everyone’s horror, the glider never pulled up and flew into the runway at a 30 degree dive angle, breaking up into hundreds of pieces killing the young pilot instantly. The crowd was stunned for a few seconds and then the screaming began. It had to be the most tragic scene I ever witnessed. It was gut-wrenching! I couldn’t wait to leave the airport. I never told my family about the accident.
A year had passed since my arrival at Holloman and it seemed apparent that Colonel Wesson had no intention of releasing me to a fighter squadron. I complained that I had been misled by my commander in France who promised me a fighter slot within 3 months. Colonel Wesson seemed surprised. “It slipped my mind. I’m directing our training officer to schedule an F-84 ground school ASAP. Perhaps you forgot that I had orders cut months ago assigning you to the 390th Fighter Squadron. He kept his word and I completed my check ride on a Friday. The instructor said I was scheduled to fly in a flight of four on Monday. I couldn’t contain myself. I danced a little jig right on the flight line. A passing pilot said to my instructor, “Now there’s a happy pilot!” My goal had finally been realized.
On Friday afternoon Colonel Wessen requested I meet with him in his office. I surmised he was going to congratulate me for my accomplishment and I looked forward to the meeting.
When I reported to him he said, “Captain Daciek I have bad news for you. I just received a notification from TAC Headquarters at Langley issuing a Direct Duty Assignment for you to be reassigned to a new C-130 Troop Carrier Wing at Forbes AFB, Topeka, Kansas.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I blurted out, “Can’t you get it rescinded…Sir!” He shook his head, “I knew you would say that. I’ve already talked to the personnel officer at Langley. They know you served in the 513th and 314th Troop Carrier Wings for five years at Sewart AFB and were a highly qualified aircraft commander. You’re already programmed for training as an aircraft commander in the C-130. I know this is a big disappointment but as you know…I cut him off, “The needs of the Air Force come first.” SLAM! Another door closes. After I regained my composure I asked, “When do I report to Forbes?” He said, “1 January, 1964.” I said “Would I be out of line in asking a favor?” “Not at all,” he said, “What is it?” I hesitated, not sure this was appropriate or even possible. “It’s almost August. I have three children in elementary school. Is it possible for me to move immediately in order for them to start school in September rather than in the middle of a school year in January?” He thought for a minute. “You can have a T-33 to fly up to Forbes to check things out and make arrangements for base housing.” That was a shocker! Knowing that would be my last T-33flight I had this pictures taken at Holloman.
Forbes AFB, Topeka, Kansas, Base Housing, 21 Clemson St.
In September, 1964, I traveled on Temporary Duty, TDY to Sewart AFB, where I completed my C-130 training. Bill Nichols, who I went through pilot training with and flew C-123s at Sewart, was my C-130 instructor. I also visited with Lt. Colonel Robert Marks, my former squadron commander for whom I had the greatest respect. Although I was a lowly captain he treated me as an equal. Joan and I would meet with him and his wife occasionally. One of the serendipities of Air Force life is to constantly cross paths with old friends.
I then returned to the 29th TCS at Forbes AFB for flying duty and was assigned a flight crew as Aircraft Commander. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the C-130 Hercules. The engineers had to be pilots to design such a perfect aircraft.
This incredible bird could take-off and land on 2,000 foot dirt strips. When landings were too dangerous because of enemy action, three low altitude systems were developed: (1)LAPES, (2) GPES, (3) PLADS.
(1) LAPES; The pilot brought the Hercules down a steep descent, leveling off only a few feet about the dirt. At the predetermined point that the air delivery (ADS) was activated, an extraction parachute streamed behind the aircraft. Three seconds later, the cargo was pulled from the aircraft: it dropped the short distance to the ground and slid violently to a stop—on target. The Hercules curled skyward, the loadmaster scrambling to belt himself down as the pilot took evasive action and the two-section cargo door closed.
(2)GPES: This is the most exact placement of air-delivered cargo, but it does require ground-based cargo-arresting equipment, which is basically a steel cable stretched across the extraction point. The cable is attached at both ends to a pair of energy absorbers. At an indicated airspeed of 120 knots and an altitude of five feet, the pilot brings the Hercules across the cable and the extended hook grabs the cable and the load is pulled from the aircraft. It prevents the Herk from being a “mortar magnet.”
(3)PLADS: When there is no landing strip, the Hercules shifts to its PLAD mode. Approaching the drop zone, the pilot sets up his aircraft at 120 knots IAS with flaps down to give a level attitude and holds his altitude to 200 feet above the ground. The ADS is activated and the sequence of extraction places the load into a short, parachute-slowed drop. Properly executed the drop causes the load to hit the target with little or no forward speed.
HALO: High Altitude, Low Opening: Dropping paratroopers from 20,000 feet, free falling down below 1,000 feet, opening steerable parachutes to land within one meter of a designated target. More on this later.
It proved to be an exciting tactical aircraft to fly but it had another serious benefit. The civilian counterpart, the L-100/L382 , was the same aircraft which would give me the opportunity to obtain my commercial pilot rating, a requirement needed toward flying for a major air carrier. I started a search for a state which offered the best opportunities as well as the best living conditions for a commercial airline pilot. This was quickly forgotten because every time I arrived home from a mission and unpacked my bags another TDY awaited to fly the C-130 to faraway places.
PANAMA CANAL ZONE
After a very short break my crew was ordered to the Panama Canal Zone for six weeks temporary duty operating out of Howard AFB. There were two requirements that had to be accomplished: three night landings and Jungle Survival. I had qualified back at Eglin AFB landing on a 2,000 foot dirt strip lined with dimly lit smudge pots. We were in the middle of a forest on a very dark night. The pots burned with a very dim flame that my crew couldn’t see until we passed right over them. Now we knew where the dirt strip was located and we entered a downwind leg losing sight of the smudge pots until we were on short final. Landing short is not an option! Landing long could be problematic I qualified.
At Howard AFB, being qualified, I was made the Landing Zone Officer, grading the landings .The landings had to be within a 500foot long area which was marked on the runway by white painted lines. We were using a standard runway with the runway lights turned off. This was to simulate a 2,000 foot dirt strip in the middle of a combat area using aircraft landing lights only.
Only one of our pilots had trouble qualifying. My problem… he was our Operations Officer, Major Dance. On his first attempt he landed short of the first white line and I told him so. He came around again for another attempt and he was short again and I told him so. He disagreed and I asked Sergeant Smith, LZ NCO, “What do you think?” He said, “He was short!” So the Major tried again and he was short. Being of sound mind I said, “That was a good one!” and I called the next two good to avoid a lousy Efficiency Report. I thought that would be the end of it.
My crew had Sunday off and our Squadron Commander, Colonel Bowler, knew it. He suggested that we spend the day out in the jungle taking a one day Jungle Survival Course. Of course I agreed. I said, “Sir, we sure could use the training. What’s the uniform?” He said, “Flying suit, flight jacket, just like you’re going out to fly. I’ll be going with you. Have your crew ready to depart at 04:30 hours.”
So we spent Sunday in the jungle and Gatun Lake. We were issued machetes to cut down every large green plant in sight to make rainproof shelters (it rains a lot).We cut up rotting logs to find fat maggots to eat. Our survival instructor showed us how to eat one without getting bit on the tongue. He got bit! That was hilarious. r
Next we boarded a twenty foot long boat the shape of a canoe and three times as wide. (Colonel Bowler somehow managed to miss this part.) We had a well packed bag with a yellow label, Twenty-man Life Raft. Hmmmm, this doesn’t look good.
Our instructor said, “Gentlemen, you’ve had to ditch your aircraft and you’ve had time to save your life raft.” With that he ordered us to toss the life raft overboard. There was a lanyard attached to an air bottle which I pulled to activate inflation of the raft. We then jumped into the water and climbed into the raft. And so it went!
We returned to our quarters around 22:30 hours, an 18 hour day. I quickly showered and was at the Officer’s Club by 23:00 hours. By 24:00 hours I was back at my quarters and sound asleep. At 01:00 hours my phone woke me up. It was Major Dance. “Captain Daciek, I’ve selected your crew to fly an urgent mission. You have to be airborne at 02:00 hours, one hour from now.” (Our squadron kept three crews on alert: one hour alert, six hour alert, and 24 hour alert.) I said, “I’m not the one hour alert crew.” He said sarcastically, “I know that, but I’m assigning you the mission.” I said, “Okay, but I think you should know…” He cut me off. “I’m not interested in excuses. I’m ordering you to fly the mission. You’ll be briefed at Base Operations. Get moving!” “Yes sir!”
Our mission was to fly to San Isidro Airport, Dominican Republic, to pick up a mystery passenger and fly him to Ramey Air force Base, Puerto Rico. Shut down numbers 1 and 2 engines to board the passenger. Have your loadmaster lead him on board and direct him to his seat with minimum conversation. The same applies at Ramey. Then return to Howard Air Force Base as soon as possible. Such is life.
We were on our take-off roll at 02:00 hours. I leveled the aircraft at our cruising altitude, engaged the auto pilot and set the power levers at cruise power. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked my fuel flow indicators. All four were at zero fuel flow. I asked the flight mechanic who sat between the pilot and co-pilot about a foot behind and slightly higher, “Smitty, do you see anything unusual about out flight instruments?” He kept the lights real low. He said, “No sir.” I said, “Turn the lights up.” He did and was startled at the sight of zero fuel flow and leaned way forward to get a better look. I raised my right arm to keep him from falling forward out of his seat.
All of the other engine instruments were indicating normal readings and the airspeed was holding steady. I could use TIT, Turbine Inlet temperature, for power settings. I knew there was a master cable that fed the four fuel flows, so I decided to press on considering the importance of the mission. San Isidro had no maintenance but Ramey did, only 20-30 minutes of flying time away.
We dropped off our mystery guest and took off for Ramey. Inbound we alerted maintenance about our problem and they met the plane and started trouble shooting while we went into Base Ops to file our flight plan. I told the crew, if you haven’t already guessed, we’re illegal as hell due to improper crew rest. We could shut her down here. I said to the navigator and co-pilot, “I’m for pressing on,” and they agreed. “There’s a couch in the crew lounge. While you guys file the flight plan I’ll take a nap. Wake me when you hear from maintenance.”
The navigator woke me after a half hour nap and said, “Maintenance reported that our aircraft is ready to go. It was an easy fix. The master fuel flow cable had vibrated loose from the canon plug. Prior maintenance had not properly wired the canon plug nut to secure the cable from disconnecting.”
As we flew back to Howard I asked Rex, my co-pilot,” Do you know why Major Dance assigned us the mission?” He said, “No, I thought it was strange considering we weren’t the alert crew and we spent the day in the jungle with Colonel Bowler.” I said, “He is punishing me because I caused him to make five landings to get his three night assault landings when I was Landing Zone Officer.” Rex said, “Wow, that’s a little immature. It’s not unusual to land short when you’re in training. It’s nothing personal.” I nodded my head. “He actually was only successful on two…I gave him three. I wish I could have been there when LT/Colonel Bowler found out Dance had assigned us the mission. Bowler’s first question would be: Why didn’t you use the alert crew? Second: Why did you use Captain Daciek’s crew? Third: As Operations Officer why didn’t you know that Captain Daciek’s crew spent all day Sunday at Jungle Survival School and was illegal to fly that mission? Bowler is easily irritated. If we screwed up Bowler could kiss his promotion to bird colonel goodbye.” Rex laughed, “Yeah, and Major Dance will probably be a major for a long time.”
After entering my quarters at Howard the phone rang. It was Colonel Bowler. “How’d it go?” He sounded anxious. I said, “Fine, Sir.” He asked, “You’re sure?” I said, “Absolutely!” He asked, “Why didn’t you tell Major Dance that you and your crew had just returned from Jungle Survival?” Good question. “I tried a couple of times but he cut me off.” “I’ll have to talk to him about that,” he said. “Now get some rest. You and your crew are off for 24 hours.”
Hmmm, give my best to Major Dance.
Crews from the 29th Squadron were part of 35 C-130 Hercules to airlift Brazilian troops to the Dominican Republic to quell an uprising. Little did we know that we would be returning there so quickly!
We departed Howard AFB with a refueling stop at Lima, Peru so we could fly non-stop to Rio de Janerio, a seven hour flight. However, on the way a very unusual event happened.
Approaching La Paz, Bolivia, an airport 13,000 feet above sea level, we received a message via the control tower from the Air Attache in Bolivia to land for a very important message. This was not part of our planned route… but there it was right below us, so we descended to land. As we circled to land we saw an old Vampire jet about ½ mile from the airport diving toward the ground and pulled up in a steep left turn away from the airport. I commented, “Looks like he’s making a practice strafing run.” My crew agreed and we pressed on. We landed and taxied in close to the terminal.
I told the crew, “We’re at 13,000 feet so just two of us will go inside. Kubick, you come with me. We’ll need oxygen walk-around bottles.” The co-pilot, flight mechanic and load master, stayed in the aircraft.
We went inside base operations and I asked the dispatcher, “Donde esta Air Attache?” He gave me a surprised look and replied in broken English that he wasn’t here. He told me the Air Attache called him and told him to contact a C-130. It should be in range soon and tell him to land for a very important message.
I said, “Can you get him on the phone?” He did. I said, “This is Captain Daciek, C-130 Aircraft Commander. I understand you have an important message for me.” He stammered, “Where are you?” I said, “We’re at the La Paz Airport.” He bellowed, “On the ground?” I sensed something was wrong here. “That’s correct.” Silence. “I told that dispatcher to relay to you…not to land at La Paz, it’s under attack!”
I hung up and yelled at Kubick, “Let’s boogie…there’s been a communication breakdown, big time! The message was not to land here! The field is under attack!”
Kubick said, “Ah so, captain make velly bad mistake!”
We ran out to the aircraft and set all records for getting airborne. There wasn’t a soldier or airplane in sight but that does explain why the Vampire jet was present earlier. We put the pedal to the metal and arrived at Rio on time.
This is the first time this story has been told… by me. I could have choked that Air Attache. We had no intention to land there. I guess he thought I might have had to make an emergency landing and not use La Paz. Aci est la vida! (Such is life).
At Rio the runway was clear but the taxi ways were full of FOD, Foreign Object Damage. As we neared the parking area I spotted something on the ramp. I said to Captain Kubick who was sight-seeing, “F-O-D?” “No,” He said. “F-O-O-D…it’s an apple!” He’s somewhat of a comic like me. We never pass up an opportunity for a joke!
The next morning at “O-dark thirty” there were 35 C-130s loaded with thousands of troops, jeeps, trucks, latrines and food. However, fog had moved in and we were below take-off minimums. As we waited for the fog to lift a photographer and several high ranking officials approached me as I stood outside my airplane. They wanted my picture taken with them. I must have looked very dignified. When top military brass like generals and admirals want something, you oblige, right now! (See letter below).
After they left a Brazilian marine captain disembarked and began talking to me. I didn’t understand a word he said. I thought they spoke Spanish. In high school I studied Latin and two years of Spanish so this did not compute. He mumbled a word which sounded like “Portugeuse.” Using sign language somehow I got the message that he wanted to let his troops off the airplane for a potty break. They had been on the airplane over an hour. (See picture below).
No speaka de portuguese!
The fog lifted just enough for us to be cleared to go. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t swept the taxi ways. We taxied very slowly avoiding the F-O-D. We were at maximum gross weight for take-off and at a speed of about 90 knots the left wing dipped requiring a rudder and aileron correction to maintain runway heading. Other than that, take-off was normal. As we climbed out I said, “I think we blew a left main tire which is understandable with all that F-O-D!” (There are two main tires in tandem on each side.) The crew agreed and the flight mechanic, Sergeant Ireland, said, “Sir, I can go into the cargo compartment and check the tire by looking through the wheel well window. I won’t be able see the entire tire and with no air pressure in it…it could look normal.” I said, “True, but take a look anyway.” He returned and said, “It looks normal.”
We discussed the situation and decided to continue on to our staging base in northern Venezuela which had clear weather, maintenance and a spare aircraft. Also, after burning off 8 hours of fuel we would be much lighter for landing with a blown tire. I said to Kubick, “Did you know that flying is the 2nd greatest thrill known to man?” Kubick asked, “What’s the first?” I said, “LANDING!”
Twenty minutes out our co-pilot, Lt. Potter, contacted the USAF Combat Control Team and advised them of our situation. They operated from a 1/4 ton truck equipped with a radio and wind velocity/direction information. There was a single 5,000 foot hard surface runway. The wind was ten knots, right down the runway, which was good news. The bad, there was only one taxi-way off the runway and it was located at the approach end. This meant we had to do a back taxi to depart the runway and there was another C-130 about 10 minutes behind us.
I made a full flap landing (lower airspeed) using maximum reverse of the engines to avoid hard braking. This might cause the rim of the blown tire to cut into the runway, possibly shattering and leaving F-O-D on the runway. I stopped the airplane near the end without making a turn. I instructed Sgt. Ireland to exit the aircraft from the rear with a long cord and headset and report what he finds. He said, “The left rear main tire is flat. It looks like a piece of metal is embedded in the tire. The rim is about one inch above the runway. I recommend making a slow right turn away from the rim.” “Roger that,” I said. “Get back on board ASAP. We have to clear the runway before the next C-130 lands.”
We turned very slowly and taxied slowly back down the runway. I could see our trailing C-130 on a long final approach. It was going to be close! I made a call in the blind. “Can you guys slow it down? We’re got a blown tire and can’t taxi fast.” They responded, “No sweat, G.I.!” We cleared the runway in time.
We switched our load to the spare aircraft which was fueled and ready to launch. We were quickly airborne for San Isidro. After landing at San Isidro we quickly unloaded our troops and immediately left for Howard AFB in Panama.
Three hours later we arrived at Howard. While on the crew bus going from the airplane to Base Operations I said to the crew, “I wonder how long it will be before my phone rings with a call from Colonel Bowler questioning me about something I did wrong?” Captain Kubick looked at his watch and said, “My educated guess would be thirty minutes or less. Are you going to tell him about La Paz?” “Yeah, right after I tell him you called him a seagull.” Kubrick cringed. “You wouldn’t!” I nodded. “Yes I would. You said, ‘He quacks all day, shits on everyone and you have to throw rocks at him to make him fly!’ Isn’t that right, Lt. Potter?”
When I arrived at my room the phone was ringing. I picked up the phone. “Captain Daciek.” He said, “I suppose you made a hard landing at San Isidro and blew a tire.” I said, “Sir, what makes you think that?’ He said, “You used the spare airplane and the plane you flew in had a flat tire.” I took a deep breath trying to control my anger. Why would he think the worse of my actions? “That part is true, but the hard landing is false. On take-off from Rio the airplane swerved at rotation speed when the left rear main tire blew. There was F-O-D all over the taxi-ways.” There was a long pause. “Why didn’t you land back at Rio?” I think I had him now. “Rio was below landing minimums from the fog. We would have had to circle for hours to burn off fuel to get below maximum landing…” He interrupted me. “But did you consider landing at other air fields along your route?” I quickly responded, “No sir. Faced with landing with a flat tire I felt the best course of action would be to continue on for eight hours burning off thousands of pounds of fuel. I knew the weather was good at our staging base and maintenance was available with a spare airplane. I made a full flap landing and greased her on. My crew can attest to that.”
His response surprised me. “Sounds like you and your crew did the right thing. Mission accomplished, despite the damaged tire. Well done! I’m sure you’re tired… so sleep well.”
Damn, I forgot to tell him about La Paz!
Shortly after returning from the Panama Canal Zone, my crew was scheduled for another two months TDY to RAF Mildenhall in East Anglia, UK, very close to RAF Schulthorp where I was stationed in 1962. My crew’s first mission was to fly to Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany to pick up General Burl W. McLaughlin, USAF, and his staff to transport them to Zaragosa Air Base at Madrid, Spain. This was the operating base for a joint Army/Air Force exercise in a remote section of central Spain. I let the General fly left seat (How can you refuse a General) and I flew co-pilot for him down to Zaragosa. Generals don’t fly much and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he flew Herky Bird.
The next day my crew flew a reconnaissance mission using an old map to locate where the so called “enemy” were camping. There were no navigation aids and yet our navigator located them on our first pass. He received an “Atta boy!”
We returned to Zaragosa to pick up the General and his staff and took them out into the boon docks for a meeting with the Army staff. We were told to wait at the aircraft for their return which took hours. When they returned, we learned they had a great lunch and drank gallons of Spanish wine. On our return flight to Zaragosa some slept like babies in the cargo compartment. Great strategy meeting! I made a very smooth landing, immediately shutting down engines #1 and #4 outboards, and taxied to the parking ramp very carefully, making a “VIP” stop using low engine power, gently using the brakes. When the sleepers woke up we were parked at the ramp with the engines shut down. They were impressed! A major approached me on the ramp and said, “That’s the first time I slept through a landing in an airplane. Unbelievable!” That’s probably the first time you were intoxicated.
Another long range mission took my crew to Turkey via RONs (remaining over night) at Athens, Greece and Incirlik Air Base at Adana, Turkey. On our third day we departed for Diyardakir Air Base in Eastern Turkey where we off-loaded pallets of supplies for our first radar site monitoring the Russian border. We were heavily guarded by Turkish troops and confined to the parking ramp close to our airplane. Were we the enemy here? We had three more radar sites to supply and were off the ground in thirty minutes.
Now for the interesting part. The next three sites were in remote areas with nothing but a single, short, unmonitored dirt strip and no navigation aids. First we had to locate them by dead reckoning (map reading), make a low pass over the field to check that the runway was clear. Then look for smoke or trees to determine wind direction and velocity before landing. There wasn’t a human being or animal in sight. After landing we taxied to the end.
Because there were no taxiways, I turned the aircraft around and set the brakes. The pallets locked in place, rested on dual rails and looked like roller skates installed upside down in the cargo floor. I left the engines running and cleared the load master to unlock the rails. He shoved the pallet out the back ramp, closed the ramp and we departed quickly for the next site in less than four minutes.
Our flight engineer asked, “Why are we rushing so much?” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know,” and asked my co-pilot, “Duck, do you know why we are in such a hurry?” With that the flight engineer held up both hands and said” Hold on, I’ll go ask the loadmaster, he’ll know!”
We duplicated the process twice more. Having completed that part of the mission, we landed at a civilian airport in Istanbul to refuel. My flight engineer and I watched the Turkish ground crew very carefully to insure we were serviced with the proper fuel and oil. We then took off once more for Weisbaden Air Base in Germany where we stopped for the night, put Herky Bird to bed and headed for the showers. Laissez les bon temp rouler! Let the good times roll! I forgot. We’re in Germany now!
The next day was an easy flight from Germany, across France, and the English Channel. (No German fighters chasing us) to land at RAF Mildenhall. Was that a fun four days or what?
“THE TIME HAS COME…”
“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.” Lewis Carrol- Through the Looking-Glass.
Although I enjoyed flying the C-130, I took a peek Through the Looking -Glass and realized,
“The time has come,” the Captain said, “to talk of many things: Of wife and children – and permanent homes – of stability and things.” Mike Daciek- Through the Looking Glass.
Flying commercially was the logical answer but I needed a commercial license. I discovered the commercial L-100/L-382 and the C-130 were the same airplane, contacted the FAA and BINGO…I was awarded my rating. Now all I needed was to pass an ATR Written which I accomplished, scoring a 93.
As a navigator I went through Special Weapons training at Lowry Air Force in Denver and fell in love with Colorado. I wanted to live in Denver and Joan loved that idea! I contacted the Chief Pilot at Frontier Airlines. He liked my qualifications and the fact that I would be available in May. That fit in perfectly with his training schedule starting in July.
I separated from the USAF on 17 May 1967 and traveled to New Jersey just in time to attend Joan’s East Orange High school reunion, Class of ’52.
I became a commercial pilot with Frontier Airlines on 5 July 1967, 50 days after departing the Air Force, flying out of Denver, Colorado. How about that, sport fans? We purchased our first home, 3120 East Caley Ave, in Littleton, Colorado about twenty miles from Stapleton Air Field, Frontier’s headquarters.
I flew the CV-580, a 50 passenger twin turbo-prop aircraft called the Mountain Master, a well deserved name. Much of our flying was done over mountainous terrain in the western part of the United States which I enjoyed. I knew the airplane could handle any situation. It flew like a fighter on one engine!
AIR FORCE RESERVES
There was some talk of a possible furlough at Frontier so in preparation I joined the Air Force Reserve with the 937th Military Airlift group at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma City. I was a Major and assigned to flying the Douglas C124 Globemaster. Periodically, a C-124 would be assigned to Buckley AFB in Denver for a week of local flying. I liked the mission of Military Airlift Command because a good percentage of MAC flying was more like commercial aviation.
The other side of military flying could be real interesting. The Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, also fondly called “Old Shakey,” could carry more than 200 troops. It had clamshell-type loading doors, built-in double hydraulic ramps and an elevator under the aft fuselage. It could load tanks, field guns, bulldozers and trucks.
“Old Shakey” was the only four engine transport airplane that could airlift the huge Atlas Missile. Note the large clam-shell doors which allowed for loading through the front of the aircraft. Its biggest drawback, being unpressurized, it flew low and slow below 10,000 feet at a measly 200 miles per hour, or 200 rivets per minute, therefore called, “Old Shakey.”
One of my most interesting missions began on 3 October 1969. I began a 12 day mission which started at Buckley ANG for Tinker AFB where our crew assembled and began our journey through the following bases: Kelly AFB, Texas; Travis AFB, California; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Wake Island; Anderson AFB, Guam; Clark AFB, P.I.; Danang AB, Vietnam; Mactan AB, P.I.; and reversed course back through the previous stops terminating at Tinker AFB on 15 October. I flew Frontier back to Stapleton Field, Denver, just in time to start a three day trip on Frontier on 16 October. The military12 day trip was my days off from Frontier. In 45 days I flew 80 hours with Frontier and 85 hours in the Air Force Reserve. One shouldn’t exceed 100 hours in a month. DON’T TELL THE FAA! Fortes Fortuna Juvat (Fortune Favors the Bold). This was my welcoming committee back at Tinker. Not!
AIR AMERICA REUNION
On 20 January 1972 a reconnaissance Phantom with pilot Bob Mock and Weapons Systems Officer John Stiles was shot down in Laos. Air America assigned the rescue mission to two Huey helicopter crews flown by pilot Nikki Fillipi, copilot Lee Andrews, and crew chief Ron Anderson. The second crew was pilot John Fonberg, copilot William Phillips, and crew chief Bob Noble. Years later I met Colonel Bob Mock at a Daedalian meeting where he shared a tem minute summary of that event. I was fascinated by his story. An RF-4C, traveling at 480 knots, disintegrates around you and you ride the ejection seat into the ground! I approached Bob after his talk and asked him if I could write the entire story. He was reluctant, saying he didn’t think it was worth pursuing. I badgered him for three months until I bought him three glasses of wine at a Christmas party. He caved and invited me to his home for an interview. “Eject, eject, eject!” became published in several Aviation magazines. Bob Noble, living in Washington State, called me on the phone. He was the “Bob Noble” that pulled John Stiles out of the Laos jungle into his Huey. My story bought Noble, Mock, Stiles, and Fillipi together after thirty-six years of separation to an Air America Reunion in Oregon. It was an emotional affair.
Noble Mock Stiles Mike
FURLOUGHED 7 MARCH 1969
When Mike E. was seven years old the YMCA had a program called, Y-Indian Guides which was for fathers and sons. All members had to have Indian names so we picked Flying Eagle and Flying Hawk. To this day we use those names but somehow we have new members: Flying Dove, Joan- Flying Hummingbird, Tess-Flying Flamingo, Karen-Darting Chickadee, MK- Mel, Flying Jayhawk.
On 7 March 1969 I was furloughed so I finished the basement. Joan and I then “vacationed” in Sheringham, England with our senior citizen friend’s, the Storeys, in 1962. Mr. Storey was an Air Raid Warden and German aircraft “Spotter” in WW ll.
Then on to Germany to visit Joe & Shirley, USAF friends stationed at Weisbaden AB. They had rented a home from a farmer in a small German village near the air base. We toured the Rhine River and ate in a German restaurant.
Mike, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Just two months later, May 1969, I was recalled to Frontier Air Lines and continued to fly the Convair 580.
In August, 1971, I was informed by a fellow FAL pilot who flew for the Buckley Air National Guard that a pilot position would be available for me in December. I resigned from the reserve unit in Oklahoma to make myself immediately available. My home was 20 minutes from Buckley.
On 7 December 1971 I was assigned to the 154th Tactical Control Squadron (TACC) at Buckley. I now worked for the Governor of The State of Colorado, John A. Love, Commander-in- Chief.
Douglas C54B Skymaster U3A Utility Blue Canoe 0-2 Birddog-FAC
From 1971 through 1974 I flew the above aircraft starting with the C54. The Blue Canoe was used primarily for transport and administrative purposes. One felt like a civilian on vacation. The O-2 came back from Vietnam with bullet holes and armor plating. I called it the “Polish Twin,” pull me-push me, Mixmaster. Flying at 5,000 feet above sea level, if you lost an engine, at full power on the other engine, you descended at 300 feet per minute. Stay close to an airfield! Forward Air Controllers (FACS) in Vietnam flew it until the OV-10 Bronco came along.
During WW II, the C-54 was also used as a personal transport by General MacArthur, and Winston Churchill and transported the American delegates to the Casablanca Conference in 1943. The forerunner of Air Force One, a modified C-54 named Sacred Cow, became the first military aircraft to carry a U.S. president when President Roosevelt flew to Russia for the Yalta Conference in February 1945. After World War II the C-54 Skymaster saw service in the Berlin Airlift, and the Korea and Vietnam Wars, continuing service in the US military until the late 1970s, a very stable, smooth flying aircraft. The commercial version is a DC-4.
Crew Chief gases 0-2 for flight Airborne on way to Lutz Field, Fort Carson, CO
What, no smoke rockets? Oh hum, just another day at the office.
I had other duties besides flying. Damn! I was Squadron Chief of Airlift Plans Branch, Tactical Air Control Center.
Around the mid-seventies I was promoted to Captain on the De Haviland DHC-6 Twin Otter out of Denver. To my surprise, when the bids closed I discovered that my co-pilot for the month was Emily Howell. She was hired by Frontier and took her place beside Amelia Earhart and the other famous women aviators in American history. She was the first women commercial airline pilot. It was on a Frontier Airlines DC-3flight from Gunnison, Colorado to Denver that she fell in love with flying. She was the only passenger on the flight and the pilot invited her into the cockpit for a bird’s eye view. That did it!
We alternated legs from the very beginning and it was obvious she was an excellent pilot requiring no instruction from me. She had 7,000 hours of flying time instructing student pilots. Some of those were later hired by Frontier Airlines.
She was a joy to fly with and quickly learned not to believe everything I told her. For example, we were cruising over Western Nebraska on an absolutely gorgeous, calm, cloudless day. I was flying and Emily was sight-seeing taking in the landscape and spotted something on the ground. She said, “Mike, what are those mounds on the ground, many of them are small and several large ones?” I said, “Those are Indian burial grounds. The small graves are for the braves and the large ones are for the chiefs.” She stared at me for a few seconds and looked away not responding to my explanation. “Alright,” I said, “that’s’ a military depot for the storage of ammunition, probably atomic and nuclear weapons.” She bought that asking, “Why are there no buildings?” I said, “Everything is below ground, probably to maintain a low profile for security reasons. It seems to work, since most Frontier pilots have been flying over it for years without even noticing it.” She nodded her head, appearing to accept my story.
Emily was always very professional and very careful about using correct aviation terminology. She had a good sense of humor but never told a joke. If I said something which I thought was “knee-slapping” funny she would faintly chuckle. This was the end of our first trip together. We were inbound to Denver around six or seven AM on a Sunday morning. It was totally quiet with no flight activity or chatter on the radio. This was so normal and so boring I keyed the mic and said, “The Dawn Patrol, 15 out.” Emily’s head snapped forward and let out this loud gaffaw! The tower, expecting us to check in and knowing who we were, simply responded, “Cleared to land.” Nothing more was said until we cleared the runway. The tower said, “Cleared to the ramp.” For some reason that whole exchange struck Emily so funny that every time we got together after that she would asked me, “Mike, do you remember the Dawn Patrol?”
Another event worth mentioning happened at Sydney, Nebraska. We had a full load of passengers and were ready for take-off. I released the brakes and said, “You have the aircraft.” Emily took over the controls pushing the power levers to full power. As we began our take-off roll Emily said, “There’s something wrong!” and aborted the take-off. “The aircraft was pulling to the right as though the right brake was grabbing.” I took over to taxi clear of the runway and could feel the right brake cycling on and off. I stopped the airplane and made a PA announcement advising the passengers of our problem and told them we would have a mechanic inspect it. They could stay on board until the mechanic gave his report. Within minutes the mechanic arrived at the aircraft and located the problem. The right brake puck had slipped out of position and was jammed. He said he could fix it right here on the ramp. In a matter of minutes we were cleared to go. I briefed the passengers on the repair and we would be taxiing the aircraft, starting and stopping, making right and left turns to test the right brake.
Emily made a very smooth take-off resulting in many hands clapping. While airborne we asked the passengers if they had close connection we could let them off first and have ground transportation waiting to rush them to their connecting flights
A couple of weeks later Emily and I received a Letter of Commendation from our Chief Pilot, Captain Fechner. A female passenger had written a letter praising the crew of the Frontier Twin Otter for their handling of an aborted flight at Sydney, Nebraska. She wrote, The pilots were calm, cool, and collected and kept everyone informed of the problem. The delay was minimal and the flight to Denver was very enjoyable with everyone clapping to show their approval of the two pilots.
This letter from Captain Fechner was significant because the previous month I was flying with First Officer Tom Mars and Captain Fechner had fired me. At the time he informed me that I would be receiving a letter making it official. I THOUGHT THIS WAS THE LETTER!
Why was I fired? I ate supper at four PM, checked in at five PM for a six PM departure. The flight was delayed for two hours which after making four stops we arrived at Chadron, our final stop for the night. The 19 passenger Twin Otter is flown without a flight attendant or food. All the restaurants, including the Seven Eleven, were closed. Tom and I went to bed hungry. The next morning we departed very early and none of the eating places were open. We had about five hours sleep and were behind schedule faced with crew duty limitations. We were making one engine stops, remaining on the aircraft. By the time we got to Denver we had not eaten for almost twenty hours and the company wanted us to make a quick turn-a-round at Denver to fly back to Chadron. Tom and I decided we would go to the “Grease Pit,” for breakfast. When we returned to Operations, our Chief Pilot, Captain Fechner, was waiting for us. While hyperventilating he said, “Did…you…really…delay…YOUR DEPARTURE …to…EAT BREAKFAST?”
I said, “Yes sir, we did.” He slammed his fist down on the counter. “I’m taking you off the flight…you’re fired!” I calmly asked, “Does that mean you’re canceling the flight?” That got his attention. “No, I’m not!” he barked. “I’m letting you take it and you’re getting a letter!” I said, “And you are getting a letter with copies sent to ALPA, the FAA and Frontier Director of Operations.
I signed the release and said to Tom, “Let’s go before he changes his mind.” We laughed all the way to Chadron and back. The only letter I received was a Letter of Commendation from Captain Fechner.
On 21 December 1973 I was granted the aeronautical rating of Command Pilot.
On 6 September 1974 I was discharged from the Colorado Air National Guard
On 9 October 1974 I was assigned to the 9004 Air Reserve Squadron (CAP) for duty as a CAP Reserve Assistance Officer Reinforcement Designee.
On 15 January 1975 I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
YELLOW FIN TUNA
Larry Beardsley was a Captain at Frontier and I flew co-pilot for him a number of times. Two years prior to his retirement at age 60 he moved to the big island of Hawaii on the Kona Coast. We both liked to fish so he invited me to fish with him the next time I was in Hawaii. In 1982 I had purchased a time share with Royal Aloha Vacation Club and visited Hawaii every year. Larry had two fishing boats, the Missing Link and the Rubber Ducky. He hired a Hawaiian mechanic named Link to maintain his boats. The Missing Link, a fully equipped power boat with twin inboard engines was docked at the marina. It had a wench to pull in huge fish like tuna and marlins which could exceed 2000 pounds. He kept the Rubber Ducky, a small 18 foot boat parked beside his house about twenty minutes away from the marina.
As we arrived at the marina Larry said, “I don’t see Link! Last week I had a fuel leak on one of the engines and called Link to repair it. He told me he would get right on it! I reminded him that this was important because I had a good friend coming in from the mainland to go fishing. Before we load the boat I’m going to start up the engine to check if the fuel leak was repaired.”
I heard the starter cranking, the engine started, sputtered and died. Then Larry looked over the side and started swearing. “Look at the fuel on top of the water! He didn’t fix it!” I asked, “Can’t Link repair it?” Larry shook his head in disgust. “Where is he? Now you know why I named this boat the Missing Link! Every damn time I need him, he’s missing! You wait here. I’m going back to the house to get the Rubber Ducky. You came here to fish and that’s what we’re going to do.”
It was November and the worse time of the year to be fishing for tuna. We fished all day and had one strike losing a lure that cost Larry $25. Mike E. was with us and declined Larry’s invitation to join us on the next day.
Undaunted we were back on the water at the crack of dawn. The minute we were away Larry turned on the ship to shore radio to get a fishing report on yesterday’s catch. They said, “Only three tuna were caught yesterday, one about 40 pounds and the other two, twenty pounds.” Larry asked, “Where were they caught?” The voice replied, “At the east end of Kona about one quarter mile off shore.” We took up a heading to parallel the coast.
Larry wrapped a bungee cord around the steering wheel and looked at me. “This is a poor man’s auto-pilot. Let’s put out four fishing lines.” As we did that he instructed me, “If we get a strike you man the Captain’s Chair and I’ll pull in the other three lines to avoid them getting tangled with your line.” I noticed a baseball bat on the deck and asked Larry, “What’s with the baseball bat?” He said, “There’s nothing more fun than wrestling with a live 2,000 pound fish thrashing around inside the boat. When we get the fish next to the boat I’ll grab the line to keep him there and you hit the fish in the head with the bat to knock him out. It might take three strikes… and he’s out!” I laughed. “That was funny, Larry, then what?” He said, “I’ll take a sharp knife and run it down both sides of the fish along its two major blood veins. This will drain the blood so it won’t contaminate the meat. Now I want you to reach under that lid and take out my bottle of “tea.” We had a locker the size of a coffin full of ice. This was to put the fish in ASAP to keep it cool. Heat within the fish from fighting would spoil the meat. I noticed the ice had melted and the locker was half full of ice water. Larry had stashed a six pack of beer for me and a quart of Jack Daniels whiskey for the Captain. Larry was a serious drinking man. He removed the cap and said, “Now we can do some serious drinking.” He threw his head back taking about four big swallows. He grinned at me and said, “Ahhh, good! Want a swig?”
Three hours later I had consumed all of my sandwiches and six bottles of beer. The locker had a sleeping bag on the top and I told Larry I was going to take a nap. He said, “One more thing, I have a bad back. You’ll be doing all the fishing and heavy lifting since we don’t have a wench.” “Roger that!’
An hour later I heard Larry say, “Mike, are you awake?” “Yeah, where are we?” I asked, looking around. “We’re at the end of Kona. Want to see some Killer Whales?” He handed me his binoculars. I took them and looked toward where he was pointing. “Those aren’t whales,” I said. “They’re Dolphins!” He grabbed the binoculars. “You’re right, Mike. Tuna travel under Dolphins! I’ll turn this baby around and get right in the middle of the school.”
Talk about excitement! Traveling along with them, watching them arching in and out of the water, playing with us, crossing from the front and back, was awesome.
Bam! We had a strike! The spool was unwinding and Larry closed the throttle to slow the boat down, yelling, “Mike, man the chair. I’ll get the lines in!” I strapped myself in, placing the fishing pole in the leather slot between my legs and the fight began. After about 20 minutes I had the fish close to the boat. He saw it and dived straight down taking the line with him, all my work undone. I began the pumping motion again, pulling the pole straight up, cranking the line in as I dropped the pole back down. I got him back up to the boat and he sounded again. He did it one more time before he gave up and I brought him over to the side of the boat. The fight took over an hour and I was damn tired. Larry grabbed the line holding the fish up against the boat while I knocked the fish out with the bat. Larry said, “Okay Mike, let’s pull him in.” I shook my head, “My arms are like rubber hoses, I need a couple minutes rest.” Larry responded with a big grin, “I think he’s over two hundred pounds. What would you do if he was 2,000 pounds?” I thought about it and said, “We would pull him all the way back to the marina.”
After resting I took over saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Because the gunwale extends out over the water we have to swing the fish out away from the boat. We’ll both grab the line and I’ll count one-two-three! On three we’ll push out and up as hard as we can…understand?” He said, “I’ll try.”
I looked at Larry and began my count, “Ready-one-two…” Larry yanked real hard on the line. We were so far out of sync that we dropped the line and the fish disappeared into the water. I stretched out reaching for the line and luckily I hooked it and pulled it in. We still had the fish. I thought, He’s had too much to drink.” I told Larry, ‘I’ve got my strength back now…I think I can pull him out by myself…okay?” He nodded.
I had heard that a tuna was the most streamlined fish in the ocean but I didn’t believe it. I took three deep breathes, pushed out and pulled up as hard as I could. The fish leaped out of the water like it was shot from a cannon! It knocked me off my feet and I fell backwards with the fish on my chest. The back of my head struck the opposite gunwale! It felt like someone had hit me in the back of my head with a baseball bat.
Larry was on the radio broadcasting to the world that we had caught a 200 pound tuna. When I regained my senses I saw that Larry was cutting into the fish’s veins. I removed the lid from the ice locker. When Larry finished his surgery I said, “Larry, you take a breather and I’ll put the tuna in the locker.” While I struggled with the fish I heard Larry yell, “Damn it, Mike…help me!” I turned and there was Larry inside the locker, flailing about with both arms and legs sticking straight up into the air. Not knowing that I had removed the lid in anticipation of loading the locker, Larry sat down to rest. I couldn’t restrain my laughter as I pulled him out. “That’s a helluva way to sober up, Larry. Besides, there’s not room for the two of you in there.” Fifteen minutes later I had a huge Marlin on the line. He came out of the water, walked on his tail, dove back down taking out line like there was no tomorrow. Out he came again, dove back down, and the line went limp. I reeled in the line and checked the seven foot metal leader. It was now a three foot leader. It’s not uncommon for the fish to get away by bending the leader, crimping it and making it snap. Asi est la vida! (Such is life).
Teresa Mel Mike MK
The tuna sold for $556 which went to Larry. He supplied everything except a six pack of beer.
After all five children flew the coop and flying as Captain on a B-737, Joan and I decided to try another big adventure. I made a huge profit on sale of Pinewood. It included a ranch style house in Aurora. In 1984 we moved to 56 Montego Bay, Coronado Cays, California, located on the Silver Strand, Coronado Island. After settling in we purchased two beach bikes, a 29 foot Islander sailboat, a new car, new tennis rackets, new golf clubs, new bathing suits and a large tube of sun tan lotion. I threw in a new outfit for Joan! If we liked the life style we would retire there. Tennis, sailing, fishing, golf and swimming were the favorite pastimes. Life was good.
I would commute from San Diego to Stapleton Field in Denver to fly my trips with Frontier.
Hey Babe, want to go sailing in our 29 foot Islander?
Every house had its own boat slip. There was a tunnel under the Silver Strand highway providing access to the sea shore and the RV Park. A favorite excursion was to sail our 29 foot Islander north in the bay under the beautiful Coronado Bridge and dock at Anthony’s Seafood Restaurant. Or we could jump on our beach bikes and pedal four miles north to the Hotel Del Coronado for a meal and take the bus back home. There were bike racks on the back of the buses.
Joan and I had a good friend who ran a helicopter business. He dropped in one day in his new Bell helicopter and took us on a sight-seeing ride all around the San Diego Bay. What a spectacular way to tour the bay! I filmed it with my Bell & Howell 8MM camera.
Glaspar, Lake Powell, Mike, Melinda 29 foot Ilander, Coronada Cays,
Joan, “FREEDOM,” Lake Powell, Hite Marina, Utah
Hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of corrective action.
Over the years many skilled pilots were lost on take-offs and landings during very good landing conditions; light winds, great visibility, daytime, and no aircraft problems. Accident investigators were baffled by the causes. Weather observers started talking about a newly discovered weather phenomenon called a Micro-Burst. It could be created by a somewhat innocent puffy cumulus cloud on a beautiful summer day. Suddenly, the cloud emits a downward rush of air hitting the ground and rapidly out spreading over 360 degrees. If an aircraft is landing at 10 knots above stall speed 100 feet in the air and suddenly has a twenty knot tailwind, and doesn’t immediately take corrective action he most certainly will stall out and crash.
Our Frontier Airlines training department began teaching its pilots Recognition and Recovery procedures in the simulator. Why am I sharing this information with you? Stand by one!
We were flying the B-737 about five miles out for runway 26Right at Stapleton Air Field on a beautiful summer day as described above. The base of a small cumulus cloud was about 5,000 feet above the field. My first officer said his approach speed would be “Bug (V-Ref landing speed) plus five knots,” a small wind correction. I said, “Roger that.” United Air Lines had just landed and as he cleared the taxi-way he said to the tower, “Tower, we had a five knot loss of airspeed crossing the threshold.” Tower said, “Frontier, did you hear United’s report?” I responded, “Roger, thanks United!”
The airspeed indicator had a small white movable pointer or marker used to set your desired airspeed. We called it a bug. My first officer said, “I’ll use Bug plus 10.” I suggested, “Use more if you like, it’s a long runway.”
At Frontier it was standard procedure for the pilot not flying on all approaches to call: Altitude above the ground, Bug Speed,(V-Ref) and Sink Rate. At five hundred feet I called out, “500, Bug plus 15, sink five.” (500 feet per minute descent rate). “400, Bug Plus 13, sink five,” “300, Bug plus 10, sink 600.” The FO added power. “200, Bug plus five,” We had lost ten knots! The FO added more power. “100, Bug minus five, sink 800!” Minor power increases weren’t effective. I yelled, “BUG MINUS TEN! MAX POWER!” We touched down smoothly at full power. (Miracles can happen!) Now the FO quickly pulled the power back to idle, going into full reverse so we wouldn’t roll off the end of the runway. We slowed down below 90 knots, slowly braking, and turning off onto the taxiway.
I briefed the tower and he made a call in the blind to all landing aircraft. As we sat at the gate listening for the next landing pilot’s report we were amazed!
His report: “NOTHING UNUSUAL!” That’s the mysterious thing about micro-bursts…they occur without much warning and disappear quickly…and can be deadly.
Funny isn’t it. The flight attendants and the passengers hadn’t noticed anything unusual about our approach and landing!
Colorado Springs, B-737, Unexpected Weather Phenomenon
We departed the Colorado Springs VOR on a heading of 170 degrees. As we descended below 10,000 feet we broke out of the clouds and were in visual flight conditions. We called the tower requesting a visual approach. They instructed us to enter a left downwind and cleared us to land on runway 35. Winds were out of the north at five to ten knots. I turned to base leg about five miles out in smooth air with the gear down and landing flaps. As I started my turn to final approach I heard a sudden roar of wind across the canopy and the airplane started to drift rapidly to left of centerline like a kite. My vertical speed indicator showed a 2,000 feet per minute descent rate. An unknown force was forcing us downward. I shoved the power levers to the firewall and yelled, “Gear up, flaps 15!” The first officer said, “You can still make the field.” I answered, “Damn right, but not right now! Flaps up, climb power, we’re going around!” Too often in emergencies pilots who took the time to ask “why” not live long enough to receive an answer. I made a climbing right turn to get back on center line for 35. It appeared we were free of the “wind.” As I tried to level off, reducing the power to cruise, the airplane continued to rise at over 2,000 feet per minute. Whatever had forced me down was now lifting me up! I reduced the power to idle, pushing the nose down to stop my climb. Finally, everything returned to normal and I requested permission to land on a different runway. It was approved and the tower asked, “What happened out there? We watched your airplane veer off to the left and you got real low!” I said, “I’ll tell you on the ground. I wouldn’t recommend anyone landing on 35 right now. There’s a dangerous weather phenomenon about five miles short of runway 35.”
A Continental Airlines B-727 checked in with the tower. The tower asked, “Continental did you hear that pilot’s report about runway 35?” CAL responded, “Yes sir, we did.” “What are your intentions?” asked the tower. “We’ll land on 35,” came the answer with no hesitation.
After landing I went into Operations to talk to the tower on the phone. I briefed them on what happened west of the field. They had no knowledge of any unusual winds.
As I crossed the ramp to return to my plane the Continental pilot of the landing 727 approached me and said, “Wasn’t that something?” I said, “I can’t believe you landed on 35 after hearing my report.” He glared at me, turned around and walked away. If he had damaged his airplane in any fashion and survived he would have had a lot of explaining to do to the accident investigation board.
My simple conclusion is this: A Horizontal Axis Wind Vortex or Rotor Wind off the nearby Rocky Mountains made a kite out my aircraft. I believe my previous experience with the Micro-Burst at Denver caused me to react with no hesitation to go to max power and clean up the airplane for a quick exit.
I wondered who would be the next pilot to share the same weather phenomenon. The next day back at Denver I called the FAA in Oklahoma City to share my story. The gentleman listened, thanked me for the call and I never heard from him again.
In 1991 a United Airlines B-737-200, an airplane United had bought from Frontier Airlines and one I had flown numerous times, attempted to land on runway 35 at Colorado Springs, crashed five miles short of the runway killing everyone on board. The weather conditions were almost identical to the day I narrowly escaped a tragedy.
Accident Investigation Report
At 09:23 AM Mountain Standard Time, Flight 585 departed Denver with 20 passengers and 5 crew members on board, and was scheduled to arrive in Colorado Springs at 09:46 AM.:2 At 09:37 AM, the aircraft was cleared for a visual approach to runway 35.:2 The aircraft then suddenly rolled to the right and pitched nose down. The crew tried to initiate a go-around by selecting 15-degree flaps and an increase in thrust. The altitude decreased rapidly and acceleration increased to over 4G until the aircraft crashed into Widefield Park, less than four miles from the runway threshold, at a speed of 245 mph.
After a 21-month investigation, the NTSB issued a report on the crash in December 1992. In that report, the NTSB said it ‘could not identify conclusive evidence to explain the loss of’ the aircraft, but indicated that the two most likely explanations were a malfunction of the airplane’s directional control system or an encounter with an unusually severe atmospheric disturbance.
It’s almost unbelievably that two B-737-200s arriving at the same spot under identical circumstances and the FINAL fatal accident finding by the NTSB is: Probably Cause, failure of the rudder PCU, Power Control Unit. I wonder what happened to my report to the FAA of a known severe atmospheric disturbance.
“Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” Unkown
In early 1986 there was strong evidence of Frontier Airlines filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I placed a rental ad for 56 Montego and a navy officer responded immediately, signing a lease. I felt I should be back in Colorado close to all the action. I had a rental in Aurora, Happy Valley Ranch, (Ha!) which was due to expire and soon moved in. It needed a lot of work so I spent my days off painting the house inside and out, fixing fences, improving the lawn, etc. Selling the house I made forty thousand dollars profit and in August of 1986 I bought 22 Abernathy Court in Highland Ranch.
On 25 August, 1986, at three o’clock in the morning my phone rang in my hotel room in San Diego. It was the FAL Chief Pilot informing me that FAL filed bankruptcy and to bring my B-737 home ASAP… empty! There were several Frontier employees from Denver on vacation in San Diego listed on standby. I waited until they checked in for the flight and brought them home. It was “Open House” on the plane with free drinks and food. I left the cockpit door open for anyone to visit the nose cone.
It was a tough pill to swallow after twenty wonderful years with the most professional airline employees in commercial aviation. During its history not one paying passenger was killed! My first mortgage payment was due in September and I was unemployed, as well as First Officer, Mike Eugene, who came aboard FAL in January, 1986. He moved in with us and we began work on upgrading our basement. We completed the framing and Continental Airlines bought FAL bringing me on board as a Captain in October. Mike E. soon followed in January as a Second Officer on an Airbus.
Albuquerque, SURPRISE LANDING, 1989
In 1988 I was awarded a B-727 Captain position at the bottom of Continental’s Captain Seniority List flying out of Denver. I was flying from Denver to Albuquerque, New Mexico. My first officer was an ex-Continental captain that had been displaced, as he put it, “By the merging of Frontier Airlines with CAL, the Frontier Captains caused me to lose the left seat.” Sour grapes! There’s nothing worse than flying with a co-pilot who was once a Captain. He had his say and I made no rebuttal, knowing the cockpit was no place to slug a demented first officer, even though I had lost years of seniority.
As we approached Albuquerque our Flight Engineer commented that it was a beautiful scene. The city lights sparkled like diamonds and the black velvety sky accentuated billions of stars. We could see the strobe lights for runway 08 over 50 miles out. There was a large lonely cumulus cloud about twenty miles to the east. An earlier weather report had forecast possible rain showers in the Albuquerque area moving eastward. The winds were reported calm by the tower as we intercepted the ILS for landing on runway 08R. The field served both the military and commercial aviation using an advanced approach lighting system with a grooved runway, 150 feet wide and 13,780 feet long, without a doubt the safest runway in the world.
I touched down right on speed about 1,000 feet down the runway, gently lowering the nose gear on the center line. I activated the speed brakes and reversed the engines to help slow down the aircraft to 95 knots. I came out of reverse to begin braking. The airspeed stayed right at 95 knots! My first thought was we’ve lost our brakes due to a loss of hydraulic pressure. Not true! The speed remained at 95 knots! Then it hit me. I yelled, “Damn it! We’re hydroplaning!” I retracted the flaps hoping for more traction. It was too late to go-around. At this low speed all reversing does is create a lot of noise. I had to ride it out faced with the reality that we might go off the end of the runway. With 2,000 feet remaining the brakes became effective and I turned off the runway at the very end, stopped and set the brakes. The three of us just sat there waiting for our heart rates to return to normal, not saying a word. I heard the tower say, “Continental, I repeat, you’re cleared to the gate. Is there a problem?” My first officer answered. “The reason we used all 13,000 feet is because we experienced hydroplaning. Has anyone reported it?” The tower responded with surprise in his voice, “You’re the first.”
That must have been one hell of a rain storm that passed over the field to leave that much water on a grooved runway. I discovered later that only 130 feet of the 150 foot wide runway was grooved. Why wouldn’t you run the grooves all the way to the edge so the water could run off? It’s like having a series of dams forming a pool of water. I guess I didn’t have the “big picture,” Just like in the Air Force…I never learned who “They” were, or who was the “Regular Crew chief.”
We stayed at the airport hotel and while having dinner that night another flight crew sat at the table next to us. We could hear their conversation about hydroplaning on landing. One of them said, “My heart was in my throat. I was sure we were going off the end!” I thought, No kidding, Dick Tracy, so much for the safest runway in the world.
Dynamic hydroplaning is a relatively high-speed phenomenon that occurs when there is a film of water on the runway that is at least one-tenth inch deep. As the speed of the airplane and the depth of the water increase, the water layer builds up an increasing resistance to displacement, resulting in the formation of a wedge of water beneath the tire. When the water pressure equals the weight of the airplane, the tire is lifted off the runway surface and stops rotating. Directional control and braking is lost.
PIPER CHEROKEE ARROW
Piper Cherokee Arrow 200 HP- Bartow Air Port-I flew it for an hour with Joan, and her brother, Bob Skinner. He hadn’t been in an airplane since flying 31 combat missions over Germany in World War II. They screamed a lot! (See Mike’s Anthology, Bartow Revisited.)
Polish Hand & Foot Shake
Mike & Mike Mike & Willie Nelson
AIR AMERICA REUNION
“Eject, eject, eject!” By Michael R. Daciek John Stiles to Bob Noble “I’m under your prop wash!” yelled John, quickly jamming his gun and radio into his flying suit. They dropped the penetrator above his head and at that very moment John spotted a figure in black clothing ten to fifteen feet away. His AK-47 was strapped across his chest and he had a wide grin, seemingly unconcerned about the situation. John shouted at Bob Noble in the helicopter door. “There’s an armed soldier down here!”
Mike Bob Mock John Stiles Bob Noble
Bob Mock rescued by Fillippi crew
Suddenly a rope fell down through the trees. I could hear the engine starting to race which meant it was moving out! “Damn!” I lunged for the rope and captured it with both hands as the helicopter began to pick up speed and off we went. We weren’t more than twenty feet above the ground as the bullets zinged by.
Bob Noble Bob Mock John Stiles Fillippi (No Photo)
After an Air America Reunion in Oregon Bob Noble invited Joan and I to his home in Gig Harbor, Washington. Parked in Bob’s garage was a 1959 Bentley given to him by Elizabeth Arden, a cosmetics queen. Bob’s dad, a farmer and an auto mechanic had been collecting “cars of interest” over the years and his barn was full of vintage autos, many worth millions of dollars! He was Elizabeth’s mechanic and Bob had the job of washing her car. When she died she left the car to Bob and the car was now worth over $60,000. Bob let Joan and I drive the car through down town. He stayed home! We found an empty jar of Grey Poupon in the glove compartment. Whenever I stopped at a red light I would roll down the window, stick my jar out the window and say, “Pardon me…do you have any Grey Poupon?” People on the street thought we were the King and Queen of England. Ha! The car still had Elizabeth’s Leopard warming blanket, telephone, bar, and a window providing her with privacy from her chauffeur.
Ready for take-off
Dad Doesn’t work, He’s A Pilot
One morning my son, Mike, walked into the kitchen and asked his mother, “Where’s dad?” She answered, “He’s at work.” He stared at his mother and said, “Dad doesn’t work, he’s a pilot!”
When he graduated from high school he decided to work for a year which surprised the hell out of me. I said, “You have the grades to go to the USAF Academy! He said, “After 4 years at Mullen and 18 years of discipline under you I’ve got all I need!” ( joking, of course). He left home and worked for a Rock Garden Company, K-Mart, Hardy Gardens and his own Water Sprinkler Company, all within a year or so.
One day he stopped by for supper and said, “Dad, I’ve decided on a new career!”
(Intentionally left blank)
I was in the control tower at Arapahoe County Airport on the day he soloed a Piper Cherokee 140, 47 Foxtrot. I gave him a white silk scarf made from a nylon parachute to wear on his flight. I guess work didn’t appeal to him!
He earned an associate degree in avaition at Metrotropolitan State College and Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely. After graduation he gave flight instructions at Arapahoe County Airport in the Cessna 152/172.
I heard that Frontier was in the process of selling our CV-580s. Whoever bought them would be looking for pilots. I knew that Frank Meyers was moonlighting teaching CV-580 systems ground school, charging $2500 per class. If you have 5 students at $500 each you’re in! I told my son and he knew two private pilots which would do it. They paid $1000 and Mike paid $1500.
Part two of my plan called for using Frontier’s CV-580 Simulator. I talked to the head of traning, I believe was Boyd Stevens. I explained the above. I asked if it was possible for me and my son to use the simulator when it wasn’t being used. I would be Mike’s instructor. He said, “Yes, just coordinate with him first.” It worked!
It was October of 1983 when he was finishing CV-580 school with Frank Meyers. The phone rang and Frank answered it. It was the chief pilot from Atlantic Gulf Airways looking for CV-580 First Officers. Frank said, “Yeah, I’ve got 2 guys standing right here next to me that would love the job!”
Mike’s checkride would be flying co-pilot for Frontier’s instructor, CaptainTed Kentrotti, from Denver to Clearwater. Mike received another checkride at Atlantic Gulf and was hired. Atlantic Gulf declared bankrupsy a year later. Mike was immediately hired by Aspen Airways throughout 1985. In January 1986 Mike was hired by…
YOU GUESSED IT! FRONTIER AIRLINES!
Captain Mike Daciek First Officer Mike Daciek B-737-200 Caspar, Wym 1986
In 1993, facing retirement at age 60 I turned to writing, something I enjoyed while in high school. My journalism teacher told me, “If you’re going to write, write about something close to your heart. A personal experience would be a good place to start.” So I wrote a short story called “Timing” (See Mike’s Anthology) about flying a twin engine B-25 in pilot training and had to make an emergency landing on my solo flight. I entered a short story contest sponsored by the National Writers Association and won third place. This led to my writing a series of short stories which were published in several aviation magazines. I formed my own publishing company, Writer’s Kramp Ink, and wrote three children’s books, self-publishing, Laughing Through the Alphabet, Our First Flight, and Kailouie and the Snorkel Monster. During that time I attended numerous writing seminars and took a creative writing course at a local community college. I joined a writing group which was a mixed group. Two women took exception to something I had written (an amusing story about two women) and convinced the others that I should drop out. I was amused by the immaturity of it all and went out the door laughing. Moral of the story…
”Never wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig loves it.” I then wrote a murder mystery novel, A Change of Heart, which was published by an internet company called Lulu. Tracy Mohrman, my granddaughter, designed the cover.
I forgot density altitude! “MK, where’s my work uniform?”
Daedalian monthly meeting at Red Baron Museum in Denver. Mike in front of eighteen military and commercial aircraft flown during 41 year career.
Andy Parks & Mike making a toast with the Red Baron’s silver shot “glasses.”
Actual “glasses” used by the Red Baron after shooting down a surviving pilot. He would land near the downed pilot, drink a toast and depart.
In 2001 I was invited to attend a Daedalian meeting at the Buckley AFB Officer’s Club. My sponsor, Lt. Col. Ron Kuhlman, immediately entered a lengthy conversation with fellow Daedalians. Excusing myself I wondered into the bar where I joined a lonely bartender. After being served a vodka tonic I turned around and leaned against the bar. I studied the many flags, squadron insignias, award placards, aircraft photos, etc., thinking how good it felt to be in an officer’s club once more. I muttered, “This is good,” and I heard a voice from my left say, ‘What did you say?” A gentleman had joined me at the bar. I laughed and replied, “Just enjoying the scenery. It’s been awhile such I attended an officer’s club.” He said, “What brings you here?” I said, “I met Ron Kuhlman at a dinner party where he questioned me at length about my flying career. He wants me to join the Daedalians. I’m not sure I qualify.” He chuckled, “If Ron thinks you qualify, you qualify. What aircraft did you fly?” I rattled off a bunch of planes and when I mentioned the B-25 he asked me, “How did you like that airplane?” I replied, “I loved it!” and then I laughed. He said, “Why did you laugh? I have some time in it.” That surprised me. “Oh, it’s just that on my solo flight I had to make a single engine landing due to a fuel leak. Every time I think about it makes me laugh. It was so unexpected.” He asked me a few more question about the B-25 and when I interrupted him to ask when and where he flew it the dinner bell rang. I sat next to the Flight Captain at the head table. He asked me what airplanes I flew and when I mentioned the B-25 he stopped me. He said, “See that gentleman down at the end of that table?’” I looked and replied, “Yes, I met him in the bar a few minutes ago, who is he?” He said, “That’s Bill Bowers, he flew the 12th B-25 off of the aircraft carrier “Hornet” on the famous Doolittle Raid in 1942.” I felt about one inch tall. I could have walked out under the door without opening it!
Bill Bowers Mike Daciek
Bill Bowers Mike Daciek
I visited STM Elementary School talking to children about reading, writing and flying. I visited many local & out of state schools over a twenty year period. I even traveled back to Matewan, West Virginia, my home town, to speak to the kids.
Bud and I were the closest of friends. He was a US Navy pilot and I was a US Air Force pilot so we shared flying stories. One of his was so intriguing that I wrote and published a short story called “How Was Your Day?” He owned a Piper Comanche 400 and on his way from Des Moines, Iowa to Minot, North Dakota, his engine quit and he made a “dead stick” landing at the Sibley, Iowa Airport. How he did it is quite fascinating, relying on his navy carrier training and crop dusting experiences. It can be read in my anthology of “Mikes Short Stories.”
Bud Potts Chuck Herrman, pilot buddy since Primary Bud & Mike
The fine folks of Kailua, Hawaii sent me this T-shirt and “I Love Kailua” sticker. It was for attending their yearly celebration and giving their elementary school 4th grade class free copies of “Kailouie & the Snorkel Monster.” Look at all those young people in the background. I like the gal in the red cap!
Kailua Vacation Home
Mike’s Final Flight
Joan, Melinda, Mike, Virginia, Polly
Final commercial flight, 5 August 1993, B-727, Stapleton Field, Denver, CO
Village Retirement Party Belmar shore, N.J. “Beware of the rip tides”
Mike & Billy
“When once you’ve tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
~ Leonardo de Vinci
Frontier Airlines-5 July 1967/24 August 1986
DHC-6 CV-580 B-737
Continental Airlines-1 October 1986/5 August 1993
ORDER IN WHICH FLOWN, 1956 TO 1993, MILITARY AND COMMERCIAL
Left column, top to bottom B-36/T-34/T-28/B-25/C-123/T-33
Middle column, top to bottom T-29/C-47/F-84F/C-130/C-124/C-54
Right column, top to bottom U-3/0-2/CV-580/DHC-6/B-737/B-727
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