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C-141 Tail Number:67-0012

Location: Charleston AFB, SC in the good old MAC days
Copyright © - George Miller

A magazine clipping. Boarding for a trip to somewhere
George Miller Collection

Copyright © - Justin Chederholm
Source : airlinerst.net

Article from September 3, 2004 McGuire AFB AirTides base newspaper.


By Staff Sgt. Christin Michaud, Editor

After nearly four decades of service to the U.S. Air Force, crew members from McGuire decided to say goodbye to the C-141B Starlifter in a special way - a trip around the world.

Twelve crewmembers departed McGuire on Aug. 19 for the last overseas flight in a C-141B before its retirement Sept. 16.

The hand-selected crew included eight members from the 6th Airlift Squadron, primarily seasoned veterans in the C-141, and four flying crew chiefs from the 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "We wanted to do something special for our last overseas flight," said Lt. Col. Juan Sotomayor, 6th AS operations officer.

The flight was an extension of their '7F3' normal Bahrain run that the 6th has done on a weekly basis for some time now, according to Colonel Sotomayor. The first stop of the '7F3' is Norfolk Air Station, Va., followed by other various stops before arriving in Bahrain. Traditionally during the '7F3' the C-141 is used to transport troops and cargo.

To continue their trip around the world, from Bahrain, the next stop for the crew from McGuire, with more than 59,000 hours combined flying experience between them, was Diego Garcia.

"It's an awesome airplane that has done a lot of good," Colonel Sotomayor said of the aircraft that was taking them around the world.

The C-141 is known for its support of humanitarian and contingency missions, but an important element of the C-141 is its ability to be an ambulance in the sky with medical evacuations.

While in Diego Garcia, the crew found out there was a patient who needed an air evac to Singapore. Ironically, the crew was able to fly their final mission transporting a patient, something the C-141 and its crews have handled for decades.

"It was an added hoorah to be called upon to help someone who needs medical care," said Master Sgt. Charles Thompson, 6th AS chief flight engineer. The crew brought the patient - a child - to Singapore, before heading to Yokota Air Base, Japan. From Yokota, the C-141 carried the crew to Kadena Air Base, Japan, and back to Yokota, before making its way back to the states with a stop in Hawaii, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and finally, Dover AFB, Del., before returning home Aug. 28.

"Not everyone gets to put an airplane to bed," said Sergeant Thompson of the only plane he's flown and worked on in his 24-years of flying. "It's a milestone." This trip around the world has helped Sergeant Thompson log close to two and a half million miles during his career. He, like several other C-141 crews, will end his career with the C-141. "I love the 141," said Sergeant Thompson. "And I loved every day I stepped on the airplane. This is my closure - I'm going to the bone yard with it." Master Sgt. Don Cool, 305th Operations Group flight engineer and stan eval, is also retiring with the C-141.

"I loved every minute of it." One of the things Sergeant Cool said he liked most about the Starlifter was its versatility. "It's a very forgiving airplane," he said. "If you make a mistake, she'll compensate for you." It's a plane that can fly anywhere as an ambulance, for air drops, personnel, even presidential limos, he added.

One of the most memorable missions in the C- 141B for pilot Colonel Sotomayor, was a mission to Homestead Air Base, Fla., during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. "You see, just three years earlier I had lived through Hurricane Hugo and had experienced, firsthand, the devastation and suffering a hurricane could bring," he said. "As I flew down the east coast of the Florida peninsula it was dark and as we got further south and closer to the Miami area the lights below were less and less until there was complete darkness. When we landed it was just before dawn using emergency lighting to illuminate the airfield.

While we offloaded the pallets of food, medicine and supplies the sun came up and then we saw the effects of one of God's most awesome forces. There wasn't one tree standing from our vantage point. I understood firsthand the suffering and sense of despair losing everything can bring and knowing that we could make a difference in these people's lives gave me a great sense of accomplishment."

The Starlifter has aided in humanitarian missions here in the United States to Antarctica, and in fact has been to every continent.

The trip to Antarctica is one that stands out for Sergeant Cool. In 1999, he was part of the crew bringing air drops of supplies.

"The only lights were burning barrels," he said. The aircraft doors were opened in sub zero temperatures for the drops, and because it was freezing, they were unable to be refueled.

"We didn't know if we had enough gas, it was just a feat to make it back."

The trip around the world is another feat for Sergeant Cool and the rest of the crew. They will take each trip or personal experience with them.

"We've all been to these places before, but it was our last time there in uniform before we retire, just like the plane," said Master Sgt. James Hess, 305th Operations Support Squadron, chief C-141 flight engineer, who was recognized by Lockheed Martin for 10,350 hours - the highest ever on active duty - on the C-141. He spent 25 years with the C-141.

"Wherever America would go, you'd see a 141 show up."

Sergeant Thompson describes the C-141 as very reliable with very few maintenance problems. While at times it needed some tender love and tweaking, the C-141 has proven itself, he said. "It's been a workhorse throughout its time," said Sergeant Thompson. "It's been in every conflict since Vietnam - there's so much history and I was a part of it - that's what I like about it." His trip around the world is now also part of the C-141s history.

Departure for the last flight!

9/16/2004. I fired up my AirBand radio and listened for the radio call from 67-0012. It came at 11:45 am. This is a shot of the aircraft making its final turn to final at Davis-Monthan.
These photos were taken from about 10 miles north of DM.
Copyright © - Michael Novack

9/16/2004. The final smoke from tires hitting pavement for this aircraft.
Copyright © - Michael Novack

The crew that brought 012 to Tucson on its final flight

Taken on the ramp at DM on 9/16/2004, the last landing for Balls-12
Copyright © - Steve Long

Copyright © - Phillip Kovaric

Copyright © - Phillip Kovaric

Copyright © - Phillip Kovaric

Copyright © - Phillip Kovaric

Copyright © - Phillip Kovaric

Copyright © - Phillip Kovaric

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