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Dick Reichelt

Does anyone remember the (dorky) grey "polo helmet"? I hope I'm not stepping on any project manager's toes, or that anyone advocated that silly piece of Disney. I have repressed even the memory of it. Where did we first see it, use it, and, discard it? I wholeheartedly thankfully commend the wise soul that eliminated it.

So; just fly the mission, no parachutes, no standing alert, No dork helmets. I was in.

Early on, being new to high altitude jet travel, I listened to the jet-upset-stories from training with a little trepidation, especially when I tried to get some sleep in the provided flight deck crew bunk. I would lie there with my ear just scant inches from the 500 mph air stream recounting the stories. Would I be able to help, when the ship did a slow roll and a split S or would I be pinned helpless to the bunk? Or even, would I be able to rescue the crew when the inexperienced green CP shut down my best engine?

Personally, I got over it very quickly when the C-141 proved its super reliability, and my need for sleep overpowered everything.

Speaking of that "new guy" or the "greenie", what was more fun than pressing the OX test button ( I think) to get a quick flash on the annunciator panel and flash the master caution warning light. You had to be able to keep a straight face and not over-do it until they caught on. You guys DID do that didn't you? Was I the only prankster (Jerk)?

I was having my fun with that with a new Major in the squadron. Flying CP with me on a trip. He caught on quickly. Major Ed and I got to yakking, and the subject of (you guessed it!) "flying" came up. Major Ed had a lot of flying hours, but what was unique was his variety of different airplanes flown. Some exotic stuff, I would mention P-51, he'd flown it. P-40, he'd flown it, Stearman, flown it, Waco biplane, flown it . Staggerwing Beech, OWNED one.

"Hmmmm, how come you've been in all those airplanes?", I asked.

"Oh my father and I owned an airport in Vandalia Ilinois, so we got our hands on a lot of different types, either owned or coming through."

Vandalia rang a bell with me. In 1955, I owned a Stinson Voyager 150. I was a B-25 instructor at Reese AFB in Lubbock Texas. At Christmas-time the base shut down, Airline tickets were expensive, gasoline was cheap, so another instructor, his wife,my German Shepherd, and I and set out for Pittsburgh. The dog and I continue on to New York.

I said, "You know, one dark night windy night I landed at Vandalia! In 1955! I landed on the short runway heading into the wind. It had three foot tall wheat growing on it! I called the number on the airport office door, offering transportation and a young fellow came out in a green and white 1955 Oldsmobile 4 door sedan."

"That was me!",' said Major Ed. "That was my dad's car, I remember, because I helped you clean the wheat stalks out of your intake, and we tied you down. You had a dog with you, I drove you to a motel in town and helped you sneak your dog into the motel!"

Fourteen years before in a small world, we meet as 141 pilots flying the line. Major Ed got the next landing.

I think it was one cold, foggy, damp night, that we were flight planning in Elmendorf base ops alongside a Pan American freighter crew. Smartly crushed 100 mission hats and a 707, I wondered how "much-more bucks" they were taking home, than my crew.

I don't remember whether we were all allowed to take off in zero-zero conditions. Maybe this night was one notch up from zero, because we were going, take-off was to be within the hour. The Pan Am aircraft was already taxiing when our crew bus was finally loaded and headed for our 141. All the visible lights on the airport had that calm twinkling, filtered, glow, I thought of Christmas.

Our bus driver couldn't see squat, but had radio contact with the tower and we were held where we were, awaiting clearance to cross the active. We are held awaiting departure of the Boeing 707. We could hear the four engines, bursting with power and crackling in the cold air. The ghost-like form and navigation lights roared past our position on it's take off run. Away from us it went, suddenly SILENCE. As if in slow motion the entire quadrant of dark sky acquired the bright orange glow of a sunset. Nobody dared say it … we sat in silent SHOCK.

Then, an expletive, and "They crashed!"

It is inconceivable, among a band of brothers that this happened. You pinch yourself to see if you are awake or in a nightmare. Yes they crashed, with a full overseas fuel load, and a fully loaded cargo hold. Fatal.

The accident investigation deduced that procedure requirements required the crew to raise the flaps to taxi out in slush. There was a lot of slush that night with the temps dropping to freezing . The requirement was intended to preclude the freezing of switches in the flap well, and protect the flap tracks and jack screws. In T/O position, evidently the flaps were not set back down. There is a flap warning horn that sounds if the throttles are advanced for T/O that must not have worked or alerted the crew, it was surmised that it was inop or-frozen. The Boeing struggled off, stalled, and rolled.

We silently made the crew swap, strapped in and took off.

The most fun I ever had in the C-141 was terrorizing all the ducks and geese on Chesapeake bay as well as the entire human population that must have heard us come swirling overhead at 1,000 feet. We had to have been making a horrendous racket!I don't know how come we were authorized to do that, but the call was for three ship join up and formation practice. Cool!(Modern translation for … Neat!) I loved it! I had hours and hours instructing formation flying in B-25 basic, and I thought this was what flying big airplanes was all about. (Maybe it was from too many 'war movies'growing up)

Our big bird was so stable the turns were like magic, you held position with two fingers on the yoke, fore and aft with the power. It was so easy we quickly learned that the auto throttles and it's knurled knob would control the power with a click, click for 4 kts, one click back, and you're in position and you stay there.

It was spectacular! And, me with no camera on board, this was pre-video cams. What a shame, because the was no next time. The requirements changed I guess and the routine became, take off, join up in 1 mile trail position. The radar and navigator kept us in position, how dull was that!

Next came the airdrops, now it was interesting again. We could see the heavy equipment come out back, and the slight puff of dust as the 150' chutes opened. I don't know if the 141 went on to do this in real combat, but the jeeps and trucks we dropped in practice went down by parachute so many times they looked very battle weary. We were ready.


Richard (Dick) Reichelt      richreichelt@msn.com

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