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Dick Reichelt

The "RULES" are monitored by clipboard people. Some rules are much more flexible for bending than others. For example, the "rule" of not coming back with more baggage than you went out with seemed to be very high on the bend-the-rule list. Some crews were grumpier about this than others.

I admit I was bad. I am sure crew members flinched when they saw "Reichelt" listed on the flight orders. "Oh no, not the shopper"! Always being gone on the C-141 required a lot of bribes to get back into he really good graces with my family ...uh, wife.

The thing was, C-141 crews everywhere usually "staged", e.g. one leg of the total journey at a time, while the airplane kept going. The first leg started at our home base. Bags on the bus, bags off the bus, bags on the airplane, bags off the airplane, bags on the bus, bags off the bus into our quarters to crew rest. That describes leg # 1 with maybe five more to go." Those were the infamous "baggage drills"

My next-door neighbor at Dover was a C-133 driver, (remember that airplane). THEY had the luxury of keeping the very same airplane all the way around the system. A shopper's delight, although, unlike the superbly reliable C-141, the 133 had the unnerving ability to disappear. I mean disappear - as in "completely-without-a-trace". So lets live with the baggage drills OK?

Staging C-141 crews were the same worldwide, kind of stoic about the drill, they endured it. Good guys all of them.

Early on, we could even bring back motorcycles, resulting in some tough drills! I believe on one of those trips in June of 1967 we set the motorcycle speed record of 631 knots. The drill was to get an empty cargo compartment going home, clear the aisle and let 'er rip. We often discussed setting the pigeon speed record also. Would birds released in the rear flying forward really be going 600? Oh, never mind. I digress.

I had a really favorite street on Okinawa where everything was available: china, stoneware, stereo stuff, and toys, which were a favorite. One foray onto my favorite shopping street resulted in the purchase of $150 worth of fireworks. It was a lot of fireworks, not in weight but in bulk. They were destined for the baggage drill.

I am sure we all bent some rules sometimes, but out east we had a rule bender that acquired the nickname "the astronaut". An educated individual. Maybe he didn't make the astronaut program, maybe he was an undercover Lockheed test pilot, or maybe he just didn't have any common sense.

We heard stories that he held the operational altitude record for the C-141: over 61,000 feet. He would take "sun shots" with a string and Nav plotter to plot a position. Imagine him trying to confirm the position with the navigator "Nav, A/C. Where are we?" Nav thinks we're in the STRATOSPHERE. You're an idiot! (I give navigators credit for being the smart guys on a crew.) What a tribute to the airplane that nothing serious came out of that rule bending! A loss of cabin pressure at that altitude turns everyone into chicken soup. So in that case the rule bending was not good. But-everyone has their favorite.

Back at Elmendorf, at last. Maybe just one more stop. Two more drills, maybe a few more rules to deal with. Customs/Agriculture does a preliminary check at the airplane upon parking. Usually everyone mills around the entrance door presenting their Customs forms. I needed some privacy with this "clipboard" person, which I could see I was not going to get.

"Pssst sir: I have something here, 'er, uhmmmm fireworks".

He yells, "FIREWORKS! #$^&$�^%^?X#@*+! That's class "A" explosives! EXPLOSIVES! ##*@!! WHERE'S THE AIRCRAFT COMMANDER?"

Immediately it got very quiet. You could not hear a breath. No one said anything, but simultaneously 7 heads turned. 14 eyeballs locked on me.

"Err .. That's me sir. I know", I stammered. "Uh, mmmmm. You see sir, I promised my sons a REALLY patriotic 4th of July this year. I'm gone so much; they would really enjoy spending some quality time with me, being just back from the war zone and all, helping our men overseas…..

It was the best 4th of July EVER at Dover AFB


Richard (Dick) Reichelt      richreichelt@msn.com

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