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Dangerous Cargo

Bill Hamilton

They say that during wartime, strategic airlift is only 47% effective. Of course that's due to the fact that at the beginning of the build up you haul the stuff in and come back empty and at the end of the contingency you go in empty and return full. During peace time and on channel missions is really the only 'cost effective' airlift we do based on the standard above.

However, even during peace time we liked to practice our war time mission and occasionally fly around empty. One time many years ago as a young instructor loadmaster I had a young airman who was really interested in flying. So much so that a few years later, after becoming a really fine loadmaster, he finished his college education and went on to OCS. He then got a commission and became a C-141 pilot. But that's getting ahead of the story.

On this one particular overseas mission while he was still a young student loadmaster and with no pax or cargo in the rear, I decided to let him be in charge and crawled up into the crew bunk for a little 'no-notice combat nap'.

Several hours later, about time to make our three hour out call, I get a pull on my flight suit leg and wake up to see my student tugging at it and saying, 'Sgt Hamilton the A/C wants to know the download information'.

I can't believe he's asking about an empty aircraft, so I say, 'Tell him we have 13 pallets of sailboat fuel', and rolled back over to continue my nap.

Within about two minutes I feel the tug on my leg again and sat up as straight as you could in the crew bunk and said, 'WHAT?'

My student LM then said, 'He needs to know what the hazardous cargo classification is'.

At this time I pointed my hand towards the back of the empty aircraft and said, 'What do you see back there?'

As he looked toward the empty cargo area, he said, 'Nothing I guess,' and shrugged his shoulders.

'That's right Bubba, there ain't nothin' back there!' I yelled and rolled over and completed my nap.

Then my young student load had to return to the cockpit and tell the cranky old major we had for an aircraft commander that there wasn't anything in the cargo compartment and proceeded to get his butt chewed royally. I found later that the aircraft commander had called in the offload as 13 pallets of sailboat fuel and upon hearing that, the inbound location figured it was some type of hazard and was concerned about isolated parking on the hot spot. Once he found out it was only 'air', he had to correct his original inbound message and all the aircraft in the along the east coast got a big laugh at his expense.

I never used the expression of 'sail boat fuel' again on a load message, although I continued to carry it on many a MAC or AMC mission for years afterward.

'Bundle' Bill Hamilton

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