The Lockheed Starlifter
A C-141 ON TAKEOFF
PLAY IT LOUD!
"In those two years I logged more than 1,500 hours in the plane, mostly flying from McChord to Alaska, Japan and then to Vietnam."
The Lockheed Starlifter
The top picture on the left is the way many C-141Bs were painted after the unpleasantness in South East Asia. We always seem to repaint them to suit the previous war. They were lengthened 23 feet by 1982 and it could refuel (23,000 gallons in 26 minutes) in flight. The one on the right is the A model and the way they were painted when I flew them, from 1967 to 1969, although this isn't one from my squadron, the 4th Military Airlift Squadron, McChord AFB, Washington. A picture of a model of a 4th airplane is below. They had a Washington state painted on the nose. Although it couldn't refuel in the air it still had substantial range, and some of the flights, from Okinawa to Tacoma, for example, were almost 11 hours. I feel sorry for anyone who has to fly any plane longer than that. In those two years I logged more than 1,500 hours in the plane, mostly flying from McChord to Alaska, Japan and then to Vietnam. Or we flew to California and from there to Hawaii, the Philippines and then Vietnam. When you consider that the absolute maximum I would have been allowed to fly was about 2,000 hours, you can see that I was pretty busy and didn't spend much time at home.
Occasionally we flew to Japan via Hawaii and Midway Island, which is the home of the Laysan Albatross, or Gooney Bird. They're very big birds, with wingspreads approaching 12 feet. Once, on final approach to Midway, we sucked a bird into the number three engine and when we parked the ground crew immediately spotted the blood and feathers in the engine. We tried to tell the operations officer that it was a tiny seagull; we didn't want to spend the night at Midway. He just looked at the aircraft commander and said, "Captain, we don't have any seagulls on Midway. All we have at the moment are Goons. Have a nice night." They changed the engine, which was no doubt wise.
We flew high priority goods into Vietnam and often flew bodies out. The missions I dreaded were air evacuations of wounded, especially people with burns. We planned those missions with care, trying to find the smoothest air, but turbulence often turns up in strange places, and is especially bad near the jet stream over Japan, which was usually our first stop. I can still hear the screams of some of those men who were in terrible pain to begin with, as the airplane bounced. There was nothing I could do, but I still felt responsible.
The fleet approached a total of 9 million flying hours. I flew them when they were new and they have reached the end of their service life, almost 40 years later.
It's sad to see these beautiful aircraft being lined up and broken up for scrap at Davis-Monthan, but it happens to most aircraft, and life goes on.
Shortly after I flew in my first C-141 I had a solid resin model made in Japan of one of the 4th MAS airplanes. Island Enterprises, who has made several models for me, repaired it. They make superior models. You can see more of what they do here.
There's an excellent web site by Mike Novack devoted to the memories of the planes and those who flew them. You can reach it by clicking here. An outstanding flight engineer, Chris Behrens,also has images from his former site on Novack's site. I flew 1,551 hours in C-141s.