Monthly Archives: November 2015

5 posts

Brad’s Corner for November/December 2015

Brad Novenber 2015Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

These past few weeks have definitely brought in some cooler weather! I thought the heat wave would never end. The small amount of rain we received this month made the field even smoother, and there are no complaints about that!

 

To kick off this months newsletter I would like to throw out a plug for our SEFSD holiday banquet. By doing it right after the holiday season, we received a great price at a great venue and it should be an amazing evening of family safe dining and fun! It will be held on Saturday January 16th starting at 5:00 P.M. at the 94th Aero Squadron – 8885 Balboa Ave. Just like last year we will be asking a small fee to RSVP your seat, give us accurate numbers for laying in the food, and pitch in a little more towards some great raffle prizes.   We are expecting approximately 150 attendees with room for more if we identify early. This will be a family friendly event (water/soft drinks). The fee will be $5.00 per person and can be paid in cash directly to any board member or sent to me Via PayPal using the gift or family option. Do not send it as a merchandise purchase unless you also pay the fee.  To keep one person from buying a lot of tickets and walking away with 2/3 of the prizes, there will be one ticket per paid guest. My Paypal address is Bradley.bender@cox.net I will be collecting between now and December 15th. I have received payment from about half of those I expect to come, so let’s get those reservations in there!

 

This month we are moving the club meeting and fun fly event forward a week to the 21st to avoid conflict with holiday plans. This meeting is election day for club officers. To date we have only received one nomination and that is for the member at large position that Bob will be vacating. Should be a quick vote!!   The event will be Warbird Day. Bring what you have and fly, but keep in mind that the window between 10:00 and 11:30 will be limited to Warbirds of all eras. Following that, Jim has set up a Turkey drop – so bring your bomb drop plane and try to win a sweet Turkey!! After the Turkey drop we will have the club meeting/voting and a great hot dog lunch served by the board of directors.

 

I would like to throw out a thank you to the club members who have been taking on roles as leaders and mentors in our club. Either by stepping up to run a few events, spending some of their flying hours to help a new person with training, or generally being a good ambassador and welcoming to visitors. You all are the reason the club has grown in the last couple of years, and we appreciate your willingness to share your hobby!

 

I am going to use that as a segue into another topic. We have a lot of new faces at the club right now. Some of them are amazed at how cool the low high speed passes look when properly performed. So amazed in fact that a lot of people are trying to emulate these passes before they are quite ready. This has resulted in high speed/ low attempts over the runway by some pilots that are barely in control of their planes at 3 mistakes high and the end result is a lot of planes over the pit/parking area/heli-pad on almost a daily basis. People, vehicles, and planes have all been hit in the last few months. We have been a little lax for the last few years on enforcing the flying RULE at our club that states “All low flying shall be done north of the runway except for take off, landing, and touch and go operations.” . Out of necessity we will be more vocal about keeping aircraft in the safe area and not over the runway itself. This included helicopter and multi-rotor activity. After discussing with Quan, our safety officer, we will make an exception for micro aircraft in the interest of visibility. These can fly between the center of the runway and the edge of the grass, but should not come close to the fence.

 

We have mentioned before that while it is the job of the board of directors to enforce rules and ask habitual offenders to leave the club, safety is the job of every member at our club If you see something unsafe, please feel free to say something to the pilot in a respectful tone. Sometimes you will need to raise your voice to be heard, but no yelling or screaming please. Physical violence will not be tolerated. Don’t save your issues until the arrival of a board member as I for one do not prefer approaching people with something I did not personally witness. That devolves into he said / she said and loses value. If you see someone routinely doing something unsafe or breaking the rules and they are not swayed by conversation, put it in writing -with the offenders name and a few witnesses – to the board and we will approach that person officially and ask them to change their behavior.

 

Jeff Struthers asked a very appropriate question last week and I would like to elaborate on the answer. Jeff asked when the responsibility of an instructor would end when it comes to getting someone safely in the air. It depends on the student, but as a whole, we owe it to them not to cut them off with only enough instruction to be dangerous. Some people need to be on the buddy box a few days or weeks past their first successful landing or first solo flight. Some students need constant reminding not to fly over the foot path, pits, or Seaworld drive. Please, if you are taking the time to train someone – make sure they have the minimum tools to fly safely before cutting ties.

 

Have a great Thanksgiving and safe flying!!

 

Brad

BOD Minutes for October and November ’15

Date: Oct 2, 2015
Time: 7:15 PM ~ 9:00 PM
Agenda: Board Meeting Oct 2015
Attendees: Jim, Paul, Brad, George, Tim, Dennis B, Quan, Scott
– Jim checked into prices of new tables. They’re about $250. Looking at 6 tables. (Voted Passed)
– Monthly FPV Race next year?
– Frank wants the 8th for Vets day
– Quan displayed the revised map (again). Will get prices for ten on this years budget.
– Trailer needs to be cleaned out and shelves put in. $250
– $500 for field maint.
– Talked about winter party.
– We now have 400 members
– Paul reviewed the budget. He will start closing out the budget Nov 15th.
– Awards for the party – Talk about next month.
– Next BoD meeting – Nov 13th
– Club Meeting 21st

 

Date: Nov 6, 2015
Time: 7:10 PM ~ 9:10 PM
Agenda: Nov Board Meeting
Attendees: Jim, Paul, Scott, Dennis Brad, Quan, Bob

 

– Isabel: Renewal’s not online until Dec 1st. Badges will be the 2nd of January.
– Members must wear badge next year. We’re making this a rule
– Discussion about asking the city to reset the lock.
– Update Key Sheet.
– Next year add Mini Wing class to Popwing? FPV Fixed Wing?
– What aspects of the hobby are people interested in? Task: See if the AMA can give us that data.
– Badge Pictures – Please make the letters visible.
– Discussion about individuals. Presented with letters from individuals. Brad and Jim talked to the other individual. Action Item Jim: Letter to parties reiterating Bylaws and Club Rules. Board Review. Respond Privately, no response is a yes vote.
– FPV signs at Helipad
– Proposal to limit raceband to the Helipad
– Map $400 per sign. Sign and budget approved.
– FPV Racing: $1000 budget out of GoPro Funds –  Approved
– Facility use fee – Table that for next meeting. Action item: Jim to email out something.
– Map out exclusion zone so we don’t hack and slash plants down when setting up a track.
– Trailer – Inventory everything that’s in there.
– 94th Aero cashed the check.
– Awards – Need more names.
– Paul reviewed budget.
– Paul needs receipts with some sort reasonable letterhead/proof from company.

A great story regarding our Fallen Heroes of the Viet Nam war!

 

They then took us to a hotel and fed us in a banquet room. The food was delicious and we were ordered to drink their beer when offered. It didn’t taste too bad and was only about 2-3% so the brass weren’t concerned about us being able to fly afterwards. Then they took us to museums—their War Museum on the first mission. They had parts of our warplanes that had been shot down and also showed us the gun where Hanoi Jane Fonda sat for that infamous picture. I don’t know if it was the real gun or not—didn’t matter—I think they just wanted a reaction. They got none from any of us!

 

We were allowed to take photos of certain areas. They wouldn’t let us take pix of their rail marshaling yard which was full of bomb craters and wrecked engines—I got some anyway with my little Minox spy camera. On the next trip they took us to the Peace Museum. Absolutely stunning!!! Lots of HUGE White Jade figures. A beautiful museum. Our bombs never got close to it. Strangely enough—they told us that the wrecked train yard was where they were fixing their engines. If you didn’t know better, it could have looked true. There was not a single bomb crater outside of the yard. All buildings were intact!! A lot more happened there, but don’t want to bore you with all the details. They were very proud of their many manhole covers in the sidewalks which they used to hide from our bombing raids. All three trips were interesting!!

 

Anyway, that was why I was chosen to lead a two-ship formation to retrieve our fallen Heroes. I just happened to be TDY at U-Tapao from Clark AB where I was stationed. That should set the stage. A little too wordy, but it should help you to understand my involvement. I was one of only a few crew member on either plane to have been there before. Our Mission Commander was Col Novas and we had a One Star on board with an open line to President Nixon. It was a fairly high priority mission. After stopping in Saigon for a final briefing, our two C-130E’s (with augmented crews) left Tan son Nhut AB and went “feet wet” up the coast of Vietnam.

 

We stayed about 30 miles off the coast so as not to bother anyone. We hit the mouth of the Red River and turned upstream toward our destination—Gia Lam Airport just east of Hanoi. We were encountering broken clouds which were getting worse. After going over Thuan Nghiep, the river straightens out considerably so I requested we drop to about 1500 ft so I could better make out the landmarks—both on radar but mainly visual—when I could see the ground. I wasn’t about to trust the radio aids from Gia Lam nor Hanoi. Before we descended, we could easily make out Hai Phong harbor on our radar about 40 miles to the Northeast so we were on track.

We made contact with Hanoi and advised them of our impending approach into their territory. This had all been pre-arranged, so no problem there. It was on up-river that they started screwing around with us and trying to subtly get us confused. They were trying to get us lost and force us to abort the mission so they could say we caused an international incident by not picking up those who died in captivity when everything had been arranged. That’s another reason I had been picked to lead. They tried to spoof us on earlier missions by moving the ADF and VORTAC ever so slightly to locations which would cause us to fly into restricted airspace. In fact, a crew a few weeks earlier bought the spoof and was threatened with a “shoot down” if they didn’t abort the mission, so that made this mission even more critical.

 

If you were watching closely enough, you could see the needles quiver a little each time they changed location. They were good at it though, so I had the other Nav continually watch for that in case we lost visual or radar contact. I had my head out the front searching for ground fixes. Then, they really tried to get us fouled up. The second plane was following closely, mainly by keeping us on their radar—depending on us to lead them in. Hanoi Approach Control called us and told us to take up a heading to final. The pilot started to turn and I virtually screamed into the mike “Negative, negative–maintain heading”. That was the first of three times they tried to get us to turn too soon.

 

After the second time, Col Novas told the pilot to ignore the tower and go by my direction only. I knew we were still about 30-45 miles out and they were doing their best to get us off course and lost in that bad weather with low ceilings and get us to an area with which we were not familiar. The weather was really bad—the cloud cover was closer to full than “broken”.

 

We would get a break in the undercast every mile or so. We descended to about 1000 ft which helped some. Now—remember that bridge that they tried so hard to take down during the war?? We lost a lot of Thuds & F-4’s there. That bridge and a huge sand bar about 3 miles downstream were my aiming points. I was getting a little concerned when they weren’t coming in view as fast as I thought they should. Guess I was just overly anxious. I checked radar and found both about 15 miles ahead. I alerted the pilot to be ready to turn and he relayed to #2 that we would turn in a couple of minutes.

 

Ground Approach had given up trying to get us to turn early, after a few scoldings from them that we were ignoring their instructions. We did not answer. We descended a little farther so I could get a visual on both the sand bar and the bridge. I remembered where we had turned on my earlier approaches. We flew about 30 seconds past the sand bar, and with the bridge in sight, I told the pilot to turn to the appropriate heading—I seem to recall it was 335 degrees—but not sure now. Descent was begun and both planes broke out at about 750 feet. There it was—right in front of us. I strapped myself in. The other aircraft radioed a “Talley Ho” so we knew everything was fine—or so we thought.

 

After we landed, Ground Control took over and marshaled us to the proper area to pick up the remains of our guys. There were two green tents and they were having us come in and turn so that our prop wash would flow directly on the tents—probably blowing them away. Our Aircraft Commander called for neutral props and warned the second aircraft to do likewise. Both planes coasted in to a nice easy stop in the right place—I’m sure to the disappointment of the martialing crews.

 

Col Novas made the decision on the spot to set up an Honor Guard in front of each tent. This time, we were in our Class A’s and were not under orders to associate with the enemy. We all felt better about that!! He sent us out two at a time at 15 minute intervals, Each pair did facing movements to relieve the previous pair as time dictated. The first pair at our tent was Col Novas and our pilot. The tent flaps were tied wide open. What the first set of Honor Guards—and ultimately all of us—saw was several stacks of green boxes with a rock on them with white painted names and dates. The sight was shocking and really ticked us off. Unfortunately, I do not remember any of the names. The boxes—which in reality were coffins—-were about 30 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches. It tore us up to think that our guys who had suffered so much were in those tiny green boxes.

 

We all decided individually and as a team that the Vietnamese would never touch our fallen comrades again. The Honor Guard rotation was maintained for well over two hours while the final release papers were being signed at their government offices in downtown Hanoi. Obviously, the North Vietnamese didn’t know what to think of the Honor Guard. We saw the guys who had been our escorts on earlier trips. They smiled and waved at us. We glared back at them. Some civilians tried to get close to watch—they were chased back over the dikes by armed guards.

 

We were finally given the OK to load our precious cargo onto the waiting C-130’s—their cargo ramps open, sat waiting. As the word came that we could begin returning our guys to American Soil—in this case—our C-130’s, the North Vietnamese moved in to begin loading. We immediately formed a cordon around the tents and, though unarmed, we motioned for them to stop and basically dared the armed Northern troops to try us. They stopped with a puzzled look on their faces—but never tried to cross the line. They had touched our heroes for the last time.

 

It was early evening by then and the General was back and became part of our new makeshift Honor Guard—set up on both sides of the ramps. I was part of three pairs who tenderly picked up a “coffin” with its “headstone” and proceeded up the ramp. Two more were inside the plane to place an American flag over each man as he came on board. We exited thru the crew door to go retrieve another hero. The General led the others on either side of the ramps in a “Hand Salute” as each box of remains passed on board.

 

I don’t remember exactly how many bodies we recovered—seems like 36—but each was treated with ultimate respect. We took our time to make sure all were properly honored. It took a considerable amount of time, but we didn’t care. We did it right. We finally all boarded and buttoned up the aircraft. As we were getting all four turning, I noticed the pilot had a wicked smile on his face. I listened on a discreet channel while he suggested to the other pilot to change pitch after they began moving and turn the planes so that the prop wash would now hit the tents and the Vietnam officials and soldiers gathered around them. The turn was smooth, slow and graceful until the loadmaster gave the word. Suddenly eight turboprops were at full forward pitch for about 3-5 seconds and brakes on. They then changed the pitch back to the taxi setting and we got turned around in time to see the tents flying.

 

After a few squawks from the tower thus began an uneventful trip back to Saigon and on to U-Tapao to the Identification folks stationed there. The General informed President Nixon that extraction had been completed successfully. Further ID would be performed at Hickam AFB as necessary.

 

Our heroes were taken to Hickam AFB by C-141’s. I have talked to many people about this extraction of our fallen comrades—and to a man—they thought that the C-141’s did the entire mission. I hope someone will set the story straight someday. In fact, I have never seen anything about C-130’s being involved with the extraction of the first of those who died in captivity. Believe me—-I know they were!! I may have missed some story about it because I had to get busy for my PCS since.

 

Well, Bill, that’s about it. As I said a lot more little things happened on all three trips—even some funny things on the first two, but that third mission was the best thing I ever did in my 24 year USAF career. Sorry to be so wordy, and focused on “I” & “me”, but I’m not sure how else I could tell it with any conviction.

 

PS: Somehow, I forgot to turn in my log and charts from the mission, and no one else thought about it. I had them for a long time, but they disappeared—probably on my move to CO from AL. I sure wish I could find them again!! They are really historical documents.

 

I did meet a woman at one of our reunions whose husband’s remains were onboard that day. I was completely speechless as she thanked me.”