More Stories and Photo's from DC-3 Fans WorldWide

Below are many photographs sent in to me from DC-3 Fans around the world. Also included are a some more stories by Bill Ewing aka ol' sarg'. If you have any questions about any of the photographs, do not hesitate to ask in the DC-3 Forum, accessible from the main page of this web site, "The DC-3 Hangar". Hope to chat with you and others in there.

Straight Up – Remember Everything

By the ol’ Sarg

For this tale of tales, we have to go back a long way. It was my first real posting after being at the various required schools for basic, then technical training. This was the real thing; aircraft really flew here, not just starting up and running on the spot like in tech school.

There I was, a fresh, newly trained airframe tech. After a warm-up period working on B25 Mitchells (these were radar-equipped Navigator trainers), I ended up in Aircraft Maintenance. No big deal, EVERYBODY ended up in aircraft maintenance. I was a little different though, in that through some show of initiative, I was assigned to work with the Test Flight crew. Maintenance in those days was a big organization, with about four hundred guys cranking out inspected aircraft three or four per day. These aircraft came from all over the base. Mitchells, Dakotas, and Expeditors from the Navigation School flights, more Dakotas and lordly Lancasters from the Search & Rescue flight, and occasionally, visitors of all kinds that suffered mechanical problems while on their way through. It was a busy place when the Royal Canadian Air Force was still the Royal Canadian Air Force.

My job on the Test Flight crew was to handle the starts and parks for all the test flights. I had another tech with me because the job often included doing more than one start at a time. When the word came down to do a start, we’d flip a coin to see who was going to handle it. The loser would latch onto the handles of our little power cart, (the Brits call it a Trolley-Acc…..don’t ask me where they come up with that name!!) The cart had a couple of large batteries and a small gas-engined generator…and what seemed like four miles of heavy cable. We’d wheel it out, plug in the cable, crank it up, and at the indicated moment, flip the switch providing ground power to the aircraft. When the aircraft engines were running to the satisfaction of the pilot, we would disconnect everything, move back and wait. When the pilot was completely satisfied, he would wave away the chocks. That’s when our young lives got interesting. The Expeditor had little chocks under the front of the wheels…located close to a rapidly turning two-bladed propeller…very close. The Mitchell and Dak had large chocks under the wheels not quite as close, but close enough to make you wonder, and they had very large three-bladed propellers swinging. The Lancaster was yet another story. This bird had REALLY large chocks under REALLY big wheels…but luckily the propellers were up, ‘way up. It’s a good thing they were too. With those chocks, you didn’t just pick one up and carry it away; you struggled to just drag it.

One bright and sunny Friday afternoon, the flight sheet was full. Maintenance must have had a good week. My partner and I had been rushing all morning just to stay even. They must have laid on extra test pilots. Finally, just after lunch, I drew a start on a Mitchell and my partner in crime drew a Dakota. Away we went in different directions to complete our assigned duties. I pushed my cart back into its parking slot just as the other half of the team arrived. He asked me to cover for him, as he had to go get a haircut. In our Air Force, getting a haircut wasn’t just a necessity, it was an obligation!! God help the airman that the Base Chief caught with hair HE figured was too long!! With that in mind (I had been the object of the Chief’s wrath more than once!!), I waved him away and he took off at the double. This should have alerted me that something was not quite kosher here. Jimmy (for that was his name), never, never, NEVER, ran. Ever.

It wasn’t long, maybe ten minutes, when a Dakota just smoked back into the line, closely followed by a pair of fire trucks. I never even got the word from Ops that it was coming. The air around the cockpit was blue. The engines were still winding down when the door was thrown back and a very angry pilot jumped down. Where the hell was Jimmy, he wanted to know. I get my hands on him, I’ll wring his scrawny neck, was his next remark. I was starting to get a little worried. I hadn’t started this thing, but I could see the pilot just might beat on the next person to come within range. I answered that he had taken off to get a haircut and what was the problem. The pilot slowly turned back toward the still-vibrating Dakota and with a look previously seen only on the face of God when he okayed the rain for forty days, he pointed to the undercarriage.

There, with warning flags flying bravely in the breeze, were the undercarriage ground pins…..still installed!!! Jim had done the start, dragged the chocks away, and had left the ground pins installed. This is no big deal on the ground, but once off the ground, the pilot had reached down and selected the undercarriage up. As I understand it, with the pins installed, this is not a good thing!! All sorts of bells and whistles and horns and lights, accompanied by large amounts of noise and vibration from the hydraulic system, and the wheels do not go up as requested. The pilot, upon hearing and seeing all this, promptly declared an emergency and headed for the runway.

(later in life, I might have questioned the pilot as to why he hadn’t removed the pins during his walk-around check instead of leaving it up to the ground crew who are not normally responsible for removing them anyway. About that time, they are rather more interested in getting the chocks away without getting smacked by a prop)

The aircraft went back into maintenance for some additional checks, I got a rather extensive briefing on the correct procedures for aircraft starts, and Jimmy found himself the lone guardian of the oil stores for a number of weeks….until the next young technician screwed up.

Straight up – Touch & Go

By the ol’Sarg

One of my final trips as a Dakota crewman for the Canadian Forces Air Command (rather clumsy name after the old Royal Canadian Air Force), was to take a large number of temporarily unemployed aircrew down for an exchange visit to the United States Air Force Base Barksdale, at Shrevesport, Louisiana. The load turned out to be popular enough that we ended up taking two of our Dakotas. This popularity was probably due to the fact that it was at the end of a very trying winter. The tip-off was the number of sets of golf clubs that were loaded. With the large number of idle aircrew on board, there was a great deal of jockeying to see who would get to fly the various legs of the trip, and for the final stage with the landing, blood was almost spilled. The landing was one the lucky pilot should have left at home: it was awarded a 4.2. The comments from the cheap seats brought a lot of questions on the background of the guy and his flying abilities.

Back then, Barksdale was the home of a great number of B-52 bombers (I believe you lot call them "BUFFS" for some unknown reason), plus a small number of jet trainers. There wasn’t prop job on the place!! When we taxied in, I was rather shaken by the number of young ground types running hither and yon. I warned the pilot what I was about to do, then went back and let myself out the door. I figured from watching all these USAF types, that someone who knew what a prop was had better park our two aircraft. I waved away the youngsters and parked and pinned the Daks. The sound of recip must have been VERY unknown in these parts. The minute the engines shut down, old, beat-up Sargeants and Warrant Officers started appearing out of various doors up and down the hangarline.

Usually, we arrived at some place other than home and the pilots were the most popular guys on the tarmac. Not this time!! Myself and the other crewman and our two extra techs were swarmed. Gawd, but it’s great to be an idol. I must have answered a couple of hundred questions before the bus showed up to take us to our quarters. One weather-beaten Warrant asked me how many hours we were getting out of our engine inspections. When I told him thirteen hundred hours, he almost fainted. With a slow shake of his head, he told me he had last worked on the Pratts back in Korea (that was a Police Action we got involved with once), and at that time, they were luck to have one last through three hundred hours.

The pilots started to gather up their gear when the bus showed up and were told to relax; this bus was for the groundcrew. Talk about startled looks on faces!! With a quiet grins, we threw our gear aboard the bus and were driven off the line. (Another thing I envy you Yanks…the bus driver was a very tasty young airwoman. Rather different from the snarly male civilians we have driving our flightline buses.) Before we could even get to the quarters, the driver stopped at the NCO’s Club and informed us that our hosts were waiting inside. HOSTS!!! Something else unheard of. Usually, we crewmen arrived at a strange base, were shown well-used beds in some dungeon and forgotten about until it was time to leave. Here, we had one host for every NCO on the aircraft. Talk about service!!

We knew we had to fly at least one aircraft the next morning for the benefit of the pilots and their hosts, so drew straws to see who would get to be "designated crewman". Three guesses who "won". So, while the others proceeded to drink our hosts under the table, I sat there staring into a glass of Coke. whoopy!!

The next morning dawned bright and clear and so I scrounged a ride down to the flightline to prep my aircraft for flight. The driver took the long way around and showed me the rest of the place. Stacks of B52’s on flightlines, in ready areas, in maintenance hangars, and some in various stages of dismantling right there in the open. (Someone later figured our that just one of those B52 engines packed more horsepower than ALL of our Dakota engines combined.)

The pilots showed up and with a couple of rather long-in-the-tooth USAF throttle benders, too. With everybody on board and comparatively happy, we cranked up and aviated.

One of the Yanks, a Major, took the controls and tried a couple of touch & goes. The guy was a winner. Real airline touchdowns both times. We gave him 9.0 for each. Then the other, a Captain, tried his luck, and collected 8.5’s. Now remember, our Captain on his landing there had only collected 4’s. In jest, I casually asked our Major if we could swap a couple of our pilots for one or the other. There was a moment of quiet contemplation. It turned out that the USAF Major was an Ardvark jock. The only taildragger he had ever flown was a Cessna 180. The other pilot was his navigator….and had NEVER flown a tailwheeled aircraft!!! Either we had some bloody good instructor pilots aboard or these guys were good!!

When the exercise was over and the Dakota parked back on the line, the two American pilots thank me (another unknown) and made sure I had a ride back to the quarters. I was beginning to wonder if I had joined the right Air Force.

The trip back was very quiet once word got out about the landings put in by the USAF pilots, and the pilot for the final stage and landing was sweating bullets to pull off a good one….we gave him an 8.1.

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