Stinger Photo 67
"Breaking Ground "
Nakhon Phanom, Royal Thai Air Force Base — Lieutenant Steve MacIsaac's aircraft breaks from terra firma as he and his crew head for their mission to the PDJ (Plain de Jars), Laos. You can't tell by the photo but this aircraft almost crashed as it took off from the runway early. Evidently the co-pilot, handling the take off, pulled the aircraft off the ground at Go-5Ks instead of G+5Ks. Fortunately for this crew it wasn't disastrous.
(Photo courtesy Steve MacIsaac, Col. USAF, Ret.)
A Little color and Play-by-Play from Colonel MacIsaac - Bobby Dydo checked me out as an Aircraft Commander late May/early June' 72....had my own crew at DING DONG and a short rotation back to Bien Hoa. Got cycled back to NKP in early Nov' 72....I didn't have to fly again because I had OVER 150 missions by then....but I was a flying fool.
Talked myself on to a mission with a 'new/strange' crew one more time into the 'Jar'....did not know ANYONE on the crew....all 'newbees'....anyway....very long story made short, I show up to brief, my Copilot is a CAPTAIN ....I'm still a snot nose 1LT, but I have 150+ combat missions (i.e. I'm the 'Man')....as we get over to TOC for our Intell brief, we are told this will be the LAST AC-119K mission into the 'Jar"....the birds were to stand down for a few days, then ferry to RVN to be given over to the VNAF.....you know that story.
Any way, we brief...all goes well until we go over the SAR Call Signs....that is when I find out that for 5 of the other 9 crew this is their first msn. 'up North'.....oh well no big deal, we're going on a 'milk-run'.....done it too many times before.
We get out to the 'BLACK KILLER DUCK'....NKP Base Photo is out there to record 'last' mission 'North'....I had a major 'Brain Fart'....I'd been around guys like Dydo, Meleen, 'Pacho', and too many other great ones to list, that I ASSUMED (yes, I am the ass in assume) that if I had a CAPTAIN as a Copilot, he would be a 'very' experienced Pilot, and would be watching/testing this young 1LT (all be he a Combat Vet) .... so I decided to take the OFFENSIVE!!! About engine start time (pre-flight had gone perfect....HE had NOT missed a single thing!!! I was impressed!!!)....I said....in my best 150+ mission-Plus slang...."You can have the take-off if you want it"....giving Capt "X" an out if he didn't want it. HE said sure, thanks.....everything else you see in the two take off photos goes A-OK. AT TAKE-OFF BRIEF, I remind him we add +5 to the engineer's TO speed, and ease the bird off at +10 TO speed....a simple head nod from HIM (kind'a like ...OK kid, let's get on with it!!!).
Take off is normal, everything is in the green, zero wind, so roll is very normal....warm but not a hot night, yes we were our normal 'heavy'....I like everything I see/sense(WRONG!)...he is smooth as a 'kitten'....THEN at TO-5knots, he yanks the Black Killer Duck into the air....yes we were stalling, we were running out of runway....I grabbed the controls, fire-walled the recips, and called for gear-up (...if we were going to settle back to earth, it was going to be gear-up!).....gear came up (ohhhh so slowly....YES, I was all over the rudders)....I let her settle into ground effect hoping the props would not contact the over-run....think we made it by inches....but I could not build up ANY air speed!!!! No ideas left but to ask the Engineer to 'milk' the flaps up.....watching the airspeed and to not milk any more until he saw an INCREASE.....I was too busy flying.
Anyway, slowly, ever so slowly it all came together. It was so very quiet in the bird all the way up to the 'fence'....THEN I broke the ice....I said that we lived when we should not have, that was behind us....now BAD PEOPLE were going to try to kills us, no room for ANY error the rest of the mission....all went well, just another mission to the 'Jar.
Once we landed, I found out Capt.'X' had JUST graduated from Pilot Training (had neen a Mx Officer, Zero flying experience!!), and was one of the 5+ on the crew on their first combat mission.
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