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PASSING THE HOURS
Here it is 1967, and I am a proud MAC crew member
flying C-141's with the
20th MAS out of Dover AFB Delaware. I am an A/C on
the best dang airplane
anyone can imagine, and all I have to do is fly. I
don't need a parachute and I
don't stand alert (anymore - SAC 1958-1963). I really
ate this up. Thanks Uncle
Sam! Thank you Lockheed!
On the subject of eating, I hope the ladies and airmen in all the flight kitchens got their deserved accolades. Considering all the flight lunches they had to crank out, they did a magnificent job. Now it's true, gourmet meals they were not. But, when you consider their contribution to our being able to while away the hours, looking straight ahead at the world slowly going by, AND having something to do, they deserve the credit due them.
The white box, ideal for writing on, doodles, notes, composing light fantasy, poking at with the ball point in frustration, all that leading up to the anticipatory euphoria; the Christmas/Birthday attitude of getting to open THE BOX.
You had a choice of 5 combinations when you ordered. I usually got the dry over-cooked roast beef sandwich AND the ham and limp American cheese combo. You could then consolidate all the meat onto one sandwich, add the mustard and mayo from the squish packs, and the lettuce provided the munch--lunch. Milk, juice, fruit, and a candy bar, all for $1.85. How many do you want? One of the combos included steak bits to replace one of the sandwiches. If the meat was good, great! If it was a little tough, great! You got to chew longer and still look outside the window lounge.
In those days, after passing Dillingham Alaska heading west over water, we were tasked with monitoring the high frequency (HF) radio, (a good one) and providing weather data with hourly position reports. Sometimes reception was awful due to atmospheric conditions. Sometimes you could talk to Guam or Washington D.C. better than Elmendorf. We were supposed to monitor the HF to retain communications across the pond, which on one hand was comforting to know we were in touch, on the other hand it was more often than not just too dang scratchy.
What I liked to do was refer to 'my book' of numbers, good channels, gleaned from hours of dial twisting to listen to 'stuff'. I would beg off the channel for a while to listen-eavesdrop if you will, to places all over the world. 15060 MHz was radio Peking, spouting Communist propaganda to the west coast of America, in pure Oxford English mind you. Some real BS in those days. The Ausies had some good music. HEY! We're looking for stuff to do here, I mean besides studying the Dash-1, and Regs., and stuff. Yeah, Right!
If you were westbound into the sun it was a bit of misery until the sun went below the horizon, then it became a lingering, orange beautiful Pacific sunset. It lingered because the sun was going 'away' from us at 900mph (speed of earth's rotation) but we were almost 'keeping up' at 500-600mph The trick was to look for that little grey dot on the horizon. It might be your first glimpse of a contrail, a C-141 coming out of the east. Ever so slowly it would draw closer. In these conditions, it could be 45 minutes in coming. Figuring a closure speed of 1100 mph, us 500 them 600, it meant you could spot someone from 800 miles away! Of course you held your breath to see if you would have 'HIT' if you had been at the same altitude. Swish! You pass, 'lookin' good!' on UHF GUARD. 'You too!'
Now, I shouldn't be telling you this but another fun pastime was when we ended up flying the same tracks at the same time, 4000 feet apart; one of us at 35,000, one at 31,000. Sometimes the jet stream's winds were fickle enough to give one of us an advantage. The race would be on. Normal power was set to hold .76 mach. If destination weather was good and fuel was good, just a wee but more throttle might do it. Of course if they detected you, they could do the same. The objective was to get to Tokyo Approach ten miles ahead so you would be let down first, through their lower altitude (and thereby win the race). A higher Mach setting just sucked the fuel, and hardly made any difference. It was like two snails racing along a sidewalk. I don't remember how many 'races' I won, but I do remember Tokyo Approach control giving us some time-consuming zigzags to get back where we belonged! Oh well, what can I say?
Eight hours is a long time to be sitting doing nothing.
Richard (Dick) Reichelt firstname.lastname@example.org