UNIT: 134th AHC, Maintenance Platoon
SITUATION: Typical Mission Preparation
LOCATION: Phu Hiet Army Base, Vietnam.
TIME: Early 1970
As far as preparation for our mission, we had a process that we went through. We had regular missions that we flew, a few special missions, and the preparations were pretty much SOP. Unless something special occurred, typical mission preparation went like this: Usually, we would gather in the evenings for the mission briefings for the next day. We would talk to the crew chief, the gunner, and the copilot. Together, we would figure out how we were going to handle our assignment. And we were told which helicopter we would be using.
As it was, the helicopter belonged to the crew chief. He would tell us when the will aircraft was available for flight. It was his aircraft. If he said the helicopter could not go out, that was the end of the discussion. He owned the helicopter. There were about 30 helicopters, and we helicopter pilots flew about 100 hours a month. Maintenance controlled all of the helicopters. If they said a helicopter could not go out, that was it. Because of that, we routinely had 100-hour Inspection on all of those aircraft. It seemed that if a helicopter was within two or three hours of the gauge reading 100 hours, the aircraft would probably be grounded for a 100-hour inspection. If we were scheduled for a 10 hour mission, then that aircraft would not go out. We never knew which aircraft we would be flying. We always had 100 hour inspection, but we also had 50 hour inspections.
That was usually when the crew chief changed the oil, oil filters, and checked the injectors. We were a pretty tight unit. We didn’t argue about the inspection, or the oil changes.
Command wanted our unit to have 80% available helicopters. That is what maintenance aimed for. That was the goal. Because of the way maintenance handled the helicopters our unit, usually had 90% available.
Also, sometimes, however missions would change overnight. At those times, what we had been told the night before would change, and we would have a new approach to a mission. Things just changed. We adapted, and we flew the mission.
There was a point in my first tour where I was transferred to maintenance. I remember one time that I was sent down to cam Rahn Bay to pick up helicopter. There was an airbase. There. That is where civilian airplanes came into Vietnam. At another pilot and I went down there to inspect and to accept an incoming helicopter. We were supposed to fly it back to Phu Hiet. It was about an hour’s flight, about 100 miles. There was some kind of delay on the aircraft. We had to wait to pick it up. We had about three or four hours on our hands, so we walked around the base. Cam Rahn Bay was and in country R and R base. So, we saw the sites, went to the PX. There were many women around. You know how guys are in that type of situation. Usually, if you saw a female, she was usually an officer, a nurse. So, the female body just looks different in a set of jungle fatigues. Anyway, we were just walking along when I heard a female voice ask, “Mister, don’t you salute an officer when you see one?”
I looked up an...