34° NORTH 164° EAST
By Joe Thompson
The author was an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard in the 1960's and served aboard three Ocean Station cutter's that were homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii during that period. He sailed on thirteen Ocean Station Victor patrols in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean during a four year period. Standing watches in the cutter's Combat Information Centers (CIC), which served as the electronic nerve center of the cutter, the author provided navigational and weather data to thousands of commercial and military aircraft as they flew over Victor. This fictitious account about the interaction between a transoceanic aircraft and the Ocean Station vessel is based on an actual patrol the author made in the spring of 1966.
The crew of Seaboard World Airline's DC-8-55F (Jet Trader) N804SW, call sign Seaboard 225, was worlds apart in their personal lives but inextricably linked by the aircraft they flew. Captain Mark Davidson was in his mid 50's but looked older with a huge shock of snow white hair and bushy eyebrows the same color that looked to be glued, like large balls of cotton, over each eye. Vince Savino, the First Officer (FO), was twenty years younger than his Captain and looked all the part of a football linebacker, which he had been in college. With a huge barrel chest and protruding biceps, he had aspirations of a professional football career but that ended one game day Saturday with a severe knee injury. Then there was Paddy McLeish, a 52 year old Professional Flight Engineer (PFE) with a ruddy complexion and huge, rough hands; hands sculpted through years of working on aircraft engines. And finally we had Theodore 'Fudge' Stokes, the Navigator. A 40 year old bookworm looking guy, 'Fudge' - so nicknamed because it was the strongest invective he ever used - was slight of frame, with very close cropped hair and glasses that didn't seem to quite fit his narrow face properly. And like Paddy, 'Fudge' had traveled to most of the world's distant places side-saddle, so referred to because their crew seats faced outboard instead of forward like the pilot's.
In April 1966 the world was quite a bit different. In early January of that year President Lyndon Johnson stated that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until Communist aggression there was ended. Several weeks later an additional 8,000 U.S. soldiers land in South Vietnam bringing the U.S. troop totals in-country to 190,000. In early February the world was riveted by the news that an unmanned Soviet Luna spacecraft made the first controlled rocket-assisted landing on the Moon. In late March demonstrations were held across the United States against the Vietnam War. In South Vietnam 20,000 Buddhists marched in protest against the policies of the military government. And by the end of the month the U.S. military troop level in South Vietnam would be up to 250,000.
Zero Four Sierra Whiskey's journey had begun a week before on the ramp at Travis AFB near the Napa Valley, northeast of San Francisco. From Travis the aircraft had flown southwestward to Hickam AFB in Honolulu. After an overnight stay on Oahu the crew had then flown the aircraft to Andersen AFB on the eastern tip of Guam. The following day they had flown to Da Nang Air Base in South Viet Nam. Day four found this crew headed northeastward to Japan. They landed their DC-8 at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo late in the evening and after clearing customs the crew headed to the Dai-Ichi Hotel, in the Ginza District of Tokyo, for a nights rest. The next morning the now empty aircraft was repositioned via a short flight to Yokota AB at the foothills of the Okutama Mountains, 28 miles northwest of Tokyo where they would wait 2 days for the stateside cargo to be assembled and loaded.
It's an early Sunday morning; the cargo is finally aboard and secured, so let's join the crew as they start to make their way homeward.
After a short drive from Base Ops (Operations) Capt. Davidson and his crew were dropped at the foot of the stairs leading up to the forward crew door of their aircraft. They deposited their suitcases, three aluminum Halliburton's and a fiberglass Koch model, to the left of the stairway. Ground personnel would collect these and stow them in the aircrafts belly. The crew then ascended the stairway with their identical, square, well worn black satchels that contained manuals, charts, and other required flight paraphernalia. All were hatless except the Captain who had his cap cocked jauntily on his head, white hair mushrooming from beneath, and its gray wool cover smashed down over both ears in a "20 Mission" crush appearance popular during World War 2. Each man paused outside the cockpit door to remove his coat and get a cup of coffee.
Paddy dropped his flight bag next to his seat and fished out a well worn pair of gloves and a flashlight. He then checked select switch positions on both the Flight Engineers panel and the overhead and main instrument panels. Satisfied with what he found he quickly ducked outside the cockpit door and disappeared to perform his ritual of a walk around inspection of the aircrafts exterior and to also inspect the securing of the cargo in the thirteen cargo stations. While Paddy was gone the Captain, Vince and 'Fudge' stowed their gear bags, slide into their seats and began the ritual of making their "nest" for the flight. Sunglasses were stowed, coffee cups placed in their holders, navigation and communication log sheets stowed, checklists readied, and other little things that personalized their tiny area of the DC-8's flight deck.
'Fudge's' navigation station was aft of the Captain's seat and he faced outboard as did Paddy's seat behind the First Officers. Theodore immediately starting taping enroute weather charts and winds aloft forecast sheets he had gotten off the teletype at Base Ops to the bulkhead just aft of his seat. Soon it looked like a classroom wall in a weather school. He secured the dark-out curtain to the outboard bulkhead so it would not get in his way. (This curtain, when drawn around his seat, allowed him to work with his overhead light on and not disturb the other crew stations at night). He started to check various >instruments and electronic equipment at his station which included a bubble sextant and a small Loran "A" receiver. In the mid 1960's oceanic passages, both nautical and aeronautical used a combination of Loran (Long Range Aid to Navigation), celestial navigation, and Dead Reckoning (DR) to navigate.
Soon Paddy re-entered the cockpit and took his seat as he removed his work gloves. He stowed them and his beat-up flashlight and proceeded to set up his panel for engine start.
"How's she look?" asked Davidson as he ran through the last items on his checklist.
"We're good to go. Cargo's secured and she looks good enough to get us home," was the FE's reply.
Paddy reached into his bag and pulled out a well worn, laminated Take-off & Landing Data Card (TOLD). He flipped through a couple graphs and cross-checked his calculations with the fuel gauges on his panel and the Fuel Slip he had gotten in Base Ops. This morning Zero Four Sierra Whiskey'snumbers looked like this:
Empty Weight: 131,230 lbs
Payload: 51,734 lbs
Total Fuel: 122.800 lbs (including Taxi, Reserve and Company Contingency)
Ramp Weight: 305,764 lbs
Paddy took a black marker and after noting the outside air temperature (OAT), wind and field elevation among other things he marked on the plastic covered card, as he had done thousands of times in the past, indicating the Engine Pressure Ratio settings (ratio of the turbine inlet pressure to the compressor discharge pressure) for Take-Off power along with the all important V1, VR, and V2 speeds to indicate the critical engine failure recognition speed, rotation speed and the take-off safety speed respectively. Also included was the Flap Retraction Schedule for this morning's takeoff. He then placed the card on the forward part of the throttle pedestal, so it covered the weather radar scope, which served as a convenient card holder. On the card, along with various flap speeds, was written: EPR=1.87 , V1=133 , VR=148, V2=159.
By this time each crewmember had run through his specific cockpit flows to configure their instruments panels in preparation for engine start. The Air Force ramp supervisor and popped into the cockpit for the last time, delivered the final paperwork and had disappeared. It was now time to earn their money. After reading the Before Engine Start Checklist Paddy declared, "Before Start Checklist Complete."
About this time Yokota Clearance Delivery called and provided their clearance delivery information which Vince copied down and acknowledged by reading it back verbatim. Captain Davidson was flying this leg and therefore the First Officer would be doing the communicating.
Davidson called the ground attendant on the interphone, "Ground from cockpit."
"Good Morn'in Captain. We're ready when you are. Let me know when you want some air" referring to pneumatic starter air from a large compressor sitting just to the right of the nose gear.
"Morning son", said Davidson, alluding to the age differential between himself and very young looking line worker, "We're ready to start. Please bring up the air, my parking brake is set. We'll start number three first."
"Roger Captain, I'm giving you air now." The noise from the large start cart off the right side of the aircraft now increased dramatically. As 35 PSI start pressure registered on the appropriate gauge Paddy called "Thirty-five PSI"
With clearance to start engines from Ground Control already in hand Vince reached up and energized the aircrafts rotating beacon to indicate to all ground personnel they were starting engines. The ground attendant, upon seeing the beacon come on, informed Mark they were cleared to start engines.
Captain Davidson informed the ground attendant, "Cleared to start, turning number 3."
Then a well choreographed dance began as the #3 Engine Start Rotary Switch was armed and starter switch activated. Davidson, Savino and Paddy watched the #3 engine N2 gauge begin to rise. When the start-value open light illuminated Paddy called "Cut in" followed swiftly by "Oil Pressure" to signify that all important oil was being delivered to the engine.
When #3 engine reached 15% N2 Vince stated "Fifteen percent N2," reached down to the corresponding fuel cutoff lever on the throttle pedestal, and placed the lever in the run position. As the EGT reading for engine #3 began to rise Vince announced "Light" followed quickly by "Thirty-five percent starter released." Paddy watched the start-value light go out and called "Cut Out." The engine began to whine louder and louder as it spooled up to speed.
This routine was followed three more times and eventually all four Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3B turbofan engines were roaring outside with plumes of grayish black smoke trailing aft. McLeish configured the ships electrical panel to power the aircraft and then reported, "Ships' Power."
The Captain informed the ground crew they were on their own power and indicated that the ground starter unit and electrical cart could now be removed. Savino called Ground Control and received clearance to taxi to Runway 36 for takeoff. They were ready to roll.
>One thousand two hundred nautical miles to the east, in the northwestern Pacific, the Coast Guard Cutter Winnebago (WHEC-40) rolled in moderate Pacific swells. "The Winnie," as she was referred to by her crew of 140 officers and enlisted men, was an Owasco Class cutter, 255 feet in length with a 43 foot beam and displaced approximately 2,000 tons. She was on Ocean Station Victor (OSV) located at 34 Degrees North Latitude and 164 Degrees East Longitude, over 2,000 NM from her homeport of Honolulu. In fact if your idea of getting away was isolation from the outside world then OSV was an ideal spot. Wake Island was 900 NM to the south. Kure Island, just northwest of Midway Island and the island of Ostrov Ketoj in the Russian Kuril's were both equidistant: 1,000 NM's to the east-southeast and northwest respectively.
It was sunny and cool and the cutters tempo was muted; Sunday mornings were like that. And since it was Sunday only watch standers or food services personnel actually had to be up and about at this early hour. The cutter rolled in the swells of the northern Pacific with an occasional violent whip as a rouge swell would form, pass underneath the cutters canoe shaped hull, and continue onward, uninterrupted for thousands of miles. She had left Honolulu in mid March and made the long transit to station via a refueling stop at Midway Island. This patrol was slated to be a 'Double Victor' and she would remain on station until mid-April. She was then scheduled for 10 days of R&R in Yokosuka, Japan and then return to station for another 21 days and finally be finally relieved in late May for the transit back to Hawaii.
High above the waterline stood the cutter's bridge. From the bridge the Officer of the Deck (ODD), with a watch team consisting of a Helmsman, Quartermaster, Boatswain Mate, messenger, and lookout, controlled the cutters movement. Just aft (behind) of the bridge, on the same deck level, was the chart room which also housed the sonar equipment. This compartment was separated from the Combat Information Center (CIC) - referred to as "Combat" - by a drawn curtain. CIC was the nerve center of the cutter during ocean station patrols with two man, continuous watches. The watch periods were "4 ON, 8 OFF." If you had the 0400-0800 watch in the morning then u also stood the 1600-2000 watch in the evening. Watch standers were either Radarmen (RD) or Sonarmen (SO) and there was always a friendly rivalry between these two rates. The Sonarmen bragged that they had to be experts at sonar as well as radar, whereas Radarmen stuck strictly to their specialty. And another contentious point was that when the radar broke down another rate, the Electronic Technicians, repaired it. However, unlike the RD's, the Sonarmen had to repair any Sonar equipment if it failed. It was all in good fun, naturally! And occasionally a cutter would also carry an Aerographers Mate (AG) who would supplement the CIC watch schedule.
CIC was a moderate sized compartment, normally kept dark to aid in the operation of the two large radar consoles housed there. In one corner of the compartment stood the imposing AN/SPS-29 Air Search radar with its associated antenna, power supply, and IFF/SIF control panels. The SPS-29 not only tracked aircraft as they transited over the station but also was used to track the weather balloons each time they were released. The air search antenna itself was a large "bed-spring" looking contraption mounted on a tripod mast that stood over the weather office and balloon shack on the aft deck of the cutter. In the opposite corner of CIC was the AN/SPS-23 Surface Search radar console and in the center of the space was a large metal cabinet topped with glass that stood about waist high. Under the clear glass top was a movable circular device that was attached to worm gears that controlled movement both fore, aft and side to side. This device was the Dead Reckoning Tracer (DRT) and the glass top was normally covered with a piece of parchment tracing paper. The DRT was coupled to the ships gyro and as the ship moved a light was projected upward onto the parchment paper. The moving bug light provided an instantaneously updated DR position. The operator of the DRT merely marked the paper over the bug light each minute and when the dots were connected it provided a graphically representation of the cutters movement. When radar and sonar data was manually added, using a swing arm drafting device, you then had a plot of the cutter's dead reckoned position and the surrounding tactical situation.
Attached to and to the right of the DRT was a large circular Plexiglas covered plotting instrument known as the surface plot. And like the DRT the surface plot was illuminated from below but had no moving parts. All plots of this instrument were relative motion only. Above the DRT, hanging just about forehead level, was an inter-ship communications unit designated the 21MC. With the press of a switch a watchstander could call essential compartments such as the bridge, chart room, the radio room which was one deck below CIC, the engine room, and weather office. On the forward starboard side (right) of CIC stood a large metal cabinet that housed the radio beacon and above it was mounted a small ADF receiver that was used to check and confirm that the proper grid code was being transmitted. Also scattered about the compartment where several large vertically mounted plexiglass status and plotting boards and a large metal cabinet containing communication equipment. It was a lot of stuff crammed in a small area.
Back on the Yokota ramp Zero Four Sierra Whiskey had been guided off her spot by the lineman and she was now sitting on the approach end of runway 36 in position and holding in accordance with the towers instructions. At the far end of the runway they could see a C-130 Hercules pitch up slightly and become airborne, smoke trailing from the engines. Paddy had swiveled his seat around so he faced forward and he was now seated on the centerline of the cockpit perched at the aft end of the pedestal. 'Fudge' had swiveled his seat forward also and locked it in place. Everyone had donned their shoulder harness at this point.
"Seaboard 225, wind 027 at 06, cleared for take-off. Right turn after takeoff and downwind departure approved."
Vince acknowledged the takeoff clearance and added "Seaboard 225 rolling." He then confirmed for his Captain that the Before Take-off Checklist had been completed. Davidson pushed all four throttles up until he was around the 1.87 computed take-off EPR setting.
He then called "Set Max Power" and Vince, with his hand resting above Davidson's on the throttle stalks, fine tuned the settings to their exact reading. Vince then reported "Max Power Set." Outside the four engines produced a thunderous noise as more and more smoke poured from them. Zero Four Sierra Whiskey gathered speed.
Vince called out "Eighty knots" as the air speed indicator (ASI) continued to wind up. Davidson could now feel the aircraft start to shift its load gradually from the wheels to the wings. Then he heard Vince call "V1" and he removed his right hand from the throttles and placed it on the yoke. Vince maintained his hand contact with the throttles. The aircraft wanted to fly now and as the air speed reached 148 kts Vince announced, "Rotate." The Captain began a slow, steady pull on the yoke and the nose wheel broke free. As the angle of attack increased the rattle of the main gear lessened then stopped as the big bird became airborne. Davidson continued his backpressure until he had established a deck angle of 15 degrees. Vince noted a positive rate of climb on the vertical speed indicator (VSI) and called "Positive Rate." Davidson responded with, "Gear Up" and the FO reached over with his left hand and pulled the large landing gear lever to its up position. 'Fudge' noted their airborne time for inclusion in his 'Off Report' to Seaboard Flight Operations stateside. Now the crescendo of engine noise was joined by the mechanical sounds of the retracting gear. At a thousand feet off the ground Captain Davidson lowered the nose to let the aircraft accelerate. He then announced, "Flaps up - climb power - climb checklist please."
As the DC-8 approached 250 KIAS the Captain raised the nose to maintain that airspeed and started a gentle bank to the right to allow them to exit the Yokota traffic pattern downwind. They would split the airspace between Yokota and Tokyo, flying south until over the lower reach of Tokyo Wan (Bay), then in the vicinity of Yokohama they would turn eastward and commence their long transit to Hawaii. At 10,000 feet aircraft pitch was adjusted to allow it to accelerate to 300 KIAS and they began their climb to their initial cruising altitude of 33,000 feet.
And so the long, monotonous journey had begun. It was cozy on the flightdeck and by now everyone had removed their shoulder harnesses and was busy at their respective stations. Paddy filled in blocks on the engine log. Vince responded to traffic alert calls or acknowledged new vector. And all the while the Captain's eyes scanned the instruments and then darted across the windscreen in a set pattern honed by decades of flying, looking for any traffic that had gone undetected, especially in this busy area. Sitting quietly in his little cubby-hole behind the Captain was 'Fudge.' He was working harder than anyone at this juncture because while still in range of land based navigation aids (navaids) such as NDB's and VOR's he was constantly fixing the aircrafts position and trying to get a "read" on how the upper winds were affecting their track over the ground. He knew that once they were out of range of these navaids he would have to rely on celestial, Loran, and Dead Reckoning to determine where they were or thought they were. That last good fix using shore based aids was critical. Navigation was a science and an art form and Theodore Stokes was damn good at it.
A couple time zones to the east cutter Winnebago was turning for 5 knots in a swell & froth filled ocean. Of all the classes of Coast Guard cutters deployed on Ocean Stations in the 1960's, the Owasco Class - also referred to as the Lake Class for the Lakes they were named after - was the worse riding. The 327' Secretary Class - named after Treasury Secretaries - were spacious and rode well. The 311' Casco Class were old seaplane tenders acquired from the Navy. Roomy and better riding than the "255's" they were however prone to popping deck plating in severe weather since their original intend was to support seaplanes in relatively calm waters. Then there was the "255," like The Winnie. Though built like a tank any swell system sent the vessel into violent gyrations and they were extremely cramped inside. And if that wasn't enough, to get anywhere within the cutter required the crew to climb up or down one ladder after another. In fact, it was always rumored that the vessel was originally intended to be much longer in length but the design had been shorten considerably prior to construction. And there was validity to that assertion because these vessels were built to replace vessels sent to England during World War 2 on the Lend-Lease program. The replacement hulls were ordered to be the same size as the ships that were relinquished to the Brit's.
Up in "Combat" every available inch of space was occupied by something, or at least it seemed that way to the untrained eye. The overhead (the ceiling in nautical vernacular) was carpeted with electrical cables of varying sizes, bundled together and held in place by large metal brackets. Square, yellow plastic emergency lights also hung from strategic locations. Green metal air ducts snaked their way around the overhead too, festooned with identification labels paint in large black letters and arrows pointing in the direction of the air flow. Several red and black cutoff values protruded from high up on the bulkheads (walls). Next to the 21MC control box, hung a red lens flashlight and a clipboard that swayed with the motion of the ship. This is where the watch team clipped the winds aloft data that had been observed from the most recent 'balloon run.' On the top of the DRT was taped a cigar box sized open container. It held the Flight Data Cards (FDC's) that were filled out on every aircraft that reported in to the cutter. On the card was recorded essential data such as call sign, departure and destination data, flight level, Souls on Board (abbreviated SOB - this was the era before political correctness changed that to [People] POB), position information, fuel on board, frequencies the aircraft was worked on, and other pertinent information.
The two CIC watchstander's heard the sound of the chart room's metal pocket door clang open and then the curtain was yanked back, momentarily allowing extraneous light to leak into the darken CIC. It was the cutters Captain. Captain Sam Tillman was a former U.S. Merchant Marine sailor who had spent 45 of his 58 years sailing the oceans of the world. He had started as a young lad cutting bait on a Gloucester longliner and this probably explained why he looked a hellva' lot older than he actually was. 'Cap'n Sam,' as he was affectionately referred to by his crews, had spent World War 2 sailing on various civilian tankers back and forth across the Atlantic. After the war he opted to accept a commission in the Coast Guard and was now nearing the end of an illustrious career. He was idolized by the crew and his professional shiphandling abilities were unmatched. Captain Tillman was the epitome of a sailor.
He took up a position in front of the surface plot. The soft glow of the light shining upward from the plotting surface gave his work uniform the appearance that it was white instead of a faded khaki color. Both watchstander's sprang to their feet. "Good morning men, how's it going?" Tillman asked. That the Captain was even up and about so early on a Sunday morning spoke volumes to his dedication to his crew and their mission. Both crewmen responded almost in unison, "Mornin' Skipper." Then the watch supervisor added, "Everything's fine. Not much traffic so far today but we should be getting some this afternoon with runs to Hono." The Captain acknowledged, wished them a good watch and disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
Seaboard 225had been at cruise altitude for over an hour. The cockpit was silent except for the muffled whine of the engines behind them and the occasional radio traffic from Tokyo Center or some chatter on the air-to-air frequency which they monitored. 'Fudge' tapped Vince on the shoulder and handed him a strip of paper with some blocks filled in. It was the data Vince would need to report their next position report. Several minutes later the First Officer contacted Tokyo Center on a working High Frequency (HF).
"Tokyo, Seaboard 225, Position"
"Seaboard 225, Tokyogo ahead"
"Tokyo, Seaboard 225, Position 3430 North 160 East at 0020 Zulu, Flight Level 330, estimating 3245 North 170 East at 0128 Zulu, 3015 North 180 East next, over"
Tokyo read back the position report and Vince acknowledge with "Tokyo, Seaboard 225 roger." and then added "Tokyo, may we please have Flight Level 350 at this time, over?"
"225, Tokyo, roger, climb and maintain 350, report when level"
"Tokyo, 225, roger, out."
After a brief climb to their new flight level, the First Officer contacted Tokyo Center again and reported they were level at the new assigned altitude.
'Fudge' had been hard at work all morning. The daylight atmospherics were playing havoc with the Loran therefore those LOP's (Lines of Position) couldn't be trusted. He did feel pretty confident in his celestial shots though and presently had their position as a mile north of the intended track. Ocean Station Victor was coming up and he could get a fix, track & ground speed and some upper winds from them to cross-check his own calculations. (Though aircraft communicated with Ocean Stations there was no routine link between the vessel and the controlling ARTCC/FIR's; e.g. Tokyo or Oakland, unless an emergency developed. If communications were lost by the controlling center they 'back-tracked' their flight following records to determine who talked to the aircraft last and what data was passed and at what time).
The hours dragged on. Flying the north western Pacific was pretty monotonous due to the lack of any significant traffic unlike what you would find on a trans-Atlantic crossing. Out here there was a whole lot of nothing and a lot of miles in between.
At 1145 local time Radarman 1st Class Petty Officer (RD1) Roger Dupree, and Sonarman Third Class Petty Officer (SO3) Jeffery Archer entered the dimly lit CIC through the Chart Rooms watertight door on the port side. They had the 1200-1600 watch and had just finished eating on the messdeck and were now ready to assume the watch. The off going team briefed them on the ships position, engine status, and the status of various pieces of equipment in CIC. Details of the earlier completed weather balloon run were also reviewed as well as the most recent message traffic, and miscellaneous information pertinent to their watch duties. RD1 Dupree, being the senior watchstander, glanced at Jeff and asked if he had any questions. Then Dupree said "We've got it," as he slid into the seat in front of the air search radar. He immediately noticed a target to the west about 120 nm out and before the old team had exited the compartment, he asked if they had already worked the target. "Negative" was the response, "he's all yours."Roger told Jeff, "Saddle up, we have an inbound" and the watch began in earnest. Archer slipped on his headset and glancing at the sweep hand on the compartments clock gave Dupree a "Standby" and then as the timer hand stood straight up he called "Mark". Dupree called out a bearing and range to the aircraft and Archer plotted the position on the top sheet of a tablet of Maneuvering Boards. These disposable plotting sheets were used more often than the larger plexiglass surface plot due to their smaller size and convenience of use.
On the flight deck of Seaboard 225 'Fudge' was preparing to key his MIC and call Ocean Station Victor when he heard "Unidentified eastbound aircraft approximately 120 nautical miles west of Ocean Station Victor this is Victor on one twenty six decimal seven (126.7 MHZ VHF), over." (OS Victor used three primary frequencies to work transiting aircraft. Those frequencies were 126.7 MHZ VHF, 272.7 MHZ UHF [military only], and 3023.5 KHZ HF. Emergency frequencies of 121.5, 243.0 or 2182.0 were also used when an aircraft was unresponsive to the initial call from the cutter.)
'Fudge' reported in, "Good morning Victor that would be Seaboard 225 with you. I've got some flight data when you're ready to copy, over"
Jeff grabbed a blank Flight Data Card out of the box and responded,"225, Victor, Go."
"Victor, 225 is a DC8 with 4 SOB's and we're at Flight Level 350. We're out of Yokota at 2200 Zee (Zulu) and estimating Honolulu at 0540 Zee. Last was 3430 North 160 East at 0020 Zee, and we're estimating 3245 North 170 East at 0128 Zee, 3015 North 180 East next. We have 88 decimal 8 fuel aboard and we're requesting winds at 33, 35, and 37 and also a track and ground speed, over."
"225, Victor, roger, standby,"
'Fudge', looking at his parked ADF pointer on his nav panel added, "Victor, 225, is your beacon on?"
"225, Victor, negative at this time do you want continuous, over?
"Victor, that's affirm, over?"
Petty Officer Archer reached down and flipped a switch on the radio beacon control; the beacon was now in a continuous transmit mode. The radio beacon was designed to automatically transmit in 5 minute intervals with a 10 minute silent period between each transmission cycle; e.g. 5-10, 20-25, 35-40, and 50-55 minutes past the hour. Aboard the DC-8 the ADF pointer, which had been lying dormant until now, suddenly jumped off its parked position and pointed slightly off the port nose. As the aircraft approached Victor, the needle continued to track the beacon signal and slowly rotated counterclockwise as the aircraft skirted to the south of the cutter's position.
For ten minutes Dupree and Archer followed the same ritual of a 'Standby' 10 seconds before and then a 'Mark' on the minute as they plotted the progress of Seaboard 225 across their radar scope and the Maneuvering Board. Then as the DC-8 passed 7 miles above Oscar Sierra (for On Station - indicating the center grid position of each Ocean Station) Jeff, calculated the track and ground speed made thus far by the aircraft then pulled down the clipboard that contained the latest observed upper winds. He glanced at the desired entries and keyed his push-to-talk switch and said, "225, Victor, with track, ground and winds if you're ready to copy?"
'Fudge' replied, "Victor, 225, go ahead,"
"225, Victor, presently hold you 185 (degrees) at 07 (NM) from me, track 098 speed 440 knots. Winds at thirty-three are 345 at 22; at thirty-five, 310 at 19 and at thirty-seven we have 312 at 16, over."
'Fudge' acknowledged and asked, "Victor, 225, roger, how old are the winds and are you presently on station, over?"
"225, Victor, winds are three hours old and we are currently five miles north of the center (grid)." responded Jeff in a crisp, military cadence. "We're making our way back after diverting up north to handle a MEDICO (medical assistance rendered to another vessel)aboard a Japanese fishing vessel a couple days ago, over." (During this actual patrol the U.S. Public Health Service doctor aboard Winnebago (Doctors deployed in these cutters only during an Ocean Station patrol) had to amputate the foot of a young Japanese fisherman after an accident aboard the F/V Shoei Maru several hundred miles north of Victor. He also had to perform 2 appendectomies, one on a Coast Guard crewmember and the other on a sailor aboard the USNS Navasota, a transiting civilian manned naval tanker.)
"Victor, 225, roger that. You guys headed back home any time soon?" asked 'Fudge', feeling sorry for the cutter's crew, far from civilization and providing vital services that few people knew about or even cared about.
Jeff responded, "Negative, we have another week on station and then we head to Yokosukafor R&R (Rest & Recuperation). This is a double patrol so we won't be home for several months, over"
'Fudge' asked, "Victor, do you want us to pass any messages to anyone back home, over?" This was a common courtesy extended to the cutters by most over flying aircraft if conditions permitted. During busy periods or balloon runs this was not possible. Foreign carriers normally did not offer to take messages because their knowledge of English was limited to ATC phraseology. Slower aircraft, which stayed in radar and voice range for much longer periods of time were the best 'candidates' to take messages home. (The Air Force C-124 Globemaster was the best platform for this service because frequently they would remain within communications range for an hour or more.) Cutter crews wrote messages to their wives, kids, or girlfriends and attached them to a clipboard mounted in CIC. Most air crews would transcribe the messages on company stationary or post cards and mail them upon arrival in Honolulu. Some however would actually telephone the recipients and convey the sentiments. It was a nice touch for families separated by time and thousands of miles of ocean.
Archer hit his MIC switch and stated, "Negative Seaboard. Thanks for asking but we had a 124 (an Air Force Globemaster C-124) pass over a few hours ago and he took a bunch for us. Appreciate the offer though."
"Roger Victor. Thanks for the info and you guys have a good patrol. Seaboard 225 out."
Jeff signed off with, "Victor, roger, out."
And in that short period of time the exchange was over. The aircraft and the cutter had met, exchanged vital information and now fell back into their mundane routines. Jeff signed the Flight Data Card and tossed it into the box of completed cards. He then hung his headset over his surface search radar position and took a seat. In the next four hours of their watch, Petty Officer's Dupree and Archer would work six more transiting aircraft; two Air Force, a Pan American 'Clipper', two Japan Airliner's and a BOAC (now British Airways) 'Speedbird'. Thrown into the mix was also a west bound cable laying ship that lumbered across station half way through their watch.
'Fudge' did his navigator magic with the information provided by the cutter and as he put down his whiz wheel (navigation computer), he declared that the data was very accurate. The upper winds were what he was observing and the track and ground speed check confirmed his navigation plot. About this same time Tokyo Oceanic handed Seaboard 225 over to Oakland Oceanic at the Transfer Control Point; 165 East Longitude. It was only 50 nm east of the cutter's position.
Meanwhile back aboard The Winnie, Dupree and Archer had settled in. Being a Sunday there was no 'nickel and dime' chores to be performed by the ongoing watch so if there wasn't a balloon run scheduled or a surface or aircraft target to work then they could kickback and relax. RD1 Dupree was 37 years old and had been in the Coast Guard for 18 years. He had previously sailed in several 311's back in CONUS. Married with four children, he commuted to and from work from his small home in Kaneohe Bay when the cutter was in homeport. Dupree didn't like Hawaii and he would have preferred to be in Boston, his hometown, enjoying the Red Sox's and ice skating and weekend trips to Cape Cod. His wife was from New Bedford and she too longed for New England with its change of seasons but their four kids were a different matter. Two had been born in Hawaii and all of them wanted to live in the islands forever. It made for an interesting family tug-of-war; stay in Hawaii or transfer back to the mainland.
SO3 Jeff Archer, on the other hand, was a 20 year old single guy living his dream. When in port all of his off time was devoted to surfing or scuba diving somewhere around the island of Oahu. He had been in the service for 2 years and this was his first assignment since attending three months of boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey and then six months of sonar training at the Navy's Fleet ASW School in Key West. Jeff had always dreamt of living someday on a Pacific Island and when he got orders to a cutter in Hawaii after Sonar School he thought he had died and gone to heaven..
His flight across country from Key West to Miami, then through Chicago and into San Francisco was nothing but pure excitement. But that last flight leg from San Francisco to Honolulu, arriving just after midnight, was something magical. On approach it was hard to see anything, but the city lights were a blaze and the distinct outline of Pearl Harbor was visible off the left side of the aircraft. And in that early morning hour, as he stood on the Quarterdeck of The Winnie reporting in, he felt the warm, tropical breezes. They were similar to Key West but yet, different in some manner. And the sweet smell of pineapple was everywhere as a barge, piled high with the pungent fruit, was towed up the harbor by a small tug. He thought about all the episodes of the TV show "Adventures in Paradise" he had watched back in the states. Stuffed on the very top of his green canvas seabag were three extremely dog-eared books; James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" and "Hawaii" and Jacques Cousteau's "The Silent World." Even at this early juncture, as he stood on the cutters deck for the first time, his plan was to put in his four years of service with the Coast Guard and then get out and attend the University of Hawaii. He wanted to major in either marine biology or oceanography. Dreams did come true.
Miles above and to the east, Seaboard 225 rapidly expanded the gap between her and the cutter. The flight continued, mostly in silence. There were occasional exchanges of conversation on the flight deck but these seemed to decrease as the trip got closer to its finale. Four hours and thirty-six minutes into the flight they crossed the International Date Line at 180 Degrees Longitude and jumped back a day to Saturday. This track was going to take them just north of Midway Island. Five hours into the transit, 'Fudge' was staring at his ADF needle as it pointed off the starboard wing tip. He had watched the #2 DME indicator count down as they neared Midway, then it hovered ever so briefly at 65.5 NM and now it was beginning to increase in distance again. They had just hit their CPA (Closest Point of Approach) to Midway Island. The NAV plot was right on and 'Fudge' felt pretty good about his skills.
"Vince, weren't you stationed in Midway in the Navy?" asked 'Fudge'
"Actually I was stationed out of Barbers Point on Oahu. We flew in and out of Midway quite a lot.
'Fudge' asked, "What's it like on Midway?"
"It's very small, the night life sucks and during the winter months the place is crawling with Gooney Birds. We had several instances when they had to plow the runways* prior to our arrival or departure to remove those damn birds."
(* During the nesting season hundreds of thousands of Laysan Albatross nest on Midway and the surrounding islands, e.g. Laysan Island, from whence they get their name. They were so prolific during this period that the US Navy would attach mattresses to the blades of earthmoving equipment and run up and down the runway to scatter the birds just long enough for an aircraft to arrive or depart).
This crew, like those before and those after, had varying aviation backgrounds. Captain Davidson was the old-timer, not only in age but Seaboard seniority; he had joined the company in 1947 less than a year after they started operations. Davidson had flown B-17's over Europe during WW2 and his logbook now sported Seaboard time in C-54's, DC-4's, C-121's and CL-44D's as well as the DC-8. In Vince's case he had originally flown Navy Early Warning EC-121 Constellations, but then transferred into the P2V Neptune's, flying anti-submarine warfare patrols with VP-6 out of NAS Barber's Point, on the southwest tip of Oahu. Paddy was an ex-USAF Flight Engineer with time in B-17's during the war, then C-124 Globemaster's out of McChord & Larson Air Force Base's in Washington State. 'Fudge' had time in B-36 Peacemaker's and Boeing 707's prior to signing on with Seaboard. The one aircraft they all had in common prior to flying the Diesel Eight was the swing-tailed Canadair freighter CL-44. All Seaboard DC-8 crews had previously flown Seaboard's CL-44's prior to transitioning into the Eight's.
Soon dusk started to settle around Zero Four Sierra Whiskeyas she raced towards Oahu and a spot on the Hickam ramp. 'Fudge' commented that Necker Island should be visible off the starboard side any minute now. Paddy, not one with a curiosity streak, took no notice but Vince started to occasionally glance out his side window in anticipation. Less than five minutes later Vince called out "Tally Ho, Necker at two o'clock." And sure enough, in the fading light they passed Necker Island, which lies 8 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer and 430 odd miles northwest of Honolulu. They were getting close.
"Legend has it," chimed in 'Fudge', "�that a small group of people called Menehunes use to live on Kauaibut they were chased off by the Polynesians and they settled on Necker."
In his best Irish brogue Paddy blurted out, "Sorta like Hawaiianleprechauns, eh, 'Fudge'?" Then he added, "Where do you come up with this crap?"
"Books, Paddy, books�something you're not familiar with I suspect�unless it's a maintenance manual." There was always good natured ribbing on the flight deck and this crew was no different.
Over Kauai, with the light all but gone, Honolulu Approach had the big DC-8 headed downward. Honolulu was using runway 4 tonight.
As they passed through 18,000 feet Captain Davidson stated, "Paddy, how about a card please" referring to the TOLD card that would provide the reference numbers for him and Vince for the various approach speeds and related flap schedule for deploying the flaps. "Looks like about 212 (212,000 lbs landing weight) at the runway," Paddy said, and momentarily he placed a freshly filled-in card in its customary position over the radar scope on the center pedestal. The Captain and Vince noted the numbers and slewed their air speed bugs around to correspond to the numbers on the card. Checklists were dutifully complied with and below 10,000 feet all chit-chat ceased as the sterile cockpit rule took effect - only conversation required for the safe operation of the aircraft.
Minutes later, after some vectoring, Seaboard 225 was queued up behind a Japan Airlines Boeing 707 to land on Honolulu International's runway, 04R. The Captain deftly brought the aircraft over the threshold, and with a loud thud all 106 ton's of aircraft settled onto the runway. As the nose was lowered ground spoilers popped up and the reverse thrusters were engaged. After a lot of engine screaming the plane slowed to taxi speed and turned off the active runway. The spoilers were retracted, flaps sucked up, taxi light energized and landing light extinguished. About this time Hono Ground Control gave them taxi instructions and several minutes later they blocked into their assigned stand at Hickam AFB, just to the west of Honolulu Airport. With the securing of the fuel levers engines began to wind down. Instruments started to go into hibernation and the overhead flood lights were switched on. Seaboard 225's workday was done and her crew finished assorted paperwork and collected their belongings. Next stop would be the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki for a shower and a change of clothes and then over to Buzz's Steak and Lobster House for a great meal. Captain Davidson and Vince would have a couple Mai Tai's to shake off the 'trail dust,' Theodore would have his customary iced tea and Paddy would sample some local libation - Primo Beer. Tomorrow the most taxing decision they would have to make was deciding which beach to lounge on to ogle the local wahines. But that was tomorrow
Two thousand two hundred miles to the northwest the sun was low in the afternoon sky, sinking ever so slowly towards the western horizon. Roger Dupree had eaten evening chow and was already asleep in his bunk down in the Operations berthing area. In a couple hours he would be wakened by the Boatswain Mate of the Watch in preparation for his 2000-2400 watch.
Back on the fantail, Jeff Archer leaned over the taffrail (the rail around the stern of a vessel) and enjoyed a cigarette after his meal. Several other crewmembers were also on the fantail with fishing poles, not catching anything, but merely enjoying the serenity of a lazy Sunday afternoon. On the balloon shack catwalk just above where Archer stood was one of the civilian weathermen, staring off into the distance. Jeff glanced down and saw the afternoon suns rays pierce the surface and stab deeply into the blue Pacific. An albatross hovered in still air just off the cutters stern and screeched as if asking for food. Occasionally a halyard would slap against a mast and make its familiar metallic pinging noise. A watertight door slammed shut somewhere forward. Archer took a deep drag on his cigarette and flipped the glowing remains over the side, then headed below decks to the crews Lounge to get a good seat for the night's movie. On the schedule was the spaghetti western "A Fistful of Dollars" starring Clint Eastwood. Life really was an adventure.
N804SW- the DC-8-55JT featured in this story was produced at the Douglas Aircraft Company's, Santa Monica, California assembly facility. She was delivered on 29 September 1965 carrying the manufacturer's serial number (MSN) #45816. The aircraft was originally delivered to Flying Tigers Airlines and was immediately leased to Seaboard World Airlines (SWA). SWA utilized the aircraft until Dec 1968. She eventual saw service with such companies as Viasa, Transcarga, Challenge Air Transport, Capitol International Airways, Northern Peninsula Fisheries, Connie Kalitta Services, American International Airways, Vasp, and Kitty Hawk Air Cargo. She was registered as N804SW, YV-C-VIM , G-BIAS , and N801CK during the course of her career. It is believed that this specific aircraft was declared a derelict and parted out sometime after 1999.
The USCGC Winnebago (WHEC-40) was built by the Western Pipe & Steel Company in San Pedro, California only 25 miles from the Douglas Aircraft factory where N804SW was manufactured. She was launched in June 1944 and after serving in various stateside homeports moved to Honolulu T.H. (Territory of Hawaii) in 1945. By early 1966, when this story is set, she had performed nearly 100 weather station patrols. Her last patrol was in 1973 and she was sold for scrap in 1974.
This story is dedicated to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, both the uniformed and civilian cadre, past and present, who have served their country in peacetime and war with superb distinction. And to the former employees of Seaboard World Airlines who also served with equal distinction, especially during the Vietnam War, and who set many airline records that have not been surpassed.
CREDITS & REFERENCE LINKS
Once again, without the unselfish and tireless efforts of many aircraft, scenery and other add-on developers this trip would not have been as dynamic and as realistic as it was. To all those very talented people listed below and to the thousands of others that daily contribute their efforts to sites such as Flightsim.com and Avsim.com for our enjoyment I can only say is - Thank You!
Aircraft, Panel & Sounds
Panel Modifications by the author.
Yokota Scenery - http://walhalla.mine.nu/fs2004/japan.php
Honolulu Scenery - http://walhalla.mine.nu/fs2004/hawaii.php
Ocean Station Scenery - http://www.calclassic.com/scenery.htm
Alternate Honolulu Scenery (c1959) - http://www.calclassic.com/scenery.htm
Charts - Aviation Publication Service (APS) - http://www.apscharts.com/simandplan.html
Additional Reference Material
Flight Sim & the Art of Celestial Navigation by Kevin Johnston: http://www.bluegrassairlines.com/feature_jul2003.htm
Simulated Aircraft Bubble Sextant - Dave Bitzer and Mark Beaumont:
Special Technical Assistance:
Capt. Ken Kahn (Ret.) Seaboard World Airlines
Seaboard Pilots Association Retirees (SPAR) @ http://www.seaboardairlines.org/index.htm
Previous Flightsim.com Feature Articles by the author:
- Low and Slow Over Italy (Part 1)
- Low and Slow Over Italy (Part 2)
- Flying the IL-76TD
- Atlantic Canada in a YS-11
- A Tale of a Whale
- A Long Haul in a Hercules (Part 1)
- A Long Haul in a Hercules (Part 2)
- Around Thailand in a DC-6
If you enjoyed the article or have comments please let me hear from you. I always look forward to your feedback.