Special Delivery

I was ferrying a new Caribou to Vietnam. I was almost to Vietnam, uneventfully, when I contacted Cam Ranh Bay AFB approach about 50 miles offshore. They asked me if I could authenticate by giving the secret password of the day. I could not, since I was coming in from out of the country and I was not briefed on its need. Cam Rahn Bay AFB then scrambled the alert F-4s to come out and identify me. I was on the same frequency as the F-4s as they came to intercept me in my Caribou. They were test firing their guns (SUU-20 gun pods), and whatever else they do. My co-pilot, who was fairly new, just knew they were going to shoot us down! I knew they wouldn't, and tried to console him, but to no avail.

Suddenly, the two F-4s came screaming by from our 6 o'clock position and just above our cockpit. That did get our attention! We were doing about 110 knots, and they must doing about 400 knots. The lead F-4 asked his wingman, "Did you get his tail number?" The wingman re-plied, "No, he was too slow." The lead pilot said, "Well, let's go around and try it again." I had a great idea! I asked the new copilot for full flaps, and landing gear down. I was going to slow down to about 50 knots, and have some fun with the F-4s. An almost empty Caribou with full flaps and everything down will really fly slow! With a strong head wind, a Caribou will almost HOVER! My copilot begged me not to do it. He was still terrified they would shoot us down. The F-4s came back again. They had flaps and everything hanging to slow down, but they were still too fast. The same conversation then occurred between the F-4 pilots. I saw a small cumulus cloud ahead and decided to go into the cloud and orbit at 50 knots with full rudder. I am sure that I appeared to them to be hovering.

Now they were really confused. I still had not said any- thing to the F-4s. Soon, one of the F-4s said, "We can't go until we get his tail number. I don't know what to do. Nothing the in the book about this." To ease their predicament, I asked them if they wanted me to give them my tail number so they could go home. They said "Yes," and were ever so thankful! As they left us, they did an aileron rolls as their flaps came up and went into burners, and they quickly disappeared. Ap-proach control at Cam Rahn Bay AFB instructed us to land and report to the Base Operations Officer. We did, and he really read me the riot act! He informed me that he could make me pay for the fuel the F-4s used, all because I did not know the secret daily password. I apologized profusely and finally got out of there, tongue-in-cheek. We all knew that I was a civilian, he was military, and he could do nothing about it, especially after he found out that I was Air America. He knew that all I had to do was to make a phone call and everything could be taken care of. I looked up the F-4 pilots later, and we had a good laugh over it all. Another successful mission!

Larry LaVerne 
Air Force/Air America pilot

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