U.S. Air Force Caribou  (C-7)
Page 4


Newest data shown in red  3-1-05

(Click on photos to enlarge)
<<< Caribou 61-4181 (c/n #123) at An Lac with Al Crews walking in the foreground. ( Bob Payne)
>>> Two ARVN troops pose in front of a Caribou at Xuan Loc. ( Bob Payne)
<<<  The time-honored ritual of fueling a Caribou 62-12584 (c/n #145). (Bob Payne)

GAPES delivery. Ground Altitude Parachute Extraction System. However, NO PARACHUTE is needed in this system. Cargo is pushed to rear of aircraft, brakes locked, METO power applied, brakes released, and the Caribou rockets out from under its load. Stopping quickly is the next imperative. (Tom Finkler)

(Peter Bird Note:  By 1971, this technique was called "speed offloading".  I don't know how many trips I made from Bien Hoa to Katum with 105mm howitzer projectiles.  The technique was modified a little from what Tom describes.  We would actually start the aircraft backing with the props in reverse and then go to forward pitch and METO power.  Once the load was clear, power was reduced and we taxied right back on to the runway to do a rolling takeoff.)

In March or Early April 1967, I volunteered to be part of the recovery operation for A/C 62-4178 (c/n # 119) which had been involved in an accident at Litts Airfield, somewhere between Phu Cat and Bong Song (I believe).  We were each issued an M-16 rifle and two clips of ammunition ( no tracers).  The ammunition was counted and we were expected to return the same number of cartridges we signed out. Isn't that some way to fight a war!  About 15 to 20 of us traveled by trucks to Litts where we found the A/C pictured in these photos. I heard there was a helicopter involved and something about rotor-wash as the C-7A was landing, but never heard the full story. Does anyone know?  When we arrived, the Army already had sealed off the area and someone had taken out all the interior of the cargo compartment and the radios. We stripped out everything else, took the aircraft apart and shipped it back to Phu Cat on flatbed trucks — except for the fuselage which was carried out by a flying crane helicopter. (Thanks to Joe Kurtyka for the write up and photos)

In the February/March 1967 time frame, we were still operating from the 3000 foot dirt runway, the PSP parking ramp, and maintenance tents in Ellisville. One day this C-7A (62--4170 c/n # 109) aircraft loaded with Army combat troops made a wheels-up landing. The left wing and the left landing gear were on fire. As the Army troops ushed out the rear, weapons looking ready to fire, they were met by tens of Air Force maintenance troops armed with cameras. Admitting they had never heard of Phu Cat, they appeared as shocked to see us as we did to see them. I have no background on where the aircraft was headed when it picked up ground fire; perhaps someone can fill in the blanks. (Thanks to Joe Kurtyka for the write up and photos)

Thanks to Larry Schiff of the 459th, 66/67 for providing a copy of the Crash Memo of the above.

At 0905 hours on 14 Mar 1967, Major Dubberly as Instructor Pilot, First Lieutenant Jach as Co-pilot and Staff Sergeant Wolpert as Flight Engineer in a C-7A took off from Holloway Air Field, RVN, with seventeen passengers. 

As the aircraft was climbing through 4500 feet, approximately 1500 feet above the ground, a slight smoke odor was noticed by the crew members.  All instrument and circuit breakers were monitored with no abnormal indication noted.  The side cockpit windows were closed and the smell diminished. 

The climb was continued with level off and cruise power established at 7500 feet.  Approximately ten minutes later an acrid smoke odor was again detected.  All instruments and engines were scanned and Major Dubberly left his Co-pilot's seat, he was acting as Instructor Pilot, and tried to assist the flight engineer, SSgt Wolpert, in locating the source of the smoke.  Smoke in the cabin was now affecting the passengers eyes, an all effort to locate the source was ineffective.  Because the intensity of eye irritation was increasing, SSgt Wolpert opened the aft cargo door to help alleviate the smoke. 

First Lieutenant Philip E. Jach, flying from the left seat, had started a descent toward Phu Cat Air Base, RVN, as Major Dubberly was strapping himself into the right seat.  While descending through 5,000 feet and approximately 10 miles from Phu Cat Air Base, the number one engine fire light for zone two and three illuminated.  Engine inflight fire procedures were accomplished but the propeller would not feather.  Both fire extinguisher bottles momentarily diminished the now blazing fire.  Fire was seen to be burning well aft of the firewall and back toward the left wing.  Maximum power was applied to number two engine and a three to four hundred foot per minute descent was the best performance attainable. 

Major Dubberly advised the Phu Cat tower of his emergency, had the passengers briefed and continued his descent for a straight-in approach to Phu Cat Air Base.  At 1,000 feet, attempts to lower the landing gear proved unsuccessful, the gear controls had been burned away by this time.  Still with maximum power on number two engine, number one propeller windmilling and zero flaps, Major Dubberly and Lt Jach continued the approach.  By now number one engine had burned many pieces off the nacelle and flames were engulfing part of the wing. 

Bringing all his flying experience to bear, Major Dubberly took control of the aircraft from Lt Jach, crossed the end of the runway and touched the aircraft down on the fuselage.  The aircraft slid 657 feet and came to a rest on the center line of runway 01.  All aircraft power was turned off and the 17 passengers and crew of three evacuated the still burning aircraft.  The base fire fighters quickly extinguished the fire. 

Subsequent investigation cited enemy action as the cause of the fire. 

Because of both Major Dubberly's and Lt Jach's crew coordination, pilots skill and professionalism during a critical emergency, and SSgt Wolpert's outstanding ability in rebriefing and controlling the passengers, all aboard escaped without injury.  For their part in this harrowing emergency, all aircrew members were nominated for the Air Force Well Done Award.

/s/edward j. thielen                                                            /s/joseph r. brand

EDWARD J. THIELEN, Lt Col, USAF                           JOSEPH R. BRAND, Captain, USAF                                                                                          

Commander, 459th TCS                                                 Historical Officer, 459th TCS



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