VR-3 wanted to have me check out as a C-130 Aircraft Commander but they did not want to have the Airlift Wing give them any grief. They arranged for the wing check airman, Commander Tufo, to give me the check ride and we left McGuire on September 23rd.
We went to Chateauroux, France and rested overnight. Check it out: http://www.chateaurouxairstation.com.
The next day we took off and headed east. Our destination was Topel. A Turkish Base where American soldiers were temporarily stationed. As we passed Athens, on our way into Turkey, they told us that the ceiling at Topel was 700 feet. It was still a bit of a flight to Topel and I said I would proceed and decide what to do when I got there.
Well, when we got up there, we spoke to planes coming out. They had stayed there overnight and they said the ceiling was 700 feet. If you look at this map you will find Yalova. That is a very small airport and I landed there several times. It had a radio navigational facility, an ADF Radio. When you wanted to make an approach to this field you could maneuver on the facility and lower yourself to 1100 feet. If you could SEE the runway from there, you could land.
Well, at 1100 feet, we would still be in the clouds. I briefed my crew. I said I would cross the ADF at 1100 feet. Then, I would fly north until we had water underneath us and I would lower myself to 500 feet. I would turn east to fly to Topelo. I said we would fly to the east end of the Sea of Marmara, cross the shore and look for the field. If we saw it, we would land and if we did not see it in three minutes after we reached the shore, we would execute a missed approach and return to Athens.
Well, that’s what we did. We saw the field, we landed, we picked up the troops and we left. I offered the check captain the leg back to Chateauroux and he said: “I’ll tell you when I want the leg.”
My copilot, Pete Simola, got really sick in Chateauroux, so I had the check pilot act as my copilot. We flew back to the States. We landed in Lages in the Azores and then went to Pope, to drop off the troops. Finally we went to McGuire. I never offered him a leg and he didn’t ask for a leg.
When we got to McGuire, he never said anything to me. It was late in the evening. My copilot and I went to the parking lot, he got in his car. It was a fancy Chevrolet that had a manual five speed transmission. He started yelling: “They’ve stolen my transmission.” So, I drove him home.
The next day, the Operations Officer called me and asked if I was qualified as an Aircraft Commander. I said: “I have no idea.” He said: “What happened.” I started to explain and he said: “Just come to my office.” So, I went into his office and explained what had happened. They called the Wing to find out what Commander Tufo had decided. They told us a letter was coming over to explain it.
Well, when the letter came the Commander opened it and read it. When they trained me as a pilot, they told me to do what I thought was the correct thing to do. That is what I did on the check ride. The Check Pilot praised me for having used the Navigation radio and adjusting the decent over water to 500 feet to enable completing the mission. He said he was pleased to elevate me to Aircraft Commander and hoped all the NEW pilots would do as well when they got checked. So, I was an Aircraft Commander.