I got married in February in New York City, with a cocktail party at the Plaza Hotel on 59th street. I took my bride to Greece for our honeymoon. When I decided that I had to get back to VR-3, I told my new wife to stay in Greece for a while because I thought I would have to go out on a trip to Vietnam. It didn’t turn out that way, because instead of going west, I got sent to the east.
We left McGuire on the 6th and we flew over Lajes to Rhein-Main and got there on the 6th. On the 7th we flew to Chateauroux and back to Rhein-Main.
On the 8th we flew to Wheelus AB and then to Athens for a layover. On the 9th we did a Turkey trot. We went to Istanbul, Yalova, Incirlik and Ankara before we got back to Athens, for another layover.
On the 10th we went to Iraklion and Souda Bay, on Crete, then Wheelus and then Chateauroux. We were there on the 11th and on the 12th we started the Italy trot. Aviano, Pisa, Naples and Brindisi. From there we went to Athens for a layover. It was the 13th.
On the 14th we left Athens for Nicosia and Tel Aviv and we got back to Athens for our layover. The next day we would make a trip to Iraklion, Crete and I wanted to take my wife on the trip. So, when we came out to the airport on the 15th, I let her ride with the loadmaster and he got her on the plane.
Tom Stringer was my navigator and we filed to go to Crete via Visual Flight Rules (VFR). As we left Athens, we went down to a low altitude and flew to Crete. My copilot got a little bit scared about our running into an island, but Tom was on the radar and that was not going to happen. Well, when we got to Crete we realized that the unloading of the airplane was going to take a long time because of the cargo that was on board. Tom and Joann and I took a cab to see the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis.
When I was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI, I wrote a thesis on “The Concept of Individualism as Portrayed by the Odysseus Figure in Literature.” On of the books that I used in that thesis was: “The Odyssey a Modern Sequel” written by Kazantzakis. Here is a picture of his grave:
It says: I don’t hope for anything … I’m not afraid of anything… I am free.
We got back to the plane and left for Athens. Dropped Joann off and we went on to Brindisi and Naples before we got to Chateauroux. We spent the 16th and the 17th there and we left on the 18th. We went out to Tehran and Karachi, Peshawa, and Lahore in Pakistan. We had a longish time on the ground in Lahore, so we went to the airport restaurant. Sitting outside on the patio deck, I looked at the menu for something to eat. With the years that Britain had spent out there, the menu said: Fish and Chips. With that I drank a mango squash. While we were eating, a bagpipe band was marching on the airport apron and practicing their marching and playing their instruments. Oh, Britania.
Well, we got back to Incirlik on the 19th and we left on the 20th, with the intention of going to Chateauroux. As we were climbing out of Incirlik, at about 20,000 feet, we had a problem with one of our generators. The generators on a C-130 could not be de-coupled from the engine, so, when you had a generator problem, you had to shut down the engine. Well, I did that, while still in Turkish airspace, but I didn’t report it. I continued on the flight plan and flew into Greek airspace. Then, I told the controller that we had shut down an engine and that we wanted to divert to Athens. Which we did, for another Athens layover on the 20th.
They put a new generator on the plane and we were scheduled to go to Cigli, in northern Turkey. I had gotten a line check from a Check Pilot, from McGuire to Rhine-Main on the 6th of March. I had a set of his check papers with me in Athens. Well, I have a first cousin named Nick Karis. His mom and my mom were sisters. Well, Nick had a first cousin from his father’s side of the family named George Vavides. George was born in America, but living in Athens at this time, studying how Greek Ancient Theater plays were produced. I called him and asked him if he wanted to come for a flight with me. He said: “Sure”. I gave him a flight suit and a hat to wear and the check captains orders to carry and told him not to say anything and just stand around and watch me do what I did in the office, at the airport in Athens. He was a professional actor and theater person, so that was not a problem.
Well, we went over to Cigli and got off the plane to refile a flight plan to go back to Athens. Unfortunately, there was a lot of hydraulic fluid leaking under the left hand wheel well and it took the mechanic some time to get that dealt with. Meanwhile, Tom Stringer had come down with a cold and we headed to the officers club at Cigli. I didn’t need a navigator to get to Athens, so I told Tom he should have a drink. We were all standing at the bar with a US Air Force Colonel. We were in our flight suits and Tom shot down a couple of glasses of whisky. The Colonel didn’t ask any questions and we left for Athens.
As we were approaching the old Athens airport, down by the water, we were going to fly over Cape Sounion. Well on Cape Sounion there is an Ancient Greek temple to Poseiden, the Greek god of the sea. It is a Doric temple built 444 – 440 BC. As we were overhead the temple, I lowered the wing so George could see it and we were talking about it. Here is an image of it in the setting sun:
Well, caught up with the sight seeing, I forgot to start my descent into Athens. I quickly got going, on getting down for the landing and Athens told us to call passing over the radio beacon at Bouligeameni, just 2 miles from the airport. When we passed the facility, my copilot reported it and the Athens tower said: “I don’t see you.” I told the copilot to say: “Look up.”
With the C-130 you can do interesting things and getting down for a landing is tricky but easy enough to do. I pointed the nose of the plane at the beginning of the leading lights for the runway and just waited till I got to the altitude to stop the descent. I pulled up a little and made a very good landing. The tower operator said: “Wow.”
On the 22nd we left Athens for Ankara. Here is an image of the old Athens airport:
If you look carefully at this image, and if you know it, the commercial terminals were close to the road that runs along the sea. On the far side of the airport are the military hangers. When the runway was elongated, the military side built a taxiway to the end of the runway. On the civil side, there was a taxiway that made you go onto the runway, taxi to the end and turn around for takeoff.
On our last takeoff from Athens we were at the end of the taxiway at the end of the runway. In the taxi block on the civil side there was a Lufthansa flight wanting to leave. The Lufthansa copilot called in for permission to taxi on the runway, to go to the end and turn around. The Athens tower screamed: “Hold your position.” About a minute went by and the tower told Lufthansa they could now taxi on the runway. As they were coming down the runway to the end, the Captain, in a deeper voice asked the tower: “Can you tell me the difference between now and a minute ago.” My copilot hit the mike and said: “60 seconds, Captain.” The tower gave Lufthansa takeoff clearance and he left. That happened 55 years ago, but I have never forgotten how quick witted that copilot was.
We went to Ankara and then to Chateauroux. We continued to Lajes and Charleston and then back to McGuire. We got there on the 24th.