George Stoner has provided a great write up (with photos) of his "Best Trip" in February, 1971, the last year of 133 operations. It's in the form of a 13 page Word document which I am forwarding as an attachment to an e-mail distributed to our list of Crew Colleagues. It's not practical to post the entire story on this blog, so I'm just copying the first few paragraphs here.
1971 would see the end of a great career for the C-133A. I had joined the 1st MAS at Dover AFB, Delaware in 1965 when the fleet was grounded. I took my first flight as Navigator in May. The mission went to Southeast Asia and lasted six weeks. We would return home for three days crew rest and begin the cycle over again. This was how it went during the Vietnam War. Out of those 6 years, I was out of the CONUS, 5 years, 7 months and 9 days, all TDY. I had also earned the 5000 hour flying pin.
Flying in a C-133 is an experience few people can appreciate. As crew members in C133 aircraft, we flew all around the world to many exotic places. One of the things that made the C-133 interesting was the fact that we, typically, only flew one leg a day. This meant that many times, after eight hours of flying, we were done. Of course this wasn’t always true, when we flew in the Pacific there were many 24-hour crew duty days. We found ourselves with an augmented crew and very long days with multiple stops. What the crews look forward to most was going somewhere they hadn’t seen before. During my flying in the C-133, we went most of the major places in the world taking outsized cargo of one kind or another. We would fly both east and west out of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The C-133 was unique in that the greater part of its life span covered the Vietnam War. From the time in the early 1960’s when Vietnam was building, until the aircraft’s decommissioning in late 1971, we were taking many supply flights into Thailand and Vietnam. Our normal schedule from Dover AFB was to fly to Travis AFB, CA. through the Pacific into Vietnam or Thailand and return to Travis AFB. There we would be turned back to the Pacific and repeat the roundtrip over again. It was the rare occasion that we would fly east over the Atlantic Ocean and have a trip to Europe. These were always exciting and interesting because, typically, they did not go to places that we normally flew.
Such was the case in February of 1971. What started out to be an interesting but routine mission turned into one of the memorable flights of my entire career. The mission seemed simple enough, we were to fly two communications vans into Asmara, Ethiopia. The flight was to take us across the Atlantic into the Azores, where we would refuel and crew rest. The next leg took this into Torrejon AFB, Madrid, Spain. We always looked forward to going to Madrid because of the wonderful restaurants and great shopping. When we went to Madrid we only stayed for crew rest and left immediately after 12 hours on the ground. On this occasion, we would stay in Madrid while diplomatic clearance was being arranged for us to fly on through Saudi Arabia. This meant a 24-hour layover instead of our normal 12 and 3. Now there was time to go to the Plaza d’Mayor and sample suckling pig at Earnest Hemingway’s favorite restaurant.At home, the living rooms of most MAC fliers were festooned with a combination of articles brought back from all around the world. There were ceramic elephants from India and Thailand. There were Hibachi Pots from Japan and all manner of furniture from the Philippines. Anything that would fit on a C-133 on our return trips, when we were empty of cargo, was permitted to be brought back. Usually the results were only limited by the willingness of your fellow crew members to on-load and off-load the shopping articles at each interim crew rest point. So on this particular flight, in February of 1971, landing at Madrid at Torrejon Air Force Base presented a myriad of shopping opportunities. For those who enjoyed the Spanish wines, many inexpensive high quality wines were available at the Class VI store. There was Spanish art work and many of us brought that back. Much of the art was oil on canvas, but the regular assortment of nudes painted on black velvet abounded. On this trip the officers club was having a huge art show. On display were artists from all over the area. As we came in the door, one particular piece attracted my attention - it was a 36” x 24”piece of junk art. The artist Vincent Hayden, was doing a whole series of artwork based on vintage American and European cars. Most of them were in a 12” x 8” format. The particular one that I looked at was a vintage 1860’s steam locomotive. It was made up of a thousand pieces of everything from thimbles, to garter clips, to flashlight lantern housings, to wheel weights, to lamp bases. They were put all put together to form one of the most interesting and eye-catching pieces of art that I’ve ever seen. I ask him the price for the piece and was reluctantly told it was the model for a piece that he had done for the American Museum of Modern Art in New York City and was not for sale. The museum piece had all the pieces gold plated and was on display in New York that very day. We went into the club to eat and after came back out and talked with him again.
George Stoner, LTC, U.S.A.F Retired
C-133A Navigator (1965 - 1971)
(Continued with photos as a Word attachment to our e-mail list)