Monday, October 7, 2013

C-133 Escort for C-121

This came to me via All and direct email. Does it ring a bell with anyone? If it does, please contact me (Cal Taylor) so I can close the loop with Terry Hart.

I served on the USS Lookout, AGR-2, as a Radarman out of Davisville, RI from late 1960 until late 1964. In 1960 or 1961 we were on station about 300 miles due South of Otis. In the middle of the night we were contacted by an RC 121 out of Otis. He was at the time of initial contact some 80 miles Southeast of us and was descending through 5,000 feet. He had lost two engines and was unable to maintain altitude. He informed us he was going to ditch and requested we vector him alongside and prepare to pick them up.

The weather that night was terrible. We had 20 to 30 foot seas, 40 to 60 knots of wind, and zero visibility. We replied that there was zero chance of survival if he ditched. Following some discussion it was decided that possibly he would be able to remain airborne after he passed below about 100 feet on the ground effect. Fortunately that turned out to be true. His ground speed after setting down on the ground effect was only about 90 knots! He also informed us that he   had dumped as much fuel as he could and still make it back to Otis. Also that they were throwing everything out a door that they could to reduce their weight.

As I recall they had between 39 and 59 (don't remember the exact number but it ended with a 9) souls on board which surprised me. We were communicating on 121.5 and 243.0 and a Mats C-133 returning from Europe overhead what was going on and contacted us. He said he had plenty of fuel and if we would vector him for an intercept he could escort the 121 back to Otis. This is what we did. I remember them discussing the fact that Otis was several hundred feet above sea level and wondering how they would be able to climb enough to clear the cliff and be able to land at Otis if they made it back. Fortunately by the time they got there they had burned off enough fuel weight and thrown enough additional stuff out the door and were able to make a successful landing.

I am now 72 and will never forget what happened that night. I would very much like to know the tail number of that aircraft, who those folks were in that airplane, if any of them are still alive, as well as any other details of that extraordinary event.

Terry Hart, Sr.
Waynesboro, PA

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