Narrative of the incident of 11 March, 1968
Narrative of enemy action and subsequent events for EC-47 # 44016 (Brew 41) on 11 March, 1968.
Briefing was conducted at 0450 by the Squadron Supervisor of Flying on squadron matters, by the Intelligence Officer on the latest intelligence data with emphasis on the target area and by the Aircraft Commander on specific mission duties and emergency procedures.
Take-off was at 0545 with a six men crew on board. Aircraft was on target at 0745 and was hit by enemy ground fire at 0835. Elevation of the ground at the point of contact with the enemy was 3852 and was 75 miles from the recovery point.
The aircraft was landed at 0920 (3:35) lapsed time total) at Ben Het Special Forces camp, coordinates YB872252.
Take-off was normal and target area was approached via Pleiku at 9,500'. Weather in the target area varied from clear to solid overcast with visibility restricted by haze. Visibility was zero into the sun and about 3 miles away from the sun (air to groound). Visibility was good air to air. Cloud condition when hit was a few scattered clouds and restricted visibility. Terrain in the target area was as high as 5200 feet.
When aircraft was hit there was a loud metallic crack (one). The aircraft lurched and immediately filled with dense blue smoke (hydraulic). The right engine began surging and running rough.
Damage assessment revealed that there was a hole about three inches in diameter on the bottom side of the left engine nacelle and eight to ten holes varying in size fro 1/8" to 2" on the top of the left engine nacelle and wing. The gear had fallen free, the left tire was blown, and the hydraulic systems failed.
The crew was alerted to don parachutes (crews fly with parachute harnesses and afix a chest type chute for bail out), jettison the back door and standby to bail out. The terrain was rough, mountainous forests with no friendlies in the area. A course was set for Pleiku.
The flight was being controlled by Moonbeam on VHF. Upon notification of the emergency, Moonbeam turned the flight over to a "Crown" aircraft who initiated rescue operations. After a very short time, Crown advised that two Jolly Greens, and fighteres were on the way and that four U.S. Army helicopters were already in the area.
At about 0850 a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in an O-2 (Call sign Covey 426) joined up on the left wing and started providing information to the crew. Heaters had been turned off and spill valves opened and most of the smoke was eliminated.
The right engine continued to run rough but all gages read normal except for fluctuating RPM (300).
The left engine was running smoothly but the oil temperature gage read zero, occasionally bouncing to the top peg. Oil pressure on the left engine was low and read 30 psi.
Power on both engines was 28.5" Hg and 1850 rpm.
After about five minutes the number two propeller started to overspeed. Reducing power had no effect so the propeller feathering button was activated. Feathering button was pulled back out at 1800 rpm.
At the first overspeed, the crew was instructed to jettison everything they could move. The co-pilot was instructed to leave his seat, don his parachute, stand in the cockpit door, and keep the propeller in the range of 1800 to 2300 rpm by exercising the feathering button. This procedure was utilized more than fifteen times. Finally the feathering system failed and as the propeller approached 3000 rpm the engine was shut down. The propeller windmilled to a stop and the engine froze.
An attempt was made to raise the gear after the first propeller overspeed but smoke reappeared on actuation of the hydraulic hand pump and the system failed completely after two pumps. Hydraulic pressure was zero.
With one propeller flat and the gear down, the aircraft could not maintain altitude. The maximum rpm available on the left engine was 2350 rpm and maximum power was 42" Hg. Cylinder head temperature was 250 degrees. Desent was between 200 and 500 fpm and minimum control speed was 90 knots.
The FAC advised that clearing one range of hills would put the crew in a friendly area. This range was cleared and the FAC recommended bail out because the aircraft would not clear the next two ridges. He was told that the aircraft was too low to bail out (about 500'), that the terrain wass constantly lessening, and the point of intended landing was only eight miles from that position. The next two obstacles were cleared by circumnavigating them.
There was one last small hill, about 500' high, two miles short of the point of intended landing. This hill was circumnavigated about 200' below its crest. The co-pilot had been instructed to remove his parachute and resume his normal crew position when the aircraft decended below bail out altitude. A staight-in approach was flown, still carrying maximum poser and the crew was advised to strap in tight and prepare to hit hard. Power was reduced immediately prior to touchdown.
The runway was aluminum planking 50' wide and 1500' long, There was no wind. Touchdown was made 300' down the runway on the extreme right hand side. The aircraft veered left. Flaps had been exteneded on final but did not come down. There was no apparent braking action. Full right rudder and brake were used but the aircraft left the runway at about the 2/3 point, veered aroound about 160 degrees and stopped off to hte side and even with the end of the runway. There was no fire and the crew evacuated immediately. The aircraft commander remained in the aircraft long enough to turn off all switches and then evacuated himself. There were no injuries.
The four Army H-43's had landed on the runway immediately adjacent to the aircraft and the crews were standing by to help.
The aircraft was leaking fuel badly, however the aircraft commander and the two radio operators returned to the aircraft and removed all classified. Army security service detachment personnel provided sentries to guard the aircraft and the crew was evacuated to Dac To. Calls were made to Nha Trang (home base), Pleiku, and Tan Son Nhut advising supervisory personnel of the situation.
The navigator, flight mechanic, and co-pilot were evacuated to Pleiku and instructed to check in with the flight surgeon and the aircraft commander and two raido operators returned to the aircraft with a combat photographer to obtain photographs of the aircraft and to double check the removal of all classified. All classified was either removed or destroyed. Returning to Dac To, the pilot and radio operators proceeded to Pleiku and from there to Nha Trang.
A crew from Pleiku were enroute to Ben Het to remove the X & Y equipment.
I would particularly like to acknowledge the performance of my crew. The navigator with his background and vast experience provided an immediate fix and a recovery heading. He provided the imformation on which enabled the pilot to effect a successful recovery. He plotted the course and distance and remained at his station giving constant fixes until the pilot had the field in sight. The other four men in the crew, all young men in their early twenties, performed all duties quickly and efficiently in a highly commendable manner.
Of special note was the performance of the rescue aircraft. They came up quickly and provided back-up information in a professional and quietly effective manner. Their presence porvided the necessary morale factor to relieve much of the pressure of a potentially disastrous situation.
For Photos of the crew and the aircraft click HERE