Jul 26, 2022


I am not a pilot - eyes far too bad to qualify for military flight school. In fact they were too bad to become a Lieutenant in the Marines - but the need for Lt's during Vietnam meant they were not too fussy. If you had eyes you could see.

But I have some interesting aviation stories - here is one.

Members of our Marine Reserve squadron took a trip on a C-119 Flying Boxcar like the one above in 1972. The purpose was to fly from Glenview Naval Air Station near Chicago to Norfolk, Virginia where we would practice getting on and off a model of a ship - run up and down nets strung from a mock up of the side of a ship - with all our combat gear on.

Our trip was in February. It was supposed to be warm in Norfolk. We were looking forward to catching some rays.

The crew gave us our brief before we boarded the plane. They told us it was a safe Korean vintage airplane but was also the only multi engine aircraft in the military that could not continue to fly if it lost an engine and we would have to bail out. 

They showed us how to put on our parachutes and instructed that on their command we would run off the plane and wait 5 seconds before pulling the ripcord. If the first cord did not work pull the cord harder, and then if it did not work pull the second cord harder.  We were not happy.

Off we went. The aircraft accelerated down the runway, slowly increasing speed.  At the end of the runway they slammed on the brakes and went back to the hangar. They explained that this aircraft did not have enough power to get off the ground so they would get another one.  So we took off our parachutes and waited for an hour for the better C-119.

We went through the brief again, putting our parachutes back on. We wondered how old these chutes were and who had packed them and did they still work? Wonder when the last time they were used?  Were they ever used?

Both times they shut the airplane door by wrapping a long leather strap to hold the door in. Thought that was interesting. It did not inspire confidence.

Off we went.  After a very long run this aircraft finally managed to get airborne.  After we got up in the air they took out a very long metal rod, stuck it out of a hole in the plane, and cranked up the front wheel.

It was a very long trip to Norfolk. They were having a severe snow squall in Norfolk.

The plane swung way out on approach. We could not see anything of course since there were no windows but things were falling down and we were swinging out from our side mounted seats. We bounced pretty hard, and then back down, bounce, back down. Our Commanding Officer was riding in the front and said that we almost crashed. Fortunately our Reserve pilot was an experienced test pilot instead of an accountant on his weekend reserve duty. 

The snow and wind was so bad they suspended the dry net training.  So the next day we flew back. Same parachute drill, tie up the door with a leather strap, and crank up the wheel with a long steel rod.

Last time I ever saw a C-119. A fine Marine Corps Reserve Drill Weekend.


Craig Hullinger MPHS Jan 66


When I was in the Alaska National Guard in 1974, we had to go to McClellan AFB near Sacramento for training. Fortunately we had a real aircraft to fly in from Anchorage to McCord AFB in Tacoma. But from Mccord we flew in a C-119 to McClellan. I remember the flight as being looong as the C119 cruised at about 165, and cold as the Flying Boxcar had no heat, but fortunately we did not have parachute drills that I remember.

The deluxe accommodations in the cargo hold did come with certain comforts, however. If you needed to relieve yourself there was a spot in the corner by a bulkhead where there was a tube that ran through the floor, emptying into space. No walls or anything, just you and the tube. I assume the plane was built before women were welcomed into the air force.

Will Hepburn

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