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Classic Wings Magazine WWII Naval Aviation Research Pacific Luftwaffe Resource Center
When Hollywood Ruled The Skies - Volumes 1 through 4 by Bruce Oriss


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:59 pm 
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I never worked on a C-97 in cold weather climates. However, I did a lot of work on C-124's in the cold.

One winter evening getting ready to eat dinner after a 10 hour work day on the flightline, I got a phone call at home (In a trailer park) from the maintenance officer to get back to the flightline. They had a C-124 ready to go with a rebuilt R4360 engine, oil tank and engine change tools already loaded in the cargo compartment. I got two of my mechanics aboard and we flew to Suffolk County airport out on Long Island, New York. My mission was to rescue a C-124 from Donaldson AFB, SC, that had been enroute from Goose Bay to Donaldson. The crew had shut down #2 engine for internal failure and #3 for an engine fire in the power section that had burned through the right side cowling.

We arrived about midnight in a blinding snow storm. The disabled C-124 was parked out in the boonies by itself, far away from the hangar area. We off loaded the tools, and engine in the snow and the C-124 that brought us there left for home.

I looked over the broke C-124 and considered the problems we were facing. It was cold, windy, dark still snowing and we were bone tired. We were on small base/airport that only had a small fighter operation. I believe it was Air Defense Command (95th FIS). We walked across the flightline in the snow until a base ops "bread wagon" came by and I had them take us to their transit quarters and we found bunks for the night.

We got up the next morning, ate at the chow hall and found a ride out to fix the C-124. It was still snowing. I got a wrecker from their motor pool and we took off the propeller. At the motor pool I found two 55 gallon drums to drain the oil into. Remember the C-124 has an 82.5 gallon oil tank for each engine. I couldn't find a drain hose. I found a long piece of "spagetti". It what we called the sheathing we used to insulate electrical wires. I'm not sure how cold it was but it took almost all day to drain the oil through the spagetti. It was still snowing and the wind started picking up. Fortunately, the C-124 was parked so the fuselage blocked the wind a little as we changed the #2 engine.

I found out the fire on #3 was from a broken exhaust stack on B-2 cylinder. I took the exhaust stacks and cowling off the failed #2 engine and installed them on #3. Remember This was on the windy side of the aircraft.

We had been told the night before that once we got the C-124 fixed, we would ride on it back to our home base at Dover.

It was dark by the time we finished loaded the old engine into the cargo compartment of the now fixed C-124. It was still snowing. I fired up the newly installed #2 engine and did a "burp" run. Then we cowled it up and I started #2 up again and did a run up check, idle speed and mixture check.

While I was at the panel doing the run-up, the Donaldson flight crew showed up in the cockpit. Fresh from their crew rest and a nice dinner in the club. They said, "Sarge, it's cold here in New York. Start up the other three engines , we want to get back home to South Carolina where it's warmer."

So, I fired up the other three engines and we taxiied out in the snow, took off, and they dropped my guys and me off at Dover. We finally got out of the snow and cold!


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:00 am 
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Thanks for the story Chief. Wow, sounds like it was a hell of a time!


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 10:38 am 
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Hi Viking 73,
Glad you liked it. I could tell a lot more. Probably should write a book about my eight years of C-124 adventures, both cold and hot.

By the way, the ADC outfit at Suffolk County, 95th FIS, had just transitioned from F-101's to the F-106 when we were there during that snow storm.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 4:48 pm 
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Yes Chief, write the stories down!!!!!! We want more!


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:33 pm 
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Thanks Chief, thats the kinda stuff I was looking for. So I suppose you had no shelter as you had to wrench in the snow storm, tarp???
Its bad enough working on something up high off the ground in warm weather, can imagine in the cold. You guys didn't even have a place to warm up at did ya? Gosh when its cold you can get maybe 10 minutes of work and then need a 30 minute warm up. How did ya do it???


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 7:49 pm 
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Nice story Cheif... I liked working out in the snow with just the quietness of the night and the snow coming down.... One time I was in billings montana changing the fuel control on a 727 JT-8 engine by myself. I was on a lift truck under the engine and I felt like I had something watching me .. I turned around and there was a coyote. He looked at me and I looked at him and we just kind of said hello to each other for a moment. It was nice to have some company and I talked to him for a while and then He wandered off and was waiting by the edge of the ramp to catch mice or rabits or antything else he would eat... I would get cold and I would go insde the plane and fire up the APU to get a little heat going. and then back outside.. Real nice untill Maintenance control would be calling me about every hour for status update... sometimes it would get so cold I couldn't hold the bolts so I had a pair of bob marley hemostats to grip small things.. Thank god for my artic snow suits and bunny boots..


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:00 am 
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In for more stories.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:03 pm 
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We didn't have a tarp or anything to protect us. The wind would have made it difficult to keep a tarp in place. We could go inside the aircraft cargo compartment to get out of the wind and snow. The C-124 was pretty big inside. However, this one did have a full load of cargo. We even had a hard time finding room to load the failed engine when we finished. We moved some of the lighter cargo to the rear, aft of the cargo elevator, lifted the old engine up inside on the elevator, and let it ride there on the way home.

We were young and foolish then. We knew that the quickest way we could get to go home from that place was to work right through and get the job done as soon as possible. I don't even remember stopping to eat except for that breakfast in their chow hall after our couple hours sleep shortly after we arrived the night before.

The C-124 engines were up pretty high as you mentioned. Our problem was that since that was a F106 base, we couldn't find a single maintenance stand that would reach. We "borrowed" an airstairs from in front of base operations. It was decorated with the base insignia and used to deplane VIP's. It would go up high enough to use for the engine change. It was big and cumbersome, difficult to move around in the snow from one side of the engine to the other. Fortunately it was dark when we left that evening and nobody from the base saw that it was drenched in oil.

I never used it but, we did have a hoist that would mount on top of the wing on three attach points behind each engine. We would carry it along on the "Operation Deep Freeze" missions. There hoist had a monorail that extended forward over the engine nacelle to lift off the propeller and engine. One version had a hand crank to operate the hoist. The other was powered by the cargo hoist inside the aircraft with one of it's cables coming out through the over wing exit door to the engine hoist.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:51 pm 
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Here is an example of our cold weather C-124 operations. This was taken in Fort Wainright AK during Operation Polar Strike in 1965. Brrr, it was cold. They told us it was 50 below zero.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 9:28 am 
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How many hours would it take to preflight and get enough heat to start engines?


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 8:52 pm 
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I would think you would get the heat on the engines right after landing.
Did they ever just keep them running for hours on end just to keep them at temp? If so what kinda fuel consumption? Also what viscosity oil did you guys use for the artic operations? Sure would like to see that attach to the wing hoist arrangement.
I bet you have some stories of behind the engine excursions while in flight.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2008 9:23 am 
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The engines were shut down, but before they were shut down the oil was diluted with avgas to ease starting. The avgas would evaporate after the engines were started on the next flight. Oil was 120 (60 weight). Heaters would be used to warm the engines before start-up. My question is how long it would take?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2008 2:13 pm 
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Even though we operated in some very cold weather, I never used heaters to pre heat the engines before start. I was always afraid of a fire. When we were out on the annual cold weather Army missions with a large group of aircraft, there were not enough heaters available anyway.
We usually used the heaters we had, to try to keep us warm as we worked.
If heaters were used to warm the engines, it would take four heaters. We used the BT-400 heaters with the long yellow flex hoses. They used 115/145 fuel.

The heater hoses were positioned up through the rear of the engine (through the firewall access door). These heaters produced very hot air and had a bad history of explosions and fires. (I could tell a story about that as well) It made me very nervous to use them. About 30 minutes and with a fire extinguisher standing by would do the job.

We used 50 weight oil back then. The best way to make sure your engines would start was to follow the oil dilution procedures before the engines wer shut down in the first place. I never had a problem getting those extremely reliable R-4360's started on a cold morning. I just used a lot of primer.

Yes "eng guy" I could tell a story about working on an engine in flight. [/u]


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2008 8:45 pm 
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Here is a photo of the C-124-C I was crew chief on. 53-0008. That is a BT-400 heater in the foreground.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2008 8:55 pm 
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Sorry :oops: I just reposted the wrong picture. Here is the correct one. This is the C-124-C that I was crew chief on 53-0008 That's the BT-400 heater in the foreground.


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