Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bird Sighting

This bird looks vaguely familiar. Anyone recognize it?


World Wanderer said...

Is that the presidential aircraft (C-54 is it?)of Harry S Truman? I think it was originally intended for President FDR, but Truman got the most use ou of it.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the plane assigned to the Admiral at TDC. We would occasionally catch a ride on it to Hong Kong to shop.

Sure beat paying commercial airfare.

Jim Sartor

Don said...

You're both correct.

The aircraft that Truman inherited from Roosevelt was a C-54. It was replaced later by a DC-6.

But the aircraft shown in this photo is the C-118 that was the command aircraft at USTDC. Everyone referred to it as the admiral's aircraft, but Navy regulations prohibited the assignment of any aircraft to any specific officer. Of course as a practical matter....

I knew a guy (Don...somebody) who was one of the aircrew members for the TDC aircraft during 1973-74. He picked up a few things for me in Hong Kong and elsewhere on a couple of his trips.

As you said, Jim, people used to catch rides on the TDC aircraft when it was bound for various places, especially Hong Kong.

Anonymous said...

Yep, that looks very much like the TDC command aircraft. I flew on it to Hong Kong many times between 1975 and 1978. HK was an on-call area for my office and, since official travelers had priority, we routinely had a pair of seats reserved on each monthly flight. The plane flew to other places in the region but HK was the most popular destination for most folks. The shopping trips Jim refers to were known as the Environmental and Morale Leave Program (EML) and all military personnel on Taiwan were permitted to sign up for one HK trip -- with spouse -- during their tour. It was a nice bennie, but I never understood how folks who had a great assignment like Taipei needed to fly to HK to improve their morale! The TDC command pilot during that time was a Lt Cmdr named Doug Wickman -- a terrific pilot, as he proved occasionally during crosswind landings at Kai Tak.
Unfortunately the TDC bird met an ignominious end, probably in 1977. I was sitting in the restaurant in the terminal at Sung Shan Airport when I looked out the window in time to see the aircraft being towed, nose-down on a cart of some sort, back toward its hangar. It turned out there was a pin of some sort in the nose gear that was removed on the ground so the plane could be towed around. It was supposed to be re-inserted before takeoff so the gear would respond to the pilot's controls, but some Navy crewman forgot to put the pin back in. As it gained speed for takeoff, the nose wheel began to pinwheel until it sheared off and dumped the nose on the tarmac. All four props hit the ground and some of the tips sheared off, one slicing through the cockpit just behind Wickman's left ear. The Navy eventually decided it would cost too much to repair the aircraft, and that was that.
TDC went without a command aircraft for many months before finally inheriting a gooney bird declared excess by one of the Naval air bases in Japan. It was a poor substitute for the original, small and very slow. I flew it once to HK but most of my trips after the loss of the C-118 were by commercial air. It was a much nicer way to fly, but not nearly so kind to our TDY budget.

Ted ETR2 said...

Ya, I flew on it to Guam or Okinawa to check on some electronics equipment when I was at TDC between 68-70.
Ted ETR2

Anonymous said...

Amazing! Here we were, living smack dab in the middle of the largest collection of "Stuff" makers in the world and we got on an airplane, flew many miles just to collect more "Stuff"!!

But boy howdy, those were really fun years and I wish we could do them over again!!!

Jim Sartor

Rob Thonmpson said...

a run down memory lane,
I was just 9 Years old living in Taiwan when My father Ed Miller was a flight engineer for the blue Goose. He was one of 2 who were injured when the Propeller came off and sliced through the airplane cutting through his Bicep.
the other Crew member jumped off the wing and broke both his legs. from what I recall they were taking us Diplomats and their wifes someplace. regardless that was the last time the bird flew. When Carter broke dipolmatic ties with Taiwan we got the boot. I do remember many sunday Mornings that Dad and I went out to the Hanger and took the Goose out for some Fuel for Mondays Trip. I recall the names Therning, McQuiston (pilot) and of course Edward Miller (father- now retired in Pensacola Florida)