Hardly Routine Flight: Shemya to Adak to Kodiak -1966


Contributed by Carl Sandlin

“And there I was…”  flying aboard LN-6 with VP-45 Crew 6.  The PPC was LCDR Peckham and he was in the left seat as we departed Shemya, Alaska after a two night stay-over.  I was the FE.  This flight just happened to be Crew 6’s last scheduled operational mission on the 1965-1966 Adak deployment, not sure of the date, but would place it about January 5th, 1966. 

Back in the mid-1960’s all squadron fight crews rotated through Shemya to stand “the ready alert.”  Typically a crew would depart Adak and fly an operational mission enroute to Shemya. The first night was a night of leisure.  The second day the flight crew had the alert duty for 24 hours, and the third day, if we didn’t launch on a ready mission, was a patrol back to Adak. 

We had finished our Ready Alert rotation and departed Shemya for our routine patrol back to Adak.  Our Op Area was west of Shemya and we conducted surveillance over the Bearing Sea.  I don't recall our altitude or how close we were to Russia, but all of a sudden the TC, in an anxious voice, reported three aircraft had launched from an airbase in Russia. (The U.S/Russia International Boundary is only two hundred miles from Shemya). 

LCDR Peckham immediately turned away from the potentially intercepting aircraft and descended the aircraft to approximately two hundred feet above the cold choppy sea.  I reflected that I really had no desire to go swimming that day.  Additionally, the PPC asked for, and immediately got, full power on those four big Allison engines.  We remained at that speed and heading until we were confident we had not been picked up by Russian radar and had put enough distance between us to feel safe.  Afterwards, when the pucker factor eased and everything else settled down, we continued our mission flight profile back to Adak. 

Upon arrival to Adak it was snowing (what a surprise), with several inches accumulated on the runway.  I can’t recall why we landed in that direction but I remember the wind was blowing from the left rear of the aircraft at about 35 to 40 knots.  Maybe it was more of a wild left crosswind….not sure.  Anyway, after being seriously blown to the right side of the runway after touchdown, we aborted the first two landings.  LCDR Peckham decided to give it one more shot.  Being in the Flight Engineer seat, it was easy for me to see our tire tracks from the previous attempts running to the right side of the runway, but this last attempt was even more chilling.  The aircraft was actually blown off the runway and we ran over a few of the runway lights. 

The PPC decided that was it and he climbed out to continue to our alternate airfield; which was Kodiak - about twelve hundred miles and four hours away.  After an uneventful landing there, we inspected the aircraft and discovered a tire had been damaged.  The next day, one of our crew’s from Adak delivered us a spare wheel and tire and, after repairs, we returned to Adak.

That was a lot of action during a very long day.  I think I recall it so well because it was our last flight on that deployment.

Submitted by: Carl Sandlin, ADRC – FE, LN-6 (BUNO 151360)

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