Fallen Classmates

Joseph Thomas Martin, panel 22E/15, KIA June 19, 1967

Michael Robert Miner, panel 25E/105, KIA September 4, 1967

Edward August Schultz, panel 42E/72, KIA March 4, 1968

Jon Michael Young, panel 48E/14, KIA April 4, 1968

B737-800 Full Motion Simulator

Thanks to my son, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly a full motion simulator at the United Airlines Flight Training Center in Denver in May, 2019. I flew to Denver to watch my new-hire son (after 15+ years in the regional airlines) receive his United Airlines Wings. After the ceremony, he took me on a tour of the United Airlines Campus. It was mighty impressive. Just by chance, we ran into one of my son’s long-time friends who is currently a sim instructor for the Boeing 737-800. He had a brief break in his training schedule, so invited us to fly the simulator for about 30 minutes. I got to do one takeoff and two landings. This video shows me in the left seat, making my first landing. The approach to landing began 5 miles out, while the video begins about 1 mile from the touch down zone (the skid-mark area) on runway 17R at DIA (Denver International Airport). A voice call-out begins at 50 feet above the runway and counts down in 10 foot increments from there. The approach speed was 151 knots (173 MPH).

Son and me in Boeing 737-800 Simulator
The Boeing 737-800 Full Motion Simulator
Kind of like driving a Mac truck; it does respond, but not quickly. Rocky Mountains in the background.

The Weather

Among soldiers, it was generally agreed that there were two types of weather in Vietnam: Hot and dry or hot and wet. I can’t argue with that. We either had mud trying to pull the boots off our feet, or dust getting into everything, including our noses.

The monsoon season was very impressive. It included torrential down pours and spectacular displays of lightning. I even saw St. Elmo’s Fire once.

Even though the heavy rains made us miserable at times, I think lightning concerned me more than anything. Our radar tower was a lightning rod, if there ever was one. Yeah, it was grounded, but there were still multiple cables snaking their way to our radar van.

Our radar was of little use during heavy rains. During those moments, we simply put the radar on automatic search and then pushed back from from the console (the lightning thing) and wrote letters home.

We had a very close encounter with a lightning strike while based at the ARVN Basic Combat Training Camp near Ben Soi. The ARVN trainees trained during the day and pulled for-real guard duty during the night (OJT – On the Job Training). We got hammered with monsoon one memorable night. Thunder and lightning everywhere. Then BOOM, a lightning bolt struck about 150 feet from our radar tower. As it turned out, the lightning bolt hit a guard firing position on the camp perimeter, electrocuting a trainee. There was a Vietnamese Funeral the next day. I still find it amazing that the lightning bolt didn’t hit our 84 foot radar tower close by. Fate takes endless turns.

Dodging Traffic

One memorable day my section leader and I were driving our shrapnel-riddled 3/4 ton truck back to our base camp near Cu Chi for resupply. About half way there we left the dirt road and pulled onto the asphalt main highway. It was 2-lane of sorts and varied widely in condition. There were relatively smooth parts plus plenty of potholes and bumps. Well, we soon found ourselves following a small Honda motorbike. Papa-san was driving and mama-san was riding side-saddle on the small, chrome luggage rack. Suddenly, the motorbike bucked up and down as it crossed a large bump in the highway, pitching mama-san onto the pavement. Our section leader was driving and fortunately, paying attention. He swerved almost instantly and narrowly avoided running over mama-san. Meanwhile, papa-san continued on as if nothing had happened, completely oblivious that his lady was missing. We managed to catch up and pull along side, frantically waving and pointing at the empty luggage rack. Papa-san finally figured out what happened and turned around. Mama-san was still on the roadway, but at least was sitting up. I’m sure she received some major road-rash. I’m also sure Papa-san’s rations got cut off.