Keeping a Mohawk Pilot Company
While in the air on the night of February 5th, 1972, we got a call from Paddy Control telling us he had an emergency working near Rach Gia. He asked if we could help out. Temporarily between missions, we told him we would be glad to.
An Army OV-1 Mohawk had been flying a reconnaissance mission near the western coast when one of his turboprop engines had failed. The crippled aircraft was heading toward Air Force Binh Thuy and was losing altitude. We turned to a heading to intercept him via radar vectors and contacted him on the frequency given to us by Paddy.
"Eavesdrop, three-nine, this is Dustoff seven-four," I radioed.
"Dustoff seven-four, it's good to hear your voice," he replied. It was a dark, lonely night over the U Minh forest. We were the only other aircraft around.
"Roger, Eavesdrop. We're headed your way. Thought we might tag along with you to Binh Thuy, if you have not objections."
"Objections, hell. It was getting kind of lonely out here, Dustoff. I'm down to about 6,000 feet and maintaining altitude, but they don't call these planes 'widow-makers' for nothing."
I knew how he felt. There had been a number of night accidents in Vietnam and most of the night flying, except for some special missions, had been eliminated. Our mission required us to be in the air nearly every night. Most of the time we were the only ones flying in all of the Delta. It was a lonely feeling and only the watchful eye of Paddy Control's radar kept it from being totally frightening. The Eavesdrop Mohawks, flying their surveillance missions were probably around, but we never heard them because they flew at high altitude and talked with the controllers on a different frequency.
Within a few minutes, we get a visual sighting of the OV-1's rotating beacon. We stayed in contact with him until he was on the ground at Air Force Binh Thuy. He would have done the same for us.
Update - 10/15/99
To Dustoff Seven-four
Just got back on the 131st all unit listing and saw your note about "Keeping A Mohawk Company"
Unless I miss my bet I am that Mohawk Pilot. I don't remember the specific day, but it was in Feb 72 and I was flying a mission that took me from Long Than (73SAC) base in a triangle route out over Laos and down over the U-Minh and then back to Long Than. I was at mission altitude of 10,000 feet and turning on my leg to the U-Minh when my right engine went out. I cleaned up the aircraft and according to how we were taught in flight school should have been able to maintain altitude with one engine.
For some reason not known this aircraft would not maintain the altitude. You said I was at 6,000 feet but I had in fact gone down to 3000 feet. I told my TO that if we went any lower than 3000 feet we would punch out. I called Binh Thuy and asked if they could send a Dustoff my way. Was I ever glad to hear your voice.
I made a safe landing, returning a couple days later to Long Than, and then later went on to fly for the 131st out of Marble Mountain, with missions off the coast of North Viet Nam
I don't remember saying thanks before, so left say thanks now.