Sunday, November 6, 2011


As I have mentioned before the helicopter I most liked to fly and new the very best was the CH-46 Sea Knight built by Boeing-Vertol in Morton, Pennsylvania.  You used to be able to see the Plant and Helicopters below you as you drove West on the Ben Franklin Bridge headed for Philly from New Jersey.

At HMX-1 we had four "46s".  There numbers were  MX-19, MX-20, MX-21 and MX-22   These were great aircraft that were flown on numerous missions from carrying Secret Service and support staff along with the Presidential birds.  We had a cool  squadron-made  VIP module we could roll in the back should we want to carry a small number in relative comfort.  The module had a couple of airline type seats, carpet and extra sound proofing.  The same aircraft were used for combat support on training missions for officers attending the Marine Officers Basic School at Quantico.  We also used these on testing equipment and technology in conjunction with the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River or the Navy Weapons Center at Dahlgren, Virginia.


When we flew these aircraft our call signs would vary depending on the current mission.
  • When flying in support of the White House or flying in the Washington area we were: NIGHTHAWK-19.
  • When flying in support of troops at Quantico we were called SHORTSTUFF- 20 by the "grunts on the ground.
  • When flying outside of the area on an FAA flight plan we would be known as MARINE HELO MX-21
What made it more interesting was the need  talk to the various units or organizations with whom we communicated on different radios and frequencies - all at the same time:
UHF  (Uniform) for the tower and Air Traffic Controllers,  FM  (Fox Mike) for the troops on the ground or other aircraft in your formation.  Fortunately we had ADF Radios so we could listen to good country radio stations all the time - as background!

The most memorable mission I flew in the CH-46, or in any aircraft for that matter, took place when the Prisoners of War were released from North Vietnam.  These men were flown from Hanoi to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.  From there the were flown to bases near their homes in the United States.  I was the aircraft commander waiting late at night at Andrews Air Force base for the return of a Navy Commander who had spent seven years in the Hanoi Hilton.  (I am so upset that I have lost my log books and my memory fails me on recalling his name.)  After the briefest welcome as he stepped off the Air Force jet,  he boarded our "46", MX-19. He shook our hands and we welcomed him home.  I recall that he was cold, having not an ounce of natural insulation left on his body, so I lent him my flight jacket.  With tears in my eyes I lifted off of the tarmac at Andrews and headed toward DC.  I called Washington Tower and requested clearance  for the helicopter route to Bethesda Naval Hospital.  I told them that Commander "Anderson" was on board, returning from 7 years in the Hanoi Hilton.  The response was:  "Nighthawk-19 you are cleared anywhere you want over Washington. Welcome the Commander home from all of  us in Washington Tower."  This was unprecedented in an area of numerous restricted areas and busy commercial traffic.  We gave our hero a beautiful flight right across Washington,  an unbelievable sight at night from a slow moving helo flying at 1000 feet.  If I was not choked up enough I was really in tears after we landed on the Bethesda Helo Pad.  He thanked us again,  returned my jacket and stepped off the bird into the arms of his wife and two young children - Home  at last -after seven years in Hell!....

More Tales of CH-46 Missions will follow in the days to come................ over.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this helo or one like it, take off today at Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix Az