Today we’ve got a treat for you adventure buffs! Lt. Col. Jim Reed, author and adventure man, wrote a guestpost for our blog today describing his greatest adventure.
Turning Final, A Life Complete recounts the life of retired Lt. Col. Jim Reed as he embraces the adventures life throws at him. Born into humble means during the Great Depression, Reed leads the reader through the highs and lows of a life well lived. Conquering land, air and sea, Jim is the model of perseverance as he overcomes seemingly impossible odds. Inspiring, educational, enlightening and entertaining, Turning Final is truly the story of a complete life.
On this particular mission, my team and I were airlifting the materials to build the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning line) across Turkey. The DEW Line was part of the radar system used to detect missile launches from Russia. We departed Adana, Turkey for Diyarbakir, a city nestled deep within the interior of Turkey, with two C‑119 aircraft. I was 3,000 pounds over the maximum allowable weight thanks to two cable rolls, one 6,000 pounds and the other 4,000 pounds, that had been loaded on board. The extra weight required us to carry extra fuel to get from Adana to Diyarbakir and back. We weren’t carrying enough fuel. To be safe (and legal), I should have downloaded the 4,000-pound roll of cable.
But, what the hell? I was invincible.
Although the airplane will fly at 3,000 pounds above the maximum allowable weight limitation on two engines, that limitation is based on the airplane being able to fly in the event one of the engines were to fail. En route, we elected to do a little low level flying. As I pulled up to about 1,500 feet to get over a rise ahead and let the other aircraft join up for a formation flight to Diyarbakir, I lost the scavenge pump in the right engine.
When I shut that engine down, I found, to my dismay, that because of the overweight situation, the airplane would not hold altitude. We were descending at about 100 feet per minute.
There wasn’t even a decent place to crash because of house-sized boulders everywhere. I saw a dried up riverbed (I later determined it to be a tributary to the Euphrates River). I reached the height similar to that of a telephone pole above the ground, dove into the riverbed with the hope of gaining more speed and the ability to climb.
Unfortunately, we didn’t pick up any additional speed. I was now below the banks of the riverbed on one engine. Here at least there were no large boulders to avoid; it was more suitable for a crash landing. The riverbed turned and, when we came around the bend, I was shocked to see a wall directly ahead.
We had flown into a dead end.
As we approached the wall I started to pull up, which would lose airspeed, and in the process guarantee that we would crash on top, regardless of what was there. As I started up, I told my copilot to stand by on the gear. It was then that I got the hare-brained idea to try a restart on the bad engine. Nine out of ten times with a Scavenge Pump failure, the main bearings seize and the engine freezes, making a restart impossible.
With no communication between the copilot and me (there was no time) I put all of the “important stuff” back on line and pulled out the feather button, not knowing what would happen. The engine turned over, fired up, and with zero oil quantity and zero oil pressure, I ran it at full throttle until it finally froze up.
But that poor engine got us to five hundred feet and 150 knots before it froze, and by then we were on a long down slope, similar to that coming in to Albuquerque from the west. We just followed the down slope to Diyarbakir, turning final at about 100 feet. The crew chief had a jug of booze on board and we emptied it before we left the airplane.
They changed both engines on that bird because we had exceeded the maximum time at military (maximum) power on the good engine. Maximum time at military power, as I recall, was two minutes, and we ran the good engine wide open for about 45 minutes. For about ten years afterwards, every time I tried to relate this story to someone, I’d start to shake and could not continue.
That is my greatest adventure. My scariest, most exhilarating, mortifying, humbling and triumphant adventure.