Welcome! This is the place I write about Things I Notice in my daily walkabouts as well as what I might think about things in my world.

Winter & The C-117

Just a week or so ago our temperatures were close to 70 degrees. And then...kaboom. We get this storm. From the family perspective, this wasn't an awful storm (yet) and so I shouldn't complain. In fact, I haven't left the house since Friday afternoon when flake numero uno fell because I know that the first people to get out will be the folks with a newly acquired 4 wheel drive vehicles that want to prove their invincibility, and, I don't want to feel guilty as I pass them by in the ditch without stopping to help. So, I don't go out. Kelsey went to Starbucks yesterday because she had cabin fever. Digging out took most of my time Saturday and Sunday and a toll on my back. Such is life as one gets older. The shot below is taken from our driveway looking down the "sidewalk" of my neighbor's house. Today, the temps will rise well above freezing (for a while) which will bring a new set of challenges. But, life is still good.Which brings me to The C-117. The snow triggered a random thought (aren't they all) in my head about the year I lived in Iceland. (As I get older, I find that more random thoughts get triggered by the least little thing)  The random thought was that we didn't have much bad weather that year. In fact, the worst weather I experienced was when I went on a week long adventure to a very remote place on the southeast side of Iceland...Hofn. And, hence, the C-117. You see, the only practical way to get to Hofn was by air. The US Navy was kind enough to fly out there once a week, I don't remember which day, probably Thursday or Friday since the standard arrival day for Newbies in Keflavik was Wednesdays. For some reason that's lost in the fog of my brain, I went to visit Hofn for a week in late winter or early spring. I had seen the C-117 on the ramp but hadn't really appreciated what it was. I was welcomed by the Navy and climbed on board with some other poor souls and the loadmaster tied the door shut with a rope. Yep...a rope. It was a heavy rope, but still, a rope. And off we went into the Icelandic skies. Winter was waning and so there was light and we could see the clouds and occasionally the ground. We followed the shoreline, or about the shoreline, until we got Hofn on the radio. Because I was a pilot I felt sort of entitled to a cockpit orientation. The Navy jocks were friendly and let me stand in the back of the cockpit for the flight. The C-117 is the military version of the civilian DC-3 which is probably the oldest airplane on the planet! (not really, but I have another story about a DC-3 for another time)  There really wasn't much for avionics on the airplane, most of the gages on the dashboard were to keep the pilots abreast of the vast quantity of oil the engines were consuming every second. Have I mentioned that the airplane was noisy and cold? And breezy!Approach control at Hofn really wasn't approach control at all. In fact, I'm remembering back in 1977 there was NO REAL AIRPORT!!  Hofn was a radar intercept site that used WWII-era UPA-35 radar equipment to "introduce" some of our finest F-4C aircrews to Soviet T-95 bomber crews. But I digress, the point is, there was NO PRECISION radar approach or actually any kind of navigational aid at Hofn. Have I mentioned that Hofn was right next to a significantly high land mass? We were above the clouds (not much above) but we would have to go down through the muck, find the landing place and then land. On a field, a real field with grass, rocks and hopefully no livestock. So...I sez to the co-pilot, "How do you do this?" He says back, "Have a seat, strap in, and we'll show you." So, I got a headset, puckered up, and sat down. They talked to the Hofn Weapons controller who "ESTIMATED" the ceiling (I guess it was higher than the cliffside) and gave us the altimeter setting. The pilots then turned AWAY from the radar station and headed southwest over the (cold) North Atlantic. And began their descent. Hmmmm. We were still talking with Hofn who was watching us head away, and then we broke out of the clouds, the pilot happily turned back towards land. Did I mention that the visibility was probably legal but just!??  Did I mention that we were VERY close to the ocean; which would explain the salt streaks I'd seen on the windscreen.I knew that the UPA-35 would lose contact with us long before we made landfall because of the ground clutter so I was curious about how much time we'd have to avoid the cliff. But this was old hat to the aircrew...they certainly knew what they were doing. I saw the radar "golf balls" on the right (next to the cliff!!) and sort of a low spot in the terrain in front of us. Which is what we landed on. Today, of course, both Hofn the radar station and the C-117 are gone. There's still an Icelandic town named Hofn just a few miles from the obsidian black beach the radar site overlooked. So, that's my C-117 memory. I don't remember the ride back, probably too "normal."Snowbound Neighborhood 

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