Apollo 13 Mission Trip
We deployed from Patrick AFB on April 6 for Darwin, Australia with two ARIA Aircraft. Other ARIA aircraft were deployed to other locations around the Globe.
We arrived in Darwin on April 10, 1970. On April 11 the two ARIA aircraft flew a mission out of Darwin. When returning back to Darwin one of the aircraft engulfed a seagull in engine No 3. The seagull bent several compressor blades. I inspected the bent compressor blades and per the Tech Order (T.O.) the engine would have to be replaced. Of course we did not have an engine in Australia however we did have an engine staged at Hickham AFB, Hawaii. This plane also had a small fuel leak in one of the main tanks. After discussions with QC at Patrick AFB, Florida we received permission to fly to Hickham AFB to repair the fuel tank leak and change the engine.
We left Darwin at 1300 hr. on April 12 for Guam. At this time Apollo 13 was on time and on target with no problems. We RON (crew rest) in Guam and left on April 14 at 10:00 AM. headed for Hawaii. We arrived in Hawaii at 2140 on April 13 (we had crossed the international date line) to make repairs to the aircraft. Both ARIA aircraft flew together and I do not remember their tail numbers. The plane with the fuel tank leak and damage engine went into nose dock that night for fuel tank repairs. I remember getting up early the next morning to find it raining and the plane fuel tank repairs were finished. My job then was to change Engine no. 3 with the engine we had staged at Hickham AFB. I started this job by myself as nobody wanted to get wet. I remember the Flight Chief stopping by a couple of times asking how much longer and I replied that a little help would really speed things up. Several guys came and then left and then the Flight Chief came by and asked me what room I had stayed in that he would get my luggage and that as soon as I had finished replacing the engine we were leaving. All of a sudden several aircraft mechanics showed up and started helping by jacking the new engine into position. I connected the mounting nuts and bolt and the electrical connectors, hydraulic lines, fuel lines, etc. By this time our entire luggage was being thrown on board and all of the flight crew was standing around really to go. I remember having the pilot run the engine for a leak check and that was it. We did not have time to trim the engine.
It was then that I learned there was a problem on board Apollo 13 and they were going around the moon to be recovered near Fiji. We left for Fiji Island around 1305 that day. We crossed the International Date Line and arrived in Fiji around 1800 Fiji time. The next day I went out to Nandi airport to trim the new engine. I called the tower to find out where the trim pad was to have aircraft towed there. I was told to run the aircraft right where it was parked. Our exhaust was facing the airport perimeter fence and the public road that went around the outside of the perimeter fence. I explain that we were going to run military power (100% power). I remember the Bloke in the tower in his Australia accent saying to run the engine right there that the cars will stop when we run full power. So that is what I did. We ran full power and trimmed the engine right where we were parked. You should have seen all the cars that stopped going both directions and the one small pick up that dared to try and cross our exhaust. He got blown about and did not make it pass our exhaust until we went back to idle. With the engine trimmed and both aircraft checked out we were finished for the day.
The next day both ARIA aircraft took off for the recovery zone. We flew our mission for transmitting voice and telemetry data during Apollo 13 re-entry and splash down in the Pacific Ocean near Fiji. Our return trip home by way of Pago Pago, Hawaii and then nonstop to Patrick AFB was non eventful, i.e. routine. Our mission was originally planned to go to Darwin and then return home. However on each mission after you left Patrick AFB you could throw out those plans and wait for the new plans. I do not remember one trip going exactly as plan. There were always changes after we reached our first mission designation. You always packed clothes for more than the expected number of days.
I remember Apollo 7 or 8 when the Astronauts were thought to have been around somebody that had a cold. They were quarantine for three days. I was in Hawaii on this mission. We were only going to be in Hawaii for three days and then return home. A short trip. After the three days delay in launching our missions was re-configured. We spent 10 days in Hawaii on Waikiki Beach with only three days of clothes and money to live on.