In an earlier Tidbit, I wrote about experiencing typhoons while on the ground. This Tidbit is about what happens when evacuating airplanes as a typhoon approaches.
Tropical storms are watched closely, and as they develop, their courses are forecast. Aircrews at bases in the expected path are alerted for possible evacuation. When typhoons do hit, aircrews are tasked with getting the planes out of danger. Often enough this occurs during particularly rough weather. Since evacuations are costly, orders to leave are usually delayed until the last possible moment in hopes that the typhoon will bypass the base.
My first typhoon evacuation occurred just like that, at the last possible minute. In looking back, it might have been a case of poor forecasting, or perhaps it was some ‘phoon approaching more rapidly than expected. Regardless, a group of us were in our favorite watering hole in Fussa-machi having a good ole time, when in burst two NCOs from our unit saying that crews were needed for evacuating all our birds.
I jumped at the chance. Within an hour, after hurriedly packing an overnight bag and changing into flight gear, we were wheels-up and headed away from Japan to Korea. The climb-out from Yokota Air Base was so turbulent that another guy and I spent a lot of time in the latrine involuntarily ridding ourselves of undigested beer.
We landed at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea to discover that we were very late – too late to get decent quarters. Out of some unknown base storage facility came threadbare blankets and musty pillows for rickety cots that were neatly arranged in rows on the basketball court of the base gym. We were told to not wear our jump boots on the nicely polished wooden floor, but no one thought to take us to the chow hall for “midnight breakfast,” a meal intended for late-night workers. It all combined to make for a hungry, noisy, and totally uncomfortable night.
Years later, when I was at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, another typhoon approached while we were flying a mission. As a result, we were instructed to not return home. Instead, we had to refuel inflight to make the additional distance to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I was the Airborne Mission Supervisor and I had to be prepared for such contingencies. Part of my preparations included carrying enough cash to handle unforeseen expenses.
When we landed, and after security arrangements had been accomplished and the post mission debriefing was over, the crew met at a well-known local bar where I spent some of my emergency funds on an unforeseen expense – beer for the crew. After a few hours of that, everyone was quite happy about not having gone home. The bar tab, as I recall, came to less than $30 for perhaps 18 guys drinking that evening. San Miguel beer in the P.I. was cheap – probably cheaper than clean water.
I didn’t have a hangover for the flight back home the next day, but my gut was in horrible shape. I later heard that local San Miguel was not pasteurized at that time, so I thought that I had downed a bad beer or two. That ruined my taste for San Miguel – but I was not so foolish as to let that affect my appreciation of other beers. After all, a person has to be reasonable, don’t you agree?