Jerry Fleming and I were transferred from the Helicopter School at Stead to Goose Bay in February 1959. As we landed at Goose with 15 foot high snowbanks surrounding the taxiways and ramp, we looked at each and uttered “I think I’m going ot learn to hate this @#*king place”. Little did we know how true that would be. We both had been IP’s in H-21s at the School with about 1000 hours in the aircraft. The low time pilot graduates were usually the ones that had been assigned to Goose and there apparently had been a number of accidents and the Command wanted more experienced pilots to added to the force.
The 22nd HELIRON was comprised of some 30 pilots that flew a maximum of 3 aircraft a day. This was a terrible waste of manpower. You were lucky to get 15 hours a month. The BOQ was across the base from the Flight Line and even if you were not scheduled to fly you had to check in. The busses ran goofy schedules and it was real pain to get to Ops on time. The routine would be to sign in, then set by the windows and watch the SAC KC-135’s take-off while waiting a couple of hours for the mail to be posted. Then back to the “Q” to twile away the day. BORING!!
Working with the SAC commanders was another matter. All scheduled mission's paperwork had to be routed through at least 3 full colonels, Director of Ops, Director of Maintenance and Wing Commander, for their approval on the next day's flights. The weather had to be nearly perfect from "the Goose" to the site before we could launch. (with no reporting points for 100 miles) The SAC commanders didn’t understand how helicopters operate with low ceilings and visibility and we were lucky to get one trip a day with a rare "double". The Wing DO was real jewel, even the Wing Commander had nicknamed him “Col. Wedge”, you know, wedge, the simplest tool known to man. The squadron Duty Officer had the task of taking the “packages” for next day’s flights to get signed by the chiefs. The DO would frequently glance at them and throw them across the room and tell the Duty Officer to “go get these damn things right”. The Duty Officer would learn to pick them up, go outside for a smoke and come back with the “corrections” which the Colonel would then sign with no problem.
Good news. In October 1959, the 22nd's mission was contracted out to Okanagan Airways and soon we would be rotating stateside. The assigned pilots had to remain at Goose Bay for 30 days until it was assured that Okanagan could fulfill their commitment. Okanagan brought in three H-34 helicopters and two pilots and in a couple of weeks had hauled out the entire backlog. They sent one aircraft and one pilot home and accomplished the 22nd's entire re-supply mission with One aircraft and One pilot with a single backup H-34. Goes to show you what can really be accomplished by helicopter when you don’t have to mess with a bunch of SAC Colonels! Stiffwingers that don’t understand chopper operations and try to run them like a B-52 outfit.
Bad news. No new assignments. I had gone home for Christmas without an assignment and back to the Goose. No job, no aircraft to fly. How ridiculous can it get?
Finally one day in February, my roommate had reported to Personnel to get his new orders and called to tell me that my assignment was in. I was going back to Stead. This was about 2:30 p.m. By 4:30 p.m., I had collected my orders, had cleared every required office except Finance. By 5:30 p.m., I had gone to the BX and purchased a footlocker, had packed all my gear and checked with the KC-97 Tankers on their scheduled departure back to the states (they rotated every 2 weeks). Luckily they were departing in about 24 hours. The next morning I cleared Finance and was told that I would be scheduled to depart on a C-118 to McGuire AFB in about 4 days. I said, "Thank you very much" and made my way to Tanker Ops. I had spent enough wasted days at "the Goose". That afternoon I departed Goose Bay on my way to Little Rock, Arkansas, and on to home and family.