Another Fuel Story:
On a mission up North, one of the Ponies CH-3’s had blown a transmission oil line and had to be set down in the boonies. The crew was picked up by the other Pony and returned to Udorn. The next day an attempt to recover the downed Pony was planned. Hopefully it was so far from anything that the bad guys hadn’t found it. We took 2 or 3 (I don’t recall) Pony CH-3’s with maintenance troops and extra flight crew. We also took a bunch of armed Gomers to secure the site while repairs were being made.
Upon reaching the site, we flew around it a couple of times and didn’t draw any ground fire so the plan was to put the Gomers in and after they checked it out and set up security perimeter, we would put the maintenance people in. The Gomers were dropped on the ground and the Pony bird lifted off and flew off a short distance to draw any attention away from the LZ. We flew around for what seemed like a long time before radio contact was finally made with the Gomers to verify that it was safe for us to insert the maintenance troops. They had been sitting there waiting for us to come in. We quickly flew to the LZ to unload our guys. We again lifted off to decoy away from the site.
The maintenance guys estimated it would take less that an hour to repair the oil line, refill and start up to check it out. We flew around for what seemed like an eternity. With the flight from base to the site, the delay by the Gomers, and waiting for the repairs, our fuel was beginning to get pretty low. We would still have to fly to a refueling site some distance away. As the ’hour’ neared we radioed the ground troops and they still weren’t done yet. We finally figured the only way we could make it was to land to conserve fuel. We landed and throttled back to ground idle. We even shut one engine down which made us feel real antsy if the bad guys should show up. Finally, Finally, the oil line was repaired and we were all ready the ‘get outta’ Dodge”. We bee-lined for our refueling Lima Site and watched the old fuel gauges bottom out. When we reached the Lima site, I started a spiraling descent to be over the strip, just in case. Ah, we made it to the ground, whew! As we taxied in, the standard procedure was to fire up the APU to run the hydraulics etc after we shut down the engines. The APU ran for about 30 seconds and flamed out. For those of you not familiar with the H-3, the APU runs on fuel from the aft tank and is designed to automatically shut down if fuel is below a certain level so the engines still have fuel. I don’t know how much fuel we had but that was close enough to make the ole’ pucker string tight.