The war is over, but Carl Moesly's work with the Army isn't done. He has to fly over the Himalayas into China ... and there are still Japanese soldiers there.
Click here for the full story.
Operations sent for me and I soon found myself on the way from Okinawa to Tokyo with a load of passengers. From there we flew to Manila where we took
aboard a pilot from India who was familiar with the "Hump" (Himalayan Mountains) and had the necessary maps, radio frequencies, etc. We quickly took off for Kunming, China, and then to Tezgaon, India.
There seemed to be a big "push" for some reason, but that was not shared information.
Arriving at Tezgaon Airfield in India, just outside of Dacca, there was a four-day delay to get a local check ride to see if I could fly an airplane in their command. Sometimes the "procedures" really
seemed unfit for the occasion. I observed there being a lot of pilots around that were not flying. "What's the story?" I asked. "Oh, they have finished their required flying and will have to wait
awhile to get air transportation back to the Big PX." I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Procedures, again!
Life of (Relative) Luxury
It was not all bad there, with good food and service in a pleasant Officers Club. I also ran into a couple of classmates that were well-established and waiting for transportation. Bill had a "basha"
(thatched hut with solid concrete walls), very nice, and asked me to move in with him. He was a great companion. He showed me around and had me hire a servant, actually a young lad about eight years
old, very pleasant to have around. In the evening when the sun was setting, Kim would sing very well in a soft, melodious voice. In the morning as I climbed out of the mosquito netting, he would hold
out my pants so I could step in them and the same with the shirt. One thing he would not do and that was to rinse out a pair of socks, shirt or underwear. I got angry but Bill wised me up about the
cast system. He really could not wash items. It takes some getting used to the cast system.
This was the best living conditions I had experienced west of Honolulu. I was given a new co-pilot, radio operator and flight engineer. We did not require a navigator. On these short flights, with
radio beacons along the route, navigation was not a problem. I had heard a lot of horror stories about 100-mph winds, solid instrument flying, and heavy icing, coupled with extremely high-altitude
requirements to clear the mountains. The high winds and monsoon came at different times of the year to simplify things, plus we had good voice communications and navigational radio beacons to make it
The earlier crossings during the war had a different route farther north, which required a high altitude. The DC-3's and C-46s had engines that gave them a higher altitude capability than the R-2000-7
engines of the C-54s we flew.
Our first trip was from India to Luliang, China, carrying drums of gasoline. We probably burned as much fuel as we delivered. A horribly inefficient way of delivering fuel, but it was about the only
way. We sucked on oxygen masks most of the time, which inhibits conversation. So the pilot off duty would catch up on his reading while watching the clouds go by. It was easy to make a round trip
without laying over in China.
News From Home
I had pretty well kept my problems to myself about leaving California and Jeanne months before on a two-week flight across the Pacific. Now I was in India not knowing when I would return. The war was
over but I couldn't put in for a discharge because I was not at my home base. I still had not heard from Jeanne and the baby's due date had come and gone. Bill and I were standing on the banks of a
holy river watching the natives try to burn the bodies of the dead, but the soft rain and wet wood was making it difficult. "Congratulations," Bill said softly. He never spoke loudly. "Why, Bill?" I
asked. "On becoming a father," was his answer. I then asked, "How do you know?" "My wife received a birth announcement from Jeanne and enclosed it with a letter to me." Having heard for the first time
about my being a father, I continued to ask questions. "Hey, how about the details?" Bill replied, "I really do not remember any details but I might not have thrown the announcement out." We took a
fast jeep ride back to the basha, as I was eager to find out all the information I could about my new baby. Bill found the announcement: It was a boy, on target date, and every one was well. After
hearing the good news, it was a wet night at the bar in the "O" club in India. I was only six weeks late in finding out I was the father of a baby boy. Jeanne's letters, cables, wires and Red Cross
messages never did reach me. Jeanne had driven herself to the hospital. I so wished I had been there for her.
Most of my trips were routine but a few proved to be interesting. One was a trip to Karachi, across the vastness of India, to the shores of the Arabian Sea. It is a huge country, well diversified with
a lot of desert. We flew low around the Taj Mahal and agreed that the white marble could use a good cleaning. Flying low over some villages, farms and vast masses of humanity, I felt Kipling was
flying with us.
After a trip over the Himalayan Mountains into China, landing on a little-used strip, I picked up a U.S. Army man with his Chinese companion who had been on a reconnaissance run behind the Japanese
lines. There was a reward out for him by the Japanese troops, dead or alive, posted in the towns and villages. He did not know if everyone knew the war was over. He said a knife attack had recently
been made on him in a hotel room. He thought it was time to leave.
Another of our trips to Kunming required an overnight stay due to our return load not being ready. My crew thought it best to sleep in the airplane. The elevation was over 6000 feet with a large lake
bordering the airport. During the night, the temperature kept dropping, with a brisk wind blowing. With six blankets under me and six over, my teeth still chattered. Light machine-gun fire and rifle
fire with tracers started flying across the airport. We did not understand what was going on. We got out of the aircraft in case it went up in flames. That night I was colder than I have ever been,
even in Northern Greenland, the Canadian Artic or in Antarctica.
The next morning it was explained the shooting was between two Chinese generals, each trying to get the upper hand, perhaps politically, militarily or materially. The base was mostly deactivated, but
I was able to get my usual Chinese meals, four small chicken eggs for breakfast, six for lunch and eight for dinner. I never had stomach upsets on this restricted diet. General Chiang Kai-Shek wanted
to get his Nationalist troops to Shanghai before Mao got his communist troops there. Shanghai was on the Yangtze River, which flowed through the rice basket of China ... therefore a large factor in
the control of the rice supply. Several C-54's were dispatched to pick up Nationalist troops. I was ordered to pick up troops at either Luliyang or Luchow. China is one big mountainous country to
We arrived over the airport to pick up the troops only to find a solid undercast with a decent ceiling height below. The trouble was the airport was in a valley and a mountain peak or two was sticking
up through the cloud cover into the bright sunshine above the under cast of clouds. Our ADF was on vacation and would not point out the radio beacon at the airport. We had the tower operator give us a
long count on the radio and we would listen to the signal to get stronger or weaker. We thought we knew which peaks were sticking up through the clouds but we want to know for damn sure! The tower
could hear our engines but could not pin-point our location. We slowed the aircraft down and eased into the undercast. It was not a healthy way to do it, but sometimes you just had to earn your pay
and get the job done. It was only a couple of minutes of anxiety but we could all swear it was a lot longer. Needless to say, we were lucky again, but I was getting tired of having to be lucky to do
We loaded 80 Chinese troops, fully armed, when 50 would have been a normal load. We did have them unload their weapons before loading the plane. We did not have seats for all of them, but we pampered
them by putting half of a 50-gallon drum in the center of the floor to take care of their propensity for getting airsick. Away we went, on our way to Shanghai.
There Are Japanese Here?!
Landing at an abandoned Japanese airbase, a few miles from Shanghai, the crew and I secured the aircraft for the night and the co-pilot arranged for berths in an old Japanese barrack with cold water
and slit trenches in the latrine. Not having a mission the next day, the co-pilot and I started out for the city. The airport was located in a farming area, so he flagged down a charcoal burning truck
with two men in the cab and we stood up in the back. The charcoal burner put out enough gas for us to lope along about 15 miles an hour, as we headed down a narrow dirt road with ditches on each side
and bordered with wet, muddy fields.
I saw our Chinese troops ahead of us marching in column. Looking further up the road, I saw another column of men marching toward us. To my utter amazement, it was a Japanese company four abreast,
with the Japanese flag up front, men fully armed and behind the troops men were pulling a long field artillery piece. There had been some talk that the Japs would not give up the land they had
conquered and occupied in China and Manchuria, but they might try to set up a new Japanese government. The area was larger than the Japanese homeland and rich with raw material. I never expected them
to be in Shanghai, certainly not fully armed.
As the two columns approached one another, there did not seem to be enough room for them to pass on the narrow dirt road. I could see each column get into step and the soldiers stiffen up and shape
up. We rapped on the cab and pointed to the side of the road. We jumped off the truck into the ditch and held our breath. Other than the tramp of the feet, you could have heard a pin drop. They had
been killing each other for many years and I am sure that the rape of Nanking was in every one's memory as well as other atrocities. We were very still as the columns met, passing along side of each
other as they continued their march down the dirt road. I presume they were as tense as we were and knew what a historic event it was to turn over a major Chinese city to the victors.
Shanghai Bargains and Bears
Shanghai was a shopper's paradise, with fine silk brocades selling for just US$1 a yard. A 15th Century bamboo brush-holder with finely carved hunting scenes sits on my desk to this day, with the
complements of a Chinese gallery owner. Chinese paper currency was worthless. Shoeshine boys had stacks of it, amounting to millions of worthless Chinese dollars. There were no taxis about but we had
plenty of rickshaws to get about the city. I marveled at how the men pulling us could trot long distances with their strongly muscled legs, seemingly not to tire.
The Japanese were still in Shanghai and most were still armed. The number was reported as being about 280,000 troops. We returned to the airport in late evening light. In the barracks, we were to
sleep in a small room with double-decked bunks. Three feet of space separated the head of the bunk from the wall, which I promptly filled with my purchases. I slept lightly, concerned about petty
thieves and assassins. In the early hours I woke without moving a muscle and heard the crinkling of the paper on my packages. This went on for a while, with me wishing someone would turn on a light or
enter the room. After a while, I felt a hot breath on my cheek and I could no longer lie quietly; I was imagining all sorts of events taking place. I whipped the cover blanket over my head at whoever
was on top of my packages, and at the same time I hit the floor. In the dim light, to my great surprise, I saw a black bear standing on my packages and trying to untangle himself from the blanket. He
stood pretty damn tall! I darted into the large room with perhaps a hundred cots and men and called for C.Q. (change of quarters) and yelled "There is a bear in here!" Those that heard me just groaned
and rolled over. One voice said, "I wish I had a drink of that." Suddenly, there was a commotion as the bear loped through the cots for the door and another voice yelled, "My God, there is a bear!" I
was glad no one shot him or their bunkmates. I was told he was probably a tame dancing bear that had escaped his owner. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the end of my Bear Story.
Danger Isn't Past
We made trips to Luchow and Hangchow. Hangchow was supposed to be a scenic, large city, but to me it was a dark, deserted city, perhaps because of the war.
We finished hauling cargo over the Hump. One of the cargo loads consisted of dismantled Coca-Cola equipment to Dum-Dum airport, outside of Calcutta. We soon left India for Manila and Guam, having
completed our assigned task of over 30 trips over the Hump. Arriving in Guam, things appeared to be in chaos with the dismantling of the military. It was a mad house, with people trying to return on
anything that would fly or float, to the U.S.
I spent the night in a tent near the take-off end of the runway, watching all sorts of heavily laden, long-range aircraft taking off. We were enjoying a sundowner and the company of our peers. A B-17
lined up on the runway, put on full power, stuck on the runway for its full length, failed to lift off the end and then burst into flames. I knew that ended a lot of dreams. Someone made a mistake.
Fate was still the hunter.
[To be continued ...]
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More articles, stories and fiction about the joy of aviation are found in AVweb's Skywritings section.
When things start to go wrong, fly the airplane first. Don't let tunnel vision steer you down the wrong path.
Click here for the full story.
Every one of us remembers the old phrase, "Fly the airplane first." The reference is to our first job as pilots, which is to maintain safety of flight
and/or operation any time we are sitting in the left seat and the engine is turning. It means that no matter what happens, we continue to fly the airplane and not allow it to come into harm's way.
This becomes even more important when distraction and confusion sets in. That's what happened to the pilot of a Cirrus SR20 while flying an instrument approach into the Reid-Hillview Airport (KRHV)
near San Jose, Calif. Because of less-than-stellar work by ATC, he allowed himself to become distracted and lost sight of the "big" picture, resulting in a fatal accident. The situation was probably
exacerbated by the fact that the pilot didn't have a great deal of flying time and had just gotten his instrument rating.
As with most GA accidents, the lack of a cockpit voice recorder makes it almost impossible to deduce with absolute certainty what went on in the cockpit of this SR20. But as you begin to read about
the chain of events that led to the crash, it's not too difficult to draw a plausible picture of what the pilot was facing and how the events ultimately unfolded.
HRV, Not PAO
The story begins in the late afternoon of Jan. 23, 2003. The private pilot and aircraft owner departed the Napa County Airport (KAPC) at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time for KHRV on an IFR flight plan
that he had filed earlier. The 57-nm flight, almost directly south, would normally be a picturesque affair, taking one just east of San Francisco Bay. On this day, however, the weather was hardly
cooperative, with broken and overcast skies and reduced visibilities in the area.
At 4:27 p.m., the Cirrus was approximately abeam the Oakland International Airport and the controller issued an instruction for the pilot to proceed to a navigational fix near the Palo Alto Airport
To give you a frame of reference, Palo Alto is located about 16 nm northwest of KRHV. Sandwiched in between the two airports are San Jose International (KSJC) and Moffett Field. The clearance
obviously confused the pilot, so he queried the controller about the instruction. After several exchanges, it became apparent that the controller thought the Cirrus was on its way to KPAO, not KRHV.
With the misunderstanding resolved, the controller then asked the pilot from which fix he'd like to begin the approach to Reid-Hillview. The pilot responded by requesting vectors to "around OZNUM,"
the final approach fix (FAF) for the RNAV (GPS) approach to Runway 31R. The controller cleared the pilot to fly direct to OZNUM, a course that would take the pilot on a slight south-southeasterly
Instead, the Cirrus turned almost 90 degrees to the west, on a track that would take him directly towards the Palo Alto airport. The controller noticed the turn and asked the pilot if he was
proceeding direct to OZNUM, to which the pilot responded that he was "intercepting the course." The controller told the pilot to make a right turn to avoid San Jose traffic and to proceed directly to
OZNUM, which he told the pilot was "on the east side of Reid-Hillview."
The pilot acknowledged the transmission and made a right turn of approximately 270 degrees, which put him on a nearly southbound course, but still not directly to OZNUM. Only after about three miles
on that course did the aircraft turn and tracked direct to the fix. Radar showed the aircraft then flew overhead KRHV nearly on the reciprocal course for the approach, aligned with the fixes OZNUM and
ECYON, another GPS fix on the approach.
Let's pause the narrative here for a moment.
The SR20 was equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, including dual Garmin 430s and an ARNAV ICDS 2000 multi-function display. Although we don't know this for fact, we can reasonably assume that the
pilot was navigating by GPS using the Garmin 430s.
As capable as the Garmin 430 is, it shares a common flaw with other GPS receivers: It can be difficult to program, especially if you're fairly new to the system and the pressure is on. With that in
mind, it becomes easier to imagine what was transpiring in the cockpit at the time. The pilot receives clearance to a fix that's not in his flight plan; perhaps he puts it in the GPS and realizes it
takes him away from his route. He now questions the controller, a confusing exchange takes place and he is then given a revised clearance. All the while, he is pushing buttons and twisting knobs on
the Garmin, trying to make heads from tails with the information he's presented.
It would certainly explain the initial turn to KPAO and the three-mile lag after turning south prior to proceeding to OZNUM.
As the aircraft reached OZNUM, there was a change of frequencies. The new controller told investigators that he was aware of issues regarding the pilot's course because he overheard the other
controller correct the pilot as he was trying to make his way to OZNUM. The controller said he believed the pilot needed extra attention and he intended to provide it.
It was at this point that another link was added to this fatal chain of events. The pilot had been cleared to OZNUM, but had not received any further clearance after that. The first controller had
cleared the pilot to OZNUM with the expectation that the second controller would provide the pilot with radar vectors to the final approach course. However, by the time the pilot made contact with the
new controller, he was already past OZNUM and had turned inexplicably to the east.
Instead of giving the pilot a vector, the controller told him to turn towards ECYON. The controller later explained to investigators that the airplane was in a position coincident with a downturn leg
and that a turn to ECYON would be the same as a vector to final. While the instruction may have made sense to the controller, it was contradictory to ATC procedure. The Air Traffic Control Handbook
(FAA Order 7110.65) states that instrument approaches "shall commence at an initial
approach fix or an intermediate approach fix if there is not initial approach fix. Where adequate radar coverage exists, radar facilities may vector aircraft to the final approach course [by
assigning] headings that will permit final approach course interception on a track that does not exceed 30 degrees."
In this case, ECYON is neither an initial or intermediate approach fix. Plus, the turn towards ECYON would have resulted in an intercept angle of around 40 degrees.
The clearance certainly confused the pilot, who had to question the controller about the fix before acknowledging the clearance. The controller then instructed the pilot to descend to 4000 feet.
However, instead of making a right turn towards ECYON, the pilot, now flying east of the final approach course over rising terrain, began a turn to the left. The controller, noticing this, asked, "You
are going to make a right turn, right?" The pilot answered, "I was making a left turn, but I'll make a right turn now." The controller replied, "Make a right turn. Don't make a left turn."
Recorded radar indicated that before the aircraft began the turn that it was on a course toward ZUXOX, the initial approach fix. At that time OZNUM was directly behind the aircraft, and ECYON was in
its four o'clock position. It's possible that the pilot had selected the approach from his GPS database and that it was taking him toward the IAF.
What's more difficult to explain is why the pilot would turn to the left if he knew where he was in relation to the terrain. And turning to the left would be the long way around to get to ECYON. The
turn to the right was shorter.
The pilot made the right turn as instructed but briefly flew toward OZNUM. Then he made a slight left turn and joined the leg between ZUXOX and ECYON. Again, it's possible that with the approach
selected, the GPS prompted the pilot to join that portion of the approach. When the controller observed the aircraft on that leg, he issued the approach clearance to the pilot.
At this point, the controller handed of his duties to his relief, with the instruction that all the new controller had to do was issue the pilot a frequency change for the KRHV tower.
An otherwise simple task, this would add another link to the chain, perhaps the fatal one. When the new controller instructed the pilot to change to the RHV tower on frequency 118.6, he had
inadvertently given him the frequency for the Palo Alto tower. The pilot asked the controller if that was correct, and the controller insisted it was. The pilot switched over as instructed and spoke
to the Palo Alto Tower controller, who told him he was not on the correct frequency. The pilot said he would switch to 119.8 for the KRVH tower.
While the pilot was speaking with the Palo Alto tower controller, radar indicates that the aircraft began a turn to the right. At 4:52 p.m. the aircraft was approximately over the JOPAN waypoint, but
was now flying almost perpendicular to the course and heading for the high terrain. The pilot reported to the RHV tower that he was "descending from JOPAN, 2000 feet, 5.4 miles from the missed
approach point." Note on the approach chart that there is a ridge just east of JOPAN that's above 2000 feet.
Within a couple of seconds of the pilot making initial contact with the KRHV controller, the ARTS Minimum Safe Altitude Warning System provided a visual and audible alert at the RHV tower and the
Northern California Terminal Approach Control. The controller cleared the pilot to land, then said, "Low altitude alert, check your altitude immediately." The radar indicated that the aircraft was
heading toward higher terrain. About 30 seconds later the controller informed the pilot that he appeared to be off course, but the pilot's response was not intelligible. There were no more
transmissions from the aircraft.
Point Of Impact
The aircraft collided with power lines and then the surface at the bottom of a ravine in the mountainous area 6.7 miles southeast of the Reid-Hillview Airport. The pilot, the sole occupant of the
aircraft, was killed in the crash.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine-land and instruments. He also held a valid third-class medical certificate. His logbook indicated that he had 460.7 total
flight hours, 362.4 of which were dual received. He had logged 150.3 hours of IFR time, 10.7 of which were in actual conditions. He had 334 hours in the Cirrus and 84.4 hours in the 90 days preceding
the accident. He had completed and passed his instrument checkride just 17 days before the accident occurred.
The weather at KRHV was reported as ceilings at 1200 feet broken, overcast skies at 8000 feet, visibility of four miles and winds from 280 degrees at 12 kts. The temperature/dew point was 60/59
degrees Fahrenheit and the altimeter was reported as 30.24.
The NTSB blamed the accident on the pilot's failure to maintain course for the published approach procedure due to his diverted attention caused by the erroneous frequency assignment provided by ATC.
They also attributed the non-standard ATC clearances used to get the pilot established on the final approach course, leading to confusion and likely task overload associated with the repeated
reprogramming of the GPS receiver.
While most of the pilot's flying time was in the Cirrus SR20, most of it was with a flight instructor present. In fact, having received his instrument rating only 17 days earlier, this may have been
his first solo flight in actual instrument conditions. The accident report did not comment on that aspect.
Investigators interviewed the designated examiner who issued the pilot his instrument rating. He said that the pilot was detail oriented and was very knowledgeable about the aircraft he was flying.
But did the pilot understand how to fully utilize this equipment? Maybe he never had the opportunity during his training to reprogram a flight plan in mid-flight, or if he did, it was with the help of
an instructor. It would appear that his workload was high as he tried to fly the aircraft and program the Garmins and that may have led to a lack of positional awareness throughout most of the
There is no doubt that there was confusion in the cockpit of the Cirrus that afternoon. How much of the confusion was caused by the controller's mistaken frequency change, we'll never know.
The NTSB determined another factor in this accident was the failure of ATC to provide the pilot with a timely and effective safety alert concerning his deviation from the proper course. It was
influenced in part by the features of the radar display at both facilities, which made the deviation more difficult to detect, and the nature of radar as a secondary tool for a VFR tower controller.
How can you avoid the situation in which this pilot found himself? First, do not depend on equipment that you don't know how to use properly during IFR flight. Make certain that you are familiar with
every piece of avionics gear that is installed in the airplane you fly. And don't fly an airplane that you have not flown before under IMC conditions until you know how to use the gear. All the new
avionics gear is great to fly with, but there is a learning curve with each installation.
Any time a controller's instruction or intention is not clear ask him or her to clarify it. And be aware of your position relative to the final approach course, the airport and rising terrain. When in
doubt, tell the controller you'd like to start from scratch, by either getting vectors for the final approach course or a clearance to an initial approach fix for a full approach. Trying to figure out
where you are in the middle of an approach is a sure recipe for disaster.
Remember to fly the airplane first at all times. Keep it under control and on course while handling other issues or problems after that. If you don't do that, you are essentially giving up control of
the airplane to Mr. Murphy, who is no friend to safe flight.
More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about IFR flying including accident reports like this
one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.