Earl Huddleston: The Pearl of the Arctic

A tribute to the worlds foremost authority on C-130 D aircraft.


It didn't take long after meeting Earl for me to realize I was in the presence of greatness. I probably first saw him in action in the control tower at Elmendorf on an occasion when Tom Crawford was on board wheel bird 489 and the rollers wouldn't come down. Had there not been a shortage of fuel on board the aircraft, I'm sure that Earl could have talked them through a procedure to lower the gear.

I was in the 21st then as a C-118 pilot and as an added duty, a maintenance officer. I remember the day some eight or nine months later when Colonel Carson, the Director of Material asked me if I would mind temporarily going down to the C-130 outfit as a problem, the nature of which I can not remember, had arisen creating a shortage of maintenance officers. I enjoy a challenge, so naturally I said yes. The two weeks turned into two of the most memorable years of my life.

That was when I began to understand what an extraordinary person Earl Huddleston is. Our maintenance personnel were generally fresh out of technical school at Chanute and Earl was the person relied upon to transform them into competent C-130D maintenance people through classroom training and hands-on maintaining.

Earl and Sarah Huddleston

That was only the tip of the iceberg (This is being written in a Titanic year) of Earl's value to the 17th TAS. He was a giant of an eraser when called upon to correct the problems encountered on the Greenland icecap. When Sid Marcus experienced a mishap guess who was sent to get 492 back in the air. You've got it, it was Earl along with some dedicated maintenance men who with hard work and a lot of Yankee ingenuity (sorry about that Earl, the "Yankee" that is). Can you imagine how you would go about reinstalling a landing gear with ski if you were working in a hangar. Now try to imagine how you might accomplish this feat outside at 7,000-foot elevation on the Greenland icecap. Now you might want to add an engine change as well as repair the horizontal stabilizer that was damaged by a passing gear and ski assembly.

I don't have the date in October that the mishap occurred, but I do know on or about 4 November we (Dave Wike, Charlie Portis, Hershal Jackson, Earl Huddleston and I) departed Sondestrom, gear down and chained securely in place, for Goose Bay, McGuire AFB and Birmingham, Alabama for depot repair of the aircraft.

On May27th Tom Lewin and crew experienced their moments of "stark terror" and guess who was sent to Sondy to pick up the pieces. You've got it, Earl the Pearl. I flew my last maintenance flight test, in fact my last Air Force flight on Memorial Day 1969, as I was about to depart for a much warmer clime. I recall being at the Passenger Terminal about the third of June and heard that 490 was back at the Dye site. I boarded an Alaska Airline 727 knowing Earl had somehow done it again.

I can only assume that 495 was no longer needed when it experienced its hard landing because they didn't send Earl to bring it back

At the reunion, I can recall looking up and thinking somehow I had experienced a 30-year time warp as there were Earl and his bride Sarah unchanged by three decades. Please accept my thanks Earl for your being an incomparable asset to the 17th TAS maintenance effort.

Jim McKenzie

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