These Skis Don't Have Brakes

Ah, I remember it well, taking off from Sondy, gear down, skis up and off to DYE two or three, I don't remember which. It was a beautiful day, and I was a seasoned pilot with 7,000 hours total time and around 4,000 hours in the various C-130 models. I was feeling confident since I had already completed my wheels check-out in the D model.

The airborne radar approach to the site was good. I looked up to see the red markers in front of me and began to set up for my first ski landing. The touchdown was storybook, slightly nose high with the tail end of the skis making contact first. I let the nose drop and eased all four engines into reverse. Immediately, we were engulfed in the inevitable cloud of snow. Following procedure, I put the throttles in ground idle, but we were still moving along at a good pace (around 35 knots), and I unthinkingly did what came naturally and "swoosh," the 3000 psi hydraulic system gave away my booboo. At that point the young captain IP said, "That'll be a case of beer, 'cause there ain't no brakes on those skis!"

Well, all went well until take off. He briefed me about how difficult it was to break the nose ski away from the snow, and I kind of got the picture as we tried to begin our takeoff "slide." But, I wasn't prepared for the next sequence, following the IP's instructions. I gave a pretty good tug on the yoke and very little happened. I guess I just extended the nose strut. "Damnit, Colonel, I said PULL." So, I proceeded to give it one hell of a tug. Even then, it just barely lifted the nose up. After getting off the snow and completing two more takeoffs and landings just like the first one and without the IP cursing, plus an additional open snow landing, I was a fully qualified D pilot. I wasn't too proud of the open snow landing in a white out, but the IP still told me "For an old fart, you fly good". This should bring back memories to all. (Jerry Baird, Firebird Pilot, 17th TAS Commander - 1970 to 1972)