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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Messages beneath "Old 66" helicopter

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Author Topic:   Messages beneath "Old 66" helicopter
ea757grrl
Member

Posts: 555
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 04-19-2007 09:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Through a rather odd set of circumstances, I had the good fortune to watch a few minutes of the Apollo 11 recovery network pool feed that I hadn't seen before. It shed some light on something I'd heard, but hadn't been able to confirm in detail, and I'm hoping maybe some of you know where something is that can help me.

The star of the recovery was "Old 66," the SH-3 from HS-4 that recovered the crews of Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13. I'd heard that, for each mission, a special message was applied to the bottom of the helicopter to welcome the Apollo crew back to Earth. During the recovery, pool reporter Ron Nessen (the same one that went on to work for Gerald Ford, and hosted "Saturday Night Live" once) mentioned that "Old 66" had the message "HAIL COLUMBIA" applied to its belly. He also mentioned that a couple nights before, he'd sneaked a look beneath the helicopter and saw that the message from Apollo 10 was still there: "HEY THERE CHARLIE BROWN" (or "HEY DERE CHARLIE BROWN" -- that's how he pronounced it, with the "d" sound).

Now my question: Do pictures exist -- or has anyone otherwise seen evidence -- of how this was applied to the helicopter, and how it looked? I've heard theories that it was done with tape (i.e., electrical tape), or that it was something somehow stuck on. I'd love to find pictures that show how this was done, and how it looked.

Also, does anyone know what the "messages" were for the other Apollo missions?

Obviousman
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Posts: 427
From: NSW, Australia
Registered: May 2005

posted 04-20-2007 03:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unsure if any photos exist, though such messages have been detailed in various autobiographies.

How they were applied? Depends. Something like "thousand mile an hour tape" might have been used... but then again, it may have been spray-painted on the fuselage.

Possibly related, you may or may not be aware of a time-honoured tradition of "zapping" aircraft. When aircraft visited 'away' bases, squadrons would often "zap" the aircraft with some type of insignia or message in spray-paint (to record their visit, and say 'this is OUR turf').

When aircraft go in for respray, the "zaps" are most often removed / painted over.

Perhaps the HS groundies spray-painted the messages on, keeping them there as a 'badge of honour' until the next respray?

Dwayne Day
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Posts: 532
From:
Registered: Feb 2004

posted 04-20-2007 09:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Possibly related, you may or may not be aware of a time-honoured tradition of "zapping" aircraft. When aircraft visited 'away' bases, squadrons would often "zap" the aircraft with some type of insignia or message in spray-paint (to record their visit, and say 'this is OUR turf').

Quite common with carrier aircraft during Vietnam. When a plane landed on a carrier on which it was not based, it would often get the name of the new carrier unceremoniously spray-painted on it. I've heard that in a few cases, when a plane stayed on the ship for a longer period of time, they acquired a lot of graffiti.

Dwayne Day
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Posts: 532
From:
Registered: Feb 2004

posted 04-20-2007 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't have an answer to the original question, but wanted to add a little story. In December I went aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego harbor. It is a beautiful museum ship, lovingly preserved, with many fine aircraft. Onboard is an SH-3 painted as the famous "66" aircraft from the Apollo recoveries. This prompted me to wonder if this was the actual aircraft.

Some websurfing revealed that it is NOT the original aircraft. The original actually was lost at sea. It sank off the coast back in the 1970s. However, a website claims that some divers have located the wreck and want to recover it.

I did some surfing and managed to get in contact with the Apollo era pilot of "66." He said that he is unaware of the wreck being located and he doesn't believe it. I have not followed up with the people who created the original website to see what information they have about the original aircraft.

I'm a bit of a naval buff and plan on visiting the Midway again next month and hopefully the USS Hornet Museum later this summer, which also has an SH-3 painted like "66."

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-20-2007 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dwayne Day:
Some websurfing revealed that it is NOT the original aircraft. The original actually was lost at sea.
This old thread started in 2000 and continued through 2004, discusses the potential for 66's location and recovery. The Yahoo group to which the thread links was last updated in September 2006, when the status of the effort was reported:
The effort lost much of its momenteum, for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, however, was an eyewitness account from the rescue crew stating that the helo 66 broke up on impact, and thus would be extremely difficult to pinpoint, and near impossible to salvage.

Dwayne Day
Member

Posts: 532
From:
Registered: Feb 2004

posted 04-20-2007 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for that info. I'm curious as to how "broken up" the aircraft would actually get, however. If she slid back and hit the water I imagine that the tail rotor shattered, then she would have spun over and the main rotor hit and smashed apart. With the possible exception of the tail breaking off, I cannot see how the main fuselage would have broken up. The fact that all four crewmembers made it out successfully (although the pilot later died of his injuries) indicates that the helo must not have sunk immediately.

Although the SH-3 had a boatlike hull and two sponsons on either side, the helo is not capable of landing on water. A big problem is that the heavy engines are above the fuselage and it will tip over as soon as there is no lift from the rotor. The sponsons might have allowed it to remain upright for a short period of time. I conversed with a former SH-3 pilot on the net and he pointed out one serious vulnerability for a water landing with that model--there was a big hole cut in the floor of the fuselage for lowering the dipping sonar, meaning that water would poor in as soon as it settled on the ocean.

That pilot also doubted the report that the helo was "pulled" back and down to the water by the dipping sonar cable. He said that it is more likely that the pilot lost altitude and control while in a hover and backed it into the water. He said that this was actually rather common for the SH-3 and he had done it himself.

moorouge
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Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 01-13-2013 01:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An old thread, but an answer.

Under the astronaut recovery helicopter for Apollo 10 and under a pair of large eyes were the words "HELLO DE'RE CHARLIE BROWN".

As far as is known, this was the only time such messages were applied to the recovery helicopters.

ea757grrl
Member

Posts: 555
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 01-13-2013 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Hello Dere Charlie Brown" was still painted on the bottom of "Old 66" up until a day or two before the Apollo 11 splashdown. It was pointed out to some of the HS-4 crewmen (IIRC, by NBC correspondent Ron Nessen, part of the TV pool aboard Hornet) that the reference to Apollo 10 was still there. The HS-4 guys then painted out the Apollo 10 message and replaced it with the words "Hail Columbia."

Nessen talked about this during the live broadcast of the Apollo 11 recovery. Additionally, I was able to verify some information about the messages and their application with "Hornet Plus Three" author Bob Fish, who double-checked the information for me with 66's co-pilot on the Apollo 11 recovery. (Edited to clarify the latter sentence.)

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