USA Major Andrew Bringuel’s “Long” QT-2PC Mission (as told to Dale Ross Stith in Nov. 2005).
Location/Time: Republic of South Vietnam (RVN). Period: 1968
USA Major Bringuel (Andy) and others of the Prize Crew flew the experimental QT-2PC Aircraft in Phase II of the Joint Army Concept Team (ACTIV) and Navy Research and Development Unit-Vietnam (NRDU-V) Prize Crew Operational Evaluation (OpEval). The team was based at Long Thanh North (LTN), RVN.
Note: The unarmed Prize Crew Aircraft (QT-2PC), with no armor protection and minimum avionics, was designed to fly “low and slow”(nominally 60 to 70 KIAS at 1200’ AGL) above the (Viet Cong or North Vietnamese) enemy at night without being detected.
Without armor protection, its only protection was “low-observables” – now called “Stealth”.
Andy and his Airborne Observer (a.k.a. “backseater”, probably Lt. Karl Kiefer) were fragged for a mission to an area in IV Corps on tributary of Song Be River.
The aircrew found the enemy (lots of them), requested, and got a Fire Mission. They adjusted artillery on “bad guys” and “got ‘em”.
The lengthy process of obtaining approval, launching the fire mission, and engaging the targets required orbiting in the target vicinity. During that extended time, the crew’s attention was fixed on identifying the enemy, determining its position, and obtaining approval to engage the target.
Because the focus was on a relatively small area along the river and the darkness, the crew did not realize that a thick layer of fog had settled in between their position and LTN. Later, the local weather closed in on them and the ground was obscured by thick fog.
There was no visual contact with land in any direction.
To Return To Base (RTB), only a few passive navigation aids were available to Andy: A low-frequency (Bird Dog) Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), a Directional Gyro (DG), Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar guidance, and a (Whiskey Glass) Wet Compass.
- In that location, an ADF was unreliable-to-inoperative due to only a few homing stations.
- A DG, with its inherent precession and long 4+ hour missions was “iffy’.
- Radar guidance was generally unavailable because of slant range to the ground station.
So, only the compass was of value to them.
Andy requested a vector to LTN, but the Saigon ATC radar was unable to paint his QT-2PCII.
Later, a local (72nd ATC) radar found and identified the QT-2PCII. The controller offered a vector towards LTN, but not a Ground-Control-Approach (GCA), because it was beyond his system’s capabilities. Andy accepted!
During the long RTB, a "Low Fuel Warning" alerted Andy of that condition.
Later, the Fuel Gage indicated no fuel remaining (Gage = Empty)!
Note: The QT-2PC Aircraft was designed for only four-hour missions with nominal power settings, but that mission's total flight time was probably in the 6-hour range.
Still later, Andy found a “Sucker Hole” in the fog and spotted a “Blue” light. He immediately deployed spoilers and dove into the hole!
He then saw “Blue and White” lights and familiar buildings: He was, thankfully, lined up on the LTN Runway!
He touched down, closed spoilers, and taxied to hanger on fumes.
He credits the spoilers (dive brakes) in getting him down through the small “hole” in the fog.
Crew Chief (USA Sgt. Terry Durkin or USA Sgt. Danny Nelson) met and secured QT-2PCII and assisted aircrew egress. He also asked “why the longer than usual mission?”
The Crew Chief later advised that he refueled the aircraft with more gas than the QT-2PCII fuel tank capacity stated in the QT-2PCII Aircraft Operators Handbook (24 gallons)!
Writer’s note: Andy must have “milked” every last bit of energy out of the available fuel!