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In November 1972, the Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis ran aground during a violent storm in Alaska, puncturing its hull, with a temporary patch applied to stop the flooding. The following day, enroute back to Honolulu, another, more vicious, storm struck; Jarvis now struggled with over thirteen feet of water in their engine room and no power. The nearest ship that volunteered to assist was scheduled to arrive thirty minutes after the Jarvis officers estimated the ship would be destroyed on the rocky coastline. Wind gusts struck at seventy-knots, hail and snow was falling, and at one time, Jarvis hit a swell at a sixty-degree angle.
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October 26, 2019
Air assets contributing throughout this period consisted of Coast Guard helicopters and C-130 aircraft from the air stations at Barbers Point; Hawaii; Kodiak; and San Francisco. Other military assets included a Navy P-3 aircraft from Kodiak and an Air Force helicopter escorted by a refueling plane from Anchorage. Air Station Kodiak again provided a C-130 piloted by Chuck Hughes. He and his copilot John Cullens, were again pressed into service because of the shortage of qualified pilots. They flew to Los Angeles where their latest cargo included barrels of rust preservative, vital to the engine recovery of the Jarvis. Hughes, now coming down with a cold from the lack of sleep and continuous flying, was scheduled to arrive around midnight and advised of severe weather in the Kodiak area. Earlier, many planes had been diverted to Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage and Hughes planned to follow suit. However, due to the maintenance requirements that could only be completed in Kodiak, the Commanding Officer ordered Hughes to land at Kodiak “at all costs.” This presented severe challenges in that Barometer Mountain sits at the end of the primary runway and rises vertically to about 2500 feet above sea level. With hills on both sides of the approach, there is no go-around should problems arise on the touchdown. Against his better judgment, Hughes followed the orders.
As Hughes later recalled:
“The approach and landing was one of the most harrowing of my career. I knew I had to land close to the end of the runway in order to get stopped at the other end (fighting the 40 knot tailwind and the hydroplane effect of the driving rain on the runway). Right at the minimums of the instrument approach I saw the runway lights, pulled off the power and pointed the nose right toward the approach end of the runway. I literally planted the C-130 at the end and immediately used max reverse and max brakes to get stopped, using up about 3/4 of the runway in the process.”