Home Page     Schedule    Fees   Contact us     Private Smoke Schools     Other links to information about our training

Smoke School Stories


.I was stationed at Altus for 6 years from 1972 to 1978. This included the last few years of the Vietnam War. At first I worked in Air Crew Life Support where I issued survival equipment like parachutes and rubber exposure suits for protection from hypothermia if you bailed out in cold water. I also taught life support to keep you alive if you crashed. Then I worked for a while in Base Operations, assisting pilots in preparing flight plans and providing them with whatever else they needed. Sergeant is a Latin word meaning to serve and that is exactly what I did.  Since we were open all night we also manned the base hotline phone for complaints. In 1976 I finally got a good job where I could learn some skills for the future. I started working in Environmental Engineering and Environmental Health. I have been working in the environmental business ever since.


Altus was a training base for SAC KC 135 Tankers for in-flight refuels, and MAC cargo planes of two types- C-141 and C-5. Back then it was easy to catch a hop and take a free flight almost anywhere in the world. I was broke all of the time, but I did get to go to Iceland, Greenland, Rome New York, Dover Delaware, and Toucan Arizona.


The C5 Cargo planes that I worked on at Altus AFB were the largest planes in the world. The Air Force sent a C5, into Vietnam to evacuate a thousand people from the killing fields of the communist. Machine guns were popping and they were loading up the plane. The flight engineer lost track of the number of the people and the weight. The plane took off in a hurry and was too heavy to climb over the mountain and crashed, killing all souls on board.


In another C-5 incident when I worked in Base Operations, a pilot friend of mine developed hot brakes after several voided taxiís up to the runway. The tower finally allowed them to take off. Unknown to the crew, the hot brakes ignited a ruptured hydraulic line and caught it on fire. The fire alarm came on and the pilot sent the flight engineer downstairs to look into the cargo area. The entire cargo area was on fire. The pilot said it was 50 miles from home and they were on fire. The pilot looked down and saw a small crop-duster field in Clinton Sherman OK. He decided to take it down. In southwest Oklahoma all roads are exactly one mile apart. From the air it looks like a checkerboard. The plane came down and missed the end of the runway and kept on going past 3 barbed wire fence rows, 3 roads- 3 miles. When it stopped it just missed a barn. The farmer had milk cows and swore they never milked another drop. My commander was P Oed, had to pay about a million dollars for those cows.


The C5 is designed to break in half after impact. The cargo compartment separated from the cockpit. The pilot and crew came out of a window and used a rope to climb down like in a 2 story building. One crewmember fell and broke his leg and he was the only one hurt.


In anther incident about a week later, the Air Route Traffic control called me at Base Operations and asked if I had seen 4 Navy F-4s from Miramar NAS California. I said no. About the time I hung up the phone the control tower called and wondered where in the hell the three F-4s that just landed came from. They came in without permission to land. That was not long after Nixon landed Air Force One in Homestead FL and before he could get to his hotel, a Cuban MIG defected and landed next to Air Force One, and never was detected by radar and never contacted the control tower. So our control tower was very touchy by the F-4s. The pilots landed and the Security Police escorted the pilots to my office,


The pilots asked me if I had seen another F-4 that was flying next to them in formation. I said not but, Forth Worth is looking for them. About 2 hours later a Taxi stopped out in front of my office and a Navy Pilot came inside. He asked me where his 3 buddies were. I said in the hotel, where were you?


He told me this wild story. ďI was running out of gas. We had a flight plan to go into Albuquerque, but the weather deteriorated and we were diverted to Amarillo. Before we could land, the thunderstorm hit Amarillo, so we were diverted here. About 30 miles out, my gas gauge fell below the E mark and the alarms went off. It was cloudy so I was relying on instruments to take me down lower to find a road. When I cleared the clouds I was looking head-on eyeball to eyeball with the front of an 18 wheeler truck. After I landed, I looked back and there were black skid marks all over the 2-lane road.


I barely missed the truck and came on into a safe landing in the middle of the highway. It was desert and there was not a car or a house in sight. I stood up on the wing and waited. Finally the little old lady form Pasadena came by in an old but shiny black 1953 Ford. I stuck out my thumb as if to hitch hike. She smiled real big, waved and kept on going. Reluctantly I called my commander on the radio and asked him to send me a taxi. So here I am.Ē


Well reluctantly I had to call my commander on the hot line and he was hot. He was in my office in 5 minutes and was cussing out the pilot for running out of gas and leaving the plane in the highway. The commander ordered a helicopter to take him out to inspect the F-4 on the road. Along the way a duck crashed into the windshield of the helicopter and this scared him and made him hotter. The story reminds me of the story of the chicken shooter cannon. Then the commander ordered a bunch of security police to go out and guard the plane overnight.  After he came back to my office, he said he was going to take the F-4 apart, load it on a truck and ship it back to the Navy in California,. By not I was glad my shift was over and all of this would be behind me.


But it was not over, When I got back to work the next day, my commander and the Miramar Navy commander were both in my office arguing at full blast. It was like the Navy/ Air Force game all over again. The Navy won. We took a tanker truck out to the plane and filled her up with JP4 and away she went out into the western sunset.


Then there was the incident over the UFO. Read all about the UFO incident in this story.

Crossett Arkansas Ghost Light March 28, 2008 from George Artie Whitlow (age 59). Are they ghosts from the past or little green men in flying saucers?

In 1976 I transferred form Base Operations to Environmental. My most memorable event involved the skunk under the barracks. My boss, Captain Howard from the University of Florida asked me to investigate an odor complaint from a skunk under the barracks. I asked him what I should do if I found a skunk. He said shoot it. I asked with what, I donít carry a gun. He told me to take a cop with me and let him shoot it.

When the cop and I looked through a crawl hole under the 2 story barracks we saw the skunk but it was next to several natural gas lines and we were afraid to take a shot. I went back to the office and asked now what. Capt Howard told me to get 5 pounds of flour and cover the ground around each crawl hole and try to track where the skunk was going in under the building. Then tomorrow go set a trap for the skunk. The cop and I went back down there and we poured flour along each crawl hole.

When we went back the next afternoon, there were tracks where the skunk came out and he never went back in. I did some research and read where the skunks donít like the flour sticking to their paws.


The same thing is supposed to work on ants. Take a piece of chalk and draw a white line along a kitchen counter and the ants want cross the line. Try it and let me know if it works.


My most favorite experience with environmental in the Air Force was the Ralf Nader noise inspection. Read about that experience in this story. Ralph Nader C-5 Cargo Planes Noise House Trailers and Plane Crashes.


After I left the Air Force in 1983 and started working for Louisiana DEQ where my favorite incident was about an odor complaint. Chris Roberie, the boss answered the phone and just laughed. Then he told me to go north on Highway 61 out of Baton Rouge towards St Francesville to investigate an odor complaint. Our usual source of complaints in this area was about the paper mill. However, I checked the wind direction and it was not right for the paper mill.


The lady was about 70 and lived in an old singlewide trailer with holes in the floor, ceiling and walls. She asked me if I could smell it. I sniffed loudly and said that I could not smell anything. I said you must have smelled the paper mill but the winds have changed. She said no, that is not it, walk out the back door and you can smell it.


I walked out back and I could smell her septic tank. The vent was right next to the intake for her central air. I told her she smelled her septic tank. She said no, that is not it. Now try real hard and you can smell it. I sniffed and could only smell the septic tank. Finally I asked her what she smelled and she said radar.

In the Air Force at Eglin AFB Florida I conducted research on fighter plane radar. We took detectors and crisscrossed the path of the radar to determine how much radar the ground crews were exposed to. I got so that I could find the beam with my headache. But I never smelled radar.

I asked the lady what exactly what does radar smell like. She sniffed the air and said just like that. Then she told me the Russians were spying after her and had been for years.

I thought about it a few seconds and decided not to challenge her. Radar, I said is in another division, the Nuclear Division and that I worked in the Air Quality Division. I gave her the phone number for the Nuclear Division. Needless to say, the Nuclear Division was real happy with me.

All in a days work my friends, and that is the way it is.

It ain't over until the fat cat sings

 smoke school stories and family stories



Visible Emissionsns


Call us-


Contact us email,snail,phone

Add me to Whitlow Smoke School Email List

Pictures Photo Album



Certification Status, When am I due?

Recipe Cajun Fried Catfish

Recipe for Quick good Gumbo

Smoke School


 About Us

About Our Training

What to bring

Outside Links

Purchase a Ringelmann smoke chart

Request a Brochure

Private Custom-made On-site Smoke Schools

Home Page

smoke school stories and family stories

Discounts for first time attendees

Notary Services

Visible Emissions

Refer a Friend to Smoke School

Frequently Asked Questions

Employment Opportunities

Blue Bayou Days- The Summer of 61/ a novel by Uncle George Whitlow

Music Download

EPA Method 9 Visible Emissions Form

Instructions for Method 9 form

Your Comments about this website or smoke school

What people say about Whitlow Schools

T-shirts, candy, and other merchandise- shopping.