Bill Dudley, Fairchild-Hiller Flight Line Operations
Fairchild-Hiller Gunship Program, 1967-68
I was born on 12/24/1937 in Williamston, NC. I grew up there and graduated from Williamston High School in May 1954. I attended East Carolina University and graduated in 1963, Babcock School of Management, Wake Forest Univ. 1976. I entered the USAF on Jstoan 1955 in Raleigh, N.C. I dropped out of College, preferring to join the Air Force as opposed to being drafted and was commissioned through OCS.
I was employed with Fairchild-Hiller when the C-119G was selected for conversion to the AC-119G/K Gunship. I was the manager for Flight Line/Flight Operations for the Gunship Program. The program was scheduled to be a two year program to convert 52 C-119 Aircraft to gunships comprised of 26 Gs and 26 Ks. The program had a combat emergency DOD rating and Fairchild was asked to shave 6 months off the schedule. We were able to do this and began deliveries to the USAF within approximately 12 months after the program was awarded by working 24/7/365. One of my most memorable experiences during the gunship conversion program was being hit by a hurricane halfway through the program. We had all 52 aircraft on station and the hurricane hit during the middle of the night. We had everyone we could muster including office and clerical personnel, plant maintenance, security, management staff and any others that we could contact, helping to secure aircraft, move them to safe locations, and sandbag every aircraft that was exposed. None of the aircraft were flyable so we were unable to evacuate any to other bases. The hurricane hit around 4 am and lasted for approximately 6 hours before moving offshore. We suffered no damage to any of the aircraft and only incurred one day’s interruption to the schedule. Unlike members of the 17th, 18th, and 71st, our enemy was the elements, the clock and the calendar. We constantly battled these forces, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but ultimately coming out the winner by finishing the program on time and delivering a great fighting platform to the USAF that met the mission requirements for its role in SEA. There were many other challenges to complete this program, but in retrospect it was one of the most memorable programs I was involved with during my 25 years with Fairchild-Hiller.