Air-dropping from the Argosy
This is a brief description of the various methods of dropping supplies from the Argosy. I remember some of this but have relied on the references below to fill in the gaps in my memory.
H-packs had a minimum weight of 185 lbs they were manhandled on to wooden boards at the side doors. When the green light came on the board was tilted and the pack went overboard. The parachute was opened by static line. As the aircraft manouvered for another approach the air despatchers had to work hard to unlash and prepare for the next drop. They used a GQ chute.
SEAC (South East Asia Command) Packs
Similar to H-packs but with a minimum weight of 150 lbs, they used a Mark 1A chute.
1 Ton Packs
These packs were about 4 foot cubes, typically 4x50 gallon oil drums or stacks of ammunition boxes. The aircraft was fitted with roller conveyor and side guidance, the packs were loaded using a fork lift, up to 8 could be carried. When dropping them the air despatchers unlashed them and moved them to to threshold of the rear freight door and steadied them until the green light, when they were helped over the edge. Parachutes were deployed by static line.
SSP - Supply Stressed Platform
The stressed platforms were deployed by an extractor parachute which was in a quick release mechanism which was mounted to the rear of the top freight door, it was operated by the supply aimer. Ater the platform had deployed the main parachutes opened to control the drop. The photo shows an SSP with a load made up of ammunition boxes. The 21 ft extractor parachute which would pull the platform from the aircraft is lying to the left of the 66 ft parachutes.
MSP - Medium Stressed Platform
Width 84 inch, length 192 inch, maximum loaded weight 18,000lb. A typical load was a Land Rover and trailer. The Argosy could carry two. They could be dropped seperately or together in a "daisy chain".
HSP - Heavy Stressed Platform
Width 103 inch, length 297 inch, maximum loaded weight 35,000lb. Roger Annett states that the Argosy was designed to use these large platforms but that they never did.
NOTE Maximum weights refer to the carrying capacity of the platform and not the aircraft. Maximum freight capacity of the Argosy was 29,000lbs which would leave space for 11,000lbs of fuel giving a duration of 1.5 hours with holding reserves.
In Argosy days Air Despatchers were volunteers from the Royal Army Service Corps. Apart from despatching the loads they also prepared them, loaded them and lashed them down. Today the task is carried out by 47 (Air Despatch) Squadron, Royal Logistics Corps.
AQM - Air Quartermaster
The AQM was responsible for ensuring that the aircraft was correctly loaded and secured and that the weight and centre of gravity were within limits. During air dropping he supervised the air despatchers and remained on intercom to keep the captain informed of the progress of the air-drop. They are now called Air Loadmasters.
During air-dropping the navigator left the flight deck and took up position at the supply aimers window. Here he lay on a padded board laid over the forward entrance hatch. From this position he could operate the red/green light swich and the lever to operate the extractor chute release.
The pilot required a great deal of skill to fly an air-drop mission. (Read Roger Annett's book). This is what one aircrew member wrote about an MSP drop Dropping the platforms was I recall, at about 120 Knots with take-off flap, rear doors open (of course) and heaps of power, the Argosy would be in a nose high attitude and some pilots would raise their seats up a notch or two...... The aircraft would do a big lurch taildown as the huge C.G. shift occurred when the last of the platforms went past the C.G. point and more power would be applied at that moment and the stick shoved forward. Could be somewhat alarming and sometimes terrifying.....
Annett, Roger Drop Zone Borneo - The RAF Campaign 1963-65. Pen and Sword Books Ltd 2006. ISBN 1-84415-396-7 BUY THIS BOOK FROM AMAZON.CO.UK
The Air Despatch Association
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