Lead Pilot In First U.S. Airdrop: ‘My Heart Skipped A Beat’ With PM-Yugoslavia
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Capt. Peter Schweyher, lead pilot in the first U.S. food drop for Bosnia, breathed a sigh of relief once his plane had released its load without being fired on.
″My heart kind of skipped a beat after we got (the) load clear,″ said Schweyher, still in his flight suit at a pre-dawn news conference. Hours earlier he led a trio of C-130 cargo planes that dropped more than 20,000 boxed meals and medical equipment to the needy in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Pilots of the big Hercules cargo planes flew from the Rhein-Main Air Base outside Frankfurt into potentially deadly airspace.
Serb fighters are known to have shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft machine guns and other weapons that U.S. military planners fear could be used against the slow-moving planes, which have few defenses.
″The only weapon we have against triple-A (anti-aircraft fire) is our eyeballs,″ Schweyher, of Albertson, N.Y., told reporters after the mission.
His navigator, Maj. Murrell ″Tip″ Stinnette of New Canaan, Conn., said crews have to balance flying high for safety with ″trying to stay down a little bit lower so that we can have a degree of accuracy″ with aid drops.
Schweyher said some ground fire was seen during the first drop but it wasn’t directed at the aircraft, which parachuted the 1,500-pound pallets of relief aid in roughly the same location.
Schweyher and Stinnette are both veterans of the dangerous U.N. relief missions to Sarejevo, flying a combined 47 times into that embattled city.