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Jennings Heilig

Interesting afternoon

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Through a friend who works at Raytheon here in Tucson, I met Hugh Redmond, retired USAF major (prior enlisted).  Hugh, at age 83, still works part time at Raytheon (as does his youngest son), and is still sharp as a tack.


After OCS, Hugh was assigned to SAC as a maintenance squadron ops officer (very unusual for a 2nd Lt) fixing B-52 and KC-135 bomb/nav systems.  In 1966 he was reassigned to the AF Eastern Test Range at Patrick AFB, Florida as one of the lead officers on the then new Apollo Range Instrumentation Systems Aircraft (ARIA).  Part of his initial responsibilities included operationalizing the also then-new Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracking System (ALOTS) camera pod on the NKC-135A.  For the very tail end of the Gemini program and the early Apollo program, Hugh was an Airborne Mission Coordinator on the ALOTS equipped NKC bird out of Patrick.  The ALOTS’ job was photographing spacecraft launches and first stage separation, and all of those great Apollo shots we saw on CBS with Walter Cronkite showing the spacecraft speeding along and performing S1C separation were the result of Hugh’s efforts!


My the time of Apollo 8, Hugh had moved to the ARIA side of the house, again as AMC, and deployed around the world to the sites where ARIA gathered and retransmitted Apollo spacecraft voice, video, and telemetry to the ground during the earth orbit phase of the flights.  He has some pretty great stories around all that!


My buddy had built an AMT/Ertl EC-135N ARIA model for him a couple of years ago, and it took us this long to coordinate getting together with him.  I had long ago drawn the NKC-135 with the ALOTS attached, as well as several of the ARIA birds, so we did a print for him with one of each on it, which he really appreciated.


I’m hoping to get back with him for a more formal interview so I can put together an article, hopefully to be published in Air & Space Magazine at some point.


Here’s the NKC bird with the ALOTS attached.  A completely unsung, but critically important part of the success of the Apollo program...



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Very cool story,  I had contact with the ARIA aircraft during cruise missile testing in Canada. They were regular visitors to our base.


My only claim to fame with the ARIA is I towed it in our hangar a few times. During one visit an ARIA had an engine fire. During the engine change we zapped all the engine panels with a red Beaver, holding a rather large appendage, waving a Canada flag.


When the aircraft was towed outside for its engine run, one of the techs had left a bag of screws in the intake. A second engine was needed after the screws were sucked up the intake during the ground run. The aircraft commander was obviously under a lot of pressure having missed two missions. When he noticed the zaps he flipped out.


That didn’t stop us from using that zapper. A few week later Prime Minister Mulroney was visiting our city, when he left on his aircraft the Beaver made a new appearance to the left of the crew door on his aircraft. As he boarded his aircraft and waved, the Beaver was clear as day next to him. It actually made all the news networks. We also zapped all the gear doors.


We never did retire that stencil. It would make a good decal addition.

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