9th PRS:F-4's arrive in Karachi

F-4's arrive in Karachi

September 1942, the 9th PRS receives their first order of Lockheed F-4's

Lockheed F-4's aboard ship in Karachi.
Leaving port and heading to Karachi Air Base.
Aircraft on their way to Karachi Air Base.
F-4 bearing the nose number 27 on its way to be assembled
Convoy entering Karachi Air Base
Assembley hanger at either Karachi Air Base or Malir.

Early in September of 1942, the squadron received word that on the 10th of the month its aircraft and other large equipment would arrive in Karachi aboard a freighter. Those dirty, cocooned, wingless Lockheed F-4s tied down on the deck looked mighty good to the pilots and mechanics, but they were still a long way from the airfield and the teeming streets of Karachi posed a difficult obstacle. Every detail of the move was planned most carefully, every inch measured, every turn tested and each contingency examined until all seemed to be ready. The aircraft were cut loose from the decks and carefully swung over the side of the deck, where their running gear was checked to make certain that it was roadworthy. Personnel were briefed, guards and traffic policemen took their positions, and shortly after dawn a few days after the ship had docked, the convoy of 13 F-4 aircraft began the move.

With the streets cleared of early morning traffic, the convoy moved toward Karachi in a surprisingly short time without incident. Once on the road leading north toward Karachi Air Base, the convoy moved at a respectable but careful pace, the wide landing gear barely holding to the narrow road. It was a gray, cloudy day as the long convoy moved through the barren hills and rolling sand dunes. The aircraft reached the base by noon and were moved into the dirigible hangar, ready for reassembly work to begin. A few of the aircraft were towed to Malir for assembly.

In the dirigible hangar the mechanics put in long, hot hours cleaning the F-4 aircraft of the preservatives that had protected them during their long sea voyage, assembling the various components, and readying them for flight. The aircraft slowly took on the shape, smell and sounds of one of the most beautiful tactical aircraft then in the Air Corps. When the first F-4 was ready for its test flight, the time had arrived for some hard decisions. The dirigible hangar also held assembly lines for assorted other aircraft, all of which eventually used the airfield. The Chinese P-66s were involved in frequent crashes, the field itself was in poor condition, Col. McCoy did not want his aircraft involved in crashes or foreign object damage. When each F-4 made its first takeoff, the pilot carried out the needed tests and landed on the long paved Malir runway. This based the aircraft some 10 miles from the squadron living area, but the pilots and mechanics considered the constant travel a minor inconvenience.

Almost every day another Lockheed F-4 took to the air as Lt. Duncan, the tireless and dynamic squadron engineering officer, urged his mechanics to their limit to get the aircraft in flying condition as quickly as possible.

William H. Greenhalgh

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