BuNo 136791's first duties involved life as a test bed for future TF's to be built
and modified. She served in this duty only for roughly a year, and then joined the
fleet. After serving with VR-5 at N.A.S. Moffett Fld, in Sunnyvale, CA., she was
attached toVR-21 at Atsugi, Japan where she was assigned the duties of being the
personal " ride " for the Admiral commanding the Seventh Fleet, or COMSEVENFLT, and
the designation of TF-1Z, with the radio call sign of" WHEEL CHAIR SEVEN ".
Wheel Chair Seven served in this duty until one day in Nov. of 1960 when she launched
off the U.S.S. ORISKANY carrying U.S. Sen. Hugh Scott of PA. Sen. Scott was a Naval
Reserve Capt. and was returning from a two week Reserve Cruise. Also aboard was then
Cdr. Charles Iaribenno, who was to become the Skipper of the U.S.S. Oriskany. ( His
brother, Capt. John Iaribenno, was also to become a Skipper of the Oriskany making
them the only brothers to ever command the same U.S. Navy Man-of War in history.
On this day, as the aircraft proceeded from the Oriskany to M.C.A.S. Iwakuni for
fuel, and then to proceed on to N.A.S. Atsugi so that Sen. Scott could catch a flight
back to the states, a total electrical failure was experienced while on a G.C.A.
approach. Knowing they were below the mountain tops, the Aircraft Commander, Lt.
C.L. Priddy went into a climbing left turn to get some altitude, then headed east
were he felt there was weather more favorable to their situation. After 20 minutes
of flight, they reached a low fuel state, and seeing a hole in the clouds that reached
to the ground below, he then circled down into this hole, coming out at the bottom
over the Yoshino River bed on the Japanese Shikoku Island. Feeling that the landing
gear would not hold up to a landing on this rocky river bed, Lt.. Priddy and his
co-pilot, Cdr. Jack Ramsey, elected to make awheels up landing. When thedust settled,
the aircraft was damaged, but all souls aboard were uninjured. Least of allSen.
Scott, who when approached by people of the local village of Mima, in the manner
of a consummate politician, said " I know you can not understand English, nor a word
I'm saying, but I'm running for re-election and I need your vote!!!! "
In a situation such as this, the Navy would have normally removed all useable components,
and written off the aircraft, but the local people of Mima, the nearby city of Tokushima,
and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force stationed nearby, decided that they
had to adopt this aircraft, and get it flying again. The Navy then flew in some Sea
Bee's to help, some Marines for security, and when ready, two pilots to fly her out.
Also, as the local people did not speak English, nor the American's involved speak
Japanese, a U.S. Navy Lt. Fumico Nakura, whose parents came from this same village
prior to WWII, was sent as an interpreter. After roughly 30 days of temporary repairs
to the bellyof the aircraft, twoengine changes, and the building of 1600 feet of
runway, partly covered by Martson mating, Wheel Chair Seven took to the air again
flown by Cdr. Joe Massy and then Lt. Tex Houston. The take-off was witnessed by some
10,000 Japanese locals who, until Wheel Chair Seven had arrived, had never seen an
aircraft up close, let alone one taking off, nor Americans since the end of WWII,
if then. She was flown to Shamua 25 minutes away where a permanent repair was done,
and then returned to dutyto retire in May of 1983.