EKW C-3605 "SCHLEPPMECHANIKER"

In 1967, the Swiss Air Force ascertained that the C-3603-1 target-towing fleet had a residual structural life of approximately 10 years, however the fitted Hispano-Suiza piston engines getting "tired" with spare parts becoming scarce.

After the evaluation of various types of foreign aircraft in order to find a replacement, during 1965 it was decided that the most economical solution would be to re-engineer the existing aircraft with a modern turboprop engine.

The Lycoming T53 was selected as the replacement engine. Being much lighter than the piston one, the conversion required an extension of the aircraft nose by 1.82 meters (6.0 ft.) in order to maintain the aircraft center of gravity. Prototype flight test began in August 1968 and showed some lack of longitudinal stability; due to this, a third vertical stabilizer fitted.

The Eidgenössisches Flugzeugwerk (F+W / Farner Werke) delivered 23 modified aircrafts ( C-3605 , nicknamed "Schlepp" -"Tug") between 1971 and January 1973. Whilst in the service by the Swiss AF the C-3605s were usually painted in high-visibility yellow-and-black striped livery.

By mid-1980s, the aircraft had begun to show signs of airframe fatigue. This led to the decision to retire the type from service in 1987, replaced by Pilatus PC-9s.

The crew of the C-36 consisted of a pilot and a towed target/ winch operator, the "Schleppmechaniker". Not much loved, given the duration of the day or night missions, the cold and the poor comfort of the cramped cockpit, the task of winch operator was entrusted to “Hilfsmechaniker” (fitters) of the BAMF maintenance organization.

Unlike the pilots, winch operators have no assigned flight gear in accordance with the "Zuteilungliste" (Crew Equipment Allocation List) - Their equipment the one already in use on the C-36 forerunner, the Fokker CV-E. They kept, with small variation, the same gear until the C-36 phase out.

As an open cockpit aircraft, the Fokker CV-E presented serious comfort problems. In order to respond to the winch operator complaints, F-3 heated suits removed from American bombers interned during the war were provided, but the CV-E electrical generator was not powerful enough to supply the necessary power.

Only with the introduction of the C-3603-1 in 1946 the situation improved, however the number of “interned” F-3 was insufficient to equip all operators. Later, not without difficulty, a number of new F-3 A were procured.

Our "Schleppmechaniker", based at Lodrino AFB but assigned to the operational airport of Samedan, is getting ready for a night mission over the S-chanf AAA training range in November 1979. He is wearing the trousers of an electrically heated F-3 suit and a high neck handmade wool pullover.

The Type F-3 and F3A suits were similar in function and use; however, the F-3A suit equipped with positive locking bayonet type connectors by which the gloves and shoes attached to the suit.

 

The conversion from type F-3 suits to type F-3A was done by installation of bayonet connector adapters.

In order to secure the jacket plug connection, usually a small leather strap was added on the F-3A trousers’ waist.

 

In case of disconnection in flight, it was easier find the connecting wire near his waist than looking for it behind his back.

After donning the F-3 jacket, our “Schleppmechaniker” is lacing up his Q-1 heated booties. The Q-1 is an overshoe, but commonly used as an insert in the cold weather “Beobachterstiefel” boots.

 

The F-3 / F-3A Heated Suit Adapters, which allowed F-3 style booties and gloves to be connected to F-3A suit or when used with corresponding female adapters, allowed F-3 connections to be converted to F-3A type connections.

Almost ready. Over the F-3, our man wore a padded leather "Bückerkombi" and a pair of  “Beobachterstiefel” boots to safeguard the heated suit and as additional protection against the cold. 

 

Note the F-3 electrical connecting cable coming out through the Bückerkombi  RH zipped side entry.

 

Both Kombi and Stiefel dating back to the '30s, they remained in service far beyond, until the mid-end of the 80s.

 

Before going to look for the gloves connectors up the sleeves (not an easy task...), a final check to the (probably not according SOPs) foreseen inflight snack...

... Heated gloves ready, the faithful H-5 fitted with C-36 compatible "Röhrli" (Swiss german for "thin hose") MS22001, time to go boarding for the (cold and boring) mission.