f o t Bes May 2007 through August 2011
RETIRED NORTHWEST AIRLINES PILOTS’ ASSOCIATION
I was re-reading Steve Bowen’s story “A Storm of Failures in the Teeth of a Typhoon” the other day and it made my palms sweaty all over again. It got me thinking that some of this stuff is worth reading again. EDITOR / PUBLISHER Gary Ferguson 1664 Paloma St Pasadena CA 91104 C 323.351.9231 (primary) H 626.529.5323 email@example.com OBITUARY EDITOR Vic Britt firstname.lastname@example.org PROOFING EDITOR Romelle Lemley CONTRIBUTING COLUMNISTS Bob Root James Baldwin John Doherty HISTORIAN James Lindley PHOTOGRAPHERS Dick Carl Phil Hallin REPORTERS Each Member! The RNPA newsletter Contrails is published quarterly in February, May, August and November by the Retired Northwest Airlines Pilots’ Association, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to maintain the friendships and associations of the members, to promote their general welfare, and assist those active pilots who are approaching retirement with the problems relating thereto. Membership is $40 annually for Regular Members (NWA pilots, active or retired) and $30 for Affiliate Members.
ADDRESS CHANGES: Dino Oliva 3701 Bayou Louise Lane Sarasota FL 34242 email@example.com
These are just my own choices of some of the best of Contrails articles from a little more than a four year period of May, 2007 through August, 2011. There is nothing magic about the beginning date, it’s just what I have on my computer’s hard drive. I do have disks of earlier issues as far back as August of 2003, but they are very difficult to convert individual articles with today’s software. In other words this wasn’t enormously difficult to put together. There are other candidates, such as Wes Schierman’s account of his years as a POW, that should rightly be included here. The problem is that Dick Schlader was responsible for that wonderful two-part series and I don’t think we have a digital copy of those. In case you’re wondering, I have three copies of every issue of the newsletter from the very beginning. There is no index. It’s just intended for browsing when you have nothing better to do. This is low resolution intended for viewing on the screen and probably would not print very well. Enjoy, Your Editor
SUZY AND THE BALDIES (NO, IT’S NOT A ROCK BAND!)
It’s doubtful that anyone had more fun in Reno than Suzy Armstrong. Since March she has been battling a brain tumor with chemo and radiation. Her doctors tell her she’ll be back to normal in three months. There isn’t a question in the minds of any of us who were there that her wonderful attitude won’t make that a reality. She is truly an inspiration. We heard more than one person wonder aloud if they would be able to fight such devastation with as much zest and spirit as she has. Along with all your other friends, us baldies are pulling for you Suzy. The photo was taken at the Reno reunion in 2007. Unfortunately, Suzy lost her battle with cancer and we lost her in December, 2008. – Ed.
Just Another Day By James Baldwin
he open expanse of the Bering Sea stretches before us, its distant region covered in a bedspread of white cotton. The sky above is a solid plate of blue. The sun streams through the front windows as they forge a path for the aluminum tube that contains the 403 travelers following behind. A cacophony of sounds betray any notion that our capacious airframe slides effortlessly as it pushes aside what’s left of the atmosphere at nearly 86 per cent of the speed of sound. The ride is smooth. I rub my eyes, grinding away the reluctance of being awakened by the crew we are relieving. They have taken us from our near gross weight takeoff in Detroit, up through Canada and out into Alaska. As the second group of pilots replaces the first, we are more than six hours into our non-stop trip to Narita, Japan, the remote location of the airport serving the greater Tokyo area. The aestival view below is of the city of Nome, Alaska. It looks like specks of pepper on a table of salt and passes quickly beneath us as I point the nose of the airplane towards the Kamchatka Peninsula. Today the wind forecast has convinced the planners that a northerly route might help us ameliorate the effect of Mother Nature as she blows a frigid, unseen gale towards us at speeds approaching 150 miles per hour. We will be entering Russian airspace in less than two hours, proceeding on a path over silent parts of the earth that will never have to worry about zoning law. There is only time for a meal, a glance at the Wall Street Journal and a little discussion before the volcanic chain of Kamchatka appears off the nose. The myriad details resolve as we speed toward the jagged coastline. Placid lakes come into view as the mazy rivers they feed spill into the sea with alluvial fans of silt plainly visible from these revealing heights. It is a view held by only a few, and seen only by those among the throngs in back who bother to lift
their window shades and marvel at what lies below. These are the box seats to the game Mother Nature and Father Time play without notice in parts of the world where man hasn’t yet spoiled what our Creator has fashioned. It is a spectacular site. As we approach, the smallest of the peaks, poking above the scattered cotton balls of moisture, emits just a whisper of smoke, as if to remind us of what lurks below, or to perhaps memorialize the eerily similar flight path of the Korean Airlines 747 shot down in September of 1983. Unlike their most likely innocent effort to follow the correct path, our navigation today is dead accurate, almost taken for granted and looks easy, but is the subject of verification at every one of the imaginary locations in the sky we call waypoints. Initially conceived as a required navigation reference, the imaginary points are now used to compare the fuel onboard to the amount the flight plan says we should have. We watch it carefully, well aware of the consequence of inattention. Communication with the Ruskie controller downstairs is difficult, their equipment mired somewhere between the age of socialism and their agonizing struggle to achieve an approximation of democracy. It may continue to be difficult to communicate at this rate; something was lost in translation. We won’t linger here for long though—our fuel burn is higher than planned and the crew will have to decide how to turn this trend around. With an airplane that consumes one gallon of kerosene every second, it doesn’t take long to get behind on the fuel budget. Spendthrifts, or the inattentive, don’t usually require an arrival with only fumes to convert them into the fuel misers we have all become. Not much chance to shorten our already great circle routing; the answer to our problem, after examining wind gradients, is the economy a higher al-
titude promises. Over the next few hours we will burn less fuel in the more rarefied air, allowing a more comfortable reserve at the conclusion of our flight. Unlikely, but who really knows if the weather might force us to go somewhere else? Luckily for us, our company’s almost prescient meteorologists are always monitoring the vagaries of the world’s weather and pass along to us the briefings we have grown to trust. It always makes me wonder why they aren’t the ones on TV. Altitude changes so routine in the domestic U.S. are not the norm here, but the air traffic controller in Petropavlovsk allows that 11,600 meters is available if we are able. Despite the performance limitations of our still heavily fuel laden 747, we calculate the higher altitude is attainable and confirm the assent to climb. As the throttle levers automatically advance it reminds me of an elegant matriarch gathering her petticoat to climb the steps to the second floor of the mansion. It doesn’t take long for this lady to climb the airy steps; the airplane almost leaps to its new perch, shouting out her ability to defy gravity and annoy physics. She is a consistently able performer. As we make our way across the vast, polished snow covered mosaic below, I expect to see hirsute beasts of some description, our visibility so great, but at seven miles above the earth, nothing smaller than an automobile is easily spotted. I still try. Contrails now visible below at 9600 meters belong to a fellow traveler who, though unseen by us visually, is required to share the same flight path and altitudes. We listen on the radio and learn he is one of the competition, yet during these times of flight, we are all a band of brothers. Our climb allowed him better economy as well and less angst as he battles the same atmospheric conditions we do. Wall Street might object but the words here are unspoken. The whitecaps on the Sea of Okhotsk finally disappear as the craggy, vertical edges of Hokkaido become welcomely visible. We slide our way down the Japanese archipelago and for no good reason, these days, I feel relief as we exit the formerly hostile airspace of a country I will never fully trust. If Ronnie was still here he might agree with that historically based bias. I suspect it will take only time for the Kremlin to prove that point once again. Hokkaido disappears as quickly as the larger Japanese land mass of Honshu appears, diminutive in a global sense yet so productive. Looking down over the green lush unpopulated northern region, it is amusing to relate it to the hustle and bustle of the typical Japanese city. As similar in appearance and manner as we find the Ameri-
can worker, he is no equal to the automaton like approach so prevalent in Japanese society. It is easy to go there and feel comfortable; we know what to expect, everywhere. We have had a good flight. We have planned well and laughed and looked nonchalant while doing it. We have communicated with the company and they know exactly when we will touch down, how each passenger will connect, how many wheel chairs are required and what our fuel state is likely to be. The airplane will only sit still for two hours as a swarm of uniformed, vetted, busy workers clean, replenish and inspect every inch of her as she is made ready to once again load 403 souls onboard and depart for points south, near the equator. We’ll get our chance tomorrow, but tonight, this ship waits for no one. The descent has been choreographed many times but is still calculated to a resolution of less than a mile. We will begin the process of arrival in just a few minutes. At our groundspeed of over eight miles per minute it won’t be long before the four Pratts are reined back to flight idle and the nose of the airplane arcs downward. Our speed will not decrease as we watch an actual demonstration of potential energy carry us to our destination some 130 nautical miles away. It is a delicate balancing act involving air traffic control restrictions, parallel traffic competing for the same asphalt and the variables governed by the laws of physics. Unspoken reputations depend on correctly blending these with the experience gained in the countless times it has either been done or observed as others performed. Don’t believe for a minute the other guys aren’t watching. They are. Even though it has been over 12 hours in the air we seem to gain newfound energies in anticipation of this portion of the flight. It is best we do—this is where weather, fuel, fatigue, traffic congestion, and for some, a sudden awareness, can begin to form the first link in the chain of an incident or accident lurking for those naive enough to believe it can’t happen. It all looks so simple and even though we already know it all and have seen it all, privately, we don’t and we haven’t. We’ll keep practicing until we get it perfect. I may have come close a few times but only close. One day, maybe one day I’ll… In the end, our conservation and attentiveness turn out to be a good thing; the weather upon arrival is rainy with limited visibility. It is congested and all of the heavy machinery needs the renowned singular runway, 34L/16R the Narita rice farmers are famous for. That story is interesting and unique but will have to wait for another day. The hand flown approach is textbook, the actual touchdown and turnoff flawless enough to evoke later compliments from the cabin crew. It might be just another day at work, but each one is truly different and almost all of them full of the challenge I still love.
The Root Cellar
Contributing Columnist Bob Root
Not all pilots are golfers. Even if you are a non-golfing pilot, you may find something of interest below. Or not. I went golfing the other day, something I have been doing since age 14. Tomorrow, I become age 68. One would think in 54 years (pilots are good at math), a person could learn a great deal about golf. One would be correct. The fact is that I know so much about golf I could easily pass the oral exam just prior to the six-month check professional golfers are not required to perform to keep their tour card. This thought surprisingly entered my mind as I stood contemplating my second shot on the par-four 10th hole at Desert Springs Golf Club in Surprise, Arizona. I had, to this point, a nice round going. A par would result in a score of 78, which, in golfing terms, means I would “break eighty.” Even if I scored five on the hole, I would still break eighty, something I rarely manage these days. And so it was that I stood over my ball, approximately 130 yards from the green when what remains of my brain went to work. The only way to mess up this round and not break eighty is to hit this ball into that lake. I will not hit this ball in that lake! I can hit it in the bunkers, I can miss the green, but I will not hit this ball into that lake! Unfortunately, at this point the thought of passing an oral exam for golfers entered and I recalled the good-old oral question for pilots
regarding “continuation of approach.” Some readers may recall sitting in a little room undergoing the oral exam which, for captains, came every six months and for others once per year, and being asked by the check pilot: “What are the Federal Air Regulation requirements to descend below decision height or minimum descent altitude during an instrument approach?” Of course, we all answered: “(1) The aircraft is continuously in a position from which a descent to a landing on the intended runway can be made at a normal rate of descent using normal maneuvers, and where that descent rate will allow touchdown to occur within the touchdown zone of the runway of intended landing; (2) The flight visibility is not less than the visibility prescribed in the standard instrument approach procedure being used; (3) Except for Category II or Category III approaches where any necessary visual reference requirements are specified by authorization of the Administrator, at least one of the following visual references for the intended runway is distinctly visible and identifiable to the pilot;
(i) The approach light system, except that the pilot may not descend below 100 feet above the touchdown zone elevation using the approach lights as a reference unless the red terminating bars or the red side row bars are also distinctly visible and identifiable. (ii) The threshold. (iii) The threshold markings. (iv) The threshold lights. (v) The runway end identifier lights. (vi) The visual approach slope indicator. (vii) The touchdown zone or touchdown zone markings. (viii) The touchdown zone lights. (ix) The runway or runway markings. (x) The runway lights; and. . .” Like many readers, perhaps most, I made a considerable number of approaches to minimums during my time in cockpits. And, of course, like all the others, I mentally checked off each and every one of these requirements before landing the airplane, despite the fact that it was bouncing in a crosswind, the weather was wet, snowy or foggy, the speed over the ground was near 150 miles-per-hour and the copilot was chanting, “I’m not scared, I’m not scared...” during the entire time spent below decision height. I suspect that some might now be wondering how this relates to my presence on the 10th hole contemplating my second shot. Perhaps I should explain. Federal Golf Regulations state that, in order to avoid hitting one’s ball into a lake on the left of the fairway, a right-handed golfer must:
“(i) Ensure no other golfers are within range of the trajectory of the intended flight of the ball. (ii) Take an ‘open’ stance, meaning the left foot is placed farther away from the ball than the right as measured from a line approximating the intended flight of the ball. (iii) Weaken the grip, meaning rotate the hands in a counter-clockwise position relative to normal and before gripping the club. (iv) Slightly flex the knees and keep them flexed during the entire swing. (v) Place one’s weight gently on the balls of one’s feet while maintaining both heels on the ground. (vi) Hold the club with an ‘overlapping,’ ‘interlocked,’ or ‘baseball’ grip utilizing pressure on the shaft only with the ‘pinky’ and ring fingers of the left hand and the ring and middle fingers of the right. (vii) Straighten the left elbow and keep it straight during the execution of the entire swing. (viii) Keep one’s head completely immobile, inert, or still in both the fore-and-aft and upand-down planes during execution of the swing. (ix) Keep the eyes riveted on the ball during execution of the entire swing. (x) Aim WAY right!, and...” Of course, there is a big advantage for a golfer over a pilot when applying these regulations. I was not being buffeted, I was not traveling at approximately 150 miles-per-hour and my fellow golfers were not chanting, “I’m not scared, I’m not scared...” over and over. I carry in my golf bag a special weapon used to retrieve golf balls from water. Mine needs a new grip. Ever wonder if Tiger could pass an oral? RNPA CONTRAILS MAY 2007
This is flying, too!
From the book “Montana and the Sky: Beginning of Aviation in the Land of the Shining Mountains” by Frank W. Miley
“Nick” Mamer of Spokane promoted a nonstop flight which, in 1929, established a world’s distance record of long duration. Mamer was ably supported by the air-minded citizens of Spokane. One objective of the flight was to generate interest in a northern airline route. The increased public awareness of the unlimited utility of air travel was well demonstrated in the enthusiasm shown by the community of Spokane in sponsoring this long-distance flight by their locally distinguished pilots, Nicholas B. Mamer and Arthur Walker. Under the leadership of Victor Dessert, the Spokane Nationul Air Derby Association furnished the funds and did the planning for a proposed, nonstop, round-trip flight from Spokane, to San Francisco, to New York, and back to Spokane. Nick Mamer gave technical assistance to committee members who had ably planned and directed the National Air Races in Spokane in 1927. This same committee did a flawless job of planning the Spokane Sun God flight. The proposed flight began to shape up in the early summer of 1929, with material assistance furnished by the Texaco Oil Company and the Stan-
dard Oil Company. The Buhl Aircraft Company of Michigan gave further support in the building of a special, Single-engine airplane of sesquiplane design, powered with a Wright J6 300 hp engine. Both the Buhl Company and the Wright Company drew on their backgrounds of experience to give all possible assurance of success by producing a dependable airplane and engine. The route selected by the committee was from Spokane through Oregon and down the coast to San Francisco, then via Salt Lake, Cheyenne, Omaha, Chicago and Cleveland to New York City, returning to Spokane via Cleveland and Chicago, and then over the uncharted northern route through St. Paul and Minneapolis, Aberdeen, Miles City, Billings, Butte, Missoula and Spokane. Spokane businessmen contributed an additional $10,000 to the project. The target date for the flight was set for midAugust, 1929. The Texas Oil Company arranged for fueling at San Francisco, Cleveland and New York. Art Walker, the other Spokane pilot and airplane mechanic of recognized ability, was picked to accompany Nick Mamer on the flight. RNPA CONTRAILS FEBRUARY 2008
The refueling crews included a Buhl factory pilot, R. M. Wilson, and an old barnstormer, Vern Bookwalter. Wilson flew a Buhl Air Sedan, and Bookwalter piloted a Ryan Brougham. Nick Marner furnished the Ryan, and Sam Wilson, a local mining man, loaned his new Buhl Air Sedan for refueling. The airplane used for the endurance flight was christened the Spokane Sun God. Flown by Wilson, it arrived in Spokane from the factory at Marysville, Michigan, about August 10. The air committee finalized their coordination of timing, route service and publicity, with subcommittee meetings on logistics, weather and pub1icity. The whole project was thoroughly planned in detail, the committee having had previous experience in their administration of the National Air Races iu Spokane in 1927. Mamer and Walker were given authority for final decision on any matters of controversy. The Spokane Sun God was a sesquiplane or semi-biplane, with an upper wing of long span and a stubby, tapered lower wing designed to give added strength to the main wing and support the unusually strong landing gear, built for heavy loads and rough field operation. The ship was basically designed to carry six people, with a 300 hp Wright J6 motor. As modified for the flight, it provided room for the two pilots. Tanks in the fuselage and wings carried 300 gallons of gasoline, enough for a range of about 1,800 miles, or 18 hoursâ€™ flying. Manually operated pumps were used to transfer fuel to the tanks in the fuselage, with filler caps accessible in flight. A circular opening was provided in the top of the fuselage, through which a refueling hose could be inserted in the filler caps of the cabin tanks. The fuel could be transferred to the wing tanks as desired. Refueling was to be accomplished by lowering a hose from the refueling plane while flying over the Sun God. The nozzle of the hose could be handled by Mamer or Walker. The gas flowed by gravity into the tanks, while the two aircraft flew piggyback formation. The refueling aircraft were scheduled to contact the Sun God at predetermined points, the first contact to take place over the Dunbarton Bridge at San Francisco by a Texaco airplane. The two Spokane refueling aircraft followed, operating by leap-frog technique, from Rock Springs east to Chicago. Texaco furnished the refueling planes in Cleveland and
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New York. The two Spokane aircraft then again took over, rendezvousing with the Sun God at points west from the Twin Cities. The success of this project can be attributed to the very thorough planning of the flight committee, and the fact that the whole city of Spokane was behind the venture. This, together with the tenacity of the two pilots, resulted in the establishment of a record not matched for many years. National attention was focused on the flight and on Spokane, with coverage releases of publicity through several channels out of the city. During the flight Marner [not Mamer] gave running accounts in press releases dropped from the airplane. This was before the time of established air-to-ground radio commullication. The whole city of Spokane turned out on the afternoon of August 15 to see Mamer aud Walker take off at 6:00 p.m., pointing the nose of the Sun God for San Francisco. A refueling contact was made over Mills Field, San Francisco, at 5:25 the next morning. The Sun God had arrived two hours earlier and circled San Francisco until daylight. Fueling was completed at 7:30 a.m., and the plane headed east to Salt Lake and Cheyenne, bucking head winds instead of the anticipated tail wind normal with prevailing westerlies. The aircraft requested an emergency night refueling at Rock Springs. This was accomplished with unforesecn difficulties because of the limited load of gas that could he carried at that altitude by the refueling aircraft. When interviewed, Walker stated that the Rock Springs refueling was really a hairy operation, the Sun God flying at 8,000 feet elevation and the refueling airplane unable to get off with very much payload. He said the flashlight taped to the nozzle of the refueling hose was difficult to distinguish from the stars, and he oriented on the refueling plane by the flames of the exhaust. During the refueling over Rock Springs, the hose was cut by the propeller of the Sun God. This delayed the contact while the hose was repaired hy the refueling crew. Walker related he was standing up half outside the airplane in the hatch on the fuselage, pushing up on the belly of the refueling craft to keep the planes apart, while he shoved the nozzle in the filling cap of a tank in the cabin. Walker said the hose man of the refueling ship, Alphonse Cappula of Spokane, was guiding the pilot by rapping him on the shoulder with a gas mea-
Nicholas B. “Nick” Mamer suring stick. The refueling pilot had all he could do to hold his plane up at 8,000 feet with the overload condition and the rough, gusty air. The refueling was accomplished at Cheyenne by daylight, and they then proceeded east. The Robbins brothers of St. Louis refueled the Sun God at Cleveland and New York with Challenger Robin airplanes. Another problem encountered at Rock Springs involved a broken fuel line in the Sun God which had to be repaired in flight. This was accomplished with about ten gallons of gasoline remaining in the tanks at the time the next contact was made with the night refueling plane. This was a close call, but they made it. The flight continued east. A group of about 100 planes met the Sun God, leading Mamer and Walker into New York, where it took over an hour to find the airport through the heavy traffic of well-meaning, welcoming aircraft. It may be remembered that they had no radio and no FAA facilities. Their low frequency receiver had expired shortly after their takeoff in Spokane. The endurance plane arrived over Roosevelt Field in New York at 3:45 p.m. on the 18th, having been in the air for 66 hours and 47 minutes and covering 3,600 miles. Mamer and Walker hovered over the New York area for two hours while taking on fuel and food. The Spokane Sun God was paced west out of New York by Frank Hawks, the well-known Texas Oil Company pilot. Hawks escorted her through questionable weather to Belfont, Pennsylvania. By
a messagc system, a pre-arranged signal had heen agreed upon, whereby the Belfont airport manager would flash the floodlights on the field—once if the weather was OK, twice if questionable, and three times if bad. It was evident that the British were coming, as the lights were flashed three times, and the Sun God approached Belfont with a low ceiling. Mamer circled the town, flying a triangular course from the town to an airway beacon to the airport. He had to revise his holding pattern to circle the beacon and the town when the ceiling dropped to 200 feet. They made it into Cleveland where the Robbins brothers again refueled them. Proceding to Minneapolis, they caught Bookwalter on the ground with the Ryan, repairing a broken brake cable. Walker dropped a note to him, and he followed the Sun God west, refueling as they went between Minneapolis and Aberdeen, South Dakota. The Sun God was again refueled at Aberdeen by Neil O’Connell and Bookwalter, and departed from there to Miles City, Montana. They arrived at 9:50 pm, having encountered intense smoke conditions from forest fires, and with the Wright engine beginning to show signs of fatigue. Walker said that in circling Miles City all night, “They were down to two inches of gas in the main fuselage tank when I refueled them at daylight. “I was then operating a flying service out of Miles City and acting in the dual capacity of flight operator and airport manager. We in Miles City had followed the Sun God flight with keen interest and, at the request of Spokane, had a runway lighted with rows of high octane lights consisting of tin cans stuffed with rags, soaked in gasoline, and then lighted. “The local airport board, led by Chairman Buck Winter, were all up at the airport, located at the present site on Lansing Flat, north of the city. A big crowd of people from town arrived to see the Sun God fly over, and our one telephone was chattering with inquiries and reports on the then overdue airplane. “About 10:00 pm we could hear the Sun God circling overhead, but couldn’t see it because of the smoke and the fact that its navigational lights had given up a couple of nights before. “The first indication we had that the plane had arrived was when a flashlight came tumbling out of the sky, looking like a falling star. We retrieved the flashlight on the field. Attached to it was a note from Nick, saying he and Art were about to give up. RNPA CONTRAILS FEBRUARY 2008
The visibility was zero because of the smoke, and the Whirlwind (Wright engine) was operating on only one magneto. If we could figure out some way to refuel them, it was requested that we build a fire in the middle of the airport. They would circle the field and try to stay up until they ran out of gas or we had them refueled. “We discussed the problem and, with nothing to lose, immediately took a fifty-gallon drum out on the field and built a big fire in it. Then we got busy. We put our airport board and our student pilots to work, assigning tasks to designated groups. Those boys really jumped in and did a job. “People who participated in the refueling project included: Buck Winter, chairman of the airport board; Oscar Ball and J. P. Johnson, local businessmen; Roy Milligan, Jack Hotaling and Cliff White, who were taking flight training; Bill McFarland, a mechanic; and Tommy Matthews, a cowboy who owned one of our airplanes. “One group procured five-gallon cream cans by night requisition from the local creamery; another group made rope slings with detachable letdown ropes, using regular throw ropes and harness snaps from the Furstnow Saddle Shop. Another committee, including wives, prepared food for all hands, including the crew of the Sun God. The result was that we were ready to go with the refueling at 3:30 on the morning of the 20th. “At Mamer’s request, via dropped note, we contacted R. L. Wilson, his refueler at Missoula, and instructed him to fly east to Belgrade to be ready to refuel the Sun God there. Our cowboy friend, and my financial advisor at the time, was Tommy Matthews of the T7 Ranch of Gillette, Wyoming. Tommy was both well- and high-heeled, and a handy boy with a rope. We were operating a brand-new J5 Eagle Rock airplane of which we were justifiably proud, and this we used to refuel the Sun God. “Tommy was tied in the front cockpit with a telephone lineman’s belt, the cockpit loaded with fivegallon cream cans filled with Standard Oil Company gasoline. “As daylight broke, we could see the Sun God circling overhead in the smoke. We took off with forty gallons of gas in the cream cans, flying up and over the Sun God to look the situation over. I could see a broken windshield with a rag stuffed in it. Indeed, the oil-streaked old Sun God looked as if it had really had a rough time. There was a manhole in the top of the fuselage behind the wing and as Art Walker’s
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head and arms popped out, he looked for all the world like a prairie dog in helmet and goggles. “Tommy took a dally around a strut in the center section with a throw rope, snapped on a sling holding a can of gas, and lowered away, hanging half out of the cockpit. I maneuvered into position and let down on the Sun God. We placed the milk can right on the fuselage behind the manhole, where Art unsnapped the sling and lowered the can inside. “By the time he was back we had another can in place, and after delivering the first load we returned to the field for another. We had made the first delivery in about 25 minutes’ flying time. We made the second delivery in better time, and a note from Art advised us a third load would be enough. “Our navigation in the limited visibility was a problem, so Nick flew the Sun God on a northwesterly course while transferring fuel. We then turned south with both aircraft until we found the Yellowstone River. Now we could fly downstream to the bridge at Miles City, adjacent to the airport. “The large supply of milk cans really impressed one old farmer, who came up while we were loading. He asked how we got those cans back. “I told him we had a boy with a rowboat down by the bridge, and that the Sun God crew dropped the cans in the river after they were emptied. The boy picked up the cans as they floated by and returned them to us. The farmer thought that was pretty ingenious, and so did I. (Incidentally, sheepherders were picking up rusty milk cans for several years afterwards in the Sunday Creek area.) “Nick and Art gave us a goodby wave after the third load, and headed for points west. The Sun God refueled at Belgrade, arriving there at about 8:30 in the morning followed by the refueling airplane. Mamer and Walker flew on to Butte. Here they decided to continue to Missoula, arriving about 11:00 a.m. After circling the city for some time in the dense smoke, the Sun God headed west and was contacted by the refueling ship over the Missoula sugar beet factory. They took on fifty gallons of gas, enough for the final leg into Spokane. They also took on a quantity of oil, and six chicken sandwiches, furnished by a Missoula cafe. “In the meantime, Bob Johnson of Missoula was doing a land-office business hauling sightseers up alongside the Sun God and the refueling airplane, for five bucks a head. When he first arrived over the city, Nick dropped a note in which he said ‘Hello, Missoula. We are sure glad to be this close to home.
This is God’s country again. We will pull off a little and refuel just as soon as our boys show up with our refueling airplane. Here he is now. Hello to Harry Bell, Bob Johnson, and everybody. Nick.’” Both the Sun God and the refueling plane bore the Texaco star on the fuselage and wing tips. The Sun God was painted a brilliant red with the words, SPOKANE SUN GOD in white letters on the side. The Sun God continued on over the Bitterroots and departed from Montana over Mullan Pass. It arrived over Spokane at 2:00 p.m. on August 20, 1929, after five days of continuous flight. Nick circled Spokane, was twice refueled, and took on food and clean clothes for himself and Art. They in turn got all dressed up for a triumphant arrival. They circled over the city for four hours while Lon Brennan and Ralph Daniels flew both Ford Trimotors with load after load of passengers to get a close view of the Sun God from alongside at $5 a head. Nick, being a practical businessman, wasn’t about to land with all that money rolling in, even if he had been in the air for five days and nights. What a character! Spokane turned out en masse to witness the finish of this historymaking flight. A welcoming address was given by Charles Fleming, a city commissioner who was also airport manager. Harry Wright of the Davenport Hotel prepared a suitcase dinner for Nick and Art, including chicken, tomato and lettuce sandwiches, watermelon, ice cream, cookies and coffee. This dinner was lowered to them, together with their clean laundry. In arriving over Spokane, the Sun God crew became holders of one Federation Aeronautique Internationale world’s record for the longest non-
Vern Bookwalter piloted the Ryan Brougham shown here, along with Neil O’Connell
stop flight ever made. It was coincidental in these days of endurance flights, that at the time Mamer and Walker were making this flight, the Graf Zeppelin was en route from Friedrichshafen to Tokyo via Russia, carrying 20 passengers, a crew of 40, and 50,000 pieces of maiI. At the same time, a Swiss team in a French-built monoplane were long overdue in an east-west Atlantic crossing from Lisbon to New York. The Graf Zeppelin established a 6,000-mile record nonstop flight, was broken within a few hours by the Sun God completing the first transcontinental, roundtrip, nonstop, refueling-in-air f1ight. This amazing record-breaking flight was completed when the Spokane Air Derby committee ordered the crew to land at 6:00 p.m. A record of 120 hours in the air, covering a lineal distance of 7,200 miles and a total distance of 10,000 air miles Was established. These figures were recorded and verified by the official FAI checker, and supported by the tape contained in the sealed barograph carried on the flight. Congratulatory messages from all over the world poured in, including a telegram from President Hoover: “Congratulations on the successful completion of your nonstop, refueling flight across the continent and return. This is a further demonstration of the ever-widening scope and practical utility of aircraft.” The first question asked Nick at the reviewing stand was, “How did you get that watermelon down a refueling hose?” The welcoming committee on the platform at Felts Field, Spokane, included Charles Hibbard of the Air Derby Association, Harry Wraight, Mrs. N. B. Mamer, Mrs. Vernon Bookwalter, Mrs. Al CappuIa, Phil J. Garnett, H. W. Pierong, James A. Ford, secretary of the Air Derby Association, Harry Heylman, Albion Rogers, John W. Graham, Guy Toombes, R. Insinger, and R. L. Rutter. And there were many others, all of whom had given support to the venture. They had succeeded in bringing public attention to the practicality of a northern air mail route through the Northwest to Spokane, and through Montana. This article was contributed to Contrails by Sandy Mazzu, who had received it from a friend. Mr. Wiley published his book in 1966 and this excerpt is a verbatim copy. Since I was unable to contact the author, it is reprinted here without permission. Photos are by Art Walker, where noted, and the author, and were included in the book. -Ed. RNPA CONTRAILS FEBRUARY 2008
STUCK GEAR by Joe Kimm How many people does it take to make a difference? One? “Elementary, dear Watson,” I can hear you say. Perhaps a recitation of the following will help to make it clear. Billings, Montana lies in a valley alongside the Yellowstone river. It’s airport is located 300 feet above, on top of the rim rocks. My copilot, Tommy Chastain, and I had arrived in the early morning hours on a non-stop flight from Minneapolis—some 800 miles distant. After having slept most of the day away, now, in the early evening, we were preparing to head for the airport, and our return trip, which was due to leave just after midnight. Our flight was to be non-stop and projected to be just over 4 hours. Weather reports indicated that we would be favored with tail winds and cloudless skies. Checking with By Chamberlain, the station master, we were informed that there would be nine passengers aboard, all male. Maintenance advised the aircraft had been fueled to maximum, giving us an air time in excess of 4½ hours. “Tommy,” I said, “Let’s go in for a cup of coffee. And, don’t forget to get our thermos filled with hot chocolate. It will taste mighty good down the line tonight.” Right on schedule, at 12:37am, we made our takeoff run. We were flying the “Sky Zephyr,” No. 82, one of Northwest’s most modern aircraft. Built by Lockheed to replace the Model 10-A Electra, it was powered with 2 Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines. It had a capacity for 14 passengers and 2 pilots. Normally, we would carry coffee jugs and water jugs aboard. The moon was shining brightly in clear skies as we started our climb, on course, toward Minneapolis. Our cruising altitude was to be 10,000 feet in order to take advantage of the helping winds aloft. All appeared to be normal, until, passing through 800 feet we felt a severe jolt to the aircraft and immediately the two main gear warning lights changed from green to red.
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Emergency hydraulic fluid reservoir For some reason, our landing gear had dropped out halfway. Further investigation showed that we had no hydraulic fluid in the reservoir. There was nothing to do but reverse course and return to Billings. Tommy called Minneapolis directly with our airborne radio. Luckily, transmission and reception was decidedly clear. Advising them of our predicament, we were told to stand by while they studied the matter. While still waiting for the call back, we arrived back over Billings airport and started what was to become a whole night of circling overhead. With the gear hanging half out of the nacelles, it was not deemed advisable to attempt a landing. There would certainly be a lot of damage done to the aircraft, if such were attempted, with probable injury to passengers and crew most likely. While waiting for their reply, I took the opportunity to go back into the cabin and advise the passengers of our problem, assuring them that we would prevail and ultimately make a safe landing. They were relieved to get the information; most had been alarmed and fearful, not knowing why we had turned around, or what our intentions were. After my visit, they became adjusted to the situation, and settled back determined to make the most of the situation. Many settled down and went to sleep.
Minneapolis maintenance finally came back on the air to advise us that there most likely had been a break in the ‘up’ section of the hydraulic system; that it would be necessary to cut the system in half; that this could be accomplished by pulling up the floorboards in front of the Captain’s seat, cutting a certain aluminum pipe in half, removing a section and crimping it over to make it pressure tight! I looked at Tommy, Tommy looked at me—we both shrugged, then got set to follow orders. Now, most aircraft are not blessed with many tools aboard. Maintenance, ideally, is to be provided on the ground. But we really had no choice; it was repair the system or land with the gear hanging halfway down. I turned the aircraft over to Tommy to fly, then went back to search for a ‘toolkit’. Unbelievably, I turned up a ballpeen hammer, a flat file, and a pair of pliers. Going back to the cockpit with my tools, I got the floor boards up and out of the way, exposing a myriad of piping of all sizes, running fore and aft just beneath the floor-boards. Talking to Minneapolis on the radio, getting exact instructions for locating the pipe we were to sever, I then proceeded to cut the selected pipe with the file. This took considerable time—a file is not nearly as efficient as a hacksaw, and believe me I was longing for a hacksaw long before I managed to file through the pipe. Next step; remove the pipe by loosening the flare nut, using the pliers. With the section of pipe in hand—now to crimp it over and pound it flat, to hold pressure. Grasping the pipe with pliers, I placed it across the cockpit door sill and started beating the end with the hammer, thus flattening it out. Then, with a small section over the sill, I hammered at it to start the bending process; proceeding in this manner, I was able to bend the pipe all the way over, then hammer it flat to make a seal. All this took a considerable length of time during which Tommy continued to fly in circles around the airport. The passengers were attempting to get a little shut-eye in spite of all the racket I was creating. Re-installing the pipe took but a few moments. Now, the Lockheed Zephyr had a useful little pump, called a wobble pump, which was built into the system to permit the addition of hydraulic fluid, and to pump up the pressure. It was through this opening, and with this pump, that we would add fluid and pump enough pressure to force the landing gear into the down and locked position. But, a serious problem; there was no hydraulic fluid aboard the aircraft. For the uninitiated, hydraulic fluid is used to
provide pressure to cylinders, which then move to create the desired actions. Most of you are familiar with the use of these systems on common equipment like power shovels, tractors—the brake system on your car. Fluids, being incompressible, act as a solid column similar to a steel rod, but capable of going around corners, and being piped to desired locations. Basically, any fluid can be used. However, in normal applications, a special fluid made from oils is used to avoid corrosion, and freezing. In this particular case, lack of hydraulic fluid forced us to improvise; the first thing we started with, was the drinking water aboard the aircraft. Pumping all this into the system produced no noticeable effect. Next came all the coffee, which we had aboard but hadn’t had time to serve the passengers. Again, no noticeable difference. “Tommy, where did you put that thermos of hot chocolate?” “It’s on the floor, behind my seat”, said Tommy. The hot chocolate was the next to go into the system—still no success. At this point, desperate measures were called for. Taking the empty thermos back to the lavatory, I did my best to fill it up. Returning with the slightly warm liquid I pumped it into the system. Great! One ‘gear down and locked’ light came on. But, we still had the other gear hanging out there. I looked at Tommy. “My turn to fly,” and I handed him the thermos. He needed no further nudging. I took over the flying while Tommy went back to contribute his share, which he then put into the system. Again, no change. We were both bone dry, with one wheel still hanging out. It doesn’t take a mastermind to figure this one out, does it? Tommy proceeded to get a contribution from a passenger, using the thermos as the urinal, then pouring the liquid into the system. One by one, through eight passengers, the procedure was duplicated, and still that red light was glowing on the panel. One last chance—passenger number nine. His contribution was added to the system, a few strokes of the wobble pump, and... SUCCESS! The second ‘gear down and locked’ green light came on, glowing brightly. We were now able to land safely, which we did without further delay, or incident, after an all night flight of a little over four hours. Now, I ask you: “Can one person really make a difference?
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Flying sunny and bumpy skies in the 1940s and 1950s by Bob Fliegel
he year was 1949 and I was nine years old. My parents and I had been spending winters in California for several years, but we had always driven there or gone by train. We were about to take our first cross-country flight as a family.
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Perhaps you remember the old airport at Wold-Chamberlain field. I recall most vividly the smallness of the terminal, the absence of chaos, and the well-dressed waiting passengers. We might all have been preparing to board the Queen Mary. In fact, it almost was the Queen Mary. It was a Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser— more about that glorious aircraft in due course. We had luggage galore. Those were the days when luggage limits were expressed in pounds, not pieces, and, just as now, one could pay for additional weight. Carry-on baggage was virtually unheard of. One checked everything through, rarely resulting in either lost bags or interminable waits in baggage-claim areas. Of course, the number of passengers on any given flight was much smaller than it later became, as was the number of flights that baggage handlers had to attend. Dad never carried our suitcases, instead putting them in the hands of friendly skycaps, many of whom we all came to know by name. Looking out the terminal window onto the tarmac, I saw the magnificent double-decker Stratocruiser. A stunningly gorgeous stewardess (now we call them flight attendants), dressed in a smartly tailored Northwest Airlines uniform and stiletto heels, greeted us at the base of the stairway. Even to a nine-year-old, she was as magnificent as the airplane itself! The aircraft was all one class. Northwest did not introduce first-class service until the late 1950s, but that was okay, as the airlines did not adopt today’s sardine-can seating configuration until years later. At that time the seats reclined much farther back than they do now, and leg room abounded. Kids got special treatment. The stewardesses gave us little kits of goodies—crayons, coloring books, and the like. Adults received folders of Northwest stationery, postcards, pens, and decals. And remember the gum? It was always peppermint Chiclets. The stewardesses distributed little packs of it during the frequent periods of turbulence and just before landing to help passengers cope with air sickness and changes in cabin pressure. We also received rudimentary ear plugs—internal aircraft noise was deafening by later standards. Inflight meals were major events— and the food was wonderful. Several years later, in 1954 to be exact, I had a summer job on Chuck
Milestone Events at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport 1920 First hangar constructed at the Twin Cities Motor Speedway Field (Twin Cities Airport) to accommodate airmail service 1923 Airport renamed Wold-Chamberlain Field for local pilots Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain, killed in combat during WWI. 1926 St. Paul withdraws from the Twin Cities Airport to build Holman Field 1928 City of Minneapolis buys Wold-Chamberlain field from Snelling Field Corporation for $165,000, renames it the Minneapolis Municipal Airport 1943 State legislation creates Metropolitan Airports Commission 1948 Becomes Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) 1962 Lindbergh Terminal opens 1967 More than 4.1 million people use MSP as passenger growth far exceeds projections 1989 Minnesota Legislature establishes long-term planning process to address passenger growth and in 1996 authorizes MSP 2010 long-term plan and funds $3.1 billion in improvements 2001 Humphrey Terminal and Lindbergh Terminal’s Transit Center open 2004 Light-rail service connects downtown Minneapolis, MSP, and Mall of America
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Saunders’ Bloomington farm, where I cared for 2,600 laying hens. Saunders, who owned Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, sold the 90 dozen eggs that I gathered each day to Northwest Airlines. Yes, one could get fresh eggs for breakfast! The trays plugged into holes in the arms of the seats, as there was too much distance between the rows to have allowed the seat-back tray-stowage system of today. Meals were served on real plates, placed on small white tablecloths—and passengers ate with real flatware, not plastic forks. Northwest began offering alcoholic drinks with the advent of the Stratocruiser, advertising: “Enjoy the lounge: one drink to St. Paul [from where?!], two drinks to Seattle.” Rolling drink cart service didn’t exist in those days. One simply pressed the stewardess call button for whatever drink you liked.
The best was yet to come. On night flights (yet to be called “red eyes”) passengers in the first few rows had access to overhead bunks that pulled down from the area of today’s carry-on stowage compartments. I remember the mattresses as thick and comfy. For privacy, you pulled a curtain across the bunks—it was quite a trick to get into one’s pajamas in such a restricted space, but at age nine I was a skilled (and small) contortionist. The Stratocruiser’s lower deck lounge was accessible via a short stairway from the passenger compartment. Though the lounge did not run the full length of the aircraft, it featured seven seats available for sale in addition to the chairs and tables available to all. During periods of relative calm, children enjoyed climbing between the two decks. Because commercial airliners of that era flew at
Milestone Events for Northwest Airlines 1926 1938 1941 1945 1947 1948 1949 1955 1959 1960 1963 1968 1971 1976 1978 1984 1988 1991 2000 2002 2005 2007
Begins carrying air mail to Chicago with two open-cockpit biplanes Develops first practical aviation oxygen mask, making possible high-altitude flying over the Rocky Mountains Stock is publicly traded: passenger revenue exceeds mail revenue New York service from the Twin Cities via Milwaukee and Detroit; introduces Douglas DC-4, its first four-engine aircraft Northwest Orient service to Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, and Manila “Red tail” (still in use today) painted on all Northwest aircraft for the first time, creating a trademark known around the world First boeing B-377 Stratocruiser, with first beverage service on U.S. flights First Lockheed L-1049 Constellation; voluntarily becomes the first airline to operate without government subsidy on Trans-Pacific and United States-Alaska routes First jet, Lockheed L-188 Electra turbo-prop airliner Begins “fastest U.S. jet service to Asia” with Douglas DC-8 aircraft, the airline’s first “pure jet” First all fan-jet operator; Boeing 707-320 Leads U.S. airline industry in net profit Cited for national leadership by noise abatement organization First airline approved by FAA to install coordinated flight crew training Deregulation of airline industry After 35-year hiatus, resumes service to China Bans smoking on all North American flights, first major airline to do so Northwest and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines launch joint service, twice-weekly flights between Minneaoplis/St. Paul and Amsterdam First major carrier to offer Internet check-in Northwest, Continental, and Delta sign cooperative marketing agreement Declares bankruptcy because of mounting debts Emerges from bankruptcy
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“Any child who walked forward and peeked in was invited to chat with the captain and copilot.” low altitudes—often under 20,000 feet—rough periods were far more frequent than on today’s flights. I soon became intimately familiar with the air sickness bags tucked into the pockets of seat backs. I thought the pilot was God. Most of Northwest’s pilots had been U.S. Navy or Army Air Corps aviators in World War II, and they were rakish fellows indeed. Though there was a door to the cockpit, it was left wide open for most of the flight. Any child who walked forward and peeked in was invited to chat with the captain and copilot. On a later occasion, the copilot arose and helped me into his seat! Children who took advantage of this opportunity received junior pilot wings before returning to their seats. What fun that was! Yes those were the good old days. Service was highly personal, airports and airplanes uncrowded, passengers well-behaved, the food plentiful and good, intrusive and delaying security measures unnecessary, luggage quick to be unloaded and rarely lost, fares consistent,
with a sense of adventure about it all. Still, the ride was often bumpy, the cabin smoke-filled, and the cross-country flights longer than we care to remember. On balance, are we better off in today’s world of commercial air travel? You decide. Thanks to Dru Dunwoody and Pete Patzke of NWA History Centre, Bloomington, for helping to confirm the accuracy of my childhood memories. Bob Fliegel is a graduate of Blake School (1957) and Carleton College (1961). He is retired and lives in St. Augustine, Florida.
This was first published in Hennepin History (Hennepin History Museum) and sent to me by some thoughtful member whom I have forgotten, which bothers me a lot since I do appreciate your contributions so much. (It also bothers me that my memory ain’t so much like it once was.) It is reprinted here with the author’s permission. -Ed. RNPA CONTRAILS MAY 2008
â€œAs I pulled into his six...â€? Five bronze Naval Aviators conduct a permanent debriefing in the entrance hall of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola
Propellers on the North Pacific By Ron Murdock
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adly, the business pages report that an airline which began with a small mail contract in 1926, and for eighty-two years thereafter operated with one identity, one logo, is soon to be buried deep within the papers of just another financial transaction. I hope a few fragments of Northwest (Orient) history sprinkled with a tad of tattle-tale telling might be of interest. Please overlook any errors relating to technicalities and/or procedures that have been either mislaid somewhere in my gray cells, intermingled with furloughs best forgotten, and lastly, for preaching to what is left of the choir.
Most will already know that following WWII Northwest Airlines was awarded the first American route into the Orient via Japan. A few short years later, Mao’s Red Army chased our DC-4’s out of China. Following the Korean Conflict in the early 1950’s, in which NWA began it’s first and continuing military charters to that country, the general interest in what was then the politically correct label of ‘Orient’ was at best meager. Made-in-Japan imprints were a decade away from becoming acceptable. Northwest (newly) Orient Airlines was the only American player in the game. The Pacific routes were pioneered with the unpressurized, low and slow flying DC-4’s. With the arrival of the more powerfully supercharged and pressurized DC-6 and 7C’s, the DC-4’s became domesticated. Trans-pacific flying in the prejet era was vastly different. No radar help existed except for a few random GCA approaches, mostly military. The only VOR Omni Range, and that without the extravagance of DME, was on Oshima Island. The only precision Instrument Landing System west of Alaska was at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Almost everything else was ADF/NDB, including Hong Kong’s infamous CC circling approach. Many pilots were required to remain current in the DC-4, 6, 7C and Lockheed Electra, a lot of numbers to remember with merely a smattering of standardization. Transistors, computers, and even four function calculators were rumors, and the giant leap to a basic flight director was in its trial stage. Near revolutionary pilotage techniques, as well as the mysteries of the tropopause, jet streams and mountain waves, were about to be deciphered by the twin geniuses of Captain Paul Soderlind and meteorologist Dan Sowa.
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he Seattle base, by virtue of it’s nearness to the great circle routes, performed what was considered the “international” flight operations. One daily (DC-7C) passenger flight originated in New York and, after stops in Chicago and Seattle and usually Anchorage, Alaska, proceeded to Tokyo’s Haneda airport via either Shemya or Cold Bay, Alaska. From Tokyo, the flights continued southerly on a variable basis to various stops or crew change destinations: Okinawa, Manila, Seoul, or Taipei. Additionally, a bi-weekly DC-6 cargo flight departed from Seattle which mimicked the passenger flight’s routes. Those two flights were the sum total of true flying to the Orient. The remainder of designated international flying consisted of one daily passenger DC-6 round trip to HNL and what became daily round trips from Seattle to Anchorage that varied between DC-6Bs and 7Cs. Serving a seniority sentence of six to eight years was the anticipated wait before expecting a peek at the “mystic Orient.” But overnight, the purchase of five DC-8s with ensuing training created a new ball game. In December of 1959, with a year-and-a-half seniority I was astonished to be called up for a Tokyo cargo flight via Shemya for the first of what would become almost nine hundred trans-pacs over the next thirty plus years. Flight crews were briefed by NWA’s Seattle or Tokyo based flight dispatchers and meteorologists. Each flight’s “minimal time path” route, calculated from the meager information gleaned from US weather bureau’s barometric and temperature charts, was displayed on a taped-together, hand-drawn depiction of the combined route and projected isobar/isotherm positions. Winds aloft were estimated calculations; actual reports were few. At Shemya and Cold Bay the same flight plan information was received by teletype, deciphered, and charted by the crew. Pre-flight procedures included individual assignment of HF frequencies by overseas ARINC. A typical “ten and forty” assignment translated into: at ten past an hour send a conventional position report prepared by the navigator, and at forty past, a terse report of “operation normal,” i.e. we’re likely still on course. Once enroute, our professional navigators compared the prepared chart prognostications with their radio altimeter calculations thusly enabling them to divine mystical suggestions for compass heading. Navigation was truly an art, burdened as it was by the eternally weak loran signals on the North Pacific. When conditions permitted, supplemental star
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With most maps of observations and primitive weather this scale, cartograradar’s offset images of the USSR’s phers’ pens obscure Kurile Islands were helpful. Because HF radio contacts left a lot to be de- and “enlarge” the sired, and little or no other traffic ex- smaller islands. This map is composed isted, sometime searching for winds and lack of turbulence or icing was... of several Google Maps screenshots well... not exactly what ATC would photostiched have condoned. Pages could be filled together. Shemya with navigational anecdotes, some is so small as to be probably even true! almost invisible just Avoidance of USSR territory was always of primary concern. The Rus- below where the dot is. -Ed. sians were quite unfriendly during the Cold War, and occasionally ran what was hoped to be practice warning intercepts on our flights. That practice continued well into the 747 era, to which many of us can attest, and ultimately resulted in an off-course Korean Airliner being needlessly shot down. In-flight duties of both the co-pilot and flight engineer involved monitoring carburetor heat during endless hours of IFR, listening to the scratchy HF (no SELCAL) radio with one ear, which usually accomplished nothing but contributing to future hearing loss, and monitoring fuel usage. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been in the un-pressurized DC-4s, down in the continuous wind, rain, and icing. The ancient tales of very low altitudes flown in order to avoid head winds generated by abnormal low pressure systems and to use the salt spray as a de-icing aid became quite believable. The Seven’s fuel systems were more standardized, as I recall, but on different models of the DC-6Bs the fuel tank configurations varied. In order to squeeze every drop of fuel from an emptying tank, the method commonly employed required total focus upon all the fuel pressure gauges. Any fluctuation signaled the rapid actuation of the proper transfer lever. Inattention or hesitation would wake up the passengers and really P-O the cabin crew. Because we were limited to a scheduled 12 hours on duty, by strange strokes of coincidence many seasonal trans-pacs were scheduled for 11:59. I recall one DC-7 departure from Seattle wherein after several unsuccessful approaches at Cold Bay, we headed back to Anchorage, re-fueled, and with a better forecast, were dispatched (legally) to Cold Bay and after a few more tries made it in. It was the longest time I had ever been in an airplane prior to the arrival of 747 double crew routes. (Flight segment times of the props were basically twice that of the current jets.)
UNALASKA & DUTCH HARBOR
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The main refueling and crew change point was on the flat and featureless four-and-a-half-mile long island of Shemya, located near the end of Alaska”s chain of Aleutians islands. In addition to the NWA operation, the island housed a permanent contingent of military personnel who serviced a gigantic “secret” missile early warning radar of that “Cold War” era. The 10,006 foot long runway led from the water”s edge to a group of WWII buildings leased by NWA. Efficient, friendly, Philippine employees staffed the worn structures referred to by most ex-military folks as “splintervilles.” Adequate cafeteria style meals and snacks were available, and individual motel-2 military-like rooms were the standard. Cockpit and cabin crews from the daily passenger flight only suffered overnight layovers. The cargo guys enjoyed three-and-a-halfers and prayed the next bi-weekly flight wouldn’t somehow overfly due to weather… particularly before the contractual establishment of trip hour duty rigs. An aviation axiom states that fog and steadily high winds are not co-existent. Shemya disproved that to be inconsistency consistently. Landings were enabled by the Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) Radar owned and operated by NWA. A magician by the name of Pete Watts was expert at routinely talking down our flights through that unique combination of perennial sea fog or rain and strong crosswinds. Many afternoons Pete gathered entire crews in his room for “debriefings”. We neophytes absorbed a magnitude of information about flying the line in general, and the Orient in particular. As well as the latest gossip. He rarely forgot to add his admonition to, “Always remember at landing minimums, with
S ND A L IS 500 statute miles
your slow ground speeds, the runway would rarely appear directly in the windshield… don’t forget to factor in the big crab angle!” The sole occupations on Shemya were beachcombing for WWII memorabilia, seal watching, sleeping, reading, or poker. Depending upon how many crews were crossing paths, there were sometimes two card games in progress, the big boys and the rest of us. Some nights a few NWA ground employees, crew members, and military gamblers gathered in an old hangar where, upon a billiard table, enormous heaps of cash exchanged hands during a very loud and quick three-dice game credited to be of Philippine origination. Lastly, softball competitions between the military and NWA-based personnel included posted local rules which forbade the military team from using their radar to track fly balls in the fog.
Sited near the termination of the volcanic Aleutian peninsula, Cold Bay is much closer to Anchorage, and in the summer months, benefits from more acceptable flying conditions than Shemya. Layover provisions were much the same as Shemya. Catchand-release river fishing provided seasonal entertainment, with the caveat to avoid disputes should a very tall and furry bully become interested in your catch. And never, never go out at night and complain about noisy vandals playing catch with the garbage cans.
NWA originally acquired a large estate placed within the nooks and crannies of suburban Shibuya. The property, rumored to have been the home of a RNPA CONTRAILS AUGUST 2008
member of Japanese royalty, was intended primarily for use by Tokyo-based functionaries and some crews. A walled enclosure surrounded several buildings: a large mansion, referred to as the Staff House, containing kitchen/dining room, many bedrooms, other functional areas including a barber shop, and during warm weather, a roof-top lounge. Scattered about the property were additional building annexes and a swimming pool. The passenger (DC-7) crews normally laid-over at the Staff House, while the DC-6 cargo guys might be spread around the Ginza’s downtown area’s hotels. The exchange rate was 360-400 yen to the dollar, which doesn’t tell the whole story, because everything was generally much, much less costly. A lowly paid co-pilot might get a hair-cut followed by a traditional Japanese hot bath and massage, some great sukiyaki, and still have change from a twenty dollar bill. Tokyo’s many suburbs, including Yokohama and Kyoto, all very accessible by train, were delightfully crowded, but still overflowing with the atmosphere of old Nippon. The arrival of the Olympic Games in 1964 changed Japan overnight and forever.
I think it would be safe to say that at each and every other layover point, Okinawa, Seoul, Taipei, and Manila, hotels were limited to one or two choices. Generally, the poorer countries of the Philippines and Korea had the worst hotels, but were also the most interesting. The Manila Hotel was still a work in progress after its use as the Japanese wartime Headquarters, and barely resembled the present beautiful edifice. Yellow fever, typhoid, and tetanus shots were required to fly the Orient, but, dysentery was still a concern. Care had to be taken on where and what one ate. A very unpleasant couple of weeks followed by a sojourn in the Tacoma General Hospital demonstrated to me the efficacy of being more selective about uncooked food.
Recollections of The DC-7C
It’s tempting to overlook that aviation in the nineteen fifties and early sixties in general wasn’t so organized, so relatively tranquil. Enroute and approach radar control was still uncommon. It would have prevented two major airline mid-airs that each killed 128 passengers. In 1956, operating with the permissible flight rules of “VFR on Top” United and TWA collided at 21,000 feet directly over the Grand Canyon. In 1960 a second mid-air collision (same airlines) spread wreckage and fatalities over portions of
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Brooklyn and Newark. That tragedy was attributed to an improper entry into a holding pattern. Airline accidents plagued the whole industry, and during a short period of years Northwest had it’s share of misfortunes. Added to the list of airline losses were two Lockheed Electras, destroyed by design or maintenance oversights, a B-720B that encountered the “jet upset” phenomenon, and one DC-4 lost in the Rocky Mountains. And three DC-7C’s.
veryone has a tale or two about the Seven. After time in the DC-fours and sixes, one’s first taste of the power, sound, and acceleration of the Seven were eye openers. Previous single-engine military encounters with the Pratt and Whitney 3350 engine had little bearing on the airline version of the 7C. Douglas complicated the already complex power plant with the addition of a Power Recovery Turbine, a device intended to recover lost horsepower from the exhaust gases. It was the source of many problems; if a PRT disintegrated, fire and other unpleasant happenings could result. During climbouts in the hours of darkness, especially through dense clouds, the Seven’s rich mixtures generated a bon-fire-like exhaust that could be alarming to passengers and cabin crew alike. A tale in an earlier issue of Contrails described how a stewardess brought it to the attention of the cockpit that an engine was on fire. They assured her it was just a normal idiosyncrasy of the Seven’s engines to emit a bright exhaust. She replied to the effect: “All the way back to the tail?” My roommate at the time reported an almost identical experience. Neither of those fires activated warning systems (except for the cabin crew) but were successfully extinguished. The losses of our three Sevens were all attributed to engine and/or propeller related malfunctions. The first took place approaching Manila. A “runaway” propeller produced an uncontrollable fire, threatening the wing structure, and ditching became unavoidable. A classic ditching in a dark and tropical rainstorm resulted in one fatality… a heart attack. The second Seven disappeared without forewarning in the general area of Sitka, Alaska. The official consensus for the mysterious disappearance was another runaway prop that detached and destroyed either structure, another engine, or controls. Keep in mind that it was prior to our hijack/nutcase period of aviation. Again, near Sitka, the third loss was identical: a propeller that would not feather and, in light of past events, ditching was elected. Another text book ditch-
ing was performed in daylight and reputedly most of the passengers didn’t even get wet. The last two issues of interest commonly encountered with the Seven were hot temperature take-offs and icing, both of which can best be illustrated by personal observations.
The trans-pacs as well as other Tokyo-south trip segments were usually heavily loaded. (I know, nothing’s changed.) Initiating any takeoff in excess of a prescribed engine cylinder head temperature (CHT) was taboo. Should a CHT become excessive, an engine or engines could begin to detonate and lose power, as displayed on the Seven’s BMEP (Brake Mean Effective Pressure) gauges. The procedure developed was... approaching takeoff sequence… engines would be run up to ±2000 RPM (numbers arguable), the mixtures quickly leaned to 1000 RPM, producing a lot of air and not much heat. When the rapidly cooling CHTs were acceptable, we would go. I quite vividly recall one such hot, humid takeoff over Haneda’s Tokyo Bay. We squeaked off, gear coming up over the approach lights, and a couple of the BMEPs gauges twitched, indicating a possible precursor to detonating. One engine-fixated crew member, focused on engine health, reactively began to squeeze off a bit of power and we began to sink toward the light stanchions. We managed to fire-wall the throttles without blowing anything up and resumed normality. One of those recalled aviation seconds of non-boredom.
The Seven’s air intakes were equipped with internal screens designed to prevent ice and other undesirable objects from congesting the airflow to the fuel-injected engine’s mechanisms. Cockpit activated individual spring-loaded switches enabled alcohol to be sprayed upon the screens so as to melt any ice. Right? One southward bound summer day near Kagoshima, tooling happily along at a nice and cool cruise altitude somewhere in the high teens, we entered a stratus layer that enthroned the mother of slushy ice. I feel it necessary to mention here that ATC control, on HF frequencies, was necessarily limited by atmospheric noise, language barrier, and in the event of abnormal requests, to a large degree, imaginary. The engines began to alternately falter in spite of applications of heated air, alcohol, and flowery language to the ATC controller who repeatedly ac-
knowledged our need for a lower altitude with a cheerful but obvious lack of understanding or hope we would go away. A propeller would start to wind up and needless to say the solution to recent disappearance theories were lurking in three minds. As it developed, the Captain unveiled an unknown, to me, technique. When an engine began to sound truly unhealthy, he would promptly cycle its mixture control off and on, the engine would back-fire and thereby blow the ice off the screen. For a time the cockpit was reminiscent of that before-mentioned three dice game... air, alcohol, backfire, alcohol, scream at ATC, repeat. I recall The Very Cool Captain’s words to the effect: “Don’t worry about getting a clearance, we’re going down with or without it.” A product of strict IFR rules, I finally comprehended the comfort provided by the scarcity of traffic. Few Asian carriers other than Cathay Pacific and Quantas were yet to be born. Thankfully we broke out into CAVU conditions. Though it seemed much longer, the incident likely lasted for only a few minutes of that aviation’s extreme un-boredom, and not long enough to damage any seat cushions. Many agree that those few DC-Six and Seven years on the North Pacific were the most memorable hours of our airline careers. We were privileged to sit beside, be enthralled by, and learn from several remarkable pioneers of flight, veterans of Canada’s wild and wooly northern region, and those magnificent joie de vivre combat survivors of WWII.
Thirty years later
Dragging my bags and butt through JFK customs after a long 747 journey, a passenger grumbled to me about arriving (a dozen or so minutes) late. I offered to show her a dog-eared schedule illustrating that when I began with the airline, the same trip would have taken us a day-and-a-half. But I could guarantee that it would have been a lot more interesting, more akin to an adventure. Author’s footnote: Perhaps the only airline flying that rivaled those few but remarkable years, were the military passenger and cargo charters that began in1964, became as many as four a day, and continued to the end of the Vietnam War. At one point in time, the Military Air Charter Service informally approached Northwest Airlines to consider the eventuality that if China entered the war, the military would be very busy, and by virtue of its extensive experience in the Far East, NWA likely would oversee the entire civilian MAC operation. RNPA CONTRAILS AUGUST 2008
How to Survive an Earthquake This article appeared in my inbox many months ago. After you have read it you will probably agree that it all makes perfectly good sense, but it is contrary to what many of us have been taught. It is particularly important to those of us living in Southern California, but I think it’s important for all to understand. -Editor “My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world’s most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake. I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a member of many rescue teams from many countries. I was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for simultaneous disasters. Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the ‘triangle of life.’ The larger the object, the stronger, and the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the ‘triangles’ you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building. They are everywhere. The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under his desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of his bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn’t at the time know that the children were told to hide under something. We did a scientific test. We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten mannequins did ‘duck and cover,’ and ten mannequins I used in my ‘triangle of life’ survival method. After the simulated earthquake collapse we crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the results. The film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under directly observable, scientific conditions, relevant to building collapse, showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover. There would likely have been 100 percent survivability for people using my method of the ‘triangle of life’.”
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TEN TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY 1) Most everyone who simply “ducks and covers” when buildings collapse are crushed to death. People who get under or in objects, like desks or cars, are crushed. 2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it. 3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs. 4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake. 5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair. 6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the doorjamb falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed! If the quake is a small quake, the door repeatedly swings shut with the force of a hammer and has been known to break the bones of the hands or cut off the fingers of the person simply clinging to the doorjamb. 7) Never go to the stairs (especially in tall buildings). The stairs have a different “moment of frequency” (they swing separately from the main part of the building). The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes
place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads - horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn’t collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged, even if the earthquake does not collapse the stairs, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged. 8) Get Near the Outer Walls Of Buildings Or Outside Of Them, If Possible! It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked. 9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily
survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them. 10) Water!! The most needed substance you can imagine after such an event. Everyone will be searching for it. NOTE: Aftershocks are normal after an earthquake. Do not be frightened by them. They can do a lot of damage, so you need to be prepared with that thought in mind. If we have an earthquake of “7” we should expect one aftershock at “6”, 10 aftershocks at “5”, 100 aftershocks at “4”, and 1,000 aftershocks at “3”. This will all occur in a 21-day period as the earth settles. This is normal, but is where most search and rescue personnel loose their lives. The best policy is to get out and get away from structures until the 21-day period is past. People need to plan at least a 10-day period before government help arrives.
Just a little post-Christmas spirit There was this fellow who worked for the Post Office whose job it was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day a letter came to his desk, addressed to God in a shaky handwriting. He thought, “Oh boy, better open this one and see what it’s all about.” So he opened it and read: “Dear God, I am an 83 year old widow living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension check. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?” The postal worker was touched, and went around showing the letter to all the others. Each of them dug into his wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96.00, which they put into an envelope and sent over to her. The rest of the day, all the workers felt the warm glow of the kind thing they had done. Christmas came and went. A few days later another letter came from the old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read, “Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing. I think it must have been those thieving bastards at the Post Office.”
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SURVIVING MUMBAI By NWA Captain Thomas Cook An email in which he described the terror of being trapped in his hotel room for thirty seven hours. To all my friends and relatives, It has been a week since F/A Daryl Jones and I were released from the Trident/Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, India. First, a sincere and heartfelt “Thank you” to all for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. Believe me when I say, “We needed them!” Here’s my story: Timeline starts Wednesday night 26 NOV (all times local BOM). 2100: Returned alone from dinner (luckily not Leopold’s). Headed down to 10th floor aircrew lounge to use the computer. Made a couple of calls to the USA using Skype connection. 2155: Returned to room #1510 and realized I had missed my 2150 wake-up call. Noticed message light NOT flashing. Almost immediately heard what sounded like loud fireworks coming from the street level. My room faced the water. Peeking outside, I saw no unusual activity. The noises continued. I started to think that the cadence was unusual and not really like fireworks. 2205: I then decided to call reception to find out if the flight was operating on time—no answer at the front desk. I then called the hotel operator—no answer! At this point I started to think “terrorist attack.” The hotel is extremely customer oriented and they normally pick up the phone on the first ring. 2210: Looked out the window to see if there was indeed any panic in the street. Everything appeared
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normal. Nobody running around, etc. I started to think that my imagination was getting the best of me. Surely if there were terrorists shooting up the lobby that the people walking around outside the hotel would be running around seeking shelter. At this point I made an unfortunate and almost fatal tactical error. I decided to go down to the lobby to get some first hand info on our pick-up time. 2212: Still wearing jeans and a golf shirt, I jump into the elevator. As I descended toward the lobby I had a thought. “If there are terrorists in the hotel-maybe I should stand closer to the side (by the buttons) of the elevator car. Don’t want to give the bastards too easy a target!” Elevator doors open and I see a pool of blood directly in front of me. I hear screaming and moaning. I immediately realize that my worst fears have come to fruition. I press the button to close the doors and simultaneously look up past the blood and see a guy, who has just noticed me, holding an AK-47. He turned toward me and fired just as the doors were closing. If the doors had not closed as quickly as they did I’m sure I would have been toast. 2215: Ran like lightning back to my room and locked myself in. At this point it took a few minutes to “get it together.” Had to really concentrate on exactly what course to take. With all my lights off, I again peeked out between the curtains. 2220: While looking outside, I heard the first of many loud explosions and saw pieces of the hotel falling into the street below. This one sounded like it came from just to my left and above. (In retrospect, I believe some of these bombs were planted days earlier by sleeper cell employees.) Glad they hadn’t chosen my room! 2230: “Breaking News” on the attacks was just start-
ing to hit the TV airways when they reported that my hotel was on fire. Not surprising, considering all of the explosions. I started to feel very helpless. I faced an unenviable quandary—if I left the room I’d probably be shot, but remaining in a burning hotel was almost as unappealing. 2245: Made contact with Northwest Airlines SOC in Minneapolis. Fortunately, they were in contact with my two First Officers who were outside the hotel (another story). They were able to conclude that the Trident (my) side of the hotel was not on fire. Amidst all this horror, a little good news goes a long way. The terrorists occupied various section of the Oberoi/Trident Hotel complex for about the next 37 hours. I won’t go into the hostage taking and other atrocities. These were all well reported by the various news outlets throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. Eventually our TV, internet and hot water were cut off. The hotel phone continued to work and I was able to keep in contact with NWA and my family. I was also in contact with Daryl who was on the 23rd floor. As time slowly dragged on, I found myself going through periods of hope and despair. I was hopeful when the sun finally came up and I could see Indian soldiers on the sidewalk below. Though intermittent explosions could be heard, I continued to hope for some good news from NWA but the status quo prevailed. “Hotel not secure—do not move.” I started feeling badly for the men and women with whom I spoke. I knew that they wanted desperately to give me some good news. The SOC, Chief Pilot (thanks OC) and NWA security did a super job keeping us informed as best they could. Information was at a premium. About mid-afternoon on Thursday I was told that our evacuation would happen within the hour. This was a real high point. Sadly, no one came. And when the sun started to set I began to think I’d never get out. Soon after, I found out the the last NWA A330 out of town had just departed for AMS—without us. A very sinking feeling. Halfway through the night I heard a door open in the hallway. Using my peep hole, I could see people across the hall carefully sticking their heads out of the room. They were Lufthansa flight attendants. I was really glad to find that I was not completely alone. I was told that their Purser was on the 17th
floor and had informed them that Lufthansa was sending an A319 rescue aircraft. This was very uplifting news. I called Daryl to tell him that we had a “for sure” ride out of town. The next morning at about 11:00 we were evacuated by the Indian Army. The walk through the lobby was sobering. Looked like a war zone. Details later (preferably at the Belgique). After out-processing, we, along with Lufthansa and Air France crews were bussed to a hotel near the airport. After a hot shower and some lunch, we were boarding the Lufthansa A319. (About 1800 Friday evening.) I can’t thank Lufthansa enough. They sent their head flight surgeon, psychologists and all crew members had been trained in Critical Incident Stress Management. We could learn a lot from them. We were then met in FRA by Lars Reuter and Bob Polak from AMS. They were awesome. Met us in the middle of the night, had our hotel accommodations and follow-on travel arranged. Again, “Thank you Lufthansa” for the first class seat to BOS. In BOS, I was surprisingly met at the aircraft door (upstream of customs!) by my family and my dear friend, BOS manager Tommy Neylon. Tommy even had the State Police watching our cars at the curb— right in front of Terminal E. (Tommy knows everybody!) I’ll save all my lessons learned captain stuff for a different audience. Thank You to all. Cheers, Capt. Thomas B. Cook Editor’s note: I was particularly interested in hearing what Tom had to say about the “lessons learned captain stuff,” assuming that we may have qualified as a “different audience.” Unfortunately, he has simply been too busy to rewrite this account for us, partly because he has been speaking at seminars like ALPA’s Terrorism Committee and others. He returned in mid March from a six-day trip which included a BOM (Mumbai) layover, saying that he needed to, “Get back on the horse.” RNPA CONTRAILS MAY 2009
Remembering Paul Soderlind: Part One A Tribute to Paul Soderlind (reprint)
By Bob Cavill
The pilots of Northwest Airlines have lost a good friend and a champion for aviation safety on December 10th, . It is difficult to conceive all that this man has done to make Northwest’s procedures, training and aircraft safer. This transition began to take place when Paul was appointed Director of Flying, Technical at a time when the airline had one of the worst safety records in the industry. Please allow me to review some of the major accomplishments that Paul directed to make Northwest Airlines one of the safest airlines in the world. SOPA (Standard Operating Procedures Amplified): This is the “who does what, and when.’’ It established sequence, and designates who normally accomplishes each step and furnishes brief explanations when necessary. Flight Training Outline: This detailed explanation covered all normal maneuvers and configurations a pilot would be expected to perform in normal and emergency operations. It was the how. Previous to SOPA and the Flight Training Outline a lot of pilots had their own ways of doing things. As a copilot I clearly recall at bidding time that copilots would check with each other how a particular captain wanted things done. Some were quite different. After the introduction of SOPA and the Flight Training Outline there was one correct way to fly the airplane and a person that would support you to the limit if you followed procedures.
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The Bug System: There is no question in my mind that Northwest pilots are the best pilots in the industry. This is partly due to Paul’s simple, but ingenious system that gave us the tools to fly the aircraft at the peak performance level. It was very simple to use, you didn’t have to remember any numbers, and a series of bugs were displayed on the perimeter of the airspeed indicator. The safety speeds were plainly marked for takeoff and landing—the marked bug. As part of these procedural speeds there was predetermined pitch attitudes for takeoff and go-around that would give the pilot the proper pitch and speed for peak aircraft performance. This covered all engine or engine failure cases. There was no searching, or trial and error, to produce best performance. The other half of the best pilot statement is attributed to the education that we received from Paul. He wrote bulletins and conducted ground school classes in which aerodynamics was taught in very clear understandable pilot language.
Memory Check Lists: Prior to Paul, emergency checklists from the aircraft manufacturers were quite long and always had memory items. As a result check rides were more of a memory check than a flight check and a real emergency was at times a near disaster with the wrong engine being shut down, or something worse. Paul changed all that: FLY THE AIRPLANE PILOT NOT FLYING - SILENCE THE BELL PILOT NOT FLYING IDENTIFY THE EMERGENCY SECOND OFFICER - READ THE CHECKLIST PILOT NOT FLYING - RESPOND DO NOT HURRY Paul was not only an aerodynamic genius but also knew more about pilot human factors than anyone else in the industry. When he did away with the manufacturers’ check lists, and adopted the simple safe approach to emergency procedures the FAA strongly objected. Paul proved to them that his method was equal or better than those used by the manufacturer and won the battle. As a result the Northwest standard slowly became the industry standard. Flare Tones: Paul clearly foresaw that the transition from the first generation jets to the wide bodies would be a problem for the pilot to judge the proper flare point. The pilot’s eye level on the 747 on landing was 70’ in the air at main wheel touchdown. As a result, on the first 747s delivered to Northwest the radio altimeter was designed to give the pilot three distinct and different tones at 100’, 35’ and 20’. I still think the NWA flare tones are superior to the altitude call outs on the glass cockpit aircraft. As far as I am aware I don’t think any other airline had flare tones until the glass cockpit aircraft came along. Aircraft Standardization: Paul insisted that the aircraft we flew should be in standard configuration down to the finest detail. At times this was quite costly when aircraft came on board with different switch or instrument configuration. When an aircraft was released to the line it met Paul’s standards. For many pilots who flew the Pan American Interchange on the 707, it was very clear what a great thing NWA had. Pan Am had different flight directors, different HSIs,
switches were in different locations and quite often an intermix of engines. Each flight was filled with new discoveries. Noise Abatement: Northwest led the industry for years with Paul’s “Quiet EPR” takeoff and reduced flap/drag approaches. At noise abatement meetings around the country the airports requested that other airlines fly their aircraft like Northwest [did]. In Sydney, Australia the airport operator asked other 747 operators to adopt NWA standard landing flap, as it was at least 2db lower than anyone else’s. Airport Standards: In the mid 60s as the 727s and 737s came on the scene airlines began jet operations into airports with marginal runways. Paul advised the mountain stations that NWA would not operate jets in those airports until they had 9,000’ runways. It still amazes me that an operations person was able set these standards and the airports all provided safe runways for NWA. Most of the mountain stations had poor approach facilities and in most cases the approach required a circling approach. The instrument departures were also of little assistance regarding safe maneuvering areas after takeoff. As an example; at MSO the departure stated, “Climb VFR over the station to 1500’ and then depart the MSO VOR on a northwest radial.” There was no guidance on how to safely maneuver the 727 around the rocks to get it pointed to the northwest at 1500’ over the VOR. Paul laid out simple, clear, tested procedures that made these operations safe and simple. In the late 1960s, many of the pilots operating the 727s had very limited experience. Paul provided the standards and these pilots flew them without an incident. The trusting relationship that existed between the pilots and Paul was exceptional considering the normal employee/management relations in the airline industry and especially at Northwest, where relations were strained most of the time. This relationship was no accident but one that was bonded by Paul’s concern for the pilots operational problems. When a pilot had an operational problem, and there were a lot of them when the jet aircraft started operations, he could not rest until he had resolved the problem. Once again the human factors expert never put blame on the pilot, but looked for the underlying cause. He listened to the flight crews and together worked out the cause and solution. (continued) RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2009
Jet Upset: In 1962 a Northwest 707-720B experienced an upset and crashed in the Florida Everglades. Paul reconstructed the incident with limited information from the recorders on the airplane. Another airline experienced a similar upset but were able to recover. From the information he collected he was able to explain the jet upset. He presented a six hour ground school to every Northwest pilot on how to avoid an upset when encountering turbulence. The FAA required that all airline pilots in the U.S. receive this presentation on Jet Upset. Mountain Wave Turbulence: In the early 1960s pilots reported turbulence encounters that were extreme, without any warning on eastbound flights about 30 miles west of GTF. The flights had been in clear smooth air with the seat belt sign off when they experienced severe turbulence. The turbulence began with an abrupt pitch up, airspeed increase, overspeed warning, more pitch changes and continued severe turbulence, a very frightening experience. Paul and Dan Sowa immediately went to work, developing the mountain wave bypass routes and procedures which solved the problem. They went beyond the mountain wave solution and developed a forecasting procedure and the TP [Turbulence Plot] Program that provided pilots with the best information on the location on all types of turbulence pilots might encounter, including; thunderstorms, low level wind shear, turbulence associated with upper fronts and mountain wave turbulence. Many other airlines in those days requested routing to follow the red tails. Visual Aim Point on Landing: One of our 707-720Bs landed short at Fort Lauderdale and damaged the landing gear. After discussing the incident with the crew Paul came out with a bulletin and a procedure requiring an aim point on landing 1000’ down the runway on all aircraft. He explained the geometry on the landing jet which was very different from previous prop aircraft. Once again, no blame; he corrected the problem that caused the incident. High Sink Rate Landing: A 727 landing at SLC attempted a high sink rate landing with the power at idle and crashed short of the runway. Paul put out a bulletin on the incident explaining the dangers of high sink rate on final and explained the delayed spool-up time on jet engines.
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The 40 degree flap setting was also locked out on all of our 727s. He explained that the thrust/drag ratio with 40 degree flaps was marginal and increased the noise factor on landing. 747 Departs Runway on Beginning of Takeoff Roll: Boeing designed the body gear steering to automatically deactivate as the INS speed signal reached a certain level. Due to conditions on that day the body gear didn’t deactivate and the body gear steering overcame the nose wheel and rudder forces and drove the aircraft off the runway. Paul changed Northwest’s procedures to turn body gear steering off and the anti-skid braking on when lined up for takeoff. The reverse was done prior to leaving the runway after landing. Instead of pilot error, another serious problem was simply resolved. Paul Soderlind absolutely loved his job as Director of Flight Operations-Technical, and he also had great loyalty to Mr. Nyrop. Although Mr. Nyrop was very concerned with keeping the operating costs down he usually responded positively to Paul’s wellpresented requests for standardization and safety. In 1972 when the pilots went on strike, Paul and other management pilots were asked to operate a skeleton schedule, which meant crossing the pilot picket line. Although he had great loyalty to Mr. Nyrop and Northwest he knew by crossing the picket line he would lose the trust and loyalty he had with the pilots. He chose not to fly. Unfortunately for Northwest and the pilots, he was not able to return to his former management position. A year later, Paul lost his medical and was forced to take medical retirement when he was 50 years old. The medical retirement didn’t end his aviation career. Many job offers came in and he continued to work as a consultant until his untimely death in December. His accomplishments have been recognized throughout the aviation industry. He received the FAA Citation and Gold Medal for “Extraordinary Service to Aviation Safety.” He received the Laura Barbour Air Safety Award in 1979. Most recently he was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. I can only imagine what else Paul Soderlind would have accomplished if he had been able to work until age 60 for Northwest Airlines. The pilots of Northwest have benefited a great deal from the dedication and knowledge of this great man. Thanks from all of us Paul. Bob Cavill
Bob Cavill’s tribute was originally published in the February, 2001 RNPA Newsletter. It was presented here again not only as a refresher for all of us to recall the important contributions that Paul made to air safety, but also with the hope that some of our new Delta family who may run across this may become aware of how much this one man affected how every domestic, and many foreign, airlines operate today. Part two of this remembrance is a lengthy interview conducted in 2000. It includes some of Paul’s personal memories that I suspect many of you have not heard before. They were new to me. – Editor
Remembering Paul Soderlind: Part Two An Interview with Joe Godfrey
Joe Godfrey is a composer, musician, educator, writer and pilot living in southern California. He is academic director of the Audio Production and Web Design & Interactive Media programs at the Art Institute of California - San Diego. His music is heard in commercials, films and TV shows. He has written articles for AOPA Pilot, IFR, Aviation Consumer and Twin & Turbine magazines, and interviewed 54 noted aviators for AVweb.com’s Profiles series, of which this is one. It was conducted in May, 2000, just months before Paul’s death.
Paul A. Soderlind was born August 6, 1923, in Billings, Mont. He took his first flight lesson at age 12, earned his private certificate on his 18th birthday (which was then the CAA minimum age), and earned his Commercial and Instructor ratings three months later. In 1942 he was hired by Northwest Airlines to teach instrument flying to new pilots. In 1944 he took two years of military leave from Northwest to become an instructor and check pilot for the Naval Air Transport Squadron. When the war ended he went back to Northwest, but at age 22 was still several months too young to hold the Air Transport Rating. On his 23rd birthday he checked out and became the nation’s youngest airline captain. Many of the standards and procedures he developed as a line pilot were adopted by the airline, and in 1954 Paul was named Northwest’s Director, Flight Operations, Technical. In that job he flew all the types Northwest operated from the Boeing 247D up to and including the Boeing 747. He also flew the acceptance test and delivery flights on Northwest types from the Douglas DC-6B up through the 747. In his 30,000+ hours he has flown some 350 types of airplanes, helicopters and gliders, about 25 different types of airliners, about 20 bizjet and turboprops, and some 50 different GA types, including Molt Taylor’s Aerocar. He retired from Northwest in 1973, and has given lectures at ICAO, IATA, Boeing, NBAA, ALPA, IAA, Embry-Riddle, the U.S. Air Force, and the FAA Academy. He has served as a consultant to FAA Administrators Alexander Butterfield, Langhorne Bond and David Hinson, Associate Administrator Richard Skully, and (sadly for us) turned down an offer from the Reagan administration to head the FAA. His list of bizjet consulting jobs reads like the Fortune 500, and his list of airline consulting jobs reads like the Dow Jones Transportation Index. He has flown over most of the Northern Hemisphere (and some of the Southern), from Hong Kong on the west to Paris on the east, including the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, and most of the contiguous United States. These days he’s working closer to home implementing The Bug System and other procedures and systems for Corporate Air in Billings. He has won bookcases full of awards, including the 1964 ALPA Air Safety Award, the first FAA Citation and Gold Medal for Extraordinary Service to Aviation Safety, the 1979 Laura Taber Barbour Air Safety Award, the 1985 General Billy Mitchell Award, a 1994 FAA Special Recognition Award for Lifelong Commitment to Aviation Safety, and in 1997 was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. In 1999, Aviation Week and Space Technology honored Paul and his partner, Northwest’s Chief Meteorologist Dan Sowa, for the Turbulence Plot program they developed in 1965. RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2009
Paul and Jean Soderlind enjoying the Rapelje, Montana Rodeo in 1992
How did your life in aviation begin? I don’t remember this but when I was about one year old my folks moved from Billings out to a little town called Rapelje, which was about half as big as a city block. Jumping ahead, when I was doing the acceptance and delivery test for the 747s for Northwest and I’d do a gentle buzz job over Rapelje I remember commenting that I never thought I’d fly an airplane bigger than my hometown. I don’t remember this either but my mother did and she’s usually right. She said that when I was about two years old I used to poke at the flies on the window and say “airplane.” We lived in Rapelje for eleven years, and when I was twelve we moved to Billings and I moved to the airport. Literally. I wouldn’t come home at night if I could sleep in an airplane or a hangar. My folks got used to that and it kept me out of their hair.
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I worked as a flunky. The fancy term for it now is “lineboy.” I was a general pest to everybody and bugged people to wash their airplanes and get some flight instruction. I graduated slowly from washing airplanes to pushing them in and out of the hangars. I got paid $3.50 a week and they said I was worth it. The flight service— today we’d call it an FBO—was a one-man operation and I would pester this fellow into giving me some of the flight instruction that I had earned. So it took me from May of 1939 to December of that year to get enough time to solo. I also worked as an apprentice mechanic. I’d do just about anything around the airport to get some flying time. What airplanes were you flying? I couldn’t pick and choose. I had to take what was available. One was an E-2 Cub, which was the Taylor Cub, before the Piper Cub. C. G. Taylor
owned Taylor Aircraft and sold it to Piper. It had a 37-horsepower engine. Like the J-3 Cub, it had a little crank to move the stabilizer. On the E-2, there was no crank. It was clothesline rope that ran through two pulleys and back to the jackscrew on the stabilizer. It took two hands to move it because you had to pull on one rope and push on the other, so you had to let go of the stick. Here’s a weird story but I swear every syllable of it is true. Let me leap ahead to the early jet airliner days. There were several airplanes lost, and unfortunately Northwest was the first, to lose an airplane to something called the Jet Upset Phenomenon. In those days no one knew much about Mach number and compressibility and shock stall and mach buffet. I was deeply involved in the investigation of the Jet Upset Phenomenon because the first airplane was a Northwest 720B in the Florida Everglades. The 720B was really nothing more than a 707 with a different name. They went straight into the ground from about 20,000 feet. The airplane was found with the stabilizer trim in the extreme airplane nose-down position. In the 707/720 series airplanes you were able to split the spoilers extending only the inboards or outboards. You used the emergency spoiler switches to do this, and you learned the rule “inboards UP” (turn the inboards OFF), then when you pulled the spoiler handle back you extended only the outboards. With the jet’s wing swept back, the outboard spoilers were aft of the inboards and if you extended the outboards only it “spoiled” lift aft due to the extended spoilers and preserved lift forward since with the inboards turned OFF they did not extend thereby causing a nicely controlled nose up pitching moment. While Northwest had the first known jet upset crash it was followed almost immediately by several others in the airline industry, the military and bizjet operations. We did a great deal of flight and simulator testing both in conjunction with Boeing and many “on Northwest’s own.” In the process we sorted this all out and I became somewhat of a—you’ll pardon the expression—“expert” on phenomenon, its cause and how to recover from same. Jet transports have a trimmable stabilizer, the aerodynamic function being the same as in Taylor and Piper Cubs. If you trim nose down but counter any pitch change with up elevator, opposing air loads on the stabilizer jack screw jam the stabilizer so you can’t move it. The classic jet upset begins with the airplane pitching up upon entering a gust
— the term “gust” is not technically correct but use of the term here usually makes the phenomena easier to understand—to what pilots who lived through the phenomenon said was “the vertical.” While the pitch-ups seldom if ever really went all the way to the vertical, 30+ degrees nose-up in an airliner can look like vertical. The pilot would try to counter the pitch-up with down elevator, and when this didn’t stop it the pilot would intuitively begin trimming the stabilizer AND (Airplane Nose Down). When the “gust” reverses itself the airplane pitches violently nose down under the influence of, by then, full down elevator and full AND stabilizer. To counter the developing steep nosedown attitude and rapidly increasing speed, the pilot applies up-elevator which, with the stabilizer still full AND is not enough to get the nose-up without the greater aerodynamic force stabilizer trim provides. The pilot tries to trim ANU but finds the stabilizer jammed just like I discovered in the E-2 Taylor Cub in 1938, 68 years ago! A weird story but absolutely true, syllable by syllable! Airspeeds in the dive can go well beyond the Barber Pole, the jet’s “red line” airspeed limit, and rates of descent can exceed 50,000 FPM. The stabilizer trim can be “un-jammed” only by momentary release of elevator back pressure, hard to do when diving toward Mother Earth at such speeds, but this “cure” is guaranteed assuming the stabilizer drive system is otherwise normal. With what I had learned in investigation of the upset cases I developed a six-hour lecture for Northwest pilots. The FAA made the lecture mandatory for all U.S. carriers and it was followed by similar action with the foreign carriers. Having been the only one fortunate to learn these things at first hand, I was the one to give the foreign carriers the lecture myself; it helped that there were nowhere near as many then. And they made it convenient by assembling all together at an ICAO conference in Montreal in 1964. I hope I am not going too deep with this but it all was a very productive and exciting interlude in my career. Not too deep at all. If I can follow it anybody can. Sounds quite relevant to today’s turbine pilots. It is unfortunate that how and why the classic jet upset occurs, what to do when it does, stabilizer drive stall and how to “cure” it, and other related RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2009
factors we learned the hard way—“on the job” yet they are not being passed on to today’s airline and other pilots. I have done my own private, unscientific survey and have yet to find a single airline that teaches these things. It’s even more important today because of the greater number of flights, often lower level of pilot experience and the explosive rate of growth airlines are experiencing. I am utterly convinced this sad state of affairs is due to the NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome. I have seen it at work over and over for years. In one case, I made a presentation on The Bug System (TBS) to another carrier. They operated several fleet types and with TBS could fly them all with the same simple procedures. TBS has saved Northwest “tons of money” in training costs alone, not counting the obvious reduced costs related to the improved safety they’ve enjoyed over the 40 years they’ve used the system. Several years ago the Vice President of another airline asked that I make a presentation on TBS to his management pilots, including his instructor and check pilot groups. I had to travel 1,000 miles to do this but that was no real problem since it was for the good of his operation. At “show time” they had to find a larger room to accommodate the standing room only audience. My “speech” went very well and was received graciously. The whole process took $1,000 from my own pocket. To this day I have never heard a word of either acknowledgment or appreciation from that airline. It is not the first time I’ve had such a disappointing experience. That airline—and several others—still plod along today flying their airplanes with a different system for each type in the fleet. Somehow this evokes memories of my wonderful, now-departed mother-in-law (who did not look kindly upon drinkers) who poured the dregs of several different wine bottles into one “to save space.” One can imagine how pleasant the taste of that mixture. But with procedures, it’s much worse. What has been said here about TBS is all the more true of Northwest’s Turbulence Plot (TP) system. It has given Northwest the best turbulence avoidance system of all U.S. carriers, a fact that has been well documented. Two of the most highly respected pilots in the industry—your own John Deakin, a JAL 747 Captain, and TWA’s retired Chief Pilot Bob Buck, known world-wide for his down-to-earth, ham and egg language on how-tofly and related weather books, not to mention his
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deliberate thunderstorm and icing penetrations as safety-advancing research—call the TP program respectively “a program that is admired worldwide” and “(giving Northwest) the most enviable safety record as to turbulence in the industry.” Painstaking, careful calculations—not wild guesswork—shows Northwest saves some $700,000 a year, more than $22 million in the 32 years since the system was developed. Well-documented cases demonstrate how, where and why others experienced fatal accidents while transgressing Northwest TP “Do Not Fly” areas. I am astonished other carriers cannot see the obvious competitive advantages the program gives Northwest. One should note that I no longer have any connection with Northwest except for a fierce loyalty to my alma mater who gave me opportunities I would never have enjoyed otherwise. I expect much of the above will be called “sour grapes” by some, even make a few enemies. But it has badly needed saying for too long and no one else has been as intimately involved in both programs; any blame can be put on me. One last, probably unpalatable-to-some comment: The very worst thing that could be done is to expect either the NTSB to recommend the FAA make the systems mandatory, or the FAA to do it “on their own” for that would simply be a disaster! It would only make operators dig their heels in against it more deeply. If an operator cannot see the obvious benefits, safety and economy, in either program, being forced to adopt them would be a fiasco. You may draw your own conclusions about NIH. Sigh! Let’s return to earlier days. When did you get your private certificate? I got my private license on my 18th birthday and got my instructor’s rating shortly after that. War was building up and for a few months I instructed in Billings in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. The army would contract with local flying services to give them their private licenses and some aerobatics and instrument training. Then I went to a flying service in Spokane, and instructed until about July of 1942. I wanted to go with an airline and Northwest was interested but I had to get my instrument rating before they would hire me. So I went to Chicago to a little airport which was long ago swallowed up by O’Hare and did that.
How reliable was the instrument flying you were doing? All we had then for enroute instrument guidance was the low-frequency radio range and the ADF. If we had one in an airplane now and you could go out and fly with it you would think, “Well, these guys were crazy.” And we were. How reliable were the flight instruments? Actually they were surprisingly reliable. All we had was the turn and bank and airspeed indicator, thus the term “needle ball and airspeed” as the system was called. But it wasn’t long before the artificial horizon and directional gyro came along and a handful of ILS systems were sprouting at larger airports such as Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, etc. These were a godsend for instrument approaches to low weather minimums. The LF range was all audio and you followed the solid tone that made up course that pointed to where you wanted to go. Each LF range had four legs two of which pointed each toward the next closest LF range. The range had four quadrants, two with an “A” signal (dit dah) and two with an “N” signal (dah dit) and where they overlapped in a solid tone defined on course. Your instrument instructor would get you lost somewhere between the four legs and you had to do an “orientation problem” to find which of the four quadrants you were in; only then could you pick the leg you wanted to travel along. The “orientation problems” were odd and complicated. You had no idea where you were
How big was Northwest in those days? They were desperate for pilots because they had just gotten a pretty large contract to fly cargo and army personnel into Canada, Alaska and the Aleutians. Pilots weren’t able to get their own instrument ratings fast enough so Northwest set up their own instrument school in Rochester, Minnesota. I instructed there for a few months and then signed on as a co-pilot and flew the AlCan route for a while before I went to the mainline. That was a great education because it was all ice and instruments in Canada and Alaska and you learned in a hurry. Before the army contract Northwest had seven DC-3s. Here’s an interesting sidelight: When Northwest got the first 747s those low-profile tugs that we used to move them each weighed 125,000 pounds and cost a dollar per pound. That was the cost of a DC-3 in 1940.
except that you were in either an “A” or an “N” quadrant. To find out which of the four it was you used one of two basic procedures: the “fade parallel” or the “fade perpendicular.” You took up a heading parallel to the quadrant bisector line and of course didn’t know whether you were headed toward or away from the station. You clamped the earphones down tightly and listened for a fade or increase in volume (thus the term “fade parallel”). If the signal faded out you were going away from the station and you would turn 180 degrees and listen carefully for the increase that would confirm you were now heading toward the station. When you got over the signal would fade to zero and you were over “the code of silence” and turned to whichever of the legs pointed to where you wanted to go. How did WWII change your career path? In July of 1944, in a fit of patriotism that was brought on by the draft board getting close, I went into the navy. The navy was short of pilots and I had a fair amount of experience in DC-3s and C-46s so they made me a squadron instructor and check pilot in Naval Air Transport Squadron (NATS) VR-3. Here’s another coincidence: While in the navy at Corpus Christi I married a Minnesota girl on July 3rd, 1944, not knowing at the time that we had both gone to work for Northwest the same day two years earlier. We were married shortly before I made captain and she rode with me on my airline captain rating ride on my 23rd birthday. While checking out on one’s birthday may have been a first, her ride with me on the rating flight must surely be a real first. We’re still happily married 57 years later! RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2009
Induction into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, 1997 When the war ended and I went back to the airline I was still too young—probably too immature—to meet the airline captain minimum age of 23. It turned out to be a great opportunity since as the senior co-pilot I could choose the captains I would fly with. I chose those that were known as excellent instructors and again: what an education! I remember one Captain I flew with who told me I wasn’t holding altitude so good on instruments. I was holding it within about ten feet and I thought I was doing okay, but he said I would have to shape up on my altitudes. I had been with him long enough that I could talk back a little bit and I said “You’d bitch if you were hung with a new nylon rope!” After serving as a Captain on the DC-3, the DC-4, the DC-7, the Boeing Stratocruiser and the Martin 202, in 1954 I was given the position of Director of Flight Operations-Technical. A better title would have been Technical Chief Pilot, but I was in charge of writing procedures and teaching pilots how to fly big airplanes. I had a lot of authority because I just took it. I didn’t ask the boss if I could take an airplane out and mess with it. What did you do in that job? It was my job to manage the technical (how to fly) side of the Northwest operation. I developed
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standardized checklists and procedures for the various types Northwest flew, and determined what kind of instruments and how they were arranged. One of the most pleasant responsibilities was the acceptance tests and delivery of each new type Northwest acquired. The airplane was mine until I was satisfied at the factory that every gizmo operated perfectly. The delivery flight to our Minneapolis headquarters was without passengers and I had the freedom to run any tests and experiments I thought necessary. These included probing—in a cowardly manner—of mountain wave and other Clear Air Turbulence [CAT] as well as thunderstorms. There was no other way to gain a full, a truly full, understanding of the weather phenomena an airline pilot faces day in and day out. The experience allowed me to write practical “howto-fly” procedures with the background to do so while gaining the confidence of the line pilots. I instructed in every airplane that Northwest had. As the acceptance pilot, I didn’t have a type rating. You’d get that by flying the airplane first, then you’d give type ratings to the other pilots. I did the initial instruction on each of the new airplanes that Northwest bought from the DC-6 up through the 747. How did the Turbulence Plot system get started? Dan Sowa, Northwest’s Chief Meteorologist, and I recognized the government weather services were badly behind the times, especially concerning timely dissemination of severe weather information on thunderstorms, for example. We convinced Donald Nyrop [then president of Northwest] to let us obtain direct connection to both the civil and military ground weather radars. In this way we could bypass the typical one-hour-plus delay in getting the information to our pilots. There is much more to the story but in a nutshell the Turbulence Plot system that we developed allowed Northwest to get severe weather data into the cockpit of any Northwest flight anywhere in the world in as little as eight minutes from when a storm was aborning on the ground weather radars. The system was put into use in 1968 and since that time Northwest has had the best turbulence avoidance record of any operator. With a “picture” of the storm or CAT area in their hands Northwest flights were able to detour severe weather in the immediate area of where other operators suffered fatal accidents.
Do the plots plot more than active thunderstorm cells? While thunderstorms are number one, the T.P. system covers mountain wave and other Clear Air Turbulence, low-level wind shear, microburst areas, icing areas and on the rare occasions it is required, areas of ozone and volcanic ash concentrations. Ozone is a hazard to passengers and crew and volcanic ash is a serious hazard to the engines and airframe. When did you retire from Northwest? In 1973 the doctors diagnosed a mild case of atrial fibrillation which has proven nothing more than an occasional annoyance. Mild annoyance in this case stopping my airline career of 32 years! I wasn’t quite 50 years old but because of the terrific education of my Northwest position, both as line pilot and Director of Flight Operations, Technical, I have a relatively good reputation in the industry. Not knowing what in Heaven’s name I was going to do at such a tender age, I went to the small Montana ranch—200 acres, by Montana standards just a very small lot—we had bought circa 1972 to brood about my future. Strangely enough I began to get calls. The first call offered me the job of Flight Operations VP for National airlines, now defunct. I passed that up as I would be a miserable failure in any kind of administrative position. But the calls have kept coming at more or less regular intervals. Perhaps the weirdest assignment was serving at the request of General Public Utilities in investigation of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. I have also served as an expert witness for Boeing’s law firm and several others, again wonderful educational opportunities. During the Reagan administration I was asked to be the FAA Administrator but, thankfully, my better judgment got the edge over my ego and I turned it down. No place for a practical, technically-oriented, no-redtape kind of guy. One morning when I was still in bed I got a call from Langhorne Bond, then the FAA Administrator. When I answered the phone and heard who was calling, I not only stood up but stood up at attention! He had just grounded the DC-10s and asked that I meet him at Douglas in Long Beach at 1000 the next morning to work as his adviser in the investigation. On hearing that I had a 75-mile drive just to get to Billings and couldn’t get an airline flight in time to meet his 1000 goal in LAB he said “Yes you can; I have a Sabreliner on
the way to pick you up!” Wow! My own personal executive jet! During certification of the MD-80 (originally called the DC-9-80) ALPA raised a fuss about FAA’s intent to certify the airplane with a two-man crew. Bond called again: Would I conduct an independent flight test program in the yet-uncertified MD-80 and give him my opinion on the two-man vs. threeman crew matter. I agreed on the basis I could run a thorough flight evaluation with simulated engine failures, instrument system failures, operation in congested areas, a full workout. He gave his complete blessing to that and I spent a valuable education two weeks of flying a brand-new MD80! And get paid for it! When it was all over I gave him my opinion the a two-man crew was entirely adequate. The MD-80 was much more highly automated than prior DC-9s and had better flight characteristics, it was much easier to fly. Who are you tailoring The Bug System for? Some of my present and recent-past clients are General Mills Flight Department, Cargill FD, Owens Illinois FD, H. S. Zachary Company FD, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M), Qantas Airlines of Australia, several FAA Administrators, and Southwest Airlines. Perhaps most of the calls have been from executive airplane turboprop and jet operators to tailor The Bug System to their fleets, T. B. S. being a simple system that optimizes performance, essentially eliminates the need for memory, and is virtually identical for the Cessna 152 and the 747. Learn it on one type and what has been learned is directly transferable to other types, no matter how large or complex. Any chance of getting some of your wisdom in a book, or maybe some AVweb articles? Of course. I like to write and given the wonderful and unique opportunities to learn I’ve had, I truly want to pass on some of the practical stuff I’ve learned. I want to write a book but seem to have too little time. I recently wrote an article on “The Deadly Spiral” that explains the cause and simple one-step “cure” of the often fatal spiral dive. Too few pilots understand an airplane’s spiral mode and virtually all conventional—and most unconventional—airplanes are spirally unstable. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of myths about how to fly and/or why an airplane does what it does and these need to be exploded. My RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2009
good friend John Deakin is probably the greatest exploder of such myths, at least up to now. Just kidding John. To mention a few such myths (Deakin calls them OWTs, Old Wives Tales): Airplanes do not stall at a single angle of attack; you can’t see where you’re going in a “maximum gradient” climb; the conventional procedure on how to recover from the deadly spiral has steps that are detrimental and some dead wrong; in the GA [General Aviation] airplane partial flaps should be used for all—or most—takeoffs; the everyday landing will be shorter with full rather than approach flaps. And a shocker to most pilots: absent an inertially driven attitude system or its equivalent you have never had accurate attitude indications and will continue on that sorry path. And on and in ad infinitum. I want to explode them all. What should the average pilot know about wind shear? Everything, of course! But I’ll try and pack some practical advice in the smallest nutshell I can devise. In an INS-equipped airplane—like the 747s I flew across the Pacific for years—you have a continuous and instantaneous readout of wind direction and speed. If these values are correlated with time and IAS (or Mach number) you can literally see the aerodynamic effect of half a knot of shear on the airplane. Shear is nothing more than a change in either wind direction or speed and you can never get away from it. Not to scare anyone with the last remark but it is literally true; no matter how stable or strong the wind is it is constantly changing in speed or direction or both which should probably be called “minor shear,” not the kind that can take an airplane out of the sky. If half a knot changes things on an 800,000 pound 747, will it affect the smaller airplane? In spades! Shear that causes the mischief is properly called “low level shear” and it has brought down many airplanes, large and small, but rather than calling them “shear accidents” they are more properly “thunderstorm/
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microburst” accidents. It’s the microburst that’s the really bad guy here. The worst possible exposure is trying to penetrate the heavy rain outflow of a thunderstorm below 1,000 feet AGL on either approach or takeoff. Dry micro bursts on the other hand are usually less dangerous; so far as is known no one has yet been killed in one. Two key rules should keep you out of shear/micro-burst trouble: Never penetrate the outflow of a thunderstorm at less than 1,000’ AGL either on takeoff or landing. In a thunderstorm environment never base your go/no go decision on a report from the airplane ahead that he “Had a smooth ride.” If the guy ahead reports an airspeed fluctuation, expect yours to be at least three times as bad. If you’re in such a hairy situation the worst mistake in the world is to think the answer is to “just to get it on the ground and you’ll be O.K.” If on the ground in a potential microburst condition, set the brakes and wait it out. I am in debt to pilot and good friend Captain Dave Akeman for synthesizing his extensive pilot experience and knowledge gained from exhaustive study of these phenomena into the above superb rules, and for much else I have learned from him about the phenomena. There’s no doubt he is the most knowledgeable pilot in captivity. The propeller airplane is considerably less susceptible to difficulties produce by shear and/or microbursts, but that is rather academic as a practical matter. The demon can snatch propeller airplanes out of the sky pretty easily. If you want to delve more deeply into the subject look for a copy of the University of Chicago’s T. Theodore (TED) Fugita’s book “The Downburst,” the one man who has literally dissected the shear/microburst factors in hundreds of related accidents. Are you still flying? Yes and no. Having lost my medical I cannot legally fly alone except in an ultralight or glider and have done considerable flying in both. Whenever I get the urge to fly—and that is often—my great boss and good friend Bob McIver, VP of Flight Operations for a hundred-airplane fleet flying for FedEx and UPS, etc.—who I have worked with as a consultant now for fourteen years—will offer me the chance to fly in any airplane in the fleet of fourteen different types. The best part? He won’t take his share of any of our flights together since, “He likes to watch me fly!”
A STORM OF FAILURES IN THE TEETH OF A TYPHOON Many of you will remember this AP photo of Flight Attendant Carol Grant and two passengers covered in firefighting foam. It appeared in newspapers around the world after the emergency described here. But do you know the real story of what happened? I had heard one word-of-mouth version at the time which turned out to be not even close. â€“ Editor
By Captain Steve Bowen New Tokyo International Airport Narita, Japan, September 19, 1991 The following is my personal account of Northwest Airlines Flight 18, a 747-400 (ship 6303) departing from Tokyo NRT non-stop to New York JFK on this date. I was the senior captain and acting pilot in command that night. Scheduled departure time was 0905Z (1805 JST), and the planned en route flight time was 11:41. Typhoon 18 (Luke) was passing about 50 NM south of NRT, and we were experiencing strong, gusty winds and moderate to heavy rain at the time of our departure. There was enough standing water on the runway that we elected
to use the runway contamination chart to correct our maximum allowable gross weight for take-off. According to ACARS, our actual gross weight at start of takeoff was to be just over 821,000 lbs., which was legal for take-off on runway 34 with Â˝ inch of standing water. The passenger total that night was 289 plus 5 infants, and we were a crew of 21 (4 pilots and 17 cabin crew) for a grand total of 315 souls on board. We started our take-off roll at 0904Z and flew the standard runway 34 departure route over CVC to OTR 11 to KAGIS and PABBA, etc., with some deviations around heavy rain cells observed on radar in the CVC area. Some light to moderate turbulence was experienced as we passed through this area. RNPA CONTRAILS | NOVEMBER 2009
Approaching KAGIS, about 90 NM east of NRT, we seemed to be breaking out on top around FL 240, so we were able to relax a bit, thinking that we were just about out of the woods and in the clear. But just then we got our first of many EICAS caution messages which indicated a bleed or nacelle overheat on the No. 1 engine. I believe this first message was “OVHT ENG 1 NAC”, but before we could even react or get the book out, it was followed by many more confusing and seemingly unrelated messages in rapid succession. These included, but were not limited to: “BLEED DUCT LEAK L”, “ELEC GEN OFF 1”, “FLAPS PRIMARY”, “CABIN ALT AUTO”, “ENG 1 FUEL VLV”, “STARTER CUTOUT 1”, and more. Also, we had an amber “REV” indication on the No. 1 engine indicating a possible reverser unlocked in-flight. This was actually the second abnormal indication I observed, before the flood of EICAS messages followed, and it immediately brought to mind the Lauda Air crash in Thailand earlier that year, which was found to have been caused by an inadvertent in-flight reversal! I was flying the airplane and continued to do so throughout the emergency. Dave Hall was in the right seat and handled all ATC communications, emergency checklists, etc. Marv Ritchie, our augmented captain, sat behind me and did most of the PA’s and communications with the cabin crew, as well as helping with all phases of the emergency. Rick Mladic, the augmented co-pilot, occupied the right-hand jumpseat. He handled company radio calls, helped Dave go through the numerous emergency procedures, and assisted each of us in many aspects of the emergency. It was generally a coordinated effort that kept all four of us very busy throughout the entire incident, from the initial onset of problems (at about 0921Z) through landing at 1931 JST (1031Z), passenger evacuation, and the rather chaotic aftermath! We reached a maximum altitude of about FL 260, where I leveled off, then began to descend as we started losing cabin pressure, had a possible in-flight reversal of the No. 1 engine, and also had an indication that several leading edge flap groups had partially extended! We did not, however, notice any unusual yaw or vibration to verify these indications. I did have the No. 1 engine pulled back to idle thrust for some time due to the many abnormal indications on that engine. We had taken this precaution despite the fact that the engine seemed to be operating normally.
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As we leveled off and started down, the stick shaker activated several times as the high speed and low speed red lines on the PFD came together and merged into one solid red line! It stayed like this for much of the flight. I just tried to maintain what I thought was a reasonable airspeed for the conditions—around 260 to 270 KTS— considering our weight, altitude, possible flaps partially extended, etc. At this point, we all donned our oxygen masks. With the cabin altitude climbing rather rapidly now, I began increasing our rate of descent, but the autothrottles were fighting me and kept advancing as I tried to retard thrust to idle. At the same time, the autopilot kept trying to pitch up as I tried to descend. So I disconnected both and continued hand-flying the descent with full speed brakes. All this time Dave was trying to control the loss of cabin pressure by both auto and manual methods, but nothing seemed to be working. And the cabin temperature was getting very hot as well. We couldn’t control that either. The door 2R flight attendant control also seemed to be ineffective. I should say at this point that none of us had any idea what we were dealing with here. None of the abnormal indications seemed to be related. Nothing was pointing to one definite cause of the malfunctions we were seeing. It seemed that some indications were likely false alarms, but others were definitely quite real! It should also be said that at no time during the entire emergency, either in-flight or on the ground, did we ever have a fire warning of any kind—engine or otherwise. We knew we had serious problems, but we never knew that a fire was causing all the havoc. And only on the ground during landing rollout did the fire become visible. In the air the fire was wholly contained within the structure of the wing leading edge and No. 2 pylon and was never visible to passengers or crew until we were on the ground. By the time we came to a stop, the flames lit up the night sky! Fear of the unknown is an insidious thing. I tried my best, throughout our entire airborne ordeal, to suppress the awful fear that the airplane could come apart at any moment and it would be all over for us. I suspect the other crew members had similar thoughts. I don’t know. We didn’t talk about it. We declared an emergency with Tokyo ATC and got clearance to descend to 10,000 ft. We asked for vectors to an area where we could dump fuel, then return to NRT for an emergency landing with equipment standing by. As we descended, we caught the cabin at about 13,000 ft. After that, we had some manual control of cabin pressure, but it was exceedingly erratic and unreliable.
We were well into the emergency descent before any of us had a chance to think about calling downstairs to inform the cabin crew what was happening. Before we could do so, Suzy Armstrong, our lead flight attendant came up to see what was going on. She entered the cockpit and saw all four of us with oxygen on in the midst of an obvious emergency. Nobody even saw her, and she didn’t wait around to be noticed. She just turned around, went back downstairs, and started preparing the cabin for an emergency landing. A bit later, Marv was able to call down and brief Suzy on what was happening. She was way ahead of us. She had already told the other flight attendants that we had some sort of emergency situation and that they should begin preparing for a planned emergency landing. Suzy had Carol Grant, who was working the upper deck, move all her passengers downstairs as there were plenty of empty seats on the main deck. Carol also took a position on the main deck, so, in case we had to evacuate, we wouldn’t have to use the upper deck exit slides, which could have been very hazardous in the windy, wet conditions that existed at the time. The fuel dumping process took about 50 minutes and was hampered to some extent by the fact that we were only able to dump out of one side. The left wing fuel jettison system was not operational. We dumped a total of about 160,000 lbs. of kerosene—down to a level of 140,000 lbs. of fuel remaining. We had discussed the possibility of landing overweight to save time, but had rejected that idea for several reasons. We knew the runway was wet so hydroplaning was a concern, and we needed to add 20 KTS to our approach and landing speeds for our abnormal flap configuration plus another 10 KTS pad for the gusty surface wind condition. So we really needed to be down to maximum landing weight of 630,000 lbs. Otherwise we risked not being able to stop by the end of the runway. As we dumped fuel, we went through the abnormal procedures in the book one by one for each of our many EICAS messages. We had to decide, in each case, whether we were looking at a real malfunction or merely a false alarm. For example, at one point consideration was given to shutting down the No. 1 engine as called for in the procedure for handling an engine nacelle overheat. We all agreed that the “OVHT ENG 1 NAC” message was likely a false alarm since the engine seemed to be operating normally in all other respects. So we kept the engine running at a reduced thrust level as long as everything else looked good. Shutting down an outboard engine unnecessarily would only have made control of the aircraft more difficult than it already was, not
to mention the fact that we would have lost hydraulic system No. 1 since the No. 1 ADP (pneumatic back-up pump) was inoperative! Also during this lengthy fuel jettison process, we continued to communicate with the company on the ground and the cabin crew downstairs to make sure that all was in readiness for our emergency landing. We made it clear to all concerned that we didn’t really know what to expect upon landing since we still didn’t know the exact nature of our problem. So we had everyone prepare for the worst while we all hoped for the best. Once fuel dumping was complete, we asked for vectors for a 20-mile final approach to runway 34. I kept trying the autopilot every so often to see if it would work. Eventually it did, so we completed the dumping procedure and flew the final approach on autopilot. We did not use the autothrottles, however. The flaps were extended early to check for proper operation. Trailing edge flaps were normal, but the leading edge display was not. It showed some groups extended, some in transit, and some still retracted. We had no idea what we actually had in the way of leading edge flaps. So we had to use the increased approach speed (Vref+20) specified by the abnormal leading edge flap procedure. Flaps were set at 25 for landing. We also added a 10 KT gust pad to our already high approach speed as the glide path and surface winds were strong, gusty, and variable in direction, with an occasional tailwind component. No. 1 engine was still operating normally despite the bad indications, so we continued to use it for vectoring and approach. We received an early landing clearance from the tower and were assured that the emergency equipment was standing by for us. I allowed the autopilot to fly the approach down to about 400’, then disconnected it for a manual landing. It was still raining and the runway was wet, so I executed a moderate “duck under” maneuver in order to utilize some of the concrete short of the displaced threshold. (The landing threshold on runway 34 is displaced over 3,000’ down the runway for noise abatement purposes.) Touchdown was normal and fairly smooth at or near the displaced threshold. Autobrakes 4 had been selected and seemed to work normally. Full reverse thrust was used on the inboard engines and about half on No. 4. No. 1 reverse was not selected due to the malfunction indications. About halfway through the landing roll I realized that we weren’t decelerating adequately, so I applied maximum pedal braking down to runway turn-off speed. About 2/3 of the way through our rollout, the tower informed us that they were observing fire coming from RNPA CONTRAILS | NOVEMBER 2009
an engine on our left wing. I don’t recall if they said which engine, but I assumed it was No. 1 since that was our problem engine (or so we thought). Thinking that was the case, as we were clearing the runway at A-2 (500’ from the end of the runway), I shut down the No. 1 engine. I recall wondering whether we’d have enough residual system 1 hydraulic pressure to complete our turn onto taxiway A. We did complete the turn and rolled a short distance to a stop on A just short of P1. Out of force of habit, I had called for “flaps up”, and Dave had started them up before realizing that we had no more system 1 hydraulic pressure. He thus just left the flap handle at 20. Immediately after we stopped and set the brakes, the tower called to inform us that we had a fire in our No. 1 engine. While we were fighting that fire (there actually was no fire at the No. 1 engine), the tower called again to say there was a fire on our right wing! (This was also the observation of flight attendants at door 3R and others on the right side. For this reason door 3R was not used during the evacuation. It remains a mystery just what they saw as there was no evidence of any fire on the right wing.) Then the tower called again to say that No. 2 engine was on fire! I looked back at the left wing and was able to confirm this last report. The leading edge of the wing was engulfed in flames right at the No. 2 pylon area. The fire trucks were on us right away. They pulled up behind our left wing after we stopped on the taxiway and began to spray foam on the fire area from behind the No. 2 engine. The tower called one more time to say that we should evacuate our passengers out the right side of the aircraft. We had come to the same conclusion ourselves, so the command was given by Capt. Marv Ritchie on the PA: “Easy Victor” three times, followed by “Evacuate the aircraft from the right side”. At this point in our ordeal, things were happening fast and furious. We were fighting the No. 2 engine fire, shutting down engines 3 and 4, and working on the passenger evacuation checklist. Then Rick and Marv, who had both gone downstairs to offer their assistance, rushed back up to the cockpit to inform us that none of the doors would open. We were still pressurized! They ran back down to help while Dave and I frantically tried to open the outflow valves manually. But we had lost all control of the pressurization before landing–both auto and manual–so we didn’t know if our efforts were going to help or not. We just tried everything we could think of to relieve the excess cabin pressure. I recalled having glanced at the cabin altitude readout on final approach, and I thought it read -400 ft. This seemed reasonable to
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The Daedalian Award In early 1992, the Order of Daedalians, a society of military pilots organized in 1934 by a group of World War I aviators, selected the crew of Northwest flight 18 to receive the 1991 Civilian Airmanship Award. This award is given annually to the civilian pilot and/ or crew that the FAA has determined have demonstrated ability, judgement, and/ or heroism beyond normal operational requirements. It is significant to note that, where normally only the cockpit crew are cited, in the case of NW 18, the entire crew—pilots and flight attendants—were chosen to receive the award. All 21 members of the flight crew (plus Mr. Morita and VP John Kern) and their friends and families were invited to attend the Daedalians’ annual convention in Sacramento, CA, that summer to accept the award and partake in the festivities. The award is accompanied by a trophy, which is inscribed with the names of the recipients and given to the airline involved to keep for that year until it must be returned to the Order for the next year’s presentation. It is interesting to note that Northwest Airlines, which tended to de-emphasize this event for whatever reasons, ended up storing the trophy in a NATCO closet for the entire year, rather than display it somewhere that it could be seen and appreciated, if not by the general public, then at least by company employees and other flight crew members. In an attempt to document the fact that Northwest was in possession of that trophy that year, Capt. Steve Bowen took it upon himself to go to NATCO, dig the trophy out of its hiding place, and take some photos to preserve this bit of NWA history.
The pilots of NW 18: (standing l-r) F/O Rick Mladic, Capt. Marv Ritchie, F/O Dave Hall and (seated) Capt. Steve Bowen at a lunch in MSP hosted by CEO John Dasburg to honor the crew on 10/30/91 me at the time. Anyhow, the cabin should depressurize on touchdown as usual, I thought. But it didn’t. While we were busily trying to depressurize, Dave looked out his right side window and observed passengers running away from the aircraft, so we knew they had finally managed to open the doors. We completed the passenger evacuation checklist, double checked that everything was done and secure, took our flashlights, and proceeded to the cabin. I was the last one downstairs, and when I arrived in the main cabin, it appeared that the fire was out, and all the passengers had been evacuated. This was about 2 or 3 minutes after parking, I believe. Only a few crew members remained on board. Suzy Armstrong and I checked the entire cabin to make sure everyone was off, then she and I exited through door 1R. We were the last two people off the aircraft.
I was immediately impressed, as I went down the chute, with the extreme slipperiness of the slide and the speed of my descent. Nothing was slowing me down (including the “deceleration strips” at the bottom), and I shot right by the two firemen who tried to catch me and ended up sitting in a puddle of water and foam on the taxiway. The other crew members reported experiencing the same fast ride down the slides, and I’m sure this contributed to some passenger injuries. The rain and extinguisher foam made everything slick, and the wind had been blowing foam over the top of the fuselage and onto the slides and taxiway. Once everyone was out of the aircraft, we, the crew, attempted to account for all passengers, assemble them in one place, see to the injured, and get everyone safely back to the terminal building. Conditions were less than ideal. It was dark, windy, and still raining. There was foam everywhere from the fire trucks. Fire and rescue personnel were attempting to gather people together on A-3 near taxiway A. Passengers had scattered far and wide. Some had gone out onto the runway and beyond to the airport boundary. I assisted in this effort to group people together so we could bus them to shelter and further assistance at the terminal building. I encountered several ground agents with walkie-talkies and asked them to have buses sent over immediately to pick up passengers. But no buses came. Medical help on the scene at that point was almost non-existent. We had asked repeatedly for ambulances and medics to be sent to assist with our injured passengers. We ended up waiting over 40 minutes before one large ambulance arrived with medical personnel. In the meantime, we, the crew, were left to deal with frantic and confused passengers, several of whom had been injured during the evacuation. (People were piling up at the bottom of the slides as they couldn’t clear out fast enough before the next person slid down on top of them.) Fortunately there were no fatalities, and we later learned that of the 45 or so passengers injured in the evacuation, only 8 had sustained serious injuries (non life-threatening). The rest of the injuries were only minor in nature. Only two of our crew members were injured, and both had used the slide at door 2R. First officer Dave Hall had fractured his ankle, and flight attendant Diane Curlen was shaken up with abrasions to the leg and face. Dave did not seek medical care until he was back home in the USA, as he was able to limp around O.K. and thought he was all right. (We later found out that the bone was actually broken.) Diane saw a doctor in Japan that night and was released after minor treatment to return home the next day. RNPA CONTRAILS | NOVEMBER 2009
By now some 45 minutes had elapsed since the evacuation, and still no buses. I could see an entire fleet of buses sitting on the cargo ramp a few hundred yards away, but they just sat there. They refused to approach the aircraft despite all our gesturing and yelling. Were they afraid of the fire? That had long since been extinguished. Anyhow, it was too far to try to lead all the passengers across the tarmac, so in desperation I ran across to the first bus and insisted in no uncertain terms the he lead the other buses over to the area where we had assembled the passengers. Somewhat reluctantly he acquiesced, so we were finally able to start transporting people to the shelter of the terminal building. We designated one of the buses as the “ambulance bus” for those who had been injured, since no ambulance had yet arrived on the scene. As we were doing this, an actual ambulance did arrive with a few medics on board, so we proceeded to transfer the injured off the “ambulance bus” over to this vehicle, which really wasn’t adequate to handle the number of injuries we had. Nor were these “medics” very helpful in dealing with the situation. They seemed to be as dazed and confused as the rest of us, but somehow they managed to transport the more seriously injured to a local hospital for further treatment. The rest of us—crew and passengers—many with minor injuries and covered with fire extinguishing foam, were bussed to the terminal where we were simply dropped off and led up to the departure gate area where we ended up mingling with other passengers waiting to board other flights. There was no plan to take our people, all soaking wet from the rain and foam (some still bleeding!), to a separate staging area where they could be attended to and the injured could be cared for. It was then that our man in Narita, Mr. Shigeaki Morita, head of Tokyo Flight Dispatch, came to our rescue. He, more than anyone else, took charge of the situation. He realized that our people needed to be taken somewhere away from other passengers where they could be attended to by airport personnel. He got this process going, then began arranging for hotel accommodations for passengers and crew since we obviously weren’t going anywhere that night. In the meantime, the media and airport police began hounding the crew for statements and interviews. This was not the time for any of this as we were soaking wet, bedraggled, and exhausted from our lengthy ordeal. Thankfully Mr. Morita interceded and made arrangements with the authorities to interview us the next morning after we’d had some time to rest. Ultimately, we were all—passengers and crew—taken to the Tokyo
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How It Happened Throughout their entire ordeal, the crew of NW18 had no idea what the actual root cause of all the seemingly unrelated problems and malfunction indications was. Later, after the initial inspection of the aircraft on the ground at NRT, they learned the details of what had gone wrong. Here’s how it went down. In the leading edge of the left wing where the No. 2 pylon is attached, the generator feeder cable from No. 1 engine passes in close proximity to the fuel feed tube for the No. 2 engine. It is held in place by a retainer bracket. Somehow (no one knows how—a recent hard landing was one theory) this bracket had broken allowing the feeder cable to rub against the fuel line. Eventually, the insulation on the feeder cable wore away allowing arcing to occur between the cable and the fuel tube. This burned a hole in the fuel line creating a leak which was ignited by the short in the feeder cable. So, now we have fuel under pressure being sprayed into the area inside the leading edge, ignited by the shorted cable, and acting like a blow torch melting down the rest of the cable and other components in that area. As circuits shorted out or wires were severed, the stream of EICAS messages began to show up in the cockpit and many systems were rendered inoperative, including, but not limited to, the fire detection and protection in that area. Thus, there were no cockpit indications of fire to the crew at any time.
Bay Hilton for a late supper and a good night’s sleep. There wasn’t much sleep for me, however, as I spent several hours on the phone calling home and talking to chief pilots and other company and union officials. The plan for our crew the next day was to return to base as deadhead crew on flight 18 to JFK. Everyone agreed that it was imperative to get us all back to the U.S. as quickly as possible. There was a real danger that the crew—or at least the captain(s)—could be detained as the Japanese tend to consider the captain guilty of a crime, in the case of such an accident, until proven otherwise. We could end up in jail, and nobody wanted that! So the next morning Marv Ritchie and I, the two captains, and Suzy Armstrong, the lead flight attendant,
cerned about possible violations of their flight rules. There were none, so they sent us over to the MOT, who, being the political arm of Japanese aviation, were concerned about the airport’s public image more than anything else. The minister’s first comments were that this was the worst accident in the history of the Narita Airport, as if we had intentionally smeared their public image as a safe facility. This session went on and on, despite Morita’s many attempts to convince the minister that we had done nothing wrong. It was simply an accident, and, in The entire crew of NW 18, except for Dave Hall, at the crew debrief held at fact, it was because of the NATCO in MSP on Sept. 24, 1991 extraordinary efforts of the crew that things ended as well as they did! The officials were taken back to the airport to be interviewed by the didn’t seem convinced. authorities. Once again, Mr. Morita was our savior. He Our time was running short as it was nearly deparmet us when we arrived and led us through our round ture time for flight 18. The rest of the crew was already of interrogations, acting both as interpreter and expeonboard, and they were holding the flight for us. Mr. diter to get us through the interviews and on our plane Morita finally convinced the MOT officials that we had back home before the authorities could take any action to get on that flight, and they let us go. We were whisked against the crew. It happened that Capt. Dean Sunde off in a van directly over to the aircraft, which was waitwas also in Narita at that time, and he proved to be a ing for us at a hard stand ready to start engines. Marv great help in dealing with all the issues that arose in the and Suzy and I raced up the stairs and into our waiting aftermath of the incident. first class seats to the applause and cheers of the other First we met with the Narita Airport police, who just wanted the details of what happened for their report. crew members. The door slammed shut and we were on our way home. Then it was off to the Japanese CAB, who were con-
Some Reaction The Japanese authorities, Northwest Airlines, and Boeing were the only ones involved in the Sept. 1991 investigation and repair process, all of which kept ship 6303 on the ground in NRT for an entire month. When the FAA was notified of the incident and apparent cause, they issued an AD to all world-wide operators of all models of 747 to check the security of that retainer bracket and to see that the required clearance existed between the generator feeder cable and the fuel tube. (This included the aircraft in use as Air Force One!) Reportedly, only two or three cases were found amongst the global fleet where repairs were required. It was never made public, but apparently a Boeing engineer (who remains anonymous), after inspecting the damage and realizing the seriousness of the situation, remarked off the record that, in his opinion, if the fire had started an hour or two later, when we were well out over the North Pacific, we never would have made it back to NRT. The fire would have progressed to such an extent that ditching would have been the only option.
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Flight Attendant Stories The relative calm and order in the cockpit during the after-landing and evacuation activities stood in stark contrast to the panic, noise, and chaos in the cabin as the aircraft came to rest on the taxiway and the evacuation was initiated. Each flight attendant had a different experience and story to tell depending on where he or she was stationed in the cabin. Virtually all of the cabin crew described a scene of total chaos and confusion downstairs as we stopped and ordered the evacuation. People were screaming and climbing over seatbacks and each other as all the left side windows lit up from the fire out on the wing. Then when the doors wouldn’t open at first, the ensuing panic only increased in intensity. One flight attendant, Carol Grant, was handed a baby by a distraught mother who apparently needed someone in authority to save her child. The woman then disappeared until Carol finally located her hours later in the terminal building. Carol described her harrowing descent down the 1L slide while holding the infant and nearly being blown off the chute by the foam being sprayed on the fire from behind the wing. Sara Dale followed her down and helped get Carol and the baby and the others who used that exit to safety. Another flight attendant hurt her back trying to open door 1R. It finally opened when two or three strong male passengers came to her assistance. Other flight attendants described passengers screaming ob-
scenities at them to open the doors that just refused to budge. As the remaining right side doors opened once pressure was released, the flight attendant at one door was pushed aside by several panicking Chinese passengers who were out the door before the slide had a chance to fully inflate. They became the most seriously injured of the passengers as they fell to the tarmac far below. One flight attendant, Diane Curlen, was injured going down the slide at 2R. F/O Dave Hall broke his ankle using that same exit. Although virtually all crew members suffered some degree of post traumatic stress from the incident, it was worse for some than for others. A few flight attendants went right back to work afterwards to just put it all behind them. Others took an extended period of time off. A few considered never coming back. One had a miscarriage upon returning home that may or may not have resulted from the trauma she suffered. A common complaint amongst the cabin crew was the less than caring and compassionate treatment they received from the company. Although, initially, they were told to take their time recovering from the trauma they suffered and not be in any hurry to come back to work, that attitude soon changed. Those who did take time off, soon found themselves being pressured to come back to work. And pay and insurance claims were denied to many who really needed the assistance. Counseling was offered to all who wanted it, but it turned out to be a false promise for many as the company did not follow through on the offer. The bottom line was that the flight attendants, in general, were poorly treated by the company in the weeks and months following the event. Some never really did recover, and ended up either quitting or accepting less assistance than they should have received.
“This article is dedicated to Suzy Armstrong and the entire crew of Flight 18 of 9/19/91, all of whom played an important part in the successful outcome of the emergency that night.” - Steve Bowen
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The other flight attendants: Kim Watson, Carol Grant, Kathleen Nichols, Linnea Hanson-Hanley, Linda Butler, Sara Dale, Cheryl Sebens, Heather Patterson, Diane Curlen, Patricia Whelan, Molly Koch, Patty Nelson, Roland Mayor, Hattie Whitfield-Kidd, on-board service manager Lai Lei Ng and interpreter Kyoko Hayashi.
Jim Wells Hello Gary, Two months ago, I joined RNPA and thoroughly enjoyed reading the Nov ‘09 Contrails publication, which I received shortly thereafter. On November 22nd, I had the honor of flying the last ever check ride in a Northwest 747, which I have chronicled below. Thank you for the fine publication. I look forward to enjoying it for many, many years to come. Jim Wells THE FINAL CHECK RIDE I have no knowledge of the first check ride in a Northwest Airlines 747. In 1970, I was a 15 year-old pilot wannabe growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, listening to Northwest Orient “gong” commercials on WGN radio every morning over the breakfast table. A lover of all things aviation who lived under the final approach to runway 22 at ORD, I knew every aircraft type passing overhead by the sound of its engines, but never in my wildest dreams could I have guessed that my future included three decades of flying the Redtails, or that the last 10 years of my NWA career would find me flying to four continents in command of the 747. Thirty-nine years after that first check ride, accompanied by First Officer Jim Gutman, Second Officer Curt Leatherwood and Line Check Airman Loren Halverson, it was an honor and privilege to fly the last check ride ever flown in the Classic Whale at Northwest. Aircraft 6743 (Boeing serial number 22245) flown as Northwest flight 901/22 November, rolled down Anchorage runway 32 at 0843 local time as a flaps 20, Q powered departure at 803,000
Post flight, the crew of flight 901 gathered on the ramp in Narita. Pictured (l-r) are Captain Loren Halverson, Second Officer Curt Leatherwood, Captain Jim Wells and First Officer Jim Gutman. (Note the button missing from Capt. Wells’ jacket. The new Delta uniform completed a total of four trans-pac’s before the button fell off that morning… hopefully not an omen of things to come.) pounds, including 211,000 pounds of freight. At 600 feet AGL, we turned westbound toward NODLE, the North Pacific and far off Tokyo. Our flight was smooth, quiet and uneventful, just as it should have been. Moderate turbulence, which was forecast for our descent, (the famous “Tokyo Wakeup Call” frequently briefed by long time Dispatcher favorite Darrel Oberg) never materialized. Separated enroute from sister ship 6739 by mere minutes, the two freighters lifted 414,000 pounds of freight to Narita that morning. With the two graceful giants loaded within 30,000 and 38,000 pounds of capacity (based upon maximum landing weight) for their westbound flights, two great truths were verified that day: (1) There is “no profit” to be made flying freight; and (2) you cannot fight city hall.
Seven hours and thirteen minutes after lifting off from Anchorage, 6743 rounded Choshi Point and touched down early on runway 34L in Narita at a landing weight of 600,000 pounds. Flight 901 was the 22,130th cycle (take off and landing) for ship 6743. At that moment in time, she had logged 97,132 hours and 46 minutes, more than 11 years of continuous operation. Those of us who flew the Classic Whale to the very end salute all of you with whom we flew over the preceding years for your friendship and your professionalism. You set the bar very high, and we honored your legacy to the last. Sadly, there was no future generation of pilots wearing golden US Air Mail wings for us to hand the keys to. We left them in the ignition.
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 8:38 PM Subject: A Different Perspective from Narita Hi Lane, hwest tmas we knew that we were flying the last Nort As we got out of our black taxi the day after Chris of but would soon find out from the Manager Cargo flight out of Narita. What we did not know a. As we scheduled 747-200 of any air carrier out of Narit Maintenance is that we were also flying the last myself could F/O Shannon Pastewicz, S/O Kathy Obrien and completed the paperwork in the crew lounge, defined final departure. For decades this proud bird had not help but reflect upon the significance of this one at inal term the to up d ty 747-200 red tails nose Narita. It was not uncommon to see a flock of twen the was It . then back a but a 747-200 at any gate in Narit time. In fact it was uncommon to see anything ble, forta com y, fl to fun n. It was impressive... reliable, safe, international aircraft of choice and for good reaso and on go ane. Everyone knew of the 747. The adjectives solid, efficient, massive and just a beautiful airpl rt sun like so y it was headed for retirement to the warm dese on... It was the mother of all airplanes. But toda the job just difference though is that these birds can still do many of the retirees who used to fly them. The is all. younger generations require less food... and that as well as the they always have. It is just that the but scan w] parked on the cargo ramp we could not help As the crew bus approached 6732 [shown belo had told ager Man of any other 200â€™s to confirm what the the other newer airplanes on the ramp for signs a more by and its sisters were sadly being muscled out us. That is when it really hit us that good ole 6732 d the ed out of place in its own home. When we turne youthful generation and now oddly enough, seem ring. We soon larger than normal group of service folks linge corner and pulled up to the stairs, there was a . Cameras rture depa nal fi this of e taken by the significanc learned that we as pilots were not the only ones wanted to lers hand these of ent and in the cockpit as all were flashing on the ramp, in the cargo compartm e was a Ther bird. d prou in sharing fond memories of the record a memory. We joined them in pictures and These s. tator spec s.â€? However, these were not ordinary certain somberness to the procession of â€œspectator lers, hand DG ht and balance people, the cargo loaders, the were the behind the scenes load planners, weig who ne fuelers and even the ramp security people... anyo the mechanics, the dispatchers, the caterers, the n out many cing the grand old lady. As the word had gotte had had a part in the decade after decade of servi s and aps even from home. As we all said our good-bye more had come from all over the airport and perh we us, of any as ry histo its connection to this airplane and thanked these fine people that had as much a the As . back push had grown quite large as we began our prepared for departure. The impromptu crowd ring, chee no the crowd waved continuously. There was plane retreated from the crowd on the push back off admiration. We flashed the landing lights on and just a melancholy wave. You could feel the deep scenes the same time the proudness of these behind the repeatedly. One could sense the sadness and at their last of this departure as anyone and had come to pay folks who were as touched by the significance ! years thirty over for here the 747 as it had been flying respects. Some had spent their entire career on with dealt yone ever h the sadness of a bygone era whic There was no ceremony or parting speech, just been a taxi, the waves from the crowd never let up. It had privately. As we disconnected and started our have ever I t nigh we climbed out of Narita it was the clearest magnificent era. But it had come to an end. As from adieu h seemed to symbolically bid the -200 a fond seen over Tokyo. The lights sparkled in a way whic the people it served so proudly for decades. Bruce Correll 747-200 Captain Anchorage
Contributing Columnist James Baldwin
Father Knows Best Dateline: August 25, 2009 North Latitude N 14 30.6 East Longitude E 121 00.8 You guys have been here as many times as I have. You know what I’m talking about and even if you’re sitting in your Barcalounger in Seattle or Minne you still know what it feels like. Yep, we’re still out here doing it just the way you taught us. It’s late, just minutes from midnight. We plunge into the darkness at 500 knots True, the vastness of the Philippine Sea providing the visual effect of diving into a barrel of the darkest crude imaginable. But really, it’s early. My brain is still hooked into the west coast time zone in which it usually resides; its circadian clock unconfused. The mental fatigue so often referenced faces me directly. I feel like a stern father resisting the child; my eyelids ask to be left alone, for just a moment. I am quietly questioning every single assumption and every element of the decisions I am making. I know I am not in top form yet this is the way we are forced to operate in a part of the world 17 time zones away from home. I relish the entire challenge, yet very distinctly understand how quickly things can go wrong at these speeds. I am wary. The ride is as smooth as the glossy texture of the black ahead. There are no lights, anywhere. There is no moon; the stars have departed for galaxies unknown. We are alone and the gap in communications adds to the eerie aura. I know Manila is always tardy in their target acquisition and the first officer is relieved when I assure him our whereabouts are known and they will check in with us when they please. After all, the country was founded by the Spanish and things will happen when they do and not much earlier. “It is what it is” translates to “they do what they do.” We know tonight there are special challenges lurking near our destination.
Even at this hour the tropics are like that: busy, with convective action and confusion leftover from a day under a blazing sun. And tonight, there is an apache loose: a member of a gang of tropical depressions waiting to mature into the ruffians we call typhoons. This one will eventually dump prodigious amounts of moisture onto a people ill equipped to handle nature’s perturbations in an existence already challenged. Given the choice over clean air and unseen phenomena, it is a type of weather challenge I am forced to prefer—at least I can see the towering cumulus visually, or the radar screen off my left knee will peel back the night to show me where they hide. But tonight is a little different. We have been briefed on the position of this yet unnamed but virile and active bad boy and he has placed himself in a position to deny us entrance to our layover in Manila at the Makati Peninsula. Others ahead have already settled for alternates I have no interest in visiting. My rookie partner, a brand new first officer fresh from the schoolhouse, is masking his apprehension, obviously content with his deferral of my offer for him to do the flying tonight. It was graciously fun to allow his comment, “You can show me how,” because I will, just like I was shown by those before me. But his eyes are wide, riveted ahead, considering and questioning every nuance, every one of the proverbial “bumps in the night.” It is important that I respect his inexperience and I do it with a smile. I do not mock or kid; we are a team, assigned to bring this collection of human mass and aluminum to its destination. We will not only do it safely, but with style and alacrity. As we near the Philippine archipelago the scratchy, discordant sounds emitted by the very high frequency radio finally begin to make sense. The other end of the string is attached to a troubled voice shouting out, wondering our whereabouts. Shaking my head, I smile having answered the same query countless times in the past. Our position checks with their verbal estimation and the debate begins as to how best to position ourselves to remain free of the tentacles of the now fiery beast ahead. I choose to remain high, topping the easiest yet lowest cumulus ahead and delay our descent. We have the fuel RNPA CONTRAILS | FEBRUARY 2010
onboard to allow us to divert to whatever is left of what Mount Pinatubo did to Clark Air Force Base but I want to close the deal on this journey we promised the four hundred three souls riding in back. I push the nose over now and aim to use the square function of the profile drag equation to my advantage: our high speed and high rate of descent in this relative zone of smooth, clear air will disambiguate our intention. We will skirt the edge of the troublesome area our radar identifies and we will sneak under the next element of threat where the turbulence will again increase. The beast doesn’t allow us a moment of peace. The lightning reaches out to us like arrows falling short of their target. He is angry yet again that we have navigated over and under the multiple threats only possible at these latitudes. The brilliant streaks of white hot light hang in the ether, long enough for me to see the expected arrowheads and feathers. It is obvious Mother Nature is simply ridding herself of the atmospheric static cling she lives with. If Proctor and Gamble were paying me like Kobe or Tiger I might suggest big sheets of Bounce, but then again… We are enjoying the box seat view of a show few will ever see from these heights. The incandescent intensity off to our right indicates to me our choice of positioning us to its upwind side was correct despite the disadvantageous path to touchdown. I’ll deal with that later. He is angry we have made the right choice and threatens again, jabbing and punching our airframe with currents of air in all directions. They didn’t teach us how to deal with this at the airline schoolhouse—this is the payday for those times we watched and learned from those before us. Our descent continues as we seek a position to the southwest of the worst activity. The amber glow of Manila comes in and out of view through the low, pillow like billowy clouds. Their appearance, to an experienced eye, is more than a clue the ride will be rough all the way to touchdown. I have had the flight attendants seated since we began this roily jarring descent and in this instance I believe even the passengers are heeding the signs illuminated to keep them in their seats. I have interrupted more important duties to make sure my gals, and guys, in back are informed and are aware of what we are about to attempt. ATC, as usual, doesn’t quite “get it” but are willing to accede to our semi-demanding suggestions when they issue instructions that simply won’t work. The first officer learns they need to be told that, “No,” we won’t turn towards what might be an embedded cell we can’t see and, “No,” we won’t take a delay vector in that direction and, “No,” politely, we will not be able to make that
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crossing restriction. But, “Yes,” we will tell you when we have the traffic in sight. With his inexperience, worn like a fabric mea culpa on his sleeve, my right seater is now aware of my intimations before he answers when ATC asks or delivers an instruction. You don’t talk to these controllers the way we do it in the United States. Now he looks over at me before answering and I nod knowingly as I gently suggest the verbiage to use. How short a time, it seems, that it was I looking over at the guys in the left seat for similar approval. ATC, other traffic, airplane configuration and speed, weather and what’s going on downstairs all occupy portions of my attention. I am busy on several fronts and yet am comfortable. I can see this is going to work out well still thirty miles from touchdown, as we prepare to configure the airplane for an approach and landing. The renegade we have battled for the last forty minutes will eventually take its anger out on the population below with deadly results further south. Free of those concerns I begin to mentally rehearse the callouts and visual clues I’ll need to roll this airplane onto the undulating surface of runway 06. The vector from ATC to intercept the final approach is good, the radar is no longer required and the auto pilot is off. The auto throttles are battling the expected wind shear, and, in anticipation of the wind at touchdown blowing directly across the runway at limit speeds, I relieve them of their duty and give them the rest of the night off. This one will be flown by hand. Looking out the front window now, at about 700 feet above the ground, the airport is nowhere to be seen. But look 30 degrees to the left, and there it is: the sequenced flashers and REILs flashing brilliantly through the mist. We are slow enough now to hear the pelt of rain as it attacks the windscreen. “No thanks,” I reply, I don’t need the wipers. A lot of this one will have to be done by feel. Once again, right before the 500 foot callout, I mentally rehearse the mechanical movements I’ll need to accomplish to get this thing on the ground. The goal tonight is different from what might be required on a sunny morning with no weather to consider; there will be no time to “finesse” it on. The airplane needs to be on the ground within the bounds of the touchdown zone and we need to begin the process of slowing immediately. It’s not good enough to just “get there.” I want it smooth and I want it accurate. The gear is down and green, the flaps are 25,25, green and the spoilers are armed. We are cleared to land. We don’t make that 200 foot callout anymore— we’re Delta now you know—but there it is on the radio altimeter and I begin to apply rudder to straighten the
airplane. It never requires as much “wing down” correction as my RV-8 taildragger does but I have corrected with the nose straight ahead and I can see it all coming together as the final aural tone from the radar altimeter goes off at 20 feet. I raise the nose and the upwind bogies touch, the only clue is the speed brake handle automatically moving aft in its slot while the spoilers deploy and compress the massive oleos on the four main struts. We have arrived, the reversers are deployed and the next task is to “land” the nose wheel. I will not allow it to crash onto the runway—the flying isn’t over till the chocks are in and I will hold full aileron into the direction of the wind until we are truly slow. The rollout across runway 13-31 leads us to the poorly lit E1 turnoff. If you were to follow the only yellow line visible you might find a bill for taxiway lights in your mailbox. I know the correct path and give the sixteen wheels 100 feet behind me plenty of room. “Flaps up, after landing checklist,” I command. We make the turn onto the parallel and are cleared to recross the perpendicular runway. I am cautious in the limited visibility. I know they do use the runway for regional flights and it wouldn’t be the first time I have been startled by landing lights illuminating in the distance as another aviator prepares for departure. Satisfied we’re safely across, I am already looking into the distance for the marshallers who will guide us into Bay 12. I remind we need to stay on ship’s power for now but make sure the APU is started and we are ready for a smooth electrical power cutover. I want the passenger deplaning to go as smoothly as the good result my team has achieved thus far. I am still very busy obeying the wands the guy standing on top of the tug is showing while making sure the system four hydraulic pressure is adequate for the brakes. We are slowing to a crawl and… …it’s a funny time for it to happen, but my mind flashes to a recent experience: just last week I was looking at my first logbook stuffed away in a drawer and to an entry made 46 years ago by an instructor in Hillsboro, Oregon. I was thirteen years old and it was for the 15 minutes my dad could afford for me in a Piper taildragger. It was the first of many hours of instruction I would eventually receive to get me to where I am right now. It occurs to me I should write about it and let him know there are a bunch of people seated in back who are unknowingly glad he got me started at an early age. He must have known even then I’d need it someday. I guess I’ll wait ’til I get this thing parked to tell him. Thanks Dad. JBB
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Jeff Hill, the editor of Tarpa Topics, the magazine of retired TWA crews, and fellow RNPA member, forwarded this to me in the form of an email. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the author was not credited. A quick Google search identified the piece as that of Bob Greene, long time reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Some unknown emailer gathered up the images and altered Mr. Greene’s text somewhat. This text, however, is as the author wrote it. – Editor
The post office gets a lot of criticism. Always has, always will. And with the renewed push to get rid of Saturday mail delivery, expect complaints to intensify. But the United States Postal Service deserves a standing ovation for something that happened this March: Bill Mauldin got his own postage stamp. Mauldin died at age 81 in the early days of 2003. The end of his life had been rugged. He had been scalded in a bathtub, which led to terrible injuries and infections; Alzheimer’s disease was inflicting its cruelties. Unable to care for himself after the scalding, he became a resident of a California nursing home, his health and spirits in rapid decline. 58
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He was not forgotten, though. Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin’s drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines. Mauldin was an enlisted man just like the soldiers he drew for; his gripes were their gripes, his laughs their laughs, his heartaches their heartaches. He was one of them. They loved him.
He never held back. Sometimes, when his cartoons cut too close for comfort, superior officers tried to tone him down. In one memorable incident, he enraged Gen. George S. Patton, who informed Mauldin he wanted the pointed cartoons—celebrating the fighting men, lampooning the highranking officers—to stop. Now! The news passed from soldier to soldier. How was Sgt. Bill Mauldin going to stand up to Gen. Patton? It seemed impossible. Not quite. Mauldin, it turned out, had an ardent fan: Five-star Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe. Ike put out the word: Mauldin draws what Mauldin wants. Mauldin won. Patton lost. If, in your line of work, you’ve ever considered yourself a young hotshot, or if you’ve ever known anyone who has felt that way about him or herself, the story of Mauldin’s young manhood will humble you.
“I need a couple guys what don’t owe me no money for a little routine patrol.” RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2010
He had achieved so much. He won a second Pulitzer Prize, and he should have won a third for what may be the single greatest editorial cartoon in the history of the craft: his deadline rendering, on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, of the statue at the Lincoln Memorial slumped in grief, its head cradled in its hands. But he never acted as if he was better than the people he met. He was still Mauldin, the enlisted man. During the late summer of 2002, as Mauldin lay in that California nursing home, some of the old World War II infantry guys caught wind of it. They didn’t want Mauldin to go out that way. They thought he should know he was still their hero.
Here is what, by the time he was 23 years old, Mauldin accomplished: He won the Pulitzer Prize, was featured on the cover of Time magazine. His book “Up Front” was the No. 1 best-seller in the United States. All of that at 23. Yet, when he returned to civilian life and grew older, he never lost that boyish Mauldin grin, never outgrew his excitement about doing his job, never big-shotted or high-hatted the people with whom he worked every day. I was lucky enough to be one of them. Mauldin roamed the hallways of the Chicago Sun-Times in the late 1960s and early 1970s with no more officiousness or air of haughtiness than if he was a copyboy. That impish look on his face remained. 60
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“I’m beginning to feel like a fugative from th’ law of averages.”
“Ordnance? Ah’m havin’ trouble with mah shootin’ arn.”
“I calls her Florence Nightingale.”
“By the way, wot wuz them changes you wuz gonna make when you took over last month, sir?”
“This is th’ town my pappy told me about.” RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2010
Gordon Dillow, a columnist for the Orange County Register, put out the call in Southern California for people in the area to send their best wishes to Mauldin. I joined Dillow in the effort, helping to spread the appeal nationally, so Bill would not feel so alone. Soon, more than 10,000 cards and letters had arrived at Mauldin’s bedside. Better than that, old soldiers began to show up just to sit with Mauldin, to let him know that they were there for him, as he, so long ago, had been there for them. So many volunteered to visit Bill that there was a waiting list. Here is how Todd DePastino, in the first paragraph of his wonderful biography of Mauldin, described it:
“Th’ hell this ain’t th’ most important hole in the world. I’m in it.” 62
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ments of relief Bill gave us. You had to be reading a soaking wet Stars and Stripes in a water-filled foxhole and then see one of his cartoons.” Mauldin is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Last month, the kid cartoonist made it onto a first-class postage stamp. It’s an honor that most generals and admirals never receive. What Mauldin would have loved most, I believe, is the sight of the two guys who keep him company on that stamp. Take a look at it. There’s Willie. There’s Joe. And there, to the side, drawing them and smiling that shy, quietly observant smile, is Mauldin himself. With his buddies, right where he belongs. Forever.
“I ast her to teach me to yodel. She taught me to yodel.” “Almost every day in the summer and fall of 2002 they came to Park Superior nursing home in Newport Beach, California, to honor Army Sergeant, Technician Third Grade, Bill Mauldin. They came bearing relics of their youth: medals, insignia, photographs, and carefully folded newspaper clippings. Some wore old garrison caps. Others arrived resplendent in uniforms over a half century old. Almost all of them wept as they filed down the corridor like pilgrims fulfilling some longneglected obligation.” One of the veterans explained to me why it was so important: “You would have to be part of a combat infantry unit to appreciate what mo-
“Joe, yestiddy ya saved my life an’ I swore I’d pay ya back. Here’s my last pair of dry socks.” RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2010
The Root Cellar
Contributing Columnist Bob Root
The Root Cellar
ASK YOUR DOCTOR M
any of us have reasons to see our doctor. Many of us, myself included, have reasons to see many doctors. Not long ago I called my “primary care physician” to make an appointment. “He doesn’t work here any more,” said the lady who answered the phone while smacking her gum. “What do you mean? Doctors don’t quit.” “This one did.” “Why?” “I don’t know, I just work here. But we have other doctors in our clinic, I can get you one.” “No thanks, I’ll get my own.” My wife recommended her doctor. My son-in-law recommended the same guy. I made an appointment. Before I went, I watched some television news. Big mistake! At the direction of his nurse, I met him wearing only my skivvies. “I am not used to meeting people for the first time wearing only skivvies,” said I. “Don’t worry about it,” said he. “I see you have an implanted defibrillator. So do I.” I liked the guy right away. After a very thorough physical, we sat down to talk. “So, Doc, do I want Advair or Singulair? “Why do you ask? Do you suffer from asthma?“ “Well, on the TV news they say I should ask my doctor about Advair and Singulair. Not too excited about the side effects—confusion, hallucination, mood changes, suicidal thoughts, cough, dizziness, drowsiness, headache.”
“That wasn’t the news. That was an advertisement.” “Don’t see why someone would put all that in an advertisement. Aren’t they trying to sell the stuff?” “It’s the law.”
“Yeah, but, what about Tricor? Do I need Tricor? You know, for high cholesterol. “Maybe we should wait for the lab tests before we use Tricor,” he replied.
“On the news they said I should ask you about Plavix. Do I need Plavix?
“And Nasonex? Maybe I need some of that nasal spray for my seasonal allergies. And some Actos or Aricept, some Namenda?
“You already take Coumadin.” “Oh, yeah, that’s why I have a rash, vision problems and bruising. So, do I need Nexium?
How about Nexium? I hear it gives you diarrhea, chest pain, breathing problems and gas.” “Yes, it does. Do you have heartburn? If you do, I can prescribe Nexium. Once you get the diarrhea, chest pain, breathing problems and gas, you won’t worry about the heartburn.”
“What about Celebrex for my arthritis? Maybe I need some Celebrex. Lots of my friends take Celebrex. All they complain about is the rash.” “You have some arthritis, but it is not bad yet.” “How about Cosopt? Maybe I need that.”
“You do not have glaucoma. Cosopt is for glaucoma. Besides that, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and can cause an irregular heartbeat, which you already have.”
Oh, and do I need Amiodorone, Cozaar, Lasix, Digoxin? “Anything else?” He seemed to be getting a little tired of the subject. “Well yeah, there is one more,” I replied. “Do I want Cialis or Viagra?”
“Okay, Mr. Root, I am going to prescribe several of these medications you have asked about. Once you take them, you will have very thin blood, several bruises, a rash and a bitter taste in your mouth. You will have a headache, a nosebleed, a sore throat and possibly a viral infection. Your heartburn will be gone, but you will have diarrhea, breathing problems, chest pain and gas. Your vision will be blurred and you will be tired, with yellow eyes and skin. Your heartbeat will be irregular. You will be confused, hallucinating, coughing, dizzy, drowsy and completely unable to find anyone wanting to share side-by-side bathtubs with you for the next four hours. Now get dressed, get out of here and don’t come back!” Did I mention that I need a new doctor?
RNPA CONTRAILS | NOVEMBER 2010
More Root Cellar WORDS word |wәrd|
noun a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.
This is not easy you know. For every issue of this remarkable magazine/newsletter, I have to come up with some words—preferably readable words. In the past, I have lobbied here for a Pulitzer Prize in trivia. I think I just figured out why I have not been rewarded—there is no such thing and even if one existed, a person needs to enter to win, just like the lottery. As there is no prize for trivia, it would seem that I am qualified in one or more of the following areas: Explanatory journalism, Feature writing, Commentary, and Investigative reporting. Unhappy with having been ignored for so long, I called Oslo, and explained that I write like Andy Rooney. Oslo explained to me that it was the Nobel Prize that came from Oslo, not the Pulitzer, and the only thing I had in common with Andy Rooney was my looks. So, as I mentioned, this is not easy. Today, in my depressed state, I shall write about words. I begin with the word “have.” Many eons ago I obtained, after four years of intense, diligent and brilliant work, a college degree in journalism. My plan was to become a newspaper guy so I would write about police blotters and court proceedings on my way to becoming a well-known sports columnist. Then, I flew my first airplane and my initial plan for life went up in a cloud of kerosene mist. Lately, my wife and I have been attempting to reduce our possessions somewhat in hopes of obtaining a smaller home. One of the things as yet to be found is my college degree. The question then becomes, do I still “have” a college degree? I do not still “have” the 1959 Pontiac I owned when I obtained my degree. I hope I still “have” a degree but remain concerned that I may not. Words. Recognize these?
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Part of the afternoon had waned, but much of it was left, and what was left was of the finest and rarest quality. Real dusk would not arrive for many hours; but the flood of summer light had begun to ebb, the air had grown mellow, the shadows were long upon the smooth, dense turf. They lengthened slowly, however, and the scene expressed that sense of leisure still to come which is perhaps the chief source of one’s enjoyment . . . I was pretty sure you didn’t. Gary Ferguson has offered a reward from his son’s catering truck for anyone who recognizes those words as being from the first paragraph of Henry James’ novel, Portrait of a Lady. Which brings me back to my original point—this is not easy, you know. I would have written: “It was a nice, late afternoon.” If I needed to embellish it a bit, I would have written “It was a really nice late afternoon.” More words. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 29, 2010. The Minnesota Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth consumed the lion’s share of Royal Albert Hall’s psychic energy Saturday—appropriately—but not lost in the din was the evening’s poignant first half, in which celebrated violinist Gil Shaham and the band put forward a passionate argument for 12-tone music. Say what? That degree I mentioned above which I no longer “have” came with an admonition to avoid clichés when writing for a newspaper. “Consumed the lion’s share. . .” and “lost in the din,” etc. And, pray tell, what is the “psychic energy” found in Royal Albert Hall? How about . . . “put forward a passionate argument for 12-tone music.” Above, I mentioned that this is about words. I report here that all 126 classical musicians comprising the Minnesota Orchestra cancelled their subscriptions to the Star Tribune after having read that they are a “band.” The guy or gal who wrote that piece ain’t gonna win no Pulitzer. I would have written: “Da Minnesota Orchestra played real good over dare in England de udder day an Mr. Batoven would be pleased.” This isn’t easy, you know. One must write words which can be understood by the reader.
A STEP BACK IN TIME
By Dennis Guentzel
t was not until I had contracted with Roy Redman for the restoration of my Waco Taperwing that I finally became interested in any aviation history of that period. Until that time I had, regrettably, ignored the earliest days of Northwest airlines and the barnstormers and aircraft that gave roots to our careers. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to relive some of those early days of aviation and share the experience of flight in the 20’s and 30’s with 20 other antique owners by joining the “American Barnstormers Tour.” The American Barnstormers Tour was co-founded by Clay Adams a Northwest/Delta 757 Captain and Sarah Wilson, owner/pilot of “Stearman Flights Inc.” and is conducted every two years, visiting a different group of cities each year. The Tour for 2010 covered a span of 19 days and seven cities in the Midwest; Mason City, Tea, S.D. (right next to Sioux Falls), Watertown, Aberdeen, Bismarck, Jamestown and Alexandria. Having been properly vetted by the organizers (I’m sure they were more interested in the airplane than the pilot), I joined up with a Travel Air 6000 restored and flown by Hank Galpin of Kalispell, Mt. We departed Bozeman on a four leg, eight hour flight to Mason City, to begin the tour. On the afternoon that we arrived, a total of 17 aircraft assembled for the start of operations the next day. The group included five Travel Air 4000’s plus a Model 4-D, four Wacos, two Fairchild 22’s, Hank’s Travel Air 6000, a Stinson JR-S, a New Standard D-25 with four
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passenger seats in the front cockpit, a ’43 Stearman and a 1909 Bleriot Monoplane, the only replica in the group. The Bleriot actually flew, but for transport from town to town it was loaded onto a trailer because it simply got there faster that way. Aircraft came from literally all directions, as we had birds from Maine, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The aircraft and their pilots were divided into two groups: the “ride haulers” and the “display” aircraft. The rider haulers were the six aircraft that had a “Letter of Authority” with the FAA to give rides for pay. The rest of the aircraft had another purpose in that we were basically display aircraft for most of the day, but took to the air each afternoon to “ballyhoo” for business. Ten of us would parade around the city in typical Barnstormer fashion (at today’s legal altitudes however) to attract attention and draw the local folks to the field where they could sign up for a biplane ride. It worked quite well in most localities – we were scheduled to be on the ramp from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM, but some days the ride haulers still had folks lined up well past that time. While they continued to fly, we put our airplanes away and then hit the bar to await their arrival for dinner. The uniform of the day was pilot’s choice as long is it fit the period, i.e. knickers, knee high socks and bow tie or perhaps mail pilot garb with boots, breeches, khaki shirt and tie. Almost every pilot had a nickname or handle, a tra-
dition that as you know continues on today with our fighter jocks. Because I was the newbie in the group I can’t be sure of the origin of most, but a few were fairly logical: Northwest’s Clay Adams became “Pork Chop” Adams when he hastily ate his lunch, “pork chop on a stick” in the rear cockpit, while the passengers were being loaded in the front. “Spook” Roth spent 30 years in the CIA. Another Northwest pilot on the Tour was Bernie “Wrong Way” Harrigan. Now, I’m not sure if it was the similarity of the name or some incident that evoked that handle—someone who knows him better than me will have to ask him about it. “Speed” Hornbeck was late for everything. Two of the guys had a cute routine at the end of the parade flight where “Speed” Hornbeck would dress up as “Madame Lunde” who was to take a ride in the Waco ASO. After considerable effort “she” was finally stuffed into the cockpit of the Waco, but before the “pilot” could
“In Aberdeen I drew Abby, a little 12 year old with long red hair who had never before been in an airplane of any type.”
1930 Indian and my 1929 Waco
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Clay “Pork Chop” Adams and his Travel Air
climb aboard, she hit the throttle and was off the ground without him. After several gyrations over the field she was finally talked down to a rather bouncy landing in front of a delighted crowd. For me, one of the many highlights of the Tour was EAA’s Young Eagle program that we incorporated into the daily parade flight in each of the three South Dakota cities. For those of you who are not acquainted with the program, the Experimental Aircraft Association has an introduction to flight program for kids between the ages of 8 and 17. It’s free to those who sign up and have parental consent.
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Several of these young people were taken aloft each day during our parade flight. In Aberdeen I drew Abby, a little 12 year old with long red hair who had never before been in an airplane of any type. She was actually going to buy a ride with her own money until she was steered to one of the EAA reps who signed her up for the free ride. I was concerned that she may have been a little apprehensive since her first airplane ride was in an open cockpit with all that noise and wind, but that concern was quickly dispelled. To describe her as exuberant is an understatement. She hooted and
giggled the whole trip around Aberdeen. At one point she blurted out, “Look at my hair—its blowing all over the place!” It was all over my windscreen. “I know Abby, just try to get it under control before I have to land this thing!” Another loud giggle. She was one of the most delightful passengers I’ve ever had! While in Watertown, we were treated to breakfast at the Lakes Area Technical School were we spoke to a regular fixture there, Northwest’s Joe Amendt. The school has a 727 behind the hanger and Joe invited us aboard for a little nostalgia. Our airplanes were housed overnight in a hangar built in 1934 and had walls constructed entirely of field stone. The hangar that housed all our aircraft in BIS was a round roofed structure just north of the old terminal location. It also was built sometime in the 30’s. Out front was a mail box that still had North Central’s Herman on its side. Also while in BIS, a local vintage car club brought in some cars to add to our vintage aircraft display. It was quite a scene in front of that old hangar – with model A’s and biplanes filling the ramp. The only incident on the tour occurred while departing BIS for JMS. The Travel Air 4-D ate an exhaust valve during the climb out, but pilot Burce McElhoe did a nice job of putting it down in a hayfield just east of the airport. It was towed to the shelter of a nearby barn and repaired on the spot with a new cylinder and piston shipped in the next day by Fed EX. Half the fun of the Tour had to be just getting
Eunie and myself behind my Waco
Steve “Spook” Roth and his Fairchild 22 All photos by the author RNPA CONTRAILS | NOVEMBER 2010
Eric Preston and his 1909 Bleriot
to the next airport. We would leave fairly early so as to be set up and ready to go by 10:00 AM at the next city. We didn’t exactly fly in formation, it was more like a gaggle, with airplanes in groups of three or four that were compatible in speed. We did tighten it up some as we came overhead the field, well, you know, just for show. The last stop on the tour was Alexandria, Minnesota, where we spent the three day 4th of July weekend. The weather was warm and humid but the wind that had plagued us for much of the last week in N.D. had subsided. The winds and bumpy rides however, hadn’t detracted from the thrill people must have experienced on their flights, judging by all the big smiles we saw. With the Tour over, old “Handlebar” Hank and I departed AXN for Montana early the next day. Hank headed his Travel Air 6000 west with me at his four o’ clock. We pressed on the entire day, making BZN by dinner time. Again we split the eight hours of flight time into four legs, but exceeded a 12 hour duty day by just a little due in part to an early
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and lengthy lunch in Mobridge, waiting for some weather to pass. I have to say that putting in eight hours of flight in that old open cockpit gives one a renewed appreciation for the challenges facing the guys that really had to do this for a living in the early days. Pilots like Charles Holman that flew the night mail from St. Paul to Chicago summer and winter, in the old Northwest Airways JYM’s (same as the Taperwing, but 13” longer) deserve a lot of respect. Would I do the Tour again? Well, thinking back now about joining up, I have to say it was fun, but it was a really long trip with lot of nights in a hotel room again and long days baking in the sun on a hot ramp and then there was all that windy weather and hmmm… we met a great bunch of people and did some really fun flying and... gee, I can’t help thinking that if they decided to do another one of these Tours… like maybe to BZN or HLN would be fun, then up to Kalispell would be really neat… then on to Coeur d’Alene… and maybe even Pasco Washington... and, well, you get the idea.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HIS PLANE Waco Taperwing s/n A-83 was born 4/49/29 and delivered to its first owner, famous race pilot Johnny Livingston. Its original registration was NC8568. Records are sketchy, at best, but they show a transfer to a gentleman in Illinois a few years later. It was so registered until acquisition by Russ Gage, Canton, MA in 1981. By that time the registration had been changed to N9012F. The original number, NC8568 was traced to a crop duster in Bakersfield, CA. The FAA reported that the aircraft had been heavily damaged in an accident. However, the business is no longer operating and it is presumed that the owner is deceased.
The color scheme was not an attempt to duplicate a specific livery, but rather an attempt to duplicate the design used by the Waco Aircraft Company when producing their “racing” and “sport” versions of the already famous Taperwing. It is a 1929 Waco ATO Taperwing, NC8565, s.n. A-83, standard airworthiness certificate, restored in 2002 by Rare Aircraft of Owatonna, MN. Power is from a Jacobs 755B2 engine with 275 HP. The aircraft has a total of 376 hours, of which he has flown 275 since restoration. The plane and pilot are based in Bozeman, MT. (BZN). It has some of the “modern” electronics down on the side panel, but the panel instruments are all restored Waco “steam gauge.” When acquired by Dennis the registration was changed to NC8565. The original was not available, and NC8565 was as close as possible, and from an original Waco series. Dennis flew for Northwest Airlines for 30 years and retired in 1998 with about 21,200 hours. Prior to his NWA career, he spent some time as an instructor mostly in Pipers, most every model from Tri-pacer to Aztec’s, as well as some Cessna products. Since then Dennis has been happily flying his Waco. RNPA CONTRAILS | NOVEMBER 2010
WHAT MAY BE THE TRUE STORY OF ATJ Chronicled by Rick Seireeni with a little help from his new RNPA friends. Tokyo, early October 2010: It was a remarkably warm night given this late autumn, but not unexpected. Japan had just had one of its hottest summers on record, and an unseasonably warm fall was in the forecast. The Japanese have been preoccupied with China—feuding over remote islands and other rare earths. Maybe the hot weather is making everyone irritable. Most of them are at home tonight watching the endless repeats of nationalist rallies. I have just broken into the vacant lot up in Daikanyama next to the Hillside Terrace development. Well, it wasn’t that dramatic. I just went around the side of a construction fence and found an unlocked gate behind a parked bicycle. This part of town is now considered the Beverly Hills of Tokyo and clears out early even without the news, so I just walked in. Dark, overgrown, with bits of rubble here and there, this was the site of one of two Northwest crew compounds. Families were raised in these little pieces of America on the old Asakura Meiji-era estate. They are both gone now, but not the memories. I came here well after midnight because I needed help—help from a father I never knew. I’ve been coming to Japan for decades. My Tokyo partner and I share a brand consulting business. The
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two of us have been providing brand development and business consulting to many Japanese companies—Mitsubishi Bank, Kirin, and Uniqlo, which is the Gap of Japan—but this was the first time we were asked to work on an airline. ANA and their investment partners are planning to launch a new low cost airline later this year —something like Southwest or JetBlue, but for Asia. At this point in our pitch, I was feeling uneasy. We were up against seven other much larger firms, and today’s presentation had been met with stony silence. I’m not a religious man, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I asked my long dead father for a little help. After all, he hadn’t been around much. He owed me something, didn’t he? So tonight, I thought I’d ask the spirit world for a little help to win this contract. We needed it. I heard he liked Four Roses. With a little cheap scotch sprinkled on the ground, I reached out to my biological father, Al Johnson, one of the original Northwest pilots stationed in Tokyo who I guessed had lived here on this site. He was, as I would soon discover, a character right out of pulp fiction. The next day we got our news. We made the cut. It was now down to us and one other company. I was flabbergasted and more—this was the first time in 61 years that I actually felt a connection to Al. He was present in my life.
Everyone Knew Your Dad - Except His Kids This unlikely event is what set me on a quest to find out more about him. But where to start? That evening in my boutique hotel room across from Tokyu Hands I started tapping around Google and Ancestry.com— nothing but thousands of Albert Johnsons with the wrong details or no information at all. After a little break in the lobby where I noticed hoards of Chinese —the only people with money to travel these days—I found an Albert Johnson buried in Hibbing in 1958 that turned out to be the wrong guy. Then I tried “Northwest + History.” I found the Northwest Airline History Centre and a couple of contact names. An amazing Internet hunt ensued: October 8th Pete My father was a pilot for Northwest and died in the late 50s. I didn’t know him very well as my mother and father were divorced when I was very young, and he was married to another woman at the time of his death. I believe he was from Hibbing. My mother was a flight attendant for Northwest. He and my mother were among the very first crews flying into Tokyo after the war. They were both stationed there for a time. I’m trying to track down any information or possible pictures of him now that I have a family of my own. Father’s name: Al Johnson, captain, AKA A.T. or Albert Thomas Johnson Mother’s name: Therese (Terry) McArthur Almost immediately, Pete Patzke wrote back: Rick—I slightly knew an Albert T. Johnson who flew for Northwest for about 20 years, from the mid 1940’s into the 60’s. He died in 1964. I was a manager in flight operations for most of those years. I’ll dig into what records we may have at the History Centre and will also forward your request to RNPA, which is an Association of retired NWA pilots. I’m sure someone in that group would have more info. And did they. Dino Oliva, Gary Ferguson, Vic Britt, Neal Henderson and eventually Anne Kerr and other NWA flight crew jumped in with both feet to help. Pete suggested I contact Shigeaki Morita who was Flight Dispatcher for Northwest in Tokyo beginning in the early fifties. Morita-san was the much appreciated go-to guy before retiring. As I was still in Tokyo, I asked one of our Japanese-speaking staff members to contact Northwest (now Delta) operations, which led to a home
Al Johnson in his early 30s and myself at about the same age (but thirty years ago).
phone number. My colleague spoke to his wife and then Morita was on the phone, “Sure, I knew your dad. Who didn’t? Your dad was a legend. What do you want to know?” “A legend? Really? What did he do?” Morita said there were many stories and thought for a second. He remembered that they were waiting for Al’s flight to return from Seoul sometime in the early 50s when his plane went off the radar around Mount Fuji. Morita was still relatively new at his job and there was a war going on over in Korea. He dutifully called the Japanese Defense Forces to start looking for a downed airliner. About an hour later Al showed up having taken his passengers on an unscheduled sightseeing trip around the Japanese alps. “That was your dad. No rules.” Morita added, “In those days, the Americans were calling the shots. They could do anything they wanted.” Morita-san gave me the first third-person confirmation of similar stories my mother had told me; about smuggling gold out of Shanghai, about stealing a P-61 at Boeing Field for a joy ride, about ferrying supplies into Korea during that war under fire... bits and pieces. I don’t know why I didn’t start looking into Al’s life earlier. Maybe it was because I was adopted by my stepfather. He is the only father I have known and a good one—a solid, honest man who has always treated me as his son. Al, on the other hand, was never in the picture. And just when it seemed like my mother was ready to start talking about her colorful life, she developed Alzheimer’s and died a few years ago. I was left with one picture of Al, a single gold cufflink with the initials ATJ, a couple letters on NWA stationary, and his watch. That’s it. I even had his date of death wrong. He died in 1964, not in the late 50s, but I do remember that day. RNPA CONTRAILS | FEBRUARY 2011
One of the Tokyo Northwest crew compounds And I had come home from school in Bellevue and my mom told me that my dad had died. “Bob? Bob died?” “No, your real dad, the pilot. He died.” Confused, she told me to put on my dress coat and clip-on tie. She was going to take me to SeaTac to view the body, but then thought better of it. She left me with neighbors. My mother later told me that his death was a complete shock to everyone. I have come to find out that he died at a female friend’s apartment in Seattle of a barbiturate overdose—like Marilyn Monroe. There was a little party going on, and Al complained of being sleepy. He asked to lie down in the bedroom. They found him after midnight. The body was shipped to Hibbing, Minnesota, where he was born and where his first wife and children still lived. I spoke to the mortuary’s current owner who looked up the old records. There was a family plot and the names of next of kin. There it was. Now I had two half brothers and one half sister, and maybe some aunts and uncles and cousins.
The Makings of a Good Book... or Movie? Al seemed to be one of those characters that make a big impression on everyone they meet. Neal Henderson, a retired NWA pilot wrote, “I never met your father—although I would like to have met him. I heard more colorful stories about him from the early captains I flew with as I started my tour (34 years) with Northwest Airlines than any other pilot. His exploits would make a good book or movie. He was described to me as a high-energy person who lived life to the fullest. He boxed and liked to fight, challenging all comers, but
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would (and did on occasion) give other pilots the shirt on his back, and if they wouldn’t take it he would beat them up, or attempt to.” Yes, I’ve since confirmed that he was a Golden Gloves boxer in his younger days and was also a track star at Hibbing High School, where he dated and later married his first wife, Bernadine. Berdie for short. His father—my newly discovered grandfather—James worked for the mines. Al had three sisters and three brothers. Death seemed to haunt this family. Al’s mother died of tuberculosis when he was a young man. His youngest sister drowned when she was sixteen trying to save an older sister, who later died under mysterious circumstances in a Duluth asylum. I heard that Grandpa James cried and cried over the loss of young Lois, and again later when Al’s body was shipped home. Two of Al’s children committed suicide, also apparently drug related. Neal wrote, “I heard that [Al] died from suicide after a couple of attempts while still employed by Northwest Airlines.” He drank a lot, but so did others. One person said that he had pain from a car accident. Maybe so, but his airline was transitioning to jets, and I found no mention of a jet rating in his FAA records. Was the now buttoned-up world of aviation leaving him behind? I reread one of the letters he wrote my mother in the early fifties. Writing from Spokane on a milk run, he seemed despondent over his career after the intoxicating thrill of those post-war years in the Orient, and that was fifteen years before he died. The handwriting had that look of alcohol in it.
Addicted To Love Al was pretty lonely in the end according to Betty Stewart, a retired F/A who was probably his last serious girlfriend and who has been a joy to talk with. They had broken up just a few months before his death. He was married at the time to his fourth wife, a woman named Esther (Jill) Johnson from Australia. She may have been independently wealthy. She may have been older than him. They shared a home in Honolulu. Jill died in 2006 we think. An Esther Johnson was listed in Al’s mortuary records as his wife but did not attend his funeral. Too many broken promises? Al certainly made an impression on the women in his life. He may have been the love of their lives, but not a man you could really live with. My mother, who was quite a looker in her youth,
Generous, Charming, Always Broke It wasn’t just the women who were impressed by him—all of which seemed to have been stewardesses, the title used at the time. His fellow pilots have also been an endless source of stories delivered to me thanks to the RNPA email that Vic and the boys sent around to your membership. Some of these stories verge on the truly mythical, like the time Al piloted a plane out of Shemya in the Aleutians in the midst of horrific crosswinds. The passengers and crew had been holed up in the infamous Northwest Hotel, a poorly insulated shack on this god-forsaken island. They were freezing to death, and Al had decided they had Al and Terry on their wedding. Witnesses to the marriage are had enough. He wanted to get G.B. Dunn and wife. G.B. is captioned as a pilot. to Tokyo. He directed his flight engineer to apply differential throttle to the engines to keep the plane from flipping jumped on a plane to Tokyo two days after I was born over. The engineer recalled focusing on nothing but a in July of 1949. She and Al had married in 1947, but captain’s shirtsleeve with a gold ATJ cufflink vibrating, their relationship was already on the rocks. She was hand straining on the yoke. Then the ground crew cut flying back to Tokyo to reconcile. When she got to the the cables holding the plane down and off they went apartment they shared near Hibiya Park, there was anlike a lurching crab down the runway. A VIP passenger other woman in there making dinner. Terry chased her in the back literally shit in his pants. The guy had nothout with Al’s Army-issued 45 and then waited. There ing to wear when they landed at Haneda, so Al gave was a huge fight. She said she was a fly’s breath from him his pants. There was Al standing at the entrance to shooting him dead. She ran out of the apartment and the flight deck in his jacket and underwear smiling as onto the roof where she spent the night. Al went to the the dumbstruck passengers disembarked. local police Koban to get help looking for her. I think Some pilots have told me that they were afraid to fly it was during that long night that she decided to move with him because they never knew what he was going on. She never fell for his entreaties after that. By 1950, to do next. Al was married again to another flight attendant with Anne Kerr, who authors a great blog about her days another child on the way. That beautiful boy would be as an NWA flight attendant (www.ladyskywriter.com), the second of his children to take his own life. has connected me with other F/As who flew with Al. Al’s skirt chasing never stopped. Neal Henderson One of those is Julie Elliot who recalled that when she relayed a story he heard, “Late into a party in Seattle he was a rookie in the early 60s, her passengers were waitwas making love to a gal under a bush in the backyard ing to board a Seattle flight being flown by the very imof the party house. His girlfriend at the time saw him pressive looking, Captain A.T. Johnson. He kept them and in a fit of anger stabbed him fourteen times in the waiting on the tarmac—chatting them up about his flyback with a steak knife. He never missed a stroke and ing exploits in the 40s—until he had finished smoking was later taken to the hospital and survived.” his cigar. Many people have suggested that any other My wife thinks he was addicted to love—the rush of pilot would have been fired, but Al was being protected. being in love again, and again, and again.
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Terry (L) in flight in the galley. Probably 1946/7. One story concerned an NWA executive’s son who had been involved in a car accident in Japan in the 40s. A Japanese girl riding with the young man, who may have been driving drunk, was killed. He survived. This would have gone badly for the boy, but Al knew people. He got the boy shipped home. Al’s generosity was well known. Pilots who got married were given exquisite gifts of oriental antiques. Anne Kerr told me that fellow F/A Phyllis Curry said she and her pilot husband Chuck were very good friends with Al. “They saw him a lot. She said Al was crazy about (my mom) Terry. When Phyllis and Chuck got married, Al gave them a wedding present. It was a rare Japanese “Blood Vase” inscribed “Fly Boy.” He apparently ran an antique business out of his apartment at the NWA compound in Daikanyama. I also recall getting anonymous gifts as a child: a carved black ivory water buffalo; a red fat-bellied Buddha statue; and, a miniature samurai sword that I managed to accidentally stab myself in the stomach with. There’s that ‘aura of suicide’ again. One of his stewardess friends recalled that Al had hailed down the crew car leaving the compound for Haneda. He had missed his ride earlier that morning. He piled in with the rest and asked if they wouldn’t mind taking a brief detour. Al directed the driver to a very sketchy part of town. The car pulled over and Al hurried through a small doorway only to emerge minutes later with his jacket defensively wrapped around his fist. He was fending off several very angry Japanese
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thugs wielding knives. Back in the car, no one said a thing. This was just business as usual for A.T. Johnson. Former F/A Kelly Cohn told me that Al had a gun shot wound in his chest. I have a letter to my Mother from him while recuperating in a Tokyo hospital in 1948 from who knows what. Retired F/A Julie Elliot relayed the following from her friend Betty Stewart, the same Betty Stewart that dated Al toward the end, “Betty told me a funny story about Al showing some people on Shemya a gun. Al put three holes in the ceiling. People were sort of alarmed because now the rain would come into the house. Al thought he could fix that by putting three holes in the floor so it would drain out. I don’t think Betty could have made this up.” Kelly told me they had a layover in Seattle and were hungry. They went down to the local grocery store. Out of sight, Al stuffed a big carrot down his pants. He walked up to her and put her hand on his crotch. “What do you think of that?” “I’ve known better,” she said dryly. She knew his tricks. Another pilot, Norman Hilson, who was stationed with Al in Tokyo in the forties, told fellow pilot Arthur Daniel the following story, “We were walking down the street in Tokyo and a G.I. came along with $5 in his hand. He said “Five dollars to the man who can whip me.” Al punched the guy, grabbed the five, and didn’t even miss a step.” And that was the other thing—Al was constantly broke. He’d come into money, sometimes lots of money, and then it would be gone.
Leaving Children Behind Like Some People Leave Their Keys At The Restaurant Al had three children before marrying my mother. He was married two more times, four in all, and had at least one more son after me. By the middle of last November, I already understood that this boy and one of the boys from the first marriage had died—but two known siblings remained. I hired an ancestry expert, a kind of private detective, to track them down. Just before Christmas, I got an email from Susan Morrow, “I may have found Sheila, Albert’s daughter.” She turned
out to be a defense attorney living in Pennsylvania, and I was able to locate her through a poetry group that she was a member of. I called the group’s editor, “Do you by any chance know a Sheila, the attorney?” “Who wants to know?” “Well I think I may be her brother. Did she grow up in Hibbing and have a dad who flew for Northwest?” Bingo. Sheila turned out to be this lady’s neighbor. A few minutes later I was talking to a sister I never knew I had. She’s the sharp one of the family. We’ve been exchanging information ever since. I’ve learned of a brother living in Wisconsin and all about the Johnson family, living and dead. Sadly, I’ve read letters posted by Al to Sheila when she was very young making wild promises. In one, he promises to fly her to Hawaii. Of course, it never happens. In another, he explains that he is finally posted in a warm climate—Manila—and will be back very soon —in about 18 months. I wonder if he realized that a week is an eternity for a child. In one of his letters to my mom, he’s not sure about the spelling of my name, “It’s Ricky, isn’t it?” If he was alive today, I’d soundly kick his butt and then give him a hug, “What were you thinking?” And then I remembered. He had intercepted me coming home from school when I was—I dunno—7 or 8. He asked me if I wanted to drive his Corvette. I think he was living in the Shorewood Apartments on Mercer Island. I remember sitting on his lap pretending to steer the car. He had his uniform on. I was impressed. My mother was not amused. Funny how just one incident can affect a young mind. I picked up my private when I was 17. If I had had you guys as mentors, I’d be writing this from the inside and not the outside. I drifted away from aviation and toward a career in design. But anyone interested can take my son under his/her wings. He’s shown a definite interest at 10 years old. They will still need pilots to drive those super wide-body planes being developed by MIT.
Where Is The Northwest Gold? In all my imagination, I never expected my pilgrimage to the NWA compound to turn into this—a fourfold increase in the size of my family—and it hardly stops here. My sister Sheila, other pilots and F/As, girlfriends and wives have all hinted at smuggling and gun running. Some of the older pilots have said this is a myth that has been floating around NWA for decades, but
others believe the stories are based in fact. I can tell you this, my mother told me flat out that she and Al were involved in gold smuggling out of Shanghai prior to 1949. Some of the details were echoed by one of Al’s exwives. Sheila told me that Al was involved in gun running to South America. All of this makes sense when you think about it. In China before the fall of Shanghai, the country’s wealth and cultural patronage was being emptied out via the Yangtze River. As the wealthy were escaping Mao’s conquest and the Nationalist blockade, many turned to airline and shipping personnel to get themselves and their loot out of China. My partner, who is ethnic Chinese but grew up in Japan, has told me that this is how his father got their family money out of China—in this case via BOAC. One story told by Neal Henderson with many variations has it that pilots complained that they could not trim one of the NWA planes. On inspection in Seattle, gold was found in the wingtip. The story my mother told me and that has been retold by others has it that a fixer named Jimmy Ling was connecting wealthy Chinese refugees with NWA personnel. My mother told me that Jimmy would bring gold over to the Peace Hotel where NWA staff laid over. My mother would go through customs carrying two or three gold bars. Foreign airline crews were not checked by Chiang Kai-Shek’s troops. Vic Britt described a story told to him by Ken Bennett and Terry Marsh, “Ken and Terry said that when the Reds were closing in on Shanghai (in May of 1949) they woke the crew in the middle of the night. They packed up an airplane with all the NWA people and the Northwest “Gold” and flew to Tokyo with no flight plan at 200 feet so no one could pick them up. He said your dad got away with a lot of things after that, which would have gotten anyone else fired—and it was probably because of what he did that last night in Shanghai. It was the last “round eye” flight out of China for a long time.” So, did Al Johnson fly the last plane out of Shanghai? Jimmy Ling, who owned a textile company and was associated with Chinese gangsters, like the infamous Big Ears Du, was subsequently stabbed to death. If gold had been diverted, then Jimmy might have taken the fall. An even more provocative story has it that three planes flew millions of dollars in gold out of Shanghai only to be diverted via Tokyo, Shemya and Anchorage to a destination in Utah where the gold was delivered to who knows who. I don’t have permission to tell you the source of this story, but it was someone very close to Al. Her fear? Some of the other flight crew died under mysterious circumstances shortly after. RNPA CONTRAILS | FEBRUARY 2011
three months later and passed. I assume he went to work for Northwest in the northern region under a war contract with the ATC. I think this is where he met my mother, who told me she also flew into Canada and Alaska along the treacherous Alcan Highway route. I believe he received his command certificate for DC3s in Manila in ’49. By 1958, he had about 15,000 PIC hours—on the record. Off the record, who knows? Al was certainly a character, pro and con. Fellow pilots may have had to sober him up after a bender, but he was a hell of pilot. Peter Jenkins recalled a comment from his father Reg Jenkins, who was among other things Vice President, Orient Rosie Stein (L), Jerry Rudquist pinning wings on Therese MacArthur at the Region and an early Director Nicollet Hotel, Minneapolis (probably 1945). of Operations for Tokyo and Shanghai. “He would always say The gun running story also makes sense. America that your dad was one of the best natural pilots he’d was supporting many rightwing regimes in Central and ever known.” Peter, who grew up in Tokyo and knew South America. Anyone with connections to WashAl, was kind enough to let me retell his story, which I’ve ington and the CIA could have called on pilots, like edited for brevity: Al Johnson, to do a little side work, which may explain why Al occasionally came into large amounts of money. “On the night of the flight in question there was a This is where fact and fiction make a fabulous cocktail. large, bad typhoon passing over Tokyo and outward on I was hoping to interview Donald Nyrop, the former the route they would have to pass through. The visibility president of Northwest and director of the CAB, about on the ramp and across the field looked pretty grim, with these stories. The RNPA guys were trying to set this high winds and gusts driving heavy rains sideways in up, but sadly he died last month. I really should have sheets. My Dad was concerned that the flying conditions started this research earlier. were getting pretty marginal. After reviewing the flight plan and the weather A Pilot’s Pilot reports with the meteorologist on duty, Al’s decision was to go. (Northwest was the only airline that had it’s own The other day, a long awaited batch of FAA documeteorology department, and prided itself that their own ments arrived in a plain manila envelope. I had to jump weather data and analysis was consistently better than through hoops to get them. They contained a record of the official weather reports issued by the US Air Force in Al Johnson’s certifications—most of them fuzzy Xerox those days) copies. He started flying in 1941 at a local Hibbing air At the time an airport expansion program was unport. According to a Hibbing native and fellow pilot, he der way. Apparently the airport authorities assumed that probably took advantage of the government’s free pilot the construction activity had been suspended due to the training program at the time. One of my new nephews awful weather and for that very same reason the folks in told me he got in trouble flying upside down over the the tower could not see beyond the active runway that giant Hibbing mine pit. Between 1941 and 1942, he the work that night had, in fact, continued. obtained his multi-engine, instrument, commercial When all the passengers had boarded and the loadand transport licenses. He failed one test, retook it ing of mail, baggage and freight was routinely completed,
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Al taxied the Douglas DC-4 out to the threshold to cycle his controls and run up his engines. He remained completely unaware of the ongoing construction activity. Everything looked good from the cockpit, and Al was cleared for takeoff. The DC-4 rolled down the runway through the driving rain and gathered speed. About this time a dump truck had just finished loading, and it’s driver and his assistants decided to take a shortcut from the construction site to a landfill area… directly across the middle of the active runway. The construction crew figured that flights were shut down for the duration of the typhoon, and they could get more work done as they had the field all to themselves.” (Isn’t this what causes accidents, mutual assumptions?) “By the time Al had spotted the truck through the gloom and rain, it was too late. He was somewhere between V-1 (the speed at which he could abort the take-off and safely stop [within the remaining runway]) and V-2 (the speed at which the plane was rated to climb). There was a split second to react, and even the right and timely reaction was likely to be fatal under the best of circumstances… yet Al got her rotated and somehow very gently climbing ever so slightly… on a knife edge between a flatout stall if he rushed it… and smashing into the dump truck if he couldn’t get the old gal to climb. The first my Dad knew of all this was when Al in a calm voice over the radio explained what had happened and requested clearance to land again immediately. With all the routine thumps, groans and whines of the take-off—wheels struts extending to full bump and coming up into the wells, flaps retracting, and engines roaring—the rest of the flight crew had figured they were home free—and miraculously so. Even the dump truck driver later told the authorities that he was completely unaware that there was a plane behind him until he was overwhelmed by the glare of its landing lights and the roar of engines as it passed, in his words, “very low.” But Al felt something about the controls didn’t feel quite right as he climbed out from the field and thus decided to return to Haneda to have maintenance give it a thorough going over. This was despite the fact that landing under those deteriorating weather conditions would be no easy matter even if the plane were not damaged. My Dad said Al made the landing look incredibly smooth and gentle despite the awful conditions… and a good thing he did. On inspection the mechanics noticed a long indented scrape on the belly of the fuselage just between the wings. There were no gaping holes or fluid leaks, so they didn’t think the damage looked that bad to them, but due to Al’s insistence, they began pulling skin panels to see what lurked beneath. What they then dis-
covered was a crack in the main box section of the wing spar. If Al had continued flying, they said, the wings would have sooner or later (and probably sooner, given the turbulence of the storm) simply broken off in flight or on touchdown.” Peter commented, “That was the Al Johnson I remember most. He was a pilot’s pilot when he was at the controls in the cockpit.”
Terry, New Years Eve Ball, Minneapolis, 1942
A Few Words About Mommy And just so you don’t think Al deserves all the glory, my mother had quite a history of her own. Terry McArthur was raised in France, born to a Scottish-American father from Olympia, Washington and a French mother. James McArthur had remained in France after his service as an army officer in WWI and became the director of the International Harvester factory in Wasquehal, near the Belgium border. Terry and her sisters were raised in a Brussels convent, the custom of the time. My grandfather loved adventure and once took the family on a car trip to Egypt. Yes, by car. When the Germans invaded in 1939, my mother’s family boarded one of the last ships out of the continent, the SS Washington—loaded mostly with Jewish refugees. There were big American flags painted on the RNPA CONTRAILS | FEBRUARY 2011
side to ward off German U-boats. America had not yet entered the war, but the passengers slept in their lifejackets nonetheless. Her family relocated to Louisville Kentucky, home to International Harvester. That is where she graduated from high school. As the war in Europe was coming to a close, the family was planning to return to their little town in dreary northeastern France. Not Terry. She had seen America and wanted to stay. She moved to Minnesota where she trained to become an airline stewardess. Anne Kerr has miraculously found a picture of my mother receiving her NWA wings in a hotel ceremony. She was known to fellow F/ As as the cute one with the French accent. Terry’s flying career was cut short by her pregnancy, and she eventually wound up in Los Angeles working for Northwest as a ticket agent. She put me in a boarding school. From there we moved to Seattle where she met my Dad who gave me a secure upbringing. A few years ago, as Mom’s memory was fading, she would cup my face in her hands and tell me that I looked just like Al. “The stories, the stories,” she would tell me, but it’s come to you to fill in those details.
A Big Thank You In these days of the Internet, finding a biological parent is not such big news. What is news, for me at least, is discovering the intense camaraderie among the flight crews of Northwest Airlines. We’re losing the older guys and gals, who were contemporaries of my
father, but the younger ones are running with the ball— archiving memories and sharing stories. One of those is Gary Ferguson, who wrote, “Although Al wasn’t a military pilot, he was undoubtedly influenced by those post-war pilots he knew. One has to remember that piloting in the post-war era was accomplished in large part by the survivors who had watched some 37,000 fellow pilots die in training accidents and countless others in accidents and combat. Flying was a risky business then and the young ones who were doing it in Al’s timeframe considered themselves survivors and ‘bulletproof.’ Some of those young military pilots had learned that survival and efficiency sometimes meant that some rules were there to be broken.” Al Johnson certainly took his chances and broke his share of the rules. In one of his few remaining letters to my mother shortly after their divorce, Al Johnson wrote, March 12th, 1950, postmarked from Portland, Oregon on Northwest Airlines—Route of the Stratocruisers airmail stationery. “My Dear Terry, Enclosed is a check for $50 to help things along in L.A. I left Mpls last night an hour before Don Jones was killed in that crash—sure was a bad deal, but definitely not a wing falling off. Guess Don just got too low. I fly every day from now on practically—being a junior captain has its drawbacks. Hope you & Ricky are in the pink. No sickness. I wish you the best of luck too. LS ever, Al” For his surviving children, Sheila, Jim and myself, Al Johnson will always be our tragically romantic father. We miss you. A huge thanks to Jim Anderson, Warren Avenson, Bob Bartholomay, Ken Bennett, Vic Britt, Kelly Cohn, Phyllis (and Chuck) Curry, Arthur Daniel, Dick Dodge, Julie Elliot, Gary Ferguson, Jac Flemming, Marie Force, Phil Hallin, Neal Henderson, Peter Jenkins, Dennis P. Johnson, Anne Kerr (author of Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels), Joe Kimm, Dick Smith, Terry and Spence Marsh, Joyce Rudquist Norvold (and Jerry Rudquist), Dino Oliva, Pete Patzke, Joe Pehoushek, Bonnie Russell, Betty Stewart… and, of course, to my newfound sister and brother and the Johnson family. ©2010 Richard Seireeni, All rights reserved. Reproduction by permission.
Courtesy of Betty Stewart
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The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more to add to the story. – Ed.
The Root Cellar
Contributing Columnist Bob Root
The Root Cellar
BASEBALL HAS BEEN VERY, VERY GOOD TO ME In the year 1947, a baseball pitcher for the Cleveland Indians by the name of Bob Feller won 20 games. That same year a young lad by the name of Bob Root played in his first organized baseball game in a city park in south Denver, Colorado. He was eight years old. Bob Feller’s real name was Robert William Andrew Feller, born in 1918. Bob Root’s real name was Robert Murray Root, born in 1939. Over the years, Bob Feller became known as Rapid Robert, a reference to the speed of his fastball. Bob Root became known as Bobby, a reference to the fact that his family already had a Bob who was Bobby’s father. Bobby began his initial game as the catcher. He had a mask, a chest protector, a big catcher’s mitt and a lot of enthusiasm as the game began. When the game ended, he had minor cuts, bruises and swollen knuckles obtained from various fouled balls and collisions at home plate. Bobby’s mother was quite unhappy about the swollen knuckles, fearing that the life of a baseball catcher would bring about an early end to Bobby’s career as a concert pianist. By his third game, Bobby’s parents had spoken with his manager and Bobby’s future as a catcher ended. He became a shortstop. Bob Feller continued to be a pitcher. It developed that little Bobby loved to play baseball. Before long, he was actually fairly good at the game, sometimes surprising even himself with a hit or a good defensive play. Of course, there was no play in the winter in Denver. As an only child, Bobby had to occupy himself in other ways in winter which included a great deal of piano practice supervised, but not taught, by his grandmother. Bobby’s dad was “in sales.” He did well. He entered management. He did well. When Bobby was 11, his dad received a promotion to the position of district “Sales Manager.” The district was based in a place called Thermopolis, Wyoming. Bobby was not able to understand how a small town like Thermopolis, (named for the world’s largest mineral hot springs) population 2870, was the headquarters for anything called a “district,” but he did understand that it was now “home.” The move resulted in some changes for Bobby. First, it was determined that his education in Denver had somehow placed him ahead of his age group in Wyoming, where one could find more cows than people. He was installed into the sixth grade, skipping the fifth. Next, his parents were unable to find a piano teacher to guide him toward the concert stage. His piano career soon ended. However, in Wyoming there was ample interest in baseball. Children without siblings develop ways to entertain themselves which offspring in large families do not. Bobby invented a solo baseball game, played at the front entrance of the family home. He used a tennis ball. The essence of this game was to throw a ball at the front steps from about ten feet away. In the mind, this was “the pitch.” When the ball bounced off the steps, it would rebound toward Bobby either in the air, rolling or bouncing. If it did not hit the ground he would catch it and the imagined batter was “out.” If it did hit the ground, he would grab it, then throw it back at the steps. In his mind, this was a throw to first base. If he then caught the rebound, an out was recorded. If not, there was a runner on base. Over time, Bobby improved his game and his skills. He developed a “strike zone,” where the initial throw had to hit the steps in a certain area to be considered a strike. He became adept at throwing the ball so that it would return as a fly or a grounder. A double play could be performed by twice catching and throwing the ball at the steps between pitches. In the years 1950 and ‘51, such things as video games, skateboards and radar guns
(which measure the speed of a pitch) were still awaiting introduction. Indeed, in Wyoming, so was television. Bobby had never seen a major league baseball game. He had only listened to the broadcast of such games on radio. Someone, probably his parents, had presented him with a wonderful gift; a multi-dial, all black metal radio with several bands, including short wave, big knobs and even headphones. Late at night, he would lie in his bed with headphones in place, searching for stations far off. Sometimes he would find beautiful, if mournful, classical music from some place he knew was Russia. But the best thing about the radio was that he located a place where he could listen to major league baseball games played by the Cleveland Indians. About Cleveland, he knew only that it was someplace “back east.” He had heard that Bob Feller had stood in a downtown street in Chicago and proved that his fastball could beat a motorcycle traveling at 100 miles per hour over a distance of 60 feet six inches. Bobby became an avid fan of the Indians. Every day during the season he read the box scores. He knew all the players by name and position. The Indians had four great starting pitchers—The Big Four.—Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Early Wynn and, of course, Feller. Bobby brought the names of players to his invented game, along with a radio announcer. “Feller winds and delivers. Fast ball on the outside corner. Rizzuto swings and hit’s a high fly ball toward right center. Doby moves rapidly under the ball and makes a fine running catch. “Mantle steps to the plate. Feller fires a bullet down the middle. (CRACK) Grounder toward second. Avila scoops, throws to Easter. Out number two.” “Yogi up. Feller delivers a curve, low. Ball one. Yogi fidgets. Next pitch, fast ball high and tight. (CRACK) Yogi hits a one-bouncer to Rosen at third. Over to Easter at first and Feller is out of the inning.” In Wyoming in the early “fifties,” Bobby didn’t know or care that Larry Doby was only the second black player to be allowed into the majors. He didn’t even know that Jackie Robinson was the first. All he knew was that these guys were great ballplayers and one of them, Bob Feller, had become his hero. Thermopolis had no school baseball team, but did have basketball. Bobby played in winter on the school basketball team. When Spring arrived, Bobby switched from basketball to American Legion Baseball. He didn’t know what the American Legion was, but it was the organization providing him with a uniform and the opportunity to play his favorite sport—baseball. He played Legion ball probably well before he was old enough. No one in Wyoming seemed to notice.
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In the middle of the winter of 1954, Bobby was a sophomore member of the Thermopolis High School basketball team. Once again, his father had done well in business. Another promotion to a larger district took the family to the much larger town of Rapid City, South Dakota, population approximately 25,000. Bobby was enrolled as a sophomore in Rapid City High where, to his not complete surprise, it was also basketball season. Shortly after his arrival, he was spotted by the assistant basketball coach in the gym shooting “hoops.” The next week, he was a member of the RCHS varsity squad where he “rode the bench” for two and a half years.
Like Thermopolis, Rapid City had no high school baseball. When basketball season ended that first year, Bobby tried out for the Rapid City Legion team. He was accepted. No one seemed to care that he wasn’t 16 yet. That summer, Bob Feller, now 35 years-old started 19 games for the Indians, winning 13. Bobby became the Rapid City’s Legion team’s regular second baseman, where he played for three seasons. In order to play baseball for the Rapid City Legion team one required some shoes, called “spikes,” a glove, a rake and a shovel. In addition, someone in the group needed a wheelbarrow. Each Spring players and coaches actually built their field. It was part of a city park and required a great deal of smoothing after a winter before baseball could be played. Rapid City is urban, but the surrounding area is rural. Most of the players were from town. One Spring, however, a six-foot tall strong-looking farm kid in bib overalls shuffled onto the Legion field, carrying the requisite glove, rake and shovel. He name was Kermit Kidner and his arrival signified the considerable improvement about to take place in the play of the Rapid City Legion team. Apparently, no one knew that the Kidner farm outside town was home to enough Kidners to staff an entire baseball team. Apparently, no one knew that the farm had enough land to spare from farming to leave some for baseball. Apparently, the Kidners did not spend all of their time doing chores. Kermit could play! Not only that, he could pitch, a talent sorely needed at any level of baseball. The team started to win almost every game. Being the second largest community in the state undoubtedly contributed to their success. In 1956, about to graduate from high school , Bobby carried his glove, rake and shovel to the park to begin another, final season of Legion baseball. He was unaware that Bob Feller was also at the beginning of his final season in the majors. As the season began, Bobby’s team picked up where it had left off—winning nearly every game. About halfway through the summer, the team’s management announced that a game had been scheduled against Billings, Montana, and would be played in Billings on an upcoming Saturday afternoon. The players were overjoyed! Rumor held that Billings had one of the best Legion teams in America whose players did not have summer jobs or chores and were paid under some imaginary table to practice baseball all day. Confidence had it that hard-working kids from South Dakota would kick some serious butt in Montana! Excitement was high as the big day arrived. Mother Nature had provided a glorious, warm sunny day with little wind and no humidity.
The first thing the Dakota boys realized in Billings was that this was a real ballpark with nice grass, dugouts, a backstop, a fence and bleachers. It was obvious that Billings players needed no rake or shovel. Warming up on the field, the players, now excited and cocky, couldn’t wait for the slaughter of the Billings team to begin. It mattered not that people from Rapid City had failed to make the trip and the bleachers were filled with Billings fans. All preparations were finally completed and the umpire yelled “Play Ball!” As the leadoff batter for the visiting team, Bobby stepped to the plate, the first batter of the game. On the pitcher’s mound was a left-handed kid who did not appear to be particularly worried about the Rapid City leadoff hitter. Bobby dug in his spikes and awaited the first pitch. Suddenly, here it came. The pitch was at least three feet above his head. Bobby, now with nearly five years of experience as a Legion player, was disappointed. He had seen many a teenage pitcher who could not throw the ball over the plate with any consistency. He stepped back and let the bat sag in his right hand. His coach preferred that he not swing at three-foot high pitches. Then, to his utter amazement, the ball dropped nearly straight down, crossing home plate well within the strike zone and settling into the catcher’s mitt with a “pop.” “Steerike,” sang the umpire! Bobby just stood there for a moment, stunned. He had never seen a pitch do what that one had done. He didn’t know anyone could do that with a baseball. Never one to give up, Bobby stepped back into the batter’s box. The left-hander on the mound now had his total attention. This time the pitch was a fastball down the middle. Bobby’s bat arrived over the plate about a minute and a half after the ball, resulting in strike two. He stepped out of the batter’s box and thought about his coach’s dislike for players who failed to swing at a close pitch when they had two strikes against them. He returned to the box, swung at the next pitch before it left the mound and took a seat in the dugout. Kermit Kidner pitched a fairly good game that day, giving up only a few runs. To their great chagrin, the Dakota kids managed only two foul balls for the entire game. Bobby did hit one of the fouls. Years later, he could still see that first pitch. He determined that it was that pitch which ended his hopes of a major league career. The left-handed kid who threw it was named Dave McNally, who, in 1970, won 24 games for the Baltimore Orioles and 184 games over a career, compiling 2730 innings pitched. Bob Feller retired that year, as did Bobby. His love for the game continued, however. RNPA CONTRAILS | MAY 2011
Time passed. Bobby’s mother had a late, shocking pregnancy and sister Kathy was born while he was in college. Tragedy struck when, with Kathy still in diapers, their father died in an automobile accident and Bobby became Bob. At this time in history, many young Americans grew up, graduated, married and began a family. Males faced military service. Bob graduated from the University of Colorado and became Ensign Root, then Dad—three times while he was in the Navy. In 1968, now Lieutenant Root, he took off his silver bars and became a pilot for Northwest Orient Airlines. A home in Edina, Minnesota, was purchased. Bob determined that, if he was going to live in Minnesota, his baseball allegiance should be with the local team. He became a Minnesota Twins fan. He now lived in a major league area with a major league team and owned a television set on which to watch major league baseball. He watched Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew on a regular basis. In 1970, son Tim became the fourth child. In 1971, son Robert, called Rob because the family already had a Bob, turned 10 and suddenly his dad was back in baseball. Rob joined a baseball league in Edina for 10 to 12-year olds and Bob became the team’s assistant coach. The following year Bob became the head coach, a position he maintained until Rob moved up in age. When Tim turned 10, Bob began the whole coaching thing over again. Three years later his coaching career ended when Tim moved on in age. Looking back, Bob felt that the years spent coaching youth baseball had been good ones. He took pride in the fact that both sons themselves later coached youth baseball. Only years later, when Rob began coaching his daughters, did Bob realize, and regret, that he had probably not been an “equal opportunity” father. Through the following years, Bob continued to maintain a high level of interest in the Minnesota Twins. In the 1980’s, Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett became two more names in a growing list of memorable Twins players. Then, in 1987, the Twins performed so well that, by the end of the regular season, they had achieved a feat not often recorded in professional sports. They had gone from “worst to first” to become the American League’s representative in the World Series. It should be noted that sports fans, Bob included, are possessive when thinking about their favorite team. A man by the name of Carl Polhad was the real owner of the Twins, but Bob thought of the team as “his Twins.” His team was at last going to play for the championship of baseball. The National League competition in the series was provided by the St. Louis Cardinals. As the series progressed, it developed into a great one, despite being
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of little interest on the east and west coasts of America. In game six, with his team trailing in victories three games to two, Puckett made a leaping, game-saving catch against the center field fence, then, in his next atbat, hit a game-winning home run which prompted the classic “and we’ll see you tomorrow night” line from the late television announcer Jack Buck. The next night Bob’s Twins were world champions! They did it again in 1991 and Bob thought about all the millions of fans who contribute emotional energy to “their” teams and are never rewarded with even one world championship. After their World Series victory in 1991, Bob’s Twins went rapidly downhill. The “business” of baseball had changed. Players moved from one team to another, chasing high salaries as well as fly balls. Owners in New York and Miami appeared to “buy” championships. Bob, now Grampa Bob, continued to enjoy watching the games. The Roots drove to their new winter residence in Surprise, Arizona, shortly after Christmas in 1999 and joined a group of over two million “snowbirds” who spend their winters in Arizona. On the initial day of the trip their route took them through Iowa on Interstate 80. Not finding the scenery of great interest, Grampa Bob began paying close attention to the steady stream of multi-colored semi trucks racing in both directions, hurrying to supply America. He also read each roadside sign. Suddenly, his Chevy Blazer, loaded to capacity with precious cargo including wife, dog and two cats, passed a sign announcing that an upcoming exit provided access to the birthplace of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Feller. He did not stop, but began to wonder whatever happened to Bob Feller, a name he had not heard in many years. During their second winter in Surprise, Grampa
Bob was surprised (yeah, I know—I’ll edit it out later) and elated to learn that the city leaders had, without his help, decided to construct a brand new Spring training baseball facility which would be used in the future by the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. He suspected he would be in attendance there on occasion. Despite the news in Surprise, in 2002, it was determined somewhere that major league baseball was in trouble. Grampa Bob read of the astounding loss of interest in what had become “Generation X.” Youngsters were seeking enjoyment from skateboards and snowboards and the like, as well as video games, not learning to play baseball. Families were finding the cost of attendance at a major league game difficult to justify. There was talk of steroids. One of the teams suffering extreme financial difficulties was the Twins. In the winter preceding the 2002 season, baseball commissioner Bud Selig began to push for what he called “contraction,” suggesting that Major League Baseball reduce by two the number of teams. The Twins were one of the two he planned to eliminate. Before this could happen, a judge executed a restraining order. The season began with the Twins still part of baseball. Grampa Bob’s team had, at least temporarily, been saved. As the season progressed, it became apparent that considerable improvement in the quality of Twins baseball had taken place. They stayed at or near the top of their division all summer, finishing the regular season in first place. Through the summer months, Grampa Bob, now Old Bob, watched some of the finest quality baseball he had seen in many years. Close, competitive games featuring great plays, great pitching and great hitting. Interest in the Twins improved. Hope was high. The season ended when they lost the American League Championship Series. Had they won, Old Bob would have found “his” team in the World Series for a remarkable third time. Once again, he thought about all the fans of teams that haven’t made it to post-season play in their lifetimes. In the Fall, Old Bob found a small item in the sports pages of the Minneapolis Star/Tribune informing him that his former American Legion team had won the right to participate in the American Legion World Series. This caused him to take an unusual action. In his lifetime, a president had resigned in disgrace, at least two others had lied to him, wars had been fought and taxes raised. Terrorists had struck. None of these events had prompted him to write a public letter. On this occasion, he found himself writing a letter to the editor of the Rapid City Daily Journal. It read: “My sincere congratulations to the Rapid City American Legion baseball team for a most successful
season. These young men are enjoying an experience that will last a lifetime, As proof, I offer the following: I was a player on the Rapid City Legion team during the mid-1950’s. Forty years later, while traveling to our high school reunion, I boarded an airliner to discover an old high school buddy, also traveling to the reunion. He introduced me to his wife as—‘the second baseman.’” Old Bob later learned that at least one complete stranger had read his letter when he received one from the man agreeing with his comments. Old Bob and his wife returned to Surprise in November to discover a brand-new baseball facility not more than a five minute drive from their home. In December, he learned of the passing of one Dave McNally. On the morning of February 23, 2003, Old Bob was in the garage of his Arizona home when he was summoned by his wife. “Honey, it’s time to get ready to go.” “Go where?” (His wife had, over the years, frequently and gently suggested that he pay closer attention to scheduled social events.) “To the ball game,” she replied. Old Bob then remembered that they had agreed to go to with neighbors to the Spring-training game at the new stadium on this day. On the way to the park, he discovered that the game was not a regular Spring training game. Rather, it was billed as the 17th Annual Legends Baseball Game, sponsored by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. He was on his way to an old-timers game! The new stadium proved to be as magnificent as he had heard. As he sat in the stands with his wife and neighbors, it occurred to him that baseball in February, on a gorgeous Arizona day featuring bright sun and a light breeze, green grass and hot dogs was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in retirement. Pre-game activity included a home run contest, narrated by a roving public address announcer in a baseball uniform. Old Bob could find few “legends” among the participants. He did recognize the name of former Cleveland pitcher Mudcat Grant, but was surprised when he discovered that a very large player in a once-white Giants uniform was, in fact, Gaylord Perry. Perry’s career as a pitcher had been a great one, noted for accusations that he “doctored” the baseball in any way he could prior to sending it toward a batter. He had been accused of carrying a nail file in his glove, pockets or shoe with which to notch the ball so that it would do unusual things enroute to home plate. Saliva, Vaseline, Vitalis and other substances had been suggested. Perry had, over the years, made no effort to refute these allegations. Indeed, he seemed to promote them. RNPA CONTRAILS | MAY 2011
The game itself was not memorable, but was entertaining. The National League team in fact routed the American League alumni. Gaylord Perry, looking more like an offensive lineman from the National Football League than a baseball player, stood about three feet in front of the pitcher’s rubber as he pitched, his back pockets bulging with imaginary items he could use to rough up the baseball. At one point, his catcher carried a tote bag full of junk to the mound from which Perry could select. Old Bob felt that only about half of the roughly 10,000 people watching recognized the antics for what they were. By the time all of this occurred, however, none of it mattered to Old Bob. For him, the highlight of the entire day, indeed, perhaps a few decades, took place when the roving PA announcer completed his introduction of the starting lineups. Probably because the new facility was the Spring training home of two American League teams, the American League was designated as the home team. Thus, they took the field first as the game began:
“And,” Old Bob heard, “the starting pitcher for the American League—Hall-of-Famer Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians!” In the stands, Old Bob was stunned! He couldn’t believe it. There, striding purposefully from the first base dugout, resplendent in a vintage, spotless, white Cleveland Indians uniform, was 84 year-old Robert William Andrew Feller! A huge smile appeared on Old Bob’s face. As Feller stepped on the pitcher’s rubber, Old Bob noted that he did not appear to be particularly worried about the National League’s leadoff hitter. Then, Bob Feller delivered the opening pitch, followed by five more. With that, he walked off the mound, relieved by Mudcat Grant. Old Bob continued to smile. “Baseball has been very, very good to me,” I thought. Author’s note: Bob Feller died last year. I’m told there was a special service on the pitcher’s mound in Cleveland for the first game of this, 2011, season. Oh, and Old Bob’s Twins are off to a rough start. Don’t count them out!
TERRY MARSH Hi Gary, A well known Minnesota aviation personality passed away 4 April 2011. Sherm Booen was a broadcaster and general aviation pilot in the upper midwest. He learned to fly in 1940 and joined the Army Air Corps where he trained flight crews on the Honeywell C-1 autopilot in both the B-17 and B-24 aircraft. He served as a Marine in Korea during that conflict as an air traffic controller and then went on to serve with Armed Forces Radio in Tokyo. He produced “The World of Aviation” on WCCO TV for 28 years (we wouldn’t miss the show after church on Sunday). He also published the “Minnesota Flyer” monthly magazine. He was inducted into the “Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame” in 1995. As a kid, I fueled his Bonanza (N758B) at the Flying Cloud Airport, and in return he agreed to MC my fly-in at the Buffalo Airport. The aerobatic pilot that day was Bill Witt (John Witt’s son) and Sherm announced the show from the front seat of our town’s fire truck using it’s loudspeaker.
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I used to carry out Sherm’s groceries at the “Red Owl” store in Richfield and broke a bottle of HiLex in his backseat one day! Sherm was a dear friend and fellow QB. He could not tell funny jokes! Terry Marsh
By Capt. John Doherty Shazm wasn’t pleased at all to be caught on a holiday by the COC (crew optimization computer) scanner. The COC was ready for all objections with chapter and verse of the current agreement (“as amended”) displayed across the bottom of the screen. Shazm had cross-linked the COC transmit directly to a buddy on the Scheduling Rules Committee with a plaintive trailer, “Can they do this?” Apparently the friend was busy, because the reply was from the automated ALPA Instant Response Board. “Sorry, but the agreement was modified this afternoon in a joint effort to take advantage of an immediate growth opportunity.” Shazm knew that finding the COC in error was rare, but that didn’t make the confirmation easier to swallow. So now, instead of home and family for the holiday, it was work a STL-LAX segment—and who knew what after that. On the way to work, Shazm pulled up FasQuote to check ticket prices. The North American Bundle was up on both the Board of Trade and the Beijing Merc with Commons and PacRims rising in sympathy. So that was the “growth opportunity.” Shazm’s Air Commerce Trends file had several new downlinks. Commentators believed JetWatch, a consumer group, was about to release a report
claiming a down trend in the safety margin at a major carrier. Analysts maintained that marginal passengers would leave the target carrier, driving up ticket prices at other carriers; and futures traders agreed. Now the company was trying to pick up some of the high-yield business with extra flights. The Flight Ops board at CO didn’t have much more—except that the subject carrier was a Big Five. Shazm recognized the irony that the negative rumors the company hoped to profit from might be about the company itself. Shazm passed through the substance detector and there met the financial officer, a chap named Margaret, at the RCM (remote cockpit module). “Shazm. How are the markets doing?” “Well, fuel is flat-to-weaker in New England and the West with a little spike in the South. A pipeline screwed up a shipment-impact statement, and the feds are holding up some shipments back there. “I’d imagine as soon as they’ve done the slap on the wrist, fuel will be flat-to-weaker there, too. I’d say to hold off fueling for 10 minutes in case we get another down-tick.” “How’s the weather?” “There’s a line from Amarillo to Omaha. WeatherLine is predicting there will be usable holes until RNPA CONTRAILS | MAY 2011
2325, which is about 15 minutes after we run the line—if we’re out on time. “The FMC [financial management computer] is forecasting a positive fuel versus weather insurance trade until 2115, so holding off on the fuel a few more minutes should be O.K. Approach insurance at fields along the CB line is going up, so we should probably scratch them as diverts. Other than that, not much.” “How about the slots?” “Well, let me fold in PM slots. The trend line for LAX is up until about 0045, when it starts to flatten, and by 0200 it’s on its way down. That’s making waiting for the fuel down-tick not so attractive. What do you think?” “Ah—let’s wait five more minutes, or until we get the down-tick, and then gas up.” A CGA (computer-generated agent) hologrammed into the remote control module to inquire if things looked good for schedule. “Where’s the agent?” Shazm asked it—and instantly regretted the slight. Judging from the pained expression on the CGA’s face, it was close to issuing a NonCo-op to HR. “She’s working on some hold-outs,” the CGA replied. “How’s she doing?” Shazm made an effort at a friendly smile. The CGA’s face softened a bit. “Pretty good. The bid’s up three-fifty in the last five minutes. “One couple are irritated that variables are up so much over yesterday, which makes no sense because they got full disclosure with their variable,” the CGA said. “One of the holdouts is saying we have forty seats left; but I imagine the counters have it close, and most aren’t figuring on a short squeeze. I project we’ll be up five to ten by the time we sell the last hold-out.” Shazm asked Margaret for the fuel quote—“still flat”—and told him to override and fuel. Fuel ticked up about 20 seconds after the confirmation was issued. Sometimes a WAG worked better than System. Shazm coupled to System just before departure time. Some of the guys still liked to taxi, but Shazm believed in System. During climb, COC assigned them two more segments—a BNA-DCA departing 32 minutes after arrival at LAX, then a two-hour sit and an SFOPHX segment. Now any hope of being home for the holiday evening was dashed. The com alert interrupted Shazm’s gloom, coo-
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ing “Stand by for a CoComm.” Shazm switched from Distract, and the company logo blinked onto the situation screen. A company VP appeared. “Good afternoon, fellow employees. Thanks for taking some of your valuable time to keep up-to-date on our company’s future. “You may have heard that JetWatch is expected to issue an unfavorable safety report. We believe this report will severely impact the affected carrier, and the lost traffic will be going to the remaining carriers. “Unfortunately, we believe the report will target our company. Let me make one thing very clear right now. There is not, and there never will be, a safety problem here. The report is totally unfounded; and we expect to take appropriate steps to recover any damages resulting from the poorly prepared, misleading, libelous, and inaccurate report. “Even so, we expect to be severely impacted; and although I am confident we will recover, there are going to be a couple of tough weeks for all of us. Which brings me to my point. We are all going to have to pull in our belts a few notches if we are going to survive as a viable company. “Our competition will have a big advantage in customer preference for the next several weeks. The only way we can counter that trend is to get customers back with cheaper tickets. The only way we can do that is to make a financial contribution to our company in the form of slightly reduced pay for the two-week duration of the existing contract.” A ComStrip appeared across the bottom of the sit screen: “From the MEC: This is news to us, folks. Stand by for an analysis of the company’s proposal immediately following the CoComm.” Shazm had heard it all before. The company’s Communications VP droned on while Shazm watched the real-time weather-plot probe the line ahead in coordination with the financial management computer. System picked its way, folding together real-time weather, fuel consumption, slot prices, and weather insurance for a least-cost line penetration. Shortly after they cleared the line (without so much as a ripple and $287 under the preline estimate), the MEC chair’s face appeared on the sit screen. “Folks, we’ve heard all this before. We just signed a good contract with the flexibility that the company asked for. If the company really needs relief, we’re always ready to talk; but for now, let’s hold the line on this.”
The screen blanked, but seconds later lit up with the notation “ALPA/company negotiations in progress—stand by to vote.” Negotiations concluded in 15 minutes—it seemed fast to Shazm (it always did)—but that was cyber-negotiation. The deals were so complex and fast that they needed computers to keep them straight. ALPA was recommending “no,” and the company was recommending “yes.” Shazm allowed the on-line proxy to decide, then vote “no.” Margaret waited until the vote window was almost closed, then slowly punched in his ID, PIN, and vote. Seconds later, the tally appeared on the screen— the company’s concession proposal had failed. Just before top of descent, the COC called to cancel the SFO-PHX and BNA-DCA segments. Perhaps ticket prices weren’t running up—or perhaps the company was canceling flying as “punishment” for the “no” vote. Maybe—if the COC couldn’t find anything else for them—they’d be home in time for some of the holiday.
System landed and taxied the aircraft to the gate. As soon as it was docked, Shazm disconnected the remote control module datalink from the aircraft, then punched the motion switch and waited. With a sighing sound, the remote control module settled on the out-of-service pad. Shazm waited until the sit screen annunciated the familiar “Remote cockpit module disconnected. Off motion. Released from duty.” She grabbed her flight bag and logged off. Shazm headed for the exit through the dimly lit RCM center. Most of the RCMs were up on motion looking like mechanical insects up on their spidery legs. Some were poised as though waiting, others gently turning in concert with the aircraft they were controlling somewhere far away. Shazm would be in her car driving home in a few minutes—that was the thing about flying remotes, you were always home when you finished work—and she would make sure the COC didn’t catch her again until after the holiday. John’s story first appeared in the May, 1996 issue of Air Line Pilot and is reprinted here with permission.
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THAT UNFORGETTABLE DAY TEN YEARS AGO
PERSONAL REMEMBRANCES FROM SOME OF OUR MEMBERS My remembrance of that terrible day was probably very typical of many of yours. I walked into our family room with my coffee sometime after Mona had been watching the morning news for a while. She announced something like, “Look at this. Someone flew an airliner into the World Trade Center tower.” Without hesitation I said, “Had to be Osama Bin Laden.” In terms of human tragedy, as terrible as it was, that awful event ranks way down the list in modern history of numbers of lives lost, for sure. There are dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands, of events concocted by humans that were much more catastrophic. Pick any war for example: the Holocaust, WWII itself, WWI and certainly our own Civil War. I think it probably safe to say that a good many of the 194 or so countries in the world, and most of the other countries which no longer exist, have had human instigated slaughters far in excess of the loss of life we Americans suffered on that beautiful September morning. It is easy to forget that more than 600,000 of our American ancestors, and could-have-been ancestors, lost their lives in our Civil War. The percentage of lives lost on 9/11 compared to that war is an infinitesimal 0.005%. So why is an event that happened ten Septembers ago still so scorched into our consciousness? One obvious reason, of course, is because it was as if we were there—
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we can remember actually “seeing” it: terror in real time conducted by cowardly, demented fanatics. We didn’t know who they were, but we knew what they were. And even though this was the second time we had been attacked on our own soil, this struck at our “nerve centers” by an, at the time, unseen and unknown enemy. The only other time I can remember such a feeling was the “punched in the gut” reaction to the assassination of JFK. But what really makes 9/11 so strikingly memorable for me are the videos of those poor people who chose, or, if you prefer, were forced to jump from those immense buildings. I have since learned that there were more than 200 of them. I won’t be missing a thing if I never have to see those videos again. Trying to make sense of all of this in a broad context does not bode well for humanity in my humble opinion. Even with our large brains and a knowledge base expanding at exponential rates we still continue to behave tribally. None of us will be around to observe the outcome, but I’ll give you ten to one that we will not survive ourselves. I have no idea what the hell the insects are going to do with all this concrete, brick and steel though. Maybe they will have figured out how to digest plastic. On that sour note, here are the personal September 11th, 2001 memories from some of our members. – Your Editor
Bob Peasley I was on vacation at NWA that week and headed to Perkins in Faribault about 0800 for coffee with the “Planning Commission.” As a narrow body pilot I couldn’t afford exotic vacations and big boats! Still can’t. The wife called to ask if I had been listening to the radio, which I had not. Upon arrival at Perkins she called to tell of the second plane. Daughter number two, Lisa, was flying F/O on the 737 at UAL at the time. We knew she had a trip that morning and thought it was to the east coast. Talk about worried parents! We called her cell phone several times with no answer. She finally called us at about 1100 to say they had pushed back at ORD but never took off. I spent a couple hours at the hangar at Faribault with a couple guys glued to the tube. I think there might have been a few tears shed. We finally broke up about noon and went home to await further news. When flying resumed, my first trip was a NFL charter empty to pick up a team and drop them off for a game. It was just me, the copilot and flight attendants and I still flew three quarters of the first leg looking over my right shoulder. Lisa ended up furloughed in January ’02 and flew Citation X’s for about 3 years out of MSP. She got recalled to UAL for a couple years and furloughed again in ’09. She got hired at DAL in August 2010 and is based in MSP reserve on the A320. She now hears rumors of furlough this fall so this tragedy is still affecting our family. Meantime all is well with Linda and me. I keep my CFII current and do some tail wheel and instrument training. And I’m still flying the Decathlon and Lisa’s 140A. She’s on probation and can’t afford it. Dad to the rescue! Keep up the great job with Contrails. I’m looking forward to this 9/11 issue. Bob Peasley
Jeff Bock As were a number of our illustrious airmen, I was at the Red Lion Inn in Seattle for one of our instructor meetings when the events of the infamous 9/11 catastrophe unfolded. That sickening event will undoubtedly be heralded by many of the folks there that morning. My wife Carol was the benefits manager for a moderate sized software firm at the time and dealt with an underwriter name of Marsh. The entire group of people that Carol worked with were in their offices and lost their lives that day.
In 2004 I attended a 9/11 commemoration rally in our neighboring town of Sandpoint. The call went out for Fire, Police, EMS, and military to attend in uniform as support for the lost lives that day. Being a volunteer firefighter I felt compelled to attend, but decided to dust off the old NWA uniform and represent the airline personnel that were slaughtered that awful day. I spoke in support and respect for the 343 firefighters, numerous police, and all other souls lost that day. However the point I made clear was that there has been very little mention of the flight crews lost that day and the fact that they were the first ones “on scene.” In 2007 I was asked again to speak at the event and found myself getting much more pointed about the persons that orchestrated that hideous event. If asked to speak this year I will have to be careful not to get too pointed in what I say as my feelings are not easing up much. Not sure if it has had anything to do with it but I have committed a lot of effort toward becoming the Training Captain for our Fire Department as well as becoming an EMT. Possibly the 9/11 event has motivated me to give a bit of myself in attempting to save life and property. Now knowing the great elation of saving a life, or the remorse of losing a life is giving me a greater appreciation for the heroic men and women that risked all that day. Not one place in America is immune to terrorist acts but I am not sure why any terrorist would want to attack Clark Fork Idaho. Respectfully, Jeff Bock Clark Fork Fire/Rescue/Medical And proud retired pilot
Dick Glover My wife, Gay, was working a flight that morning from MSP to DFW and was about halfway when the word came to the cockpit. They were able to continue to DFW and landed without any problems. However, she was then stuck there for three days. While laying over in Ft. Worth, the hotel they were staying in was evacuated three times due to threatening phone calls to the front desk. She said she had visions of someone across the street in a phone booth making the calls and watching while everyone went out on the street. Gay finally got out of there on a “crew member” flight back to MSP. Dick Glover
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Dave Crowden I’m not sure how appropriate it might be, as I wasn’t a RNPA member at that time. I’m still working but know quite a few of the members who have retired ahead of me. I was at home, but got heavily involved with my ANG [Air National Guard] unit on 9/11. We were one of the few Air Guard units in the midwest that actually flew that day under NORAD’s mission. I can recall that day pretty vividly as I was home watching TV and saw a lot of it happen as it occurred. It would be a different perspective, but I don’t know if you may want that one. Thanks for all the work you have been doing for the group! Dave Crowden Kathy McCullough Taking off out of Seattle’s SeaTac Airport I never guessed what the day would hold. The sky was clear and our freighter roared into it, waking up the city below. We turned north and the controller gave us a clearance direct to Anchorage, Alaska. It was early morning and we were alone in the sky. We leveled at 32,000 feet. I monitored the radios; the captain unplugged and leaned his head back, tired from moving to a new house. The flight engineer was back making coffee and using the lavatory. It was a glorious day to be flying and I took everything in: Victoria, Canada passed below us—we had vacationed there a few years back. I could see the ferries moving between Victoria and Vancouver. My kids loved that ferry, especially the massage chairs. “Our reports are that a light twin has just hit one of the twin towers in New York City.” What? The controller was talking to another pilot on frequency. “No, no other information yet. It was either a twin or an airliner.” The chatter continued. Surprised, I looked over at the captain. He was still unplugged. I told him what they were talking about and he just shrugged, uninterested. Now the controller said it was definitely an airliner. Another report said two. Both towers had been hit. The flight engineer came back up front and I relayed the conversation to him. “What have you been smoking while I was gone?” he asked, laughing. “Seriously, at first they thought it was a light twin, then the report came in that it was an airliner, now they’re saying two airliners.” Finally the captain sat up straight in his chair. Now we were all listening to the radio. It was surreal. Air Traffic Control closed the continental United States airspace behind us as we flew north.
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More reports came in as we flew on to Anchorage. Delta was arriving from Tokyo, landing in Portland, Oregon. They obviously had not heard what was happening. Seattle Center informed them that the continental United States was closed and asked them where they wanted to land. “Portland, Oregon, sir.” came the reply. “Ah, Delta, I repeat, Portland is closed, where would you like to go?” The Delta pilot did not sound flustered, just tired. He had, after all, been up all night. He repeated that Portland, Oregon was his destination. “Delta, the whole continental United States is closed. Pick another place to land.” A long silence followed. Finally Delta answered “Vancouver.” Then, apparently worried that he would be misunderstood, he quickly added “Canada. Vancouver, Canada.” The controller replied affirmatively, then had us switch frequencies. We were laughing, not at the Delta pilot, but probably to release tension concerning the whole situation. Nothing like this had happened before. The sky was like a ghost town. We were the only plane on frequency talking to the controller. He informed us that the towers had collapsed. We were incredulous. Maybe they were damaged, but collapsed? The flight to Anchorage took forever. Walking into ops with our bags, the rampers asked if we had heard. We nodded. Upstairs in operations, watching the television coverage, comprehension dawned. Horrified we watched as over and over again the buildings fell. Everyone was in shock, but we, I think as pilots, were almost experiencing Post Traumatic Stress. It had never occurred to us that airplanes could be used as bombs. I called home to inform my husband that I was fine, then I called my children’s schools. My eyes filled with tears as the kids in my daughter’s class cheered when the secretary made the announcement that I was safe. Shaken, we were driven to our hotel. The captain, exhausted, begged off any activity. He slept the better part of three days. The flight engineer and I rented a car and drove south to Portage Glacier for the day. Unbeknownst to us, downtown Anchorage was being evacuated. An Al Nippon was arriving from Asia without radio communication and authorities feared the worst. My kids were watching, horrified, as the news reported this breaking development. Flags flew at half mast that night as we gathered at Humpy’s later that night in downtown Anchorage. Fifty or more airline employees filled the outside patio with raucous drinking and conversation. We were all
stranded indefinitely and decided to make the most of it. Mark was in his room, resting. His back went out on him earlier that day while we were sightseeing. Mine did the same the next morning. Stress does funny things to a body. Three days later we were deadheaded to Minneapolis, Minnesota; then on to Los Angeles to continue our trip. We were subdued and wary for the next week, but nothing else happened. Our trip was uneventful despite our preoccupation, but we acted like sleepwalkers, numbly getting through each day. Cell phone covers were for sale in Singapore and Hong Kong proclaiming “Bin Laden Hero” and we realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Kathy McCullough
K. C. Kohlbrand Our 9-11 story with pictures of the World Trade Center towers as they stood the day before we were attacked, was that K. C. and Martha Kolhbrand were returning from a trans-Atlantic cruise from North Hampton, England with stops along the North Atlantic and entering New York harbor on 9-10-01. Martha took these somewhat somber photos of the twin towers as we cruised past the Statue of Liberty on into the harbor before docking and before our return flight to Orlando, Florida via DTW.
Bob Gould I was in Ventura, CA, at my parents’ house, and Gretchen was supposed to fly to LAX from HNL that day so we could proceed on to her 40th high school reunion in Denver. Needless to say, we did not attend. I was awakened at 0800 by my son calling from the San Francisco area telling me to turn on CNN. I had been involved in the reactions to the earlier attempt by Ramzi Yousef to down 12 airplanes over the Pacific on the same night (7 UA and 5 NW), and as soon as I saw the CNN report I said “Osama Bin Laden”. Thankfully we finally got the bastard! A friend of Gretchen’s was on UA93 that went down in PA, and a few years later their organization planted a tree in her name at our local firehouse at Aikahi Park. Bob Gould Sheila Wood Doug and I have no first-person stories, safely tucked away here in Idaho on the Spokane River, but I will never forget Doug’s reaction following the World Trade Center catastrophe. He was (and still is) playing softball on a master’s team that had made plans to drive to St. George, Utah to play in the World Senior Games. Of course, he had no intention of driving anywhere when he could get there by air. The day following the attack, while the rest of us were still in horrified shock, Doug picked up the phone and made arrangements to fly to the closest city to St. George. After he got off the phone, I said, incredulously, “Are you going to get on an airplane?” His answer: “Hell, yes!” This isn’t anything that compares to a REAL story, but it sure reveals the kind of man my husband is. Sheila Wood
The next morning at home in Melbourne, Florida we were watching the morning national news on TV and a news bulletin showed one of the Trade Center towers on fire with the comment it was struck by an airplane, type unknown at the moment. I immediately called my best airline friend Bill Dolny at his summer lake place in Bigfork, Montana and asked if he had the TV on—which he did not—to turn it on and see what was happening to New York City and his hometown. Unbelievable, but the event turned even worse when the second tower was struck. Bill and I couldn’t believe what was happening but there it was, sad but true. Hopefully never again. K. C. Kohlbrand RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2011
Rick Seireeni My wife, Elaine Kim, and I were living in New York for a few years up until 9/11. Our first child was born in New York in July 2000. We had purchased and remodeled a penthouse in what was then a run down part of downtown on the edge of TriBeCa. The building was on Broadway and Warren, just three blocks from the World Trade Center. On September 9th, the three of us had flown to Los Angeles to attend my mother-in-law’s second wedding. As we still owned a home in the Hollywood Hills which was being looked after by a friend, we decided to stick around a few days. On Monday, I flew alone up to Seattle to attend a client’s conference—very spur of the moment. So while my wife and boy were in LA and I was staying at my brother’s house in Kirkland, we both woke up to the crisis unfolding in our New York neighborhood. Although our building was not destroyed, our apartment was heavily damaged by dust and debris that had come through the windows we had inconveniently left open. Pieces of the southbound jet flew over our building and landed in the street in front of our door. Our building supervisor rushed to the roof—our roof—to watch the unfolding drama—including the sight of people falling or jumping from the towers that were clearly visible from our apartment. As the son of a pilot and someone who flew when younger, I often looked out at the planes passing over the Hudson River and wondered how long it would take until one went a little off course and struck one of those towers—especially on foggy nights. On hearing of the crash of the first plane, that thought leaped to mind. It took three months until I was allowed back in the
The kitchen in our roof-top apartment three blocks from the World Trade Center.
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building, and another four months until we could rent it out. We had decided to remain in LA for both work and education reasons. When I did return, I was amazed to see the apartment looking virtually spotless. During that time, MetLife had sent in a crew that cleaned everything—even the dirty rags under the kitchen sink. When I think about all this now, I pause in silence over our good fortune—and I grieve for the families that lost quite a lot that day. Rick Seireeni
A couple months earlier in July, we had visited the observation floor and looked down on our apartment below.
The view out out of our living room window.
Lyle Prouse I was flying an Angel Flight in a Piper Warrior the morning of 9/11. Angel Flights are charity flights for people who can’t afford to get to special medical facilities far from their homes. It had been a beautiful morning and was one of those very rare times when I filed the final leg VFR vs IFR. However, I was unable to get into my home airport due to unexpected and unforecast low clouds and visibility. I got a pop-up IFR clearance and requested an alternate airport 18 miles way that had a VOR approach. After switching to Atlanta Approach Control and getting the clearance, I began hearing transmissions that made no sense to me, questions and comments between aircraft and ATC controllers about something in New York. Then, several local aircraft were diverted by ATC into Macon, Georgia, about 50 miles away. It made no sense to me why something in New York should require a diversion of local aircraft into Macon but I was busy setting up for my own approach and just continued to listen. I was vectored to a point outside the FAF, shot the approach, and cancelled IFR when I got on the ground. I noticed no one was on the ramp so I walked inside the FBO. I knew most of the people there and everyone was huddled around a TV set and talking very animatedly about a hijacking. As I quietly watched, the second plane struck the other tower. Someone asked why or how a pilot could be made to fly into a building, and although I’d only been privy to several minutes of all this, trying to piece things together, I said, “No pilot would do that and my guess is that the flight crew was dead before that occurred.” Barbara drove out to pick me up and I began getting the news about all that had happened. I needed to get the plane back to my home airport but all aircraft in the US were grounded. A couple of days later I was told that Lifeguard and Mercy flights would be allowed to fly so I called ATC and asked if that was also true for an Angel Flight with one leg remaining; they said yes and I was given a special beacon code to squawk, along with a clearance and departure time. I went to the FBO where everyone tried to dissuade me from taking off. They said a pilot who patrolled pipelines had launched two hours earlier thinking he could hug the ground and make it back to Alabama but two F-16s had caught him within fifteen minutes and he was in deep trouble after having been forced down. I laughed and said I had a legal transponder code and had been pre-cleared to fly the eighteen miles back to my airport. Frankly, the thought had occurred that I could probably
hug the treetops for that brief distance and get back with no problems. My immediate second thought, however, was that I did not need my name in the papers or on TV again and I quickly dismissed the first thought! I barely cleared the runway on departure when ATC called “radar contact”! I was amazed at how fast I was picked up, and I instantly guessed there was an AWACS airplane somewhere that was covering me from the moment I moved. I flew the short segment back to 62GA and drove home. During the following days, I watched as everyone did, as we learned more about the events of that tragic day. Blue skies, Lyle Prouse PS - as an aside, Clancy Prevost was the senior guy in our NWA class, one number senior to me… and we’d been really good friends over the years. He was a good man.
Mary Pat Laffey Inman We have been going to Australia for the last 19 years Jan—April where we have met and made many friends and acquaintances, amongst them Qantas Flight Attendants. One F/A flew to NYC exclusively prior to 9/11. The crew would arrive in THE CITY in time to shower, dress, go to the World Trade Center for cocktails and dinner each trip. They were recognized and warmly greeted by the staff and some of the frequent patrons who were most often in a festive mood and generally had a great time. In July 2011 at the World Trade center, as the Flight Attendants boarded the elevator, so did four swarthy Mid-Eastern men who had worried expressions on their faces, causing all others in the elevator to be silent. (Qantas crews had the same sensitivity training our crews have had in regard to possible terrorists.) September 13, 2011—at home in Sydney—the television flashed pictures of the terrorists. My friend was shocked that she recognized two of the faces as the men who got onto the elevator in July. She immediately called the F/A who had accompanied her on that trip and she corroborated the likeness, ‘IT WAS THEM.’ Obviously, they seem to have been casing the World Trade Center in July. Mary Pat Laffey Inman
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Donna Corbett Just saw your e-mail sent to RNPA members. I’ll try to contact a couple of former NWA dispatchers who were right in the thick of it that day. They have some interesting stories, like the USAF threatening to shoot down a NWA aircraft because it turned toward the US border from Canada while trying to get a look at the unfamiliar field for landing. It’s also interesting to note that NWA dispatch ordered all company aircraft to land well before the FAA order. Donna Corbett
Skip Foster I was a 747-Classic Captain Instructor and in Seattle for an Instructor’s meeting on September 11, 2001. We were at the Red Lion, I believe, and I came down for coffee at about 6:15. There were a lot of people in the bar watching TV and when I stopped to see what they were watching, the second airplane flew into the second tower. At first, I thought it was some kind of a movie, but it was soon apparent that was not the case. We all went to the morning meeting except for Sterling Benson and a few other management types that were trying to get all of our airborne flights on the ground, mostly diverting them to Canada, at least on the West Coast. Nobody had much to say at the meeting, just a lot of speculation from the group, and relief that it wasn’t one of our airplanes, passengers and crews. We got stuck in Seattle for a couple of days, nothing was flying. Finally on the third day, one of the Second Officer instructors, who lived in San Diego, and I rented a car at about midnight and drove down the coast as far as Barstow where his wife met us and picked him up. I continued on to Las Vegas and turned in the rental car with a little over 1000 miles on it for a one day rental! I had worked in the Pentagon in 1977 thru 1979 when I took Military Leave from NWA. My last office there was on “D” ring, “E” being the outermost, the one with windows, and I normally entered the building through the Western entrance—the one that AA Flight 77 hit, killing all 64 aboard and 125 people in the Pentagon. Kathy and I went back to the Pentagon in October of 2001 to see my USAF pilot training classmate, Dick Myers, being sworn in as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I couldn’t see much of the West entrance, since it was still being evaluated for damage. Security was very high for the ceremony. We had to go through several metal detectors before we could get on a bus to
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Ft. Meyer, VA and again at Ft. Meyer. There were snipers in the overhead at the indoor ceremony. President Bush was there along with Secretary Rumsfeld and the Washington Press Corps. We got to see Dick and Mary Jo at the end of a long reception line and briefly at their quarters at Ft. Meyer. They looked like they needed a good night’s rest, but I’m sure they didn’t get one for a long time. Skip Foster
Anonymous I flew from DTW to LGA on the first day after 9/11 that flights were allowed into the New York airports. When I met the FA’s on the pre-departure brief at DTW, one of the FA’s was a young man about 21 or so and appeared to be Middle Eastern. He also seemed a bit nervous. I noticed he had an accent so I asked where he was from. He replied, “Chicago, I am Greek.” I asked how long he had been with NWA and he said 3 months. Shortly after I entered the flight deck to start my preflight checks, one of the other FA’s came up and said that she knew the guy and that he was Iraqi and had never lived in Chicago, as far as she knew. I called the lead FA and the Iraqi guy up to the Flight Deck to sort everything out. It turned out that he was afraid to admit that he was from the Middle East, and apologized for the deception. I check him out thoroughly before allowing him to stay on board to N.Y. But that is not the point of my story. Another young FA, I’ll call her Cindy because that name fits, went to her supervisor and reported that I was a racist—that I had singled out the young man based solely on his appearance. Welcome to the NEW AMERICA. Please do not use my name, I am returning to the line next month after an extended disability and don’t need that attention. Charlie Welsh Fortunately, I was on vacation on Sept 11. We were called by my mother-in-law about 7:30 and told to watch TV. I thought it was another Orson Wells war of the world episode. It was hard to believe. NanSea and I went back to my 40th College reunion on Oct 3, 2001, 3 weeks after the attack. There were 17 people on a 757. We were to land at LaGuardia. Downwind took us directly over the Trade Center cite at about 5,000 ft. The devastation was vivid. NY merchants were desperate for customers. Street vendors were giving stuff away. There hadn’t been any tourists in 3 weeks. Charlie Welsh
Art Debernarde My story is probably not unique. It’s about a friendship with a man named Tom McGuiness. Tom and I became friends when we were members of the same church in California. Partly because Tom had an interest in what was happening in the Men’s Ministry at church and I happened to be the Director of Men’s Ministry, but more because of our shared background as aviators. Tom was a dedicated family man. He and his wife had two kids, Jennifer and Tommy and they were the ideal family. Very close. Tom had an easy manner about him that almost seemed to run counter to his pursuit of excellence in everything he did. This was certainly true in his career as an aviator. After graduating from Boston University in 1981, he became a Naval Aviator and flew Tomcats, and finally joined American Airlines in 1989. Then in 1999 Tom and his family moved to Portsmouth, NH to allow him to take advantage of opportunities for a faster track to Captain at the Boston base. I’m sad to say that after they moved east we kind of lost track of each other except for an occasional email. Then, on that day in 2001, Tom left Portsmouth to take a trip to LAX as First Officer on American Airlines Flt 11. I remember that day waking up after having just returned from Tokyo the night before and wearily walking into the family room and hearing on the news that two airplanes had just hit the World Trade Center. The first airplane hit Tower 1. It was American Flight 11. Of course at the time I had no idea Tom was on Flt 11. But it wasn’t long before we heard the news. Tom and his wife Cheryl still had close ties to our church, and Cheryl had called our pastor in search of the comfort that sometimes only a trusted pastor can provide. There are so many questions, so many emotions. How to handle the grief at a time like that can be a tall order. Tom’s legacy to his family is summed up with this brief anecdote: One night his son Tommy tried to comfort his mother as she cried. Instead, this 14 year old amazed her with his breadth of knowledge. His wife Cheryl said, “Tommy put his arm around me, gave me a hug and said, ‘Mom, everything will be all right. Our life on Earth is so short. Our life in heaven with Dad is for eternity.’ He went on to say, ‘Dad described eternity this way to me: If you emptied out all the oceans in the world one drop at a time, this would only be the beginning of eternity.’” For my part, like many of you, aside from my sadness at the loss of a good friend was just good old fashioned anger. Some of that was ameliorated on hear-
ing that OBL recently took a bullet through the eye. But Tom can never be replaced. I know too that there are nearly 3,000 similar stories from that day and none of us that lived through it will ever forget it. I won’t forget Tom McGuiness either. Art Debernarde
Bob & Georgeia Johnson Georgeia and I were married on 8/19, 2001 and scheduled our September honeymoon to spend 5 days in Rome, cruise to Barcelona and then enjoy 5 days in Barcelona, before returning home. We left BOS Logan the evening of 9/10 on Air France w/scheduled brief stop in Paris, then on to Rome. Unfortunately the AF ground crew at Logan took so long to load the plane, we missed our track time and departure was delayed a couple hours, causing us to miss our connection in Paris. When we finally arrived in Rome, our luggage, along with that of about 20 other passengers was not there and we spent about an hour and a half waiting for news from AF re: it’s disposition. During that time someone came along and asked if anyone had heard about another attempted bombing of the WTC towers, but of course no one had as we had been on the plane all night and we basically shrugged off the question When it became obvious we weren’t going to receive our luggage, we boarded a bus which was to distribute us to our various hotels in the city. At one point we passed the U.S. Embassy and couldn’t help but notice the fact that there was a large number of Marines, in fatigues and combat gear, surrounding the grounds. At this point we had no clue as to why of course. When we checked in to our hotel, the desk clerk gave me a note that my daughter had called with an urgent request to call her immediately and we assumed that something bad had happened to one of our 3 grandchildren in Minnesota. Once we got to our room I attempted to place the call and was surprised to be told that there were no lines available to the U. S. While I was attempting to find out why, Georgeia had turned on the TV, which was already tuned to CNN and the first thing I saw was a rerun of the second plane crashing into the WTC. Unable to hear the audio I assumed the picture was some sort of a computer graphic of something else and wondered why CNN would be showing such a scene. Georgeia realized what we were watching and we were stunned. We spent most of the rest of the day watching the news unfold and were unable to make the call to my daughter. That evening we decided to go out and find a RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2011
place to eat so began walking the local streets. When we returned we found our daughter had been able to get a call through to us but we were still unable to call her back. Later that evening we did receive a call from her and were assured our families were safe. The next day, as we walked around we noticed that, prominently displayed in every commercial establishment, there was a copy of a letter from the Mayor of Rome, addressed to all Americans, expressing his shock and sorrow for the attack. In addition, when many locals heard our accents, they expressed sympathy for the plight of America. Then we went to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, found that the Pope was going to speak from the stairs in front of the church and incredibly we were able to walk right to the foot of the stairs to listen to him. There was no enhanced security yet. The Pope’s speech and prayers were focused on the terrorist attack and the potential ramifications for the world as a result. Over the next three days, aside from the gravity of the attack, a couple of happenings stand out in our memory. Each morning when we went for breakfast in our hotel we saw the same people, as no one was able to get a flight and the confusion associated with that problem was truly incredible, with rumors of all kinds. In addition there were several people who had been on the AF flights with us, had no change of clothes and with a measure of dark humor, the gals commented every morning on how lovely they all looked. We did receive our luggage on the day we boarded the ship, had a lovely cruise and by the time we were ready to return home from Barcelona the air traffic system had been sorted out and we had no further problems. Bob & Georgeia Johnson
Bob Burns At NRT, boarding a flight to HNL I noted the “lead” wore a “statement” button that said, “Help save the Whales!” I said, “That’s nice.” She said, “Well, what do you think about the Whales?” I said, “Delicious, I had some for dinner last night.” The copilot slapped me on the arm with the Flight papers and said, “You nut! We have an all night trip to HNL and we won’t even get a cup of coffee out of her.” I assured her it was a joke and all went well. But she didn’t think it very funny. Bob Burns Not sure whether Bob means this happened on 9/11 or some other time. – Ed.
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Cheryl Ullyot In 2005 I took a beginner’s writing class at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each week our instructor would choose a topic that we could all relate to, and we would write for ten minutes. Afterwards we would go around the room and read aloud what we had written. One week the topic was, “Where were you on 9/11?” There were about twenty of us, a normally jovial group who had already bonded after a few weeks of class. Today as we began reading, the room grew still, and with each story the atmosphere became more somber and subdued. Many people had tears in their eyes. The young woman next to me, a nurse, broke down halfway through her story, and was unable to finish. By now my classmates were aware that I worked as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines, and I knew they would be eager to hear what I had to say. They probably assumed I was flying that day. In fact my story was not much different than theirs. By chance I was on a leave of absence that month. I was still in bed when my friend and fellow flight attendant Fay called me. “Are you watching TV?” she asked. “It’s the strangest thing. A small airplane just flew into the World Trade Center.” After we hung up, I sat up quickly, grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. It was clear something big was going on. I flipped through the channels, trying to piece together what was happening and saw that the small airplane my friend was talking about, was instead an American Airlines jet. I remember gasping when I read the letters that spelled out American Airlines on the side of the plane. By now every channel was covering the story, and I watched in horror as another airplane hit the second tower. I’m sure, like many others I was in total shock. I started making phone calls to friends and family, but at the same time didn’t want to miss what was going on. I got dressed and went downstairs and turned on the television in the den. By then the Pentagon was hit and everyone was in a panic. Reality was setting in, and I found myself pacing from room to room unable to sit still. If this was happening to American and United Airline planes, would Northwest be next? Who of my pilot and flight attendant friends were flying today? My husband walked in the door, returning from a morning business meeting and had no idea of what had happened. We stood in the middle of the room watching the crashes being played over and over. We turned and looked at each other, not knowing what to think or say. Our daughters came home from school early that day after the entire school had been brought into an as-
sembly and told what was taking place. Apparently one of their classmate’s father had been at the World Trade Center that day on business, but luckily he had escaped harm. The rest of the day was a blur, and all we did was continue to watch the television for more updates and wonder why this had happened. I went to bed that night feeling relieved, yet somehow a little guilty that I was safe at home on a leave of absence, while something so horrific had happened to the airline crews that had been targeted that day. Four months later, in December, our family was trying to decide if we should go on a winter vacation during the kids’ Christmas break. Still on my leave of absence, I hadn’t flown anywhere since 9/11, and I have to admit, after endless weeks of watching show after show on the subject, I was still a little reluctant to get on an airplane. As usual we waited too long, and by the time we made the decision to go somewhere and checked the flight loads, everything to Hawaii, Mexico, Florida or anyplace warm was full. My husband suggested we go to New York for New Year’s Eve. My reply was, “Are you nuts?” I was convinced that if the terrorists were going to strike again, what better time and place than New York City on New Year’s Eve. “I don’t think so”, he said. “And look, the flights are wide open. I checked, and we can get a good deal on a room at The Roosevelt Hotel.” So on December 31st we drove to the MSP airport, which was pretty quiet, and got on the 2 pm flight to New York. Security was heightened of course, and they had a security table set up right outside the boarding door in the gate area. They randomly chose our 10 year old daughter, went through her backpack, and made her take off her tennis shoes. I was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea. The good news was that the flight was almost empty, but somehow I didn’t feel the normal pass rider elation when all four of us got into first class. The passengers seemed nervous and couldn’t help themselves from looking around to check for suspicious looking characters, me included. Everyone was silent on takeoff and it seemed as though the whole plane breathed a sigh of relief once we were up in the air and on our way. We had a smooth uneventful flight and landed safely at La Guardia airport, which was empty and quiet. We grabbed our luggage and went out to the taxi stand where we were the first and only people in line. No waiting, for once. I was beginning to relax and enjoy this. We checked into the Roosevelt Hotel which was decorated festively for the holidays, and had a bite to eat in the lobby bar. Then we did all the things you should do while in New York. We took a ride though Central
Park in a horse drawn buggy, then made our way over to Times Square. The night air was crisp and cold. New York seemed different than I remembered from my layovers there. Everyone was in a good mood, and so friendly. The police were everywhere, smiling and helpful and people were hugging them, telling them what a good job they were doing. The crowd grew larger and it felt warmer as we all huddled together in the street and yelled “Happy New Year” at midnight. The young man next to us got down on his knees and proposed to his girlfriend, and she said, “Yes” and called her folks on her cell phone. Everyone around them cheered and congratulated them. We walked back to our hotel and slept well. We spent another couple of days walking around the city, including a visit to ground zero, where a line of firemen in full garb were going into the church nearby for a memorial service. There were still hundreds of bouquets and photographs lining the streets as we walked slowly back towards our hotel. I was more relaxed on the flight home, and truly glad we had made the trip and felt ready to return to work. I think back to my writing class that day four years later, and how sharing our memories of 9/11 was such a raw and powerful experience that it actually changed the air in the room, rendering it thick and heavy. After the last reader finished everyone looked exhausted, and we spent the last few minutes of class in silence. Cheryl Ullyot
Steve Luckey 9/11 was quite an indelible day for me as I was headed out the door in Montana headed for D.C. The phone rang and it was an FBI friend telling me to turn on CNN and that a light airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. I turned it on and saw the tower smoking with the large gaping hole and knew instantly that it wasn’t a light aircraft. The blue sky in the background indicated that it probably wasn’t an accident either. Shortly thereafter, the second tower was hit and a sickening feeling overwhelmed me as I knew a lot more about what may have just happened and who could be responsible. I had been working recently in the NWA GO basement with John Klinkenberg, VP of Corporate Security, on several issues. One of these involved an individual that the FBI had in custody and was a serious person of interest to the Feds. His name was Zacarious Massoui and he had purchased about 8 hours on a 747-400 simulator from Pan Am Training in NATCO. His behavior and Clancy Prevost’s sharp observations and his not wanting to takeoff or land, but enter coorRNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2011
dinates in the FMC, go there, click it off and fly around proved very suspicious. There was actually two suspects involved but only Massoui could be held, as he had an expired Moroccan Passport Visa and was being held out of sight in the Cherborne County jail as he was a definitely high level. Shortly thereafter, Blake Morrison, a senior reporter for USA Today called me from his car on his way to work in Crystal City (before they moved to Tyson’s Corner). He said that a large aircraft had just flown over the hood of his car and crashed into the Pentagon. I told him about the towers and he was appalled along with the rest of us. I have worked with Blake on many securities related stories over the years and he’s a good friend. FBI, CIA, NWA Security, and I had lengthy discussions on these circumstances and actually discussed the possibility of this guy wanting to hijack an aircraft and fly it into something. We should have put two and two together and figured out that the Trade Center was a prime target as Ramsey Yousef and his uncle, KSM, orchestrated the first attack in 1991. Yousef did the PAL 434 bombing out of Manila that was part of a plan to blow up 12 aircraft, including some NWA 747s in an operation called “Bojinka.” Joe Aubaugh, former head of FEMA, was out in Bozeman trout fishing and his Chief of Staff, Reynold Hoover, another close friend, was involved in post attack discussions as well. I made it back to MSP for a short time and then to DC ASAP as all hell had broken loose and I ended up working nonstop with FBI and other agencies out of the ALPA Herndon office 24/7 for the next few months. During this time I went down to the FBI National Academy in Quantico to try to kick start the armed pilot program, currently the FFDO (Federal Flight Deck Officer) program which was a much larger undertaking than I had ever imagined. But now we have well over 10 thousand pilots flying armed and it’s the single most effective deterrent against a repeat of another 9/11 type attack on America. Steve Luckey
Marina Jones I was in NRT when it happened. I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on TV. Like I would always do when I could not sleep. When I saw the news reports on CNN, I thought it was a movie. I remember I went out to run the next morning, and some pilot told me you better be careful, the world is being attacked. They had many briefings at the NRT hotel, and for me it was all hard to fathom when you are on the other
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side of the world. I remember we had many briefings and NWA did a great job trying to inform us as much as possible. We ended up staying there for four extra days, getting bits and pieces of when we would be able to leave. Since we were all mostly on three day trips you did see crew members in the same clothes each day during these briefings. Finally when we got to go home, our captain stood at the boarding door watching people board. Kinda freaked us out. I was working upper deck 747-200 and the pilots put all their luggage at the cockpit door. If I called up to bring them their meal, all I would hear was luggage moving around. He told me to not let anyone come up the stairs except crew. When it all really hit me, I flew to NYC to run the New York Marathon on Nov. 4th 2001. I went down to ground zero and that is when I lost it. The smells, the look on peoples faces said it all. Some looked like they were still in a daze of comprehending what the heck happened less than two months before. The city decided to go ahead with the Marathon, and the support and American feeling that was felt during that race and while I was there, made me proud to be an American, if not a little scared American. Marina Jones Flight Attendent 1973-2007 Wife of Dick Jones
Stan Heaston I was just finishing up a vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. We were scheduled to fly home on Sept 11th. I was watching the market opening on CNBC while my wife was getting ready to go to the airport. Mark Haines, who just passed away last week, was the CNBC anchor and he reported that the “NY Port Authority was reporting that an airplane had flown into the side of the World Trade Center.” He recalled that back in 1945 an Army Air Corps B-25 had flown into the side of the Empire State building. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had warned the Army previously about flying over the city and it had happened. I went in and told my wife about the crash and said that, “It would really mess up the N.Y. center air traffic.” As I waited for my wife to get finished getting ready, I continued to watch and saw the second plane make a very tight turn in and hit the second tower. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was terribly wrong. I just couldn’t believe that an airliner could fly into a building unless the pilots were already dead. The weather was perfect, it just couldn’t have happened. Months later, I still refused to believe that people
like Mohammed Atta and his band of murderers were smart enough to have pulled this off, but they did. They found and exploited a weakness in our system of security for Air Travel. After about two hours of watching TV and seeing the national airspace get shut down, I decided it was a waste of time to even go to the Myrtle Beach Airport. We had a rental car, we were packed, I called National Car rental and told them, “It looked like I was going to keep the car a few more days and drop it off in Minneapolis—if that was OK?” The National Car rental agent’s comment: “You know, a lot of people seem to be doing that.” We stopped at a Shell station and filled up and I went in and bought a road atlas. I handed it to my wife and said, “If you were going to head for Minneapolis today, which way would you go?” Off we went, listening to the radio across America and looking at the atlas. After a very long day, we made it into Covington, Kentucky and decided to stop at a Hampton Inn. We had been listening to the radio off and on all day about the terrible events, tragedies and crashes—it was all a blur. When we went into the room and turned on the TV, that was the first time we actually saw that the the Twin Towers had collapsed! My wife noticed the people jumping to their death. It came clear to me that they had to make a choice—burn to death or jump. It was a frightening day in America. The last time I had felt so scared about my country was in 1963, when as a sophomore in high school in Modesto, CA, we had walked home five miles after President Kennedy had been killed. On 9/11, the whole national media was in flames as nobody knew why it had happened. The next day as we continued on for home, we passed by Indianapolis, a place where I flew into frequently on the Airbus A320. It was like a ghost town, absolutely no activity. I thought about how no matter who you were, how rich you were or how many private jets you had at your disposal, you ain’t flying today! Or tomorrow either. When we got back to Minneapolis, we went to the airport to drop off the rental car and I had my wife drop me off upstairs so I could go check my crew box. There was nobody there up by the concourses, lots of concrete barriers and police cars everywhere. As the air travel system started up again, I ended up flying some of the very first flights into Washington National (now Reagan). At MSP, there were armed National Guard troops in the concourse area. It was incredibly tense, we had cards to read instructions to the passengers to remain seated for the last 30 minutes—no exceptions. We had former Seal team members as Federal Air Marshalls on board. We had special code words to give to Dulles approach on the way into DCA, told to
not deviate 1/4 inch off the route, watch for fighters over Washington, etc. My flights were all fine and I remember as I was saying goodbye to the passengers, the number of people that grasped my hands with both of theirs and thanked us for getting them there safely. They were scared to death by all the new rules, procedures, and fear in the population. I knew a couple of dispatchers and chief pilots that told me about the Sept. 11th stories of trying to get all the flights down out of the airspace. There were some of our pilots that wanted to land on the freeway in Montana. They heard the, “land immediately” order and almost did it. I knew that Vancouver BC had about 20 widebody airplanes just drop into town when they could not continue eastbound after coming onshore to the west coast area. They took every hotel room for miles around. I remember the first trip that I had into New York LaGuardia after 9/11. The World Trade Center towers were indeed gone—a great landmark and symbol of our country was just not there. There was just kind of a smoky haze over the site. The Flight Attendants told me everyone on board wanted to look at the site as we flew by. Stan Heaston Retired Oct., 2007
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Bill Day I knew no one directly a victim of 9/11. There is a potential story about a NWA pilot sitting from the N[orth] D[akota] ANG sitting on alert at Langley AFB, VA. Two or three F-16s were scrambled to intercept the airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania. This would make a terrific story. My personal account is rather mundane in comparison. I was retired by the time 9/11 occurred. We lived in a very small island in Puget Sound northwest of Bellingham, WA. My post retirement ritual was to visit the local island general store at 10 AM for a coffee klatch. My wife’s niece and her son were visiting from Wisconsin. When I arrived at the store I didn’t have a clue as to what was happening back on the east coast. Everyone in the store was glued to a television which was reporting the vague early details. The video coverage was ghastly ugly. I immediately returned home. My initial reports to my wife and her niece must have sounded rather preposterous for neither of them believed a word until I got to our television. We didn’t have cable on the island and were limited to public airways broadcasts. I immediately tuned to CBC in Vancouver for excellent coverage. We were all absolutely dumbfounded. We all know now how fast the Feds shut down the U. S. airspace. By evening of 9/11 the only airplanes we heard flying were military. Our isolated island was a wonderful place for security. We slept with only a bedroom to deck screen door. It was great for listening to the sea sounds at night. At about 6 AM I sat up in bed and announced in a loud voice: “Afterburners.” Apparently there was an ATC SNAFU involving a Lear Jet doing an emergency medical-evacuation flight from Anchorage to Seattle. Someone didn’t forward the pertinent flight plan pre-clearance security information. The great minds had the Lear intercepted and escorted to the border by Canadian Forces CF-18s. The Canadians passed the Lear over to USN F-18s from NAS Whidbey. Then fun begins. Another great mind suddenly remembers that the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was in port at Everett (north of Seattle). What a terrorist target! Panic must have set in, because the Lear was ordered diverted to the Bellingham Airport which is 10 miles from the border. Given the short notice of a destination change, the poor Lear pilots were caught high, hot, and fast. At the time Bellingham barely had 6,000’ of runway. Once on final approach, with two F-18 on their wings, the Lear pilots wisely opted to go around and get the airplane
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better configured. The F-18s respond by going into burner to join up on the Lear, therefore the noises that awaken me. There was no doubt as to the sound. The F-18s notified the Lear Jet that they would put their airplane in the bay if they missed the second approach. We highly suspect the F-18s were unarmed. The second approach was uneventful. That was probably the first time my island neighbors ever heard an afterburner light off. Bill Day
Larry Daudt It was a bright and beautiful morning in DTW when I awoke for my scheduled flight 89 of 09/10, DTW to PVG (Shanghai China) scheduled for around 15:00 enroute. I went out for my morning run and then got ready for the trip to the airport. A light breakfast and off on the crew bus. I met the other half of the crew in ops where Bill was gathering the flight information. The copilot with me was Pat Springer and the second Captain was EJ Buckhart. Don’t remember who his C/P was. EJ opted to fly out and I would land in PVG. It was my first ever trip into PVG so I was up for it. The flight was uneventful with the flight on the northern route over Kamchatka and along the south coast of Siberia. The wx was clear, so good viewing of the Siberian coast and the mountains of Japan was with us. Then down across the China sea and on into PVG. Flt time 14:28. We all found our way to the crew bus and on downtown to the hotel. I had been awake for about 23 hrs and after a shower decided to find some food. I ended up in the hotel restaurant because I was too tired to go out. A beer, some food, and off to bed. I was dead asleep (and I mean dead) when the phone rang. I think. It rang again and again and again before I finally answered to hear a panicked Flight Attendant say, crying, “CAPTAIN, THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END. THEY ARE FLYING AIRPLANES INTO TALL BUILDINGS AND CRASHING THEM IN NEW YORK AND I’M SCARED. WE NEED TO ALERT THE REST OF THE CREW.” I asked how she knew this and she said, “Just turn on your TV and you will see. Can I come to your room and watch it and alert the crew.” I said, “Ah well, I guess so, but let me get dressed first.” In 5 minutes no less then three F/As were at my door, all in a semi-panicked mode. We sat down and watched
this attack live from NY. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Now the big question was: Who is doing this to the US? We didn’t think of the Muslims, so my first thoughts went to the Red Chinese and here we were, captive with a 160 million dollar airplane signed out to me, the senior captain, parked on their turf. I called EJ and found him awake, (he had slept on his break on the way in). He came over and we hatched a plan to find out just what trouble we may be in. We tried calling MSP dispatch, to no avail. We tried DTW crew scheds. No luck. The pilots were [originally] to fly out at 9AM the next day but the F/As were not to leave for 3 days or so. After a reasonable time, 3 or 4 hours, I was able to reach the PVG station manager. He advised me in no uncertain terms, not to worry. He had stationed around the aircraft no less then 6 of the Elite Chinese military and they were carrying loaded AK 47s. No one would dare approach the aircraft, not even him. I thanked him and asked him to call with any news about the next mornings flight back to DTW (Flt 90). He assured me that he would so I sent everyone back to their rooms and assured them that if anything was going to happen with the departure in a few hours, the station manager, crew scheds, or I would notify them. The next morning most gathered for breakfast in the hotel restaurant and we found that we would be Shanghai residents for the next few days. The hotel management was quite sympathetic and provided some complimentary meals and even catered a party with food and drinks one evening for all US crew members. I met Bob Shaw’s son who was there on a FEDEX scheduled layover. Chip off the old block he is! So we just hung out waiting for word of our fate. We did know that the overnite layover would be at least for three days. We scheduled a tour or two to the rug factory, the silk factory, a city museum and park, and other events. On the third morning after the FAA opened US airspace we were scheduled to leave and resumed FLT 90 of the 15th. Flying out was a rather somber event as most of the passengers were delayed and knew not what to expect when arriving home in the US. 9/11 will be a day that shall live in my mind forever. Larry K. Daudt
Dick & Sue Duxbury Although retired from Northwest, I was still active with the ALPA Safety Committee in September 2001. We had scheduled a joint ALPA/Northwest Safety conference at the MSP Holiday Inn Airport to start on the afternoon of September 10th at 1 p.m. Richard Anderson, the CEO of Northwest Airlines was our lead-off speaker. At this time Northwest management and labor were working pretty well together. (Sigh). The conference had an advanced agenda of safety subjects including: dispatch, fuel loading decisions, maintenance concerns, fatigue issues, glass cockpit training, weather avoidance, cabin safety, ramp safety, and yes, I think, security items were on the schedule. Attendees included Chief Pilots, Dispatchers, Maintenance management along with IAM mechanics, Flight Attendants, Training management pilots, ALPA committee members—and other invited airline safety representatives. The Flight Safety Department of Northwest was co-hosting the conference along with ALPA. The FAA was invited, but, as I recall, did not show. The first afternoon was well attended. Some of the base Chief Pilots had flown in for the conference. And, we had a few beers that night, and were generally pleased that many agenda items seemed to be making good progress. Frankly I don’t remember if Steve Luckey was there or scheduled to fly in the next morning. Then came the morning of September 11th! Most of us watched in utter disbelief on TV in our rooms as the planes flew into the World Trade Center followed shortly after by a plane that flew into the Pentagon and then one that went down in a field in Pennsylvania. We absolutely could not believe what was happening. Richard Anderson remained briefly at the hotel before realizing his attention was needed back at NWA Headquarters. It did not take long to make the decision that the conference had to be canceled. We all had work to do. We were amazed at how fast our NWA Communications Department determined no Northwest aircraft were involved, about noon, Minneapolis time. But then the word went out that all commercial aircraft were to land immediately regardless of where they were to set down. Of course, we had airplanes, crews, and passengers all over the globe and had no idea what the big picture was. I returned to the ALPA office where I spent the rest of the afternoon and on into the night fielding telephone calls from pilots and their families with inquiries of what was taking place. My wife, Sue and our daughter-in-law Deb spent the afternoon and evening fielding telephone calls at the American Red Cross from people anxious to contribute RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2011
blood, money or just support to the situation. The Duxbury family had a different communication problem. We knew our American Airlines B-757 Captain, Bill Duxbury, was flying that day from his DCA base. He was scheduled to fly to California. We had heard nothing of him. As I looked at pictures of the Pentagon burning—and learned the aircraft was an American Airlines B-757 which hit the building, I immediately thought of my son. Most everyone at the Holiday Inn on 9/11/2001 was aware of my concern. My wife Sue and Bill’s wife Laurie in Virginia had no information about where Bill was. It was a long stressful morning with little information coming in. We finally learned that afternoon that Bill was on the ground with his B-757 crew in Miami. Like many airplanes, flight crews and passengers, they were grounded for some days. But, for us, the good news was that he was safe! With all the commercial aircraft grounded it was eerie that night when the only airplane sounds you heard were those of the Minnesota USAF Air Guard from Duluth, flying F-16 aircraft. The only contrails the next day were likewise from F-16s. But, the story for our son did not end there. Besides his job as a captain for American Airlines, he was also a US Navy Reserve Captain based in the Crisis Room of the Pentagon. As the base in DCA is a small one for American Airlines, Bill knew the crew of the plane that hit the Pentagon. He was particularly good friends with the captain who was a fellow USNR captain and a USNA graduate who also was assigned to the Crisis Room at the Pentagon. Now the story gets worse. The section of the Pentagon that the American Airlines B-757 hit at very high speed was indeed the area of Bill’s USNR assignment. Thus he lost good friends on the AA B-757 flight crew, as well as some equally good friends at his Pentagon area of duty, about 15 to 20 friends in all. One other tragedy of the Pentagon havoc was the tale of a friend of Bill’s from his church in Charlottesville, Virginia. She had many years of experience as a flight attendant with American Airlines and was scheduled to be on the flight that hit the Pentagon. Because of a bad cold, she had called in sick that day and did not make her flight. She has lived with guilt from that incident and has never returned to flying. After renting a van Bill and his flight crew made it back from Miami. The next couple of weeks were spent attending funerals of the many friends Bill had who lost their lives that day. Bill and his wife Laurie played the music for many of these funerals.
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One other side note; we have a neighbor in our condo area in Tucson who moved from New York to Tucson shortly after 9/11/01. Her husband had been a Fire Captain who had rushed into the World Trade Center after impact. He never returned. That was a day that surely changed our son Bill’s life and for that matter commercial aviation. These changes include pilot pay, retirements, cockpit doors, airport security requirements, and for lack of a better term, job satisfaction and vocational enjoyment. I hope I am off base with this somewhat negative summary. The good news, for Dux, is that commercial aviation safety seems to just continue to improve. Still, 9/11 remains a major event in the lifetimes of all Americans–and many others in the world. Thanks Gary for devoting one of our RNPA issues to these memories. We are all indeed very lucky to have you as our editor and publisher. Dick and Sue Duxbury
Hugh Sims Like everyone else, the memories of that day will stay with me forever. Additionally, I have a bit of different story to relate. I had been retired since February of 2000, and until late August of 2001 had been working as the DC-10 Program Manager for Pan Am Flight Academy. In early August of 2001 the entire school had heard of a student who was going to attend just to get some 747-400 ground school and a few simulator rides. We were all extremely curious since it made no sense for what the student was willing to pay for since he wasn’t going to get a type rating. Also he paid most of the bill with $10,000 in travelers checks which we had never seen before. This, of course, was Zacarias Moussaoui. As we all know he was arrested shortly after his arrival, was eventually convicted, and is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Colorado. On 9/11 itself I was sitting in a NATCO classroom getting requalified in the 747-200 having accepted a job with Classic Aviation, which was an outgrowth of the old test and ferry group. As we watched the airplanes hitting the Twin Towers I got on my cell phone and called the office of Paul Wellstone, since I had met the Senator in a social context, and was connected to Tom Lapic his Minnesota chief of staff. Note: he was later killed in the airplane with Wellstone. I reminded Tom that Moussaoui was being held in the Anoka County jail. Probably didn’t need to do this since the FBI shortly thereafter moved him to Alexandria, Virginia. Another side note: the copilot in Well-
stone’s airplane was Michael Guess, a long time employee of Pan Am Flight Academy who was there at the time. A very nice young man. Hugh Sims
Jerry Kreuger Most Monday mornings for the last eight years Gerald Kreuger, the same guy we know as Jerry, has written a column for the Aberdeen American News in Aberdeen, South Dakota. This is the column he wrote on October 12th, 2001. – Ed. I am wondering if any other Americans find themselves personally grieving for the victims of Sept. 11 and their loved ones? I certainly have. This event has left me with lingering thoughts about them, even though I know none of them personally. It is such a new emotion in my life. I find myself close to them, for no other reason than the fact that it could have been any of us who were affected by this atrocity. I find myself with a new warmth toward law enforcement, toward firefighters (especially the World Trade Center heroes) who gave their lives to help save others. Prior to Sept. 11, most of us in America believed the experts who were telling us: War is obsolete. There is no need for war. Nations will be forced to negotiate their disputes. Yet today we are at war and men and women in the armed services are held in special esteem. What happened? Did we forget or did we ignore the admonitions by folks of wisdom that there actually is evil in the world. One thing is for sure, all humanity, the world family must unite in the war against such evil. If ever in the history of the world, it was time to become united it is now. Such a portrayal of insanity and unbelievable hate toward the civilized citizens of the world brings home the message to everyone that we are engaged in World War III. Most of us thought WWIII would be a nuclear war between nations of unprecedented strength, and armies of numbers never before massed against each other. My, how our views and beliefs do change with one day’s events. My thoughts about the future remain unchanged. Good always prevails over evil. I am heartened that at this point in the history of our country and of the world that we have leaders of incredible talent and wisdom. Now is not the time to be disagreeable, doubting, critical, pessimistic. Now is not the time to be placing blame. Now is the time for unity-period! The threat right now is too big. Blame can be placed later.
There is no doubt that every life will be changed. There is no doubt that we can all absorb change in our lives and make sacrifices. I look at it this way: If those brave men and women who lost their lives by stepping up to the call to save others, then it sure can’t be very much for us to step up and do what we must to support our leaders, and our country. What is it that we can do as citizens to help win this war on evil? Well, to begin with we can all be patient, tolerant, confident and supportive of our government. We can all accept graciously the change that will take place in society. We can have faith that things will return to normal (whatever that is), if we remain confident and patriotic. Suddenly we have become folks of faith, friendly toward our neighbors, and holding the men and women in uniform in highest esteem. Mankind will win this war against insanity and terrorism, but not without sacrifices, and not without enduring events so very unsavory and so disasteful to us that our very fiber of existence will be challenged. Let us all show confidence, and pray that every one of us is ready to meet this challenge and do our part. Gerald Kreuger
RNPA CONTRAILS | AUGUST 2011