Our longest trip was from NAS Alameda to NAS Norfolk in Virginia, with a scheduled stop at Indianapolis. The leg to Indy was just under seventeen hundred miles, which meant we had to make a fuel stop if we carried a payload bigger than thirty thousand pounds. Our contract was for thirty-four thousand and the Navy had a thing about making sure we were always max’d out (We’d haul the same palletized anchor-chain from coast-to-coast to convince the bean-counters they were getting their monies worth.) This almost-always meant a fuel-stop at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho, and an extra couple of hours tagged-on to our duty-day. Nevertheless, it was fun to get out and stretch the bird’s legs.
The crew hotel in Norfolk was across from a small marina. Swinging Virginia Beach was a short drive away where there were sailboat rentals on Chesapeake Bay. Because the Navy didn’t work on weekends, Friday’s trip meant spending the weekend on the East Coast. I wanted to bring Vickie on the flight so we could both enjoy the ambiance of southern hospitality.
Naturally, there were rules against transporting family members. However, we often carried dead-heading World Airlines, and Trans-International Airways flight attendants from the Oakland base to their homes on the eastern seaboard. Vickie had worked for the airlines so she was comfortable appearing as a flight attendant. I decided to chance smuggling her on my next weekend flight east.
The ‘9 could carry two passengers in very tight mini-jumpseats behind the pilot and copilot. It would be uncomfortable but I thought she’d enjoy riding up-front where the view was better. Showing up at dispatch I escorted her in; explaining to the dispatcher she was a World Airlines ‘Stew’ I had met at the Lemon Tree, a bar where flight crews hung out. “Twix Norfolk and get her an authorization will you?” I said with a wink.
“Sure Dave, I’ll get right on it. Oh, you’ve got another jump seater – a stew with TIA. She’s deadheading to Norfolk too.”
“It ought to be a fun flight – huh?”
“I wish I was going; you and Ron up there with two beautiful babes – I hope you pay attention to the flying and not get lost.”
“I think we can figure it out.”
The second flight attendant had ridden with us before; she knew the drill. Introducing herself to Vickie, they hit it off right away. Thankfully, they were from different airlines so Vickie’s cover remained intact.
The plane was fully loaded which meant we’d be making a pit stop at Mountain Home AFB. On descent, Ron radioed ahead that we required four inflight lunches and drinks delivered to base ops when we pulled in to refuel. After landing, I and taxied up to Operations, where a fuel truck was waiting. Ron opened the door and extended the onboard air-stairs; Vickie and the other stew hurried down the stairs to get our waiting box lunches.
“Which one do you like?” the TIA stew asked Vickie.
Thinking she was talking about the lunches, Vickie replied, “It doesn’t make any difference to me.”
“The copilot’s cute; I think the captain’s married.”
“Oh – I like the captain.”
“Great! I’ll serve the copilot and you take care of the captain. Who knows how this might turn out?”
“Who knows?” Vickie replied.
By the time they came back with the lunches we were almost finished fueling. I called for clearance while Ron retracted the stairs and locked the door. We lit the fires, blasting off for Indianapolis after a forty-five minute turnaround. I didn’t know what had transpired between the two females, but it was obvious something had been agreed to. Vickie was unusually attentive to me as was the TIA attendant to Ron. She poured my coffee, mixing in the powdered cream and sugar. She unwrapped my sandwich, and peeled my banana; something was afoot.
The Holiday Inn bus was waiting for us outside Dispatch when we arrived in Norfolk. It had been a fourteen-hour duty day, I was a tired captain as the four of us piled in the van.
“Oh damn, I missed my connection to New York. I guess I’ll have to spend the night in Norfolk. Vickie, where are you going to stay? Maybe we could bunk in together?” the TIA girl said.
Smiling, Vickie looked at me, “Captain, you’re sure the room has a couch I can sleep on?”
“Absolutely – would I lie to you?”
The TIA stew turned to Ron, “Well, if he’s got a couch you must have one too. We could watch TV before turning in, huh?”
“I think my room has twin beds if you don’t mind sharing the bathroom.” Ron responded.
Walking to our rooms the TIA flight attendant whispered to Vickie, “Boy, you World stew’s don’t fool around, do you? I wouldn’t have had the guts to hit on Ron the way you did the captain.”
“Experience.” Vickie lightly shot back.
Needless to say I did some fancy talking explaining how things like that never happened to me and I had no idea who the TIA stewardess was or had I ever flown with her before. Once Vickie was convinced I was a straight-arrow we had a fabulous weekend; sailing a Sunfish on the bay, wolfing down soft-shell crab, and boogieing to a loud band in a Virginia Beach bistro.
Early Monday-morning we were checking out of the hotel prior to starting the run home. I stood behind a couple paying their bill ahead at the front desk. I was dressed in full uniform except for my hat, which was resting on top of my flight bag, being guarded by Vickie. Feeling a tug on my left sleeve; looking down there was a boy of about ten years with an arm full of newspapers.
He looked up at me, “Mister?”
“Yes son?” I smilingly answered, assuming he wanted to ask me a question about flying.
“Mister, can I sell newspapers in your lobby?”
What? The little monster thought I was the bellman! “Kid I don’t care what you do,” I angrily retorted; out of the corner of my eye I saw Vickie hiding a laugh behind her hand.
“Thanks,” the boy smiled as he headed off towards the front door.
For years after, whenever Vickie wanted to pull my chain over something she’d look up at me and say, “Mister, do you mind if I sell newspapers in your lobby?”