Maverick pilot



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NEW KID ON THE BLOCK


Practically all my familiarization and training in the’8 was on the Atlantic/Europe routes. Therefore, it followed that Crew Scheduling assigned me to Guam/Honolulu turn-arounds for my first trips in the big jets. While I hadn’t flown the run before, I loved the Pacific and Honolulu. The Company booked the crews into a first-class hotel next to the Ala Moana Shopping Center, near Waikiki. There were plenty of places the flight attendants could shop and inexpensive, good restaurants, along Kalakaua Boulevard.

The pool was our central meeting place, it was like being in high school; the females all occupied one section, while the guys sat around another. Unspoken rules and etiquette was closely followed; the men never ventured onto the ladies area without an invitation, of course they never intruded on us without permission. We were very protective of our female crews; not letting any non-flight person get close to them, unless it was by prior approval of the lady. There was casual back-and-forth chatting while still remaining separate.

“Does that stuff work?” asks an older captain.

“Sure, you want to try some – it’ll keep you from burning,” replies a senior stewardess. Juniors, never addressed senior captains.

“Smells funny, you sure it will work?”

“Try it.”

“Anybody want to go to Chuck’s for dinner? They’ve got a four-ninety-five special tonight that includes salad and a baked potato.”

“You buying?”

“Dutch.”

It was the easy camaraderie between the cockpit and the cabin crews that made the three-week assignment pass with a minimum of the loneliness associated with the freight operation.

I deadheaded out on a flight from San Francisco to replace a captain that had timed-out. I knew my copilot was E. J. Howe whom I knew from the ‘9s. The engineer, Kozlosky, and the Senior flight attendant, White, I’d never met before. After checking in I headed for the pool where several of the captains I’d known on the ‘9, that had now upgraded to the ‘8, were doing their best to get a tan.

John Truman greeted me with, “Hey Dave, good to see you man – how do you like the ‘8?”

“Love it; how’s the flying out here?”

“A piece of cake; we ferry non-stop to Guam, pick-up a load of slopes and haul them back here. Another crew flies them over to Fort Smith, Arkansas for resettlement.”

Slopes? You mean Vietnamese, don’t you?” Having worked in-country for several years and being married to a Chinese, I took exception to Truman’s racist remark.

It didn’t faze him; he continued right on, “They’re all slopes to me except for the gooks. The only problem is you’ll have to stop at Wake Island for fuel, ‘cause the 30-series can’t carry enough fuel with the cabin load.”

“Thanks for the info; who else is here?”

“Andrechyn, but I don’t think he’s coming down. He hung-out in the Sun too long on the layover in Guam and fried himself lobster-red. Be careful down there, you’re closer to the equator, the Sun is much more intense than here in Honolulu.”

“Thanks again; you got any suntan lotion, I forgot to buy some?”

“Naw, I don’t believe in that stuff – it makes you smell like a fucking faggot.” The thing about John was, he was an equal-opportunity offender – he insulted everybody.

An attractive blonde on my left said, “I’ve got some, if you don’t mind the smell.”

“I don’t mind, it will wash off in the shower, and I’d rather smell than get sunburned.”

As she passed the tube to my outstretched hand, I introduced myself as, Dave. Her name was Marilyn, she was from New York with a great gift of gab; in a fun way we started exchanging one-line zingers. New Yorkers are famous for their ability to give-and-take repartee; being a born BSer, I could pretty much, hold my own in the game of one-upsmanship. After about an hour when she excused herself to go pee, her buddy leaned over to me, saying in a low voice, “You know you’re really pissing her off.”

“No I didn’t; I thought we’re just having fun.”

“You’ve really made her angry, she is a Senior. She can make life miserable for you in the cockpit. I think you’d better back-off.”

“Gee, thanks,” I truly hadn’t realized I was really getting under her skin, I made it a point to change to less challenging conversation before excusing myself using the pretext of worrying about a sunburn.

The next day the three of us were sitting in the cockpit waiting for the fuelers and caterers to finish doing their thing; we carried catering from Honolulu to Guam because it was less expensive and more available. The door from the cabin opened, and in stepped Marilyn. A look of shock came across her face as she saw me sitting in the left seat. “You! What are you doing there?”

I smiled and answered, “I’m gonna drive the plane to Guam, why?”

“What are you doing in that seat; I thought you were a copilot?”

Wanting to have some fun with her, I responded with a deadpan look, “I answered an ad in a paper; ONA was advertising for captains and copilots; the captains earned more money and got to give orders, so I decided I wanted to be a captain.”

Howe probably saved my life by explaining, “Dave came up from the ‘9s – he was a captain there.”

“Oh, oh boy,” she looked concerned that she may have messed-up. “Any of you want anything before we leave?”

Howe and Kos asked for a coke and I requested a glass of water, which she brought back on a tray. I made eye-contact with her as she handed me my water, “Marilyn, I want to apologize about yesterday; if I said anything that offended you, I’m sorry – I thought we were just playing around.”

She smiled back, “And I thought you were a new copilot and I was going to get even with you today.”

“Friends?” I said as I turned, extending my hand.

“Friends,” she countered, shaking my hand.

We did become good friends. She was a terrific person to have onboard as crew; a nice, fun, lady to enjoy a dinner or the poolside sun. (I was very happy for her and Skip Doolittle, when wedding bells rang out for both of them – a great couple.)

Seven hours and forty-six minutes later the ramp personnel chocked the wheels in Guam. After a short ride in the hotel bus we checked into the Travel Lodge. The cabin crew headed for the pool, while we-three from the ‘pit needed to replenish fluids lost from dehydration; stripping off our bars and insignia we went straight to the bar.

Scotch and water is the nectar of the Gods; two were absorbed into my body before I heard someone call my name, “Case, is that you?”

Turning to the sound, I saw an older man that took me a moment to recognize; it was Dick Grider. I’d flown as his copilot on DC-4s in the Congo in’62, “Dick? Dick Grider, what are you doing here?”

“Same as you, I’m flying the Vietnam shuttle; who are you with?”

“Overseas National.”

“Really? I’m with T.I.A. flying the stretch-63 out there, which model are you on?”

“I’m on a thirty series; we have to pit stop in Wake. How long have you been with T.I.A.?”

“About five years; I got on right after InterOcean folded.”

“The left seat of the ‘8 is a lot more fun than the ‘4, huh?”

“I don’t know, with T.I.A. it’s all about whether-or-not the chief pilot likes you – and I guess he doesn’t like me, I’m still a copilot.”

“Jeez, that’s awful, with O.N.A. it’s all about seniority, we’re ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association). Why don’t you come over with us?”

“I’d like to, but I’ve got a lot of seniority with T.I.A. Our union sucks – my only hope is that the chief pilot will retire and maybe the next one will like me.”

We had another drink and Dick brought me up to speed on some of the others I’d flown with in the Congo; Jack Loughran was flying with Dick’s brother, Bob on ‘3s out of the Virgin Islands, Mal Thompson was painting pictures in Paris, Jess Meade and Augie had bought the farm on approach on a dark night in Biafra. It was a bittersweet meeting that only lasted about an hour. I went away thinking how very lucky I was flying captain for a first-class outfit like Overseas National Airways.




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