Maverick pilot

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It took almost a month before we got all the paperwork in order to have Vickie cleared to travel with me; our State Department was convinced every Asian was a Communist and spy. Fortunately, Dumas had strong connections and was able to assist us in our task. We arrived in Honolulu Saturday, August 5, 1967 on Philippines Airlines Flight 301 after a stop in Manila. The flight was crowded with passenger carry-on baggage stuffed under every seat, crying babies, over-flowing toilets, it was terrible – much like what we put up with today. However, it was cheap. Honolulu was beautiful; Vickie loved it at first sight.

Toni met her new Mom with some trepidation, she wasn’t sure this was a good idea. Vickie was undaunted; she turned on the charm and before you knew it the two were buddies. The three of us moved into the condo and I went to work for HATS, (Hawaiian Air Tour Service) flying little DeHaviland Doves on guided tours around the islands. It was fun flying; we’d take off flying a loose formation around all the islands, buzzing down canyons, showing off the seldom visited dramatic north shores, viewing spectacular water-falls, I enjoyed everything about the job except the pay, which was a pittance to what I was used to. I had plenty of time to send in résumés and go bodysurfing with Toni and Vickie as the flying only took two days a week.

I shied away from the scheduled airlines as their advancement looked to be about ten years compared to the five years the Supplementals, or Non-Skeds (non-scheduled airlines) estimated. The Non-Skeds offered excitement because they traveled the world where as the Skeds were borr-rrring. I mean who in their right mind would actually want to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles or New York for the rest of their lives? Granted the Non-Skeds didn’t pay as well and offered no retirement benefits and had layoffs, but to me adventure far outweighed security.

After little or no replies to my mailings it became obvious something more was required. I was thinking of flying over to the mainland and making personal calls on the several airlines operating out of Oakland and Burbank when a drinking buddy suggested I give ONA (Overseas National Airways) a try. He worked in the dispatch office at the airport and said they flew into the islands all the time and he knew Bob Love, the chief pilot. ONA was a New York based airline that had just upgraded to DC-8 jets and they did a lot of passenger charters, both domestic and overseas. It sounded like my kind of company; we set it up so that he’d call me the next time Captain Love was scheduled to arrive so I could present my résumé in person.

That turned out to be about three in the morning when I met a very tired and somewhat cranky captain who had just come in from the East Coast after a mechanical delay and extra fuel stop due to strong headwinds on the crossing. I showed up in a coat and tie instead of my normal Aloha shirt – I felt I’d have one chance and I might as well give it all I’ve got. Captain Love with a military brush haircut and piercing eyes was a stern, intimidating looking individual. I noticed the copilot deferred to him and addressed him as either Captain or Sir. However, the engineer called him Bob and they were friendly with each other.

The dispatcher introduced us; “Captain, this is Dave Case, the pilot I was telling you about.”

Captain Love fixed me with those piercing eyes before replying, “Have you got any jet time?”

“No sir,” I immediately lost points on that one.

“Where did you learn to fly? Were you in the military?”

“At Compton airport in California. Yes, but not as a pilot.” It wasn’t going well at all; the engineer was ignoring me.

“What are you doing out here?

“I’m flying Dehavilland Doves for HATS.”

“Do you know Pete Crane?”

“He’s my chief pilot.” He appeared to dismiss that. This wasn’t going as planned and I could see he wanted to end the interview. “I’ve also flown C-46s and C-47s for Continental Air Service in Laos and Vietnam – Bill Tetter knows me.” Captain Tetter and I were in Laos together before he quit to join ONA as a DC-7 captain.

“Tetter? That asshole; we fired him. Where have you worked besides Laos and Vietnam?”

Whazoo, I decided to fire my best remaining shots, “I’ve flown DC-4s for InterOcean in the Congo and I’ve worked out of Hong Kong flying down to Indonesia and Vietnam on C-47s. Most of my time is as captain. I’m comfortable with ICAO procedures.” (ICAO are the international rules a pilot operates under when flying outside America.).

“Have you got a résumé?”

“Yes sir.” I reached in my breast pocket and handed him the envelope with my work history.

Stuffing it in his jacket pocket he dismissed me with, “I’ll see what I can do when we get back to New York.”

“Yes sir. Thank you for the time…”

“Forget it. I’ll call you if I have anything; now I’ve gotta get this crew to bed.”

With that they picked up their flight bags and overcoats and left for the hotel. I was left standing with the dispatcher. “You did okay – don’t worry about his gruff exterior. Captain Love is an Old China Hand – he likes soldier-of-fortune types.”

“I don’t know, I felt like a klutz with no military or jet time and when I mentioned Bill Tetter to learn he got fired – jeezus.”

“Don’t worry about it – either he hires you or he doesn’t.”

“Yeah; hey thanks for everything, I’d never have met him without your help. Drinks on me next time, okay?”

“Okay Dave, glad to help.”

A week later the phone rang in my apartment; it was Captain Love. “Yeah Dave, Bob Love here – how soon can you get out to New York for a DC-9 class?”

“I’d like to give two-weeks notice; Pete Crane’s been good to me.”

“That’ll work. What about your apartment?

“I own it; I can just close it up.”

“Good. I’ll make arrangements for you on one of our ‘8s that’ll save you some money.”

“What about my wife and kid – can I get them on the flight too?”

“Jesus – well yeah I guess so. Look, I want you to understand something; I’m offering you a copilot’s job. You won’t be checked out as captain for six months to a year – can you live with that?”

Six months to a year? Wow, when I thought it would take at least five years, “Yes sir!”

“Good, I’ll see you in New York and we’ll go over all the paperwork. I gotta run, goodbye.”

“Bye.” Wow! Six months to a year – I was on Cloud Nine. Now all I had to do was give notice, close up the condo, and buy some winter clothes. Vickie was excited; she’d never been to New York or seen snow. Toni wasn’t too sure about leaving all her friends, but she liked the idea she was going to be with Dad and her new Mom. Things had suddenly taken a distinct turn for the better.

Pete Crane was very understanding and wished me luck. My friend Anita sold real estate and said she’d take care of selling our condo. Arranging for Toni to transfer schools was no problem. Where we ran into a wall was locating a store that sold warm-winter clothing in Hawaii. Even the sweaters and jackets were light weight.

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