A Moving Experience
By Emil Schoonejans



My flight assignment on this day of November 13, 1974 was Flight 7, the Boeing 747 noon departure and one of TWA’s several daily non-stop flights from New York to Los Angeles. 
I had invited my wife Edna to come with me on this trip to get her out of town for a change of scenery … for us both. Flying is so much fun and can, without a doubt, divert one’s attention from her “empty-nest” and my “very boring hotel room”.

Captain Al Kirby, First Officer Lou Jones and I, the Flight Engineer, after having departed JFK on time, experienced a power plant failure when the number two engine lost its oil. We shut it down and diverted to Chicago's O'Hare.

The passengers were protected on another flight … Technical Services found and repaired the leak … and Operational Planning notified us that we were to ferry our airplane back to JFK.

Dilemma of dilemmas -- what do I do now about getting my wife back to NY since we’re not permitted to carry passengers on an empty ferry flight? I told Al I'd set her up on the next flight to either JFK or LGA and make plans on how to meet her later.

Al said, “What are you talking about Emil? She’s coming with us!” I replied, “Al, we can’t do that, I don’t want you to get in trouble.” Al says “Emil … Edna’s coming with us!” Captain’s authority ended that discussion!

It's late afternoon by the time we begin our descent into JFK, the sun is going down and Al asks me “Emil, where’s your wife?” I say, “Right behind us in the First Class upper deck lounge.” Al picks up the PA mic and bellows:

“Edna, get up front here right now!” Edna, the ever-ready, ever-loyal and always willing-to-help, Registered Nurse-forever says, “What’s wrong?”, as she rushes into the cockpit! Al says, “I want you to see something … stand right here between both pilot seats and look straight ahead!” The view was not unusual since it’s an every day occurrence, but once in a while, with proper timing and certain lighting and flight conditions, it is much more dramatic than at other times.  

This was one of those times!

The gray-to-black sky dead-ahead over New York City represented a steep contrast to the remaining daylight behind and peripherally apparent. Al described the impressive scene this way:

“Edna, that’s the edge of night approaching and the shadow of the world is rising before us as the sun has just set behind us.” What was different compared to if we had been climbing or in level flight, was that we were descending at 250 knots which sped-up the process and moved the impressive blanket of night toward us at a higher rate. It was an almost eerie sight as well as being an overwhelmingly touching scene, and it brought tears to my pretty baby’s baby blues.

More recently, on January 13, 2007, I completed a 35-day round trip voyage from Tacoma to the Orient with my son Mitchell on his cargo ship. Mitch is an officer in the US Merchant Marine.  One day at sunset, while we were west bound en route from Honolulu to Guam, I recalled his mom’s memorable trip with me on Flight 7. I told of it to Mitch as we watched the edge of night from the starboard bridge wing slowly overtaking us from behind. Mitch has been sailing for 28 years and said emotionally, as we both thought of her and of her recent passing, “Thanks for that dad!”

And I also murmured a heartfelt thanks to Al Kirby, for making such a routine event memorable for us all!

Emil Schoonejans (1949/1985) served as a Mechanic, Flight Engineer, Flight Manager Training and International Relief Pilot.