The Frigid Memoirs of Captain Emo
By Emil Schoonejans

(Printed in the January, 1979 issue of TWA Flight Operations Flite Facts, p.11)

Boy, this cockpit’s colder than a ….. and we’ve still got an hour to Newark. So far the weather’s been clear all the way from Pittsburgh, but that’s about all that’s gone right on this trip. I’m not even sure the ETA is right, what with a copilot like the one I’ve got tonight. He’s some new guy -- he doesn’t even know that you don't drop the water into the boiler before we start engines … the boiler is probably frozen.

Well, guess we’ve just got to make the best of it. Wouldn’t you know that this
would happen with a full load. The hostess has all 21 passengers reasonably comfortable. They’ve all been fed and they’ve all got blankets, and she’s told each of them what happened. Someday the girls ought to have a PA system. Gotta make a mental note to tell the chief pilot that this bird should have more blankets aboard. Guess I can prove it to him by showing the Flight Analyzer Altitude Trace. Sure hope it was “wound up” at Pittsburgh.

Ah, Newark at last. Well, that’s just like the rest of the trip -- no gate space and the coffee Thermos is empty; now the tower gives us a red light and we’ve got to hold someplace else.

Well, now that’s better, we’ve got a gate and there’s the signal to lock the tailwheel. @#$%&*!! -- I think I sheared the pin. Here comes “Fat,” our crew chief.

So now the boiler is split wide open he tells me and no replacement in stores. Used the last one three days ago. Guess they’re going to try United and see if they’ve got one. Fat says we’ll have to call our stores clerk back to work from home, he'll talk to United's stores guy. Too bad we couldn’t have told them earlier; they might have been able to make some different arrangements. Now it’s going to take them six hours to get this plane ready, and Fat was hoping to make a quick turn.

Captain Emo, our intrepid aviator in this tale, has a lot of things going for him -- good rapport with the people who had to fix his plane, good inter-departmental cooperation, and he even had the benefit of United’s storeroom. But one more thing could have helped measurably -- a better way to communicate the problem, and communicate it earlier.  What he needed then was a present day (1979 vintage) Fault Isolation system.

All TWA cockpit crew members are or will be involved with Fault Isolation (FI) systems.  Basically, FI is a two-part (very important) system, with the goal of improved dispatch reliability through in-flight reporting of faults and for expedited correction of those faults.  The two parts are distinctly different, but like nuts and bolts, neither is effective without the other.

Part One is our (Flight Operations’) responsibility. The Part One manual is used by the flight crew to define a fault observed in flight. The fault is reported in the aircraft log, converted to a code, and the code is then transmitted to the destination station. The code is the key -- using the code, Technical Services can understand not only what the fault is, but what fault isolation steps the flight crew has taken to help pinpoint the malfunctioning unit.

The Part Two manual will help Technical services expedite repairs by helping them to gather the proper parts, tools and manpower for flight arrival. Obviously, effective use of the FI system always depends on input from our flight crews. Even though only two of our current airplane fleets the B-747 and L-1011 have this system, the conscientious use of FI will help the airline maintain the schedule reliability that we all strive for.


March 2006

I wish to sincerely thank Lance Neward, ex-editor of FLITE FACTS, for locating, copying and forwarding this article to me as I requested. Thanks also to Al Prest for putting me in touch with Lance.

I have also given myself the liberty of making minor corrections to the copy without changing the story line, such as: properly identifying the crew chief, known as “Fat” Jerger, instead of calling him "Fats" as I did 27 years ago. He called me on that mistake in 1979. I really didn't know any better back then, because I always referred to Fat as Mr. Jerger.

The above story is of a DC-3 on a hypothetical flight in the 1940's flown by a ficticious captain and an un-named co-pilot, encountering normal, every-day airline problems. Not so hypothetical, however, was the fact that the engine exhaust manifold boiler failure was really troublesome because, with it inoperative, there was no source of cabin heat. This did not happen on the on the “hot air exhaust manifold” equipped part of the fleet.

Yes, we've always had a mixture of models in any fleet. Remember, also on the DC-3s, the sometimes frantic hand motions observed, when given by the captain through his open sliding window, as he taxied to the gate. He tried to signal he has a non-standard right-hand cabin door. In inclement weather, when he was not seen signaling, he could not help but see some humor in watching for the expression on the gate agent's face as he pushed the steps to the left side of the airplane. If all had gone well, the airplane would have been parked properly, with the passenger door opening toward the terminal building, not away from it (so much for non-standard aircraft configurations in our industry).

This topic is all about standardization of Fault Isolation and how it was achieved. The following is submitted in order to update the status of Fault Isolation -- to today in 2006.

During the mid 1970's, TWA's Tony Ristuccia, who at the time was JFK's Manager Aircraft Maintenance-Engineering, being acutely aware of the differences between the fault isolation systems of our two jumbo jets' manufacturers, Boeing and Lockheed, decided there must be a better way. Tony was a prime mover and instrumental in TWA's effort to attain, for the benefit of our industry, a standardized FI system. The first step in order to achieve that end was to convince the appropriate representatives of manufacturers, and many of the free world's airlines, to attend a Special Meeting of the Air Transport Association (ATA), which we at TWA requested, had granted to us and which we subsequently held January 30, 1979 at our Flight Training facility in JFK's Building 95.

TWA's VP-Technical Services, Robin H.H. Wilson, addressed the impressive assembly before we began. The meeting was an astounding success, all present agreed to the concept of standardization. The next step was not as easy, as we had to convince the airframe manufacturers’ top echelon that each aircraft builder needed to agree to drop their own system in favor of the proposed new standard.

Boeing (747) and Lockheed (1011), having invested heavily in their individual product's fine systems, offered resistance and were reluctant to get on board. Douglas (DC-!0) had absolutely no input, but the Airbus(A-300) people, agreeing to the concept, jumped in with both feet. Several private meetings with industry executives no doubt had some influence. The end result was an accord, accomplished by the TWA task force's successful completion of Revision 21 to the ATA Specification 100, in which we delineated the exact methods and procedures to be taken by all aircraft manufacturers in converting their in-house systems. I have recently been informed by one of the original task force members, who is now a private consultant, that the new FRM/FIM system we put together then is, successfully, still in use today ...  unchanged! (Not too bad for a bunch of New York kids).

Now, about the ficticious captain. The name Emo was jokingly given to me at work in the JFK Flight Training Department by a co- worker while trying to consolidate the varied ways of pronouncing my first name.

Since I wrote the story, obviously I am Captain Emo, an alter ego of mine.

Coincidentally, the title also sounds like ... Captain Nemo ... my super alter ego and the main character in Jules Verne's 1870 novel "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea". It so happens I have traveled the same distance under the sea, twice; once with Captain Nemo on board his Nautilus in the pages of Verne's book, and once in real life during World War II aboard my boat, the United States Navy's submarine the USS Burrfish, but that’s another story for another time.

Emil Schoonejans (1949-1985) worked in Technical Services as a Line mechanic at EWR and LGA and in Flight Operations as a Flight Engineer at LGA and JFK, and as Manager B-747 F/E Training and as an International Relief Officer based at JFK and LAX.