Non-routine Flight Assignments

Posted December 18, 2003

By Emil Schoonejans

The period beginning with the middle 1960’s to 1985 afforded me, as a New York Supervisor of Flight Engineers, the opportunity to be the operative Flight Engineer on many non-routine flight assignments. All such flights were flown by management flight crews, all were interesting, and some were in the "one of a kind" category.

One unusual flight took place in June 1964. New York Constellation Equipment Supervisor of Pilots, Captain Al Perraud and I were notified to deadhead to LFPO (Paris Orly) to ferry a 1649A to Kansas City. The aircraft was Plane #320 which was returning to TWA after having been leased to a French charter carrier. Flight Navigator Earl Korf deadheaded with Al and I and we were to meet co-Captain Frank Niswander in Paris. Frank had deadheaded over a day or two earlier. After arriving at Orly, Al, Earl and I checked in with Frank who then briefed us at the Celtic Hotel’s "TWA flight de-briefing room." He had already briefed Jacques, who as always was very attentive and looking sharp in his clean white apron.(1.)

Frank told us the aircraft is ready to go except for one minor problem -- the airplane had experienced an earlier engine fire with considerable damage. However, Maintenance promised they would have it repaired in time for our planned next day’s departure and we looked forward to returning #320 to TWA scheduled service. The four of us ferried the aircraft from Paris via Shannon and Gander to Kansas City with 20:25 of enroute time on arrival. Since we were not staffed as a multiple crew, we needed to break for rest at Shannon and Gander.

On our arrival, we attracted an unusual degree of attention from approach control, ground control and our own mechanics because of the appearance of our airplane, which certainly looked out of place at TWA’s facilities. Missing was the familiar red-striped, white fuselage paint scheme, which had been replaced by a bright blue livery representing the French carrier.

Back in New York a week or so later, I asked Al when he thought we’d need to go back to KC to pick up the refurbished airplane? He said," I don’t know I’ll call them to find out." He later told me, "They cut it up for scrap!"

Another interesting flight occurred later that same month when a 749 Constellation, Plane #703, was to become a three-engine ferry flight co-Captained by Sam Mariani and John Juda. The number two engine had been feathered due to a failure inbound to Pittsburgh. PIT Maintenance was unable to effect a correction because a spare engine was NIS (not in stock). Operational Planning however, having access to the larger picture, called for the ferry to JFK where a spare engine was available.

Pre-flight preparation of the #2 engine consisted of first confirming that the piston of the #1 master cylinder was at BDC (bottom dead center), and then filling the cylinder with rope (USN type "21 thread" line) through its front spark plug hole. The reason for this was to preclude the feathered prop from turning the engine by wind milling en-route to JFK.

The coordinated departure called for trimming take off power on engines 1&4 on command from the PF (pilot flying), then slowly increase power on #3 by the PNF (pilot not flying) on command from PF. It worked like a charm. We had an empty aircraft of course, and the only other checklist oddity was that we were able to skip the magneto and other parameter checks on #2 during pre-take off engine run up.

(1.) An inside joke … there is no flight de-briefing room at the Celtic Hotel, and Jacques was the hotel’s well known bartender.

Emil Schoonejans (1949-1985) worked in Technical Services/Line Maintenance as an aircraft mechanic and fueler at EWR and LGA, and in Flight Operations as a flight engineer and international relief officer based at JFK and LAX.

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