"Ontos" Lives

 Posted 02/12/04

By Jerry Cosley

Contrails Editor Jerry Cosley would like to hear from any cockpit or ground crew who have stories to tell about "Ontos" and its colorful history at TWA (jcosley@earthlink.net).

Out in Graybull, Wyoming there’s a bunch of crazies dedicated to keeping ancient transport aircraft alive. One of these machines, a Fairchild Packet, had a storied history at TWA and today is the only one of its type known to be still airworthy and flying. The Packet, designated C-82A by the military, was a workhorse cargo carrier toward the end of WWII before they were retired in 1954, and some found their way into post-war civilian operations.

One of them, N9701F, was bought by TWA in 1956 for use as an engine carrier to move replacement engines and spare parts throughout the International Division. She was affectionately named "Ontos" (Greek for The Thing) and was a familiar sight on the ramp at nearly every international station, ferrying replacement engines to disabled TWA birds, and hauling the sick power plants back to Paris for repair. Larger fan engines, such as the Pratt & Whitney JT9-D used on the 747, were barely able to be squeezed aboard.

Powered by two "round" piston engines, the Packets were also distinguished by a small Westinghouse jet engine mounted atop the fuselage to provide 3,250 pounds of extra thrust at takeoff when heavily loaded. At cruise altitude, an eyelid door closed over the inlet to reduce drag.

Ontos also performed many off-beat missions. One assignment required the airlifting of 12,000 pounds of whiskey from SNN to PAR for re-supply of our commissary warehouses. It even became a small-size tanker when it hauled fuel from GVA for use in France during the two-month strike in 1968. We sold Ontos for $125,000 in 1972.

An interesting profile on N9701F and other C-82s, with photos, can be found in the current edition of Air Classics magazine, Volume 40 – Number 3, available at newsstands.

Jerry Cosley (1960-1985) served in Public Relations/Corporate Communications in CHI, LAX, SFO, MKC and NYC.

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