You Want Me To Do WHAT?
Back between 1955 and 1957, when I worked in KIDLSKD for Jim O'Malley (crew scheduling for international operations at IDL international operations), TWA operated scheduled international cargo flights (996/997) with DC-4 equipment. While all crews were checked out on the latest Connies (at that time Super G), some crew members still held qualifications on the 4 … and sometimes they wished they hadn't.
Aside from the above mentioned scheduled freighters, we also operated emergency ferries to carry engines and other large parts for the broken Connies that had limped into the Maritimes from Europe. Once we even sent a 4 to Iceland, but that's a story for another time.
The emergency ferries seemed to occur only on midnight shifts (go figure). When a crew was needed we reverted to the master schedule policy: “Junior man, in, legal and qualified”. Once that even meant the assistant chief pilot, Steve Hawes, got the call.
But on this one night the captain was gonna have to be Jay Brandt who lived in Wilton, CT. I was advised around midnight by the Dispatcher, Bill Hussey, that Pan Am had a DC-7C in Gander which required an engine change. PAA didn't have a plane available so they hired us. I called Jay, who was scheduled for a trip to LON that night, and told him he was the “Junior man, in, legal and qualified”. He gruffed at the assignment but said he'd head for LGA to pick up the -4 to ferry to KIDL and load the PanAm engine, but to call him if anything changed.
Not long after he left Wilton on his way to LGA by auto, Hussey told me the ferry was cancelled, as the -7 engine was too large to fit thru the cargo door. I called Brandt's home but his wife said he had just left. She gave me the phone number for the Greenwich toll booths on the Merritt Parkway and said I might be able to stop him there. I left a message at the tolls and a scant few minutes later Brandt rang.
I told him the ferry was off and that he would be back on his LON trip later in the day. No sooner had I rung off, when Hussey came back to say the ferry was on again. They had removed the Power Recovery Turbine (PRT) from the engine … now it fit and could be loaded.
Well, as you might expect, Mrs. Brandt wasn't overly thrilled when I rang and informed her to tell her husband to “come on down” again.
Brandt picked up the -4 at LGA and ferried it over to KIDL as I looked for a place to hide. It was still in the wee hours of the morning when I heard his boots pounding down the long hallway in the ramp shack at Hangar 5. However, I caught a break as he leaned through the window into the office and actually SMILED in spite of all the uncertainty.
Later, in the mid 70s, Jay and I met while changing planes in STL. The very first thing each of us thought of was that “non-routine” night some twenty years earlier.
I also had the good fortune to work with some of the wonderful folks whose names are synonymous with aviation history: George Gay, sole survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8 in the WWII Battle of Midway; Bob Buck; Hal Blackburn, famous for being the first post-war airline pilot to reach mandatory retirement age. Both The New Yorker Magazine and one of the TV networks did a profile in which Hal said, "He never wanted to be the "best" pilot, he just wanted to be the "oldest".
Rodger Morphett (1955-1990) served at IDL, LGA and BOS in a variety of positions including ramp service, station operations, City Manager, Planning & Controls, Standards, Transportation and Crew Scheduling.