Chapter 11 – Airplane On Ground (AOG)

Japan air wreck

Japan airline blown off runway in Anchorage

In December 1975 Japan airline had an accident at Anchorage Alaska. A 747 airplane was scheduled to take off for Tokyo, the weather was bad. It was windy and the taxi ways were covered with ice.

The captain was under the gun to get the flight off. Also he had to get the flight off by a certain time because it had to reach Tokyo before a certain time because late landings were not allowed because of noise.

The beleaguered pilot finally decided to go, but taxing out on the icy taxiway was a problem. The airplane wanted to weather cock into the wind. Finally the pilot shut down the engines, but the airplane blew off the taxiway and down into a ditch. There was major damage to the airplane but only two injuries. The pilot and ne passenger suffered back injuries.

It was determined that the airplane was fixable. Boeing got the job of fixing it which was done outside under miserable conditions.

I got the job of test flying the airplane after the fix.

The airplane was fixed by August 30th. The weather was good and I wasn’t worried about the test flight. The Boeing mechanics were good. However before the flight I was paid a visit by the mayor of Anchorage. He hemmed and hawed and it finally came out he didn’t want me to fly over town I might fall on it. I assured him I wouldn’t fly over town. I got my picture on the front page of the Anchorage paper. I was photographed as I looked over the airplane.

The test flight went fine and I got to see a lot of Alaska as I conducted the flight. The airplane reentered service in September and did fine. The Japanese send a letter of appreciation to Boeing and congratulations for a good job.

In 1977 I got to take another trip. This time to India. An air India pilot had stopped a take off run because of an engine malfunction and had run off the side of the runway. Quite a bit of damage was done to the 747. Again the Boeing AOG Group was called on to do the repair.

AOG (Airplane on Ground) is a group of engineers and mechanics who travel various places in the world to fix damaged airplanes. They work a lot of hours including a lot of overtime and make a lot of money and deserve it.

This time I got to go to New Delhi India to do the test flight. I arrived at New Delhi about midnight. It was hot (about 90 degrees) and the humidity was about 90%. The baggage came in on a conveyor belt and then was dumped on the floor. I found my bags in the big pile and found some transportation to the hotel.

The hotel was nice. Right beside a golf course. I didn’t play golf while there. I heard there were cobra snakes on the course. I did get to do some sight seeing before the airplane was ready. I got to see the Taj Mahal. It was about 50 miles south of New Delhi.
The manager of the Boeing AOG team arranged a tour for the participants including me.

The Taj was interesting. But even more interesting was a native nearby. Just north of the Taj was a wall. Down below the wall was a river and beside the river was a native giving everyone hell. I couldn’t understand, but some of the locals who could were amused.

On the way back to New Delhi I was amused by the driver. He would stick his hand out the window and move it like he was patting someone on the rear end when he wanted them to pass. Also on the way back we made a rest stop. When we get out of the van a man came out of the van a mane came out of the bushes with a basket of snakes. He got out his tootle horn and started tooting. Soon a cobra snake came out of the basket and started waving to the music. I contributed toward the entertainment even though I didn’t care much for it. There are a lot of snake charmers in India and I have heard the performing snakes have been defanged.

The Boeing AOG team got the airplane ready to fly and I flew it to Bombay which was only 2 or 3 hundred miles away. The airplane was to be refurbished by Air India in Bombay.

We had a few hours to spend at Bombay before our airplane departed toward home, so Air India provided us with a tour of Bombay. The tour vehicle had a sign posted next driver’s seat which said “The engine on this vehicle has just been overhauled so don’t drive over 45 mph”. As far as I could tell, the driver very seldom drove less than 45 mph during our tour.

On the tour we were shown several towers. The driver said dead bodies collected from the streets at night were piled on top of the towers to allow the buzzards to eat them during the day.

Bombay was crowded, in fact, all of India was crowded. I would not like to live in India.

Sometime in 1979 (I think) the airline in Tunis wrecked a 737 which the Boeing AOG team got to fix and I got to test fly.

There are three things I remember about this trip. Tunis is the place where Carthage existed 2000 years ago. Carthage was a thorn in the Roman’s side so the Romans sailed across the Mediterranean and annihilated them. South of Tunis is the Sahara Desert. So I flew over it on the test flight.

After the test flight one night we got to watch a belly dancer. She was amazing. She danced about an hour, then took a 30 minute break and danced some more. Her stamina was amazing. One other thing that amazed me was the ants that crawled out of my biscuit the next morning at breakfast.

Sometime in 1979, I got to take a trip to Honduras. The local airline had an accident. The pilot aborted the take off and ran off of the side of the runway damaging the airplane. The Boeing AOG team got the job of fixing the airplane and I got the job of test flying it after the repair.

I had been in Honduras before, so I knew the place. The runway (only one) ran west to east slightly downhill and was about 6000 ft long. At the east end was a cliff and down below the cliff was the town of Tegucigalpa. The runway was somewhat pock marked. I was told that the locals didn’t want to improve it and invite competition to the local airline.

The Boeing mechanics fixed the 737 and it flew ok. One of the first reversers didn’t work, but I got stopped ok on landing using only automatic medium braking.

After the test flight the airline chief pilot asked if I would recheck his pilots. I rechecked the pilots and passed them ok except the one who had damaged the airplane. I didn’t think he was ok and decided to give him another flight check. He passed ok. I then got to go back home which I did by taking the local airline to New Orleans and catching a flight on another airline to Seattle.

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