Chapter 3 – Production Flight Test

1962 Production Flight Test

Top Row: Hank Probst, HG Buffington, Wall, Clayton Scott (Scotty), Bill Spence
Bottom Row: Doc Salisbury, Ed Hartz, Ed Hubbel, Sandy McMurray, Les Bish, Jim Goodell

After getting back to Seattle, I worked in Production Flight Test and became acquainted with Scotty Clayton. Scotty was in charge of Production Flight Test. He had been Bill Boeing’s personal pilot for several years. He had met Mr Boeing in Alaska while Boeing was vacationing on his yacht and Scotty was beating the bushes for work with his floatplane. They liked each other (Scotty was a strict boss and enjoyed torturing people a bit.) so Boeing made Scotty a job offer he couldn’t resist–Boeing’s personal pilot.

Scotty later went to work for the Boeing Airplane Company and served as Production Test Pilot during World War 2.

The Production Test Office was in Seattle. Scotty had a business at the Renton Airport. He would very often go to Renton for a couple of hours and then return to Boeing. One day he left and while he was gone, those of us in the office decided to play hooky and go down to the coffee wagon for a “cup of joe”. We were only supposed to do this at the regularly scheduled coffee break. We were way too early. Someone spotted Scotty’s car coming back. The alarm went out and we scrambled to hide our coffee. I hid mine in a drawer and closed the drawer.

Max Shinn, one of the culprits, did not properly conceal his coffee. He put it on a shelf on his desk. It was too visible. Scotty came in, stood by Max’s desk and began a friendly conversation that lasted for over a half an hour. He finally said “Max, you should have drunk your coffee. It’s probably cold now”.

In 1965 Boeing rented a 727 airplane to Iran Airlines. Several Flight Engineers and Pilots, including me, were also rented. Iran flew to and from Europe for their main business. The route to Europe went Beirut, Rome, Geneva, Frankfurt, and Hamburg and back to Tehran in reverse order. The leg from Frankfurt to Hamburg went empty of passengers. The Hamburg stop was for maintenance. After a day layover in Hamburg the return trip was made.

After about 2 weeks I got extremely sick . I spent an hour on the toilet and had a bad pain in the stomach. The pain was so bad I was hoping to die. The problem was the hotel’s ice maker broke down so they bought some ice downtown which was contaminated. Several people at the hotel, including a Pan Am flight crew got sick. They had to be replaced at Beirut, the first leg of their journey back to the US. I lost 10 pounds from my illness and lived on rice and tea for a week. That was all I could stand to eat.

After returning home from Iran and getting well again, I was assigned to British West Indies Airline. They operated out of Miami down the island chain to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbados to Trinidad. I flew on one trip down and back. With all the stops it was a long day. The hotel at Trinidad was different. It was built on the side of a cliff. You went in at the top, and took the elevator down to your room. On the way back at the Barbados stop, all of the passengers bought cheap booze. You could get 5 bottles of just about anything for $5. It was tax free.

The BWI pilots were not good on instrument flying because they flew in good weather all of the time. I don’t think any of them had ever done an ILS. They had to learn how to do that to pass their FAA check ride in the 727.

Staying in Miami was fun. It was spring when I was there, so it didn’t get too hot. I enjoyed golfing, going to the Jai Alai games and eating good seafood. The Jai Alai games allowed betting. There were teams to be on or individual players. I think I did a little better than break-even. There were horse races also, but I lost money on those.

After the BWI program, I was assigned to the JAL program. This involved getting a Japanese license. I had to take a physical provided by the Japanese and pass a Japanese flight test.

The flight training was done in San Francisco. I instructed some pilots and co-pilots. The Japanese were good students and respected their instructor. We generally flew the 727A out of San Francisco to Stockton and did a lot of landings. The Japanese students had to pass a JCAB check ride. My students did ok except one unlucky one. I think the Japanese decided he wasn’t going to pass no matter what. Apparently, he had done something in the past they didn’t like.

The check ride started with air work. That started with a 360 degree turn. This unlucky student did one which I thought was ok. I looked back at the JCAB official who sat behind the student.. After the 360 turn I looked back at the JCAB official and smiled and held my thumb up signaling I thought the turn was ok. He frowned and held his thumb down. After several 360 turns which got worse, the check ride continued, but it was not good. It didn’t go well; the student’s morale had been destroyed.

The tour in San Francisco had some side benefits. I got to do some night clubbing and some golfing.The night clubbing included a night at the Top of the Mark, and a club which held a New Years Party every night and a place called Bocce Ball where opera singers came after work and put on free concerts. The golfing included one course which was east of the airport and under the airport landing traffic. If that noise wasn’t enough, the course was less than a mile from the highway traffic. Every once and a while the golfers were treated to the noise of a traffic crash.

Before the finish of the JAL program, I was called to Dix Loesch office in Seattle. Dix told me that Scotty was retiring and that Sandy McMurray was taking his place. Dix said Sandy wanted some help and asked if I was interested. I talked to Sandy and he said he would make me his assistant chief if I would take the job. I said yes. I liked flight crew training, but being away from home a month at a time was hard on family life.

Boeing was building, testing and delivering 707 and 727 airplanes at the time. Boeing was building the 747 airplane at the new Everett plant, The 747 was expected to have its first flight in 1969 and start delivering the 1970.

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