Boeing had made an unsuccessful bid to build a large 4 engine transport (the C5). Although they were unsuccessful, the engineers felt it was a shame to waste the effort. They convinced management to design and build a commercial transport. Pan American was persuaded to order some – in fact about 10, at $25 million apiece. 10 years later a 747A would go for $125 million apiece.
The first flight of the 747 occurred in 1969. Deliveries began in 1970. There was a problem with the engines. They frequently stalled and had to be shut down. The deliveries should have stopped, but Boeing was in bad shape financially and might have gone bankrupt if it couldn’t deliver the airplanes.
With the help of Pan Am and a financing genius at Boeing, who got a good line of credit, Boeing survived and the 747 became a cash cow for Boeing.
I was transferred to Everett where the 747s were built. The building where they were built was amazing. Supposedly it was the largest covered area in the world (still is as of 2009, 40 years later). Boeing started the plant at the north edge of Paine airport. It had a suitable runway for the 747. Just north of the proposed plant, at the base of a cliff, was a rail line. Just north of the rail line was a ferry boat dock. Parts for the airplane could be shipped in by rail or by boat.
The plane was built in about a year and a half and 747 airplanes began to roll out.
The flight line mechanics had a lot of trouble getting the 747 airplanes ready for flight. The foremen would tell their bosses when the airplane would be ready for flight. The bosses would say it has to be sooner, so the schedule would change. But our flight engineers would cruise around the airplane and talk to the workers and tell us, the pilots, when the airplane would really be ready.
The first flight line bosses were not experienced and did not perform well. My boss, Sandy McMurray, talked to upper management and the flight line bosses were changed.
PHOTO Sandy MeMurray and Goodell. One of the first 747’s produced.
At first there were too many workers on the flight line. They had no place to roost, so people just walked around the flight line. This came about I think because some people thought if you had a problem, it could be overcome with bodies. There was a big problem at Everett – how to deliver the 747 airplanes that were accumulating on the ramp. Sometimes the poor mechanic trying to fix a problem was watched by several supervisors who only made things more difficult.
The first Pan Am acceptance pilot was Scott Flower. He was always accompanied by his bag man, Stan Sabalist. Scott had been the acceptance pilot on the Pan Am 707 program. He always started his acceptance flight with an ILS with a touch and go landing. If the airplane looked ok, he radioed Pan Am to accept the airplane and then continued on with the flight. Scott was a little gruff, but he knew what he was doing.
One of the problems was that a 747 was to be flown to Washington DC so the president’s wife could christen it. That had to be cancelled. T.Wilson was on his way back east to explain things when he suffered a heart attack and the flight he was on had to land in Spokane Washington. He went to the hospital and had surgery and had a pacemaker installed.
Various airlines presented various problems with their acceptance flights with the 747. The French flights were always difficult. For starters, they wouldn’t fly until late afternoon because it was then night time in Paris and they could log flight time and get more pay.
Sometimes they would get hooked on suspected problems. One time on one airplane they decided the braking was uneven on the left side versus the right side. It was hard to convince them otherwise. Out of exasperation the Boeing pilot slammed on the brakes during a slow taxi. This laid a patch of rubber and the left side patch was equal to the right side patch so they were convinced.
The Japanese were an interesting group. They were not a hard sell, but hard on the bladder. I usually went into training a day I was to fly with them by cutting down on my fluid intake. On their flight, the cockpit was full of people so it was hard to get out of my seat and go to the toilet. On one flight, the Japanese pilot asked to be excused for a few minutes to go to the toilet. He lost face. One of our pilots, Ed Hartz, was amazing. He could drink coffee and never had to go to the toilet.
The Japanese for Japan Airline arrived with about 10 participants and a ream of papers. Every detail to be checked on the flight was in the ream of papers. The pilots and flight engineer were not allowed to check everything. For example, on the flight an ADF station was overheated and one little guy in the cockpit watched the ADF needle swing, then he left the cockpit. It was a good excuse for him to get to go on a trip to Seattle.
The Japanese loved golf. Golf was cheaper in America. It was almost non-affordable in Japan. It cost $200 per round if you could get on a course.
On one Japan airline acceptance flight Ray McPherson was the Boeing scheduled pilot. The flight was scheduled for Saturday. Ray was a member of a golf country club and wanted to play golf that Saturday. I had the duty that Saturday so I told Ray to go golf and if the airplane got ready, I would take the flight. It looked doubtful that the airplane would be ready.
The Japanese crew arrived and their head man asked about Mr. McPherson. I said he was playing golf. Before I could explain, the head man said “What? I’m supposed to tell the head of Japan Airline that fright is cancelled because pilot pray gorf?!!” The Japanese got their R’s and L’s mixed up.
I told the Japan rep that the airplane scheduled that day was probably not going to be ready, but if it was, I would substitute for Mr. McPherson.
Many airlines had technical pilots who decided what the instrumentation (flight instruments) would be like. Pan Am had Scott Flower. TWA had Gordy Granger. They had totally different personalities and their chosen instrumentation was totally different.
Scott stuck with conventional instruments, separate dial with numbers. Gordy went with the new vertical tapes which relied on comparison to detect malfunctions. One weird thing he selected was an announcement for the airplanes arrival over the outer marker during an ILS approach. The conventional announcement was a light on the ILS instrument. Gordy’s announcement was a snake like head that came up out of the bottom of the instrument with an eye that blinked at the pilot. It was fascinating, but maybe too distracting.
Gordy had an eye for the women. I heard from a reliable source that one night at a party at the top of the Space Needle, he was attracted to a waitress. The waitresses wore gold Lemay long slacks which made their rear ends attractive. Gordy patted one who apparently didn’t appreciate it, but acted like she did. She led him to the door outside and said she would be out shortly. Gordy went out and the door was shut and locked by the waitress. After being out for some time and not getting help from the inside, Gordy climbed down the outside ladder. The Space Needle is 600 feet high.