Chapter 9 – China

About 1978 the communist Chinese decided to get into international air travel so they ordered 10 Boeing 707 airplanes. It was good business for Boeing.

I got to deliver 2 of the airplanes as pilot. The route was to Anchorage Alaska with a stop there for refueling and then on to Shanghai China. We flew just south of the Com Chita Peninsula and then on over Japan.

We were very careful to avoid flying over the Com Chita Peninsula. The Russians were sensitive about flying over that area as came out later when they shot down a Korean Boeing 747 airplane which strayed into it.

Over Japan I found out about the jet stream. I flew several hours at a ground speed reduced by 150ks by the jet stream. I became concerned about fuel consumption. We were in clear air and I looked down and noticed that airplanes below us going in our direction were passing us, so I requested a lower altitude but got no results. Normally in airplanes you request a higher altitude to reduce fuel consumption.

We landed at Shanghai with plenty of fuel. The weather was ok but it was smoky. We used the ILS to find the runway.

Shanghai reminded me of Kansas City in the 1920’s, old buildings and lots of coal smoke. Looking at Shanghai now on TV, it is completely different – full of new buildings – even skyscrapers.

We were treated well in Shanghai – even like celebrities. When we went into department stores, they held the elevators for us. People would stare. We were a curiosity.

We were treated to tours including places where Chinese art objects were made.

Chairman Mao was still very much in control and in fact just recently purged one of his lieutenants and burned a bunch of books. I don’t know what that was all about. Something had upset him.

The workers were brainwashed. The clothing was drab – dark green or dapper blue. Lots of Mao jackets and Mao caps. I noticed one artisan at a gallery had a Mao cap with a Mao button on it. I thought maybe it was an award. He said no, that it showed his devotion to Chairman Mao.

We visited schools. The children were brainwashed too, singing the praises of Chairman Mao. There were very few automobiles running about, but lots of bicycles and pedestrians.

The next 707 I got to deliver to Beijing. Beijing was primitive also, but in a different way. It was more desert like and the buildings were more Oriental. There were still a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists and few automobiles. We were treated to several banquets which included the famous Peking duck. The feast started with the duck’s legs and worked its way up. The last course was the duck’s head split open. I passed on that. During the course of the banquet many toasts were proposed. The beverage for the toasts was a horrible Chinese alcoholic drink called Mautav(?). I think it was 200 proof. If you were wise, you only touched it to your lips, in fact one of the Chinese said only serious drinkers should down the toast. I brought a bottle home with me it is still around here somewhere unconsumed.

From Beijing we rode in a Russian jet to Canton. I was surprised how primitive the interior was. I’m not sure there was oxygen aboard for use in case of decompression. The flight attendants were not helpful and didn’t seem to know their duties. At the end of the flight I asked if I could view the cockpit. The answer was a firm NO.

Canton was interesting. We shopped and had a good Chinese dinner. From Canton we went by train to Hong Kong. Viewing the countryside from the train was interesting. The scenery was mostly farming with maybe some boating if we passed a river.

We arrived in Hong Kong and checked into the Peninsula Hotel. It was a swanky place with uniformed doormen and a Rolls Royce parked outside.

The thing to do in Hong Kong was to shop, especially for clothing. You could get a suit made in one day. I bought a suit and a pair of pants. The suit was too fancy. It was silky black and I felt like a gangster when I wore it. So I didn’t wear it much. The pants were too tight so I didn’t wear them either. I did buy a Seiko watch which was a success.

The first evening in Hong Kong Boeing held a dinner for a local airline which Malcolm Stamper hosted. I was late for the dinner because I was accompanied by Dick Taylor who was running late. Mr. Stamper was the CEO for Boeing Everett and I was worried my late arrival would be held against me.

After the trips to China I settled in for some production test flying on 747 airplanes.

About 1978 I got to go to Rome. The Italian airline, Al Italia, had a 747 which had to be rejuvenated. I was to go to Rome and test fly the airplane and then fly it to Wichita to be refurbished. I got to tour Rome for a few days while waiting for the 747 to be ready for flight.

I enjoyed touring Rome and got to see the Coliseum, The Fountain of Trevi, The Spanish Steps, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Vatican City, and many other places of interest. I also got to go to Pompeii. It was a good tour.

The airplane test flew ok, so we took off for Wichita.

The flight to Wichita was ok. The 747 has two rudders and two yaw dampers. On the flight one yaw damper acted up, so I shut it off. That settled things down. But I got a little worried about fuel. Rome to Wichita is a long way, but we made it ok.

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