Page 2 6/24/45
Now for Ced’s quarterly statement. After the expected apology and the discovery that he can forecast the weather in Connecticut by telling us two weeks before we get it what is happening in Anchorage, quite overlooking the fact that if he writes only once in two or three months the information will be a bit late when received here. However, we’ll let that pass. They have had trouble securing competent help (as who hasn’t) leaving him with much work to do alone. Just as they thought they had things in hand, trouble started.
First the Travelair landing gear, then pilot and copilot of the Boeing took off for Juneau one morning. “10 minutes later the radio operator, Chuck, and I were eating breakfast over at the airport café when someone behind us said “Surprise”. It was the pilot himself and a ghost wouldn’t have been more disconcerting. It seems he had just gotten headed for Juneau when both engines stalled simultaneously. By switching gas tanks and manipulating throttles he was able to get the engines going again. There were some 5 gallons of water in the tank when we drained it. Water had apparently leaked under the gasket in a new funnel and we had used a hose which had lain idle for over a month, which had apparently been a full of water. No harm was done other than a scare and lost time. That was Friday.
On Sunday the same two started for Naknek, got to Kenai when the right engine went sour. They returned to Anchorage on the left engine. Trouble – cracked cylinder head.
On Tuesday the same two, returning from the regular run to Juneau, when about 10 minutes out from here and about 6000 feet up, they noticed a smell. A radio operator was watching their approach and listening to their request on the radio for clearance to land. They saw what appeared to be the landing light turned on for a few seconds. A minute later the pilot reported he was in serious trouble and to stand by for an emergency landing. Suddenly the right engine burst into furious flame and while the copilot turned on the fire extinguisher, Ernie prepared for a crash landing at Turnagin Arm. He dove from 6000 to 2000 feet in the time it took the fire to go out (thank the Lord). In the meantime, he had opened the passenger door and told all passengers to fasten on their safety belts. He was afraid they would either panic and start jumping out the door or come forward and try to get into the pilot’s compartment. However, they behaved beautifully, the fire was out and at 2000 feet the pilot was set for a dunking in the Arm with all on board, right engine inoperative, when he suddenly realized the ship might limp into the field. He leveled off and started to strain the left engine to pull into the field. Landing was made without further mishap to the relief of all concerned. Incidentally, I would fly anywhere with these two. They show excellent presence of mind and judgment. The fire burning less than a minute nevertheless did terrific damage under the cowling. The main gas line, due to defective installation at L.A., had broken and had spewed high test aviation gas directly out of the pressure pump into the open engine nacele at the probable rate of more than 2 gallons per minute, some of which had undoubtedly run out under the bottom of the wint. (A nacelle, in case you haven’t a dictionary handy, is the covered seat for the pilot of a plane).
I’ll continue Ced’s letter tomorrow. On Monday, we’ll travel back in time to 1941, when Lad has returned from Venezuela, Dan, Ced and Dick are all in Alaska, and Dave is keeping Grandpa company in Trumbull.