CAPITAL/UNITED AIR LINES Air Line Pilot and weather radar instructor
Spent a couple of years designing positive and counter intelligence electronics
in Washington, DC. My fun flying machine kept on a grass strip behind my home
at Miskel Farm near Sterling, Virginia was an old beat up 1941 Piper Coupe
which was really a Piper J-3 Cub with a wider front seat that sat two side by side
rather than two in tandem like the J-3. My hobby was designing and building
scintillometers which allowed me to do some uranium prospecting from the air
around nearby Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. About all I discovered
were a number of old Civil War iron mines which had low level radioactive traces
from the waste. Gram was pregnant with our first son, Tad.
Missing regular flying I then joined Capital Air Lines as a copilot. After a week's
ground school and two hours of flying DC-3s I was the junior pilot on the airline.
EVERYTHING is done by seniority on an air line. As such, though National Airport
in Washington, DC was my home base, I was temporarily assigned Detroit, then
Pittsburgh and finally back to Washington. A few months later I was checked out
as copilot on a DC-4 and temporarily assigned to New Orleans flying to New York
Capital Air Lines was expanding at a furious rate. A few months later I was checked
out in the Lockheed 749 Constellation which was a real pilot's airplane. We left
Washington National Airport at 7:00 pm, had dinner in Miami around 11:00 pm
and went for a swim. Then I flew back to Washington National Airport arriving at
dawn. Just for fun I used to carry an old Air Force sextant with me since the
direct route took us about 150 miles out over the ocean where we ran out of
Visual Omni Range (VOR), navigation coverage. My celestial fixes were about plus
or minus 15 miles and no help whatsoever, but fun nevertheless since the Constellation
had a large astrodome right behind the pilots' seats for celestial sights.
A few months later our new Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft with Bendix
"C" band weather radars began arriving from England. I checked out in them
shortly and began flying almost every route in the entire system. Capital Air
Line's expansion was so rapid that in 1958 I was promoted to DC-3 Captain
and was the system's number one senior copilot too. Since I was running an electronics
R & D business at the same time I chose to bid the monthly number one most
desirable Viscount copilot trip which I always won. We departed Washington
National Airport at 7:00 pm. Had dinner in Minneapolis and arrived back in
Washington just before dawn. The Viscount was the best multi-engined aircraft
I have ever flown. On a cold winter day in Minneapolis we would climb out at 6,000
feet per minute with a full load of passengers and fuel . Often on ferry trips we would
fly at 30,000 feet altitude.
The senior flight captains I was flying with had considerable trouble using
the new Bendix "C" band weather radars on our Viscounts effectively. I used
to explain to them how to operate it. After a while the senior captains told
Capital Air Line's management about my expertise so I was removed from line
flying for 6 months and gave a three one day weather radar "how to" lecture at EVERY pilot base on
the entire airline system before returning to line flying.
During the early 1960's Capital Air Lines and United Air Lines merged and became the
largest air line in the U.S. Pilot's seniority numbers, determined by date of hire, upped
mine from 500 out of a 1000 pilots to about 1500 out of 4500 pilots.
After about 7000 hours of air line flying I decided to return to the electronics
engineering profession. By this time I was a Senior member of the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers due to my hobby of high power VHF and UHF
transmitter design and development. I was also a consultant to the National
Security Agency (NSA), on high power VHF/UHF transmitter design. My previous
Atomic Energy Commission "Q" clearance got me cleared immediately.