Availability Of GSE (And An Explanation) Always Matters

Always inform your customers of what is going on even when you are at fault.


Great job on the quick turn for us. But there was no catering in Spokane. Our last dinner on the way to Chicago was rice in white sauce with cut-up bits of ham eaten with plastic spoons off paper plates. Some were considering the Donner Pass solution, if the trip lasted any longer. Total delay: 16 hours. Infuriating part: Being off schedule, freight had priority.

GLASS HOUSE

Having lived in the glass house of passenger airline service, I throw no rocks at Amtrak.

I’ve been involved in my time with some real screw-ups – the only polite way to put it.

For several years, for example, Eastern had chartered a plane to a group of lawyers for their convention. One year the group was larger than ever, and we were to use one of our leased B747-100s. We had already managed to have delays in the two preceding years and Frank Borman was eager to show we could do it this time.

Well, it all rolls downhill and my Tech Group was told to focus on that one departure. After an overnight at JFK, the plane was looked at, checked, double-checked, re-checked and double-re-checked. As far as we could see, it was ready to go.

Having finally gotten loading bridges around this time, we could not see the lawyers getting on board. About all I could do was cross my fingers as it was pushed back. The number three engine began to wind up and, at the appropriate speed, they opened the HP cock – and a large fuel line in the pylon split-open as evidenced by a cascade flowing down and over the engine.

We had maintained our record for the third year in a row. As it turned out, we wouldn’t get a fourth! Col. Borman was not amused, but versed in the vagaries of rockets and planes, he still understood.

While difficulties involving passengers are bad enough, I’ve also had trouble in the middle of the night. We had rented a crane at double-time for night work, and we were all set to lift an engine off a truck.

The hook, however, wouldn’t fit into the engine sling, and we needed a shackle to link them. Even after all these years, I’m still embarrassed to think of this. The Port Authority policeman found it hard to adjust to the fact that at 2 a.m., the Eastern maintenance manager at EWR was apparently pilfering a shackle off a construction crane from the top of a van being driven by the Eastern stores supervisor.

After some pleading he allowed me to take it, escorted us back to the gate where we were swapping engines and then escorted me back to ensure I returned the piece to the crane. He was a good guy and understood why after I showed him the rental rates for a crane.

Anyway, the moral of the story is to always inform your customers of what is going on, especially when you are at fault. Make sure the facts are accurate, and you may even beat an arrest.

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