Another Earlier Hercules
The picture of Howard Hughes's Hercules brought back memories to me. It was the summer of 1947 and my college roommate and myself had driven to California in a brand new 1947 Chevy automobile. It had 13 miles on the odometer when we began the trip. The trip itself could be subject of a yarn some day.
Any way my roommate got a job in a butcher shop, and I got a job as a Integral Wing Tank Sealer at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California. We were re lining the wing tanks of several US Naval Aviation C-54 Transport Aircraft. The C-54 had integral wing tanks, that is to say that a section of the wing was sealed off to be used as a gasoline tank by using Proseal 454, a grey latex rubber compound that dried to a black gummy rubber.
It was a great time for me and could be a great opportunity for yarns. How could I lack for subject material with The Constitution )The U. S. Navy's attempt for a large 4 engine transport sitting outside the hangar door, next to Howard Hughes' personal Super Constellation. Next to the airport fence sat The clipped wing North American P-51 Mustang belonging to Paul Mantz, who regularly won the Bendix Cross Country Air Race. The brand new F-80 Lockheed Jets on test flights got no notice, but when Tony Levier (Sp?) or "Fish" Salmon brought out their personal project the Goodyear Trophy racer "Cosmic Wind," the midget racer it cost Lockheed thousands of dollars of lost work time as employees stopped to watch the flight tests. Several A-26 aircraft also setting just outside the hangar door were being converted to high speed executive transports by The Superior Oil Company.
Sunday was my only day off, and my roommate and I used to go fishing at a Manhattan Beach, as best I recall. Any way one day I caught a large halibut and a large string of Bonita (tuna), and was really elated.
On the way back to Burbank we passed a small private Airport, and they had a fleet of new Aeronica "Champs" for rent. I grabbed the moment to rent a "Champ", and fly my roommate and myself back to the pier where we had caught so many fish as I looked at the charts I saw that Culver City was not too far away, so I decided to fly there and take a look at Howard Hughes's "Spruce Goose" which was in dry dock there.
I flew to Culver City and had no trouble finding the huge aircraft. I circled it a few times and headed back to the airport. I decided to have a little fun out of my roommate, by pretending to be lost. I appealed to him that I couldn't find the airport. (Actually we were on final approach.) He almost came unglued, and I said, "Oh look! There the airport is straight ahead."
Years later I brought up this flight, and kidded him about pretending to be afraid of being lost. Then the truth came out---------- Are you ready for this---------- sure!!!!
My friend who had made many parachute jumps in training and several more in combat conditions in the Pacific Theater, and had suffered Jap mortar shrapnel to head and shoulders, and finally even survived a burst from a "Burp gun" from one of his fellow Marines, when the Marines went GI and held a dress inspection in Manila, Philippines.
The jump was unopposed, and they immediately went "GI" and held a dress inspection. They called "Inspection Arms,' and when they called "Two", the Marine behind him who has a "Grease Gun" pulled the trigger to close the bolt, and since he had a full clip of ammo in the gun he shot my buddy several times. (They shipped the machine gunner out that night before his comrades could kill him.) My buddy survived, but was in the hospital for some time. He was discharged with 100% disability.
The aside above is in preparation for this--------- my friend had never landed in an airplane before, and was literally scared out of his skin!