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Memories of flying the whale—Boeing 747

The more senior types had told me over the years that flying the seven four was just like flying a great big 707 and it was true. So, what’s it like to fly a great big 707? There are some interesting differences and they mostly had to do with the geometry of the airplane and its relation to Mother Earth.

Memories of flying the Boeing 727 “three holer”

There was no doubt you were flying a Boeing. It had that same “Mack truck feel” about it as the 707, but also like the 707 it was as sound and reliable as a US Dollar (in 1964). The cockpit and fuselage cross sections were the same as the 707 but that is where the similarity ended. Our first 727s, the dash 100s, grossed out at about a third of the 707-100’s weight but had two thirds of its thrust. Therefore, it was a little rocket by comparison.

Memories of flying the Convair 880

About everyone who flew the 880 fell in love with it because it was such a dream to hand fly. It did have a good autopilot and dual flight directors, and I think it was our first aircraft to receive approval for CAT II approaches. In my opinion it was the prettiest of the four engine jets.

Around the world in the “seven oh seven”

One of the first large, long range, intercontinental jet airliners to come on the scene in the late 1950s and early 60s was the Boeing 707. For TWA’s most senior pilots, moving from pistons to jets was the biggest transition since the change from visual to instrument flying in the 1930s. Several of our older captains opted to bypass the jets and finish their careers flying the Connie. The younger fellows, on the other hand, could hardly wait to jump into a jet!

Flying the “little” DC-9

The first DC-9s to come off the production line were the dash ten series, around 1965. TWA’s were officially DC-9-15s. The “little 9” was a real performer, with a max weight of only a little over 90,000 pounds and two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7s pushing it with a combined thrust of 28,000 pounds. Talking with a Mexicana pilot one day who also flew them, he said that they called it el raton super loco; loosely translated as “crazy mighty mouse.” And it really was.

Memories of flying the Connie

The first big airplane I ever flew was the Lockheed Constellation, affectionately known as the Connie. The Connie simulator was just a procedures trainer (no motion, no visual) so most of the flight training was done in the airplane. I confess I was scared to death! The biggest thing I had ever checked out in was the Piper PA-23 Apache.