Klausrl’s Weblog

The World according to Richard Klaus..Trains, Planes, Cars, Wales,Scotland.

Two coolest takeoffs I every saw.

In the days before the end of Eastern Airlines, at the hands of Texas Air Group, I happen to push out a retirement flight.
The pilot was taking his last fight, from Portland back to Miami. 7 AM departure, non stop back to Miami and he was done. Well not exactly, as he was planning to buy a flying boat, move to the Dominican Republic, and fly tourists around.
In any case, we said our goodbyes in operations, I fueled the Airbus A-300, and got ready to push the big bird out.
When the Pilot called for push, the tower surprised us.
Tower :” All aircraft hold your position Eastern has the airport. Taxi, runway, and departure are at pilot’s discression. Eastern, pick your runway.”
The pilot picked 21. This is very unusual, the normal departure runway being 10 left putting the plane on a heading to the east. 21 heads south over the city, and he wanted to see Portland from the air once more.
I pushed the Airbus back, turning the tail to the south as I went, this put him in position to taxi to the north end of 21, without making any tight turns.
Now runway 21 is kind of on the short side, about 7000 feet long, so the big Airbus was going to use every dimes worth of pavment.
While he was taxing to the end of the runway, two of our big fire trucks pulled onto 10 right on the east and west side of the interesction with 21.
As the Airbus lined up, back to the Columbia River and Marine Drive, both fire trucks started an arch of water shooting over runway 21.
As the Airbus crossed the intersection it ran under an arch of water, just before rotation.
Pretty cool for a last flight.

The other one was a United 747, or I should say two, the first setting the need for the second.
Portland has two primary runways, 10 left and 10 right, also of course 28 left and right when you’re landing from the east. While 10 right is huge, 11,000 feet long, 10 left is somewhat shorter about 8,000 feet.
Well, United was running a 747 to Tokyo, and it came time to resurface 10 right/28 left.
The first week 28 Left was unusable the 747 used 28 right. Well a 747 with a large passenger load, a lot of freight, and 336,000 pounds of fuel, weighs quite a lot. Actually it weighs so much that the mains used a bit of the overrun before the plane got into the air. Ron Reese and I were both headed for our fuel trucks, we thought we where going to be helping find people from this one. The 747 did clear the dike and slowly climbed out over the Columbia River, and headed for Japan.
The next week when the time came for the Tokyo trip, the construction equipment was pulled from 28 left, and the runway opened for this one takeoff. I got on the radio to the other ramp workers, and told anybody that could get away “You got to see this, is goinna be great.”
The United 747 made the long taxi to the east end of 28 left, and turned it’s tail to 82nd Ave.
Mind you, this runway has had dump trucks and bulldozers running up and down it for a week. It was checked and any rocks removed, but still covered with dust.
As the throttles were run up, the area around 82nd Ave disappeared behind a 700 foot tall cloud of dust. As the 400 ton plane rolled down the dust covered runway, the Air Force Reserve base was hidden by the cloud.
When the plane was moving fast enough to generate some lift, two tornadoes formed at the wing tips, then on rotation all the thrust of the four engines blew the runway clean.
It took about 15 minutes for the dust to settle.
The one thing I regret is not having a camera with me that day.


May 17, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Towing a plane in fog.

Yes finally another airport story.

Portland International Airport gets fog. Not the slow on the freeway to 45 mph fog, but real can’t see ten feet fog.

Some years ago, about 1983. Ron Roades and I when across the airport to bring an Eastern Airlines 727 back to the gate.

Eastern had limited space at Portland and the early overnight plane was moved to the west end of the field, so a later trip could use the gate.

About midnight, after I’d pushed out the A-300 on the red-eye to Miami, Ron and I headed over to get the 727 for the morning departure. In fog so dense we could not see the edges of the taxi-way we followed the old center-line. This taxi-way had been a runway back in the early days of PDX. Now unable to see any landmarks, suddenly the bulk of an Eastern 727 takes form out of the fog.

I put the tug alongside the front passenger door of the 727, and Ron climbed to the roof of the tug to get into the plane. Ron’s part of this job was to start the APU (auxiliary power unit) release the parking brake, and be there in case the tow bar was to break. It has happened, and the last thing you want, is a plane wandering of unmanned. We switched of on this job, and I got to say. Powering up an Airliner, and sitting in the pilots seat while the plane is towed, is a pretty cool part of the job.

Anyway. I got the tug hooked to the plane, and Ron got the lights going, and ready to move.

The turn at the end of this taxi-way is huge, I’ve park a couple 747s, an L-1011, and a DC-10 in there at the same time. The fog was so thick, we couldn’t see the marker lights on the plane we were towing. But head for the terminal we did. Or at least we thought.

Staring through the fog, I picked up the center line, and headed along the taxi-way.

After a couple minutes, I saw a row of bright red lights in the pavement, across my path. I’d never seen these before. Time for the radio.

Me “Lockheed tow, Portland ground”

Tower “Go ahead Lockheed tow.”

Me “Lockheed tow, ground…I think we’re not in Kansas any more.”

Tower “Come again.”

Me “Can you spot me on the ground radar.”

Tower “I don’t think I can spot a tug on the ground radar.”

Me “OK, how about the Eastern 727 I’m towing?”

Tower “OH is that you?”

Me “Yeah, left the holding area at the tank farm, I think I picked up the wrong center line in the fog.”

Tower ” Yep, your about to run onto 10 right.”

Me “That would be bad.”

Tower “Well…The fog is so thick that there’s nobody in flight….Go ahead onto 10 right pick up the center line and I’ll tell you when to turn left, back to the terminal”.

Me “Lockeed tow, thank you.”

I slowly moved out onto the runway and found the center, a line of bright white lights, imbedded in the pavement. I followed those lights about a minute:

Tower “Lockheed tow, you should see a left coming up. That will take you back to the terminal.

Me “Got it thank you ground.”

The rest of the tow went well.

There have been times when the tower has called me to go find a plane that landed but couldn’t taxi. Notably several times Fed Ex 727s could get on the ground in Portland, but the fog was so thick they couldn’t see to taxi. So I’d drive my fuel truck out to the end of the runway, find the Fed Ex and lead them back to there ramp.

I suspect that some of these procedures are not in the book. But sometimes you got to make it up as you go.

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment