Klausrl’s Weblog

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

Old PDX stories. Hopefully statute of limitations applies.

Where does one start with airport stories?

I guess with the ones I know to be true, as I was there.

There is the saga of Pacific Express. A start up carrier out of Chico, California. They made an early mistake by saving money on BAC-111 aircraft. They got a good deal on these planes, but the fuel consumption was very high for the planes. The BAC-111 held 70 passengers on a good day, and had to compete with Hughes Air West DC-9 that could carry much more. Fuel load PDX to Boise, Idaho for both place was pretty much the same. Also support for the BAC-111 was not as easy to get, on the west coast.

Then there was the ground staff. Let me first explain that working the ramp for an airline, is the dirty side of the business. Hot in the summer, unbearably cold in winter, dusty, oily, and noisy. Somebody, I’m guessing male and lonely, hired a bunch of girls that looked more like a cheer-leading squad than a ramp crew.
The second day of operation we got a panic-ed call in the office that something was wrong with the plane. The toilets were backed up.
Well I happen to be free, so I got the pleasure of looking into the problem. I grabbed the lavatory service truck and headed over there. Walked upstairs, and asked the cabin crew, when the holding tanks where dumped last. Nobody knew that you had to dump the toilets at the end of the day, and these planes hadn’t been emptied since Pacific had bought them. I took care of the problem, and the office called their main office in Chico to set up regular service.
For some months we supplied push back, that is the pushing of the plane away from the terminal, so they can taxi. Well they got a tow bar hook for their biggest bag tug, and decided that the girls could do this, saving the cost of having the Lockheed crew do it.
Well the first day, the all girl crew sent the overnight plane on it’s way to Boise with the gear pins in place. Crew actually flew the trip like that, flying low, and burning a whole bunch extra fuel. Second push back ran the right wing tip into a parked Northwest Airlines bag pod, knocking it off the cart it was sitting on. About a foot of wing tip was bent. The Co-Pilot came out through the back stairs, looked the damage over, and took off for San Fransisco.
Over a couple years there where other disturbing things about Pacific Express: Pilots that smelled a bit like they had closed the bar the night before, and one February morning while waiting in there operations for the fuel load for the first departure, hearing the Pilot phone a list of no-go items to a mechanic in Chico, so that they could be looked at later that day. That plane then flew to San Fransisco with one radio, and no anti ice for the windshield, and a full load of passengers. I always thought it was a good thing for the pilot to be able to see where he was going.
Late in the life of Pacific Express they got hold of a couple Boeing 737s, but it was too little too late and a few years after they started Pacific Express closed their doors.
Could have been worse, they did make it through those years, without killing anybody, but I don’t know why.

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April 29, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments