after Central Airlines transferred me from GSW to MKC I was working the midnight
shift at the Quonset hut hangar on the southwest end of MKC., it bore a large
1960s Continental logo for years. We did a check on a DC3 or C47 every weekday
night. I had the great honor of working the left engine. New guys always got
the engines. It was filthy, hard work. I had to desludge the propeller dome,
clean the oil filters, boroscope the cylinders, change the spark plugs, rebush
the cowl flaps, grind out cooling fin cracks, clean the engine and accessory
section, all in six hours by myself. I was always sleepy, had no blackout curtains
or air conditioning at home. I would fall down the propeller gap in the work
stand twice a week because it was so slippery, when I would get home and sit
on the toilet Iwould leave a black, oily ring. My new bride was not impressed.
To make matters worse I had befriended a black man, the janitor, and I gave
him a ride to and from work. Because of that I was hated but I didn't care,
I had, and still have, my principles.
MKC was, and in my opinion still is, a very dangerous
airport. The runway is short, around 6990 feet, with no overruns or any chance
for error. The north end has a severe drop-off into a river, the runway slopes
to the south end where there is a flood wall about twelve feet high. When you
made an approach from the south you flew a curved approach between buildings.
I remember many a time looking up at The Kansas City Screw Company's brick facade.
Landing from the north you had to clear a high hilltop and then dive. Under
the best of conditions it sucks.
The morning of 05 July 1965 at 5:00AM CDT we were all assembled around a catering
truck on the south side of the hangar . There was a severe thunderstorm in the
area and all flights were landing ILS from the north. A TWA CV880 operating
as flight 124 from SFO to STL, SDF and beyond landed and ran its nose gear off
into the mud. The captain applied full reverse, freed the nose wheel and turned
left to the terminal. Seconds later a Continental 707-124 operating from LAX
to ORD with a stop at MKC touched down with less than 1500 feet of runway left,
there was a short burst of reverse power and all engines were shut down, rotating
beacons went dark. First it hit a secondary mound between the flood wall and
access road and bounced into the air. Engines 1,2, and 3 broke off at the wing,
the engines and pylons turning several turns in the air. The sound of impact
was like a large flat rock being dropped into soft mud, then the airplane came
down with the nose on the flood wall, the tail on the mound with a loud oil-canning
Continental Airlines Boeing 707-124 rests on the grass
shortly after the accident.
Then there was total silence. We stood in shock.
Soon, my fellow workers began grabbing first aid kits and blankets while I grabbed
my Camera. No one was killed although a woman did die ten or so days later as
a result. There was no fire. Suddenly we all felt very vulnerable. All of us
went home that morning feeling a little happier that we were alive.