in 1972 I was working as a maintenance foreman for TWA at the Ice Palace (American
hangar a.k.a Superbay) at SFO. We had given this hangar that name because like
Candlestick Park it sat out on the edge of San Francisco Bay and was always
very cold. It could be 75 Degrees F at the terminal but 45 degrees F at the
Ice Palace. It was just after 10:00PM and I was outside checking a layover aircraft's
logbook. As I walked back to the hangar an American Airlines mechanic ran up
to me and said, "Hey Buddy, you got an airplane in the bay". Sure", I answered
with a smug grin. "No, I'm not kidding" he said.
The broken fuselage of the TWA Boeing 707 rests in the shallow waters of San
Francisco Bay after the accident.
While I walked through the hangar trying to act casual and
unconcerned, I had visions of a hundred or so dead passengers but still had
the hope that the American mechanic was just joking. Opening the pedestrian
door on the south side of the hangar I was shocked to see the tail of a 707-331C
sticking out of the water. It was just off the end of 1R, having wiped out some
of the 19L approach lights. The fuselage was broken across section 43 and the
three cockpit members were sitting side by side on top of the cockpit looking
like those innocent monkeys in the see no evil, speak no evil, do no evil pictures.
I grabbed my radio and called "Groves to Station Four, Mayday". "Go ahead Groves,
what's so important?" came the reply from George Hennigh, the foreman in charge
at the hangar next to the US 101 Freeway. "George, flight 604 is in the bay.
We need rescue equipment" I said. "Damn you Groves, we don't need another one
of your @#%*# tricks", George yelled. "I'm serious, plane 5712 is in the water
and the crew is on top of the cockpit". Well, this was just the beginning of
months of troubles. The airplane was eventually moved into the Ice Palace taking
valuable space where we usually worked a 747. It stayed there for months. Fifty
barrels of WD40 were used to try to preserve parts. Guns being smuggled to the
IRA were found in the cargo, we had FBI, FAA and several people from New York
headquarters swarming all over the place. Worst of all, in a typical 605 Third
Avenue (Headquarters) fashion, we were instructed to never again call that hangar
The Ice Palace, it was to be known as "The Superbay" eliminating a problem by
changing its name.