was the spring of 1969 and I was dispatching a TWA 707-131B, N6722 (fleet number
6722) to LAX and MCI from what was then gate 54 in Pier B at San Francisco International.
I was on the dispatch cord and my friend Rene Champagne was in the push back
tug. "Ground to cockpit" I called. "Go ahead ground" came the reply. "You're
clear for hydraulic pressure and to begin start sequence 3-4-2-1" "Here's the
pressure and we're turning three" I could hear the start truck breathing hard
as the start valve opened but the engine wasn't turning. "Ground, we're showing
a pressure drop but no rotation" the cockpit called. I immediately called to
my friend to take over the headset and told him to go ahead and crank the rest
of the engines. I ran under the pier, grabbed a new starter from its box, popped
the cowling, loosened two clamps, dropped the old starter, installed the new
one and closed the cowling. We had another on-time departure. Sounds like a
real miracle, doesn't' it? Well, the truth be known, I knew that this new starter
was right there in front of me because the night before I had tried for more
than an hour to get it onto the gearbox of another JT3D on N748TW (fleet number
6748), no matter how I tried I just could not get it to fit so I ordered another
unit and left the old one at the gate. I had already serviced it with oil so
I knew I could bypass that step, stores department had not picked it up that
morning as they should have, everything just fell into place this time.
TWA Boeing 707 ready for take-off from SFO.
I'm no fool, I took full credit with management.
Of course, the union people asked "Who told you to change the starter, why didn't
you contact your lead mechanic?" but then I didn't see the Machinsits Union
name on the header of my paycheck. I always remembered how anxious I was for
engines to start when I was a kid in military school in the late fifties and
early sixties flying home from Nashville (BNA) to Louisville on American's DC6
flight 172. My duty was to the paying passengers, I made a decision to serve
them and stuck to it and never regreted it.