This is a continuation of an interview with Bill English on March 29, 2012 by Leslie McCartney at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Syd Stealey is also present during the interview. In this second part of a two part interview, Bill continues to talk about his career as a pilot, including flying overseas, and his work as a pilot trainer and FAA pilot certifier.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Pioneer Aviators
Date of Interview: Mar 29, 2012
Narrator(s): Bill English
Interviewer(s): Leslie McCartney
Videographer: Robyn Russell
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
People Present: Sydnor Stealey
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Flying the first F-27 airplane for Wien Airlines
Flying in Kuwait for an oil clean up operation
Living in Kuwait and interacting with people
Burning oil fields
Oil clean up and going to Saudi Arabia
Flying in Russia and interacting with people
Incident in Jordan
Retirement from flying
Teaching pilots to fly 737 jetes
Flying 737 jets for Wien Airlines
Still flying his personal airplane after retirement
Love of flying small airplanes versus the jets
Flying with Bob Kimball
Flying in volcanic ash and polluted air
Being a FAA check pilot, and learning to deal with a stall in a DC-3
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Okay. So we're back with Bill English and I'm Leslie McCartney and we have Syd in the room and also Robyn Russell doing our recording.
So thanks for that last story. That was really a nail biter.
We were just mentioning when we there, Syd, you were talking about the F-27’s and what was --
SYDNOR STEALEY: Wien -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Wien’s? SYDNOR STEALEY: -- studied it for a long time before deciding to invest.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, okay. Can you tell us about that, Bill?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, since I was fairly good in math all through my education, George Rayburn, who was head of that department of the financing, he put me in charge of --
of how Wien would benefit from having an F-27 and the costs and expenses.
And so he took me down to Denver to visit with the bankers who would be financing the F-27.
And that kinda gave me an in for, I guess, being the first one to fly the F-27 for Wien.
So they sent me back to the factory in Maryland where I got a little training. But when we went out to take a check ride, I flew the airplane around and the inspector sat back talking to somebody I don’t know. And at the end of the ride he gave me my ticket and that was it.
Then the next day or two we started back to Fairbanks. First we landed in, I think it was Ely, Minnesota where the Wien family lived. Because Sig was on board and he wanted to visit family.
Dick King, our chief pilot, flew as my co-pilot. He didn’t get any training on the F-27, so I -- actually I really didn’t either, but I was the one that got checked out.
And so that's the way we made the trip back to Fairbanks. Picked up a load of people along the way. But Syd mentioned my subsequent flying. I had to retire at age 60.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Did you?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, in -- in scheduled air carrier flying the airlines we had to retire at 60.
Then I moved in to -- I was the -- I -- well -- was operations manager for MarkAir. You’ve heard of them.
But after that I -- a fellow approached me that had a four engine Lockheed JetStar.
It's a small jet with four engines. And he wanted to sell it to an organization named Martec.
Don Tisdall owned it. And he was in the oil cleanup business. Anyway, he brought Don to Fairbanks. He lived in Anchorage and we flew up around Mt. McKinley and whatnot. And by the time we get back -- got back, Don bought the airplane. And he wanted me to fly it.
Well, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do that, but I finally ended up flying for him, but there was -- well, part of my career which I remember because our -- he -- he -- Don got a contract over in -- in Kuwait after the Gulf War.
There was a huge cleanup for the oil that was -- and so we flew into Kuwait. And first we had to go to Iqaluit in -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Iqaluit --
BILL ENGLISH: In Canada. Oh, you're familiar with Iqaluit -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Iqaluit
BILL ENGLISH: Oh, yeah. And then to Iceland from there. And Iceland into London. And on down to Athens and across -- but flying across Syria -- I remember flying across France.
France -- they had to talk English, but they talked English with a French accent. And it made it very difficult to understand them. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
BILL ENGLISH: And they did it deliberately I understand, in talking to other -- other pilots flying.
I guess the French didn’t like having to use English and they sure certainly showed it.
When we had to ask them to repeat several times, you know. Whenever you received a clearance from them, if you didn’t understand it you had to get it again to try to understand what they really wanted you to do.
But the reason I tell you that is the best managed nation from the ground that we talked to -- guess who? Syria.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Really?
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. They were clear, precise, and they knew what they were doing. Yeah.
And that stood out on the trip.
So we flew over Syria and on into Kuwait along the southern edge of Iraq.
And when we landed in Kuwait City, we'd been flying through the clouds.
The wings were covered with oil. That oil was in the clouds, there was so much of it.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Well, during -- wasn’t that during the war when they literally set them on fire or some of the oil wells on purpose --
BILL ENGLISH: Well, I was going to get to that. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Okay, oh, sorry. Jumped ahead.
BILL ENGLISH: And so while we were in Kuwait we stayed in a hotel that was bombed. Or a bomb was set off on the top floors, which you weren’t supposed to get into, but we were there quite a while in that hotel.
And the only other people who were staying there were the Kuwaiti’s. And the Kuwaiti’s didn’t do anything.
They just -- they were, you know, heavy set. They liked to eat. So we had all these grand meals eating in their -- in their -- well, you wouldn’t call it a dining -- it was a dining room not a restaurant.
Loaded with all kinds of food and, of course, we weren’t supposed to go up to inspect the bomb area, but we did and see what was going on.
And there are -- we went down to the -- walked around quite a bit, but they were pretty restricted because they didn’t know what the Iraqi’s had mined so --
And there -- one day we went down to the wharf and there were boats coming in from Iran with food supplies and they -- what they -- I don’t know -- I forgot what they call those boats.
They were old and quite a few, but they all -- they didn’t have any machinery to offload. They just had to it by hand. So going down there and watching these people was kind of interesting offloading the stuff.
And everybody was reluctant, but I got to talking with some of those guys from Iran and I asked one of them, well, would you -- you know, Iran is just across the gulf there.
I asked one of them, I said would you take me over with you on one of these trips? And they said sure. I said would you bring me back?
And everybody laughed, so I guess that was the answer. So that was really interesting watching that.
But the other thing that we did was we got to go up into the burning oil fields.
When the United States, of course, attacked Iraq in the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein set fire to all the oil fields -- all the oil wells there and they were all spouting oil, of course.
And we drove in there and the sun disappeared. There was no -- you couldn’t see the sun it was so black.
In fact, you couldn’t even get out of the car it was so hot 'cause these oil rigs burning all around you.
And the oil that had come out and the depressions among the sand dunes were -- they were lakes of oil.
Several acres at a time and they were all burn -- they weren’t burning in the middle, but they were burning around the fringes. I think the sand acted as a wick really.
And so all this was burning and there was no sign of life. There was some of the machinery that was there like a gun or some sort of vehicle burned and whatnot, but other than that it was just one --
Well, some people likened it to what hell would look like. Just -- and so that was a unique experience and a privilege really to be able to get into that situation and see just how -- how -- what Saddam had done. Yeah, it was terrible -- terrible.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And the company you were working for was responsible for cleaning up?
BILL ENGLISH: Cleaning up -- well, his cleanup job was in the Gulf, yeah. So with that we got down to -- what’s the name of the sacred city you go to?
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Mecca?
BILL ENGLISH: Mecca, yeah. We got down to Mecca. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Wow.
BILL ENGLISH: And the capital city. When we landed there the -- oh, what do they call them -- those police that they have -- the -- they're fundamentalists. And they came on and the first thing they went to was our trash bin. And they smelled the cups to see if anybody had been drinking.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Really.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. But we got to -- got to -- we stayed in the hotel there in Riyadh. And when we went into the restaurant the women that were in there had their faces covered and they had to eat with that on. That was, of course, really strange.
Everybody was polite. The strange thing about it, I had been trying to get into Saudi Arabia earlier.
I -- the mayor of Anchorage was trying to bring the Olympics to -- the Winter Olympics to Anchorage and he had formed a group called the Ambassadors, and I was one of them.
And Saudi Arabia -- I was supposed to be the ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
And Shirley and I were in Cairo. And we tried to get Senator Stevens to get permission for me to go to Saudi and he couldn’t get it, yeah.
They don’t want -- they don’t want people coming to Saudi Arabia unless you have specific business. And I guess that wasn’t specific enough, so -- so --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Isn’t that something? Wow.
BILL ENGLISH: When I later got into Saudi Arabia being a pilot why I thought it was -- why I don’t know what I thought, But it was interesting, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What other oil cleanups -- were you mostly then in the Gulf for the oil cleanups, yeah?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, no. Don was negotiating with Czechoslovakia where the Russians had come through and the Russians left a lot of debris and oil was one of them in the ground or on the ground.
And they wanted it cleaned up, and so Don got involved in that.
And so we landed in a town near the Russian -- the Czecho -- northern border -- I forgot the name of the town. And stayed there a couple of days. And went on across Russia.
Landed in Yakutsk. You probably heard of that. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yes.
BILL ENGLISH: And the Russians are not smiley people.
In fact, we had landed in Warsaw -- boy that was pretty grim. In fact, we were walking in a park near there to just look around and there was some women with a small child. And the small child saw us and they come running up to him and they came and took him away right away.
No word. No smiles. No nothing. They were -- I don’t think I saw one person smiling in Warsaw.
Went down to the ghetto and had a beer and that was it.
I wanted to try some of the restaurants, but nobody else wanted to. We stayed in a restaurant that I forgot the name of it -- they wouldn’t eat outside of the restaurant.
It was still pretty grim from what they went through and you can’t blame them.
Very suspicious and so, but in Russia the first smiling group I saw -- we stayed in Moscow for a while.
Went to a rest -- of course we were treated like royalty and we stayed in a hotel. They had guards at the door so --
In order to get in and out we had to go through those guys. But we went out to what you’d consider I guess a Russian nightclub and that was pretty opulent, you know.
Big long table and just covered with food. There wasn’t an inch that didn’t have a dish of something on it and if it got low, they’d replace it.
So that's the way that people with money in Russia were living while out in the street it was tough. Yeah, so --
And, but the first people that smiled were Yakutsk’s. They were all Eskimos and they didn’t -- they were the poorest people on earth, but for somehow they managed to smile.
I don’t know what they thought of me, but they probably -- but they looked at me one way pretty well, yeah.
'Cause they, you know, I think they were treated badly in Russia. No one was going anywhere but where they were. Yeah.
And then we landed in Magadan before coming on to Nome. Going back to Nome, back to America. But that was an enlightening trip to see all that.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: How long was that, Bill? I mean that must have taken quite some time?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, yeah, it took time. Just going from here to, I think, Yellowknife, refuel in Iqaluit, and then in London for a while. And it's a long ways.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: That is a long way, yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: But interesting. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And how many years did you fly with this company?
BILL ENGLISH: Oh, it was about two years, I guess. Something like -- less than that.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Quite a stark contrast. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: From Alaska.
BILL ENGLISH: But it was a time when all that activity was taking place over there. So, yeah. And at the time I got to talk to -- oh, we -- when we were in Kuwait City, some dignitary we had to go pick up in --
What’s the headquarters there of King Abdullah’s -- ? SYDNOR STEALEY: I don’t know.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Dubai? No, it wouldn’t be Dubai. BILL ENGLISH: No.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Is this in Kuwait, you mean?
BILL ENGLISH: No, not in Kuwait. The other country. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Baghdad?
BILL ENGLISH: No, no. Maybe it'll come to me.
ROBYN RUSSELL: Riyadh?
BILL ENGLISH: No, no. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: It'll come.
Anyway, you had to go and pick him up.
BILL ENGLISH: You know, King Hussein’s country.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
BILL ENGLISH: His dad -- no, not that one -- the King Hussein. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, King Hussein.
ROBYN RUSSELL: Oh, Jordan.
BILL ENGLISH: Jordan, right, there you go and what’s the main country -- the city?
ROBYN RUSSELL: I've forgotten what their capitol us -- Amman, I believe.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, Amman. We were going there to pick up some dignitary. And so we got instructions to land. We saw an airfield. We landed.
And we were surrounded by soldiers with guns. Got out of the airplane and they explained to us we had landed at the King’s airport. They told us where the airport was that we were supposed to be.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: I imagine the alarm bells were going there something bad that day.
BILL ENGLISH: Well, so we went over to the other airport, landed and the intention was to pick up our dignitary and go back. Well, we were there a little bit of time. It gave me a chance to -- I started talking to some of the Palestinians there.
You know, the Palestinians are treated badly because they sided with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. And so the rest of the Arabs won’t have anything to do with the Palestinians. And that remains today.
Otherwise, they could be absorbed in any of those Saudi Arabia or whatnot, but they just won’t have them.
Anyway, so I talked with quite a few Palestinians there and whatnot and finally it was time to go.
We went out to the airplane and they said well we are putting on an air show and you can’t go. And I said, well, maybe we can go and we jumped in the airplane and getting ready to go and someone came up and told me well the airport is closed.
The man that is now the King of Jordan was there to watch the air show and so, well, I started talking to him and he explained what was going on. Very nice fellow, yeah.
Spoke good English, so we stood and watched the air show. It wasn’t much of an air show, but it was parachutes -- parachuting and finally they opened up the airport and we left.
But I had a brief moment with the King of Jordan at that point, yeah. So that was interesting. We were on our way back, using the right airport.
But it would have been nice -- nice to have been stay-- been able to stay there a night and go down into Amman itself. Yeah. Because you get a different flavor at the airport than you do right down where the people live, yeah, so --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What a great experience, yeah. And then did you -- you said you --
BILL ENGLISH: We went back to Kuwait. And I really don’t remember how many days we were there -- quite a while because they had -- Don and his crew had to do quite a bit of surveying. What they had to do. And then we left. Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And then did you work for him again on other trips?
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, we made -- he made other trips. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: He did, yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, mostly down to the US proper and whatnot. Yeah, so --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Was he involved in the Exxon Valdez at all in the oil cleanup? BILL ENGLISH: No. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: No. Okay. BILL ENGLISH: No, no.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Well, that's quite amazing. So you did that for two years after you retired?
BILL ENGLISH: Roughly two years, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And then was that the end of flying or did you go on and do more?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, no, in -- you know, right after I -- I retired from Wien when I was 60. My plan was to be a -- get an A&P license.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And what's an A&P license?
BILL ENGLISH: That's an aircraft -- airplane and mechanic. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, right.
BILL ENGLISH: License. And most of them get -- go through that in two or two and a half years, and get it. I understand they have a program here where -- at UAF where you can go through in one year, but that's probably a 12 hour day for seven days a week to do that.
Well, that was my plan. So when I retired I signed up at UAA in Anchorage and started taking courses.
Well, about six weeks into the semester Denver called me 'cause I had been a flight instructor in the jets. And they had gotten a contract teaching Saudis -- pilots. And what they needed were people who were already instructors in the 737.
They didn’t want to do any training. They wanted to be ready to go.
Well, I says I can’t do that. I'm enrolled at the University of Alaska here and -- and I wanted to do that.
But they kept calling the rest of the semester, and by the end of the semester I went down to Denver. And I spent the better part of a year teaching Saudis.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Wow.
BILL ENGLISH: And I got to know them quite well. For one thing, they had a manager there. And an example how they were it -- I think it was maybe the first lesson that I was instructing and I had my -- the manager of the group that was teaching the Saudis was in there seeing how I would do with them.
But the manager of the Saudi group had a stick about this long and he was not afraid to use it on them if they did something wrong. And he’d whack. And no wonder those guys were paralyzed, you know, cause --
But anyway, they turned me loose and they never came back. And I got along real good with the Saudis.
They started inviting me out to the hotel for dinner and -- or to not the hotel, but to Saudi restaurants, yeah, where you sat around on the floor really. Yeah. And told me what to eat and how to do it and all that. So that was very interesting.
But I think it got around that I was not as tough as some of the other 'cause I don’t think some of the other instructors really liked the Saudis. They did it just because it was a job.
But I put a lot of time into -- in letting them make mistakes and do it over until they got it right. And so most of my students got through pretty well.
They didn’t have trouble passing their final tests. But one of them -- there were a couple there that were from the royal family and so one of them wasn’t doing well.
He just couldn’t do some of the maneuvers -- required maneuvers. And I put down a failing grade just as you would do with American pilots.
And the next day I was called in to the Saudi manager’s office sitting at a desk about this big -- nothing on it, except this one sheet of paper -- my report.
And he says you can’t do this. He pulls out the white out and he marks down --he marks out all the bad grades and he puts an I in there which stood for incomplete.
And he allowed the student to continue. I don’t know what they did with him once they got back to Saudi Arabia, but I heard the story that, you know, during World War II the Saudis sent over pilots to train and if they flunked, they were sent back to Saudi Arabia and beheaded. Yeah.
And so they didn’t look kindly on people who flunked.
But that was an interesting experience for me to not only teach Saudis but become friends. In fact, they invited me over to the country.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Really. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, and to their village where they came from some of them.
And which I was very willing to do, but I couldn’t get into Saudi Arabia when I wanted to. So that, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: How long did you fly the 737’s then, Bill? You were saying -- must have been years?
BILL ENGLISH: I think we got the 737 in ’70. And so until I retired in ’83.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. What were they -- what were the usual flights that you did?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, we started, of course, here in Alaska up to Prudhoe Bay and Nome, Kotzebue, yeah. And Juneau.
But then we expanded into Seattle and Boise. Phoenix. And at times we were going to -- we had a charter into San Francisco and east to some -- I didn’t fly that route. But to Phoenix, I made quite a few trips there, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And you enjoyed teaching others how to fly 737’s?
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. Yeah, I spent quite a bit of -- I spent quite a time in -- we used the simulator in Dallas, Texas so I spent quite a bit of time in Dallas, Texas -- American Airlines simulators program there.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So this was all after retirement that you ended up teaching and going to Saudi and -- ?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, no, the Saudis came after my retirement. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: After your retirement? BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So when did you -- when did you actually stop flying? Or are you still flying?
BILL ENGLISH: Am I still flying? LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: Well, I keep a -- I have a small airplane. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Do you?
BILL ENGLISH: In fact, we were up here -- my son and I were up here last summer for visit Syd during Golden Days. And we'll be up here again.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Does your son fly, too?
BILL ENGLISH: Oh, yeah. He's a commercial pilot. Yes. He's a lawyer though, but -- and he's a mountain climber. He wants to climb Mt. Everest.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Really.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. He's tried it already. Twice. And the weather's prevented him. He got up to what they call the North Call. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Okay.
BILL ENGLISH: Where you can see the -- which is the final takeoff place for the summit. You can see the summit from the North Call, but that's far as they got both times.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: So when is the next expedition?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, he was kind of thinking of it this -- this March. But he just decided, oh, about four weeks ago that he couldn’t do it. It's very expensive.
You have to, you know, hire Sherpa’s. And I was just telling Syd just the other day I think those oxygen bottles that they use are $470 apiece. And so -- and then it takes about a month.
You have to, you know, ferry all the supplies in -- the yaks and the Sherpa’s into the base camp and then ferry them on up to the North Call and things like that.
So it takes a long time just to do that. Just for a chance to climb Everest, yeah, so -- But I imagine he'll try it again next year. But he gets a lot of flack from the rest of the family.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: I’m sure. So now your whole career and you're back to doing the small planes again?
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, yeah, well, it's still more enjoyable. Yeah. The jets, it might seem to the outside world to be glamorous, but it really isn’t.
Once you learn where to set all the controls and the dials and whatnot the only good times are the takeoffs and the landings. Where you have --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Something to do.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, yeah, otherwise somebody on the ground, the dispatcher, makes out all the flight plans, refuels the airplanes, mechanics see that it's fit. And people load and unload everything.
You just go and strap yourself in the pilot seat and that’s it. Oh, there are some challenges at times, no question about that.
When we first got the 737’s, those engines were supposed to go five or six thousand hours. Now I think they go about 10,000 hours, but we were -- we started losing them around six or seven hundred hours.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Hundred or a thousand?
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. No, a hundred hours. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Really.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, they just quit on us. So we got the feeling that how far --
Bob Kimball and I were flying together and Bob got -- he hung a string. Bob was kind of an engineer. He hung a string from something up here on the ceiling with a plumb bob on it and we’d fly at different angles according to where the plumb bob was to see how far we could glide,
in case the second one -- the second one quit.
But they finally figured out what had happened. The engine was ingesting dust into one of the smaller units that controled the fuel flow and other mechanisms and what it would do is the shaft on that mechanism would shear. And, of course, the engine would quit.
But it took -- well, I mean Boeing got into it and the Pratt and Whitney got into it. And it took them quite a while to find out the reason, which everybody was happy to.
And I think we -- it didn’t take too long to get the life of the engine up to 7,500 hours or something like that. Which is a lot better than 600.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Definitely.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, I always remember Bob Kimball. He went right to work on it.
He was a joy to fly with. He was a B-17 pilot flying out of -- oh, I forgot the name of the station near London in World War II.
And he actually flew over Germany and dropped bombs.
And he's a gentle person, too. He didn’t talk much about it. When I got him alone, we’d talk a little bit.
But they all wore flak jackets. You’ve heard of that? But all the pilots took the flak vest off and sat on them.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Just that made me think back to your saying when you were flying Kuwait and the oil, how did that affect the engines and the way the aircraft flew?
BILL ENGLISH: It didn’t seem to affect them at all. I didn’t notice any difference in the flight characteristics on the airplane. But you run your hand over there and the wings were just covered with oil.
And then you wondered why it was even suspended up there, but it was -- maybe it wasn’t suspended very long, but there was more oil gushing out of those oil wells all the time. Millions and millions of gallons, yeah. That was a sight.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Must have been something to see, yeah. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: What about flying through any dust in the air from volcanic eruptions?
BILL ENGLISH: No, we avoided those. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Those, yeah, definitely.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, especially after there was a -- a 747, I think, coming into Anchorage that flew through a volcanic cloud and all engines quit. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yes.
BILL ENGLISH: Remember that? LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yes, yes.
BILL ENGLISH: Boy, boy, that was a red flag for all the airlines. So now, if there's any volcanic ash near, they steer clear of that.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, definitely, yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: But it wasn’t the pilot’s fault. He couldn’t see it. It was in a cloud. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right, right, yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: But there was some anxious moments there until they got at least one engine going to -- yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right, very frightening.
SYDNOR STEALEY: Bill, didn’t you end up being a FAA check pilot? BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, did you? BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, early on, yeah, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Can you tell us about that?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, there's not much to say.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: End of story.
BILL ENGLISH: Well, they did send me down to Oklahoma City to their training center.
And I -- they, you know, flew the DC-4 down there in training and whatnot, but --
And I don’t know who flew the DC-3 down there, but there were quite a few accidents in the DC-3. They had a very ugly characteristic of when -- an ugly stall and if you were close to the ground, you couldn’t get out of that stall.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Oh, wow.
BILL ENGLISH: And you crashed. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
BILL ENGLISH: Necessary to kill anybody, but you still -- you weren’t in control of the airplane. And so they sent me down after one of our planes got into that in Barrow.
They sent me down to go through the FAA Training School. And the one thing I learned to do is that stall.
And so when I checked out people in the DC-3, we climbed up to 8,000 feet, which is high, to practice the stall and, of course, we -- we ‘d get the nose way up in the air and get into this stall. But they had to control it by excessive rudder control.
As soon as it started to go and whatnot to get back to it and then lower the nose, of course. And I think most of the pilots were concerned about -- but then once you got used to doing it then it wasn’t so bad.
But -- but when they learned that they just shouldn’t get into that situation and Wien came through after that. None of our pilots had any problem with it. But it continued to occur with other pilots and not necessarily the airlines, but people who are flying DC-3’s.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: And what was causing this like a design fault or something?
BILL ENGLISH: Well, I don’t think it was a design fault. It was just the characteristic of the airplane. And so, yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: That's frightening.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. Yeah, well, it would be if that hap -- if you were in a stall near the ground that you couldn’t recover from. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
BILL ENGLISH: 'Cause you had to lower the nose and of course you’re in the ground you would go into the ground nose first and you don’t want to do that. Well --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: You've had a very interesting career, Bill.
BILL ENGLISH: I was lucky. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: Lucky. I had a lot of help along the way from people that were willing to help. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right.
BILL ENGLISH: Don Gretcher was one that started me off. You don’t know him. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: No, I don’t.
BILL ENGLISH: But Syd knew him. He was a gentleman and so -- but there were others. So --
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. And great to fly with Wien Company? BILL ENGLISH: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. A real piece of Alaska history right there. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Definitely.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah, well, Sig was a friend of the Eskimos, too. So that was -- Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Very interesting. Anything else you'd like to share with us? You've really given us a lot.
BILL ENGLISH: Well, I thank you -- thank you for this opportunity. I know that Sig and the rest of us in the group that attended the two sessions enjoyed it. And it was enlightening, too.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Very good.
BILL ENGLISH: And I want to bring my son back to visit the museum. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah.
BILL ENGLISH: There are things there that I never imagined. One -- one was the Wooly Mammoth. How huge they were. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, it was massive.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. And you just get to think, I mean, you know, about the food that they consumed. And there were I guess thousands of them up here. And the whales and the food that they consume. And all these animals. The bears. Big bears there. The food that he would consume.
There's got to be a constant factory food -- manufacturing food in their own way out there to just keep all this going. And it's eye opening itself.
Those things -- I -- the only thing I knew in Wiseman was our one little world, you know, gathering fish and caribou and I wasn’t even involved in the gathering very much. And the small life there.
It was a world in itself. So after Wiseman it started opening up for me.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Right, yeah. Amazing. And what I found amazing, too, yesterday was when they brought out the various artifacts. There was two jackets there. Parkies. One made by your sister Tish -- Tishu, and another one that your mom had made.
BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. I'm wondering whether that smaller one -- the shorter one -- LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Uh-huh.
BILL ENGLISH: Was my -- my jacket. But it's not clear in my mind so I'm not going to say it is, but I think maybe it is.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah, amazing to think that you come here and then you'd see your own family’s -- BILL ENGLISH: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Handicraft and sewing. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. That was --
BILL ENGLISH: Well, I say, yeah, my fondest memories -- the event with the night I stayed with the Anaktuvuk Eskimos. LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. BILL ENGLISH: On Chandler Lake.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: Yeah. Out of all your experience and memories that's one of your most cherished. BILL ENGLISH: Yeah.
LESLIE MCCARTNEY: That's lovely. A lovely note to finish on. Thank you so much.
BILL ENGLISH: Thank you.