This is a continuation of an interview with Donald Bedford on January 20, 1998 by Charles "Chuck" Mobley at the Bedford's home in Auke Bay, Alaska. Don's wife, Carol Bedford, was also present during the interview. In this second part of a two part interview, Don talks about working as an airplane mechanic, the types of airplanes he worked on and difficult flying conditions they were put under, and airplane crashes. Don also talks about the PBY airplane, working on jet engines, and the merging of airline companies.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Pioneer Aviators
Date of Interview: Jan 20, 1998
Narrator(s): Donald Bedford
Interviewer(s): Charles Mobley
Transcriber: Carol McCue
People Present: Carol Bedford
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The Curtiss airplanes
Winter conditions made trouble for sitting planes
In the old days, mechanics used war surplus parts
Ordering surplus parts nowadays is not approved
Don worked for Alaska Coastal for over 45 years
Alaska Coastal struggled, but good individuals worked for them
Men were forced to jury rig plane parts
The advent of the PBY
PBYs were used for many purposes
The PBY did not have good performance numbers
Old B-25s and PBYs were converted and re-used
Flying planes in Alaska revealed problems
Don began working with jet engines
Different companies cooperated in building airplane engines
Women's contribution to the war effort
The merging of airlines
The changes that occurred when Alaska Coastal and Ellis Airlines merged
Alaska Coastal's airplanes
A PBY goes from a lake bottom to a museum
Gaining experience with every break-down
Don is an expert with PBYs
Civilian airplanes were much different than military airplanes
An overheated PBY
Removing excess weight and armor from airplanes
Using the PBY as a air-sea rescue craft, and for night stalking of the enemy
The PBYs carried bombs and flares
Using PBYs for strafing
Some other pilots Don flew with
A Pan Am Stratocruiser wreck
PBYs and helicopters wrecking on Otter Lake
Old engines were often tricky
Don learned to fly in a biplane
An Alaska Airlines jet crash in Ketchikan
A deadly crash with Alaska Airlines
The different rudders on PBYs
The new 707's
The Dutch Roll
The Boeing 727
Dealing with heavy loads in the Boeing 737's
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DON BEDFORD: -- de-icing boots on it, and -- CHUCK MOBLEY: The PBY? DON BEDFORD: Yeah. Another way --
CHUCK MOBLEY: Otherwise, Alaska Coastal only had, what -- DON BEDFORD: Gooses. CHUCK MOBLEY: -- the Gooses. CAROL BEDFORD: Well, they had other --
DON BEDFORD: They had a flock of airplanes. CHUCK MOBLEY: Oh, what were they?
DON BEDFORD: Well, at one time we had these, was it two or three Widgeons. They were -- they bought this outfit, Alaska Island Airways out of Petersburg, bought them out lock, stock, and barrel, with it come these two Widgeons. They were tough shape. And --
CAROL BEDFORD: They had the King Bird?
DON BEDFORD: Yeah, they had the King Bird.
CHUCK MOBLEY: What's a King Bird?
DON BEDFORD: Well, that's a Curtiss -- Curtiss was a big -- boy, it's still -- I don't know, it's kind of gone downhill, but Curtiss was into everything, airplanes -- Wright, you know, Curtiss Wright, Wright Aircraft engines.
CAROL BEDFORD: That King Bird was the one airplane they had that was only wheels.
DON BEDFORD: Yeah, that was the only wheeled airplane.
CAROL BEDFORD: They used it to fly up to the mine, didn't they?
DON BEDFORD: Well, they used it in the winter to fly up to Haines and Skagway. CAROL BEDFORD: Haines and Skagway, yeah. But they also used --
DON BEDFORD: Quite an airplane. I don't know. Interesting airplane the way it was built. Most airplanes of that vintage, you know, have steel–tubed fuselage, and a wooden wing spars for main strength.
Well, this airplane had wooden longerons and fuselage. These wing spars were built up steel, like a radio tower is, triangular, all braced and everything.
Oh, it was better than a Super Cub. You couldn't hold it on the ground. Had big tires, you know. A wonderful airplane.
They cracked it up at Tulsequah. What it was -- at Tulsequah, they had a runway, it was plenty long enough.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Where's Tulsequah?
DON BEDFORD: It's back up about 50 miles up Taku Inlet. Up the Taku River. CAROL BEDFORD: There's a mine up there.
DON BEDFORD: Anyway, they hauled all the miners up there and the food and, you know, during the winter, all the stuff. During the summer, they used float planes for that.
CHUCK MOBLEY: So he cracked it up up there? How did they do it?
DON BEDFORD: Well, it wasn't easy. Nothing in airplanes is easy.
They -- they didn't have a grader or anything like that, they just had some Cats. And they would run these Cats over and pack down the snow, see. So it was hard enough that an airplane --
Well, come the spring what happens is, you know, every night it -- in the early spring, it gets cool and usually freezes, so you've got a crust there. And then underneath, because of the heat of the earth, what little there is, melts that packed snow below until it gets kind of rotten, and then that crust on top can't support the weight of the airplane, and it falls through.
Over on your back. CHUCK MOBLEY: Hmm.
DON BEDFORD: Well, that's what happened. They were going to rebuild it but they decided that steel tube spar was more -- cost more money, they'd have to build a fancy jig to -- and both spars were slightly kinked. They decided not to. And so I know I wound up selling the fuselage out of parts because we could use the aluminum tubing.
One of the things that was hard to get was the -- a Pitot–static mast, you know, it sticks out, measures your airspeed. Well, on the Goose it's on the right wing, it sticks out there in front of the wing, well, I guess 4 feet. Well, it was always getting broken off, see. And so we would always short stick this tubing. We did everything to -- we had everything as spares, or we had the raw material to make it.
That's the thing, like with a PBY, these special extrusions, well, they would -- the manufacturer, which was Alcoa Aluminum Company of America, they had these extrusions and consolidated when they built the airplane, shows these Z angles and stuff like that, for use in different areas, and you couldn't get it. So you'd go to them, yeah, sure, we can make it for you.
You'll have to order at least 2,000 feet. And three months delivery. Well, if that's the best you can do. It's the same way with nose wheel tires. The PBY main -- main tires were, oh, many, many airplanes, military airplanes, everything was war surplus; tires, everything. The wheels. You get these parts that's all stamped, you know.
Now, why, you talk about anything war surplus and boy the FAA looks at you, oh, we better get ready to pinch this guy. Yeah, you know. Bogus parts, unapproved parts. Well, these are approved, they are built by Consolidated, the manufacturer of the airplane. But like tires, there's -- they're kind of like car tires, there's kind of standard sizes, go by the weight of the car and all that stuff.
And the PBY used -- well, they used the same tire the B–25 did, the B–26, and I don't know what all.
But the thing is, the PBY could use this -- whatever they called it, purer ply tire. Like we were using these tires, maybe we only needed 12 ply, and the tires you could buy, war surplus, they are all 18 ply.
Well, just makes them a little rougher to mount and everything. But the -- in those days, everything was war surplus. The Gooses were war surplus. The engines were war surplus. The only thing that wasn't war surplus is the few parts that you couldn't buy war surplus, you bought from the manufacturer. And that cost you, boy.
CHUCK MOBLEY: How long did you work for Alaska Coastal?
DON BEDFORD: 45 years and a little more. CHUCK MOBLEY: Wow.
CAROL BEDFORD: Between Alaska Coastal, Alaska Coastal–Ellis, and Alaska Airlines.
DON BEDFORD: See Alaska Coastal was merged into Alaska Airlines. What it was, you see, Alaska had the rights -- Alaska Coastal had the rights to Sitka. Of course, in those days there was no runway there. And so Alaska Air wasn't -- Airlines wasn't interested at all in Sitka.
And in Ketchikan, you know, you had to land at Annette and then take an amphibious airplane to Ketchikan. CHUCK MOBLEY: Right.
DON BEDFORD: Well, when they built the airport in Sitka, Alaska got interested in Alaska Coastal. Because you see, in those days it was regulated. You just didn't, oh, I think we'll start out breaking into Sitka this week. You know.
You had to go through a -- well, you had to have a -- go through the CAB, and get it in some other outfit had the thing, well, no. You're too late. Well, so they became interested in it. For one thing, it was so different in how it operated. Alaska Coastal had -- you know, there was a Ol' Benecke. He was a money manager. He was a -- into Alaska Federal.
CAROL BEDFORD: Savings and Loan?
DON BEDFORD: Uh–hum. Well, anyway, he knew how to manage money and all that stuff.
So Alaska Coastal was solid. It's just like if you wanted something downtown, well, you take, yeah, they had a little sales slip thing you took in there and they'd sell you the whole store because they knew Ol' Benecke was good for it. At the end of the month, you just took your tabs down there, totaled them all up and he wrote you a check.
Well, at Alaska Airlines, they owed everybody in the world. They didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out.
CAROL BEDFORD: At that time.
DON BEDFORD: Everything. It was tough. We didn't understand that. All our airplanes were old but they were paid for. Nothing that Alaska Airlines owned was paid for.
I can remember I know that a lot of employees didn't think, oh, if Benecke -- Benecke became the head of Alaska Airlines eventually, and things were tough. They didn't have enough money to meet the payroll. So what old Benecke decided what we are going to do, no matter who you are or what your salary is, everybody's going to get $200 a month and that -- or $200 this week. Paid every two weeks.
And that's it. He wasn't going to have any of his checks bounce. Well, the employees were unhappy. But myself, I thought a lot of him for it. That's why I say, if he -- if he wants to take care of my money, he can do it any time he wants to. He's dead now. But we had some good men working for the company. We had ingenuity.
We got this PB -- the first PBY. Well, before fall -- we had cold before the ground was frozen 4 feet down. And we needed someplace to tie the airplane down. They would get some awful winds over at the airport. And so they had a meeting, the mechanic and Shell was there, and he brought the subject up, you know, what are we going to do.
And here's this guy, hadn't been working for the company but a couple of months and he says, well, why didn't somebody think of that before the ground was frozen. Shell says, damn, anybody could do it last summer where the ground wasn't frozen, but it takes a good man now to do it.
And you know what, eventually they did? They took a jackhammer and drove down this way, this way, and that way, and then got some concrete rebar, shoved it down there, poured water all around it, and welded the -- the three ends together. That was stuck above the ground.
And here used a PBY, you know, they were used, I mean, they were no good, scrap, a bearing cone. Welded that on in there and that was the tie down.
DON BEDFORD: But there was some real people like that. Like the water rudder, you know, the water rudder, the Goose doesn't have a water rudder. They called Grumman, Grumman says, well, if the wind's blowing that much, the airplane should be in the hangar. Well, that don't work.
Well, Alaska Coastal come up with a blade type that -- that just slid down like that. Well, in cold weather, even in saltwater it would freeze. Okay. So they put a heater, you know, wire in it. And so when the pilot lands and wants to drop, the water rudder, he drops the water rudder, of course the water rudder don't drop because it's frozen, so he turns on the heater, warms it up, and the blade falls down.
Well, the wire was always breaking, it wasn't working and everything. Well, somebody, I don't know who it was at Ellis I think come up with a -- an accordion type. You know, instead of this is the straight, a blade. CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum.
DON BEDFORD: Their's was a thing like this. When it was down, when it was up, it was all folded together. Well, the thing is they decided, hey, that's better than ours, let's go that route. So that was adopted.
Now, you look around at Gooses that are owned by private individuals of Fish & Wildlife or somebody like that, you see that water rudder, the STC, that's the supplemental type certificate, is owned by now -- of course, this is owned by Alaska Airlines.
Because when Alaska was merged, it all became part of one. Now all these STC's that were --
CAROL BEDFORD: Alaska Coastal.
DON BEDFORD: Coastal and Ellis. That's where you -- you got to go to them and get permission, pay a fee, and then they will give you the blueprint to make it. They won't make it for you.
CAROL BEDFORD: Alaska Airlines. DON BEDFORD: But that gives -- you have then the blessing of the FAA to put that on your airplane. Just a matter of pick for work, see.
But all these things were done and done here. It's just like did you know that first amphibious jet airplane was built right here in Juneau in the free world. Hell, this is a PT–6 turbo Goose.
And that was a big disappointment to me. I was the ramrod on that. Most of the overhauls that I was the ramrod. And modifications. But there was a time, you know, Boeing built the -- they had a -- a jet engine that was -- they put it in the truck and run it, and they put it in a military airplane, run it, and they built this, they called it a 502. It was their starting jet engine. You know, the big jets start on air, compressed air.
And that's what this thing was. It was a -- a four–wheeled trailer usually that you fired up. And it compressed air and also generated electricity. See, the big airplanes, they don't run on 60 cycle. They -- it's 115 volts, 400 cycle. Standard. So over there in the jet way, they have a -- a rig of solid state that would be an inverter that converts 60 cycles, whatever it is, 220, to 115 volt 400 cycle which the airplane can use. Anyway, we made all these engines just like a PBY. I -- and I have -- I never thought much of the PBY until the last few years when I started reading all this military stuff, well, what the PBY did World War II.
Those PBYs were all over the world. The hot countries, the cold countries, everywhere. Those didn't have a heater in there. Those poor son of a guns froze here in Alaska and boiled in South America. But it was brought -- pretty good, said it all, talking about a salty old British Navy man, and he was talking about PBYs, he says, I've been all over this world, and wherever I go, here are these PBYs, and he says, they are flying in weather when we hesitate to untie from the dock. You know. But I -- like I say, I've learned -- is that going to do it?
CAROL BEDFORD: Alaska Coastal did the -- put in a bigger engine in the PBY. DON BEDFORD: Yeah. Okay. CAROL BEDFORD: Isn't that another?
DON BEDFORD: You see, the military had these 1830s, that was a good engine. That's the engine DC–3 has. But you know, when you put an airplane on floats, you separate the men from the boys. Well, here we are at that time, the average flight was something like 25 minutes. And we're taking off with heavy gross weights. Yes, the Navy used heavy gross weights.
But they might make a takeoff of -- in this book here I just finished reading, there was one flight some 22 hours without refueling. That's a long haul. And the thing is, 22 hours. But yeah, they get up there and they throttle back and they are just kicking those engines over. And that was one of the wonderful thing about the PBY in the war.
It was used for convoy protection. You didn't need a fast airplane for that. Search and rescue, you don't need a fast airplane like that. You know, you -- you need a slow airplane where you can get a good look at it.
And gee whiz, they even had -- they put PB -- they put -- they had some PBYs they put in the nose of the airplane four 50–caliber machine guns, for what? Ground strafing. Can you imagine ground strafing in an airplane as big and slow and cumbersome as a PBY? Why? They had PBYs.
The PB -- the Navy didn't have a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out at the beginning of the war, but they did have B–25 -- or PBYs. So they used them for everything they could, until they got something better.
CHUCK MOBLEY: When -- when Ellis merged with Alaska Coastal Airlines --
DON BEDFORD: Pardon? CHUCK MOBLEY: When Ellis merged with Alaska Coastal Airlines, what changes did you see from a mechanic's standpoint? They got new planes or different planes in?
DON BEDFORD: No.
CHUCK MOBLEY: No?
DON BEDFORD: The standby for Ellis was a Goose, too. In fact, they had one PBY. They didn't like the PBY. Part of it I think was because Coastal had them. Well, they were interested in this Albatross, which is a more modern airplane, faster. But it has its problems. Like I say. It -- it didn't have the performance.
They in the Navy or the Army never used them, unless it was an emergency, to land in the water. And then that was the beauty of the PBY. It was good in the water. And we made all these conversions, and here's the thing. This 1830, this 1200 horsepower, those engines were good in a DC–3, but they didn't work -- their DC–3 didn't work those engines as hard as a PBY.
To get it out of the water is a lot harder than to get off the runway. Anyhow, they, like I say, 25 minutes of average that, this thing. No engine, no aircraft engine, particularly a big engine, is going to stand up under that kind of punishment. And so we had trouble with them.
Well, there was this 2600 engines which was built by Wright. And that was the engine that was in a B–25. And after the war, who wants a B–25? So here all these B–25 parts, same way, tires were available, war surplus. You could buy the engines a dime a dozen. In fact, Alaska Coastal bought some 70 of them. Click here to view film of a B-25 Bomber airplane.
Brand new overhauls. They were overhauled by the Bristol or Vickers in Edmonton for the Canadian Army because the Canadian Army had all these B–25s. Well, after the war what are we going to do with all those things? Yes, they paid off Vickers, they owed them. So you could buy these engines. Well, some outfit in St. Louis came up with a conversion for a PBY, to put these engines in a PBY. And Coastal decided, hey, that's the way to go.
The engineering was already done. Hell, it was fantastic how they took B–25 parts and did a little extra machining or something like that and adapted them for this conversion.
Well, it's just like the carburetors. The carburetors are -- you know, the same manufacturers manufacture for airplanes many times they do for cars. Now, I'm trying to think of the name of this carburetor, it's a very common name. Ford used it for years.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Holley? DON BEDFORD: Holley. Well, Holley built an aircraft carburetor and was used in all B–20 -- B–17s. That -- those engines were 1200 horsepower. They're Wright engines.
And you could buy brand new these Holley carburetors that were -- had been, you know, that were built originally for the B–17, you could buy them for $25. And Bendix Stromberg, Stromberg is a carburetor, Bendix is an outfit that they bought Stromberg out, just like they bought out Scintilla, which was a magneto outfit.
And they're just -- sure, there was different jets, different sizes for when you used it with this 2600 engine. See, that was at the 1830, is 1830 cubic inches. This Wright engine, which is 14 cylinders also, but it's 2600 cubic engines. Bigger engine. And with a carburetor set up and everything we were using, we were drawing about 1500 horsepower out of it, which is reasonable.
And I can't say that that was the best engine either, because if we did -- and I say the same thing and it's proven, Alaska Airlines is working the bugs out of the Boeing airplanes.
I remember I was up in Anchorage just before I retired going to a little overnight training, and I told the Boeing -- that was before they took delivery of these -- any of these 737–400s, and I told them, I was asking about, how about deicing? Icing is a major thing around here. In Southeast Alaska, that's where you -- if there's ice, you'll find it.
And the -- the area between Seattle and Juneau, they did the icing tests for the Concord, you know, the British supersonic. Because that's where you'll find it. And I asked him. Oh, yeah, he says, we flew the airplane behind a DC–10, it was a -- a air tanker modified for spraying water, and fly airplanes behind it to see how -- you know, check it out. Well, fine, that's fine. But I told him, well, if there's any problem, Alaska will find it. And it proved that way.
But they weren't major things, you know. But the way -- it's like we modified these engines -- not the engine. We modified, you know, put those on. We did it all here.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Did you work with jet engines, then, eventually?
DON BEDFORD: Oh, sure. CHUCK MOBLEY: And so what was the first jet engine that you worked on?
DON BEDFORD: I worked in 1946. Well, that was a P–80. CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum.
DON BEDFORD: You know, the P–80 was the first American combat jet. You know, production jet. Let's see. What was that. It was built by Allison, but it was not a Allison design. It was a Westinghouse. And this is some of the things that people should know. It's wonderful what happened in World War II. It is just like they said, Boeing, you've got a B–17, that's a fine airplane, now we want you to help Douglas, we want you to help Lockheed Vega build those airplanes. I forget who else did it.
When you will design, be working of a design of a follow–on, which became the B–29. And they said the same thing. Consolidated, that's a pretty good airplane, you've got a B–24. Okay. Somebody decided that the B–17 and the B–24 are going to be our heavies. Now, Ford will run -- we're going to build you a factory there.
And we want you to build B–24s. And they did. The first of them weren't too good. Well, there was nothing wrong with them but the riveting wasn't -- looked like amateurs had done it. But after awhile, boy, they put out a product just as good as Convair could. And they could put them out. Oh, 10, 20 a day. That's a lot of airplanes. And they went to outfits like -- you know who Briggs and Stratton is? CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum.
DON BEDFORD: We want you to build piston pins for maybe the 1830 engine. Ford, we want you to build 2800 engines. Who do you think built all the engines or 99 percent of them for the B–17?
CHUCK MOBLEY: Who?
DON BEDFORD: Studebaker. Everybody pitched in. Here some of these aircraft engines that the Army didn't use at all, they were building parts for Pratt and Whitney.
And it's just like a P–51. You know, it is considered now probably the finest, but when they first built that thing, it had an Allison engine in it. It was no good at all.
Oh, Lockheed, they would have given their right arm and their left leg to get ahold of some of them Packard built -- Packard is a U.S. company, but Rolls Royce designed that engine. And so we were on the same side as Britain was, and so Britain cooperated with the United States to get Packard building these P–51 that was used later in the P–51, but anyway, that was a real good engine. And so Packard was authorized to build them.
Nowadays, oh, we've got to have all these -- you've got to sign away these patent rights and all this stuff, but war time, bang. It's done. Anyway, a Lockheed would have -- that P–38 would have been a lot better airplane.
The thing is, they said this way. Look at, Lockheed, your airplane has got two Allisons. And, now, they are not the best, but the thing is, that airplane, one of them fails, one of those engines fails, the other engine is likely to bring that airplane back with a pilot okay.
Now, if we'd put these in there, these Allisons in that P–51 and that Allison blows, we've lost an airplane and a pilot. So Lockheed, you will use Allison engines. But there was all these things, somebody made these decisions. Now, let's not argue, let's get to work.
The cooperation, oh, gosh. You'd be surprised. It's like, you know, Taylorcraft, that outfit, that airplane there, that outfit was building B–25 parts during the war. We don't need any of your grasshoppers, we need B–25s. So we will build them. You'll build it. They did. They did a good job. I tell you, it was -- another thing. I'm no champion for women, but --
CHUCK MOBLEY: Is that true?
CAROL BEDFORD: That's true.
DON BEDFORD: -- they -- they had these school girls working, and women, older women, some grandmas, too. And there were certain things like the small rivets that they use on the tail feathers and the ailerons as control surfaces.
Well, they could handle them so nicely, and the rivet gun was just a little light rivet gun, brrr, you know, and they were so dexterous.
Think what they contributed. Oh, some of the things women did during the war were really something. Make you proud of them.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Well, I have another question about this -- the merger between -- between the companies. If Ellis, when Ellis merged with Alaska Coastal, they had the same kind of planes, were there any new planes that came in when that merged with Alaska, then? What kind of planes did Alaska -- DON BEDFORD: Oh, yes.
CHUCK MOBLEY: What was that like?
DON BEDFORD: Well, let me explain this. There was this. Alaska Airlines had learned to operate jet airplanes. Now, we had this turbine Goose, like I say, it wasn't too successful. No turbine is going to be any good operating in this kind of conditions. Landing in the saltwater and taking water in the air intake.
Well, Alaska had these 727s. They had three of them. And they -- when the two companies merged, that gave Sitka, Juneau to Alaska Airlines.
They didn't operate in here. And Ketchikan. CAROL BEDFORD: Ketchikan.
DON BEDFORD: And also -- CAROL BEDFORD: They had to -- DON BEDFORD: -- what it did is gave -- CAROL BEDFORD: -- ask you.
DON BEDFORD: If you wanted -- if you wanted to become the president of Alaska Airlines at that time, all you had to do was arrange the financing for a new airplane. And they'd name the terminal building after you. In fact, some of the airplanes, there was some Mexican, wealthy Mexican or South American guy, he invested some money into Alaska Airlines, so they put his name on the side, General so–and–so.
But they -- no, we couldn't have done it without Alaska Airlines. They didn't have -- they didn't have airplanes the size that would fit Southeast Alaska. And it's like everything else, I say today, if you're going to raise chickens, you've got to raise them and make a profit. You have to raise them by the thousands. You've got to go big or nothing at all. Now, that's what -- I think there was the same thing when it comes to this merger.
You see, the same thing, a merger with Ellis and Alaska Coastal, it was -- we could do it better together. There was a lot of changes.
CHUCK MOBLEY: For example?
DON BEDFORD: Well, I can't think of -- well, all right, PBYs. They had one PBY, it wasn't -- they didn't fly it but once a blue moon and it wasn't instrument.
Alaska had five of them -- no, that would be four of them. Five of them when they moved that one up there. Okay. Their's wasn't converted. So that's the first thing we did. We converted it to bigger engines, you know. And instrument, all that baloney, you know, to really make an airplane out of it. That's one of the things that was done.
You see, Ellis was kind of a -- as I recall, was a cooperative. You worked for the company, I don't know just how a cooperative does work, but it was a -- I think probably Ellis was a better company to work for. What I mean is they had more benefits than Alaska Coastal.
CAROL BEDFORD: They also had, like, two shifts of airplanes. DON BEDFORD: Huh?
CAROL BEDFORD: They also had, like, two shifts of airplanes. Ellis did.
DON BEDFORD: Yeah. CAROL BEDFORD: One was flying while they were working on the other ones. They don't work nights like Alaska Coastal did.
DON BEDFORD: They didn't work all night and stuff like that. In fact, on Sundays, why, it was kind of a easy day because they flew very few flights. Well, even Alaska Coastal. There was a lot of flights that didn't operate on Sunday.
CAROL BEDFORD: Don, you never did finish telling him what all airplanes Alaska Coastal owned. DON BEDFORD: Hum?
CAROL BEDFORD: You never finished telling him what airplanes Alaska Coastal owned.
DON BEDFORD: Oh, the different makes?
CAROL BEDFORD: Yeah. Like they had the Twin Otters. And they had --
DON BEDFORD: Well, you see, this we're -- I don't think we got Twin Otters until Coastal and Ellis -- CAROL BEDFORD: Merged?
DON BEDFORD: -- merged. But we did have -- Like I said, we had these -- we had this Bellanca, we had one Bellanca, we had two Lockheed Vegas.
CAROL BEDFORD: There was Aeroncas.
DON BEDFORD: What? CAROL BEDFORD: You had Aeronca Chief and Aeronca Champ.
DON BEDFORD: Oh, those small training airplanes, they --
CAROL BEDFORD: You had some Taylorcrafts. DON BEDFORD: Yeah.
CAROL BEDFORD: There were some -- weren't there PA–18s at one time?
DON BEDFORD: Yeah, Piper -- PA–18 is a Super Cub. CHUCK MOBLEY: Super Cub, yeah.
DON BEDFORD: No, they had Piper Pacers. Piper Pacer 135, and later Pacer 150. But they went through a lot of airplanes. You know, they -- they got this PBY, they needed some parts and stuff, you know. And then military was still operating PBYs, so there was no war surplus to speak of.
Well, the military had ditched a PBY out there near King Salmon. And they put it up for surplus sale, and somebody from Anchorage bought it.
Well, Alaska became interested in that because it -- there was engine parts and stuff like that they needed. So they sent -- let's see it was Mike Corhonan (phonetic). And the prop man. Later became a pilot.
CAROL BEDFORD: Dick Frank?
DON BEDFORD: Dick Frank. Set them up there to dismantle it. It was sitting in a lake. Shallow lake. And apparently, I'm not sure, but apparently, they'd landed on the ice or something like that with the wheels down. And when of course, it came summer, why, it sunk through the -- the wheels were sitting on the bottom.
Well, so they sent these two guys up there. Dick Frank was the pilot of the Seabee. And they shuttled back and forth between King Salmon. Dago Lake or something like that? What lake was that?
CAROL BEDFORD: I don't know, hon.
DON BEDFORD: Something like that they called it. Well, so they were interested and they got ahold of this guy that owned it in Anchorage, and they arranged a trade. The company had a J–3 Cub on floats, they traded straight across this J–3 Cub on floats for this PBY, you know. And they went up and got all the parts off of it and just let it sit there.
Well, years later they moved it from that lake, you know, it's part of the flying flight museum.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Really?
DON BEDFORD: Sitting outside, you know.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Did they have any special adventures getting that -- those parts out of there? Was it easy for them? Did you ever hear about it?
DON BEDFORD: No, but any time when you're operating with a Seabee, that'd be an adventure.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Why is that?
DON BEDFORD: If anything can go wrong, it will, with a Seabee. It's the darnedest thing I ever saw. Here you are flying today and everything running beautiful. The next day you go out to start the darn thing and get ahold of the throttle or something, it's froze. Can't move it. Next morning you take off from a runway, raise the gear, the gear don't come up.
CHUCK MOBLEY: So back to the Alaska Airlines coming in with their 727s. Did you have to learn a lot?
DON BEDFORD: Have to do what? CHUCK MOBLEY: Did you have to learn a lot in order to work on those?
DON BEDFORD: Yes. Any time you get a new model, you know, no matter -- no matter how much you know about a product or an airplane, a car, it helps to know a little more because it makes things easier. For one thing, I never liked when I first -- I was always saying, what if that darn thing breaks down, what am I going to do.
But you see, after awhile you get experienced and everything like that, and you, let her come in here, let her break down. I'll fix her.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum. Okay.
DON BEDFORD: There's always, with a new airplane, there's something like that. There's all these weird things that, well, you don't know about, but after you've worked around it considerably, all these little tricks come to you. You know, there was a case that something, though, this -- you'd call it -- used to be -- well, I had a lot of experience, probably more than anybody else with PBYs, and so if something went wrong they would call me up here at night, you know, we've got so–and–so, you know, oh, that's this dad–darned thing, you know, like one time there was a --
there was this PBY, it was a fire bomber came in here, and no hydraulic pressure, he landed in the water, and I was at the airport, so they called me down because I had a lot of experience in hydraulics on Lockheed airplanes, and they would tell me what the problem was and everything. And I said, hey, there's no hydraulic pressure.
That's one of the things, these darn military PBYs just had a hydraulic pump in the right engine, that's all. Ours have them on both. And then on top of that, bigger pumps, pump more quantity. But anyway, in this particular case, why, they were all shook up. And I tell them, we'll take that, a hammer. What kind of a hammer?
Well, just use -- grab ahold of the head of the hammer and use the handle and tap that unloading valve. And you'll probably hear something, ka–chink or something like that. Well, that's that sleeve out, you know, you've tapped it and it jarred it loose. See before, the pump was just pumping through it and back to the tank, through it back to the tank.
It was in the unpressurized mode. When you hit that thing like that, a little tap, it -- the -- it jars it, the spring goes through it, closes the port, and then the engine builds up hydraulic pressure. Well, you know, that guy, he -- he operated -- where is it. Schlafly, Bob Schlafly .
DON BEDFORD: -- where he operates out of, but after that he always brought up fruit. You know. That's -- in those days, it's true, we didn't get much in the way of fruit up here, and it was poor quality. We did. Well, this was -- he'd bring up a whole, you know, he'd have a dozen watermelons and you know all that stuff. Because he was so thankful.
And after that, in fact, I showed him in our PBYs, we had a little fiber hammer, a fiber–headed hammer, and it was held by a leather thong there, and what that was for was we had a -- a electric pump. Besides the two engine pumps, we had electric pump and it was operated by a switch. And when the pressure would drop, why, you'd cut in.
Well, that was that far, that was for the copilot, whacked that thing, and it would work the same way with that hydraulic unloading valve.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Was that something you could do in flight?
DON BEDFORD: Oh, sure. But you see, our airplanes were so different than the military. Different engines, we had deicer boots, which the military didn't use. They -- the airplane was approved for deicer boots. In fact, some of the PBYs out here in the Aleutians had them, but nowhere else in the world.
CHUCK MOBLEY: The military PBYs?
DON BEDFORD: Yeah. Oh, there were interesting things about those PBYs. And like I say, they had a lot of work, a lot of maintenance on them. Keep you sweating. And all kinds of weird things happened on them.
DON BEDFORD: One time just -- the airplane -- we sent one of the airplanes, oh, they bought a new airplane and they sent it to this outfit, Long Beach Airmotive to modify it, and when it come here, oh, that company went broke. And so the company had to take over and Alaska Coastal guaranteed the employees their wages, you know. And when it got up here, well, it's safe to ferry, just barely.
Well, anyway, in the way it was in those days, with a air carrier, if somebody else worked on your airplane, you had to go through a -- the full series of maintenance checks. Now, we -- we had them broken down into 10. Go through all of those at your -- with your mechanics. Not their mechanics.
But anyway, we got it up here and went through all this stuff, you know. And take -- takeoff. I was aboard the airplane. My God, I don't know, whew, smoke and stink. Well, the pilots, they immediatley declared an emergency headed back to the airport. And about the time they headed back, why, it stopped, the smoke and everything.
And so they kept -- instead of letting down, they are heading back to the airport just out here a little ways. And when they added power, there was smoke. And I know I burnt my hand on one of the hydraulic tubes. Well, let's go back. We went back and landed and taxiing, and no problem, no nothing.
Well, what's causing that, you know. What -- what caused the hydraulic fluid to get so hot? Well, I thought about it. Finally decided what to do. Take a gauge and check what the pressure is, the return pressure is at, you know, take one of the other airplanes, both engines, get them howling pretty good, and check that pressure.
Then go on this new airplane and put the gauge there and check it again. Holy smokes, the pressure was over twice as much. Why? Got to checking and at this overhaul or modification down there, see, like I say, the original airplane had one hydraulic pump, small size, with the conversion you have two larger size. Well, they had not put this line in, this -- well, what we had is two, then they were brought into a larger one, see.
Up to the tank. They hadn't replaced that.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Right, they cut the same size lines?
DON BEDFORD: They -- we -- they had -- in the conversion, our other airplanes had the bigger lines. They had not done that. And so these two pumps trying to return that fluid, it caused back pressure. Back pressure caused heat. Well, we found all these crazy things, you know.
Oh, it's just like we've got these airplanes and here are still in it was armor plate. The outfit down there, because it took work, they were working -- it was a contract business. They made so much for the thing. Well, they hadn't removed the armor plate.
Well, so we went ahead and -- sure, it took time, time is money, and took that armor plate out of there. And that's the thing.
CHUCK MOBLEY: What did it look like?
DON BEDFORD: Well, what this was, you know what an armor -- what a PBY looks like at all? CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah.
DON BEDFORD: Well, you know the tower? That is that part where the wing sits on top of.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Okay.
DON BEDFORD: There's a little window there. And in there is the sumps. Here's a flat -- this tank, you know, and it has -- the PBY has two tanks. And in that thing there is the sump. The sump is built like this. See. And that sump will hold about 5 gallons of gas.
Well, that was to protect -- that was a critical thing there. To protect that sump. And so they used -- oh, it was about five–sixteenths on that plate, there was a chunk there. It's that long.
CHUCK MOBLEY: 4 feet? DON BEDFORD: That wide.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Foot and a half?
DON BEDFORD: Yeah. Maybe, I don't know what it weighed, 50 pounds. So -- and there was one on each tank. So we took those out. And that's one of the things, you know, and that's one of the things I know Shell Simmons once said, you've got to understand, you know, usually on an airplane, every time you overhaul it, you know, you weigh it after you got it overhauled. He says, I never -- I never heard of an airplane that every time you overhaul it, it weighs less, because what we were doing is removing some of that junk.
It's just like the PBYs had a harness, and many times the way they were operated, this was a big cable, oh, it's three–quarter, you know what I mean, like heavy machinery cable, you know. Caterpillar or something cable. Logging.
And this was a harness. And they carried that on the airplane all the time. Of course, we didn't carry it. This is surplus. But there was some big -- they were brass chunks about that big, about that and that big. Now, that brass is heavy. And there was two of them on the airplane.
DON BEDFORD: Well, this was part of this Hauser (phonetic) where they would pull up to a buoy, and that buoy was an anchor to the ground, the bottom of the thing. You see, you have to have to realize how they operate and how differently they operate. Sometimes at the beginning they had these seaplane tenders.
And they'd fly out to some island or something, and find a nice -- hey, this will make a nice, what do you want to call it, a spot.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Anchorage?
DON BEDFORD: Anchorage, yeah. And so the -- they would come up back and the seaplane tender would go out there and set anchors, buoys, and all that, the airplanes would then come to there and taxi up to these things, and hook the thing, tie it there. This was the harness to the airplane, see.
And it was pretty nice. The -- the seaplane tender plane had a barge that it carried gasoline and oil and it would come out to this anchored PBY, top off the tanks and all that, and take the crew into the tender and have a hot meal. It worked out good. And that is the wonderful thing about the PBY.
It did everything. It just happened to fit into all these things nicely. It fitted into what they call air–sea rescue. It could land on the water and take off in water conditions no other airplane could. And I tell you a little -- I don't know just how exactly how true, it tickled me, but it told about -- there's one of these books I read -- they would be on patrol, and at night.
And they know there's no friendly airplanes there or friendly ships. And anything they see is the enemy. And they're circling around in there. And that's the thing, the PBY, you could throttle that thing back and it'ld just be cruising about 90 miles an hour.
And you know like I say, with that -- at that they could stay there a long period of time. And they'd spot -- You know when a ship moves through the water at night, it leaves, if there's not a lot of wind, luminous from the propeller. And they'd spot that.
Well, there's nobody here, it's got to be enemy. So they would circle and come back and then come back real low and follow up that luminescent thing. You know, just 2–, 300 feet high, just mast height.
DON BEDFORD: And then what they would do -- The PBY could carry two bombs on each -- on the hard points under each wing, or one torpedo under each wing. And if they had their bombs -- are carrying bombs, they'd fly over this enemy ship, drop their bombs right on top of them, you know, and then one of the things they did , it made -- the PBY had a hatch back there. I never knew what it was for. We put an air stair in there. You know, so you could walk right up -- the passengers could walk right up to the tail of the airplane.
Anyway, that's what this thing was for. If -- if you had to land at night in the water or something, you could use that, drop some flares, circle around and land. See, in the early days, all airplanes that flew at night. Even civilian airplanes had to have flares.
That's what it was for. But anyway, these military, they'd drop these magnesium flares just as they dropped the -- their bombs. And you know, the ships are traveling blackout more or less, and everybody is dark and everything so you can see. And they drop those flares and everything lights up and they blind the gunners. And that gave the PBYs time to get out of their way.
But like I said, there was so many things they put that PBY. Like I say, strafing with a PBY. These four machine guns, well, I'll tell you, four machine guns is a lot of firepower. And at this time the Japanese, instead of using ships for resupply, they were using barges. And so this worked out very nicely strafing these barges.
It didn't take too much shooting. You didn't have to drop a bomb on one of those. You just shoot it up because these were -- were even -- these were 50 caliber. You know, they didn't have explosive charges in them, but just the same, when anything's carrying gasoline or anything like that, it would torch it.
CHUCK MOBLEY: I've got a question. I know you fly, too, right? DON BEDFORD: Yeah. CHUCK MOBLEY: So --
DON BEDFORD: I did. CHUCK MOBLEY: You did. And so back in the -- the late '40s and '50s when you were here, what was the pilots crowd like? Did you interact with the pilots here in Juneau?
DON BEDFORD: Who was here flying?
CHUCK MOBLEY: Well, yeah, who was here and what were they like and this.
DON BEDFORD: Well, do you want me to name some guys?
CHUCK MOBLEY: Well, sure.
DON BEDFORD: Well, there is Ray Renshaw, he's a -- he was head pilot for Alaska Coastal for a while. He's still alive.
CAROL BEDFORD: Kenny Logan.
DON BEDFORD: Who? CAROL BEDFORD: Kenny Logan.
DON BEDFORD: Kenny Logan. Yes. He worked for Coastal at one time, before I arrived.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Who was the first person?
CAROL BEDFORD: Ray Renshaw.
DON BEDFORD: Ray Renshaw, wasn't it?
CAROL BEDFORD: Yeah. That was the first one you mentioned. Kenny Logan and then Mickey Pusich was one --
DON BEDFORD: Well, yeah, but you see, they were flying commercial, and me, I'm just tinkering around, hunting and fishing, you know. Well, there was Mickey Pusich, he had a Taylorcraft like mine, you know, for hunting and fishing.
CAROL BEDFORD: Lee Dunlap.
DON BEDFORD: Lee Dunlap, yes. CAROL BEDFORD: He was -- that was --
DON BEDFORD: He had a Taylorcraft kept over on the lake.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Were there ever any bad accidents that happened out here in the channel?
DON BEDFORD: Bad accidents? CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah.
CAROL BEDFORD: How about the --
DON BEDFORD: Oh, there was this Pan Am Stratocruiser that cracked up on the runway.
CHUCK MOBLEY: How was -- what happened?
DON BEDFORD: Well, he undershot the run runway a little and hit the ground before the runway, and it bounced in the air. And either when he hit that, damaged the landing gear. When he settled on the runway, eventually went down on that wing and caught fire.
CAROL BEDFORD: We've got pictures of that.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah? People hurt?
DON BEDFORD: What? CHUCK MOBLEY: People hurt?
DON BEDFORD: Oh, there was, oh, one flight attendant, what'd she do, broke some teeth or something.
CAROL BEDFORD: Sprained an arm or sprained an ankle or something. DON BEDFORD: I don't know what it was.
CAROL BEDFORD: No, but no serious injuries.
DON BEDFORD: No. We lost a PBY over here at Otter Lake, heard of that by any chance? It's over on the coast by Pelican. Beyond Pelican, near the coast. It's a lake. They were hauling in a Forest Service log cabin, and he got into -- the pilot was landing and got into a porpoise, and I was a good friend of the captain, the first pilot you called it in those days, and he didn't take over in time.
You know what that porpoise business is? It's a -- yeah. Well, what happens, you come in and you kiss off like that, when you kiss off, it slows your airspeed down. All right. Your elevators are what you have to control the attitude of the airplane. All right. The thing is it comes like this. And worse and worse until you dive into the water. Because you've lost control of the attitude of the airplane, your elevators have become ineffective. Well --
CAROL BEDFORD: Alaska Coastal had a helicopter, too, that went into the bay. DON BEDFORD: Huh?
CAROL BEDFORD: A helicopter that went into the bay.
DON BEDFORD: Yeah. We had a helicopter, too.
CHUCK MOBLEY: What kind?
DON BEDFORD: Hiller.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah. DON BEDFORD: Hiller 12D. CHUCK MOBLEY: Did you work on it?
DON BEDFORD: Yes. Very little. That was -- that was part of the problem with the helicopter.
CHUCK MOBLEY: That's one of those ones where the pilot's in the middle, right? Yeah.
DON BEDFORD: What it was, Shell had a -- the idea, by golly, no matter what their prob -- even when it was Ketchikan, you know, was the -- merged into Coastal. And if something would happen in Ketchikan, bring that airplane up here, we can fix it here.
Now anyway, they got this helicopter, and this is the first one in the -- well, Joe Salloy (phonetic), he brought one up, but what I mean is the one that was stationed here.
He had too much faith that those airplane mechanics could do the same thing for a helicopter. Well, that's not true. Oh, I don't know. And the pilot, he was a military pilot, Jim Sweeney. He -- he was okay as a pilot. He flew as a Goose pilot, too. But I don't know, there was all these queer things, where he talked a language that I didn't under -- two–one beat or some darn thing, you know, vibration, and the thing is you get that vibration, oh, beautiful.
The next day, no good. It won't do this, it won't do that. Well, they cracked it up twice. One time, you know where the old ski area is? Just straight across on the bridge, you know, up there kind of --
CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum. Oh, to the north?
DON BEDFORD: Well, this is the old one.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Okay. I don't know it.
DON BEDFORD: They used to have a thing that they called Ulu -- Uluh (phonetic). It was a track vehicle, they'd take the skiers up there. Well, I don't know what it was, somebody got hurt up there, and they took the helicopter up there and while they were loading it, the passenger, why, it started sliding. It was on floats. And he -- he jumped in, tried to rev up the engine and save it, slid over on its side.
Like a chicken with its head cut off. Pretty well totaled it. And the last time it happened, it happened right in the bay. Engine quit. I tell you that Joe Salloy, he -- he knew. He had a lot of tricks, and I don't remember having trouble with that thing. You know, what it is, is it would -- the engine would start. This was a Franklin engine, poor engine, same engine Seabee's got but not the same model, but it would start up and this clutch would suddenly engage.
And that was the thing about this engine, there was no load on it like a propeller. So when it started, brrm, like that, and then the thing would engage and this clutch would keep going out. Well, Joe Salloy, he happened to be up there and, well, the way you do that is you about flood that engine. Prime it so much. And so when it starts, it just goes bup bup bup bup bup bup bup bup, you know. There wasn't this hum. But he had learned that little trick, see.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Have you ever flown in a biplane? Click here to view film of a biplane.
DON BEDFORD: Oh, sure, that's what I learned to fly in, in the military.
CHUCK MOBLEY: So the AT–6 was a biplane?
DON BEDFORD: No. No. Stearman.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Oh, okay.
DON BEDFORD: That's a -- you know, Stearman was a early designer of airplanes, and Boeing bought the manufacturing rights to that, and during the war built them by the jillions in Wichita, Kansas.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Okay. All right. I understand. Another question, I've seen photos at the Coast Guard office in Ketchikan of an Alaska Airlines jet that crashed. DON BEDFORD: Oh, yeah.
CHUCK MOBLEY: What -- can you tell me about that?
DON BEDFORD: Yeah. Well, I hope I can get you -- get the facts straight because I --
CHUCK MOBLEY: I've heard it before, I just want -- I'm just curious about how you heard it.
DON BEDFORD: Well, what had happened was this pilot took off. No, he was landing. And the runway was a little bit slick. You know, that's the way they do things, you know, when they built that runway, they didn't have anything. Fire truck, sand truck, nothing. Well, the runway really was a little slippery because, you know, even if you do just have a pickup or something, why, you go easy on the sand because you want it to last.
Well, anyway, the runway was slick. And he came up and landed and threw her in reverse.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Where is this now? DON BEDFORD: Huh? CHUCK MOBLEY: This -- where?
DON BEDFORD: This is Ketchikan. CHUCK MOBLEY: Okay.
DON BEDFORD: The new airport, you know. Threw her in reverse. And he realizes he wasn't going to get stopped. So he tried to go full bore.
Well, for one thing, they -- this was the early type thrust reverser. It -- what do they call those. Anyway, they come out like this.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah, I've seen those. Well, I've seen -- I know how they work.
DON BEDFORD: Well, they're not designed to retract. With the impact of the air hitting that, they're meant to open up. And he tried to retract them. Well, they're -- like I say, I don't know all there is about this, but this was what I heard, and I've read, as I recall, the NTSB accident report.
He tried to go around full bore. Well, you've got a interlock thing in those -- in the other the newer type, the louvered type, why, the thing has to go to reverse to forward before you can add power. All you can do, if it's in -- you're powering in reverse, it will go to neutral. But it won't go into forward until this thing is fully forward.
Then you can put the power forward. Well, the thing is, you can't do that if -- if the thing. No, if it was true, if the thing, like I say, the thrust reverser didn't have enough power to overcome the -- the air from the forward speed of the airplane and close, then the interlock, and he was at neutral. Idle. So he went off the end of the runway.
CHUCK MOBLEY: And there were people hurt in that one, right?
DON BEDFORD: Two or three.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Okay. I was thinking of a crash up on some mountain somewhere. DON BEDFORD: Oh.
CHUCK MOBLEY: And the plane burnt. And I don't know where it was, but I've seen photographs of it because -- and because the tail section's still sitting there and the whole fuselage is all burnt.
DON BEDFORD: Yeah. CHUCK MOBLEY: What one's that?
DON BEDFORD: That's Alaska Airlines. He was coming out of, you know, out of Yakutat. And you know, you come over the Chilkat Range and then you let down, and what they have -- off of Sisters Island they have radio beams.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah. DON BEDFORD: Radios that go.
CHUCK MOBLEY: This is the one I'm thinking of.
DON BEDFORD: And he was coming down all right. When you hit this point, you can let down further. And you hit this point, you can let down further because you're over the mountain.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Right.
DON BEDFORD: Well, you know, these jets, they've got these spoilers, and I'll tell you, you're coming over -- you can come over here, you can come over to this island out here, 5–, 10,000 feet, and pull those spoilers and whew, like an elevator. Okay. He apparently -- what he did, he let down too fast. See, a regular airplane, he'd pull her back to idle, and he couldn't -- they act like they are the best flaps on earth -- in the world, those spoilers.
Boy, that airplane just drops out of the sky. They've had accidents where the pilots forgot they had the spoilers extended. Give her full bore, and hey, we're sinking like a rock. Well, that was that. And so they hit a ridge on this side. And she just exploded. They were at high speed. Killed everybody. But they didn't blame that entirely on Alaska Airlines.
Because Pan American and PNA, they were operating at that same time into Juneau, they had reported inaccuracies in these radios. And so I don't know just who should be blamed or what, but -- or the blame should be shared, but anyway, you see, they thought they were further this way.
And all there would be is sea level saltwater below them. But you see with this radio coming out of thing was misplaced, and you're quite a ways from Sisters Island there, I don't know what they call those. Point Howard. But that was a nasty accident.
CHUCK MOBLEY: It looked like it from the photographs.
DON BEDFORD: Oh, yeah. All there was, was just -- I saw the APU, the auxiliary power unit. Oh, it was just mangled. And that is -- where it's sitting on the main beam there, just behind the wing carry through. It's all protected, but oh. It was terrible.
Those airplanes, jets, you know, they're moving. And you just don't -- law of momentum and whatnot, why, you just don't stop them. A light airplane, why, it catches its wing in the top of a fir tree or a spruce three and it don't go much further. Well, we had a lot of good experiences in --
DON BEDFORD: Well, I'll tell you one. We overhauled an airplane here, tore it all from hell to breakfast, and inspected it and everything, put it all together and everything, but one thing we did do, we put a new rudder on it. Now these things in the PBYs, different models of PBYs have different rudders, rudder shapes. And anyway, they -- to license that airplane originally, you have to do some things to the rudder. The rudder on the original PBYs fit like that. No over -- aerodynamic overhang. Well, you've got to put a little aerodynamic overhang on it.
You have asti seat for that. Well, anyway, for this big one, the Supercat they call it, you have a higher rudder and a bigger overhang. It's a modification of the original rudder.
DON BEDFORD: Hey, honey, it's getting cool in here, how about throwing a stick in?
CAROL BEDFORD: I don't think you've got any fire left to throw a stick into.
DON BEDFORD: Yeah, maybe not. As a fire man, I've been --
CAROL BEDFORD: Nothing left there.
DON BEDFORD: Well, throw a little piece of paper in.
But anyway, we got the airplane -- airplane flew fine except this. The airplane wanted to go like this. What the devil?
I don't know. I sat in the copilot's seat, I was up twice to that. Trying to figure out was wrong, anyhow we checked the cable tensions and everything, and eventually we took off the rudder and checked its balance again.
DON BEDFORD: Throw one of those other pieces, Carol. Long pieces.
CAROL BEDFORD: This?
DON BEDFORD: Yeah.
CAROL BEDFORD: What, this?
DON BEDFORD: I don't know. Yeah. That's one. That is not too --
CAROL BEDFORD: I don't think it's going to go.
DON BEDFORD: Open the back. I'm the fire man, so she doesn't know how to do it very well.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Ah, she -- it's going to take off just to spite you, then.
CAROL BEDFORD: Yeah. Probably.
DON BEDFORD: Well, anyway, we found nothing wrong. And Shell, he pretty much -- he's the bull cook, he says, hell with it. Take that old rudder and put some men working on that thing day and night and recover the old rudder. We did. No problem.
Well, about five years later Boeing had an accident. Is that Auburn? It's south of Seattle? Anyway, they were coming into Boeing Field. And in those days, they were checking out -- this was 707s -- an airline crew, an airline crew had only flown straight wing airplanes, see.
And anyway, they -- so they turned off the yaw damper. And the airplane started this. And they left it on. Killed them all.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Wow, flipped over and spiraled down and --
DON BEDFORD: Well, what the yaw damper is -- any swept–wing airplane has this. You can't -- built into the autopilot they have two, A and B. If one goes out, you switch the other. All the time.
And this autopilot, it feels this slight like that, and it corrects it. Then it goes to the other side. It corrects it, see. Whereas without a yaw damper on, for a human body to feel this, it has to -- to greater intensity.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum.
DON BEDFORD: Well, that's exactly what that PBY was doing. And I have tried to find information on a Dutch roll, that's what they call it. The yaw damper is to prevent Dutch roll.
They do say -- what information I have found that the PBY or -- well, the -- it is -- it seems to have a propensity in long–wing airplanes. Now, I'd call a PBY a long–wing airplane. But it's an aerodynamic thing. It's like this.
You got your swept–wing airplane like that. When it goes like that, what happens? This wing here, the leading edge is now, say, close to 90 degrees from the air flow. It gets more lift. So it lifts up like that. And then the airplane rolls the other way.
So it is -- that's the natural thing of the airplane. If you are flying an airplane and you want to turn, you don't have a rudder, just roll in the ailerons. The airplane will -- like that. And then it will start to turn, like this. If you have a rudder, boy, you just -- you want to turn, you can turn the airplane like this, and it will go like this. And then the wing will drop. And a normal turn will start.
Well, actually, the rudder is the most effective control you have in the airplane. You can steer it nicely, just a little bit. It -- the airplane flies itself, more or less. Well, this Dutch roll is just the opposite. Can you -- do you understand how it can happen?
CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah. Yeah.
DON BEDFORD: The wing goes like that, there's more wing area. CHUCK MOBLEY: Right.
DON BEDFORD: And it's lifted. Well, anyway, the best I can see is that's what happened to this airplane. We never -- you know, we didn't know anything about Dutch roll. It -- it only was supposedly at that time just affect swept–wing airplanes.
Well, it swept -- it affects long–wing airplanes, too. In fact, I've heard these sailplanes, they have long wings, they will have it.
DON BEDFORD: But oh, we had many interesting things happen, and it was our -- and you call up Consolidated, Convair or something, and PBY, did we build that airplane? Whereas if you're having trouble with a Boeing airplane, bang, they have got a half a dozen engineers on it right now.
We had a peculiar one here with a 727. The airplane came in, the pilot dropped the flaps, and he'd get a -- he got a, what do you call it, a indication, in other words, what it is, there's a system in the airplane, if for one wing -- reason or another one wing flap goes down and the other one doesn't go down and follow it very closely a couple degrees and it will stop everything.
Stop the flap that is working from going down, what I mean, it will stop the flap and the flaps cannot move. Well, he came in and landed, and you know, the -- found out the outboard flaps on the right–hand side are inoperative. They don't work. Well, the way the flaps work on a Boeing airplane, they've got a flap drive, it's a system of shafts that come out to these gearboxes.
CHUCK MOBLEY: Uh–hum. Right.
DON BEDFORD: That move the flaps down. Well, this has never been heard of before. This is true. Alaska Airlines, well, even more so uses their airplanes up. They utilize them. And they fly the high gross weights.
Well, no other airline had had this problem. What had happened, there's got a -- the way a 727 is built, they've got a big beam, it's about 2 foot, it's a casting, and about 12 foot long. And the back end of the landing gear is attached to that, supported by that. The front is -- the front end of that landing gear is supported by the spar of the wing.
So this thing comes out at an angle, like this. And meets the wing. See, the wing is tapered back. Anyway, they've got a great big bolt there, at that outboard end. And I don't know whether it's true or not but it seems to go in things. And at the time the 727 was designed, they went into a lot of these nylon bushings.
There's -- they are a regular big bolt, a special bolt, but it's coated with nylon. And see when that airplane lands, why, we've watched a wing of those airplanes, and it'll --
CHUCK MOBLEY: Bounce on the -- DON BEDFORD: -- unevenness of the runway. CHUCK MOBLEY: Yeah.
DON BEDFORD: And anyway, that's held in there by a -- in a rear spar there, a big casting, and it has a bolt that holds that big bolt in there. And on the other side, that's fuel. The other end of the bolt's actually in jet fuel. Anyway, this big thing migrated aft. These shoulders of the bolt was supposed to hold that in there, well, they broke off. And so this big support -- and that supports the weight of the airplane. It came out. And then it come out at an angle to the shaft that runs the outboard floats.
So it act just like a lathe cutting through, cut that shaft in two. Well, now, immediately, you know, as soon as we found it, called Seattle and told them what -- what had happened. And they immediately called Boeing, and this is eight, ten o'clock at night. And they get these guys. And I was talking to different, a conference call, they were asking me questions. And you know. And I didn't ever heard of anything like that. I wasn't a -- nowhere near an expert on 727s.
Well, they come out with the fact that what -- what we could do, you know, to get it out of here. In fact, the company took it to Boeing and Boeing repaired that. But there are all kinds of freakish things. And like I say, Alaska used their -- lots more landings than the other operators, at higher gross weights.
All these things enter into it. It's just like these operators are 707s, like Pan Am or some of them that were flying to Hawaii and you know, Japan, they'd take off with some heavy weights. But when they landed there, they burned out all that weight. Whereas there was some other outfits like Continental and some others, they were using the airplanes, heavy passenger loads and freight loads.
They were using them on short runs. They were making many more landings than Pan Am. And so what -- the chances are, you don't throw the passengers out.