Recollections of Flying the Andes
Memories of Paul A. Willey
Pilot for Panagra / Braniff 1942 – 1980
Panagra DC-3 from
a painting that Mike Willey gave his father, Capt Paul
In April 1942, I was hired
by Pan American-Grace Airways as a co-pilot to be based in
Lima, Peru. I had turned 21 the previous November and was
the proud possessor of a Commercial License, an Instrument
Rating and a Multi-engine Type Rating (Lockheed 10-A) courtesy
of the Civilian Pilot Training Program, sponsored by Colby
College and run by Airways, Inc. of Waterville, Maine, and
the Flight Officers Program conducted by Northeast Airlines
at the East Boston Airport and at Burlington, Vermont.
The Flight Officers program
was designed to train co-pilots for the Pan-American Africa-Orient
operation, which was a supply line to support the Burma campaign
of World War II. When this operation was terminated as such,
many of the pilots became ATC (Air Transport Command Officers).
The manner in which Pan American-Grace
(Panagra) got permission to hire 6 of us from this training
program is unknown to me. Bob Disher, then Operations Manager
of the airline, came to Boston and interviewed Cecil Richardson
(Rich), Bill Dripps, Dick Witt, Joe Betty, Al Kopp, me and
others who had indicated an interest in the job. The aforementioned
all became employees of Panagra. Rich really was the one to
talk me into accepting the Panagra offer.
Rich was from Toledo, Ohio
was, and is, a couple of years older than I. He had served
in the Army in Panama as a diesel engine specialist for a
year or two. He convinced me that Lima, Peru was the place
to go - and so I went. After completing the Flight Officers
Course, which started out in East Boston but got shifted to
Burlington, Vermont, I went back home to Waterville for a
couple of weeks and left for Peru at the end of April. Rich
had finished up at Burlington a week or two before I, took
a short leave at Toledo and beat me to Lima by about three
It took me a couple of days
to get from Waterville to Miami, Florida by train. Once in
Miami, I was given a room in the Columbus Hotel on Biscayne
Boulevard where I waited for 5 days or so for my passport
to arrive from DC. The Hotel Tivoli in the Canal Zone of Panama,
where Panagra employees usually stayed had no room so I was
deposited by a Grace employee in a hotel indowntown Panama.
I say "hotel" advisedly. There was more traffic
in and out of that establishment after 10 p.m. than there
was in all of the daylight hours.
After 4 days or so in Panama,
there was space available for me on a Panagra DC3 bound for
Lima via Cali, Colombia; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Talara and Chiclayo,
Peru and finally, Lima. The plane was captained by Frank Havelick
(who later served as the Panagra Chief Pilot for more than
25 years) and Tiny Meyer (6"2 and about 200 lbs. By the
time I got to Lima about the middle of May, this country boy
from Waterville, Maine had added to his education. For one
thing, I became a "ShortSnorter" as a result of
crossing the Equator in Ecuador. On payment of a dollar to
each Captain Havelick and Tiny Meyer, they signed me in on
the dollar bill that I provided. (I still carry it with me
and have the signature of friends and then Vice President
H. A. Wallace, who later was a passenger on a plane which
I copiloted) on my bill.
My first quarters in Lima
was a room at the Bolivar Hotel which fronted on the Plaza
San Martin in downtown Lima. The Bolivar was then the only
"good" hotel in Lima. It had a large tearoom off
of the main lobby (known as the snakepit) and an English type
bar where they served a green beer (made by the Backus Brewery)
and some lightning in a glass called a PISCO SOUR. Meals were
served in what to me seemed to be a very formal dining room
and the dress code demanded a suit and tie. Dinner, in the
European style, was soup, salad, fish course, a meat entree
and desert. Waiters, all male, were dressed in formal attire.
After a few days at the Bolivar,
I moved to Miraflores and the Pension White. I had no idea
what a pension was but found that Mrs. White, an English lady,
had what amounted to a large private home where she provided
room and board for lonesome strangers. Meals were served in
a small dining room, the food was wholesome but strange to
me and the bed was short on one end for my 6'4" (I later
found out that most beds made in Peru were something less
than six feet in length). But what do you want for $20 a week
(I think that was about the
At this time, I had little
if any understanding of Spanish as I had only been exposed
to French as a foreign language in High School and College.
Rich, who had picked up some Spanish during his stay in Panama
negotiated the rental of a house where we would share expenses
so we could move out of the pension and have a little more
Panagra had a hangar, where
maintenance on their aircraft was performed and where some
offices for personnel were located, another small building
which housed the radio operators (communications then were
all conducted in Morse code except when you were within range
of an airport when radio voice communications were effective),
the link trainer and the Chief Pilot's office. A lot of Panagra's
affairs were conducted in the offices of W. R. Grace &
Co., which were located in their bank building in downtown
Pan American Grace Airways,
Inc. was owned by W. R. Grace & Co. and Pan American Airways
50/50 but our chief operations officer in Lima was Tom Kirkland,
a Vice President of Panagra. Our operations manager was Bob
Disher. Andrew Shea was President of Panagra but lived in
New York. Another VP named Doug Campbell was also on the W.
R. Grace and Panagra management team. (Doug, I believe, was
a World War I ace.) Panagra was formed in 1929 by Grace and
Pan Am to provide service from Panama south to, eventually,
Santiago, Chile and over the Andes to Buenos Aires, Argentina
via Mendoza and Cordoba. Pan Am operated from Miami to Panama
and then down the East coast of South America to Buenos Aires
via Venezuela, the Guianas, Brazil and Uruguay.
When I arrived in Lima, I
was placed on the seniority list as the 35th pilot then employed
by the airline. Not a very big operation! A listing of Panagra
aircraft shows that they had 3 DC2's and about 10 DC3's and
3A's plus a Wasp Jr. powered gull winged Stinson Reliant (used
as an instrument trainer) and a Fairchild 71 once used by
Panagra in commercial operations (a time builder for those
copilots who needed same). Maintenance ground school was conducted
by Sr. Skinner in a small area adjacent to the hangar. I can't
for the life of me remember his given name but we always called
Skinner was a Peruvian who
had been educated in the maintenance field in the U.S. He
led us through the intricacies of the Stromberg carburetor,
taught us what the Wright G103A engine could and and could
not do, extolled the virtues of the Pratt & Whitney S1C3G's
that powered the newer of the DC3's that Panagra operated.
While all of us hired as copilots had instrument ratings when
we arrived in Lima, our ratings had been obtained on the radio
ranges then in use in the USA. In South America, when you
made a letdown in instrument conditions, you did so using
a direction finder (DF) or an ADF (Automatic DF). We learned
to orient ourselves by use of the ADF, determine distance
from the station and make letdowns and letups on the approved
radials. We also learned how to use oral nulls for navigating
and making instrument approaches in the event the automatic
direction finder failed. In making an instrument approach,
two overheads of the let down radio facility were required
to make sure a false signal was not being received.
Panagra also hired temporary
reserve captains for their operation. This was a period of
expansion for the airline and most of their new hires did
not have enough time to qualify for an Airline Transport Rating,
which was required before one could fly as Captain of a passenger
carrying U.S. certificated airline. These reserve captains
were mostly old-timers (some were at least 35 years old) who
had been instructors or otherwise employed or trained as pilots.
New copilot prospects, such
as I, spent a lot of time at Limatambo (our operations center)
attending groundschool, waiting for a chance to fly, getting
our mail and generally hobnobbing with the rest of the gang.
A lot of time was spent sitting on the fence overlooking the
airport watching arrivals and departures and training flight
Limatambo had no paved runways
at this time but was just a big unpaved field about a third
of a mile wide and probably a little over a mile long. The
only paved areas were concrete runup pads at the northern
and southern extremities of the field and there was also a
concrete pad in front of the terminal building on which was
located the control tower and in which was located a restaurant
and offices of the aduana (customs). During those portions
of the day that there were no expected arrivals or departures
of passenger flights, the concrete pad in front of the terminal
was used as a departure point for training flights. Those
of us sitting on the rail watching these flights, knew when
to move to avoid the dust and blowing debris stirred up by
the propellers of departing aircraft.
One of the prospective reserve
captain candidates delighted in telling all of the neophytes
what a great pilot he was, how he had flown B24s, etc., etc.
The day in question, we all knew he was going out for one
of his first indoctrination flights with a check pilot.
The DC2s were used in great
part as training aircraft. An ATR and type rating obtained
in a DC2 was also valid in a DC3. The predecessor of the DC3,
our DC2s were set up to carry 14 passengers. There were many
improvements in the DC3 that the 2 didn't have. For one thing,
the throttle linkage on a 2 left something to be desired.
An equal application of throttle for the left and right engine
did not necessarily mean you would get equal amounts of thrust
from each of the two engines. Unequal amounts of thrust can
create a problem for the unwary.
Another item of difference,
was the braking system. Energy for the braking system on the
2 was provided by a handle on the upper left-hand portion
of the instrument panel that would provide pressure on the
brake shoes as the pilot pulled the handle out with his left
hand. Equal pressure was applied to both brakes when the rudder
pedals were in the neutral position and differential pressure
was applied to that wheel when the rudder pedal was depressed
out of the neutral position.
Shortly after high noon without
a breath of wind on a clear summers day, the check pilot and
our reserve captain trainee climbed aboard the DC2 parked
on the pad in front of the terminal. There must have been
a least a dozen copilot trainees sitting on the wall facing
the pad to watch the operation. We could see the trainee seated
in the left seat. After what was a fairly lengthy briefing,
the engines were started, chocks removed by the ground crew
and a stately departure from the pad was made.
Very shortly after having
left the pad, a right turn was started, there was a burst
of power, the dust started blowing, another burst of power
and the plane disappeared into the now vertically rising cloud
of dust. When the dust thinned enough for us to see, we knew
that about a 360 degree ground loop at been in progress. The
engines, quiet for the past few moments, surged again and
this time a left groundloop ensued partially hidden in the
storm of dust. Engines quieted again, this time for several
minutes. Another application of power, another ground loop.
This time there were only idling engines observed for some
period of time when the plane taxied back to the pad and engines
were shut down by the check pilot who was now in the left
To the best of my knowledge,
the only other time the poor guy who did all of this flew
a Panagra plane was as a passenger on his way back to the
U.S.A. According to my log book, from May 22 to July 12, 1942,
I flew 5 hours and 31 minutes in training flights, some in
a DC2, some in Stinson and the balance in a DC3A My first
flight was with Captain "Fearless" Freddy Long from
Arequipa, Peru to Santiago, Chile as a Class "C"
Copilot. I have no record or recollection as to how I got
from Lima to Arequipa.
So what's a Class "C"
Copilot? Another name devised for us was hydraulic engineer.
We raised the gear handle which actuated a hydraulic system
which raised the gear. We lowered the flaps which were hydraulically
powered and on command, of course, lowered the landing gear.
Otherwise we were there to observe how our mentor flew an
airliner. A Class "C" Copilot made no takeoffs or
landings while carrying passengers unless you had a very daring
PIC (Pilot in Command) who had more confidence in you than
did the Chief Pilot's office. Position reports were relayed
to Lima by a radio operator seated directly behind the captain.
After a respectable time as
a Class "C" Copilot and with additional training,
you could be upgraded to a Class "B" Copilot. This
meant that you could make takeoffs and landings at the discretion
of the Captain. Further training and acquisition of experience,
Class "A" status could be obtained. Again at the
discretion of the Captain, you now could fly from the left
seat with the Captain acting as copilot. My second trip as
a neophyte pilot was to the Bolivian jungle with Frank Achilles.
The purpose of the trip was to deliver radio and other equipment
to newly opened airstrips on the Bolivian circuit, places
like Corumba, Santa Cruz and Robore. It also gave me an insight
at what a DC3A could do at altitude both enroute and at airports.
La Paz, Boliviar, one of our stops, was a dirt strip at 13,400
feet above sea level. It currently has a 13,000 foot paved
runway and I believe it must have been about 9,000 feet long
on my first arrival.
On our return from Santa Cruz
to Lima we had to cross the Andes westbound. The weather west
of Santa Cruz was not good so we started climbing. We had
to go to at least 15,000 feet to clear the terrain in good
weather and normal passage over the alto plano (the high relatively
flatlands of the Andes) was at 17,000 feet. We got to 17,000
feet and still couldn't get over the weather (instrument flying
was a nono NO NO in this location at this time). Granted the
DC3A was not heavily loaded we had but one company employee
plus the crew on board but we eventually got up to 22,000
feet where we topped out the weather and proceeded on to Lima.
Another memorable flight was
one of my first trips over the Andes from Santiago, Chile
to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Mendoza and Cordoba, Argentina.
This trip was with Captain Warren B. Smith who had been based
in Santiago for many years and eventually made more than 1,500
crossings of the Andes. He was awarded a military order (of
the Condor, I think) by the Chilean government for his exploits.
Santiago was about 1,600 feet
above sea level and to cross the Andes via the pass just south
of Cerro Aconcagua (over 23,000 feet high), it was necessary
to attain about 14,000 feet as we overflew the statue known
as the "Christ of the Andes", which marked the border
between Chile and Argentina. Then we wended our way down a
canyon to the city of Mendoza which was on the East Side of
One of the duties of a copilot
was to measure the fuel load before departure and to check
the remaining fuel on arrival. The DC3 had two main and two
auxiliary tanks. The main tank's maximum capacity was 208
gallons each and the aux tanks carried 201 gallons each. Measuring
was done with a stick calibrated to show the gallonage. Usually
it was not necessary to carry fuel in the aux tanks on the
SantiagoBA run as the distances between stops was not far.
I dutifully measured the fuel outbound and inbound at each
of the stations enroute to BA. After arrival at Moron, the
airport then serving Buenos Aires, we were taken by station
wagon to the nearest railway station where we boarded a train
for the ride into the city for our overnight at the Continental
The next morning, after boarding
the station wagon which met us at the railway station, Captain
Smith told me not to bother measuring the right hand auxiliary
tank on the way back to Santiago. I did as I was told. On
arrival in Santiago, with the aid of one of the ground crew,
we were measuring the fuel on board when he opened the right
hand aux tank and showed me that it was full of gas. I thought
that I must have messed up someplace on the way and went to
tell the Captain of this find. When I blurted out our discovery,
Warren B. said "Don't think anything about it, Sonny,
that's just a little automobile gas for my Buick that I picked
up in BA." Our route maps were strip maps made up by
our engineering department (Oh how I wish I had kept copies!)
with the various airports located on same, a line drawn on
the map with the magnetic headings noted, the coast line sketched
in and an occasional indication that there were mountains
located along the route. There were no realistic geographic
Each new crew member kept
his own little notebook in which to enter details of each
landing strip, the times and headings between checkpoints,
radio frequencies of the ground facilities, geographic details
noted or brought to our attention by the PIC while enroute.
I guess that the CPO (Chief Pilot's Office) decided that with
all of this to do, you wouldn't have time to land the plane
also. And all of this made one feel like a 'pionero del aire'.
Copilots were only allowed to log 50% of the time flown. There
was a time when 100% credit could be taken but I think that
was when you became a Class "A" Copilot. Or was
it when we soloed or got a type rating in the equipment (we'll
get to this later)?
Panagra also had another neat
little custom which was inherited, I think, from Pan Am. Each
station was equipped with a chrome plated bell of about 8
inches in diameter. On departure, when 1 bell was rung, the
crew boarded the airplane, 2 bells signaled the boarding of
the passengers, 3 bells indicated it was time to start engines.
And how about this! On arrival a pilot member of the crew
got off the plane before any of the passengers were allowed
out. (Sometimes the PIC would have the copilot make the long
trip down the cabin with the passengers staring at him, especially
if the PIC had bounced the landing.)
In October of 1942, Rich and
I were both posted to Quito, Ecuador where we were to copilot
on the Ecuadorian circuit. Panagra, the only passenger airline
operating in Ecuador at that time, served Quito, Guayaquil,
Esmeraldas, Manta, Cuenca, Salinas and Loja. Our base was
at Quito and service was provided daily to Guayaquil and several
times a week to the other cities. There were two crews based
in Quito. Captains Howard Caldwell and Thadeus Luther Henry
Young both lived in Quito with their growing families. Rich
and I were the copilots from October 1942 to April 1943, when
we were assigned back to the Lima base. John and Bill Protich
were our radio operators at the Quito base.
Quito is located just south
of the equator (hence the name Ecuador) at an elevation of
9,200 feet above sea level. Mountains rise up to about the
fifteen thousand foot level to the west of Quito including
Mount Pichincha on which a battle was fought during the revolt
against Spanish rule in the 19th century. To the east, after
a small rise in elevation, there is a valley several hundreds
of feet lower than Quito but this valley does not occupy a
whole lot of space before there are snow capped mountains
in the nineteen thousand foot range. This also holds
true for the areas north and south of Quito.
Rich and I met a Henry Wade
and we three rented a house which included a houseboy named
Ramon. Henry was ostensibly a newspaper reporter for "International
Press". Henry never confirmed our suspicions that he
was an undercover FBI type but he wore the same gabardine
suit and topcoat that seemed to serve as a uniform for this
group, at least in South America. He also had a close liaison
with another 'gringo' who was supposed to be the agent for
a lumber company in the States.
Henry was a 'good ole boy'
from Sweetwater, Texas. At least that is the name that I recall.
He eventually became the District Attorney in Dallas County,
Texas The house that we rented was enclosed by a wall, had
a small officetype room just off the entryway, a living room
(with fireplace),a bathroom, a dining room and a kitchen,
which was the domain of our male cook. The second floor had
three bedrooms and a bath.
Henry, being the first occupant
of the house, occupied what was the master bedroom. There
was one other fair sized bedroom with a double bed and a smaller
room with something about the size of a canvas cot for a bed.
A flip of the coin and I won the smaller room and bed. Rich,
about 5'8 got the double bed. I learned to sleep on short
beds in South America by placing a pillow on a chair placed
at the foot of the bed to handle my 6'4 overhang.
There was no lack of social
life on our days off. (Even the working days were not too
bad as we usually departed about eight in the morning and
got back by two in the afternoon, weather permitting.) There
was an "American" school that employed three young
women from the U.S. as teachers. (Mary Coburn, Frances Franklin
and Flora Rowe) We used to go out with them and with Ecuadorian
girls, dancing, horseback riding, picnics, etc.
In 1945 when I was flying
as PIC in Ecuador, I landed in Manta shortly after there had
been an airplane accident. The Ecuadorian government had instituted
a civilian pilot training program and used Manta airport for
this purpose. Facts, as related to me by our airport manager
were that graduation exercises had been conducted for the
latest class that day. The Minister of Aviation had come to
the festivities and after graduation was over, had been invited
to take a ride in their Piper type training plane. The course
instructor took off over the dike, made a low left turn and
spun into the ground about 150 yards from our terminal station.
Our station manager ran to airplane as fast as he could but
when he got there someone had beat him to it and cut off the
ring finger, for the ring that had been there, of the dead
occupant. One of the parties lived and we took him to Guayaquil
for treatment which I later heard was unsuccessful.
Although I flew with both
of the PIC's based in Quito, most of the time was with Ty
Young. Ty had been a Navy Mustang which I understand was a
noncommissioned pilot. He later worked for United Airlines
and came to Panagra sometime prior to my arrival. At any rate,
he had had a lot more experience than I. (When I went to work
for Panagra, I had logged a total of 246 hours and 45 minutes.)
All of the airports that we
had at that time south of Panama were grass or dirt strips
no paved runways, as we know them today. Ty was great at short
field landings as was evidenced by the fact that he took great
pleasure in toppling the board marking the northern extremity
of the Guayaquil airstrip by brushing it with the landing
Radio facilities throughout
South America were minimal. Most of our navigation, except
for instrument letdowns and letups, was of the visual and
deadreckoning type. As noted earlier, the charts didn't provide
too much in the way of geographical detail so the only way
we could know how high our enroute obstructions were was to
fly in close proximity and measure them. We memorized times
and distances, radio frequencies, airport elevations, airport
lengths, aircraft limitations, mountain heights, etc. We were
given quite a lot of latitude as to route of flight as long
as you got to where you were scheduled to be on time. There
were few, if any, other aircraft other than our own operating
in the same sectors we were. And we were kept advised of their
location by our onboard radio operators.
Our airport managers were
supposed to keep us advised of the whereabouts of aircraft
in our route of travel. We did not do a whole lot of enroute
instrument flying but on one occasion when flying with Ty
Young, there was a bunch of high stratus over the Ecuadorian
flatlands north of Guayaquil. We had been in contact with
Guayaquil and had not been advised of any traffic. It was
early in the morning and there wasn't any Panagra traffic
to be expected as seldom did the northbound flight from Lima
to Panama leave Guayaquil much before 11 a.m.
We were on solid instruments
when we heard a radio transmission reporting a position that
we were about to report. On query to Guayaquil, we found that
a nonscheduled Panagra freighter had overnighted in Guayaquil
and was in fact at or near our position at approximately the
same altitude (we had started our letdown from our initial
altitude of 11 thousand feet and the freighter was reporting
that same altitude). I looked over at Ty who had an expression
on his face I had not seen before. There was not much cockpit
conversation for the balance of the trip into Guayaquil.
After landing, Ty left the
cockpit for the terminal and when I arrived on the scene had
a hamhanded handful of the manager's shirt and was making
it abundantly clear that if this ever happened again, the
manager would suffer dire consequences. How close we came
to meeting the other airplane head on, I do not know but that
was as close as I want to get. When dispatch services were
finally instituted by Panagra, the manager involved in this
incident served as a dispatcher for about 40 years.
On April 21, 1943, I arrived
back in Lima which was to become my base until March of 1945
when I was temporarily based in Quito to replace a vacationing
In this era, Panagra was flying
equipment over terrain and under conditions that did not allow
night flying. A ground fog or a maintenance delay could make
it impossible to get to your destination before night arrived
and schedules called for nine to ten and a half hours of flying
which meant there was little leeway for delays. Therefore,
some interesting unscheduled overnights One such overnight(s),
was in Jaque, Panama. I had flown to Panama with By Ricards
(who later resigned from Panagra and went to work for Frontier
On the morning of January
17, 1944, we departed Panama for Lima via Cali, Guayaquil,
Talara and Chiclayo. The first 90 or so miles was over water
to a checkpoint called La Palma. (This was during WW II and
the U.S. military made us adhere to some fairly narrowly define
routings). Just as La Palma was about to be reported, one
of the engines decided to quit running. Captain Ricards reported
our position and said he was proceeding to Jaque, which was
a U.S. Air Corps military strip 60 or so miles away that could
be approached without having to fly over water on single engine.
The report of our intended
landing site was sent by the radio operator to Lima who shortly
thereafter asked the Captain if he could make it back to Panama.
(We had a full load of passengers and had no provision for
engine change in Jaque.) Captain By instructed the operator
to tell Lima that "We can make it to Lima if I can keep
this other engine running" but that we were proceeding
The arrival at Jaque was without
incident. It was now a matter of getting one of our cargo
airplanes to provide us with another engine and a crew to
make the change. Two days later, we flew the repaired airplane
back to Panama and the following day I flew back to Lima in
the same airplane with Floyd Nelson who was our Chief Pilot
at that time. I never had another trip with By Ricards.
Between flying regular schedules
as copilot, I was receiving upgrade training which resulted
in checking out as a freighter PIC October 1, 1944, welcoming
our first born Paula on December 19, 1944 and getting my Air
Transport Rating December 20, 1944. January 1945 and the first
days of February were taken up with flying the
freighter to Panama and qualifying on the Ecuadorian circuit
as PIC. My first passenger flight as PIC was on February 15,
1945 northbound to Panama from Lima.
When not acting as check pilot
most of my trips for the balance of 1946 and until my resignation
in May of 1947 were on the LimaPanama run. Up on Tuesday,
back on Thursday or Friday. On one of my return trips from
Panama to Lima, I picked up Earle Stanley Gardiner and his
two secretaries in Cali, Colombia. We evidently were running
late (I don't now recall the reason) because we had to overnight
in Chiclayo, Peru due to the late hour. I had a chance to
talk to Mr. Gardner before our arrival in Chiclayo. He asked
a lot of questions about our operation and was very friendly.
On arrival in Chiclayo, our
station manager was in charge of finding accommodations for
the crew and passengers. The crew usually stayed in a hotel
operated by a german couple. Not very fancy but cleaner than
most. I suggested that Mr. Gardner and company stay at that
hotel also but he seemed to be satisfied with another location
set up by the manager for him, with his secretaries being
housed at the crew hotel.
I was not familiar with the
accommodations made for Mr. Gardner but they must have been
pretty bad. About nine o'clock that night as I was getting
ready for bed, there was a knock on my door and there was
Earle Stanley. He wanted to know if I could make arrangements
for him at our hotel. We chased down the owner, who finally
came up with a room.
The next morning we took off
at daybreak for Lima. Before arrival at Lima, we were advised
that the airport had fogged in and that we would have to hold
for a while or possibly go to our alternate at Pisco, Peru
about 100 miles to the south of Lima. Limatambo's tower (Limatambo
being the name of Lima's airport) was on top of the terminal
which was a one story structure with a small tower on the
roof. When we arrived over Limatambo, there was fog sure enough,
but it only covered the tower and about a third of the southern
portion of the airport. I could see more than twothirds of
the runway which was plenty long enough for a landing with
We advised the ground of this
fact which they seemed to question. After some discussion,
someone on the ground ordered a company station wagon to make
a trip on up the runway, confirming that indeed the fog only
covered a small portion of it. It was finally decided that
we could come in for a landing which we did with no problem.
Earlier I mentioned the fact that we carried radio operators
on all passenger flights. One of these was Zip Zellon. Zip
has a more proper first name but I have no idea what it is.
Panagra had a commissary at
each of our major bases such as Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago,
Quito and Panama. In charge of Panagra's commissary was Mike
Clavarino, an extremely dapper, excitable gentleman of Italian
descent. Incidentally, the meals were all prepared and stored
in large thermos jugs and were surprisingly good considering
that they might be stored for hours before serving.
Shortly before the end of
the fighting in Europe during WW II, on a flight to Lima from
Panama, we picked up Mike Clavarino in Guayaquil. Serving
as radio operator was the Zipper. Zip suggested that we get
Mike up to the cockpit and that we let him wear some headphones
in preparation for a newscast on short wave radio. So, Mike
came to the cockpit put on the earphones and heard the news
that the war was over, the allies victorious.... Mike was
on cloud nine, in his own excitable way was dancing up and
down in the cockpit and, I think, was already making plans
to visit family in Italy now that the war was over.
What Mike didn't know was
the broadcast was the sole product of Zip Zellon. Zip could
have been the voice of the BBC and his imitation of such a
broadcast was flawless. I think it was this perfection that
made this prank acceptable to Mike who did not really believe
us when we told him of the source, that it was all a fake.
We had to tell him as he was ready to get off the plane in
Lima and tell the world the war was over A few months later,
the war was over and Mike got his chance to visit family in
his native country.
I spent a night in Antofagasta,
Chile with Lana Turner. Well, we both stayed in the same W.R.
Grace compound that Grace maintained for their employees.
This also was a delayed trip that I flew from Lima to Santiago,
Chile. We had a pleasant visit in the cockpit enroute to Antofagasta
and she told us she was on her way to Buenos Aires to visit
We finally got to Santiago
about mid morning of the second day and were met by a large
group of her fans. After a short stay, she departed for B.A.
The next time I saw her was in the movies. Our son Michael
Scott was born March 28, 1947 at the British American Clinic.
We were back in the State of Maine before the first of June
that same year after having resigned from Panagra.
The seeds for my resignation
were sown, I think, while we were in Maine on vacation in
1945. I was not unhappy with my work in South America but
I had always been (still am) sort of a rolling stone and was
always looking for something else. Also, I felt that eventually
we would have to return to the U.S. and it seemed to me that
the time chosen was the right one. The grand parents were
also taken into consideration. Would I do it again if a second
chance were offered? Probably.
In late 1950 and early 1951,
it became evident that the urge to change was with me. While
there might have been a place for me somewhere in the radio
business, there didn't seem to be much movement possible at
WTVL. The manager told me that I was making as much as he
was and that did not seem to bode well for the future. As
a result, I decided to try to get back into the airline business.
Applications were sent to National, American, United and Panagra
in the month of March 1951.
Panagra responded within a
matter of a week or two and subject to passing a physical,
offered me a job again based in Lima, Peru. I knew that I
would be starting at the bottom of the ladder, that Panagra
in the past had been inhibited in its growth and development
by Pan Am but rumor had it that this was all going to change.
Marie agreed that going back to Lima would be a good idea
so I accepted and by the middle of May 1951 was back in Lima
with the family. Starting pay as a copilot was about double
what I had been making in the radio business.
I had done no flying during
the four years that I had been away from Panagra but requalifying
was a breeze. Climbing back into a DC3 was almost like I had
never left it. Ernie Hummel, of the Chief Pilot's Office who
gave me the required check, said the one ride he gave me would
be all that was required once I had been subject to some ground
school and instrument training. At that time I had about four
thousand hours in DC3s and you can't forget everything in
four years. One of the reasons that Panagra was hiring during
this period was due to the fact that they had a military contract
to operate DC4s from the west coast of the U.S. to Korea.
One of the pilots who bid this operation was my old friend
Rich Richardson. He had recently married Peggy and before
leaving Peru for the U.S. had an apartment in Barranco. He
offered to let us use this apartment for our initial living
quarters on our return to Peru.
That is what it was like in
the early days of flying wtih Panagra. It was an interesting
time and great experiences.