In 1957 a very colourful character – Capt. Marian Kasupski, a Polish Fighter Pilot, – started an airline in Bournemouth.
Peter Hardy talked me into joining Independent Air Travel on account of my experience on the aircraft.
Roswitha packed our belongings in four wooden boxes and we got a lift on a Viking to Croydon from Berlin.
We rented a room in Christchurch Road in Bournemouth and I started as a mechanic at the airport. Peter was hangar-foreman.
We carried out a run-up on the newly acquired Douglas Skymaster (DC4). We wrote up about 100 defects. It really was a bag of worms. I removed all the sparkplugs, 28 per engine. Peter took them to a garage and cleaned them, highly illegal! I re-placed them, a real shoestring operation.
A week later I was the Flight Engineer on the DC4 to Hamburg to pick up 72 German tourists to Tenerife. We flew 12 hours to Agadir (Marocco), night-stopped, flew 2 hours to Tenerife, off-loaded and direct back to Hamburg. Flight-time: 26 hours.
I done an “A” check ( usually 4 men – takes 3 hours) on my own and done an other 26 hour flight back to Tenerife.
I used a sleeping-bag by the emergency-door, aft of the cockpit. On the return-trip I was awakened by a commotion in the cockpit. The Capt. and Co-pilot were fighting. The reason: “They didn’t know their exact location!”
The Sierra Nevada mountain by Granada in Spain is 11.400 feet high. We were at 10.000 feet. The DC4 has no pressurization. Passengers just manage to breath. The Co-Pilot was right and I gave full power and we climbed up to 12.000 feet. When we were sure, the mountain was behind us, we descended again to 10.000 feet. No complaints from the passengers. The rest of the flight was uneventful. No report was logged and we headed for the bar back in the hotel.
We moved the operation to Palma de Mallorca, doing daily round-trips to cities in Germany and to Copenhagen.
A passenger, sitting at the rear of the cabin, requested to talk to me. He explained that something flew off the aircraft outside of nr. 4 engine. I could not see anything and no indications in the cockpit. To refuel you had to get on top of the wing. I nearly fell into a hole of 35 inches by 35 inches, because a piece of the wing-skin broke off, some rivets came loose. Fixing it was the problem. I cut some aluminium from the galley, took P.K.-screws from skirting in the cockpit. The Captain helped me with a temporary repair to get us back to Hamburg. I sent a telex to Bournemouth for 10 mechanics – 4 days – to do a “B” inspection, clear all the defects and a suggested list of components.
Back in Hamburg the Captain had instructions to proceed to Copenhagen. I explained to him that the aircraft was dangerous to fly etc. etc. His argument: the company could not afford the expense!
To make a long story short: we agreed. I took my case off the aircraft and he took off to Copenhagen.
I went to the canteen and ordered a beer. Werner Heerde, a German Technician I knew from the Air Charter-days, came in. His 1st question: What was I doing there? I told him the story. He answered that he could use my services.
Captain Major done a few more flights and took the aircraft to Bournemouth for maintenance. 14 days later he took a Viking out of London-Heathrow. An engine failed and he crashed into a suburb. The crew and 12 people on the ground got killed.
You have to obey the law of the sea; the same goes for the skies. Life goes on. When we take a risk, we also understand the possible consequences.
God rest his Soul.