My 1st visit to Luxembourg was the 17th of December 1962.
I ferried in 2 EA DC-4’s from Hamburg.
Continentale Deutsche Luftreederei, C.D.L., a German Charter Co., which had gone bankrupt. They operated four Douglas Skymasters (DC-54’s) flying passengers and freight. A lot were trips with freight to Hong Kong and Tokyo. Pax seats were carried in the belly. The crew would unfold, install them and carry approximately 70 people back to Europe, usually ship-crew, mostly Norwegian, but Germans, Dutch, Danish, British also. The trip would take seven days: 2 Captains, 1 F/O, 1 F/E spanner of the works. Two bunks: two flying and two sleeping. Round trip 100 to 120 hours, night-stop only in Hong Kong. A lot of the crews were freelance from Loftleidair, which later flew for Cargolux.
I set up an office in a new Luxair-building, next to a new General manager of Luxair, 24 years old, his name: Roger Sietzen.
Mr. Wold, an American owned the two aeroplanes. One I sold to Capt. Ian McLean for US$ 125,000.oo. He started an airline: Malta Metropolitan. He arrived from Brussels on a Convair 340, signed the contract and departed 30 minutes later back to Brussels.
The 2nd aircraft I tried to sell to Rul Bueckle from Suedflug in Stuttgart. He spoke German only and I spoke English. One of his team was translating. We had some harsh words during the negotiating. Anyway we did not make a deal. Later we sold the aircraft to Transavia Holland.
A Capt. Wheatley and myself as co-pilot flew the aircraft to Schiphol – all very legal of course. At Schiphol I received a telex to call Rul Bueckle in Stuttgart. So I spoke English, he answered in German. He wanted me to be his Chief of Maintenance. I mentioned our disagreement in Luxembourg and indicated that we could not get on together. His reply:" If I was on his side, we could!" I started working on the 1st of September 1963 for Suedflug in Stuttgart.
Back in 1958 in Hamburg as Assistant Chief of Maintenance for C.D.L., I met a young Icelander called Gunnar. He was a mechanic on DC-4’s and DC-6’s for Loftleidair. He asked me for a job. I told him C.D.L. was a fly-by-night outfit and did not think they would last long. He was then sent to Luxembourg as Station Engineer and often had me Free Lance Mechanic assisting him.
When he married Evelyne I supplied them Free-Two tickets: Stuttgart – Mombassa – Stuttgart on Suedflug’s Douglas DC-7, which took 140 passengers.
When Lufthansa bought out Suedflug and closed us down, we had 16 aeroplanes. Two DC-9-30’s were sold to Swissair, two DC-8-33’s sold to Fred B. Aer from New York, five DC-7’s were donated to Deutsches Diakonisches Werk – Protestant Church, one DC-7 Combi I sold to Capt. Jack Mallock of Affretair Rhodesia (I will come back to that later), the rest were Herons. Anyway I landed up as Chief of Maintenance for Pan International in Duesseldorf via Biafra. Pan International crashed a BAC 1-11-500 in Hamburg, killing 20 passengers. Lucky, for 101 survived. Six weeks later the company closed down in 1971.
I started a company as Consultant and spent a year doing odd jobs.
Gunnar in the meantime had started building up a Maintenance base, maintaining Icelandair DC-8’s, carrying 256 Pax to U.S.A., as well as operating five CL-44 freighters for Cargolux.
He called me in Duesseldorf and inquired what I was doing. I explained and his reply: Why wouldn’t I come to Luxembourg and work for a living. With three small kids and the future unknown we accepted, packed our bags and arrived in Luxembourg 1st of December 1972 for the 2nd time.
I was given the job of Repair and Overhaul of Components. My 1st task to evaluate a heap of bits in a corner. It was a CL-44 Nose Landing Gear which was returned from U.S.A.-vendor as being too expensive to repair. Mark Dietrich was assisting. I sent the N/L/G to Canford in Stansted. Between plating and manufacturing I worked out a cheap overhaul.
Four month later Trans Meridian had a Nose Gear-collapse. We sold it for US$ 28,000.00. Paul, a German, was the Purchasing Manager. He had a disagreement with Gunnar regarding overtime. Paul cleaned out his desk and left five minutes later. Gunnar came in and told me I was the Purchasing Manager. Three month later he sent Pete Semmelmann to Air Canada to look after the CL-44 type engine-overhaul. I was promoted to manager of Material Control & Purchasing.
We were unhappy with Aviation traders (A.T.E.L.). They were carrying out the inspections on the CL-44’s. So it was decided to build a hangar and do our own checks. In deciding the size we were reluctant even to consider the DC8-63, not to mind a 747.
Looking back we were daft.
At the inauguration we invited about 40 maintenance-people: Aer Lingus, Seaboard & Western, Trans Meridian, Trade Winds, Loftleidair to name a few and several Component Repair companies.
We rented a bus to show our guests lovely Luxembourg. Around midday we stopped in Ehnen at Hotel Simmer for a sandwich and a glass of white wine to hard drinker, it appeared mild, even tee-totaler thought it was apple-juice. With the sun shining, plenty of English humor, us Irish had to defend ourselves, as usual. Mick McGovern, Director of Maintenance, a very accomplished story-teller, told the following story, which was geared around an actual presence:
Trans Meridian operated five CL-44; Mike Keegan was General Manager
Trade Winds operated four CL-44; Norman Curtis was their General Manager
Cargolux operated five CL-44; Gunnar Bjorgvinsson was Director of Maintenance
(Some place along the line we started to get vendors interested and we selected certain vendors, whom all three companies send similar components to. It cut costs because they now carry more break spares. This whole program was steered by Cargolux.)
Mike Keegan died and showed up at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter interviewed him and asked what he was down below. Mike told him, he was in charge of Trans Meridian, operating five CL-44 with crews etc. St. Peter nodded to God and instructed Mike to go over and sit on the right side of God.
Norman Curtis hid the dust, presented himself at the gate and his story was the same as Mike’s. St. Peter nodded to God and told Norman to go over and sit on the left hand side of the Lord.
Gunnar’s turn came. St. Peter thought it would be a similar story to the other two. But Gunnar continued, explaining that he had managed to get all three airlines working together.
St. Peter shouted to God: "Get up and let Gunnar sit down!"
I followed up with a cat and mouse story:
"A mouse was chased by a cat, so the mouse ran into a cow-shed, desperate to find a hole. The cow inquired of what was wrong. The mouse replied: there is a cat after me. The cow was trying to help and suggested that the mouse stand behind her hind legs, which the mouse done. Anyhow the law of nature came on the cow and she dropped on the mouse. The cat darted into the shed, furiously looking for the mouse. He saw the cow-heap and the tail of the mouse sticking out. The cat pulled the mouse out, cleaned it and eat it. "
There are three morals to this story:
1. Just because you are small people shit on you
2. If you are pulled out of the shit, it is not always for the good
3. If you are in the shit, pull your tail in
A lot of yokes, stories, reminiscences and a lavish meal in the evening with Ministers, Bankers, Financier’s, about 600 people. Mick McGovern and myself were asked to repeat the stories.
The inauguration of the hangar was a success.
One day a young Diplome Engineer was sent to me for to talk to. He was not sure in which department he would be suitable in. His name was Lex. I reported back to Gunnar, suggesting Lex would join Material Control & Purchasing, remarking that the young man could one day be a replacement for him.
This chapter has still to be completed.
I tried marketing our Surplus CL-44 spares after Stan Grotenfeld, Johannes Einarsson and myself bought out the complete Canadair-stock for US$ 500,000.00. They valued it at 3,5 Mill US Dollars asking price, 1,75 Mill US Dollars.
I sent a list to AECA Airlines in Ecuador. Some days later Capt. Alfredo Franco called, wishing to visit us. I picked him up and his beautiful wife, as well as Mandy Guerrero, Director of Maintenance. It proved to be very profitable: selling engines, props, spares and Technical Assistance. One guy we sent to Guayaquil. He got divorced and married a local. Capt. Franco invited Roswitha and myself to visit AECA Airlines. We flew in on a cattle-flight to Quito, on a Yucon aircraft. This aeroplane is like a CL-44 without the swinging tail. We were invited to Capt. Franco’s office, as he had to tell me something. The beautiful woman we met in Luxembourg, they lived in Miami and had three children, was actually not his wife. He invited us to his house in Guayaquil to meet his family, his real wife with five children. He had not met Roswitha in Luxembourg, so the possibility existed that Roswitha would ask his wife how she enjoyed Luxembourg. He managed eight years leading a double, which we could mess up with one sentence.
Capt. Alfredo Franco visited me during my unplanned stay in U.S.A. in 1991/1992. We still try to do business. He operated two 707 freighters. He is a solid individual, a self-made man, I wish him the very best.
Back 1968 Capt. Jack Mallock came to see me in Stuttgart, introduced by a friend from Luton. He was especially interested on Suedflug’s DC-7-CF D-ABAN. We had bought it from George Batchelor in 1964 for US$ 350,000.00 and operated about 250 hours a month, carrying German holidaymakers. He accepted our offer of US$ 355,000.00 and gave me a cash-deposit of US$ 25,000.00. He did not want a receipt, even though he never met me before. A contract was signed with a Liechtenstein company that was the easy part. In order to comply with the Embargo of exporting to Rhodesia, we delivered the aircraft to Aviolando in Holland and removed the avionics. I will not go into details, but they obtained replacement, the removed units were returned to Stuttgart and customs verified the transaction.
Jack Mallock loaded 13 Million Nigerian currency in Zurich and departed for Africa. They landed in Togo – Lome. When the President heard about it, he confiscated the money and the aircraft and put the crew in jail. The Nigerian declared the money obsolete, introducing a new currency. Eventually Jack Mallock and crew were released after six month, but the aircraft rotted and was never flown again. The insurance paid Suedflug for the aircraft. Mr. Rul Bueckle and myself were taken to court for breaking the Embargo. It was dismissed after we proved that we sold the aircraft less the radios.
During my consultant job in 1971 I tried to sell Jack Mallock two Yucons of which I had secured the right from George Batchelor – price: US$ 650,000.00 each. He came to Luxembourg to discuss it. Gunnar and myself met him, had a drink in the Cockpit Inn on the top floor of the Aerogolf Hotel. A CL-44 was landing and quite casually Jack Mallock told us that he did not want a Yucon, but he would take a CL-44. So started a long relationship with Affretair. We trained their crews and mechanics and supplied parts. Jack Mallock purchased two DC-8-55’s. Again we were one of their main suppliers.
Jack Mallock was flying a Spitfire for a film-company. The exact cause of the accident is unclear, but the film showed him crashing into a tree. A tragic death to one of the kindest gentleman and aviation-expert that I have ever met. May he R.I.P.
Cargolux bought three DC8-63’s from Flying Tigers and took over the maintenance. As well as doing the inspections of Icelandair-fleet, not to mention half a dozen other companies. My young assistant Lex and myself went to Air Canada to purchase a DC8-43 for US$ 180,000.00. We had an Air Canada crew fly it to Luxembourg. We were on board. We sold the flight controls to Jack Mallock for US$ 100,000.00. The Convay 508 engines were crated and returned less rotables to Air Canada as per agreement.
Back in 1951, when I was a mechanic with A.T.E.L. – Freddy Laker’s company – George Savage was a lead-mechanic, I was working under him. He later went to Brownline as a salesman, selling their freight roller equipment: nets, pallets, locks etc. It was only natural when he came to Cargolux and we would reminisce about old times. He was a big heavy man with a big moustache and bald. He became famous for a mistake: He was carrying out an order from the Captain.
Freddy Laker had a trouping contract, carrying British troupes to Eden, Malta and Cyprus, operating an Avro York with Merlin 500 engines – about 60 pax’s. The Captain was McKenzie, a Kent-man with a beard – very British. During take-off from Stansted they were roaring down the run-away, George was F/E standing in the middle, The Captain looked at George, as he appeared to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, and said: “Cheer up George”. George understood “Gear up George”. The aircraft skidded down the run-away. The complete bottom was destroyed. Nobody was hurt.
It was a Sunday and Ray Hayes the hangar-foreman was having his luncheon only ten minutes away. He heard the take-off power and then the racket, but no sign of the aircraft going airborne. He was 1st to arrive on the scene. Freddy Laker arrived with an insurance-agent an hour later. Ray started to de-fuel and the truck broke down. They jacked up the aircraft and towed it to the hangar. Next morning a team removed two engines, not knowing that fuel remained in the opposite side. The aircraft fell off the jacks, one wing went through the roof, and the other was damaged hitting the floor. Ray had that aircraft back flying in 60 days. Captain McKenzie never spoke on take-off again. Each time George visited Cargolux and sat across from me in the office my 1st thought; “Cheer up George”. I often told the story to some of my colleagues in his presence, but it never bothered him.
We had some position-changes after Siggi Jonson was made Director of Maintenance. He moved me to Manager of Maintenance & Contracts getting on for 60 years of age. I was not enthusiastic, but he was convinced with my contacts, we could get more business. In that period Cargolux 3rd party-work was cutting our maintenance-overheads. The more we increased the Jumbo-fleet, the DC8 maintenance became more difficult due to corrosion, tightening of regulations, so it was time for me to move on.
In 1985 we agreed to part. I had intended to work only 20 hours a week. My next mistake was just around the corner. I started Aviation Advisory Agency seven days later after leaving Cargolux and 80 hours a week is more like my working-time and no end in site.
Aviation Advisory Agency livelihood is geared around DC8’s. 556 were built between 1960 and 1972. About 250 are still flying. In 1990 it appeared they would all be scrapped. It now looks that their fate is doomed. If any body has a crystal ball, please loan it to me. He that fights and runs away will live to fight an other.
Too old to run, the gloves have been hung up long ago.
Old soldiers never die, just fade away,
tomorrow is an other day ...