About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Monday, November 28, 2016

Moving on to a New LIfe and a New Boeing Program

I moved into a bachelor apartment in Renton in 1968 [it was ‘69] and almost at the same time concluded that it was time to move on from the 727/737 program.  Both airplanes were well along in airline service.  I needed a new challenge.
An old friend from Wichita Flight Test days provided that.  Howard Montgomery had moved to the Sales and Marketing Department under Clancy Wilde and was starting a new cargo development group.  It was prompted by the advent of the huge 747 airplanes that would have considerable cargo capacity in the lower holds.  Also, freighter versions of the 747 were anticipated.  The world of air cargo needed a shot in the arm.
My world travels were not to abate, but, indeed, accelerated.  It was the overseas airline customers that needed the most assistance in developing their air cargo markets.  My territory was primarily Europe and Africa.  During one year (1970 I believe) I made nine round trips across the Atlantic and spent just over fifty percent of the calendar year in Europe, primarily aiding Lufthansa in preparing for the introduction of the 747 freighters.
One memorable experience in my association with the 747 occurred just two days after I had reported to my new assignment.  Coming off the 727/737 program I was as yet totally unfamiliar with the technical details of the 747.  One afternoon before I even had a secretary my phone rang.  It wa Clancy Wilde who had become Boing Vic-president of Sales and Marketing so he was now my big boss.  The conversation went something as follows.
“Clancy here, old silver tonsils.  How about doing the voice of the airplane bit on the fist 747 press flight?  Day after tomorrow we are going to fly the domestic press to New York, do three demo flights for American and Pan American, then fly the international press back to Seattle.  I want you on that PA system.”
I knew an order from the commanding officer when I heard one, but I protested, “Wait a minute, Clancy!  I just came on board the 747 program two days ago—I don’t even know what engines we have on that big bird yet!”
Wilde was friendly, but terse, “Hell, you’ve got two days to bone up—see you on board at seven thirty Thursday.”  He hung up.
Bone up, I did, burning the midnight oil for the two short days over the technical details of that monster airplane.  Somehow, I got away with it.  I was glib enough that I got a top accolade from the top aviation reporter for ABC who was aboard to tape a segment for the ABC News.  (I had previously met him on the 727-world tour.)  He came around late in the flight to have a cup of coffee with me at the forward galley and said, “Hey, Con, why aren’t you in the broadcasting business?”
I just smiled and said (knowing that he probably made ten tines my modest salary), “The broadcasting business can’t afford me, boy!”
I also received what amounted to high praise from my old and critical ex-boss, Jack Steiner.  Jack was aboard for one of the demo flights.  He stopped as he deplaned and said, “Great work, Con.  You sounded as if you had grown up on the 747 program!”  To me that was as good as a Navy “Well done!”
Another gratifying incident during the demo flights was when our ex-president, Bill Allen, came aboard to ride back to Seattle.  (He had ridden the 727-world tour with us as far as Tokyo in 1963 and never forgot a name or a fact about an employee.)  At the entry door where I was greeting people, Mr. Allen paused and threw an arm about my shoulders.  “Con,” he said, “they just cold not run a sales tour without us, now could they?!”
My apologies for getting diverted by personal reminiscences.  I survived the big Boeing layoff that occurred in 1970 and for several years continued to travel the world for Boing as a spokesman and air cargo development manager.  I developed, installed, and manned a Boeing 747 air freight display at the huge national air show, Transpo ’72, in Washington, D.C., and represented Boeing at many other trade shows around the world.  I also did the “golden voice” bit in the cargo section of a 747 “Combi” (half passengers, half freight) airplane during a sales tour of the Middle East and North Africa.  It was during that tour I had occasion to personally meet King Hussein of Jordan and his lovely queen, Alia, (who was later killed in a helicopter crash).  [Because he was a licensed pilot, King Hussein was allowed to take over the controls of the 747 in flight and my father later dined with him at his palace, along with other Boeing dignitaries.  My father liked the king very much.]
[As a part of my parents’ divorce our family home in Lake Hills was sold.  Although my father makes it sound like my mother came out of the divorce smelling like a rose, she did not, but he did pay alimony and child support.  She and I moved into a two bedroom apartment for the duration of my senior year in high school, 1969 and in 1970 she moved back to Vancouver, WA and I into a studio apartment across the hall from my father’s apartment.]