Plane Captain

My first assignment was to service six planes on the flight line. I did receive a third class rate (AMM3C). Two other fellows worked with me. One was a black lad from Mass. named White. We made jokes of that, I'd call "hey white, give me a hand."

"I'm not white", he'd answer, "I'm black."

We'd remove the tie down lines each morning, take off the cockpit covers and top off the fuel tank which was in the middle of the top wing. This required standing on the edge of the forward cockpit and someone handing the hose up.

Soon the instructors and cadets came to the planes. The instructor to the front cockpit. The cadet in the rear. Personally, I always liked the rear cockpit. I had a better view of the landing gear and the ground relationship.

"Switch Off," we'd holler. "Switch Off", returned the cadet.

I'd pull the prop backwards a couple of turns to remove any oil from the lower cylinders. Oil doesn't compress and it could bend a connecting rod. Next, climb up on the left lower wing and insert the crank handle. Turning the crank spun the inertia starter. When I could hear a high pitch whine, I'd holler, "switch on. With that I'd pull the engaging lever and the big Continental would cough into life.

Winding up the inertia starters took a lot of work. When the weather turned cold and the oil became thicker, it took a hell of a lot more work; especially six engines three times a day. Flights were only two hours. The tanks held 46 gallons. The planes used 13 gallons an hour.

For cold weather, I had the machine shop weld two cranks together. This made the handle twice as long, giving me more leverage.

Cold weather had a terrible affect on the cadets also. After being up where the thermometer read minus numbers, Their bladders would fill more quickly. They taxied to the parking spot, killed the engine, jumped off the wing asking us to quickly help them out of their gear.

Some times they didn't make it.

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