Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
Transocean Air Lines - The First Aviation Conglomerate
Skyscape Interiors, Trim & Upholstery Division of AEMCO
Another internationally known division of AEMCO was Skyscape Interiors by AEMCO (Trim and
Upholstery Division), which was founded and headed by Will Aaseth. Known for its luxurious
interior decorating of executive and military aircraft, Skyscape Interiors refurbished President
Eisenhower's aircraft, the Columbine. The aircraft was formerly President Franklin Roosevelt's
Sacred Cow and featured a built-in bed behind a painting on the wall. Every aircraft redecorated
by the Trim and Upholstery Division of AEMCO was designed with soothing colors and
custom-built interiors that included upholstered divans that could be converted to berths;
retracting polished wood tables; a stainless steel buffet and refrigerator; draperies, and radio
and television consoles.
Many time- and money-saving devices and manufacturing techniques were developed by
Superintendent Sam Besser and his crew. One of these ingenious ideas, the "hidem" solution
was used to secure fabric to the insides of airplanes being plushed instead of the old-style trim
tracks. With approval by the Army of the "hidem" technique, Besser was able to eliminate the
installation of thousands of screws. He also invented the small press which allowed one man
to use the new technique, instead of two or three as previously required.
AEMCO's Trim and Upholstery Division also manufactured the "Child Eze" chair, designed by
Howard Mackey and advertised as a Christmas gift for youngsters.
Sam Besser was a quiet but effective boss who instilled a family feeling among the craftsmen
who decorated airplane interiors. One seamstress even thought the Trim and Upholstery
Division was the finest department at AEMCO. "It's got them all beat for friendly relationships,"
she said. "They'll have to burn the joint down to get rid of me!"
In 1952 the renowned Stanford Research Institute of Menlo Park, California, contracted with
AEMCO for all ground and flight operations connected with their "flying laboratory," a C-54 aircraft
on loan to SRI from the Air Force for electronic research. Most of the projects were classified
information. On the flights of the C-54 flying laboratory, many advanced electronic devices were
AEMCO was also awarded a $3 million dollar contract to recondition sixty-eight U.S. Air Force
twin-tailed C-82 Fairchild Packet Transport planes. These troop and cargo carriers were
frequently referred to as Flying Boxcars because of their 2,916 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Military
freight could be loaded into the Packet through two clamshell doors which opened up the entire
rear of the long, square-side cargo hold. Self-propelled vehicles such as jeeps, trucks, and
bulldozers could drive in under their own power. The C-82 could carry forty-two paratroopers with
full equipment. It could also tow two Army gliders with personnel and equipment. Rigged as an
ambulance plane, the C-82 could accommodate thirty-four litter patients and four attendants.
Specially-designed strap suspension litters could be installed in twenty minutes.
Because of the growth of AEMCO during the fifties, it had outgrown its facilities at the Oakland
International Airport. Recognizing AEMCO's needs, in 1958 the Port of Oakland built one of the
world's largest hangars at a cost of over $1 million dollars. Designed to accommodate the
largest airplanes in service and those still on the drawing boards, the hangar measured 225 by
260 feet. Its roof was supported by the largest cantilever span of any building in the United States
and allowed complete entry for aircraft with wingspans of 160 feet. The doorway was 50 feet high
and 200 feet wide. In addition to the new super-hangar, the port leased an additional twenty
acres to Transocean.
AEMCO's first project in the super hangar was a contract with MATS for the modification and
technical order changes on C-124 Douglas Globemasters. These aircraft were designed to carry
more than 200 troops or 50,000 pounds of cargo at over 300 mph. They had a wingspan of 174
feet and a gross weight of 180,000 pounds.
Other AEMCO contracts included: PARC (Periodic Aircraft Reconditioning Cycle) on Convair
C-131 hospital aircraft, the first to be awarded to a civilian contractor for progressive maintenance
on this type; rehabilitation of Lockheed F-80 jet fighters under a contract from the Mutual Defense
Aid nations; and the processing of 3,036 Air Force T-33 jet trainers under a four-year contract that
contributed more than $32,000,000 to the economy of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area.
During the early 1960s (after AEMCO had been taken over by the Atlas Corporation), AEMCO
assumed management of the U.S. Air Force aircraft maintenance facility at Chateauroux, France,
under a subcontract with the pioneer French manufacturing firm of Louis Breguet. Douglass
Johnson and Stan Morketter headed up the operation. The Aircraft Engineering and Maintenance
Company (AEMCO) continued in business, rather like a postscript to an historic enterprise, until
Left: "Child-Eze" chair, designed by Howard
Mackey and manufactured by AEMCO's Trim
and Upholstery Shop. It was advertised as a
Christmas gift for youngsters. Orvis and
Edith Nelson's daughter, Holly, seated in
one of the chairs.
Below: Orvilla Swiger and Sam Besser,
Trim and Upholstery Shop, Oakland,