All Those Wonderful Stories...
Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
There was no way to avoid the instrument flight conditions due to traffic and the mountainous
islands below us, so all we could do was shiver and keep flying. Next I noticed that the co-pilot's
flight instruments were beginning to give erratic indications and then tumbled completely.
Suddenly I remembered from long ago when I first took instrument flight training I was told that
the gyros in the flight instruments can't stand extreme cold because the oil in the bearings of the
gyros congeals and the gyros will fail. I knew we had to keep at least one set of flight instruments
warm somehow, and soon, or we would be in big trouble.
All of our DC4s were converted Air Force C54s and fortunately they all had a signaling light
called an Aldis Lamp. This was a very powerful spotlight with a pistol grip and a trigger which
the military used to send morse code signals visually to the tower or anyone on the ground or
sea in an emergency. The bulb in this lamp was of such high wattage, it put out a lot of heat. We
found that pointing this light at the captain's flight instruments kept them somewhat warmer and
they continued to operate.
The cabin heaters were separate and independent of the nose heater and there was one
small port that fed warm air into the rear of the cockpit, but very little heat appeared to be coming
out of that port. Something had to be done to get the cockpit warm, and quickly, because we
didn't know how long the makeshift set-up with the Aldis Lamp would continue to work. So Dutch
Haaskamp came up with the suggestion that he rip into the cabin overhead lining, cut into the
cabin main distribution pipe, stuff it with blankets and force most of the flow out of the cabin
heater through the small opening in the rear of the cockpit. We agreed it was worth a try so
Dutch, a giant of a man, proceeded back to the cabin with "crash axe" in hand.
Picture this scene: A DC4 loaded with several tons of gold bullion roaring along through the
frigid Arctic skies under solid instrument conditions; I'm sitting in the pilot's seat, my eyes glued
to the last remaining operative flight instrument, the co-pilot is pointing the Aldis Lamp at that
instrument to keep it warm and Dutch Hasskamp is chopping his way through the cabin ceiling
to get at the main heater duct -- just a routine Transocean Air Lines flight.
In a few minutes hot air in large volume was whistling through the small port in the back of the
cockpit. The gold was cold but the cockpit was cozy and the flight instruments were soon back to
normal. I wonder what the maintenance people back in Oakland had to say when they saw
Dutch's "hatchet job."
by Joseph Stachon, Captain
During January 1950 my crew and I made several flights
hauling gold bullion from Tokyo to Oakland by way of Shemya
and Anchorage. I notice in my log book a notation after the date
for a flight on January 6, 1950: "6-1/2 million dollars in gold
bullion on board Cockpit heater failed." That was more than
forty-four years ago, but in spite of my failing memory, I don't
think I'll ever forget that flight. The crew members whose names
I remember were Dutch Haaskamp, flight engineer; Johnny Hay,
navigator; and I believe the co-pilot was Norm Johnson.
We departed Shemya, climbed to our cruising altitude which
was probably 9 or 1I thousand feet. Throughout the flight thus
far we were on instruments almost constantly, in heavy snow.
The temperature was very cold, about minus 50 degrees C.
Suddenly, the cockpit heater failed. We were unable to restart it
by the usual emergency procedures. Very soon the cockpit was
like the inside of a freezer. I remember Johnny Hay trying to hold
a pencil steady with two hands while he tried to plot our course.
He had joined our crew in Tokyo and had come from Hawaii so
he didn't have any warm clothes with him. He even took off his
trousers and wrapped his legs with newspapers in an effort to