All Those Wonderful Stories...
Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
In the Forties and Fifties, when we boarded an airplane, we learned to expect the unexpected.
Often forced to improvise, we found ourselves in situations requiring ingenuity and
resourcefulness. And defying Murphy and his Law, luck sometimes favored the brave. Ferrying an
empty DC-4 to Tokyo in one such instance, we were westbound out along the Aleutian chain
where the jet stream, through the winter months, often brings very strong westerly winds aloft; a
hundred knots or more at flight levels are common. During one of these periods we found
ourselves stuck on Shemya Island with insufficient fuel capacity to buck the existing headwinds
|Necessity is the Mother of Invention
taken from By Dead Reckoning by Ralph Lewis
The crew captain was Joe
Stachon, who, when we landed at
Shemya, was aware that we had
a deadline to meet, which unless
met, could cost us our return
charter. For two days we waited,
as the high winds continued
unabated. Realizing that
something had to be done, and
after making local inquiries,
Captain Stachon learned of the
presence of an abandoned Air
Force dump not far from the
airfield. Could there possibly be
an old gas tank out there that
might be serviceable?
First Officer Bob
Bunbury (left) and
Stachon (right) are
about to make a
dropable fuel tank
found at the
Shemya Air Force
Borrowing a jeep from the Air Force, Joe and the rest of the crew drove to the dump to have a
look around. Would you believe...half buried in the abandoned rubble of aircraft parts, were a
couple of still crated, drop-able, fuel tanks. Though showing signs of corrosion from two or three
years of exposure to the weather, they still appeared to be serviceable.
Managing to free one, we wrestled it to the jeep, balanced it across the back of the vehicle,
and returned to our DC-4. Working against time, we soon had it hoisted up and in through the
cabin door. A couple of old tires, also scavenged from the dump, provided support. After lashing
the tank securely to the floor, our flight engineer went off to talk the Air Force out of the tubing that
would be needed to vent the tank and connect it to the airplane's fuel system. Three hours after
rummaging through the debris at the Shemya dump, we were ready for take-off with enough fuel
on board to reach our destination, plus alternate, and still land with two hours reserve fuel.
the job of
fuel tank to the
Captain Joe Stachon looks out at the vastness of the Alaskan wilderness.
Directly ahead, a mountain vents steam from its peak in Katmai National Park