All Those Wonderful Stories...
Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
Orvis Nelson, You Gotta Love the Guy
By Joseph Stachon, Captain
On December 22, 1947 my crew and I were flying a
Canadian basketball team from Oakland to Honolulu. We
arrived there just after midnight. A night time arrival requires a
little extra altitude coming around Diamond Head even though
we were VFR. To dissipate this altitude I stretched the down
wind and base legs and proceeded to set up for final
approach after being cleared for landing by HNL tower to land
on 4R. Up ahead and to the right I see 4 rows of lights,
obviously runways 4L and 4R. I line up with 2 rows of lights on
the right and proceed with the approach and landing. As we
are about to touch down I sense that something is wrong but
I'm not sure what it is. The runway seems too narrow and why
are there gaps in the right row of lights? As we slow down to
taxi speed, I see nose hangers and other buildings very near
the "runway". About that time HNL tower calls and says "I think
you have landed at Hickam Field, probably on a taxiway".
Hickam tower then chimes in and says "No sweat, I'll guide
you to a taxiway that connects the 2 airports". It took us about
20 minutes to taxi over to HNL airport. The passengers must
have thought "Wow, what a huge airport!"
Needless to say, I was extremely embarrassed for having made such a stupid and
potentially dangerous mistake and it was heavy on my mind throughout this 2 week long trip
which included lay-overs at Wake, Guam, Manila, Hong Kong and back the same way to
As soon as I got back to Oakland, I went into Orvis'
office, hat in hand, and told him what I had done. Orvis
didn't say a word until he had walked around his desk,
stood beside me, put his arm around my shoulders and
then he said "I did the same thing at Denver when I was
flying for United Airlines."
Now tell me, how can you help but love a guy like that?
Transocean's President and Chief Executive
Officer, Orvis Nelson photo: Ralph Lewis
Transocean Air Lines' World Headquarters in
Hanger #5 at the Oakland International Airport,
California. President Orvis Nelson's office was
behind the arched window above the
marquee. photo: Ralph Lewis