Chapter 9

Trans Texas, in Houston, was made up of a cast of characters that would even have confounded Shakespeare. Earl McKaughn Sr. was a little bit different; no one knew what he was going to do next. Earl Jr., Executive V.P., believed he was the answer to the female population of Texas - discouraging, since he had five children and a nice wife. The youngest son, Mike, was the only one that was paying attention.

(left to right) Gerry Thomas, Earle McKaughn, Bob Olivas, Henry Endman, Don Talmage


V.P. Planning, Clint McCutcheon's claim to fame, during this time period, was that he kept telling Boeing that Trans Texas would never buy Jets.

The key to Trans Texas was Henry Erdman, V.P. Maintenance and Operations. Henry was the type of man you found working in a gas station down in the pit overhauling cars. Henry was one of the breed raised in the grease of early aviation, lost some fingers and then joined his good friend Earle Mc Kaughn in trying to operate an airline in rapidly changing times for aviation; it was maturing. Through Henry, I was able to get my story to Earl Sr. Several times it seemed we had lost Earl Sr., and Henry would bring him back on line. This was most evident when we had set up a demo flight, and had scheduled the flight for a set time and day. We had scheduled one flight. The airplane was on its way to Houston when we were informed that Earl did not want the demo flight and none of his people were to be involved. Henry quickly jumped to the fore and convinced Earl that he should be a part of the demo. Earl reversed himself and made us do three demos, and he flew everyone in the airline on the DC-9. Who said he was different; he became a hero among his employees.

We developed the Multi-Change version of the DC-9 for Earl Sr. because he felt that cargo was important. His plans were to convert the aircraft to carry cargo at night and reconvert to carry passengers by day. At the board meeting, when they purchased the DC-9-10MC, Mike felt they should reconsider and purchase the stretch version of the DC-9 because the additional seats made more sense than cargo. Despite this bit of wisdom, Trans Texas purchased seven DC-9-10 aircraft, five being the MC version.

Trans Texas DC-9-10

Mike was right; the next round of orders were DC-9-30s, the stretched version. The large cargo door on the side of the MC aircraft were never opened, except by accident. One opened soon after takeoff and the passenger sitting next to the door dangled with his legs outside the airplane. His seat belt saved him from becoming a short-lived bird. The Jet Age became very demanding for Trans Texas and the McKaughns, and the airline soon became Texas International with a cast of new characters.

One incident that did occur during this competition still brings a smile, but at the time it was a serious situation. I brought with me to Houston Mike Kieklack and George Grubisha from the Marketing Support group to assist in studies for Trans Texas. We stayed at the local motel next to the airport, which was a very average motel. The section we were in was the second building in the rear. Our rooms were next to each other and our doors side by side.

At dinner time, I stepped into the hall and knocked on their door. As I did so, a voice behind me said "mister." I turned around to see this young man standing approximately fifteen feet away with a gun. As I put my hand on the door to Georges room, it opened; Mike was at the door. He looked at me with my arms in the air and closed the door. There goes any idea of mind to jump into the room. With that option gone, I responded to the young man's request and threw my wallet carefully to his feet. Amazingly calm during this episode, what else could I do.

The gunman picked up the wallet and ran, more scared than I. When the hall was empty, I knocked on the door and Mike warily opened it. They were standing there wondering what to do. However, it happened so fast that there was little you could do. The motel refused to take responsibility for the sixty dollars that was taken, as well as did Douglas aircraft; my Insurance Company did respond. Mike won the Gold Star Hero of the Year Award for shutting the door at the most opportune time. It is not a pleasant feeling standing there with some nervous kid with a gun asking for your wallet. It was over quickly, thank heaven.

Gerry Thomas found his excuse to replace John Burton. I was sorry to see John go as we worked good together and became friends. John would let me do my thing which resulted in the sale of aircraft that were not scheduled to be sold. John was replaced as Director by Don Talmage. He was the opposite of John in that he restricted my travel by asking a series of questions for every trip. If they were not all answered to his satisfaction, he would not approve my travel order. It was a frustrating time even to the point of looking elsewhere for a job. However, John continued as a salesman for Douglas Aircraft, in the European theater, for years.

I began to visit additional carriers at this time - Frontier in Denver, North Central in Minneapolis and support to Braniff in Dallas, regarding the stretched DC-8. We were now offering the DC-8-61,-62 and -63. The -61, a 440 inch stretch Domestic version; -62 an 80 inch stretch International Long Range aircraft and the -63, a 440 inch stretch International version.

Frontier was introducing the 737 on their system and did not need a Douglas Salesman at the time. North Central was putting the DC-9-30s on their system, and it was a pleasure meeting the people, but Don had been handling this airline since John departed. Braniff was initiating service with the Lockheed Electra and was content.

In April 1966, Barbara joined me on a trip to Hawaii, her first of many trips to come. This was the Marketing Department at its best. Hawaiian was inaugurating DC-9 service in the Islands. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the people of Hawaiian, since the initial visits were to sell aircraft to Aloha. The people supporting Jack Magoon, who would become good friends and would support me in the sale of aircraft were John Higgins, V.P. Treasurer; Red Machado, V.P. Maintenance; and Jesse Dudley, V.P. Flight.

When I took up golf, Jesse became a fellow duffer. These were excellent people in a tough competitive position with Aloha, but Aloha was not the customer Hawaiian was.

Hawaiian Airlines DC-9-10

Out of the blue, Gerry Thomas requested, at Don Talmages suggestion, that I be returned to Sales Engineering. Don felt that I would never make a Salesman. I said I would return as a Manager; these must have been the correct words because they kept me in the Sales Department, however, still working for Don Talmage. I tried to figure Dons rationale since the most recent airlines that bought DC-9s were Central and Trans Texas.

During a visit to Hawaiian Airlines, we presented data that showed that the DC-9-30 could operate out of Kona airport with a high passenger volume airport. Both the DC-9-10 and BAC-111 could not feasibly operate from this airport. This would give Hawaiian the advantage over Aloha at this high density route which was being operated with the smaller, slower turboprop aircraft. After two trips to Hawaii, Hawaiian ordered two DC-9-30s, which would grow to ten aircraft over the next few years