Chapter 21

From out of the blue came a change, not for me, other than I got a new boss. Gerry replaced Don Talmage by sending him to the same place he sent John Burton, International Sales. The funniest part was that Don wanted to know if I would join him in his Marketing efforts. Somehow the word "no" was given to him. His replacement, Bill Weathers, was an ex-airline type. His expertise was cargo carriers, and at one time owned and went broke running an airline. Bill and I got along and maybe he was told or this was his forte; he let me do my thing and that way we became friends. Bill had one thing that bothered me later. He was an ex-military man and his philosophy was that rank had its privileges no matter what the person does for you. But that was tomorrows problem and we functioned well.

Gerry and I received an invitation to have lunch on Molcome Forbes yacht in the Los Angeles Harbor. His kids were on their way to Alaska. They would stop at major cities between New York and Alaska and have lunch and a short cruise. Gerry and I had a delightful day with an excellent lunch and harbor cruise. The highlight of the day was on the way to the ship. Gerry complimented and thanked me for my sales efforts. He also felt that my approach to handling the carriers was a good example. This was the closest that I had heard that Management understood what was going on. The tragedy was that Gerry was killed soon after, driving his family home from the mountains. He was the last person from Douglas Management to thank me for my efforts.

I knew very little about Gerry when he asked me to join the Marketing Department. He was highly intelligent and from the same Engineering background, out of Aerodynamics. He was a very close friend of Jack McGowan, President of Douglas, and assured his path to his present job.

He felt that everyone should be as fast on the uptake as he and that he had all the answers. He was intelligent, but short on human dynamics. He had a way of alienating people within the airlines because of his aggressiveness. He was actually forbidden to visit several carriers because of his reputation within the airline of chastising people who did not agree with him. He was, at least, a difficult man to work for, but his close friends from previous days stuck by him. Gerrys famous statement, when someone told him to ease up or he was going to get an ulcer was, "I don't get ulcers, I give them."

Things became easier with Gerry as I began to sell aircraft, though my early success with Trans Texas and Central did not seem to matter. But by the time we had lunch on Malcolm Forbes Yacht, I began to feel comfortable with my position, so it was a loss when Gerry was killed.

Manufacturers love to have their competitor slip in some manner, so they can get cheap publicity through the press that the competitor has a deficient aircraft.

One such instant occurred when, after completing a trip to Washington D.C. and finishing business, I headed home on a United DC-10. Settling into my window seat on the right side of the aircraft, and enjoying a comfortable and relaxing flight home, watching the sunset off in front of the aircraft as we headed West. Over Little Rock, Arkansas, the sun began to move to my right and soon was behind us; we were heading East. The Captain came on the intercom and said, he had shut the number two engine down, rear center engine, due to a fire warning. He had popped the fire extinguisher bottles. He had felt that it was a false warning but needed to pull the extinguisher handle on the engine. We were going to land in Memphis, which we did, and it had turned dark. He had landed on the short runway which crossed the main runways and stopped with nowhere to turn, but 180 degrees. He initially decided to sit there and wait for them to bring out ladders and bus us to the terminal. I discussed this situation with the Captain, explaining I was from McDonnell Douglas. He was congenial but expressed his frustration with the aircraft electronics. He stated that false warning lights fill the cabin with glare, and he was disgusted. You cannot ignore a fire warning light even if you know it is false. We sat there for 1.5 hours when the captain decided to start the engines and turn the aircraft around. His frustration level got the better of him. He started the remaining engines, and started to turn the aircraft. He did not make it; the nose slipped off the runway into the Mississippi Mud and the nose wheel sank up to the fuselage.

One hour later, with the tail in the air, they rigged ladders and brought the buses out to take us to the airport. The replacement aircraft arrived from Washington D.C., a DC-8. They loaded us on the aircraft and the Captain of the DC-8 welcomed us to old reliable. We arrived at Los Angeles at 2:30 a.m. only to find my car battery dead; I had left the radio on. Going to bed at 4 a.m. ended an exhausting trip.

When I finally went into the office, later that day, I was surprised that Airbus had spread the story that the engine had exploded on the DC-10, and that the aircraft had skidded into the Mississippi mud. A lot of people were happy that I was on that flight so they could refute Airbus. I was not so sure that I was that happy, after a day like that.