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Aircraft Operated by Transocean Air Lines

Cruisers, Boeing, Convair & Curtiss

Douglas DC-4

Constellation & Martin

Old 635

Argentine Queen

Kansas City Kitty

Benny Big-Feet

No. 648

Workhorse Harry

Old 635

 a.k.a. "Miss Independence," then "Taloa Manila Bay

The first DC-4 Orvis Nelson acquired – the airplane which made like a fleet during the early days of the Oakland-to-Manila
service for the Philippine Airlines – was known by the last three digits of its license number as Old 635. Transocean flew
Old 635 until 1949, giving it new engines and an occasional refurbishing. The plane was finally sold to Iceland Airlines,
which operated it between New York, Iceland, and Stockholm. Nelson, who felt as though he'd lost an old friend, kept track
of 635's subsequent career.

"The Icelandic outfit was very proud of 635, because it was the nicest airplane they had. And then, after they'd flown it about six months, they hit a bad storm going into Reykjavik and flew 635 into the side of a glacier. The amazing thing was that they had a full load of passengers and crew and 635 broke in two-but they all survived.

"I talked to one of the crew later and he said the storm was so bad that for three days they didn't dare venture from one
wrecked side to the other-though the front of the airplane, with the crew, was only a dozen feet from the main part of the
fuselage containing the passengers. It was snowing and blowing so hard that the two parties could only see each other for
seconds at a time. They finally got everyone out, but Old 635 still lies up there on the glacier in Iceland. Sort of sad-but it did its job until the end.

Kasas City Kitty 

a.k.a. N68969 (re-registered to N88796)


Another personality among Transocean's fleet of DC-4s was 969 – the plane that was finally sold to Northwest Airlines as a down payment on the Martin 202s TAL acquired several years ago. Plane No. 969, because of the involved circumstances of its acquisition, was known by all Transocean people as Kansas City Kitty. 

The lady in question began her Transocean career (it would be unkind to look any further into her past) as a discarded and
all-but-forgotten skeleton of an airplane parked on an unused section of the Kansas City airport. Nelson, in Oakland, first
heard about the plane when one of his pilots reported that the remains of the DC-4 were to be sold at a sheriff's auction the
next day in Kansas City. Fortunately vice president Sam Wilson and Paul Pyster, Transocean's chief inspector, had that day
been sent from the West Coast to Oklahoma City to pick up a DCA Transocean was buying from American Airlines. Nelson
immediately instructed the two men to hop over to Kansas City, inspect the relic and report on its condition.
"Pyster called me in Oakland early the next morning and said he had inspected the airplane and was ready to report on it –
but that the sale occurred in 15 minutes. He said the ship was a DC-4A that had been lying out in the weather at the airport
for two years. The engines had been taken off and dismantled and were covered with rust, the control services had been
removed, and the fabric sections of the ship were pretty well shot. He thought there would be at least $10,000 worth of parts necessary to get the plane into any sort of condition. I wanted to know how the plane shaped up basically - the condition of the landing gear attachments and whether there was much corrosion – and Pyster said that it was in pretty fair shape for a plane that had been out in the elements for two years. He thought we could make it fly and it might be worth the investment in parts. He asked me how much I wanted to bid.

"We weren't too flush at the time – having just bought two DC-4s from American Airlines. I knew this auction would be a
cash deal, so I tried to figure out how much we would have to put into the ship and how much it would be worth when we
had finished putting it together again. I knew the market on operational DC-4s was running from $140,000 to $200,000 at
the time – but I also knew that we didn't have much money in the bank and that we had a payroll coming up. I told Pyster he
could start his bid at $25,000 and go up to $30,000. 1 also told him to go to the sheriff and explain that he didn't have the
money with him, but that we'd get it there during the day if we were successful in buying the plane. Twenty minutes later
Pyster called back and told me that we'd bought ourselves an airplane for $30,000.

"That turned out to be a frantic day, because one of the unsuccessful bidders raised a fuss about our buying the plane on a
cash deal without having any cash on hand. After a good deal of running around, I managed to get the money order for the
$30,000 off and into the sheriff's bands in Kansas City and the airplane was ours. A couple of days later I sent a man over
from Oakland to inventory the parts we'd need. We found the ship needed new control services and new engines. We
shipped these to Kansas City by freight and our man hired some local help and spent a month putting the plane back
together. Two of our pilots then went to Kansas City and ferried Kansas City Kitty back to Oakland. They had to make the
flight with the landing gear down, because they were afraid that if they retracted the gear it might stay up when they tried to
land." Nelson let Kansas City Kitty sit in Oakland for three months while he accumulated enough money to complete its
overhaul and re-equipment; then he sent the plane through the AEMCO overhaul line. When the work was completed,
Kansas City Kitty was in first-class condition and equipped for plush passenger service. The total bill to Transocean,
including the original purchase price, amounted to $97,000. Transocean used Kansas City Kitty for two years and then sold
it to Northwest Airlines for $500,000. Nelson's only miscalculation in the Kansas City Kitty deal was his timing of the sale to
Northwest – if he had waited for another 60 days the open-market price of the plane would have been $700,000.

No. 648

Another DC-4 – No. 648 – turned out to be a happy investment for Transocean. Plane No. 648 first appeared in the
Transocean fold during 1947, when Nelson rented it from its three joint owners for $10,000 a month. During the early part of
1948, Nelson found that he could get along without 648 and so he canceled the lease in order to save the rent money. The
owners of the aircraft were unable either to sell or rent the plane and a couple of months later – shortly before income tax
date, as a matter of fact-offered 648 to Transocean for $30,000 down if the purchaser would assume the mortgage. This
brought the total cost of the aircraft to $95,000.

"We were in no position to pay out $30,000 in cash at that time and I was trying to figure out what to do about the offer when Jim McCoy and Bill Rivers walked into the office. McCoy was then our chief flight engineer and Rivers was our purchasing agent. I asked the two of them if they had any suggestions. McCoy offered me $500 immediately-and so did Rivers. On the strength of that I decided to buy 648 with what money I could collect from the Transocean staff. I called up the owners of the plane and asked them if they would agree to accept $15,000 as a down payment and let me pay off the balance at $3,500 a month. They agreed and so it was a deal."

Transocean used 648 for almost five years and finally sold it for $650,000. Though this was undoubtedly a profitable
investment, it should be remembered that there was a good deal of money invested in the plane, in the form of labor and
replacements, during the period it was in Transocean's service. Nelson figured that the average life of a four-engine
transport plane was about 15 years – and also that at the end of the 15 years there would be little of the original aircraft
remaining but the structural members. Everything wearable would, by that time, have been replaced.

The Argentine Queen: From Test-Hop To Flying The Line . . .

Transocean Air Lines Taloa News Nov. 1953

Construction "from the ground up" of the Argentine Queen last month was added to the varied accomplishments of Transocean Air Lines as the 73,000 pound passenger plane received federal certification and joined the Company's commercial fleet in November. It had its test-hop on November 5.


We are quoting below from a news release issued from Sam Wilson's office on the story behind the Argentine Queen and the successful completion in record time of the ambitious project by Hangar 28 people.

Overhaul Know-How

"This aircraft, the equivalent of a long-range Douglas DC-4E, was built from the ground up by Transocean's maintenance department which received the components in thousands of parts and transformed them into a licensed and flying transport in a remarkably short period of time.


"It is my belief that this is the first time that an airline has successfully completed a project of these proportions and I regard it as a finedemonstration of Transocean's maintenance and overhaul know-how and versatility.


"The project started when one of our executives heard of the hull and center wing section of a late model Douglas transport in storage in Buenos Aires. These are the heart of an airplane and their discovery in perfect condition was a real find. Because streets on the route from the airport tothe harbor are narrow, even these componentshad to be dissassembled to transport them to shipboard.

An Aircraft Factory
"These parts, packed in cases and crates, arrived at Oakland Airport by barge and the task ofbuilding the aircraft actually got under way September 2, 1953.


"The first step was to set up the framework of an aircraft factory, including the hoists, jigs and otherequipment required in the construction of a large transport.


"Under the direction of Al Morjig, Superintendent of Maintenance, the project proceeded swiftly, with new factory parts joining the basic units of  the South American discovery. Spread by word of mouth, the project attracted wide attention and Transocean's aircraft `factory' received many visitors."
Now In The Lift

Just two months and four days after the foundation parts were received the new aircraft, christened the Argentine Queen was taken aloft by William L. Keating, Transocean's Pacific Division Director of Operations. It passed its flight test with flying colors, Keating said. The federal certification followed shortly.


The Argentine Queen has now joined its sister DC-4's in flying the Korean Airlift.        


Above: In the beginning

Below: She begins to fit into place


Above: Washing her face


Below: Final check by Captain Keating


Benny Big-Feet

Alaska Air Lines claim that they were first to receive CAA certification for the installation of ski equipment on a C-47, However, CAA records reveal that Transocean Air Lines was first.  Again our boys performed a job and rated the remark, "Well Done".  This ski installation job was repeated for the Agrentine government and in addition, this ship was equipped with two Jato Cylinders  of 1000 lbs. thrust per cylinder, as well as a 928 gallon fuselage fuel supply.

Workhorse Harry

Another noteworthy plane which traveled slowly through the half-mile assembly line at AEMCO was an unsung hero of the cold war - a weary DC-4 named Workhorse Harry.  Harry, , which flew the last official flight in the Berlin airlift, entered the overhaul line wearing the following sign painted on its nose,


Last Vittle Flight - 1,783572.7 Tons Airlifted to Berlin

 Harry had flown 1,943 flights in the airlift.  In the month of February, 1949, alone it flew 194 flights from Frankfurt to Berlin carrying coal.  After a complete overhaul, Workhorse Harry went out again to carry on the job.


Much of the text taken from The Story of an Unusual Airline by Richard Thruelsen

Old 635
No. 648
Kansas City Kitty
Angentine Queen
Workhorse Harry
Benny Big-feet
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