All those Wonderful Stories

The Guys & Gals of Hanger 28

By Arue Szura and Virginia Madsen Costa

By December 1952 the young and enthusiastic team of Transocean employees working in Hangar 28 had accomplished such feats as turning the beat-up old wreck of a plane known as "Kansas City Kitty" into a first-class TAL C54, in just six weeks.


Transocean Maintenance and Engineering personnel had also transformed other bone-yard ships such as "Oklahoma City #1" and "Oklahoma City #2," converted Colonel Soriano's (of the Philippines) B17 to utilize a Hydraulic Auto-Pilot for automatic flight control (a first in aviation), installed ferry fuel-tanks in Martin 202s for trans-Pacific flights (another first), and received CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration) certification for the installation of ski equipment on a C47 nicknamed "Benny Bigfeet" (yet another first).


Then they repeated the ski installation job for the Argentine government, and in addition equipped the ship with two JATO cylinders of 1000 lbs thrust per cylinder, as well as a 928-gallon fuselage fuel supply.


These and numerous other feats accomplished by hangar personnel were backed by the office crews, including Kardex, Purchasing, Cost Accounting, Inspection, Island Bases team, Material, Maintenance, Engineering, and the Shipping and Receiving Department.

 

I was secretary to Bill Rivers, who was head of the Purchasing Department at that time. I typed purchase orders and statistical reports far into the night on an old Royal manual typewriter when we were in the middle of a contract. Then there would be dry spells in between contracts when the two other secretaries and I would just sit there, all caught up, waiting for Mr. Rivers to drop a letter into the file basket so we could take turns at filing one piece of paper at a time.

 

I suppose I might best be remembered for "putting my foot in my mouth" quite often, mostly because I was young and naive then. The one time I remember most clearly was about the mechanics who would bring leftover floral leis from airplanes in from Hawaii to the girls in the offices, but always managed to give the last one away before reaching my desk. Finally, I became incensed and complained loudly that I'd been working there for three whole years and hadn't had a lei yet! I didn't understand what all the uproar was about after I said that. Like I said, I was quite young.

 

The rest of the story came several years later when I visited someone at the airport and was introduced to a man I'd never met. After hearing my name he said, "Oh, you're the one who worked here all those years and didn't get a lei!

 

Ginny Madsen Costa also has fond memories of working in Hangar 28, such as the thrill of winning third place (out of sixteen entrants) in the beauty contest at the TALOA picnic in 1952, and flying aboard TAL DC4s during test hops (as I did) until the CAA stepped in and declared that only flight crew members could be on board.

 

She also remembers the excitement when TAL flew the first television equipment to Hawaii in the early fifties for their new station KONA, and the filming at TAL's facilities of parts of movies based on author Ernest K. Gann's books, "Island in the Sky" and "The High and the Mighty," as well as other motion pictures. (Gann was a pilot for TAL at that time).

 

Ginny's offices were rather unique. The first one she occupied was the only upstairs office in Hangar 28; the second was in back of the Tool Department. "We were in a little corner surrounded by carburetors," she recalls. "In the winter it was cold as it could be. We had to put our feet inside cardboard cartons until somebody finally brought in a small heater. To pull out a
desk drawer you had to first pick up your feet, and everybody who came in there had to mingle with the tools-even the V.I.P.s - but no one seemed to mind. "I wouldn't want to be reincarnated and come back to work for any other airline but Transocean," says Ginny. "Every day was a picnic. Mine was such a fantastic job."