All those Wonderful Stories
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 Oakland.
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