All those Wonderful Stories

Orvis Stories

By Joseph Stachon, Captain

In January 1949 we were flying a DC-4 from Wake to Honolulu by way of Midway Island. Orvis Nelson was on board along with a few other pilots and flight engineers as dead-head crew members. Orvis decided we should stop at Midway and familiarize ourselves with the airport in case we should need to use it as an alternate at some time in the future.

After landing and touring the island, we discovered, as we were about to depart, that one of the engine starters had failed. There was no maintenance service available to us on
Midway so we were faced with a considerable problem. Fortunately one of our very inventive flight engineers had brought along a device that took care of this situation very neatly. The "emergency starter" consisted of a long rope with three canvas pockets spaced along one end of the rope. The pockets were slipped on the prop tips of the ailing engine. The pockets also had metal hooks sewn into them so that about three rounds of the rope could be hooked in each pocket when the rope was wrapped around the prop from tip to tip. Orvis was the first to volunteer as a rope puller and about five more of us lined up behind him.

We started to run with the rope, Orvis leading the way. With a roar the engine started and the prop slung off the pockets and the rope suddenly went slack. At that point Orvis stumbled and fell flat on the pavement. Well, that wasn't a rough spot in the pavement that the rest of us ran over long-ways, it was the president of our airline.  Our apologies proved unnecessary, however, as Orvis got up, dusted himself off and laughed heartily through the whole event.