FE Job

I was working on the factory floor, doing sheet metal and riveting work on the door structure of the TriStar (the plane has 8 passenger doors). During my lunch breaks I would eat my lunch real fast so I could spend the rest of my lunch hour walking around the factory floor and looking at other parts of the L-1011 in various stages of assembly.

My commercial pilot training was moving along extremely well on the weekends. One day while at work the idea hit me that I should call the Chief Flight Engineer (who ever that was) and see what his requirements were to be a flight engineer on the TriStar. I knew I didn’t have enough flying time (or the license and ratings) yet to be a pilot but I thought if I could become a flight engineer that would be OK to start out with.

So, using a phone on the factory floor, I called the Lockheed operator and asked for the Chief Flight Engineer’s office. She connected me. A few seconds later a man’s voice came on the line and he said “Hello”? I introduced myself and said what are your requirements to becoming a flight engineer? He said well, I really don’t have any, after your shift, why don’t you come to my office and see me? I couldn’t believe it. An invitation to meet with the Chief Flight Engineer for a job! I was pretty dirty from working but he knew that so he wasn’t expecting me to show up in a suit and tie. I cleaned up as best I could and after my shift ended, I walked to the flight crew training building and met with him. His name was George Hall. And it turned out that he gave me the biggest break of my life. When I walked in he looked me over and said “So, you want to be a flight engineer?”. I said yes sir. He pointed to his wall which was filled with cockpit posters of various airline customer configurations for their flight decks. It was a mass of gauges, dials and switches…hundreds in each cockpit and thousands on his wall.

He looked at me again and pointing to one of the walls said “So you think you can learn how to operate all of this?”. I remember thinking to myself no way, you’re out of your mind, how could anyone learn all of this? But instead I said “Sure”.

He asked me if I had taken the FAA Flight Engineers written test. I said no. He said if I take this test on my own time and at my own cost and pass it, he would hire me and transfer me into his department which was the flight crew training department. They would send me through their L-1011 pilot training class to learn how to become a flight engineer crew member, get me the FAA check ride and then put me to work as a ground school instructor for both pilots and flight engineers. I would also be used he said as a flight engineer simulator instructor and a flight engineer instructor in the actual aircraft! In those days, the FAA still required each crew member to receive 25 hours of actual aircraft flying time during their factory training. Pilot training was extremely expensive in those days.