from C-C-Cold War Syndrome
They were flying a brand new model of the DC-3. One of the differences between the new model and its predecessor was that the door between the cockpit and the passenger cabin now opened outward, toward the cabin.
Mister Beasley’s copilot urgently needed to pee. He unstrapped and headed to the rear of the plane where the restroom was located. Occupado. And there was a line. He returned to the cockpit to wait it out.
Next attempt, same thing. Finally, he could wait no longer. Desperate, he reached for the used ice cream carton in which his wife had packed his lunch (a common practice in those days) and prepared to pee in the empty carton.
Fearing the stewardess might come into the cockpit while he was in mid-stream, he positioned himself at the rear of the flight station with his back to the door, leaning against it to hold it closed it while he enjoyed blessed relief.
Sure enough, the stewardess chose precisely the wrong moment to visit the cockpit. When she opened the door, which the preoccupied copilot had forgotten now opened outward, he fell backwards into the passenger cabin. He stumbled, he staggered, he spun, trying desperately to regain his balance. Yet, all the while, he held the ice cream carton strategically in place. When he finally stopped, the passengers applauded him for never spilling a drop.
That was one of Mister Beasley’s many famous stories. One of my favorites. I never doubted their authenticity.
Like the one about another of his commercial airline flights, this one from Amarillo to Oklahoma City.
The passengers were all on board and seated. The passenger agent came out from the terminal, did a final head count, signed off on the passenger roster and handed a copy to the stewardess.
She escorted him back to the cabin door and watched him descend the boarding ramp to the tarmac. The agent turned and wished her a good flight. She waved goodbye to him, then closed and locked the cabin door.
She didn’t know that the agent would be going along on this flight. Nor did she know that he had previously arranged with the pilots to ride in the cockpit with them rather than back in the passenger cabin. He walked around to the other side of the plane and climbed up the pilots’ boarding ladder leading directly into the flight station.
It was a trip of approximately 200 miles—all told, about an hour in the air. After landing in Oklahoma City, Jay realized that the stewardess had not come into the flight station at any time before or during the flight, not since the passenger agent had come back aboard. He had an idea and called ahead on the radio to coordinate the coming performance.
As soon as the aircraft reached its parking spot, the passenger agent scrambled down the pilots’ boarding ladder, which at Jay’s request had been brought up to the plane in advance of the passenger boarding ramp. He ran around the aircraft, scooted up the boarding ramp and was standing atop it when the stewardess opened the cabin door.
When she saw him there—the same agent who had wished her a good flight in Amarillo now greeting her in Oklahoma City, heaving for breath as if he’d sprinted the entire 200 miles—she nearly fainted. Gotcha!
Mister Beasley was a remarkable character and a special friend to naval aviation. Though a civilian, the Navy officially designated him Honorary Naval Aviator Number 13 (Jimmy Doolittle was Number 17). But I never called him mister. He wouldn’t have liked that. It was always Jay.
When I met him, he was about to retire as a test pilot for Lockheed, the company that built the P-3. He’d introduced the Orion to the Navy and vice versa. Thereafter, he traveled the world for years visiting and revisiting every P-3 squadron to fly with its junior pilots and to inject some down-home common sense into their notion of “flying by the book.”
In the evenings, you’d find him at the bar drinking vodka martinis and, in his squeaky voice, regaling an audience of pilots a third his age with stories about flying way back when. Next morning, he’d be in the classroom and in the afternoon he’d be droning around the landing pattern for as many hours as it took for the young guys to get it right.
Before joining Lockheed, Jay had flown for American Airlines, starting out in the 1930’s in the venerable DC-3, then moving on to the DC-6 and, later, the Super Constellation.
Another of my favorite Beasley stories—one he shared only with his closest friends—involved an incident that could have happened only to Jay.
When he returned to his hotel after a night of celebratory drinking with an old Navy pilot friend, he could barely stand. Somehow, he made it up to his room. After finally managing to unlock his door, he discovered it was stuck. He put his shoulder to it and shoved mightily. When it suddenly gave way, he stumbled and staggered off-balance into the room, arms flailing.
The four-poster bed got in his way. That is, one of the shoulder-high posters did. With his arms in the air, the upraised sleeve of his sport jacket came down over the poster. He settled on it, trapped in his coat as if it were a straight jacket.
He spent the rest of the night like that, passed out with one arm straight up in the air, hanging from that poster by the sleeve of his jacket. The housekeeper who found him there the next morning said, “My Lord, I ain’t never seen nothin’ like that before.”
But then, she didn't know the Navy's good friend, the late Mister Jay Beasley.
“It’s all about honor. Get on ‘er and stay on ‘er.”
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