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Junk Planes to San Clemente Island

Story ID:5872
Written by:Monte Leon Manka (bio, contact, other stories)
Organization:retired
Story type:Story
Location:Hemet CA USA
Year:1966
Person:Afraid of planes
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Junk Planes to San Clemente Island

Planes--Planes--Planes Yesterday Chad

We had a job on San Clemente Island while I was working for B. and M. Excavating (Dick Brazil).

Jim Allen and I rode the barge with the machinery on it while being towed by a big Harbor Tug.

We had a TD 9 tractor and five ten wheelers (ten yard dump trucks) and various other machinery needed to make roads on San Clemente, Island.

When we got to the Island Jim and I unloaded the machinery, took it about a mile to the marshaling area, and started the job by going to the beer hall for a few beers.

The barge ride over was terrific very smooth and fun.

The rest of the 13-man operation, were flown over on a D.C.3 (2-engine plane) the next day and we started the operation of paving the roads to the top of the island.

I was a truck driver and we got to see most of the island, there was an area that we couldn't visit because the Navy was bombarding it and it wasn't safe to be there.

We were there with Scott Carpenter the astronaut and several USC professors looking into some caves on the south end of the island.

We flew back in a seaplane called a goose, this plane was about thirty years old and it looked and flew as if it was ninety years old. We arrived home O.K. this first trip but the next time over, on Monday Morning, we took off and when we got to Catalina Island and flew over it I thought we were mighty close to the ground. What I didn't know was that it was foggy down lower.

The Pilot dove straight down and I thought we were going to be killed, but there was a 400 foot ceiling and we broke into the clear and landed OK on San Clememte Island.

When we flew back on Friday night, we were treated to a two-engine plane that was Canadian and called a Dove. When the pilot took off he flew straight north, and I knew that the Long Beach airport was northeast.

While flying I could head a thump, not rhythmic but erratic.

The thump got louder when the pilot opened the window and the air rushed in and I thought this was it. I thought the engines were on the way out. All at once he laid the plane on its right side and turned toward the air port, surprising everybody and causing some consternation on the mens part we headed for the flight strip.

When he landed the plane shook as if we had landed in a corn field crossways. When the plane slowed down it quit vibrating and the pilot said "I have been trying to get the company to fix that nose wheel for a long time. We made it again.

The next time over on Monday the buttons were falling off the instruments. When the pilot would try to retrieve them he would lay the plane on its side as if in a sharp turn and scare us all over again. We made it.

The next to last trip we took a "Goose" back home and after we took off I thought that we were flying mighty low. We passed over the paddle wheel excursion boat and I could have dropped my suitcase down one of the smokestacks on the boat. Now as we approached Long Beach he was letting the wheels down to land on the airstrip, but all at once one engine of the two quit.

The pilot yelled, "fasten your seat belts" and I almost squeezed my self into two pieces. The wheels were coming up slowly so we could land in the water.

I thought that they wouldn't get up in time because we were dropping mighty fast toward an apartment house. I didn't think that we were going to clear the TV antennas on the roof.

We cleared the antennas but there were some sailboats that had very high masts and I thought that we were going to hit one of them. We cleared the masts, the pilot had about run out of room, and he dropped the goose into the water mighty hard, because he didn't want to hit the rocks at the end of Newport Bay.

We finally taxied up to the beach and we were all froze to our seats, the pilot said "open the door and jump out into the water and hold the plane from drifting out in the channel."

There was a mad rush to get out and I was number three, I ran over five guys to get out. I helped the pilot remove the luggage and pass it to shore and

I said to the pilot, "that was a beautiful job of flying and I am glad to be on solid ground again."

The pilot looked me in the eye, with perspiration dripping from his face and said “son You're not any happier than I am” then I realized that it was closer than I had imagined, We made it.

As we were walking up the beach looking for a bar to get a stiff drink, a good looking sunbather raised up and said, “oh look there are the men that came down on that plane, see their pants are all wet.”

Don Micu the stuttering one on the plane answered her by saying, “Yeah lady and that ain't all sea water either” and he never stuttered once, and we proceeded to the bar.

We went back over to finish the job and made it with only minor scrapes.

A couple years later we had a job on Catalina, Island the boss wanted to know if I wanted to work over at the island. I agreed only if I could go over on the motor boat, about 35 miles.

I rode over on the barge again with dozers semi trucks and other machinery and delivered it to the marshaling area. Once they wanted me to go over on the helicopter and I said no. Two days later the copter crashed landed in Avalon Bay the pilot wasn't hurt. He made it.

The people that lived on the Island were really nice. We were told if we got drunk we would be thrown off the Island and never be allowed to return, we were good because there wasn't that much work around. We all stayed at the Rotweiler hotel but after a couple days we re-named it the RAT weller.
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