I Remember the Space Needle

By Guest Contributor February 16, 2017 10:08

A Lockheed P2V-7

I Remember the Space Needle

By Bill Edwards

During my assignment to the Naval Aviation Engineering Service Unit, usually referred to as NAESU, I worked on aircraft electrical supply systems. I was sent to many different naval air stations to train ground crews and maintenance personnel as well as obtaining historical data on their performances.

One such assignment took me up to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station northeast of Seattle. I had been there for several weeks and had made reservations on Western Airlines at the Seattle-Tacoma Airfield, normally referred to as Sea-Tac. A significant holiday was approaching and my wife was expecting me to be there, as she had invited guests to our home in the San Francisco Bay area.

As I was arranging for ground transportation to Sea-Tac, the squadron commander asked if I could stay overnight to assist solving some problems with a P2V-7 Lockheed anti-submarine warfare aircraft. I replied, “Gee, commander, I have an early morning flight out of Seattle and if I don’t show up for my wife’s party, I might as well enlist and go to a place far away from her!”

He laughed and said, “Tell you what I’ll do. Tomorrow is Sunday, so I’ll roll out a P2V-7 and fly you down to Sea-Tac in time for your flight.”

“That’s a deal,” I replied.

I met him on the flight line and after a few delays we finally took off. This aircraft has two big propellered engines, but also had a jet pod on each wing to assist with taking off with heavy fuel loads. After we became airborne, he left the jets running to add to the speed of our aircraft.

We had been cleared by the flight controllers, the FAA, for a low-altitude approach to Sea-Tac. As we approached Seattle the pilot called the Sea-Tac tower. I was wearing headphones and heard the following conversation which went pretty much like this:

“Sea-Tac tower, this is Navy flight xxx and request a straight-in approach as we have a VIP onboard who is ticketed for Western Airlines flight xxx to San Francisco.”

“Navy flight xxx, that Western flight just pulled out from the terminal.”

“Sea-Tac tower, would you contact the Wester pilot and ask if he would hold for our passenger?”

“Navy flight xxx, the Western flight will hold on the ramp and wait for you.”

As we landed, we very quickly headed directly toward the Western airliner and pulled up alongside. We could see all the passengers with their noses up to the windows trying to figure out what this big, black warbird was doing.

I was wearing a bright orange Navy flight suit over my civilian clothes and I dropped out of the belly of the Navy aircraft with my bag and ran around the airliner to a temporary set of steps they had rolled out for me from the terminal. I was greeted by the stewardesses with big smiles, who escorted me to the rear of the cabin and asked if they could get me anything.

During the flight to San Francisco, it seemed that every passenger on that plane had to visit the restroom in the rear in order to get a close look at me. While I was waiting for a helicopter at the San Francisco airport, I wandered over to a newsstand for a paper and saw a big headline: “Astronauts Visit the Seattle Space Needle Dedication.”

Bill Edwards, 86, is a Sonora resident and pilot who has walked away from two airplane crashes, earning him the nickname “Crash”.

By Guest Contributor February 16, 2017 10:08
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