Bernie McCormack sends us another of his memories -
For some time now you have carried inaugural flight articles from various sources and I will comment on them and then describe my own, unique I believe, inaugural.
There is no great talent required to fly an inaugural. The pilots are not selected by management because of any special qualification as a rule. Blocks of flying are published month to month and in them a first flight to a new destination may be contained. Those blocks are bid on by the line pilots and awarded according to seniority.
The glamour flights are usually the ones that the newest aircraft fly and as a result they are taken by the most senior people in the airline. The preparation in my case was a look at the en-route, terminal area and approach charts and a good look at my national geographic maps of the route in case someone asked me a question that could be embarrassing if I "didn't have the faintest".
Any unusual flight information would be sent out to the pilots well prior to the flight by our support staff and in fact the busiest people prior to one of these flights were the ground staff arranging transportation, hotel accommodation, customs and immigration protocol, describing local sensitivities and cautions, cash exchange and a host of other things so that everyone would be ready to greet us when we got there.
I was employed by TCA when I was twenty and as a result the last few years of my career saw me near the top of the seniority list. I flew the 747-400 on the inaugural flights Westbound out of Delhi, Eastbound out of Seoul and Eastbound out of Osaka. The unique one for the reason I will tell you was out of Osaka Japan. Prior to the flight in September 1994 there were representatives of the Japanese government, the aviation authority, Air Canada management (Robert Milton) and myself assembled just outside of the terminal gate to the aircraft and held back by a thick pink (I think) ribbon. We each had a pair of beautiful scissors.
Standing on my left was the former Japanese minister of defense. I can remember thinking “don't fumble and drop those scissors or half of our passengers will book off the flight”. When we were given the signal we each simultaneously cut the ribbon and proceeded to board. The departure was routine and on time, we had no problems communicating because the airport and en-route controllers spoke very clear English and we were on our way.
Very satisfying and exhilarating. We had been underway less than an hour when we got a call on the satcom radio. Toronto. They advised that with our minimal crew availability (pilot training on the '400 was still underway) and because of illness they had no captain to take the flight back to Osaka the day after our arrival at home in Vancouver.
The same aircraft we were flying Eastbound continues to Toronto after our arrival in Vancouver, overnights and returns Westbound the next day. (In fact the same aircraft carried all of the existing flight schedule to and from Osaka). Would I consider flying the Westbound again the day after our arrival? We are usually pretty beat up sleep wise when we get home and sleep is difficult to come by even in our own bed but I considered the problem they and our company had and agreed to do it. As a result, to shorten the story, (too late), I flew the first Eastbound, the second Westbound, and the third Eastbound on that route. It was a wonderful adventure.
Bernie McCormack retired 1995.
Jim Bruce sent us this information regarding the photo of Katherine Stinson in NetLetter nr 1372.
Are you sure that the portrait shot in #1372 of Katherine is of her? If you do a search of Katherine on Google images, you’ll see my painting of her aircraft and an oil portrait I did of her both for the Alberta Aviation Museum.
Regards, Jim. (We did a search as Jim suggested - eds)