Holder of the ONA Super Wings Gold Award for magnificent contributions to the ONA Crew Web


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Dave Case


DAVE AT LARGE!

PILOT - SAILOR - WRITER




SAILIN´SOUTH
by Dave Case







AN OLD SEAFARING TRADITION

PILOT - SAILOR - WRITER



THE DOUGLAS CUSHION

PILOT - SAILOR - WRITER





CARIBE CAPER
A fellow who owned a grocery store on a small island 
in the Caribbean named Saint Maarten, decided he could 
make a bigger profit by having his groceries brought-in 
by air, rather than relying on the slower delivery by sea. 
He chose Overseas National Airways to be the carrier and 
ONA decided the DC-9 would be perfect for the once-a-month 
Miami to St. Maarten round-robin. Someone in scheduling 
assigned me to fly the run on the weekends I laid over in 
Norfolk; I was delighted.

A balmy spot of land jointly shared by the French, 
(St Martin) and the Dutch, (St. Maarten) is located just 
past the British Virgin Islands. After building a resort 
hotel for a big corporation from Holland, the American 
opened the store. He was a likeable guy in his forties 
who loved to accompany his cargo and regale us with 
stories of his adventures in the Caribbean. 

Leaving Miami I pointed the nose towards Andros Island, 
then we flew down the Bahama chain leaving Cuba and 
Dominica to starboard, while easily dodging around 
cumulous clouds that would grow to huge, threatening 
thunder-bumpers on our return trip. 

Abeam Puerto Rico we started our descent to his island. 
The runway was relatively short between a big mountain 
on the left and a small hill on the right. However the 
approach was over water and a beautiful beach with 
topless sunbathers. If the weather turned inclement 
one could either circle a few minutes for the downpour 
to pass, or try and get lucky with an ADF. It was fun, 
seat-of-the-pants flying reminding me of how it used to 
be in the Congo and Vietnam.

It normally took a couple of hours to offload the plane 
since it was all bulk cargo and each crate and box had to 
be hand-carried by the local labor. I didn’t mind this 
because the customer always treated us to an excellent 
lunch and the view from his porch was spectacular. 
In addition to the sun worshippers there was a perfect 
little bay begging to be explored by snorkel.

After three trips I couldn’t resist any longer; 
Chuck Howell was my copilot and I knew he loved the 
water as much as I did so, when I called him to bring 
along his flippers, snorkel and mask for our next trip 
south he was ready and willing.

We left Alameda flying nonstop to Indy, then on to Norfolk 
and a tail-end ferry to Miami where we polished off the 
evening at Brycen’s 39th Avenue pilot hangout. The next 
day was a typical Miami morning; the sun used the puffy 
clouds for an easel to paint colors impossible to duplicate 
with a brush. The plane was loaded, the customer waiting, 
the weather perfect, and off we flew for some skin-diving 
and feasting.  Sometimes I couldn’t believe I actually 
got paid to do this.

Two hours and twenty-five minutes later, I was maneuvering 
towards a visual approach and landing on the exquisite 
jewel that seemed to magically materialize from beneath the 
low puffy clouds clinging to the surrounding mountains. 
After landing we turned around and taxied back on the runway 
since the airport wasn’t big enough for us to use the taxiway. 
I parked not fifty feet from the lagoon we were going to 
investigate. Chuck and I changed into our swimming trunks 
in the plane telling the customer where we could be reached 
if he needed us.

The water was a delight; nearly the same temperature as the 
air. There was a reef and all manner of tropical fish swimming 
around; it was like being in a giant aquarium The fish were 
as curious about us as we them, they’d swim right up, touching 
my hand, looking me in the eye before dashing back a few feet 
to decide whether or not I was an acceptable guest. Chuck and 
I were having the time of our lives when the customer shouted 
out to us that the plane was off-loaded.

I looked at my watch; it had only been an hour and a quarter 
since we landed. I wondered how he had managed to empty the 
plane so fast. We swam to shore to greet our benefactor.

“Hey you guys are you going to have time for lunch?” he asked 
as we staggered out of the water.

“No, we’ve got to get the plane back; how’d you finish so 
fast?”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you, I bought a small powered hand truck 
that really speeds things up. We emptied that sucker in less 
than an hour. You looked like you were having such a good time 
I didn’t want to bother you, but I thought maybe I should after 
your company called to ask how it was going.”

“I told them we were still off loading – you want to have 
lunch?”

“Thanks anyway, we better get back before the shit hits the 
fan.”

“How about a shower first?”

“No, if customs doesn’t mind we’ll clear in our trunks and 
change in the plane once we get airborne.”

So sandy, with hair all askew, carrying our snorkels, flippers 
and mask the amused customs officer passed us through, 
“Captain can you fly wearing those flip-flops?”

 “The plane doesn’t mind what we fly in.” I laughingly 
responded.

Walking out to the bird Chuck was wearing an ear-to-ear grin, 
“Case, you sure know how to make a trip fun – this was the 
best”

“It was fun; you close the cargo door and get the clearance 
while I kick the tires.”

The ride back was uneventful. The only comment I received was 
from our mechanic in Miami, “Where’d all the sand come from – 
it’s all over the floor?”

“I don’t know maybe one of the loaders…”

“Jeez, I gotta sweep it up before it gets down in the E&E 
compartment. Those guys are pigs. Dave, close the cabin door 
next time; you never know what switches they might flip.”

“Good idea, thanks.”

 It was about three months later when I was back at 
headquarters, sitting for a recurrent ground school, when 
walking down the hall I passed Steedman Hinckley, the owner 
of the airline. 

“Hi Dave, how’s it going?”

“Fine sir.”

“Good; oh Dave, have you got a moment?”

“Yes sir.”

“Dave, I think our uniforms look good; they give us a 
professional appearance that sets a positive image with 
the public – don’t you agree?”

“Yes sir, I like the uniform.”

“Good. Would you try to remember to wear it when you’re 
flying with us? Flip-flops and swimming trunks really 
present a poor image; don’t you agree?”

“Yes sir, I…”

“I’m glad we had this little talk – you’ll be late for 
class. Have a nice day and call me, Steedman.”

“Yes sir – uh, Steedman.”

What a guy! He could have reamed me a new grommet, or 
worse yet I could have been suspended. I was mortified; 
I thought I was being so cool. I never did discover 
who snitched, after that I never flew in anything but 
a uniform.






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Warranty - WEBSITE FIRST PUBLISHED AUGUST 30, 2003