Re: The Martin 404 TRIVIA
Date: October 16, 2010 05:26PM
My Dad, Jim Reep was Piedmont Maintenance in Charlotte for much of the 1960s. I grew up @ Douglas (CLT) often in his company in the maintenance office. During an Eastern strike in the mid 60s I assisted him with his work on the over night aircraft added due to the strike. I was his "go-fer". About daylight he began firing up the Martins for their daily checks. I stood the "fire Bottle" on the ground for this procedure. My favorite airplane in the fleet "Ole 421" was the last to be cranked. It was parked near the operations office near the post office between the north & east concourses @ the old terminal. A postal worker lay asleep on a postal cart not far away behind me & my huge wheeled fire bottle. Dad cranked the right engine with no problem & brought it to idle. My job was to count the pre-ignition revolutions for him. As he began turning the left engine , nearest me, & I counted the prop blades, I gave him the sign to start. He hit the ignition & the big 2800 Pratt coughed , then beleched a horrendous deep groan followed by a gut rattling explosion followed by a huge fire that exited out the carb intake above the engine. I frozen in total stark terror. Suddenly the engine coughed again & sucked the flames back into the intake, barked a time or two & caught normally. The flames disappeared for an instant, then reappeared out the exhaust stacks with an equally deafening explosion & were gone. The airplane was running normally. It had simply backfired. My life was many years shorter & the postal worker was laying face down on the pavement, having rolled off his comfy cart. Dad, smiling like a Cheshire cat, looked out the Captian's open window from the cockpit like it was business as normal. Oddly enough, fire never caused me concern again. The postal guy got to his feet cussing & resumed his nap.
"Ole 421", had a unique nose that made it stand out from all of the other Piedmont Martins. I was told by Captian Al Chrysler that she was the fastest plane it the fleet, cruising a few knots faster than her sisters, but she had a peculiar attitude of nose slightly down & yawed a bit to one side. He explained that she flew slightly out of "jig" but could be "trimmed" in with no problem aside from the fact that she would slow down when "trimmed in" . What an amazing airplane !!!!!!!! I became attached to her during her time with Piedmont. She was "mine" I loved her very much . I will always remember Piedmont as "MY" Airline". I was very proud of the people , the planes & the home grown roots of the "little airline that could & DID " !!!!!!!!!!!!
Jim Reep Jr