Working the Hadj on a Tristrar
By Michael McCook
Michael McCook was a Flight Engineer for Tradewinds Airlines for a few years. The following is his story about his adventures with Lockheed Tristar 3D-NEC.
We flew charters all around the world
They had 4 leased L-1011's which we flew Charters all around the world. During the summer, we operated out of East Midlands airport, Nottingham, England doing short notice wet leases.
Another contract I did as a Flight Engineer was for a Hajj with an L-1011-1, SN 1096, registered 3D-NEC for convenience in Swaziland. This was another of the X-Tradewinds airplanes (N310SS) which we picked up in Greensboro, NC (GSO) and ferried to Jeddah for Northeast Airlines LTD. The guys that leased it were an outfit out of Miami who had purchased the Livery and name from the old "Yellowbird" Northeast Airlines. They in turn were contracted by a company in Canada who had a Hajj contract. It was pretty much a disaster right from the start. Most of the guys who got hired either never showed up in GSO or demanded up front money, which they never got and decided not to take a chance. A small group of us, however, took the chance... not so much for the pay (although that was a factor, because it was supposed to be very good), but for an adventure... which was good since we never really got paid, except for a bit here and there after some perseverance.
Grounded in Ouagadougou
Unfortunately, we got more of an adventure than we planned.
I could probably write a book on the ordeals we faced moving this airplane around for an African Hajj. Suffice to say, the final flight at the end of the Hajj took us to Ouagadougou (OUA), Burkina Faso. Due to some issues regarding money... ie., this one was supposed to pay that and that one was supposed to pay this... the airplane was impounded for not paying a variety of fees which kept growing each day until eventually it just wasn't feasible to pay them. Stuck in a less than desirable African standard 1* hotel for a week or so, with no relief or pay insight, the cockpit crew forked out our own money for tickets back to the States. Good thing too, because eventually people started going to jail... namely my good friend David the A&P mechanic who traveled with us (whom also was one of the owners of the company). Now before any of you armchair pilots start pointing fingers, calling us names for abandoning the aircraft, etc. let me say, you weren't there, so keep your clam shut. Anyway, we (the cockpit crew) did on many occasions, offer to return and move the airplane once all the pay and fees were doled out. This never happened. So, the end result was the airplane never moved (except off the ramp to a dirt field) and eventfully was chopped up for Castel Beer cans.
Photo’s by Michael McCook and Hans P. Gunther