TWA Maintenance Paris


ORY-CDG Maintenance Story.

Geographically well located on the TWA system map, Paris was headquarters for the International Division. The Industrial Relations, Finance, Marketing, and others departments were all based in the city, but the Flight Dispatch  and Maintenance departments had their offices at outlying Orly Field, the latest  headed in the 1960s by S.D Chapman, who was assisted by S. Moore and A. Zuger.

By the end of that decade, the staff was as follows: one “general foreman”, one “foreman In Charge” (FIC), five line foremen, six lead mechanics, and seventeen aircraft mechanics (including FAA licensed, and unlicensed types). Beyond these purely aircraft related personnel were several shop mechanics, a welder, a painter and  a carpenter  primarily included to maintain and repair vehicles and facilities.

The Orly Maintenance staff was an important key to International operations. Besides the routine of ORY-CDG line maintenance duties, it had the job of handling any major aircraft grounding (AOG) at a remote system station where a Boeing 707 was grounded for an engine problem necessitating an engine replacement in the field. This required an airlift to haul cradled JT-3D or JT-4 Pratt and Whitney engines to the problem site. The spare engines for the whole division were stored in a TWA hangar at Orly Field. In the late 1950s, a Fairchild C-82 replaced a C-47 to haul spare engines. This C-82 (fleet number 5551, registered N9701F) nicknamed "Le Canard" (The Duck), was kept on a twenty-four hour alert. On alert as well, were flight and ground crews to load the spare engine, to fuel and prepare the aircraft for flight, and to fly the  C-82 with the spare engine and an aircraft mechanics crew and supervisor to perform the engine change (see H. Trimble and C. Girard stories).

Another big function of the Orly Field staff was to service outside ground handling and maintenance contracts for nine airlines operating the Boeing 707: Aerolineas Argentinas, Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, Kuwaiti Airways, Olympic Airways of Greece, Pakistani Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines (Alia), South African Airlines (SAA), and Brazil's Varig Airlines. On some busy summer days, the number of scheduled passenger, freighter, and charter flights handled by the Orly staff, plus those outside airlines ground handling contracts, could number around twenty-five separate operations.

Another Orly maintenance staff task was to provide "crew relief" for those small TWA out-stations with only one foreman. During vacation time, his duties were covered by Paris Staff - Cairo, Taipei, Okinawa, Bangkok, and Hong Kong were some of the many stations covered by this support.  Most of the "White House Press" charters outside the USA, and the famous annual "Round the World" (Gothas) Charters, were handled by Paris Foremen, wherever the stopover. Of the International Division, these varied activities made our Orly Staff one of the most experienced and is no doubt why some of our staff were promoted to permanent management positions at foreign stations such as Malaga, Madrid, Tel Aviv, and Bangkok.

In 1970, the introduction of the Boeing 747 to TWA operations was a big change that came with increased staffing to handle the 'Jumbo Jet'. Formerly, a B-707’s ground handling was done by two mechanics in around one hour, now, a 747 required six ground crew for a three- hour turnaround! Our "Canard" had by then been modified to squeeze in the P&W JT-9, the big new engine powering the Jumbo. “Squeeze” was the right word, with barely an inch of clearance between aircraft hull and engine on each side! This heavy load impaired “Canard” take-off performance and flight range enough that new means to haul spare engines had to be developed. The C-82 was eventually withdrawn from service in early 1972. In March 1974, TWA moved to the new Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), where TWA Flight 800 from JFK was the first regular flight ever to land, which brought great media coverage to our TWA.

As for us in Maintenance, one could say that this move was pretty much a breakeven deal; we hadn’t our own aircraft hangar anymore, but we did gain better ground facilities. On one hand, not all nine contracted airlines moved to CDG. Those maintenance contracts were lost, while only Saudi Arabian Airlines, and later Air Lanka, became new maintenance customers. On the other hand, some mechanics elected not to follow the airline move from ORY to CDG, so our staffing balanced out, and no one had to be laid off.

To cover Europe and Middle East station emergencies, TWA for a time continued to store spare engines at CDG, but this was not a cost effective option, when the airline could become part of an engine pooling structure. By this new arrangement, TWA could provide an engine to Lufthansa, or Air France, or any other airline from the group flying to the U.S., and in return, the other airline would provide a spare engine to TWA, subject to location and availability. Another capability for JT-9D spare engine procurement was a new option - the Boeing 747 could transport an extra powerplant underwing on the “fifth pod position”, between the number two engine and the fuselage. Good either way across the Atlantic, this option was usually only to return a failed engine to the US.

When TWA introduced the Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star into the European network,by the end of the 70’s, the pool agreement had no match for the RB211 Rolls-Royce engines fitted on the Tri-Star. Now again, a TWA spare engine had to be stored at CDG. In compensation, I must add a personal note: I found the Tri-Star to be a wonderful machine maintenance-wise. Beside being the most advanced aircraft at that time - first 'widebody' ever to get FAA certification for Cat-IIIc Autolanding use; first airliner to have direct lift control (DLC), which permitted a smooth glideslope descent at a constant pitch angle; etc; etc. It had easy access to internal components for repair or replacement; the best ever documents available for troubleshooting; component locating, wiring and systems diagrams; a roomy cockpit and hydraulic centers; etc, etc. It was for the most senior mechanics of our group, those who had worked on TWA Super Constellations more than 20 years earlier, to really measure this Lockheed achievement.

Thank you to Bernard Pigasse
Bravo Messieurs !

Marc Brécy TWA Flight Dispatch Officer
(Large photos click on it)