PC Prisoner Flights.

       Did you know our aircraft were chartered to transport prisoners?  Read Tom Bailey’s account of this unusual charter contract.

One Response to “PC Prisoner Flights.”

  1. Tom Bailey said:

    During 1967, Pacific Hostesses (yep, that is what they were called then) came to a standstill in their contract negotiations with the company and we were headed for a strike. Not wanting to face a complete shutdown, management got approval from the FAA to operate a 40 hour training class and so the entire Sales Department went to school. Paul Israel who was used to a class full of gorgeous ladies, found himself in front of a bunch of dudes. On the third day of training an agreement was reached between the Hostess group and management but the company decided to go ahead and finish our training and actually get us all certified. There was a reason for this move which we found out later. Pacific had been passing up extremely lucrative military prisoner charters (remember, in 1967 we were right in the middle of the Viet Nam mess) because male cabin attendants were an absolute requirement. Within weeks, Pacific was awarded a contract with the U.S. Navy to transport 100 maximum security prisoners along with 10 armed guards from California back to Pease AFB in New Hampshire which was the nearest major airport to the Navy’s maximum security prison located in Portsmouth N.H. That prison was the home for Navy and Marine prisoners who had been sentenced to incarceration for a term more than one year. As we learned later, the majority of the prisoners were sailors who had gone AWOL more than once but there were also Marines on board who had been convicted of some pretty heinous crimes including murder.

    We actually operated three of these prisoner charters and the flight crew was the same. The Captain was none other than “Sky God,” Captain A.T. (Tom) Flickinger, one of the neatest people I had the pleasure of knowing during my PC and RW days. Earl Spencer was our Co-Captain and Jerry Jorgensen was the Flight Engineer. It didn’t get any better than that. Jack Greenbaum, and Alex Sleight, and I handled the flight attendant duties.

    Our itinerary was always the same, we would leave the PC hanger around midnight, fly across the Bay for a stop at Alameda Naval Air Station where we would pick up 40 -50 prisoners and the MP’s assigned to the flight then we were off to Miramar outside of San Diego for the rest of the prisoners. There was always a fuel stop and it was always Salina KN. You haven’t lived until you have stopped in Salina in the middle of the night. I can remember walking into the terminal along with Earl Spencer so he could find a payphone to call flight Control. Where the hell were cell phones when you really needed them? There were thousands of June Bugs on the ground the size of a silver dollar that you couldn’t avoid stepping on them. Our in-flight service consisted of once through the cabin before and then after the fuel stops serving sodas or coffee. A box lunch had been placed under every seat by catering before we left the hanger. The prisoners were informed that they would be instructed when it was OK to open their meal, usually after the first beverage service before the fuel stop. Since there were never more than 110 passengers but there were 118 seats with 118 box lunches, I always wondered how the extra 8 box lunches got divvied up.

    By now you are probably wondering about the 10 armed guards… Yes, they were armed however their weapons all went up front before takeoff with the flight crew. Kind of frightening when you think of what 100 prisoners could do when protected by 10 unarmed guards and a flimsy cockpit door. I always felt that if any of those prisoners had any ideas of taking over the plane, they quickly changed their mind when Captain Flickinger (who was always the last to board the aircraft) took of his coat exposing his holstered 38 and then walked the length of the aircraft staring at each and every prisoner. He would then return to the cockpit and slam the door behind him and off we went.
    Arrival at Pease AFB was unbelievable. The tower would direct us to park the aircraft in a remote area. Within seconds, a regular caravan of military vehicles led by an armored car encircled the plane. We had been told not to lower the rear air stairs, only the front. A Master Sergeant would board the aircraft and advise the flight crew to shut down all power. He would then stand in the front entry and bark out the orders to the prisoners telling them to remove their hats and place all of their personal belongings (wallet, keys, stuff like that) inside their hats. He referred to their hats as their “covers.” They would then deplane the prisoners 10 at a time and line them up where they would be thoroughly searched and then quickly put onboard one of the three busses. After all of the prisoners had been through the process and the caravan departed, the flight deck crew headed for a local hotel for a rest layover before they ferried the aircraft back to SFO. The three of us grabbed a limo and headed for Boston, we had passes on AA to get home.

    The first two of these flights were during warm weather but the last one was in January of 1968 and the temperature out there on the tarmac was around 20 degrees, I am sure those prisoners were freezing out there as they were being searched.

    Tom Bailey
    On the Main Menu for this site go to the Scrapbook Page for SFO. In the Administrative pictures you will see a picture of Tom Bailey, Alex Sleight & Jack Greenbaum. Under the picture there is a link to the other pictures associated with these military charters.

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