After managing a small
airline based at the Burbank Airport in California, I was hired
by a company called Tiger Air. They were a sister company to Flying
Tiger Airline and in addition to running a Fixed Base Operation
and maintenance facility at Burbank, they also had a sales and administrative
office in LA along with the parent company Tiger International.
This was the office I worked out of and was principally involved
in sales and leasing of equipment they had purchased such as B727s,
BAC 111s and B707-123Bs (ex-American Airlines). They had ordered
new aircraft from Boeing but they liked to buy airline surplus like
the BAC 111-400s from American. There were about 14 of those aircraft
which they turned into executive aircraft and added long range fuel
tanks to. The program was very successful and they wanted to do
the B707-138B as a follow-up. So I was given the responsibility
to find the best one out there which I did in Calgary when Pacific
Western decided to sell the former VH-EBA which was then registered
The aircraft was flown from Calgary to Paine Field at Everett near
Seattle where Tramco was commissioned to overhaul the airframe and
update the engines as well as to paint it in the new Tiger Air livery.
The accompanying picture shows the aircraft on the ramp at Paine
Field just prior to its first test flight following the overhaul.
At the time I had no idea that this was the first aircraft delivered
by Boeing to Qantas. Following the overhaul, the aircraft was flown
to San Antonio, Texas for the interior refurbishment by Comtran.
The executive interior was designed by the late Howard Timlin who
also supervised the installation. In addition to the executive interior
they added a rear airstair door and an internal airstart system
which gave the aircraft much more independence when operating out
of smaller airports. The project was completed and preparations
were made to fly it to the Paris Airshow in 1981 where hopefully
we would find a rich Saudi to pay $13 million for this 'best-in-the-west'
executive aircraft. Of course there was interest, but no buyers
stepped up to the line.
I had a contact in the Philippines who told me that the Marcos family
were wanting to upgrade from the BAC111-200 they flew, so plans
were made to stop at Manila after leaving Paris on the way back
to Burbank. We flew the 707 to Tacloban to show it to the Marcos
family. The Tacloban runway was not that long and it was one of
the few times we had to use the airstart unit as well as the airstair
door for access. The interaction with Imelda Marcos was quite interesting
but it turned out the aircraft was just too large for them and they
couldn't keep it "under wraps" very well, so they passed on it.
Ferdinand was sick at the time so I never got to meet him, but Imelda
was a very gracious and likeable person, in fact she invited my
boss and I to join her and some friends for lunch at their summer
home. Imelda grew up there as a little girl and she pointed to a
house as we were driving to her summer home for lunch and said,
"that is where General MacArthur lived during the war and I used
to play there as a little girl". After this demonstration the aircraft
was ferried back to Burbank via Honolulu and parked until sold to
Not too long after this adventure, Flying Tiger had merged with
another freight carrier and Tiger International decided to sell
off some of its other holdings in order to be able to upgrade the
airline with new equipment. Tiger Air was one of the divisions they
decided to sell off. My boss, Bob Chipperfield and I decided to
open our own brokerage company. We rented a facility adjacent to
one of the hangars at Burbank and we called our new business Jet
Traders. We were right next door to Airmark which at the time was
flying a Gulfstream 2. They needed a helicopter so I found them
a used Bell Jet Ranger. We were able to get them interested in the
707 with the concept that their wealthy owner could use it for personal
flights and when not being flown for him they could lease or rent
it out to others in the entertainment world. They were reasonably
successful at this and at one time after taking Michael Jackson
on tour he had expressed an interest in buying the aircraft for
his own use but the sale did not take place.
I was not involved in the other transaction which ultimately led
to the Saudi government buying the aircraft for Prince Bandar who
flew it as the Saudi Ambassador to the US until they replaced it
with an Airbus A340 after about 10 years.
I decided to leave the aircraft business and try my hand in the
spec housing market in the LA area. Since then I have practically
lost all touch with all my aviation friends from that time. I've
only been to Australia once in my life and that was as a lowly copilot
in a DC-7C which belonged to an air travel club called Voyager 1000
based in Indianapolis. I would love to visit Longreach one day to
renew my acquaintance with the aircraft.