Flying the B727 with Orion Air


 

If it's not a Boeing, I'm not going!


 

The front seats in the B727 cockpit.

The Engineer's panel in the B727

The Pratt & Whitney JT8D Turbofan for the B727

Cockpit of a UPS B727-200 in-flight


 

The Night-Freight Dogs

For me, working for Orion Air was about flying B727's in the middle of the night ... in all weathers, throughout the Lower 48 States of the USA. Within two years of flying for Orion, I'd qualified in all seats: Flight Engineer, First Officer and Captain, plus as a Flight Engineer Simulator Instructor and Check Airman.

Orion Air was based in Raleigh, NC providing pilots and maintenance personnel for airfreight carriers such as United Parcel Service, Emery, Purolator Courier and others, operating B747's, B727's, DC8's and DC9's. I was initially hired as a B727 Flight Engineer, beginning training in July, 1985 with Piedmont Airlines, based out of Winston-Salem. On completion, I was assigned to Louisville, Kentucky for flight operations in United Parcel Service airplanes.

  • Me as a new hire B727 Flight Engineer with Orion Air in July 1985 Me as a new hire B727 Flight Engineer with Orion Air in July 1985
  • One of Piedmont's B727-200's - underpowered with Dash 9 JT8D engines! One of Piedmont's B727-200's - underpowered with Dash 9 JT8D engines!
  • Another hired misfit like me: Jim Keogh, ex RAF and one of the token Brits with Orion/UPS Another hired misfit like me: Jim Keogh, ex RAF and one of the token Brits with Orion/UPS
  • A UPS B727-100 used for our FE qualification rides with the FAA A UPS B727-100 used for our FE qualification rides with the FAA
  • A Purolator Courier B727-100 at Reno, Nevada in early 1986. My home [now] is on the hills at the left. A Purolator Courier B727-100 at Reno, Nevada in early 1986. My home [now] is on the hills at the left.
  • A Consolidated Freight B727-100 at Portland, Oregon in mid 1987 A Consolidated Freight B727-100 at Portland, Oregon in mid 1987
  • Unusual to see in daylight! A UPS B727-100 on the ramp in 1985 Unusual to see in daylight! A UPS B727-100 on the ramp in 1985
  • Me, the Flight Engineer, with my Purolator Courier B727-100 at San Francisco in 1986. Me, the Flight Engineer, with my Purolator Courier B727-100 at San Francisco in 1986.
  • An Emery B727-100 after takeoff at Dayton, Ohio in 1987 An Emery B727-100 after takeoff at Dayton, Ohio in 1987
  • The left seat flight panel of a B727 The left seat flight panel of a B727
  • The center panel of a B727 The center panel of a B727
  • The right seat flight panel of a B727 The right seat flight panel of a B727
  • January 1988: The first B727 class for the UPS airline. Me on the extreme left, with other Orion pilots. January 1988: The first B727 class for the UPS airline. Me on the extreme left, with other Orion pilots.
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The constant night operations, particularly in Winter, were always challenging. Many of the airports we flew into lacked 24 hour Tower Control and therefore no information on current runway surface conditions, including snow cover and braking effectiveness. Arrival and departure at these airports required communication with the nearest FSS [Flight Service Station] and a UNICOM frequency for local traffic coordination. Fortunately, most of the crew-members were very good at handling these difficult operating conditions, despite being treated by the "real" airline pilots as not good enough to be hired by the major carriers. We lacked the square jaw, straight teeth, crooked smile and in many cases the right [if any] College Degree! Nevertheless, I was proud to belong to this gang of misfits who really knew how to fly airplanes with little help from ops and admin staff. The few folk who ran the operation were good people, leaving us alone at the sharp end to fly our nightly missions.

During my time with Orion, I flew UPS 727's out of Louisville, Purolator 727's out of San Francisco, Emery Worldwide 727's out of Dayton and Consolidated Freight 727's out of Indianapolis. All these airplanes were Dash 100's powered by three JT8D -7 turbofan engines. Later, as a pilot with the UPS Airline, I had the pleasure of flying the 727-200 airplanes, powered by either the JT8D-15 or the JT8D-17 engines. Not only were these Dash 200's more powerful and carried a heavier load, but were equipped with superior avionics. In the early 1990's, the UPS airline re-engined their large fleet of 727-100's with the quieter Rolls Royce Tay turbofans and replaced the Dash 200's with a fleet of Boeing 757's.

In late 1987, United Parcel Service [UPS] formed it's own airline, hiring many Orion crew-members to operate their total fleet of B747's, DC8's, B757's and B727's. Being in the right place at the right time, I was fortunate to be in the first crew-member class [The Nifty 50] held in January 1988 ... UPS's token New Zealander!

 

Copyright©2015 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

 

 

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