Quick Change Artist

By John Arcari

December 2016

On Jan. 21, 1970, I was scheduled to report to work on the midnight shift at the Pan Am aircraft maintenance hanger No. 17 at JFK international Airport. At about 9:30 p.m., while sleeping, I received a telephone call from my boss, General Manager Ron Marasco, requesting that I get up, get dressed and come to work immediately. The first Boeing 747-100 flying a commercial airline route from JFK-London Heathrow had suffered a wind-caused stall on the No. 2 engine, requiring that engine to be replaced.

So an unexpected saga had begun -- the first 747-100 engine change on an aircraft in commercial service taking its first flight with revenue passengers. When I got to work, the airplane was already back in its bay at hangar 17, and the removal of the engine work had begun. I was a senior foreman at the time and was trained at Boeing and Pan Am to change the engine. This we did!!! The airline had a "cover" aircraft on standby, and the flight to London went forward without further incident.

It took us about 12 hours to replace the faulty engine. About a year later we were changing these engines on a regular basis in less then three hours! We had the greatest, gung-ho team of aircraft maintenance mechanics and technicians in the entire airline industry. And, boy, we all sure did step up to the task and challenge at hand. Many great and lasting positive memories to and of the entire Pan Am family!