A friend of mine was an MEA
flight engineer on 707s from the late 60s to the late 80s. Boy oh boy does this guy have some stories - horrible experiences like being shot at on take off and / or approach, or being in the middle of a hijack on the ground in Beirut, popping all the doors and slides to get the passengers off when a fucking massive fight breaks out in the suburb next to the airport with RPGs hitting the tarmac around them so they start engines and takeoff with the doors open, slides out, half the passengers still onboard, and fly to Cyprus (40mins) at 5,000 feet. Defeaning
One really funny mental image is the tale (tail? ho ho) of how they had to do the "Cockpit Smoke Evacuation" checklist [evacuation referring to the removal of the smoke, not the occupants] because all three (or four) cockpit crew would be smoking cigars, and the smoke was so heavy that it was impossible to see, and the flight engineer would have to run a checklist and open outflow valves and god knows what else. This sits comfortably, by the way, with everything I know about the Lebanese national character.
On the good side, barrel rolling 707s on delivery flights, airtests, training missions etc. This happened all the time in the early days, since Tex Johnson (Johnston?) rolled the 367 for the cameras at the Seattle World's Fair in the late 50s. MEA
(among many others) used to do it on test flights. Now that's
pilots enjoying themselves, it's the 60s and you're barrel rolling 707s in the sunshine over the Mediteranean after smoking a few Cuban cigars. It stopped after Lufthansa had a 707 (or a 720B) blow up halfway through a second roll on a training flight. If I recall, the maneouvre was badly executed (the aircraft has to be allowed to fall naturally as it banks, which makes the whole thing a 1G maneouvre; handled poorly, the G forces can destroy the aircraft very quickly, even a 707, "the plane that can do everything but read"). Fleet managers (who were doing it just like everyone else until then) had to call a halt.
Even on more sedate delivery flights, pilots used to (and maybe still) do cool stuff, I read a really old book about jets ("behind the scenes in the jet age!!!") called Loud And Clear by Robert J Serling (yep, Twilight Zone relation)which should be compulsory reading for anyone who loves aviation (like Fate Is The Hunter, well, almost) - go to eBay and find both of these. In Loud And Clear, the author flies in the jumpseat of a brand-new Northwest 727-100 from Seattle to Minneapolis, and they buzz the captain's (remote and tiny) hometown at a few thousand feet (which would be mental, some desert town in South Dakota and a 727-100 roars down the main street - this is 1967 remember...what the faaaaark was that?).
Speaking of Lebanon, my last "jumpseat" ride (end of Aug, 2001), I was on a Malev 737 from Budapest to Beirut and a newhire cabin crew wanted the jumpseat for landing (her first trip into BEY
) so the captain said I could just stand behind him ("brace your right hand against my seat for when we use reverse thrust"), which was amazing, definitely my best jumpseat ride ever. I was leaving behind the most horrific breakup with the love of my life in London, so to have such a great experience was proof of something good in the universe. Beirut is as interesting as Kai Tak with the high rises and high ground on the approach so it was a good place for it to happen. We swooped in through a valley in the highrises and made a perfect landing, nice work Malev and definitely a captain enjoying himself.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz