Apparatus Service by Air
FLY-IN factory service for fire apparatus is now fairly common in the New England area. This has come about as a result of the efforts of Ray Vess, Seagrave service engineer who works out of Hedlund Motors, Inc., Quincy, Mass. The method has worked out so well that Ray now owns and uses two planes to cover the territory.
A veteran pilot as well as a veteran engineer, Ray has a contagious enthusiasm for his work and his flying. It was just such enthusiasm to keep a service date which led him to his flying engineer role.
In the dead of winter he returned an open cab pumper to Barre, Vt., after he had overhauled it at Quincy. Driving in a blinding snowstorm, he arrived to find all regular modes of travel halted. He had another following service date planned in Bar Harbor, Me., several hundred miles east across the mountains with no roads open. At best he could foresee a week of thrashing in the snow. His pilot training paid off, however, for he rented a small plane with provisions for its return at BarreMontpelier Airport and flew it at weather minimums through the mountain valleys reaching Bar Harbor a few hours later. He finished his service at Bar Harbor, was shuttled by plane to Bangor, where he caught an airline home, all in the same day. He was highly impressed with the time and money saved by all concerned.
Since then Ray has been making use of his planes whenever possible, as well as air express service when on the job. He may be anywhere in New England when he is in need of a special part. A call to the factory brings it in a few hours. Meeting the plane at the airport, he and the customer appreciate the fast expediting.
One of the two planes is an all-metal Republic amphibian with spacious interior and load-carrying ability which, in the absence of an airport, can service the far reaches by landing in the town pond or lake. It is especially suited to service offshore islands, eliminating time-consuming ferry trips involving an entire day when the same round trip by air can be accomplished in less than an hour. Because of short air travel time, costs are much less than by car. In traditional company man fashion, Ray has dubbed the amphib “Greatest Name.”
The other plane is a Globe “Swift.” It is a two-seat, all-metal sporter with low wing, retractable gear, much faster than the amphib and resembles a small P-40 fighter. It is 50 per cent less expensive to operate than the amphib, cutting costs still further. Ray calls this one “Great Fury.”
Use of aircraft for this work may not be unique but it points up the possibilities involved in giving customers better service. Perhaps the embryo of the thought may bring a future where fire chiefs may look to the sky for complete service.