Genesis of the COD Airlines1
Pardon my slowness in responding to your question regarding "Codfish Airlines."
Here goes, recognizing that that stuff was sixty odd years ago and I am no longer a spring chicken.
Some unknown party during the early stages of the Korean 'police action' decided it would be a good thing if there was a semi-regular means of flying to and from the carriers of both the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets. Traditionally, before that time, an appropriate Air Group or Fasron [Fleet Air Service Squadron] aircraft would be pressed into service for items or people that couldn't wait for the 'mail run' destroyer.
When the idea was approved, The TBM was an obvious choice, available in quantity, lots of load capacity, well mannered in flight deck operations, plenty of range, and readily modifiable. In addition, there were many pilots who had operated off decks with the bird. Future plans included the use of modified ADs if the idea worked out.
Modification work commenced at the O&R facility at North Island where TBM overhaul was then centered. The obvious mods of removing the turret, the guns, the autopilot (long known to be a quite unreliable piece of Emerson Electric trash), gunsight, the rear crew seats and radar equipment, and whatever else seemed to be a good idea at the time. With the autopilot hydraulics removed, the area immediately behind the pilot was large enough for two passenger seats, with chest pack parachutes bungeed to the armor plate the pilot's seat was attached to. With the turret gone, there was room for two more passenger seats where it had been. There was a choice of rear canopy shapes already available, the utility mod, and the antisub mod. Our six aircraft, the first out of modification had the utility aft canopy, with some modifications to ease entry and exit. The aft crew space was equipped with three seats, down in what we called the bilge. Two were almost side by side and the third was well aft. Each passenger seat had a chest-type parachute close by, and all passengers wore parachute harnesses to allow quick hook-up and departure if necessary. Happily we never had to test that system. In the bomb bay there were two panniers held in position by bomb shackles at four comers. These served to handle any cargo we carried, passenger luggage and occasionally a parachute bag with two cases of Scotch, Canadian, bourbon, or Rye as requested by Squadron or Air Group to ease the tension of replenishment day. I had wondered for years why parachute bags were of these precise dimensions. To finish out the mods, there were two foot-square pieces of three inch armor plate bolted to the top of the tailwheel carry through structure. These were necessary to return the center of gravity to where it belonged after removing just over two tons from the gross weight of the bird.
The airplane flew a fair amount faster than standard with the lighter weight, but was still a TBM with it's fairly high control forces. With our typical loads, six hundred feet [runway length] was a useful airport, and instead of our former fleet cruise of 170 knots managed about 30 knots more with about the same power settings. We found ourselves based in Fukuoka at Itazuke AF Base. It was designed as a BIG Bomber base with a runway two miles long, three hundred feet wide, and in excess of three feet thick. Happily we were paced near the downwind end of the strip. The TBM was equipped with brakes similar to the bike you had as a kid. They were multiple disk, and simply couldn't handle a four mile taxi trip back to our parking area. We requested and received permission to land and turn off onto the entry taxiway. If someone was waiting for takeoff on the taxiway we would simply fold the wings and proceed to our parking area. We typically used the first five hundred feet of the airport for landing. The AF types never used the first half mile of the field (except the F-84s that needed all two miles to get airborne with any useful load).
After our aircraft were ready for delivery, another six were modified for an Atlantic Fleet operation, and several additional for the Marines to be used as utility transports. We got another later to replace an aircraft which had a compressor section explosion during a cat shot (reason undetermined) which blew off the intake stacks for nine cylinders. The pilot, Bob Zinser, managed to keep it in the air on five cylinders for a very wide pattern while the deck was respotted, and was only eighteen inches too low at the fantail. He slid aboard without the left gear and all passengers safe!
Lou, I could go on at length about the folks we flew and the sea stories, but you have probably heard plenty of them.
One short one. I was carrying a four star out to take over TF-77. Can't remember his name. He got the seat he wanted, right behind my left shoulder. When we got to the Force and our turn in the Charlie circle, I was coming up the groove and the ship turned to starboard and, of course, disappeared. It was a nearly no wind day, and the O.D. was apparently chasing the steam streak on the forward deck. I waved off and continued in the pattern. As before, the ship turned starboard while I was in the groove, arid I waved off. After the third approach I apologized to the Admiral. He responded "Next pass he'll turn port and we'll have him." He did and we did.
Lou, if this helps, good. For specifics call me on the cell, I'll be glad to talk. 1(256)527-5063; email@example.com .
I still want a copy of that book when it is available.
1 Glover, Jim, letter to Lou Ives, January 17, 2013. © 2013.