UNITED DC-6B PROPELLER RESTORED BY CARING VOLUNTEERS…TWICE!
DC6B Propeller Installation Day – May 1, 2008
Here’s the story! In the early 1970s a new supervisor at the United Airlines San Francisco Maintenance Base stumbled upon a vintage DC-6B propeller in an unused engine test cell room. The room was originally used in the piston engine era but when pistons were phased out in the late 1960s, the space was converted to storerooms. This good soul must have been a bit of a history buff because he asked the Plant Maintenance department to construct a stand for it and soon after it was put on display at the base. It was later sent to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for display in United’s terminal in the concourse connecting walkway called the “Tunnel of Lights.” Tens of thousands of United customers were able to view it every day.
When the space at O’Hare was needed for other purposes, the propeller was placed in storage. Unfortunately, the location that was selected left it exposed to the drastic weather changes in the Midwest. It was in severely deteriorated condition when it was rescued in the late 1990s by San Francisco Air Frame and Power Plant (A&P) mechanic, Jerry Baxley. He arranged for it to be returned to the San Francisco Maintenance Center (SFMC) and then recruited his fellow base employees Eric Driggs and Gary Young to assist with the propeller’s restoration.
Driggs and Young worked for weeks sanding and polishing the blades, removing the etched-in bird droppings. They used sanding discs and the same polishing kit that is used to polish aircraft windows to attain a mirror finish. The propeller’s tips were painted red, white and blue and Hamilton Standard decals were applied true to the original 1951 United livery. The stand was also repainted. The United Airlines Historical Foundation is extremely appreciative of the efforts of these very able volunteers whose painstaking work restored the propeller to its original beauty and also the pride they displayed in honoring the history of a bygone era in United’s history.
United Airlines’ Air Frame and Power Plant (A&P) mechanics Pete Lopez, Eric Driggs and Gary Young prepare the DC6B hub and propeller for installation at the company’s San Francisco Maintenance Center.
Once the propeller was ready for display, Jerry Baxley arranged for it to be exhibited. United A&P mechanics Peter Lopez, Eric Driggs, Gary Young, Romeo Cerimele and Jerry Edsall Jr. shared the responsibility of setting up the display at the San Francisco International Airport domestic and international terminals, the San Francisco Maintenance Center and the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.
Left to right: Senior mechanic and project leader Jerry Baxley and mechanics Pete Lopez, Gary Young and Eric Driggs
are shown on the propeller’s installation day.
After the display had run-its-course, Baxley and United’s Senior Vice President – SFMC, Ron Utecht, came up with the idea to give the propeller a permanent home. Engineering plans and budget were approved to hang the propeller in the main entrance stairwell at SFOMC. Sadly, the project had to be abandoned after the September 11 tragedy in 2001. Baxley arranged for the construction of three custom crates and the propellers was preserved in a storage facility at the base.
Baxley contacted Barbara Hanson, Archive Coordinator at United Airlines World Headquarters in suburban Chicago who offered to assume responsibility for this valuable artifact and incorporate it into the company’s large artifact collection. He arranged shipment to Chicago and Hanson worked with the Corporate Communication and Building Departments to develop a plan to hang the propeller in a prominent location outside of the Executive Suite where a United Airlines museum display had been established in 1997. United filed for bankruptcy in December 2002 and the plans to mount the propeller were once again placed on indefinite hold.
In 2007, with approval from United’s Creative Services Department, Hanson received clearance to transfer the prop to the Denver Flight Center. United Airlines Historical Foundation president, Tom Goodyear, worked closely with DENTK management and recruited United retirees Thom Rowland and Ken Dresel, who volunteer weekly for UAHF at DENTK, to design and construct a new stand that was financed by UAHF.
The DC-6B propeller finally found a new and permanent home at the Denver Flight Center when it was installed in the large employee cafeteria on May 1, 2008. The propeller set-up crew consisted of Thom Rowland, Howard Tress, Gary Price, Ken Dresel, Burton Dietel, Wayne Miller, Virgil Gooselaw and Ed Gray.
We sincerely thank all who participated in the propeller display, for their dedication to this preservation project and the hard work that went into it. UAHF also extends it thanks to Denver Flight Center employees York Swanson and Bob Ireland for their enthusiastic support.
The Denver Propeller Crew: (Front L-R) Thom Rowland, Harold Tress; (Back L-R) Gary Price, Ken Dresel, Burton Dietel, Wayne Miller & Virgil Gooselaw. Team member Lee Reese not shown.
First year in service: 1951 until retired in 1968 Manufacturer: Douglas Cruising Speed: Cruising speed 507km/h (274kt) (315mph) Service ceiling 25,000ft.
Range with max payload 4835km (2610nm) (3004miles), range with max fuel 7595km (4100nm)
(4719miles) Weights: Empty 25,110kg (55,357lb), max takeoff 48,534kg (107,000lb) Dimensions: Wing span 35.81m (117ft 6in), length 32.18m (105ft 7in), height 8.74m
(28ft 8in). Wing area 135.9m2 (1463sq ft) Engine: 4 Pratt & Whitney R2800 Double Wasp Radials Passenger Capacity: 54-102