Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association
of Tiger Tales
by LeVerne J. Moldrem
Here it is --- The Flying Tiger Line as youíve never seen them before. For 45 years, these pioneers of commercial air cargo were revered for getting the job done. Famous and daring, they successfully completed both government and humanitarian missions, including the relocation of Yemenite Jews, Hungarian refugees to the U.S., aid to earthquake victims, emergency relief flights to Cambodia, Ethiopia and the Sudan, and much more.
In his book, Tiger Tales, former Tiger LeVerne J. Moldrem tells the incredible stories behind the missions. Personal accounts from pilots and flight attendants paint exciting, diverse portraits of these heroes of the sky. Adding to the realism are side-splitting "bar stories" on layovers, as well as tragic recollections of engine failures, fires and fatal accidents.
With humor and nostalgia, LeVerne J.
Moldrem captures a piece of our history. And Tiger Tales forever
An Anecdotal History of the Flying Tiger Line
by LeVerne J. Moldrem
published by Flying M Press, 366 Milky Way, Prescott, AZ 86301
approximately 5 1/8" x 8 1/4" 571 pages hardbound black & white photographs
Price: $35 Available from Flying M Press
Long before Federal Express began flying Falcon 20s packed with manilla envelopes and small boxes in and out of Memphis, Bob Prescott and nine of his cronies from the American Volunteer Group proved that an all-cargo airline could make money. From inauspicous roots grew a major airline, easily equal in stature and impact to those built by Smith, Lorenzo, Rickenbacker and Trippe; from a small fleet of ex-US Navy Budd RB-1 Conestogas to the largest cargo carrier in the free world, merged with FedEx in 1989. Tiger Tales is a year-by-year chronology which is street-easy to read while including enough tech talk to capture and hold the attention of the thousands of pilots and support crew members who -- I am certain -- will thoroughly enjoy this book! It took about five sentences to convince this reviewer that here is a story not cut off at the knees to appeal to Cub Scouts and constitute tedious trek for those who know what an aileron does. It's a fast moving tapestry of stories, as well organized as a mechanic's tool box and slicker than the wing of a DC-8!
Two chronologies unfold: the story of the airline, the primary focus, and the story of a fellow who signed on as a mechanic with Tigers in 1956 and moved from engine shop to flight line to flight engineer and ultimately to the left seat of Boeing 747-200s before retiring in 1987. As much of a hero as Bob Prescott is to many, Moldrem will be to many more. And on top of that, even after retiring, the author flies a Navion, this reviewer's fave four-seat spam can! Not a Rangemaster Navion, but a NAvion Navion!
There are four types of tales: anecdotes from employees, excerpts from another book 41 Years Aloft, unsubstantiated "bar stories" and first-hand accounts by the author. Each is appropriately prefaced or obviously the author's words. Included are poems about the employees and aircraft flown. Among them is "Press On" -- about flying soldiers out of Saigon to Yakota, Japan -- is a classic. It describes what would seem unbelievable if shared in prose. Moldrem deserves credit a plenty for including verse and song lyrics and creating a book which makes them look right at home, like the unusual ottoman in the perfect living room for it.
The background of how the company came together and the early days reveals more about why the company succeeded than what we'd likely find in a more formal history. Understanding how the stainless steel skinned Budds was really new ground for this reviewer, and every story, fascinating.
Early Tigers flying in support of the DEW Line in the Arctic (or as bumpkins like to say, Artic) Circle was a story previously unheralded to this reviewer's knowledge. The severe cold, lack of nav aids and lousy weather made stateside flying seem as easy as flying with one eye tied behind your back. Early on, the Tigers earned a reputation for being able to fly when other lines stayed on the ground or diverted to alternate airports. The roots of this reputation seem to be a combination of determination maintained by original pilots who flew in China in World War II and passed on that dedication to newcomers. There was an esprit de corps among Tigers, especially during the early days. Author Moldrem talks about these people, dozens of them, as though he played cards with them every Saturday night at the club. His respect and high regard for most every one shines from every page.
This reviewer has a respectable-size file about the Canadair CL-44 Yukon, a type flown for several years by the Tigers. But I never learned so much about what they were like to fly as I did in the chapters shared in Tiger Tales. As fairly as he describes the 44, Moldrem and his peers reveal the rest of the fleet. Did you know Tigers flew 727s? I sure didn't. Just one of many surprises!
Also previously unknown to and unappreciated by this reviewer were the rice lift flights made in combat conditions by Flying Tigers crews from Saigon to Phnom Penh which kept untold thousands of Cambodians alive. This action was going on when the writing was on the wall. The US was leaving, but they were leaving the hard way. Tigers took as many of their in-country people with them as possible, but untold scores were executed by their "liberators" from the peace-loving North.
The extent to which the Tigers were involved in contracted military supply and the number of casualties from mil and civ operations surprised this reviewer, probably because cargo ops have always been "the other side of the airport" operations.
The unwelcome diversification of Flying Tigers into many corporate sub-entities and the damage done to the core cargo operations is shared in some detail.
The book's shortcomings are few. Pictures are inserted into the text, but their size and quality of reproduction are less than what's found on glossy white photo pages in other books of this size and scope. And although we are told from the start that this is an anecdotal history, this reviewer would have appreciated a list of major dates and events included in an appendix. Moldrem includes an excellent index of people mentioned in this book. An update about post-merger lives of major contributors to this book, including the author, would have been expecially appreciated, but it's understandable why one was not included. It's the story of the airline, a story that ended in 1989.
Tiger Tales belongs in every collection of civil aviation history. It is an engaging tour de force, the story of many amazing men and women shared anecdotally to be sure, but in the main, first hand. I've not found a better epic tale about an airline, and I consider it unlikely that I ever will.
LeVerne J. Moldrem has done it all. Starting out as a farm boy in Wisconsin, his life would soon become one adventure after another. From the Air Force to a working cowboy in Texas to a bootlegger in Oklahoma... (He claims it was considered a reasonably respectable occupation at the time.)
He then joined The Flying Tiger Line. He served as a mechanic, then became maintenance supervisor for four years. He lived in Japan, the Philippines and Saigon, Vietnam. With the Tigers, he went from co-pilot to captain. He flew international trips to every continent, and retired as a Boeing 747 captain.
Due to the crowded highways and crazy drivers, Captain Moldrem still prefers to fly. Today he flies all over the country in a 50 year old Navion Plane. The age of the plane does not bother him because, as he says, "Itís paid for." He still has a great sense of humor.
The book may be ordered from Flying
366 Milky Way, Prescott, AZ 86301 or call 928-771-0382.
Order Tiger Tales today and find out the real
Tiger Tales ISBN 0-9649498-7-3
Hard Cover ---559 pages ---43 Photos--- Price $39.00 which includes shipping.
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