Malcolm Smith and the Rental Car

By Malcolm Smith

Before the advent of Global Positioning Satellites, LORAN Navigational Stations were the state of the art. They were manned by Coasties and  were regularly checked by Coast Guard aircrews for accuracy. It was a wonderful way to see the world. The stations were located in some very far off and exotic places. They rang with adventure – at least to a young Coast Guard flight crew.

One such LORAN monitoring tour that I enjoyed was a trip to the Far East via San Francisco and Hawaii. My good friend Connelly was part of the crew and the Aircraft Commander was Basil Harrington, a great guy. We had two nights in San Francisco so we rented two cars for our nine man crew.

I was the junior pilot on this trip and as such my duties included conducting the preflight inspection of the aircraft. I arrived at the aircraft a little early on departure day to perform the preflight check, only to find the crew minus basil, had preceded me by a few minutes. They all stood atop the open ramp at the rear of the C-130 aircraft. Behind them I saw a I saw a brief metallic glint. I walked up the open ramp to where Connelly Beacham stood, dead center of the group. A broad grin on his face. Behind the line of seven men, tightly strapped down was one of the rental cars.

“Connelly, what’s the deal on the car?” I asked

“Oh, this is a great deal Mal! You can turn these rental cars anywhere.” He replied.

I wasn’t convinced this was going to be anything like a great deal but I prodded a little him further.

“That doesn’t sound right, Connelly. Are you sure?” I said

He pulled the rental agreement from his hip pocket and pointed to the Appropriate clause.

“It says return to any of our rental offices.” said Connelly.

I read the rental agreement and it stipulated the car could be dropped off at any of the company rental offices.

“How do you know they have an office in Hawaii?’I asked Connelly. He replied “I already called to find out. Yes , they have an office at the airport in Honolulu” he said.

At that time it was common it was common practice to allow personal vehicles on Coast Guard aircraft. Hence I bought in and Basil Harrington had no problem with the use of a car of the car at the next stop.

We spent two glorious days in Hawaii before turning in our rental car. Of Course, Basil insisted that I handle the whole thing. He wanted nothing to do with it , no matter how innocuous it seemed. Basil was a smart guy.

When I turned the car in the agent looked at the contract and then at the car and then back to the contract. Un crossing his eyes he looked at me. “This isn’t one of our cars.” He said. “Yes it is.” I said. “This is one of your rental contracts isn’t it?” “Yes, but no, It didn’t come from that location. Where did you rent this car?” he insisted.

“San Francisco” I replied.

“Well that is not possible” he begged to differ.

I told him we flew it over from San Francisco in a C-130.

“You mean this car was stolen from our office in San Francisco” he demanded.

The guy was so shook up by this time I could not convince him that we didn’t steal the car. We had a rental contract. It said drop off anywhere. So here it is thanks. See Ya.

He called the cops. They arrived in moments and I found myself explaining the whole mess to a Hawaii State Trooper. At first the Trooper wanted to arrest me. But after careful consideration and weighing the evidence, including the contract he shook his head and let us go.

The remainder of the trip was routine and uneventful. This may have been the final transport of unofficial vehicles on Coast Guard aircraft. WE were not permitted to take a vehicle to Europe on my next LORAN flight.

2017-08-11T16:40:47+00:00