-Art's Art-
Recollections of a Small Town Boy


This is closer to a love story about two ugly mechanics. They were ranked by the army nomenclature as Engineers. Neither had a degree from MIT or anywhere other than a few years in the car or engine factories of Detroit and Muskegon. They learned to build things there.

In the armed forces they became aircraft engineers with a focus on making sure airplanes were capable of flying off the ground and keep flying when above the ground. One flew with bomber crews and the other baby-sat his plane on the ground.

Rudolph Koolovitz was the guy in the air. William Perlacki was the one on the ground.

Perlacki lived in a hut beside the hardstand where the plane parked between flights. We envied him because his place was evenly warmed with a controlled flow of used oil to a “heater” of his design. It was soon evident that he had a serious love for his airplane. He was awake all night making sure that no detail of engine or hydraulic performance was questionable when his baby had to fly.

He was there when his flying counterpart arrived with the pilots and crew. The two engineers conferred briefly and climbed onto the flight deck with the pilots for pre-flight check. If they were satisfied, we were also. He was there when his big bird rolled back to the hardstand. He was glad we were back, but didn’t smile until he had scanned the plane and got a report of any malfunctions.

Rudy was as adept with a slide rule as any MIT graduate and used it to calculate weights of crew, fuel, bomb load and relay to pilots power settings needed for take off and climbing. He was never wrong. He leaned between the pilots during takeoff, his eyes on the instruments and a huge hand planted on the throttles to keep them at full power during the crucial minutes. Then he turned to his panel to monitor engine performance, fuel consumption, and a slew of other things.

A crucial in-flight job was to keep fuel evenly balanced between the tanks by cross-feeding as necessary and adjusting mixture to engines using too much. Just to move fuel from one wing tank to the opposite one required the calculations of a chess master, we thought. He never created a vapor lock, wasted fuel, or shut an engine down.

On the ground, these two “Pollacks” could not have been more different. Rudy was a huge, happy, laughing bear. Perlacki was spare to gaunt, affable enough when we visited his hut, but never cordial or much interested in getting to know us. We wondered if he had lost an airplane and the crew flying on a bad day. It was a question that couldn’t be asked. No one ever saw him away from the flight line. Rudy answered to, “Hey Banana Nose” “You, Pollack!,” quite happily.

There was some quirky love affair which lasted as long as necessary. A private affair between engineers, flying crew, and an airplane. When we departed each unto our own homes, the memories of old love affairs are uniquely selective to each. This one is in there somewhere. Or should be.

Art Darwin
August 8, 2002

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