Derring-do: More from 101-year-old shipbuilder

Several details from a lengthy interview with Newport News retiree and former shipyard designer Russell Derring didn't make it into a lengthy May 10 profile.

Derring, 101, started his shipbuilding career in 1929, and as an apprentice installed pipes on SS President Coolidge and SS President Hoover, among other ships.

One thing that struck Derring at the time, and which he still expressed surprise about was the material used for fresh water pipes for the early ships including the carriers:

"They had all lead pipe on there, which surprised me, because I didn’t think they’d use lead pipe for fresh water ... you know, because it’s poisonous."

I asked U.S. Navy officials if the oldest aircraft carrier in the U.S. fleet had lead water pipes.

"CVN 65 (USS Enterprise) fresh water piping systems were constructed of bronze and copper piping, not lead or lead lined," Navy spokesman Christopher Johnson, wrote in an email.

Derring also discussed installing a pneumatic tube communication system for the Big E. That system is no longer in use, according to Johnson.

It "was removed in the early '70s (possibly during refueling availability at Newport News) as other announcing and communicating systems between spaces were developed and installed on the ship," Johnson said.

Finally, Jimmy Neise said this week there's more to the story of how Raymond E. Snow on Nov. 25, 1941, crashed a rental plane at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Derring said in his interview that Snow, who worked at the shipyard had a crush on a woman who worked there as well, but she spurned his advances.

Neise, the son of Joe Neise, who worked at the yard during the same period, said Snow's coworkers at the shipyard teased him mercilessly because he couldn't get his commercial pilot's license despite great effort.

"I think it was his vision," Neise said. "Well, they kept making fun of him, making fun of him, making fun of him."

After making several low passes over the yard and downtown Newport News, Snow crashed killing himself and a guard, who couldn't get out of the way, according to accounts in the Daily Press.

Neise said Snow apparently had been trying to fly his yellow rental plane into the window of a building at the yard.

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