Tuesday, November 27

Two Dollar Steaks . . . Sans the Gristle

In honor of Thanksgiving, this year's gratitude list has been . . . well, started. If, like me, you've waited for the demise of the pumpkin pie before recognizing other goods, then maybe its time for a little inspiration. I've included five examples of what is right in my world. (For the purpose of the exercise, this list is void of the obvious--like good health, family, friends, and purchases in excess of $500.00.) Here we go!

Many thanks to:

1. Readers of the blog! You are the best. Free-time doesn't come cheap; thanks for sharing yours with me.

2. My unrelenting appetite for dark--the more cocoa the better--chocolate, without it, I would not experience euphoric delusions at the expense of just a few hundred calories.

3. The bounce of dog ears as seen from the opposing end of a taut leash. The distance traveled by the tip of the ear is proportionate to a shelter animal's happiness during a welcomed walk.

3. Duck butts . . . specifically when they submerge their heads below the surface to find algae--or whatever they eat. I wonder if Newton included ducks in his study of the Third Law? For every action (head down), there is a equal and opposite reaction(butt up).

4. Costa Rican pancakes served with fresh, sliced banana and molasses. Yum!

5. Great landings, especially in the Neptune P2-V (thank you tanker 05), detected only by the struts of the main gear and a zero-descent rate.

Know that my gratitude extends beyond such favors. The above mentioned are but Cool Whip on the pie!

Thursday, November 15

110 Knots, Rotate . . . Rotate!

I never expected that my job, as a pilot, would lead me through a series of class-five rapids. Sure, moisture behind the ears may have been imagined but the accelerated heart rate was not. First tip: when rushing water is audible before it’s visible look for an eddy--someplace where you can collect yourself and construct a plan. The turbulent waters ahead gave plenty of warning, but it is my nature to disregard trepidation, which, in this case, is most likely why I was still looking for my oar just prior to submergence.

I’ve gotten use to the simple life while flying single engine air tankers. In simple, I mean, few options when/if something goes wrong during a mission. Low-level flight seldom affords the luxury of troubleshooting. In a perfect world, you’d hope for enough time to set it down gently. I’ll admit that my skills concerning more complicated procedures have acquired a few barnacles.

The Neptune P-2V and I are old friends; however, four years does considerable damage to the memory and I’ve forgotten exactly what's required for a desired outcome. Another notch of flaps will increase our descent rate by how much?

“Tanker niner, you are cleared for takeoff, left turn westbound approved.”

“Cleared for takeoff, left turn, tanker nine.”

Neurosis came over me while verifying the completion of our checklists. No matter how many times I repeated them, I always felt that something had been missed. Four engines climb to 6,500 feet a lot quicker than one engine will so it's a game of constant adjustments. Comfortably established at cruise altitude affords some relaxation and I release half of the muscles pinning my shoulders to the overhead panel.

“Do your fuel pressure gauges always read high?” I was genuinely curious.

“Only when the boost pumps are on,” the captain said without glancing at the position of the boost toggles.

Damn it! Those were on my cruise check list, that--supposedly--I completed ten minutes ago.

You may think this is comical. Three days after the fact, as I write this, it sort of is, and so I give you permission to giggle. But I will refrain because I am a perfectionist. Taunted by a fun pack of bite size mistakes, the challenge I have embraced promises eventual success. I knew that the hurried return to the heavies would not be an easy one.

“Wasn’t that call for us?” the captain asked.


The radio crackled, “Tanker nine, you are cleared to land runway three zero.” Yep, that previous transmission was for us.

Where was I . . . Oh! Yes, far from perfect. There’s no way in hell that I could pilot-in-command this aircraft with a measly two recent hours, yet I slightly expect it of myself. I thrive on challenge--sometimes in excess. But I don't think I'm alone. I'll bet that half the population wouldn't mind the occasional 4,000 piece puzzle--of clouds. Who doesn't want frustration at ad infinitum of irregularly shaped cardboard bits? It's a test of sanity.

Let's steer away from inflated examples for a minute. How many times have you paced yourself down Main street researching the precise speed required to avoid braking at the stop lights? I have, at least once--in each city lived. Or how many cars have you converted to nitrous so you won't have to worry about those pesky lights? Damn the exaggerations. I apologize. It won't happen again.

. . . Tell me, have you ever been awed by the beauty of glistening city lights--through a slight fog of nitrous?

Friday, November 2

Soul Searching

OK. I'm late on the post by eight hours and 22 minutes--actually quite a bit longer considering I don't have a properly prepared post. But here I am--dedicated--in the wee hours of the morning before my real job. Speaking of . . . I am happy to report that I have been flying my "favorite totally-impractical airplane." And thus is why my entry will be short. Many years have passed since flying the Neptune P2V and it has been a quick, unpredicted reunion. My mind has totally been consumed with airspeeds, systems, procedures, and routines for a heavy air tanker, many details not utilized during my days as a SEAT driver. Regardless, life is good. Rest assured that many of us are standing by in CA in the event that these fires--or others--kick off again. Off to work. Pictures to follow, I promise.