The air base, once a source of inspiration for the column, has led, mainly, to frustration. Just this morning, I searched my cranium for topics vaguely relating to tankers—besides the cosmetic upkeep I’ve been busying myself with. Perhaps I could explore the nuances of personalities one typically does not experience so intimately, or the reasons why I don’t workout with the rappellers, or the many uses of WD40. But fortunately, for both of us, I had a fire mission today.
During the past month, my SEAT contract in northeastern Oregon has provided an average of one mission per week—barely enough to keep one proficient let alone motivated. Confidence in my abilities can wane as quickly as a few hours or a significant increase in wind—whichever occurs first. That might be a chick thing, I'm sorry to admit. Anyway, whatever, a week on the ground makes the adrenaline that much more unfamiliar when the call comes in.
I was in the middle of a brutal leg workout when my services as an aerial firefighter were requested. You have to navigate boredom somehow and the circumference of my biceps portray the lack of hours flown. I can’t say for sure that my trembling hands and accelerated heart rate were in direct response to the impending flight. What I do know is that it took deliberate effort to calm myself enough to get my flight suit on without ripping out a pant leg. That wouldn’t have helped anyone.
I set a gentle authoritative tone for the mission to avoid aggression often acted out in response to my stagnant skills. After all, tanker 413 is my favorite. With the help of calm winds and seamless communications, it became one of the smoothest operations yet. Each party involved projected a calm confidence as if it were only a drill—no need to panic.
I managed to put the retardant where I, and the firefighters on the ground, wanted it. With smooth control applications and power adjustments I pointed the nose toward the airport for a hold.
That tranquility surrounded me all the way to the runway . . . where I proceeded to contact the ground a solid five feet before expected. The good news is the airplane bounced high enough to try the landing again.
Tuesday, September 2
The blog will remain silent this week in honor of those killed in Tanker 09 yesterday. Shortly after departing Stead Airport—near Reno, the aircraft crashed killing three crewmen onboard. My heart goes out to the family surrounding Tanker 09—blood relations, industry, and otherwise; their friends are spread far and wide.