View Full Version : Just Me and an ol' Country boy
01-21-2012, 09:32 PM
Chapter 1 - A Good First Impression
From time to time some pretty big stars would find their way up to our secluded little corner of the world. Much like any other folks, they came as tourists for a variety of reasons. Some came to hunt and fish. Others came to commune with nature. And back in the 1970’s, I don’t think there was a bigger star known for his love of, and better at communing with nature, than John Denver.
And so it was that in the summer of 1976 that one of America’s most prominent recording artists showed up in the arctic with a film crew from the ABC Sports division in tow. Their mission was to shoot footage for an upcoming ABC special hosted by Denver called “Alaska: The American Child”, scheduled to air in the fall.
John and the ABC film crew in fact covered not only the wonders of the arctic, but were all over the state; from the Wrangell-St. Elias Range to McCarthy to the banks of the McNeil River before working their way northward to our neighborhood.
They had contracted with two prominent, well known, and highly experienced guides out of Anchorage to provide the bulk of their transportations needs. Both fella’s were good friends and, in addition to being respected guides, also happened to be dentists. This “day job” provided the resources necessary for each of them to own and operate their own very nice Cessna 185’s. They were loaded with all the goodies. Together the good doctors had safely and surely squired the film entourage all over our great state.
In each area of the state however, it was necessary to contract a third, locally-owned and operated commercial plane to act as a “gofer”.
This was the airplane they used to run errands, sometimes on a daily basis. For the majority of the time, the two big-city 185 drivers were kept occupied doing work for all the aerial filming that was involved or scouting for shooting locations.
Hence the mickey-mouse stuff, such as hauling rush items, delivering payroll, hauling exposed film to a hub for immediate transfer back to New York or L.A., was what the “gofer” airplane was for. And, it just so happened that, when they got to my neck of the woods, somebody recommended Leroy’s outfit for the job. And CloudDancer got the nod.
So this is how it came to be that a young CloudDancer and a world-renowned and adored-by-millions folk & pop music idol wound up singing a duet together under the 2 A.M. arctic sun.
01-21-2012, 11:35 PM
Chapt. 1 - cont'd
01-22-2012, 01:23 AM
Chapter Two - The Best Laid Plans...
Exercising a modicum of self-control, I attempt to open the door slowly and casually, giving no outward sign of my eagerness. I must assume however, that my facial expression gave me away. For when I opened the door, much to my surprise, rather than the 22 year old liddle Eskimo goddess I expected to greet warmly; stood instead the early sixty-something grandmotherly Wien Air Alaska station manager Janet Skiles.
What had been a look of smoldering passionate anticipation on my face:wink: as I pulled the door open, must’ve naturally turned almost instantly into a look of bewildered and impatient frustration. :Gwhoa:
Janet looked up at me with just a trace of the normally broad and effervesant smile that she usually wore. Her brow was slightly creased and she appeared worried as she began “CloudDancer, I am so sorry to come over and bother you tonight, but no one was answering the phone at Leroy’s and your number isn’t in the phone book and I…” at which point I interrupted and said “Janet...Janet! Slow down and come in and tell me what’s going on.”
This brought a notable relief to her stressed countenance and she accepted the invitation as I stepped aside and extended my arm.
As she took the first two steps she looked from my face and started to speak again “Oh thank you so much Cloudy, I…” and then she stopped. Both stepping and talking. Silently she slowly turned and took in the full view and….ambience….of the room for a few seconds. She then slowly turned and looked back at me. With a look that combined what had to be a mixture of disbelief:yikez:, a thinly veiled hint of revulsion, and a dab of pure pity:-(, Janet shook her head very slightly and said “I pray to God I never find my granddaughter in a scene like this!”
Then, she must have remembered the look on my face when I opened the door. For as we both chortled together at her unintended critique, she said “Oh! I must be interrupting something. Oh Dear. I’m sorry. But I really need your help tonight.”
“Well tell me what’s wrong Janet. What can I do for you?” I asked.
“The Otter is stuck up at Noatak and it’s out of fuel and I was hoping I could get you to fly some gas up to them right away.” she explained. “We had a charter for those John Denver people to bring them out of Pt. Hope and then the fog closed in and then they circled forever and then they wound up having to go to Noatak before they ran out of gas.”
And indeed the fog had rolled in. I had noted when I opened the door that I could barely see down the street.
Trying hard to keep the evening plans intact, I began to protest that the visibility was likely below a mile and…and…and…
And then Janet countered with several strong arguments, including the fact that John Denver himself was stuck in Noatak on the Twin Otter, and I was the official “gofer” plane after all… etcetra...etcetra. So-o-o I pretty much gave up my plans of conquest for the next few hours and agreed to haul three fifty-five gallon drums of Jet-A up to the Wien crew. Mostly ‘cause I figured I’d get a chance to finally meet the star himself one way or the other. For, even though I’d been “gofer”-ing for these guys for the better part of a week I had yet to actually see the big man himself.
01-22-2012, 05:50 PM
Some MO' of Chapter Two -
01-22-2012, 07:03 PM
Chap. Three - Here He Comes to Save the Day!
November nine-one-two-nine Mike was about a vintage 1970 or ’71 Wichita production if I remember correctly. I don’t know how long she’d been in Leroy’s stable before I showed up on the scene in 1973. But by the time of this story she’d been a’rode plenty hard and put away wet more than just a few times.
Her interior was typical of all the old, long-serving bush planes coming from the Kansas factory. Years of hauling everything you can imagine (and a lot you can’t) had reduced her inner shell to a pretty seedy looking and beat-all-to-hell version of it’s former self.
Speed tape was plastered over both the inside and outside of the right rear window, covering a large 3 inch diameter hole where a one of the antlers of a moose rack had poked through the plexiglass the previous autumn. The ubiquitous burnt-orange sidewall paneling had also been holed in various places, and was cracked and torn away in others, revealing patches of pale yellow insulation. Scuff marks and scratches abounded not only on the sidewalls, but on practically every window as well, with the exception of the two forward side windows and the forward windscreen.
The grey colored naugahyde seats had seen better days as well, with stuffing occasionally emerging from rips in both the seat bottom and back cushions. But periodic re-taping with fresh duct tape seemed to stem the escape for the most part.
And outside, her once shiny midnite blue with white trim paint job had faded as well. Her otherwise stylish profile was now distorted by the addition of a belly pod which, at least until the mid 1970’s, seemed to be a very, very popular add-on feature that most bush operators had installed on their airframes.
I imagine some guy did it first, and was able to haul more STUFFS. So, to be competitive, then everybody started mounting them on the damn airsheens. As if we couldn’t sufficiently overload the damn planes enough without the belly pods! Now the customer had even more space to cram fulla’ their STUFFS on the way back to the village.
I honestly don’t remember what the damn things were certified to carry, but I know I’ve loaded ‘em up with two or three hundred pounds of Del Monte fruit cases or beer or soda pop! Dang! It wasn’t so bad on the 206’s and 185’s. But a dang Cessna 207, even without a belly pod and just a “healthy” load inside the cabin, normally left the earth with all the enthusiasm I normally have for… oh….say...BUNGEE jumping! (None) And try and convince the customers (or Leroy and Velma for that matter) that there’s really “no more room” for STUFFS!
If the tires ain’t flat yet, you must not be loaded too heavy!
Oh my GOODness! The daylight is almost gone! Mah tummy is a'rumblin'! I thinks I needs to fix some dinner vittles an' then jump into the shower and purdy mahsef up and head out to one'a them "former-drunk-all'a-time-people" meetings.
Maybe I'll get some more of this up befoe i go nigh-night...maybe not! Hope you good folks are enjoying it!
01-22-2012, 10:07 PM
Enjoying it immensely.:-)
01-23-2012, 12:26 AM
Chap. Three cont'd -
01-23-2012, 05:27 PM
Have some More Chap. THREE...on ME!
Tom Lorrie is our “A.T.C. specialist-on-duty” this evening. He is also one of Leroy and Velma’s part-time “have-pilot-license-will-fly” guys, meaning we often spend time sharing both the arctic skies as well as sitting around the office swapping lies and drinking coffee. Thus it is no surprise when, after giving me all the officially required info and taking down my flight plan, he takes the opportunity to “stick it to me” just a liddle bit.
“So Cloudy. Couldn’t make it down to the Golden Whale and knock a couple back before they found you and made you do some more work, eh? Just think. In four more hours, you’ll still be stuck out in a village somewhere and I’ll be having a good time!”
In return I explained I had been drafted against my will and was enroute to rescue the Wien Otter. This brought an “O-o-oh Yeah! I’d almost forgotten about those guys.” he said and continued “They been stuck up there over an hour now I’d guess. They held for at least 45 minutes trying to get a mile here but it was nowhere even close. I’m actually amazed we got one now. I figured it would just keep getting worse. But the wind’s picked up a little, so I guess that’s what did it.”
“Well I’d appreciate it Tom if you’d manage to hang on to it while I’m gone. But if I have to, I’ll just ninety-one it [operate under F.A.R. Part 91 (non-commercial) rules] back in here if I have to. I should be coming back empty.” I said in reply. I added “But that don’t mean you need to make it any harder than necessary, you know.”
The radio banter had occupied the entire time it took me to reach the east end of the runway. I swung 29 Mike around and turned her into the wind, taxying forward slowly until I stopped dead square in the middle of the white painted “26” that indicated the runways heading.
No engine runup was necessary, as I had put this bird to bed just two hours earlier, having flown her all day. But with the very likely potential for having to crawl my way back in on a VOR approach, possibly to well below published minimums, a couple of fine-tuning points were in order.
Once more I set the parking brake. The engine idled slowly. The first rising tendrils of warm air emanating from the floor vent were starting to blunt the damp chill in the cabin. I reached up and grabbed the stub pencil wedged between the cloth headliner and the plastic molding around the wingroot-mounted slide-in-and-out fresh air vent. Setting it down on the seat beside me, I licked my right thumb covering it with spittle. Reaching forward, I rubbed the wet digit in a circle on the plastic face of the instrument panel trim, thus obliterating a few small tiny pencil marks that had already been scribbled there.
Well…more like smudging, rather than obliterating. I made three small circles with my spitty thumb. Now I had a wet and dark three inch tall sort of smudge puddle; which I then “wiped up” using the heel of my right hand before finally disposing of it completely by wiping the heel of my right hand along the leg of my jeans. (What! It’s not like my jeans were clean or anything! I’d been wearing ‘em for a couple of days and loading drums and stuff! Sheeeesh…)
Tom had given me an altimeter setting of two-niner-seven-six. However, when I set the altimeter to six feet….my instrument read two-niner-seven three. I leaned over to my right and, best as I possibly could given the angle of the dangle; I carefully centered the omni-bearing selector with a “FROM” indication and tried to read the tiny dial and hash marks at the top of the small four inch tall rotary dial. Looked like it was reading 255 degrees from where I sat. So I grabbed the pencil and carefully and clearly printed - .03 in small but legible print, and directly below that I scrawled 255. There! Now I know exactly what numbers I must use to find myself the exact same spot in what should be just over an hour from now.
This was standard procedure for us in those days. For while minimums for the published VOR Runway 26 approach into Kotzebue’s Ralph Wien Memorial Airport might be…oh… somewhere around five hundred feet or so, they seldom worked for us. Like as not, you could just be skimming the top of the fog at legal “minimums”, your real approach work not having even begun yet. And the runway is wide. But it ain’t all that wide when you are approaching it from a slight angle at an extremely low altitude. Hence the OBS “correction” number. The printed approach plate may show a final approach course of 252 degrees, but for me, tonight, in this airplane an hour from now, it will be the 255 degree setting that will bring me home.
Final details attended to, I stow the pencil, grab the microphone and announce to no one in particular and the world in general “Cessna Niner-one-two-niner Mike is departing runway two-six. Click! It goes back in it’s holder and my right hand grasps the black-knobbed throttle and I shove it smoothly and steadily forward to the stop.
01-23-2012, 05:33 PM
sure thats incredible )
01-23-2012, 07:19 PM
last of Chap. Three!
01-27-2012, 02:35 PM
Chapter Four - Fa-a-a-a-r OUT!
I wheeled the 206 to a stop parallel to the blue, gold and white Twin Otter and just abeam her left wingtip. Immediately I was surrounded by dozens of yelling children all wearing big grins and eyes wide with excitement. Several shouting voices penetrated the closed cabin from all sides with their “Hi CLOUDDANCER!” and “Hi PILOT!” and “What you BRING, uh?!”
The Wien crew, alerted by the now almost forty minute old Tundra Telegraph message broadcast over KOTZ announcing my pending arrival, waved their greetings as well. Both of the guys jumped down from their perch where they sat on the floor of the Twin Otter in the wide open double back doors and began to work their way through the crowd of animated villagers surrounding my plane. Dismounting myself, I waded out into the throng as the “Hi pilots!” and other greetings continued.
As I did, along with shouting greetings right back, I smacked a few of the bigger boys on the back and tousled the mostly beatle-cut (bowl-and-scizzors cut actually) hairdos on the heads of several of the younger boys. The girls were either shy and quiet, or gregarious and wanting a small hug. And through it all I kept glancing downward. I had to take care to not barrel right over the top of one of the liddle-bitty knee-high munchkins that were part of this decades old (now long gone) ritual, that begins for them almost as soon as they could walk.
Arriving at my cargo doors at the same time as the Wien boys, we exchange handshakes and, greetings. For almost two minutes we discuss the weather in Kotzebue’s the crowd of kids still plays and screeches all around us.
Turning finally away from my fellow airmen I raise my voice and say loudly “Okay! You GUYS! Everybody’s gotta’ move back outta’ the way now! I gotta’ unload theses drums and I don’t want any of them to land on you! Scoot Scoot! Get the little ones outta’ the way too!” And, much as the chattering and cavorting Munchkins had done when the Good Witch of the North appeared in Wizard of Oz, the children began to respectfully obey, even growing quieter. And, just as it has so often been depicted when Moses parted the Red Sea on film, the small sea of young bodies parted into two halves starting at my cargo doors, and back-pedaled slowly away a couple of yards.
As I opened the doors and began releasing the cargo straps several of the adult males that had been on the periphery of the milling herd of tykes now moved to approach the plane.
Now unloading the drums is a piece of cake by comparison. The slide aft along the Cessna’s half-inch tall metal seat rails quite easily as it’s very slightly downhill. It’s simply a matter of making sure that you slide the drum slowly aftward, as you want to be able to stop the darn thing in the center of your doorway. They you carefully “walk” the drum outboard until it is just short of falling. Give it a good outward jerk and leap backward at the same time. You don’t ever want one of those babies to drop out on your foot! And the outward jerk also ensures that the barrels bottom edge will clear the passenger cabin access footstep protruding slightly outboard of the fuselage. Hitting that with the bottom edge of the falling drum would most likely cause some terrible airframe damage as well.
In under two minutes, all three drums have exited my machine and are being rapidly rolled over to the port side of the Twin Otter’s fuselage. There they are uprighted, and by the time the last drum is in position, the hand pump I’d also carried up with me is being inserted into the first barrel. Jet-A is splashing into the almost empty tanks of 4901 Whiskey before another sixty seconds goes by. And the Wien pilots had not had to lift a finger.
True to tradition (another one, now long since dead), even these unfamiliar pilots from the big city (Wien rotated their “bush” pilots in and out from their Anchorage domicile) were still treated as honored guests in every village. And while they may have been accorded slightly less honored status than us “local” guys that the villagers saw every day; they were still special people. Pilots still, as it had been since the inception of manned flight in Alaska, were only slightly less “big starts” than was John Denver to America’s tree-huggers in those days.
Speaking of whom, after buttoning my aircraft back up, I turn and note that the rest of Noatak’s population not already at the airport, is escorting the recording star and the accompanying film crew out to the airport from town. Once again the spectacle seemed straight out of a picture book about the Pied Piper. Except it was the Pied Guitarist in this case I guess as he strolled along strumming his guitar and singing, continuing an impromptu concert he had begun in the village school over an hour earlier.
He handed his guitar off to one of the crew as the parade reached the parking area and marched straight over to where I was now standing by my left wingtip. “Hi! I’m John Denver.” he boomed loudly as he approached sticking out his right hand in greeting. We shook. And John had a nice firm grip. “How you doin’ Mr. Denver?! It’s really gre…” And he interrupted me with ‘Hey man! Just call me John! What’s your name?” And before I could open my mouth in response three of four kids, anxious to get the attention again began hollering “CLOUDDANCER! His name is CloudDancer! Don’t you know CloudDancer!?” This of course provoked laughter from both of us.
“Well. CloudDancer I…” and it was my turn to interrupt. “John. I love your music man! You’re incredible!” And I kept on as he tried to graciously accept the compliment with “Well thanks Clou…” “No man. I really mean it! And I’ve been wanting to meet you all week, but every time I come in for the day’s rushes (exposed film) you’re alwa…” And then he jumps back in. “Oh! Are you the “gofer” machine?” And I laughed and said quite proudly “Yep. That’s me! That’s how I wound up here on this rescue mission tonight!”.
“Oh. Far out! Then I guess I could ride back with you then legally, since I imagine this is coming out of our pocket!” And I stood there dumbfounded, and for once silent for a moment. “That is, if you have an extra co-pilot chair open. Do you?” he continued as if not yet detecting that I was somewhat stunned.
Finally I found my vocal chords and stammered “Ya ya…you want to…ride with me?!”
“Well yeah man! If that’s alright. I got a 210 that’s almost the same thing you know?” (I did know that of course.)
“Man! That would be sooo COOL John! That’d be great! But, I hope you don’t mind. This old girls is kinda’ beat up and dowdy compared to what you’re used to” I said by way of early apology. Grinning back at me he answered “Well, from what I’ve seen in this part of the world, what working airplane isn’t right?” And as I nodded and grunted “You can say that again John” he added. “And since you don’t look suicidal to me, I’m guessing she must be mechanically sound, so..no PROBLEM! Lemme’ go get my guitar and tell these guys I’ll meet them at the hotel. I’ll be right back!”
01-27-2012, 04:58 PM
Chapter Four - cont'd
01-27-2012, 05:47 PM
Is this the part were the Baron gets returned to Kotzebue? ;-)
01-27-2012, 09:22 PM
Hey! :whis: I'm "multi-tasking" here Jim. I'm MULTI-TASKING!:chill:
01-29-2012, 01:25 PM
Chapter 5 - I Wuz Tha-a-a-at CLOSE!
“Noatak traffic, Cessna niner-one-two-niner Mike...departing Noatak runway 18. Left turn-out for Kotz, climbing to thirty-five hundred” I announced my intentions, and snapped the microphone back into the holder. I turned to John and added “I doubt that there’s anyone to hear that tonight, but you never know. Better safe than sorry.”
“Yeah” he answered back and continued, “I’ve noticed that you guys all do that all the time. Kinda’ like your own ‘in-house’ air traffic control, right?” I replied “Well...as you might have noticed, there ain’t nobody else watching out for us out here but ourselves. So it’s what we came up with a few months back. Kinda’ helps out alot now. Used to be...when I first got up here three years ago...you could jump in an airplane and fly around for two or three days, all over the valley, and never even see or hear another airplane anywhere, except when you came back to Kotzebue. But things have really been picking up since last year.” “Hmm. No kidding” came John’s response.
“Yeah. Now there’s planes all over the place, and must be fifteen...maybe twenty or so guys driving around up here for a living every day counting the guys based in the villages. When I first got here it was like maybe... a dozen or less. Mostly just the owners and maybe one other full or part-time guy. Now, Leroy’s got me ‘n Bounce and a couple of part-time F.A.A. guys and the other outfits based in town are adding on too. There’s so much more flying that we’re starting to run into each other at the villages, so it really helps us stay out of each other’s way” I finished.
The very lightly loaded 206 had (relatively) rocketed up to thirty-five hundred feet as we carried on this exchange and I reduced the “25 squared” climb power engine output to the standard twenty-three inches of manifold pressure and twenty-three hundred RPM’s. This reduced the interior cabin noise level substantially, even given the increased wind noise as the speed built up to a respectable one-hundred forty-three MPH as the old girl stretched her legs.
“Boy! Those two-bladed props sure make for a much louder ride in the cabin that that three-blade one does on my 210” John commented. And I started to reply, but then realized I needed to check in with Tom at Flight Service and get the skinny first. “Yeah. Uh...hang on a second there John...we need to figger out what’s happening at home. Let me check the weather.
The response over the radio was not encouraging. The latest special obs, taken only six minutes earlier was giving an official half-mile of visibility. And since (in a sense anyway) I had “revenue” on board, the prospect of a Part 91 IFR approach was not an option. Two-niner Mike was not leagally certified for IFR operations, nor for that matter, was “yours truly”. Besides, a half-mile was below minimums for a VOR 26 approach anyway. I responded to Tom’s report by saying “Okay Kotzebue. We still got almost full tanks of motion lotion here....I'll just press on. You think you could get those NWS (National Weather Service) fellas to take another peek at it in about ten minute again. An' maybe have 'em clean off their glasses first!" And as Tom keyed his microphone to respond to me, I heard him chuckle softly "Yeah Cloudy. I'll have 'em see what they can do for ya'. But I'd be surprised if they could even come up with a 'shakey' mile for you any time soon."
(written especially for my loyal SC.org readers, during my layover, on the free computer in the business center at the Indianapolis Downtown Sheraton Hotel. That's just how much I love you guys....)
01-29-2012, 02:06 PM
Thank you. Excellent reading, as always!
01-30-2012, 06:23 PM
Cloudy, you was in Indy...DANG, I'd bought you lunch and basked in the encounter with literary greatness. Just hit me up anytime your thru and bored.
01-31-2012, 10:47 AM
Hiya yankeetownboy - :howdy (cool "handle")
Darn it! I missed ANUTHER free meal!:sad: And here I wuz just o-o-o-zing veritable BUCKETS of "literary greatness" :Galien:rays for you to bask in too!
Alright. That's it! I'm gonna' come up with a way to DO someting about alla' these missed SuperCub opportunities. Ah'm a puttin' my THINKING cap on:banghead:!...........Okay! Dammit! Where's mah THINKING CAP??
DadNABBIT! I know it's around here somewheres! Enny of you guys seen mah THINKING cap? Tall...pointy....XL chin(s) strap....
Oh! And will add some more to this story from the free :compute: in the business center in the Sheraton Suites, Tampa in a couple of hours. (Damn cheap-azz airport Hilton in Oakland , CA. didn't HAVE enny free computers for me to :compute: yesterday!) Gonna' hit the Waffle (scattered, smother and covered) House first. I just :morning:.
01-31-2012, 11:52 AM
Cloudy simple fix after you bid your trips post your layovers and times and see who asks you out to dinner
01-31-2012, 12:53 PM
Capitol idea Chuck! :up As soon as I finish :compute:this here story, and get Vol. IV off to the publisher this week, I'll come up with a format to do exactly THAT!
Look for it at a "CloudDancer's Alaskan Chronicles" forum near you SOON!
01-31-2012, 01:06 PM
Sounds good and I will buy if ya get to BNA or Memphis later chuck
01-31-2012, 01:25 PM
Chapt. 5 - cont'd
Flying Miss Daisy
01-31-2012, 05:00 PM
Damn Good Cloudy Damn Good..since I have enjoyed JD music up until he upended into the Pacific in the Long EZ. This is a special one.
01-31-2012, 07:44 PM
Cool keep it coming cloudy, I actually saw JD here in Indy about OOOO UGH 197 something ?maybe about 76 78 . Saw him at Market Square Arena , and sadly both are gone ?
02-03-2012, 02:18 PM
More Chapter Five -
As the first thin tendrils of scud began to flash by immediately below, I mentally crossed my fingers and reached for the hand mike. “Kotzebue Radio this is Cessna Niner-one-two-niner Mike. We’re approaching the mouth of the Noatak inbound, advisories please” I stated.
Quick as a wink, Toms voice came back through the speaker. “Yeah Cloudy. You’re in luck! The weather gods have decided to give you a break this evening. Just got a fresh obs from the guys in the back room not three minutes ago. Kotzebue Special weather at three-seven after the hour…sky obscured, visibility one mile in fog. Temperature fifty-eight, dewpoint fifty-eight degrees. Winds two-six-zero at thirteen gusting to one-eight. Kotzebue altimeter is two-niner-seven-five. Visibility lower south, through southwest, through northwest. I’m guessing you want a special?”
“Yeah Tom. Looks like that’s the ticket for tonight. Two-niner Mike requesting Special VFR clearance into the Kotzebue control zone.” I replied. “Roger two-niner Mike. Standby while I get the zone.” He responded as expected. And although I knew it could take up to a minute or so for Tom to complete a landline connection with the appropriate Anchorage center controller, and secure exclusive use of the airspace for our arrival, I continued straight ahead at a thousand feet.
Headed for Lockhart Point, I barreled out across the open water, now only sporadically visible as the blanket of fog beneath us grew ever thicker and fuller. John leaned over slightly and said “Hey CloudDancer! Where exactly is Kotzebue from here?” “Oh lessee John.” I responded, and then pointed at our one o’clock position and continued “The runway is right over there. About four miles right now.”
I turned to look at John and he now stared straight at me wearing a concerned expression and said “Then…aren’t we already inside the control zone? Don’t we have to wait for a clearance?” Chuckling slightly, I looked at John and explained “John. A couple of things are different from what you are used to. First of all, there is no radar coverage up here. No one can see us so I have that advantage. Second, this mile we have, if indeed it really is a mile, is subject to disappear. Quickly and without warning. Lastly, and most importantly, we are going to get a Special VFR clearance to enter the zone. Trust me when I tell you, the radio transmission you will hear over the next few minutes are solely for the benefit of the tape recorders in Flight Service to cover my ass and Tom’s, in case anything goes wrong. And the radio transmissions are about the only thing involved in our upcoming arrival that will be “legal VFR”.
02-03-2012, 04:25 PM
Chap. 5 cont'd -
02-03-2012, 05:52 PM
ya just get me on the edge of my chair,and then ya stop,durn durn durn!!!!!!!
hey i will be back up next thursday early am on u.s.air red eye,give me a call if & when !!
02-03-2012, 11:31 PM
Chap. 5 cont'd (some more) -
Still pointed southeastward, I wait until the needle has almost swung to the straight vertical position before cranking the airplane into a hard right bank and sliding the power smoothly to idle. And John, now with concern showing in his voice says, “Okay. I gather we’re going to do a VOR approach then” spoken as a statement. Continuing he adds “so…what are the approach minimums for this thing. Don’t you need an approach plate?”
Again chuckling, I remain focused on the airspeed indicator, watching it unwind as I say “Well John. I’ve done this so many times, I could probably do it in my sleep, but if you want to follow along I guess…there some N.O.S. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Service) flip charts in the glove box. I don’t think they’re current though.”
As I finish this statement the airspeed needle has dropped to one hundred miles per hour indicated. I reach over with my right hand and smack the flap handle full down. I hold nine hundred feet perfectly and, as the flaps fully run out their tracks, I crank the propeller control steadily forward as the airspeed continues to drop. The knob reaches full forward just in time for my hand to make the small leftward jump to the throttle, which I now feed in partially. In twenty seconds, no more than thirty, we have changed course over 120 degrees and gone from cruise to level slow-flight just skimming the top of the fog at nine hundred feet and eighty miles an hour.
As we sank into the top of the pretty white blanket, the warming rays of the late night northern sun disappeared and the temperature in the cabin dropped noticeably as I reached for the microphone. “Kotzebue radio, Cessna two-niner Mike is on a six mile final to runway two-six now. Say your winds please”. Tom’s reply came quickly. “Cessna two-niner Mike roger. Kotzebue winds now two-sixty at ten gusting to fifteen, altimeter remains two niner seven five. And just so you know, the top of the hill is disappearing now.”
“Okay…thanks. I’ll see you in a couple of minutes” I replied.
We’re sinking now through six hundred feet on the altimeter, with the vertical speed holding steady at five hundred foot per minute down, when John asks “So CloudDancer, just how low are minimums on this approach anyway?” My response of “Well John, we passed published minimums for the VOR approach about hunnert…hunnert-fifty feet or so ago but…” “WHAT!” John exclaimed as his right hand shot out reflexively to the dashboard in a semi-“brace” position. No doubt he was now reconsidering his earlier assessment, made in Noatak, that I was not "suicidal'!
I turned my head and calmly smiled as I looked straight into John’s eyes and said “John. RELAX! We’re fine! Here’s what we’re doing.” And then I turned back to the instruments to continue monitoring our descent as I explained how things were going to work in the next five minutes. Flying as low as three hundred feet indicated, we’d miss the top of the VOR by just about 150 feet. Starting the stopwatch on the Bendix clock as we did, we’d mark off another ten seconds based on our projected sixty mile per hour groundspeed which should put us just at the bluff east of the runway. I concluded with “…so then we’ll whack the power and dump her down to a hunnert feet on the altimeter and we ought to be staring the runway numbers in the face.”
“Ho-o-oly ****!” burst from John’s mouth. “And this is the way you guys do it all the time!”
“Yeah. Pretty much John. Otherwise we’d never get in and outta’ here half the time in the summer” I replied whilst leveling off at four hundred feet. “Hang on.” Never taking my eyes off the instruments, I grabbed the microphone with my right hand by feel. A fast glance down and to the left out the window by my side revealed…nothing. I placed the mike to my lips and keyed it. “Four hundred feet…NOTHING” I said quietly and dropped it into my lap. I knew the Otter guys were listening, but wouldn’t reply.
I now concentrated intently as I tickled the vertical speed indicator to read fifty foot per minute down. Reaching three hundred fifty feet I leveled again. I repeated the fast glance once more and was pleased to see tundra rushing by straight below me. “Three-fifty…vertical only.” And again I nudged the wheel slightly forward with more pressure. Another minute, another mile or so and I level at three hundred feet indicated with a good eighth, maybe even a quarter mile of forward visibility. I pick up the microphone out of my lap.
Now…one of two-niner Mike’s…um…“quirks” for lack of a better word, was this damn Narco Escort 110 setup. Aside from it’s really…really inconvenient panel location; the damn thing seemed to always pop the circuit breaker if you used it too much. Why? I haven’t a freaking clue. But it did. All the damn time. Most of the time it was just a minor inconvenience.
I keyed the microphone, but before I could spit out a terse word…POP! went the breaker.
Damn! Damn! Damn! “Aa-a-ah ****! The circuit breaker popped John!” And for John, who was about ready to have a cow by now; never having before seen such brazen and (in his mind at least) risky VFR flying; this was almost too much. “Where is it?! Where is it? I’ll reset it!” he barked at me and then spied it along the row at the bottom of the instrument panel. Triumphantly he announced “I got it! I got it!” and jabbed his finger at it twice, only to have it pop back out instantly each time he removed his finger. “It won’t reset! It won’t reset!” his voice was rising slightly.
“Relax John. We’re still okay! We’re almost there.” I replied. “But the VOR is dead too!” he exclaimed. I replied “Yeah I know. I’m just gonna’ hold this heading for another minute.”
Now unfortunately for us pilots…in weather conditions such as I’ve described, things sometimes can get worse as you get closer to the runway. The fog, as it starts to lower below the level of the bluff, begins to behave differently just off the end of the runway.
After racing in from the sea and down the runway, it hits the bluff and then boils and rolls over and over itself. And so it was, as I quickly reset and restarted the stopwatch feature, that I began detecting what little forward visibility I had slipping away. In twenty more seconds I could barely see a couplea’ hundred feet outside the plane. For all intent and purposes I was almost full IMC again and I focused on keeping the tip of the big needle in the altimeter splitting the zero at the top of the instrument. Three hundred feet was IT for the moment. I won’t give up another ten!
My eyes flash quickly to the clock. The super-thin skinny red sweep-second hand is passing the seven. Damn! Where is the da…a flash of a white blob appears in my lower right peripheral vision. I risk a quick head jerk to the right and…it’s the VOR! Way off to my right where it doesn’t belong! I dip the right wing slightly and correct five degrees to the north. Now! Below me. The BLUFF! The ground slopes rapidly downward and huge crevasses are eroded in the dirt embankments. I am here! I whack the power and dive to one hundred feet and look up!
Two-niner Mike’s windshield is filled with murky greyish-dark blue water and FOG everywhere. No asphalt! DAMN! I haul back hard on her yoke and jam the throttle full forward. The Continental engine under the cowling in front of me ROOOOARS! Like a tennis ball hitting the concrete, in the blink of an eye she has reversed her steep descent angle into a climb twice as steep. As I reach for the flap handle while rolling slightly right to a heading of two sixty, just as I start the flaps retracting to ten degrees, John hollers excitedly ‘Cloudy! CloudDancer! There’s the runway!”
He turns to look at me quickly then back out as I drop the right wing slightly and look over the side. Sure enough! A gaping hole in the fog reveals the approximately two hundred feet of length and the entire width of the runway! I can see two full, bright white and beckoning stripes in the center. Quickly I try to instantly process a flood of information.
The sucker-hole is moving down the runway eastward at almost twenty miles an hour. John, I, and two-niner Mike meanwhile, are moving westward at a groundspeed of close to eighty miles an hour. The runway is fifty yards or so off to my right. Am I halfway down the runway? Three-quarters of the way down the runway? Do I dive for it or not….
02-04-2012, 11:44 AM
Tune in next week.
Same bat time.
Same bat channel.
02-04-2012, 11:46 AM
Hiya JP - :howdy
Thank ya' SIR! :up It is my honor and privilege. I am truly humbled. Your simple, yet eloquent response makes all this worth it.
And just HOW long have you been reading these literary offerings? Yet you still haven't figured it out yet?!
Reading a CloudDancer Alaskan Chronicle is much akin to having CloudDancer sex! Well, not so much for you, but for all the wimmenfolks.:-P
FIRST - There is the "introduction and flirting" stage. :love: Then comes the "mating dance" (get better acquainted) stage:bunny, alternating between fast dances to start building the anticipation, and slow songs, where you get the first...uh...feel:wink:...for your partner's potential...uh...rhythm. What th readers LIKE!
Finally comes the actual...uh...engagement! And, as the excitement now builds steadily:elefant:; even then, an occasional short break in the "action" :whis: (author's note, sidebar etc.) may be in order to...uh...explore :Gfish:various interesting supplementary areas :Geureka::kiss: to enhance the overall experience before returning to the...uh...MAIN EVENT!
Finally, as the climax of the event nears, it is advantageous both parties (in this case...the reader AND the author) to stay "on the edge" :Gwoohoo: for an extended period; thus ensuring that when the climax finally arrives:lick:, that whether it be brief or extended, it leaves both participants with a long-lasting afterglow and innner warmth:luv2:...desirous of another encounter. Soon and often.
Thought you woulda' figgered my "style" out by now...
02-04-2012, 02:16 PM
Chapter Six - If At First You Don't Succeed...
02-04-2012, 03:45 PM
The REST of Chapter Six -
Three minutes later in was over for me and John, who had by the way, remained completely silent since the “go-around” from the first attempt. The second time had gone like clockwork. Hit the VOR dead on. Solid on the gauges at three hundred feet, I punched the timeclock and waited 12 seconds, holding my final approach heading to the nth degree on the directional gyro before shoving the nose over. Drove down to one hundred feet solid on the gauges and looked up. In the blink of an eye, the windshield went from being fulla’ grey mist, to being instantly fulla’ black asphalt with the huge white number two and six filling the windscreen! A snappy right bank gave me the twelve degree heading change I needed to align the 206 with the runways centerline.
I eased the power back, and as we sank toward the runway in what could be no better than a quarter of a mile of visibility I quickly snatched up the microphone out of it’s holder and raising it in front of my lips barked quickly “Two-niner Mike! Down and clear! Kotzebue!” and then dropped it into my lap reaching for the throttle.
As I continued reducing power, slowing further and descending into ground effect, Tom responded “TwoninerMikerogerdownandclearATCclearsWien7501Whi skeyintotheKotzebue…”. And it all came spewing out rapid-fire as a single long sentence. Two-niner Mike’s 6.oo x 6s softly rolled onto the wet asphalt somewhere around the time Tom’s transmission to the Otter ended. And after their readback, as I taxied of the runway at the east taxiway, before stowing my microphone, I again raised it to my lips and quietly spoke two words into it. “Quarter mile.” The only answer was silence as I taxied the airplane toward Leroy’s lot. As I did, I glanced over at John for the first time since the go around.
He was looking westward toward the water where the visibility was now barely good enough to even see the first few yards of the water off the beach. His right hand now rested comfortably in his lap again. He turned to look at me and when our eyes met, a huge goofy John Denver broad grin exploded out of nowhere. “Fa-a-ar OUT man! Unbelieveable! That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in an airplane. My Dad’ll never believe this story.”
Three minutes later, John and I were just finishing tying down two-niner Mike, this time for the night! Suddenly the silence was broken momentarily by the very faint sound somewhere in the distance, of a pair of PT6 driven, three-bladed Hartzell props going into hard reverse for two seconds. Then the silence returned for almost a minute before the sounds of a taxying Twatter reached our upwind ears again.
John and I now stood side-by-side at the left wingtip of the airplane gazing in the direction from whence we had only minutes earlier come ourselves. The perpendicular taxiway, (at the time) the most easterly access to the runway was no more than five hundred feet at most from where we stood. It’s full north-south one hundred foot length was no longer even visible. The engine noise grew louder and louder.
Finally we caught our first view of the Otter’s long pointy snout appearing about halfway through the 90 degree left hand turn onto the ramp taxiway. Looking straight south or west, visibility had now dropped to about 300 feet.
We waved back at the copilot as his hand appeared in the right cockpit door’s window slowing waving at us. I turned to John and said “Come on there mister music man. It’s time for you to meet the Ponderosa!”
I fired up my Yamaha 250 dirt bike on the first kick and as John climbed on behind me he said “You know Cloudy, I believe you guys must be about the craziest pilots in the world!”
02-04-2012, 04:48 PM
Yer not that crazy CloudDancer. You took the go-around after all.
Also, I didn't say I don't like your style. I just thought it was an appropriate comment for a cliff-hanger ending.
02-04-2012, 10:22 PM
Hiya docstory -:howdy
Silly boy! :cluck That post was aimed at jr hammack. (Hence the Junior...junior...junior) I love the Bat-time Bat-channel comment. :up That is one of my old favorites. (It's all good bro!)
Phew. My day is now complete!
02-05-2012, 03:36 PM
Ha Ha! Just not as much fun sliding into Kotz now with moving map GPS.
02-05-2012, 04:35 PM
JP - I'm still waiting for the duet.
02-05-2012, 06:04 PM
Hang on everbody - I just rolled into the Marriot Downtown here in Omaha-ha-ha after four legs! Gimme' time to shed mah monkey suit and take a short liddle power nap an' then maybe I'll get the epilogue up here tonight.
02-06-2012, 06:12 AM
Woke up from my "power nap" at 2 A.M. and the hamsters started running around in their liddle wheels upstairs again as I tinkled. Damn brain wouldn't shut down and let me go back to sleep. Gotta' finish...GOTTA' FINISH...CRAP! Get dressed...make coffee...go down to business center in the Marriot lobby....workworkworkwork. Just for YOU people!
02-06-2012, 11:45 AM
Excellent story Cloudy!
Ya'll fly safe now, ya hear!
02-06-2012, 12:05 PM
Bravo!! Bravo!! :flag:flag:flag:flag:flag:flag:flag:flag:flag:flag :flag:flag
Amen, brother. He went too soon. A fitting tribute.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.2.0 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.