Thanks Thanks:  0
Likes Likes:  0
Results 1 to 37 of 37

Thread: A Good Day's Work."

  1. #1
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like

    A Good Day's Work."

    CHapter One -- Hey buddy, Can you Spare a Spark Plug??"

    The Great Land has always been a dichotomy in many ways, only one of which was economically. And economically, it had been so for a couple of centuries before the CloudDancer ever stumbled sleepily offa’ the back of that Alaska Airlines Golden Nugget jet in Kotzebue..

    From the trappers and fur traders of the early 1800's, the Gold Rush, World War Two, and now finally, the OIL BOOM was coming!! Buuuuut.....it wasn’t quite here just yet!! Granted, the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act had been signed into law by Tricky Dicky a couple of years before I got there; but the big dollars (payoff) bucks weren’t quite flowing throughout the state just yet.

    Ergo, most of the residents in Alaska’s smaller communities (i.e. ANYthing outside of FAI, JNU and ANC) survived financially as they always had. And for quite a few folks like fisherman, pilots and air taxi operators, and gold miners ( to name a few); that meant making BIG bucks working your ASS off during the long Arctic summer’s “endless” days. And hopefully, your herculean efforts over the four month period from mid -May to mid-September would yield the financial results you needed to get you through the long winters.

    So all the night long, under a midnight sun, small boats would be hauling a half a ton (hopefully) of sockeye salmon fresh from the nets to the four to six “fish mongers” (buyers) who had set up their little “offices” in plywood eight by ten shacks on the gravel beach between the Drift Inn hotel and the F.A.A. complex on the south side of the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport.

    Two or three forklifts, large OR small, would be constantly running back and forth from the fish buyer’s shanties on the beach to the Alaska Airlines terminal or some other part of the ramp. They carried on their forks aluminum boxes (called “totes”) about the size of a small chest freezer inside which were the fresh salmon packed in ice cubes, ready to start their long journey to Asia or the Lower 48.

    Some o’ them fishies left town in style, soaring up to the “Flight Levels” in them Golden Nugget “combi” 727's and 737's of Alaska Airlines and cruising to their first stop (ANC) at durn near the speed o’ sound. (Did you know a seven-two could easily do Mach .92?)

    Other fish would maybe fly at the LOWER flight levels, around the mid-twenties and maybe HALF the speed of sound in one of Alaska International Air’s Hercules. And what was LEFT would ride to the big village, unpressurized and bouncing through the low altitude summertime turbulence (although, at this point, I think the fish were beyond caring about amenities) on an assortment of more “mature” (read old and DILAPIDATED) fill-the-oil-and-check-the-gas DC-4's and 6's and 3's and a few C-46's operated by some of the lesser known in-state operations.

    Indeed, when the fish were REALLY leaping out of the water and into the boats, demand for lift would attract planes from as far away as Seattle and Boise.

    Now, as it still is (I suspect) today; all the folks who OPERATE these airplanes in Alaska get paid pretty much by the pound. Each way. Therefore, whether it was the “big time” airlines like Wien or Alaska, or the other guys; whatEVER you load up coming back to town is GRAVY money. Pure profit supposedly, as you charged enough for the stuff going OUT there to pay for the cost of the whole trip. Potato chips or Pampers, autos or ottomans, it makes no nevermind. You wanna’ get something from ANC, FAI or Outside, you be paying BIG dough. Typically, just the basic STANDBY freight charge to get a Dodge Ram Charger pick-em-up truck shipped in from ANC to OTZ might run $1800.

    Course, the Alaska Airlines pilots, working for a big-time airline and all; and with a UNION contract to BOOT that said they make “x” $$ per hour didn’t much care if they hauled any stinky ol’ dead fish back to town or NOT!! But, of course, management took quite a different view and did everything they could to ensure that the boys flying them smokers earned their keep. But the operations agents made sure that the airplane never exceeded it’s MGTOW no matter HOW many fish were waiting for passage. This pretty much assured the AIRline pilots that they had good performance available, and could easily handle the loss of an engine on takeoff.

    Now a lot of the OTHER airplanes were either “owner operated” or operated by VERY small companies on shoestring budgets. In either case, being paid by the pound HAULED, seemed to inspire many of THESE pilots to load by VOLUME as opposed to weight.

    This made for some rather specTACular, (or would that be UN spectacular) takeoffs, particularly
    by some of the more MOTLEY old piston relics that had, only a couple of decades earlier been the QUEENS of the skies over America!!

    What with the departure end of R/W 26 ending just a few yards short of the waters of OTZ Sound (there was just a two lane gravel road and a few yards of gravel beach) combined with a 134 foot cliff/bluff/HILL!! Just off the other (east) end if the runway AND usually a very slight breeze off the water to the west, along with absoLUTly weak west winds.

  2. #2
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Given the obstacle off the immediate east end of the runway, along with the prevailing wind(s), this led to a takeoff towards the west out over the open water almost all the time.

    Now once or twice, I’d had the rare treat of being able to ride jumpseat on some of those old Douglas workhorses and watch show from a ringside seat so to speak. But whether inside the airplane or standing outside, ol’ CloudDancer has been absolutely fascinated to the point of immobility by the sights, sounds, and smells of an R-2800 or ANY radial engine being brought to life.

    I mean there’s a whole HERD of spark plugs ‘n pistons ‘n valves and rocker arms and cylinders involved in just starting ONE of those DC-6 jobbies..

    As the starter motor is energized and the big ol’ three bladed square tipped propellor mounted on that Pratt & Whitney starts slowly revolving; there comes a slowly increasing in tempo number of alternating sounds. There’s a “CLICK” and a “CLACK” and a sighing “WHINE” and a “CLUNK” and as the propellor picks up speed so does the rate of the noises until it begins to resemble the sounds of an old steam locomotive pulling away from the station platform and then...BANG!....and a puff of greasy blue smoke pukes out of a stack and kicks the propellor over a few RPM faster for a turn or two.

    As the breeze carries the sweet smell of the burnt oil to your nostrils there is a BANGBANG!!...and the quickly a NOOOOOIIIISE!...as all the plugs now ignite fuel vapor in DOZENS of cylinders and the individual noises have now blended into a thunderous choir bellowing their song to the world as a large cloud of white smoke is swiftly swept to invisibility behind the roaring defiance of this mechanical miracle.

    And inside the cockpit the pilots and flight engineer, like a team of skilled surgeons operating inside a chest cavity, hands flying around the cockpit from boost pumps to mixture and throttles and mag switches, alternately cursing the engine as a “whore” and sweet-talking it as you would seduce a potential lover, now ease the throttle of the running number two engine back to idle. As they do, outside the blades slow perceptibly and the noise dies down to a soft and throaty rumbling, as the team turns their attention to getting another of the remaining three sleeping giants roused into work mode.

    Sometimes, it all happens in mere moments. And sometimes it takes long minutes just to get one reluctant motor to agree to come to work at any given time. But MAN, I purely love watching it happen!

    Then the old gals, Curtiss C-46's, Santa Monica maidens (DC series A/C) and the occasional C-82 or C-119, all engines now running smoothly trundle down the length of the runway taxying slowly from the west end all the way down to the east end, in preparation for providing the REAL entertainment portion of their scheduled program, the TAKEOFF!!

    Having waddled, much like a WELL overfed goose, hardly ANY shiny strut showing on the main gear legs at ALL; upon arriving at the eastern edge of the runway a 180 degree turn is required to face the west end.

    The pilots slowly and carefully creep to the very edge of the runway, and then using differential power and some brakes try to insure that they use every available HALF inch of runway, turning their machines with just enough radius to squeek their left or right main gear (or tailwheel, as the case may be) just past and inside the runway end lights without knocking them out.

    Then, having aligned the aircraft again (mostly) with the runway. All hands (or FEET in this case) man the brakes as the engines are brought up to MAX Takeoff Power.

    Now....we got.....NOISE BABY!! Propellers CLAWING at the air....BEGGING for release. The airplane sits and shakes like a poodle pup trying to pass a peach pit while the cockpit crew check every little gauge for correct indications. We want every last brake horsepower on line for this event.

    After a long seven or ten seconds the guy in the left seat looks at his companion(s). With (sometimes varying degrees of enthusiasm) all parties come to agreement that it is time to see if the laws of aerodynamics still apply. The brakes are released and the shaking ceases immediately and......weeeeee’re OFF!!....like a herd o’ TURTLES!!

  3. #3
    Ursa Major's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
    Posts
    1,076
    Post Thanks / Like
    That is, without a doubt, the finest description of starting a radial engine that I've ever read. I can almost smell the burned oil. Thanks CD.
    Mike

  4. #4
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Down on the west (business) end of the airport, where most of the potential spectators are going about the various tasks that one always sees on a busy ramp, no one yet notices the lumbering DC-6 as it is still a mile away.

    And another group of soon-to-be gawkers have great seat to the upcoming drama, as they are seated at the bar in the Drift Inn hotel. Their perch on the third (top) floor of the building in the southwest corner includes an open sliding large window on the south wall which is located no further than about three hundred feet from the centerline of the runway. In fact, the barstools facing the large plate glass windows behind the bar, through which one can gaze westerly out over Kotzebue Sound, are almost exACTly aligned in a straight line with the runway threshold lights on the west end of the runway.

    A good 15 seconds has gone by since the DC-6 crew has released the brakes, and the rather unimpressive rate of acceleration has continued, and now with over 4,000 feet of runway behind and under 2000 feet remaining the airspeed indicator just nudges past Vee 1 (or decision speed) as the fish-laden transport comes clearly into view of the ramp. Another thousand feet of asphalt sail by beneath the rapidly spinning nose and main wheel tires and as the airplane approaches it’s Vee R(oatate) speed of about 125 or so MPH, the three crewmembers, as well as EVERYbody on the ramp are startled by a loud kaBLAM!! from the number three engine. At least you HOPE it is from the number three engine. It would be logical to believe so, as you have noted that # 3 is the engine that is currently trailing what appears to be a 10 foot long tail of angry orange and yellow flames which in turn leave their own trail of very....VERY black smoke.

    On the ramp, everyone freezes. Forklifts and trucks screech to a halt. Crews of other airplanes of all types stop what they are doing mid-motion as their jaws drop and their eyes begin to follow the DC-6 still racing, with all three wheels still on the ground, westward toward apparent OBLIVION!!

    *************deleted***************

    Unable to be of any further use, those in the bar return to their drinks and conversation [now CENTERED of course on the just witnessed (near?) tragedy] and those on the ramp return to their work as well. All expect to know what direction the drama takes based on either the request for, or LACK of a request for search volunteers.


    ****************deleted*************

    SHEEESH!! Fortunately, ol’ CloudDancer wasn’t working for THAT outfit. But, my DAY would COME. Meanwhile...........

  5. #5
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Ah'm a'purely HUMbled by your kind approval sir. Even though I haven't heard or seen it up close and personal now for a number of years, it is just something that stays in your mind forever.

    As a little bitty CloudDancer, my Mama and Daddy would take me out to Love Field in Dallas after church on Sunday mornings.

    I'd get three bucks for spending money. The games in the arcades were all either a nickle or a dime, and another seventy-five cents would cover a hot dog and coke.

    But the absolute BEST bargain of the day was seventy-five cents to go out on the OBSERVATION DECK!!

    Decades before 09 -11 would have me, a government certificated, background-checked, randomly drug screened and proficiency checked more times a year than I care to count... ....

    Decades before I would have to cowtow to the ALMIGHTY ALPOWERFUL ALKNOWING and OMNIPOTENET PIMPLYFACED NINETEEN YEAR-OLD G.E.D. EQUIPPED MINORITY TSA SECURITY "SPECIALIST"........

    whose apparent primary GOAL in his or her young life is to constantly DEMONSTRATE THEIR POSITION OF APPARENT POWER OVER ALL AVIATORS.......I mean PLEASE!! Don't you have some 93 YEAR OLD CAUCASIAN GREAT-GRANDMOTHER in a WHEELchair traveling to PODUNK that you need to EMBARASSINGLY FONDLE as a terrorist THREAt!!??





    (Sorry)

    Anyway. Long AGO!! the observation decks, as at Love Field were often found on the rooftops of the concourse with the airplanes barely fifty wards away!!

    I would spend hour after hour after hour, Sunday after Sunday, with those sights, sounds, and smells, being indellibly etched into my very DNA. The seminary never really got five minutes serious consideration from a toddling CloudDancer. This baby! THIS was LIVIN'!!

    You gotchyer' bird on floats yet bub?. The ice was pretty rotten on Lake Hood last time I was there three weeks ago.

    CloudDancer

  6. #6
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    For us local charter or “on demand air taxi” pilots (in officious FAA jargon) we kept pretty busy in the summer for the most part. I mean compared to the hard winter months of November thru February when we sometimes only got as little as thirty fo forty hours of flying (and PAY) per month.

    The price of gold was pretty decent so there were a few gold mines to service, and the Bureau of Land Management was likely to throw some fire-fighting money our way. And there were usually quite a few villages trips to do during the summer as well.

    But, as I said earlier, it was nothing compared to what we would begin seeing as early as 1974 when the money from the Land Claims settlement Act started actually reaching all the little villages everywhere. From then on, it would be a new, all the flying you could stand (most of the time) ball game.

    The 100s of millions from the Federal Treasury was split up proportionately among the native residents. Both Regional and Village Corporations were formed to manage their moneys and distribute dividends.

    They formed subsidiary corporations of their own, or in some cases purchased other companies whole.

    The North American Native Association (NANA) for example, was a REGIONAL corporation whose shareholders included not only all the local Eskimos in Kotzebue, but ALL the residents of native descent throughout the region. NANA soon started a Corporate Security firm as well as a Housekeeping Services company so as to allow them to bid and win VERY lucrtative contracts to provide services to the just started pipeline project. And, quite naturally, 99% of NANAs workforce was made up of their own (native) shareholders. That is what got the bucks FLOWing.

    Also, each VILLAGE withIN that region also had their own VILLAGE corporation, including Kotzebue’s Kikkiktagruk Inupiat Corporation, or KIC for short.

    Now multiply THAT story by TWELVE, for the twelve Regional Corporations, and by tens of DOZENS for all the Village Corporations, and you begin to get an idea of how jobs and wealth were (in some cases temporarily) created.

    Some corporations were notably MORE successful than others, as many were ill advised and outright swindled by the legion of carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen that tend to follow ANY “gold strike” type flow of money. And they descended on Alaska in DROVES. In a few VERY short years, SOME native Corporations, their “advisors”, and corporate officers would be embroiled in the same sorts of financial malfeasance and debacles that make the news anywhere.

    But until that money flowed flying could occasionally be pretty scarce, or sometimes even non-existent on a few summer days. It was then that the remarkably resourceful Rod and Dan Gunderson would put on their thinking caps and “innovate”.

    One often employed cash flow producer was a one day partnership with either Smelly Henry down in Nome, or with Jack Fredricks up in Barrow.
    Now up in Barrow, and I SWEAR this is true, they actually had a real BAKERY!! They mighta’ had one in Nome too, I’m not too sure. But I know we didn’t have one in Kotzebue. In fact, that bakery in Barrow might well have been the only one west of Fairbanks and north of the Alaska Range I’m pretty sure.

    So every day up in Point Barrow, you could walk into a REAL BAKERY and get fresh from the oven bread and CINNAMON ROLLS, and CREAMpuffs and sticky buns and...oh my GOD was this stuff GOOD!

    Down in Nome, a few of the Bering Sea crab trawlers, showed up in Nome to drop off their load, so NOME always had fresh from the water and still clawing at ya’ King Crabs!

    Well, what with “the other man’s grass always being greener”, the folks up in Barrow were kinda’ ho-hum about their cinnamon rolls, but purely drooled all over themselves when somebody mentioned the words “fresh King Crab”...and vice-versa naturally.

    Playing the middle-man (Kotzebue being almost equidistant in a straight line between Barrow and Nome) Dan or Rod would call north and south and see who (besides US) didn’t have anything to do today either. After ascertaining ‘availability” a plan was hatched.

    Now since in our po’ little town we had neither a bakery nor access to the Bering Sea we were DEFINATELY gonna’ make out on this deal. But we had to have a stake in the game. And out “stake” was.....FISH!! Plain ol’ salmon and whitefish which were ABUNDANT to the point of waste in the area immediately surrounding Kotzebue, but which were UN available on either the north or south ends (BRW or OME) and ALSO for a huge part of the territory in between!!

    So Jack would load up his 207 in Barrow with every form of fresh baked goodie and, starting south, would head for Wainwright, Pt. Lay, Pt. Hope, Kivalina, Noatak stopping at each village to sell baked goods until he ran into Dan, who had left OTZ headed north via the reverse routing stopping at each village to sell fresh salmon and shee fish.

    When they met, they swapped loads and reversed course, stopping at all the same spots on the way back selling the other guys stuff, and maybe even picking up a passenger or two one the way.

    Smelly would load up with fresh King crab in OME and head for Teller, Brevig Mission, Wales, Shishmaref and points north. If dan was southbound....THEY’D meet somewhere....swap loads.....etc.

    Some days two guys were involved in this flying specialty delivery game, or sometimes all three. I only saw it happen a few times, but it was a MARVEL to watch the co-ordination beforehand and see how just a VERY few dollars cash spent around noon could turn into ten times as much under the light of the midnight sun. AMAZing alright. But I had a sneaky feeling we weren’t REALLY making OUT on the deal. Even though the was a pile of cash on the office table at the end of the day.

    I shoulda’ paid closer attention to that “sneaky little feeling”.

  7. #7
    Ruidoso Ron's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Alto, NM
    Posts
    1,779
    Post Thanks / Like
    CloudDancer,
    Great stories! As an old round-engine FE who grew up within a bike ride of Love Field, I can really relate. A buddy and I used to ride over to Love at night and climb the fence at the approach end of 13 by Bachman Lake. (This was in the days before there was a 13L and 13R.) Then, we would stand in the propblast while the crews in the 7's and Super Connies did their runups. We would have a contest to see who could lean over, closest to the ground.

  8. #8
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Hi Ron!

    Jeez. You must be even older than ME! I can't remember Love Field before 13 Left and Right!! Or maybe I wuz just too busy looking at the airplanes to count the runways.

    Enjoy the stories, and Thanks.

    There's more to come......

    CloudDancer

  9. #9
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Two - I'll Gladly Pay You Tomorrow For......

    Dan, and to a SLIGHTly lesser extent Rod, couldn’t help being a “soft touch”. In addition to being great flyers, they were two of the finest GENTLEMEN, and GOOD men that I ever had the privilege of working for. Both had LOTS of patience and good humor as well.

    And of course, they were related by blood or marriage to about half the people in the region it seemed.

    So of course, this led to them quite often extending FAR too much credit to so many of our passengers. We didn’t take VISA, MasterCard or American Express. Looking back I wish we COULD have. Then it would have been the credit card companies that were stuck with the losses instead of Dan and Rod.

    But very, VERY few people in rural Alaska dealt in the (then) new fangled “plastic money”. It was cash, check, or “here’s my handshake” on the barrelhead. Sometimes we got all the CASH up front, sometimes it was all for a “promise to pay” and sometimes somewhere in between.

    *********

    Sidebar - My second or third day in town, I had used up what little cash I had brought up with me from America, and reluctantly asked my brand new boss Dan if he could possibly see his way clear to advance me some cash until I got my first paycheck, as I was a growing boy and needed to EAT!! So he reached his hand into his pocket and came up with about fifty bucks which he counted out and gave to me.

    Then he told me to go “over to Hanson’s (General) Store, and tell them who you are and that you work for me. They should take care of you.” So...I DID!

    And, unbelievably to me at the time, when I got to the one checkout lane at the front of the store; they rang up my seventy-five dollars (two bags) of groceries, had me sign a ticket with my name and the amount on it, and bade me a cheery “have a Good Day!” as I walked out the door.

    No credit check or application. The husband and wife couple who operated the store did not ask any nosy questions about how much money do you make...just “Oh! You’re Gunderson’s new pilot!! Hey Welcome. We heard about you. Get whatever you need and bring it up front!!”

    For just a VERY few short more years, this would still be the way business was conducted in rural Alaska!

    People assumed your were GOOD and HONORABLE until you showed yourself to be otherwise. Whereupon, if THAT should come to pass, you would not last too long in this town.

    *********

    So it came to pass one day in late August of the summer of my arrival, that noontime approached with the entire fleet parked willy-nilly about the lot, with not a trip to fly.

    As Dan was trying to come up with an idea for SOMEthing constructive for me to do to earn my keep a cab came slowly crunching across the gravel lot to pull up next to our office. Emerging from the cab was one noticeably wobbly and skinny man who hailed from Noorvik . Now Jackie Clinton was a nice guy, but I’d flown him home to Noorvik a couple of times in my very short new career, and both times he was, as today, drunk as a SKUNK.

    Now, if you refused to fly people who were DRUNK, that would eliminate about HALF your flying. So you had to learn which were the nice drunks, which were the MEAN drunks, and which one’s you could count on to just peacefully pass out.

    Jackie was the absolute WORST kind of drunk. The....”You....you....youKNOW!!
    BuuuuRRAAAAPP!!....(burp).....you....KNOW!!....I.. I....I can....FLY!!” kinda’ drunk!
    Who, by virtue of being second cousin (by marriage) to Dan had somehow incestuously inherited Dan’s legendary flying skills, and if I’LL just LET him...he’ll be GLAD to demonstrate his aeronautical proficiency!!

    So I wasn’t exactly THRILLED at seeing Jackie. But it turned out something different was in store.

    Seems Jackie was absolutely desperate to get to Fairbanks of all places. As it turned out his brother had been in a horrible accident in the pipeline road and had been medivaced to Fairbanks and the word had just now somehow reached his brother Jackie who had been down at Leroys joint on Front Street swilling Oly for the last few hours.

    In those days a charter to Fairbanks in the 207 ran about $840. All Jackie had left after paying the cab was about $460. But Jackie and his brother WERE practically family, and they always traveled on Gunderson’s and this was ALmost an emergency (well, it certainly was to Jackie) and he DID promise to pay the rest next month for sure! So, out comes a brown paper grocery sack from the desk drawer on which Dan is keeping track of (temporarily) the “accounts receivables” until he takes them home for his wife to hand write onto company invoices, and mail out to the customers. Fishing about the mess on the top of the desk Dan finally finds a pencil and scrawls a new enty at the bottom of what appears to me to be a HORRIFYINGLY LONG lists of names and amounts. Jackies full name is recorded, along with todays date. OTZ-FAI C-207 Owes $380.
    completes the entry.

    *************************deleted******************

  10. #10
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Well Folks - All this keyboard poundin' has worked up a powerful thirst.

    Therefore, in accordance with long standing CloudDancer policy......

    I go now.

    Our flight across the interior to the Golden Heart City, and the antics of Dan and his young protoge CloudDancer shall resume....most probably on Sunday afternoon.

    An reMEMber.........only aLUminum beercans on the glareshield!!
    (they don't mess up the COMpass)...........juuuust KIDDING o' course!!

    Cloud (call me a cab...Hey! yer' a CAB) Dancer

  11. #11
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Three - There's One Born Every Minute

    With Jackie, our passenger, strapped into a seat in row two (safely OUT of reach of the controls) Dan put me in the right seat and put me in charge of radios and navigation.

    I’m quite certain Dan didn’t really need MY help to find Fairbanks. Dan and brother Rod had been thirteen and fourteen respectively, when they first stole one of their uncle’s airplanes to go from their home in Selawik to Fairbanks just to see a movie. This, in fact, became such a habitual problem for the boy’s uncle that when the family moved lock, stock and airplanes over to Kotzebue, the uncle opened Kotzebue’s first movie theater in the Eskimo Building on Front Street just to keep Dan and Rod on the ground!!

    But like many of the lifelong “bush” pilots, they seldom ventured to the bigger cities and airports like Fairbanks, or that REAL hustle ‘n bustle place ANCHORAGE. Both places had two REAL big negatives.

    First....you HAD to use the radios. I mean...O.K.....there WAS that light-gun thingy procedure, but then....not ONLY did you have to hit a specific geographical point at purt near a pre-negotiated time; you had to actually KNOW what the light gun signals MEANT....other than steady GREEN of course. I mean I’m pretty SURE I should be there around such-and-such a time, but somebody might call me along the way to stop and pick them up and drop them off or I might see a moose or a real pretty bear I want to go down and fool around with. So I’m not sure exACTly what time I’ll be there so how big a window can you GIVE me?

    And THEN....just WAITing like vultures on a tree limb....VHF scanners searching the frequencies of approach, tower, ground, flight service and even some unicoms no doubt; sitting patiently in their swivel chairs at their desks in their white shirts....waited...the F.A.A.!! In Fairbanks it was Flight Standards District Office 61 with jurisdiction over ALL of Northwestern Alaska from Barrow, down through Kotzebue and Nome, over to Unalakleet to Galena and Tanana back to Fairbanks.

    ANYthing, commercial or non-commercial, that flew through, about, or was based in that geographic area was THEIRS!!

    Now, I wouldn’t say relations between the state’s pilots and the FAA were BAD.......no..... I’d hafta’ say they were downright TERRIBLE!!

    Only a very brave FSDO inspector would risk going to a local bar in Nome or Kotzebue alone, or even in pairs and I witnessed more than one knock-down drag-out punching match with a local pilot-owner in those days. But I think I’d hafta’ say the worst I ever saw was when the Director of Operations for one of the state’s larger 135 operators met the principal ops and maintenance inspector on the front porch of their A-Frame office at the Nome airport with a sawed-off shotgun and two snarling Dobermans barely restrained on leashes. He, in no unCERtain terms, made it clear that they were NOT welcome on the property and the FEDs beat a hasty retreat. And while the operator eventually DID LOSE to the FAA in the long run....the incident was legendary and signified just how much animosity there WAS between some of the old timers and the FEDs.

    But at this point in time, in mid-1973, the FAA never ventured out to the small towns. They waited for us to come to THEM. And they sat. At their desks. With their pencil constantly at the ready. Just WAITing to hear any little thing that could prompt an “investigation”.

    So since Dan knew I was fresh up from getting all my ratings and dealing with Dallas-Ft. Worth TRAcon no less, he figured if I handled the radios it would work out better for him when we got to Fairbanks! It was GOOD to feel useful.

    An hour out of Kotzebue, having passed directly over Selawik about twenty minutes earlier we cruised along at what, for Dan was the nosebleed altitude of 3,500 feet. With the east end of the Waring Mountains passing behind the left wing tip in the distance to the north, and with the Brooks Range visible to the distant Northeast, I figured we were just short of being abeam Shungnak. Passing over Selawik I had calculated a good 24 knot tailwind on the old E6-B with only a slight three-degree wind correction angle to the south. If our groundspeed held, Fairbanks was just over another two hours away, and for me, the work was just beginning.

    We were now entering, what was for me, almost virgin territory. Only one other time had I made this long trip to Fairbanks. Just a couple of weeks earlier I had flown into town in the Skyhawk to take my very FIRST checkride as a COMMERCIAL pilot to start my career. In fact this WAS only the second time I had been out of the normal ‘Gunderson area of Operations” for lack of a better term.

    So Dan intended to follow the navigation directions I gave him, so that he could both observe MY long distance navigating and map reading skills; ( Oh, I forGOT. They called that pilotage back then, didn’t they!!) As well as share with me HIS knowledge of the terrain, best routes to “sneak through” from here to there etc.

    The Hotham beacon signal had long since become unsteady and we would have to go a ways yet before we’d even get a “twitch” on the CDI to indicate we were coming withing range of the TAL VOR, particularly at this altitude. When I tried to entice Dan to climb to 5500 feet, he laughingly told me that 5500 feet was FAR too HIGH an altitude and would make my job MUCH to EASY. He had ALWAYS since I’d arrived a few weeks earlier emphasized that it was IMPERATIVE that I learn the terrain from BELOW five hundred AGL JUST as thoroughly as I would learn it from 3500 or 8500 feet.

    Huslia passed by within just about ninety seconds of my estimate and I was starting to feel fairly confident.

    Off to the northeast lie Indian Mountain, one of the many DEW Line Air Force outposts.
    Although it looked pretty and serene today as we passed, I had no idea that in years ahead I would come to LOATHE the place along with a few of it’s sister radar sites with name like Cape Lisburne, Cape Newingham, and Cape Ramanzhof.

    In the Cold War days of the early nineteen fifties someone got the brilliant idea of building a ring of radar along the “top of the world”. I think the instructions to the surveyors assigned to select these radar sites went something like this.

    “Go all across northern Canada and Alaska and around the entire perimeter of Alaska. About every three hundred nautical miles or so, we need to have a radar site. Now. The HIGHER the radar DISH is....the farther away we’ll be able to see those nasty ICBMS after they leave their silos in Russia. SO! Find the BIGGEST TALLEST UGLIEST MEANEST LOOKING piles of rocks on the coast that you can find!! We’ll build the radome on top of the rocks!!”

    Apparently...at SOME point...much LATER in the overall planning process it ocCURed to SOMEbody that....”Hey. Who’s gonna’ operate these things and HOW are we going to get them in and out of there and FEED them and so forth.”

    THAT (apparently) is when they STARTED planning the airport part of the process. Although “planning” might just be too generous at term here. Now wishing to waste government money (cough!cough!) It was decided that the CLOSEST available anywhere CLOSE to level five thousand feet or so of something approaching a hard surface.....would become the airdrome!! And “approaching level” is NOT a misnomer here. Picture a runway about 5,000 feet long with one end a hundred and twenty feet higher than the OTHER. Of course, on the “up side” (so to speak) you saved on BRAKE WEAR!!

    Now let me tell you from innumerable times in and out of all the above listed DEW sites in a VARIETY of airplanes over the years; operating ANY piece of airborne apparatus at ANY speed required to sustain lift in exTREMEly close proximity to the....BIGGEST TALLEST UGLIEST MEANEST LOOKING piles of ROCKS!!....is bad enough to get your various bodily functions all sending out warning signals at once. Even on a CALM no wind day. Take a GUESS how many CALM, no WIND days there are on the coast of Alaska where these places are. Right. ZERO! Would not BE a far off guess!

    Indian Mountain, Cape Ramanzhof, and Cape Newingham, Alaska. There may be other places in the world, I’m sure. But those were the FIRST THREE I ever found that had the following warning in BOLD print on the NDB approach plates.....”WARNING!! SUCCESSFUL GO AROUND HIGHLY IMPROBABLE” . That always gave ME a warm fuzzy as I was “feeling” my way into whatever we determined was our “point of no turning back” through the fog and hammering turbulence at some altitude alREADY well below the MDA.

    But all those BVDs-disappearing-into-my-butthole days were far yet into the future. Today Ol’ Indian Mountain actually looked inviting from our position far to the south approaching the hills on the north side of the Yukon that border Tanana to the west. It’s a beautiful day and Dan hums tunelessly as I sing to myself while folding closed one sectional only to unfold the next and Jackie snores, snorts and pees in his pants in his sleep in the back, oblivious to it all.

  12. #12
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    The first time I flew across the Yukon (AND the Arctic Circle for that matter) I was sleeping soundly in a window seat as they passed thousands of feet below me at a speed of Mach .82 or so, and even the pronounced and intentional wing-rocking of the pilot flying the Alaska seven-two as we passed over the Arctic Circle failed to rouse me from my slumbers.

    The wing-rocking was traditional, you know.

    I’m sure you’ve seen the Gary Larson “Far-Side” cartoon... (you GOTTA’ wonder....how much of WHAT did that guy SMOKE!!?? )....the cartoon in which the airliner cockpit is shown nose-on, and through the windows you can see one pilot rocking the control wheel back and forth :P as the other apologizes to the passengers over the P.A. handset for “...just a little turbulence folks!!” Turns out he may well have gotten the idea from a ride with Alaska Airlines.

    And, most probably, THEY got the idea from Dan’s uncle Artie, the Gunderson’s flying patriarch.

    Seems from the time he first started flying up north in the early 1930's, whenever he had a cheechako (newcomer) to the country on board the airplane heading to the arctic he couldn’t resist having a little fun at the expense of the passenger. So he would “brief” the passenger in advance “Not to worry, but the engine always QUITS for a couple o’ seconds as you cross the Arctic Circle on accounta’ there’s a small GAP in the air between the polar and sub-polar air masses where they meet at the circle.”

    And, knowing precisely where the circle was (although it really didn’t matter....a mile or two one way or the other was lost on the passenger) Artie would wait for the passenger to glance out the window in the vicinity of the circle and then quick as a wink reach down and flip the mags to “OFF” and nose the plane down. Of course, nine out of ten times the poor passenger would react in the expected fashion as Artie was now appearing to “fight’ the controls for their very lives!! And after a few seconds and the panicked passenger looked about wildly Artie would again sneak his hand back over to the magneto switch and “save” them. Ol’ Artie never tired of the game, and apparently neither did the airline pilots who carried on the tradition into the jet age after learning about it.

    Like most simple pleasures in life, somewhere in the late 1980's to early 1990's this wonderful tradition was brought to an end by...(no surprise HERE) some corporate LAWYER for the airlines.

    It was determined that since an overwhelming percentage of tourists visiting the Arctic were usually of the “senior citizen” variety, that, even with a forewarning from the pilots over the P.A as they approached the Circle, “rocking the boat” so to speak could possibly induce HEALTH PROBLEMS for one of the tourists.

    Now, since there were no MAG switches on the Boeings, the crews had to content themselves with a little “pilot induced” turbulence which, as they explained to the passengers, “is caused by the cold polar air masses “turbulent” mixing with the warmer sub-polar air masses.” Okay. So maybe SOME of my friends at the controls of the Weinie Birds and Golden Nugget jets DID seem to encounter more “intense temperature variations” than others.

    But the many times I was witness to the tradition from the inside of the cabin the tourists DID seem to love it. We locals and flight attendants however simply tried to stifle our laughter so as not to spoil it for the visitors.

    Fortunately, by the time the lawyers queered the deal, the regional corporation (NANA) had purchased a herd of reindeer which was kept from leaving the Baldwin Peninsula by a plain old western style large barbed wire fence placed strategically right AT the Arctic Circle on the peninsula. As this point is ONLY 37 NM south of Kotzebue, the jets would be down to an altitude of around ten to twelve thousand feet in their descent phase. So the fence, if there was no underlying clouds, was CLEARLY visible.

    I DID have to laugh at the tourists though, as when the cockpit crew would announce our geographical point (the Circle) the tourists would crane their necks crawling across one another and me trying to get their cameras to the window. Those on the west side would glare quite inTENTly at the waters of the Kotzebue Sound below us to the left, apparently looking for some sort of dashed line (canvas strips?) across the top of the water to photograph!! Seeing none they would quite disGUSTedly saw “But where IS it?” THEN I could NOT hold back the laughter........DOh!!

    But the folks on the right side, spying the barrier to the wandering reindeer would exclaim “There it is. I SEE it. I SEE IT!!” This provided immediate relief to me as the passengers in the middle and aisle seat on MY side now JUMPED up to go fall in the laps of the people on the OTHER side of the airplane where the fence was swiftly receding behind us. As P.T. Barnum used to say........ [/quote]

  13. #13
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    CloudDancer taking some vacation time folks -

    Look for the rest of 'A Good Day's Work" this coming weekend.

    CD

  14. #14
    wingnut18's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Bend, Oregon
    Posts
    135
    Post Thanks / Like

    CD, come back!

    where have you been CD? Come back!

  15. #15
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Hiya' Wingnut!!

    Well....lesssee...Ah been tuh' MSP 'n LAS 'n DTW 'n PHX 'n SAN 'n RNO 'n LAX 'n the Emerald City (SEA) 'n to the schoolhouse for three days of recurrent trainin' (which I desperately need as MUCH as I despise it) ....
    OH.....'n two days of s(t)imulated aviating with all the bells 'n whistles and lights all a' flashin' at once.

    This required a rather substantial time commitment to also do some book learnin' aFORE I showed up so's I wouldn't look like a comPLETE blockhead right outta' the gate. Also 'cause at my airline (unfortunately unLIKE the F of A of A)...minimum passing on any and ALL examinations is EIGHTYFLIPPIN'FIVE PERCENT!! I mean HELL!!....Whatever happened to "anything over SEVENTY is jes' GRAvy??!!

    Nevertheless, I, CloudDancer, a LEGEND in my VERY OWN MIND... once again BAFFLED 'EM with enough BS that they've agreed to allow me to roam hither and yon acrost America with one o' their jets for a while longer.

    As it is now the wee hours of the morning on (gasp!) 06/06/06, and I have just returned from a four day.....I may try to write either later today or tomorrow the seventh. Ireally WOULD like to polish off this story for you good folks in the nest 48 hours or so, as i leave for yet ANOTHER four day hostage crisis on the morning of the 8th.

    But ah'm purely HUMbled that ya'll missed me!!.

    Thanks for the inquiry WingNut.


    CloudDancer

  16. #16
    Jr.CubBuilder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    206
    Post Thanks / Like

  17. #17

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    749
    Post Thanks / Like
    Cloud Dancer,

    I may have run across a crewmember from your story of the DC-6 at Kotz. I was talking to one of our mechanics, an older guy who used to engineer for many years. Unfortunately he only wrenches now, it would be nice to have his experince in the third seat somedays rather then the latest crop of guys who are focused more on whats going on in the right hand seat than thier own panel..but I digress. Anyway, this guy told me a very similar story, engine fire departing Kotz with a full load of fish, burning pieces falling in Kotzebue sound, etc, This was a DC-7, but they are tough to tell apart from a '6 at a glance, especially if the engines are turning.

    Oh, BTW, they have cut down the hill off the end of 08. Won't be near as big a thrill for the locals who used to sit out there on thier snow machines as we took off to the east (only when not loaded very heavily)

  18. #18
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Hiya' aalexander -

    Sent you a PM by the way. But you kinda' narrowed down my answer a little already, with the previous post.

    And yes. It most certainly MIGHT have been a seven. I know there were some up there off and on over the years, particularly when the fishing was good.

    My memory banks had it stored as a PacAlak (Pacific Alaska) DC-6, but, as I've mentioned before..what with the "pickling" these memory and brain cells have been subjected to over the decades ..somedays I'm just proud to remember....uh....proud to remember.....uh.....DAMN!!

    What was your question again??????????????????

    CD

  19. #19

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    749
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by CloudDancer
    My memory banks had it stored as a PacAlak (Pacific Alaska) DC-6, ..........
    It mighta been, too. I'm sure there were more than one tense takeoffs from there over the years. Heck, if it was Pacific Alaska, I might even be flying that plane, we have a former PacAk '6

    fly safe and thanks for the stories.

  20. #20
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Four - Dan’s Favorite Words

    The OBS needle on our lone working VOR receiver head was starting to twitch left and right, with the the little box in the center flopping back and forth from the red “off” to the “to” indication sensing the first weak signals as we came withing range of the Tanana VOR at our low altitude. Having demonstrated my navigational abilities (at least under CLEAR skies) I asked Dan if I could fly for a while. Sliding his seat back a couple of notches, he waved at the control wheel on my side and said "you got it. I was even able to convince Dan that we should climb to 5,500 feet, having demonstrated my low level pilotage abilities.

    Cranking the propellor control three turns to the right brought the RPM up to 2500 and a small push on the throttle brought the manifold pressure up from the 20" it had fallen to, on up to 25 inches. “25 Squared” would be a power setting that I would use on these IO520s for years to come in dozens of different 185's, 206s and “Sleds” (short for “LEAD Sled”) as I would come to refer to Cessna 207's before long.

    I’d sure like to meet the damn Cessna engineer someday who came up with the idea of adding a SEVENTH (supposedly a CHILD’S) passenger seat to the Cessna 207 withOUT and added increase in HORSEPOWER!! AS IF it wasn’t alREAdy an UNDERperformer! Boy....I’d shove his head right throu....oh, nevermind! The old originals were only slightly better in the late sixties and early seventies, but most operators managed to make severe underperformers out of them as well by adding a BELLY POD onto the thing.

    Then you could get JUST as much more over gross. The thing was certified for like maybe a hundred pounds or so, but an enterprising pilot could easily stuff a good 210 pounds of canned soda pop or beer in there. (21 lbs./case) And if you loaded up the nose baggage compartment with an “extra” 50 or so pounds over it’s authorized 75 pound limit, the plane would BALANCE pretty good too!!

    With a couple of aft ‘n down tugs on the center pedestal mounted elevator trim wheel I had a nice little climb going.

    No sooner had I poked the nose up and the altimeter started registering our increasing altitude then the OBS in the VOR steadied from it’s twitching back and forth to a position about a dot and a half off to the left. This of course I corrected with a small twist of the little black round selector knob mounted to the bottom right of the indicator.
    It settled in the center indicating we were going “TO” the 092 degree radial of TAL. JUST like I knew what I was doing.

    My self-congratulatory euphoria was interrupted by Dan saying.........”O.K. Now. WHAT is not RIGHT right now?” Rats...rats.....RATS!! Lessee. Airspeed’s 100
    that’s good for the climb....VSI showing “UP” 550 FPM...thats’ good....um...OK we still got lotsa’ ga.....oh #%@*!! The cylinder head temperature is aBOUT to get to the TOP OF THE GREEN!! YIKES!! Cowl Flaps!! DAMMIT! Being so used to my Cessna 172, I had forgotten about the COWL FLAPS!!

    Quickly my leftt hand leaped from the throttle to the heavy black plastic cowl flap handle. With no effort, smooth right pressure released the handle’s locking pin from the hole it had been placed in when I initially leveled off at cruise. And quickly I jerked it upward to the full open position. I also lowered the nose a tad and retrimmed for a 110 MPH climb to facilitate a more rapid cooling.

    I turned to apologize to Dan and found him smiling. “No Harm. That’s why I told you when I did. Just reMEMber. There will be days, if you keep doing this that you will fly four different kinds of airplane in one day. You HAVE to remember” he chided gently. “OK. Thanks Dan”. I said, with a smile of relief.


    ****************deleted**************


    To STOP in TAL is to know the feeling of watching hamsters in a cage.

    You walk into the Flight Service Station and.......they.......POUNCE upon you!!
    The weatherman, hearing the front wooden door with the plate glass built-in window first open, then slam closed, comes from the back room of the FSS. Both he and the FSS guys have big, BIG grins on their faces, but their eyes...there’s something about their EYES ......I dunno’. I’ll think about it.

  21. #21
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Four Cont'd

    I would come to find out in later years that there were vast differences in the way various villages and cultures around the state interacted with each other and outsiders. And Tanana was an Athabascan Indian town. As I would come to find out, Athabascans do NOT as a general rule like strangers. For the most part they DON’T like WHITE PEOPLE at all. So being one of only 20 to30 non-Athabascan residents in a town like Tanana can be...shall we say.....TRYing at times.

    Hence, whenever a wayward (hell, you MUST be WAYWARD...you’re in TANANA!!)....whenever a wayward airman shouldst plunk himself down and stroll into the FSS station it was like an ALL POINTS bulletin had been issued. Everyone wanted to come and here the latest news...about ANYthing from the “outside world”.

    A special treat in Tanana is (or WAS I guess) the one wall of the flight service station that was literally plastered with pictures of pilots and air machines that had landed in Tanana over DECADES. I don’t know if that wall still stands today. The last time I saw it for SURE was about 1983, although my logbook says the last time I was in Tanana was Oct. 26th 1994. But I think the station was remoted by then and I can’t remember if it was open.

    If the wall is still there. Then a BUNCH of old airplanes of ALL types that I used to fly, and pictures of a lot of my old friends, dead and alive, must still be hanging there too.
    Anyway, enough reminiscing.

    Let it suffice to say that flyers received a warm, WARM welcome for decades from the fine folks at Tanana Flight Service and National Weather Service and the same for the other towns I’ve mentioned. You never left short on coffee, hot chocolate or just good conversation. Not to mention you were WELL briefed for your next leg.

    Over the Minto flats now with Minto on our left and fading back into the distance the view ahead is of the hills west of Fairbanks stretching south to the town of Nenana.

    Dan says he’ll take the airplane back and that I should start figuring out who we have to talk to to get into the Big Village without pissin’ anybody off. So I dig into the glove box in front of me and drag out the Alaska Supplement (to the Airman’s Information Manual). Flipping it open to Fairbanks International I find multiple frequencies listed for FAI approach control based on which quadrant you are approaching from. The FAI VOR is starting to come in pretty steady so I figure I got a shot at talking to ‘em as well.

    Approach acknowledges my first attempt at contact on the radio, and I ask if they’re not too busy, would they mind giving us VFR traffic advisories on our way into International? “Uh, Roger that one-one-two. Sqawk 0-1-3-3 and Ident and say your type Cessna 1-1-2.” sez the man.

    “We-e-e-ell,” I reply “ Our type Cessna is a Cessna 207, but without a transPONder type sir.” “Okay Cessna 1-12. What’s your inbound radial and DME?”he comes back. I key the mike and reply “ I make us on about the 264 degree radial comin’ in from Tanana way, and I’ll EYEball our DME as about forty to fifty out which is about the best I can do bein’ from Kotzebue ‘n all where we don’t HAVE one. Sorry ‘bout that.”

    “No PROblem there 1-1-2. Happens all the time, but I got no targets showing in your vicinity right now. Say your altitude.” “Five thousand five hundred” I answer. “Okay. You’re a bit to low for me there, I should pick you up in a few minutes and the FAI altimeter is 29.92". “Roger That, 2-9 point 9-2" I shoot back.

    We drone on for another three or four minutes listening to the few other aircraft on the frequency getting either their vectors or a traffic callout before we here “Cessna 97112 Fairbanks approach here, I have a target on the FAI 264 degree radial, turn LEFT thirty degrees for radar identification.” I answer immediately “Cessna 97112 turning left to a heading of zero-five-five.” And as we finish the turn the controller calls back “Cessna 1-1-2 IS radar contact recommend proceed direct to the FAI VOR and what runway would you prefer today?”

    Our request to use the small strip on the east side of the airport, closer to all the FBOs is approved immediately.

    Another five minutes and North Pole and the easternmost outskirts of Fairbanks are peeking into view over the hills ahead as Dan eases the throttle back just a hair and tips the nose over slightly starting a 700 FPM rate of descent. The A/S climbs now to almost 150 MPH, well OK ....a hundred forty-four...and the wind noise from the many leaks in the old dried out and cracked seals around the windows becomes almost louder than the engine.

    Approach turns us over to tower about five west of the FAI VOR and as we descend through three thousand feet I check in on 118.3 with the tower controls and we are told to plan to overfly the south end of the long runway at 2500 feet before continuing our descent for a left downwind to 19L.

    As Dan wheels us around a left hand traffic pattern I am relishing the vision below me. CARS! LOTS of CARS! And paved roads, and LOOK! Why that building downTOWN must be at LEAST SIX stories TALL! Yes! Civilization. JUST the way I remember it!

    Now turning left base, the University of Alaska’s tall buildings on the hills north of the airport fill our windshield as Dan continues to bend ‘er around never leveling the wings on base leg to line up with the final leg. (Typical bush “village” approach.)

    I take the opportunity to watch the wheel out my right side window gently impact Mother Earth and rise up slightly toward me on the steel tube on which it is mounted. It is a view I seldom see as I am usually by myself in the left seat watching where I’M going. So it is kinda’ neat to watch the Goodyear rubber gently bouncing up and down as we taxi off the runway and I contact ground control for clearance to taxi.

    As I dial in the frequency I hear ‘... 1-2 where do you wish to park sir?” and I look at Dan inquiringly. With prodding from Dan I say ‘NorthLand Avaition please” and then repeat our (very simple) taxi instructions to NorthLand.

    A LOT of people, esPECIALLy from “the bush” don’t like to park at NorthLand. It’s a big tall two story building with gas pumps on the ramp, a hangar for maintenance, a flight school and aircraft rentals and.....the whole UPPER floor is leased by.............
    Fairbanks Flight Standards District Office 61!!

    This of course, accounts for the 5 cent-per-gallon cheaper difference in the price of avgas between NorthLand and their nearest competitors on the field. They HAVE to be cheapest, or else nobody will come THERE to buy gas. I mean...why take the CHANCE!

  22. #22
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Well CloudDancer Followers - Tamale is MONDAY an' I promised I'd have this thing ended....so...I WILL! Should be able to wrap it up in a couple more installments before 9 PM eastern.

    C-U Tamale then,

    CloudDancer

  23. #23
    SJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Kansas City, USA
    Posts
    14,559
    Post Thanks / Like
    Cloudy,

    Do you know if you type in "clouddancer" in google you come up as number three or four? You be famous!

    I have been so busy I have not had time to read all the tales of late, but I see that a whole lot of others have.

    We greatly appreciate you choosing this medium for your digital diary...

    sj
    "Often Mistaken, but Never in Doubt"
    ------------------------------------------

  24. #24
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Un-flippin'-beLEIVEable Steve.

    Shoot! If'n I type my REAL name into Google - I don't come up at ALL.

    Well I Don't. But my name does. Seems there is some obscure British actor with the same name, but judging by what I've read about him...maybe HE should try writing too!!

    Thanx for the tip.

    Now I guess I'll let my vanity get the better of me and go "Goggle" myself.

    HEY! NO PEEKING!!


    CloudDancer

  25. #25
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Steve!! I thought you wuz a' woofin' me.

    I went 'n "googled" CloudDancer 'n went through about a bazillion entries and never saw a THING about me......although I did learn a whole lot more about OTHER "CloudDancer"(s) what has stolen my NAME!!

    Some P-51 racing at Reno, which I WILL forgive on accounta' it's one of my favorite planes. And then there was some Psychic reading LADY ( I suppose THAT'S what confused you)

    "N some SKYdiving school!! Now, Grandpappy CloudDancer ALWAYS taught me you NEVER jump out of a perfectly good, WORKIN' airsheen!!
    And besides....the PHOTO on the home page showed some guy in a hot PINK jumpsuit!! Now.... and ah'm NOT one to JUDGE mind yew....BUT!!

    So then I went over and "YAHOOED" myself. DAMN but THAT felt good!!!

    Then I tried the Yahoo search engine and "CloudDancer's Alaskan Chronicles" DID appear as the thirty-FIRST entry, so I felt a little better.

    Man I wish'd all those OTHER people would realize that I stoled it FIRST!Fair 'n Square!!

    CloudDancer the Original (alMOST)

  26. #26
    SJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Kansas City, USA
    Posts
    14,559
    Post Thanks / Like
    Cloudy,

    I guess fame and fortune is fast fleeting. When I did it yesterday, your posts on supercub.org came up as number four. We will have to work on your ranking...

    sj
    "Often Mistaken, but Never in Doubt"
    ------------------------------------------

  27. #27
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Yeah - Yeah...I KNOW...I'm LATE....... .........I working on it right now.

    CD

  28. #28
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Four - Cont'd

    No sooner had Dan whacked the mixture and set the brakes he ordered me out of the airplane with instructions to drag the hose over from the 100 octane pump along with the ladder.

    As I was accomplishing this, Dan was waking up our passenger; who was absoLUTEly AMAZED to find himself in Fairbanks apparently, until Dan reminded him WHY we had come. Thereupon, seeing a taxi pulling into the drive beside the building, Jackie
    BOLTED out of the airplane ran to the cab and dived in the back seat as passengers were climbing out the other side. Moments later, the cab was hightailing it out of the parking lot in a cloud of dust.

    Meanwhile a lineboy had come trotting out of the NorthLand hangar and taken over the fuel hose as I was about to mount the ladder. “How much ya’ want”, he asked. And I looked at Dan for an answer. With a big grin he shouts from inside the airplane “Fill ‘er up GOOD!!” This is OBVIOUSLY the LOGICal choice as the gas here is only $1.72 a gallon a full 53 cents per gallon cheaper than Kotzebue. And after packing just about 71 gallons even into our two wing tanks we are presented with a bill for one hundred and twenty-two dollars which Dan peels off from the roll that Jackie gave him. By my ‘rithmatic that leave us with about ninety bucks or so in Dan’s pockets.

    Casting a wary eye at the upper floor windows, positive that we were being observed, Dan hurried me into the left seat so that I could have the “thrill” of starting and taxying the big machine to our parking spot.

    Much to Dan’s consternation I failed to catch the engine with a shot of high boost when she caught after the first four or five compression strokes. Being as yet, unused to the starting idiosyncracies of the IO520 hot OR COLD, and Dan’s attention over his right shoulder where he watched the stairs leading up to the FSDO, the engine belched out a nice shot of horsepower and RPM and then wound down to nothing as I was trying to advance the throttle. DAMN.

    “Oh, SHOOT!!” And NOW, I and the airplane have Dan’s UNdivided attention. This is JUST the sort of thing he worries will attract the FEDs attention.

    “Okay...okay...NO PROOOblem.” Dan says quickly as he shoves the throttle full forward. “ OkayOKAY! HIGH BOOST FOR A FIVE SECOND COUNT NOW!”
    He says in quiet urgency. And I mash my fat thumb against both sides of the split-rocker switch and push the upper half flat against the panel against the pressure of the spring loaded right hand or “Hi Boost” side. I silently count in my brain one- thousand-one-one thousand-two etc while I watch the fuel flow needle sweep from the bottom to the top of it’s arc instantly. When the word thousand slides through my mind the fifth time I crisply snap the switch to off.

    Dan now continues to speak low and fast as he depresses the internal locking button in the center of the mixture knob allowing him to pull it completely aft to the off position in one swift and crisp motion instead of having to roll it multiple times to the left. It is the standard way to use the knob to shut off the fuel.

    “Okay CloudDancer. Now here’s what’s gonna happen see. WHEN you turn the key, she should start spinnin’ real fast see. An’ we’ve FLOODED her. SO! Somewhere after about three to five seconds goes by, depending on how she feels she’s gonna fire GOOD! Just like she just did! Now, when she DOES....I’ll deal with the mixture and throttle ‘n you standby to hit high boost AGAIN when I say and give it a good two second blast AGAIN. Now reMEMber. TWO SECONDS when I holler BOOST! No MORE and no LESS and STANDBY for it to happen a second time MAYbe.”

    I tell Dan I understand my part and I’m ready. I also know without saying that this is REALly important as our poor ol’ 12 volt battery ain’t got much left to give and we been stretching it as we ain’t had no spare.

    Dan says “O.K....HIT IT!” And I twist the key to the right ‘til it stops with extra force, as if somehow the extra force used and extra pressure on the key from my left hand will help the battery’s cranking power.

    Sure enough, just as promised by Dan, the two-bladed McCauley prop starts RACING around it’s arc....faster than I’d ever really noticed before......for all of about......three seconds before starting to slow. But JUST as my brain acknoledges what my eyes register there is a ka- BLAM-BLAM! from the exhaust stacks and the engine BURSTS into a roaring life. As I am releasing the key, I watch as Dan instantly and smoothly does two things at once.

    The throttle, which he had left full in, slides aftward to it’s full idle limit at the same time the red mixture ribbed knob is slid effortlessly all the way forward to it’s full rich position. Both actions occur precisely together. And the INSTANT that they are complete Dan, with the rounded black throttle knob cupped under the palm of his left hand, his “pointer “ finger now positioned atop the throttle and pushed against the friction lock to steady it, strats to creep it in and out slightly no more than a half an inch.

    The initial exPLOsion of the abundance of fuel in the engine, besides making a lot of noise, had driven the RPM instantly up to probably 2000 or so. As it started to wind down and my eyes caught the RPM indicator descending through 1500 Dan hollers “BOOST!”“ and I again mash both sides of the switch down, but this time for only a two count, and AGAIN the engine responds to the gush of raw gas into the cylinders by igniting it and spinning up the RPM.

    This short burst of raw cold fuel powered engine operation extends the engines continuous “running” by a few more seconds which is just long enough to get all the vapor locked fuel injectors and the fuel distributor all flowing smoothly and able to do their job as designed.

    I’ll be back for more tonight folks. I’ll still try to get it done.

    Right now I got somethin’ I got’s to attend to.......

    CD

  29. #29
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chap. Four - Cont'd

    With a glance back over his right shoulder one more time, Dan visibly relaxes as he sees no signs of the dreaded FED inspectors anywhere approaching and sits back in the seat. A few minutes later we are chocking the nose wheel far away from the prying eyes of the F.A..A. at the far north end of the field in transient parking.

    Dan and Rod have kept and old 1958 Ford pick-em-up truck here at international for years so they have transportation around town and the ability to haul stiff back to the airplane without paying exorbitant gas fares. We stroll over to the parking lot and climb into the truck which is actually HOT by comparison, the windows having been rolled up.

    I mean, I’ve only been in Kotzebue for a few weeks, but already my body has been adjusting to the much cooler temperatures and no humidity. But here today in Fairbanks it’s pushing 78 degrees or so at 2 PM and the truck is red and black. So things actually feel kinda’ real WARM!! I crank down the window to enjoy the breeze as we ride along. As we head north up University along the east perimeter of the airport Dan says our first stop is to head to another airport, Phillips Field as he hopes to P/U a new battery for the 207.

    Phillips Field is a small airport just about four miles or less as the raven flies from Fairbanks International, and is home mostly nowadays to a wide variety of small single engine Pipers and Cessnas. With a strip barely 3,000 feet long any twin much bigger than an Aztec would have a pretty tough time in and out of here, especially in the summer. Besides which the one runway is laid out almost perpendicular to the north south runways at Fairbanks, which means you gotta’ really bend it around and stay low to insure you are not lifting off right into the final approach of someone headed to the larger field.

    Eventually, in years to come, traffic conflicts with a growing FAI International will lead to it’s closing, but for now, in 1973 , this little strip is a beehive of activity 24 hours a day in the summer. Cubs, Champs, Stinsons, and single Cessnas of every size and color lift off the lightly oiled gravel and dirt runway, and rising just above the surrounding treetop level, begin gentle banking maneuvers intended to keep them well clear of the DC-6s and Boeings and Navajos charging down final approach to 19R at FAI, and then begin to climb to safer altitudes.

    We’ve come to see Julius and Adele Beckham. Long-time Fairbanks residents, the Beckhams have been involved in Alaskan aviation for decades already and are in their own right considered to be part of Alaska’s early aviation heritage. Aside from operating the largest FBO on this small field, the Beckams know each and every commercial pilot in Alaska it seems and have for the last three decades at least.

    Their shop, and the mechanics who work for them, have the reputation for the best work, well done, at a pretty fair price. For a few years to come, until Kotzebue is able to attract and hold mechanics, I will often find myself flying a single engine Cessna over to FAI for the Beckhams boys to do the annuals, and occasionally even a REAL 100 hour.

    The Beckhams are particularly fond of the Gundersons, being home growed and all, and they have a strong affection and bond with all their “bush” customers as well. They greet me with genuine warmth as Dan introduces me.

    Alaskan pilots knew that Julius and Adele had the best selection of parts, probably in the whole state including Anchorage. A lot of operators preferred flying into and out of FAI instead of Anchorage. It was far easier to get around, and had ALmost everything Anchorage did without all the “big city hassle” (ANC being all of about 190,000 people in those days).

    When Dan inquired as to the battery Julius allowed as how he did have some in stock to which Dan asked “How much do you want for it.”? Well, Julius quoted a price after looking in his book and working his adding machine handle three or four times. It must’ve seemed O.K. because Dan said ‘Good!. I’ll take it.” and grinned at Julius.

    Adele, standing right next to Julius on the other side of the glass topped case, cleared her throat loudly at this moment and in my peripheral vision, through the open back door of the display case, I caught sight of her sliding her right foot up against her husband’s left foot on the concrete floor. At this, Julius said, “...Uh....hmm.....WELL Dan...” he began seeming quite uncomfortable all of a sudden.

    “Uh - Oh” me thinks to myself. I-I-I DON”T think I want to stand around HERE much longer; sensing that Dan and Julius might need some privacy to “negotiate”. So smilingly, I asked Adele if they had any pilot supplies such as logbooks and sectionals she could show me. And with a cheery grin she replied “Best selection in the state kiddo...follow me!” as she led me toward the front office and waiting room.

    Fiver minutes later, the wooden door from the hangar parts room flies open as Dan come pushing through a big pink battery with a black cord handle dangling from his right hand. He’s waving at Adele, and says ‘ Bye. Thanks A lot. See you soon again, Okay?” And turning to me “C’mon CloudDancer...we got more places to go.”

    I turn to say goodbye to Adele and am remarking how nice it was to meet her and her husband which evokes a NICE smile. But as I turn to walk out the door I see Julius entering the back of the room and Adele’s smile turning to an OBVIOUSLY ANGRY grimace as she turns to face her husband. Once again, I get a feeling there is more to this than I want to know about.

    Meanwhile as I scamper to catch up to Dan, he is already putting the battery on the floor of the pickup on my side. He says “Get in. We need to go shop some more.” I said “wow. You still got MONEY left??” He says. Oh Yeah. THAT was a CREDIT deal.”
    Yeah, I think I am beginning to see a pattern here.

    Firing up the old Ford Dan says “Let’s go to town and see if anything GOOD is on sale!!”

    Soon we’re cruising through downtown Fairbanks on South Cushman street, and stopped for a red light. Off to our right is J.C. Penney’s, Fairbanks one REAL department store. Under a large red and white stripped awning covering a large chunk of the parking lots are dozens if not hundreds of stoves, washers and dryers, refrigerators and chest freezers. Huge signs are hanging from all four sides of the canopy proclaiming in bright red bold lettering “Summer Appliance Bonanza - NO MONEY DOWN!!”

    “Hmmmm.” I hear Dan. “Softly, almost to himself he says...” No money down, hmmmmmm.” And then a little louder. “Hey. We better stop HERE!!”



    Drats Readers! I Missed my self -imposed deadline, despite my best intentions. I will finish this ASAP, as I have to take to the skies again in a few days.

    Hope you guys ar enjoying it...although there probably should be more flying stuff in it. But hey.. That's the way this one happened

    A couple of more installments over the next two days should wrap this one up.

    Tomorrow is Chapter Five - "Did You Want FRIES With That, Sir?"

  30. #30
    Jerry Gaston's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Bozeman, Montana
    Posts
    1,388
    Post Thanks / Like
    I really liked the "poodle and the peach pit"

  31. #31
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Jerry ya' ol' Grump you!!

    Long time no hear!

    Thought about you the other day, when I took my first flight into FCA. Got a good laugh out of my F/O who was in OBVIOUS discomfort as the cumulo graniti slid by our right wing a mere mile away and towering above us as we were on a visual left downwind in our "big jet" with unlimited visibility. The boy woulda' never cut it up north!!
    Godfrey DANiels how beautiful Montana is!! Next best thing to being in Alaska, and all the PEOPLE are the same as Alaskans. Warm and Welcoming!!

    How did YOU turn into such a dill pickle??!! LOL!

    I jokes. I JOKES!! Been so long since you yanked MY chain....I thought I'd get in the first shot!!

    Did you ever show my stuff to Ted? Did he like it? Does he want to do a CloudDancer made-for TV-movie yet??

    I will work for peanuts. I mean, after all, I AM a major airline pilot, right??

    Thanx for the note. Glad I can still provide an occasional chuckle for you between commercials!!

    Your Humble (sort of) Scribe

    CloudDancer

  32. #32
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Five - “Uh, Did You Want Fries With That Sir?”


    Now...ONE of the reasons that you KNOW men ‘n womens are DIFFerent, is accounta’ God made them with an extra gene. It is called the “SHOPPING GENE” , and generally lays dormant within the female until around the age of ten years. Infrequently it has been seen in females as young as seven, and in extreme cases has been know to become dominant as early as THREE!

    This is the gene that allows, nay, proVOKES females to spend ridiculous amounts of time, not to mention ridiculous sums of MONEY on......SHOPPING!! For.....%#@& WHAT!! Two or maybe three MORE of what they already HAVE and don’t wear/use/bathe in....whatEVER!! Which, since the vast maJORITY of the MONEY spent during these sometimes day long primal tribal rituals comes out of the pocket of some hard working FELLA; well, in MY mind, it’s just SAD! There oughta’ be some sort of self-help or brainwashing program you could SEND your females to stop this foolishness.

    This is NOT the same as Tim Allen or Bob Vila or legions of HEALTHY American men who shop for USEful stuff. You know, ANYthing having to do with searing raw meat over a fire . That’s USEful. It’s a man’s JOB to feed his family.

    As for me, I prefer to sit and drink rum while watching other men sear my meat for me. I’m too DANgerous around a grill, and have been known to make Tim "The Tool Man” Taylor look like a safety Expert. Ergo, I generally shop on the average of about two and a half times a year. A shopping expedition for me is MOST often generated by the same event.

    A thorough search of the closet floor and under the bed fails to yield a clean pair of shorts. A reluctant, but necessary tour of the dirty clothes hamper.....(peeeeee-UU!!)
    likewise fails to give up a suitable “lightly worn” pair. DRAT!!

    Donning swimsuit, flip-flops and a sweatshirt I slide down my fireman’s pole, leap into the CloudDancerMobile and rocket two blocks down to TAR-SJHAY (Target). Parking in the fire lane by the front door (TRUST me...I’ll be back before the tow truck OR the cops get here) I barrel through the front doors like Duke Wayne entering the Long Branch Saloon in some old western and head straight for the appropriate section of the store.

    Once there the only decision is three pair for $5.99 or six pair for $7.99. I opt for the three pack, (it’s only a two day trip!) and head for the checkout counter. Ignoring the bubble-gum snapping checkout girl’s crack asking if I’d like to have these GIFT-WRAPPED!! After a slow glance at first the size on the package and then my waistline;
    I sign the credit card receipt and I am back out the door in under three minutes flat.

    There! I have SHOPPED!

    So, the prospect of wandering around a J.C.Penney’s appliance tent sale BORES me. BUT the BOSS has spoken and seems pretty interested in it all. I can’t imagine why, and dismount the truck quite reluctantly wondering WHAT Dan could possibly be up to.


    Well Loyal SuperCubber’s and wannabe SuperCubbers .

    I just wanted to get SOMEthing up here tonight ‘cause I know ya’ll are achin’ for me to get to the end of this. But, I have a pretty full agenda tonight and can’t do much more as I have to be up before the sun rises to take Momma CloudDancer (in town on her every-other-month INPECTION tour) to the AIRport (on my day OFF no less) and send her back from whence she came.

    I WILL wrap this up tamale as your truly must fire up a pair of IAE’s Friday morning and gad about America the Beautiful again.

    Whoopee!! I got two ANC trips in July TOO!! CloudDancer will go CloudDancing back to his ROOTS!!.

    Night ya’ll - CD

  33. #33
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    I didn’t have to wait too long to find out, as Dan zeroed in on the chest freezer section of the tent in fairly short order. And he remarked that his wife hade been wanting a bigger freezer for quite some time now. In just a few minutes Dan had narrowed the field down to one Frigidaire chest freezer with a 22.1 cubic foot capacity. The choice was somewhat restricted (he wanted a bigger one) by the fact that this was the largest one he was POSITIVE we could wedge into the 207 for the trip home, as paying for airfreight when you own a fleet of airplanes is somewhat confounding. It wore a big red price tag of “Only $899!!”

    (Sidebar- While I’m SURE there MUST be a way for me to insert a “salesman selling a freezer to an Eskimo” joke here....I’ll PASS!)

    Calling over the salesman Dan starts working the deal. How he got the credit check done and/or passed in just a few minutes was beyond me at first. I mean this was LONG before the internet and “instant” anythings!! All he did was give the man his driver’s license issued in Kotzebue (valid withOUT picture) in those days along with a phone number to call for a “credit reference”.

    Turns out the phone number was to Dan and Rod’s OTHER brother(s) office in JNU, where the man just HAPPENED to be a State Senator; one of Alaska’s first elected and most powerful Native legislators therefore.

    We-e-e-ell. That about takes CARE of the “credit check” and Dan and I are soon back out on Cushman Street bouncing down the road with the Gunderson family’s new chest freezer safely secured in the rear of the truck.

    As we approach Airport Way Dan comments that we need to probably think about heading back as we can’t waste the WHOLE day just goofin’ OFF in the big city so we turn west and proceed toward the airport. But with Dan, FLEXIBILITY is the key. We’ve gone barely three blocks before we come across the farthest north McDonald’s franchise in North America. Yep. The Golden Arches had sprouted out of the frozen tundra just a few short years earlier but had set sales records, monthly and yearly, for ALL McDonalds world-wide from the day it had opened. Per store or per capita, that big clown Ronald hauled in more cash from the residents of Fairbanks and the surrounding areas than anywhere else.

    Oh, it’s probably been beaten by now, but this was 1973 and this was the FIRST fast food place in the North Country outside Anchorage, and dining options were limited. Nowadays Fairbanks boasts what is probably the “farthest north” EVERYthing from Denny’s, KFC, and Taco Bell to a Barnes ‘n Noble bookstore. Although Penny’s did close years ago. But I think the record for the “Farthest North Franchise”, at least on U.S. soil (or TUNDRA) if there IS such a thing; would have to go the school-teacher owner/operators of what WAS a very busy real red-roofed neon ice cream cone with the famous “squiggle” on top Dairy Queen that was built and served the fine folks of Kotzebue for quite a few years although it too has now passed on.

    Anyway with ninety bucks or so still burning a hole in his jeans pocket, not to mention a flair for “entrepreneurial thinking” Dan has struck upon yet ANOTHER brilliant idea to make money. But all I hear is “He-e-e-ey... I know!!”

    And I look over at him and he’s looking at me with this HUGE grin on his beaming round cherubic face. All that is missing is the cartoon character light-bulb as we wheel a quick 180 around the intersection to the right and pull into Mickey D’s. As he twists the key to the off position and the engine rattles into silence he says “C’mon. I’ll buy you a Big Mac!!” This is good. I’m a growing boy and I am HUNGRY!!

    We get to the counter and a cute little blonde girl, not much younger than me comes up to take our order but Dan tells her to wait a minute while he digs in his pockets. At the same time he turns to me and says “How much money YOU got??”

    ‘I thought YOU were buying” sez I. “Oh. I WILL. But this is something different. See how much money YOU have” he says as he begins counting his money.

    I come up with 48 bucks and some change while Dan has a couple of bucks over an even hundred. Adding quickly in his head he says “Good! We got $150 BUCKS” and then turns to the girl continuing “oh-KAY. I want two Big Macs, two fries and a milkshake apiece, chocolate for me” and he turns to me. ‘I’ll have strawberry’ I announce. She rings it up and comes up with a total of under six bucks. (Big Macs in those days were about .80 cents in the states, and were ninety-five cents or a buck even here.) She gives Dan change from his one and five and starts to turn to get our order but Dan says “Wait. We need more!!”

    Sweetly she smiles and says ‘yes Sir.” fingers, poised over the register pad. Dan says” I ALSO want ONE HUNDRED and FORTY Big Macs....to GO!!”

    I don’t know whose jaw dropped farther. The blonde girl on the other side of the counter...or MINE!! Recovering at the same instant we both spoke at once. The girl asked completely bewildered, “Are you SERIOUS!!??” My comment was basically along the same line except it contained profanity and a reference to Dan’s apparent lack of metal stability as it immediately ALSO dawned on me that MY MONEY was going for this lunatic purchase as well!!

    Dan smiled at the girl sweetly and begged her pardon before turning to me and chewing me out for my comment in the presence of a lady. He then turned back to the girl and repeated the order which she rung up and took the rest of Dan’s cash and almost ALL of mine for. She was VERY excited as apparently no one else had EVER had an order as large as this one, even when the guys came into town from Eilson A.F.B. Go figure.

    I resist the urge to say anything else before we get our food and slide into a booth far from the counter to enjoy what had JUST become a very expensive meal. But finally, as I unwrap my Big Mac, I ask Dan “Dan. WHAT on earth pray tell, are you THINKing!!?? Those things’ll be stone COLD ‘fore you can get them home. To which he responds “I doubt we’ll even have any LEFT by the time we see Kotzebue.”; and all of a SUDDEN it is as clear as it can be for me. We are going to sell Big Macs on the westbound trip HOME!! Mickey D’s for EVERBODY!!

    A little more than an hour later we loaded two formerly empty lettuce boxes into the back of the truck. The workers then took time to wrap the boxes with Reynolds Wrap so the Big Macs would stay fresh, and the entire store came out to see us off with lots of waving and cheering. Good to know we could make their day.

    Now finally we are on our way BACK to the airport. I think it shall be a LONG ride home....

  34. #34
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Chapter Six - A Good Days Work

    The trip westbound back to Kotzebue was.....INtresting to say the least. It was my first “hands on” exposure to the Gunderson method of generating work/revenues.

    We made a beeline at 6500 feet from Fairbanks straight to Shungnak at the eastern end of the upper Kobuk Valley. With me in the left seat, gettin’ some “heavy” time, I couldn’t help but wonder aloud to Dan why he elected not only to tell me what course to take, but also why so HIGH?

    He explained to me. “It’s for the same reason we’re NOT going to Kobuk. This leg is ALL about selling those Big Macs.” As my mind wonders briefly, trying to remember ANY ad in FLYING magazine that read something like “Learn to FLY!! Have a GREAT future in the growing Sell Big Macs from the back of your airplane industry!!”

    (Sidebar - Given the state of “cabin service” in TODAY’s airline industry...just such an ad is probably MORE APPROPRIATE!! See- A Note to an Old Friend )

    Dan continued. “See, even with about seven more knots of headwind up here we are going to make FAR better time getting to Shungnak up here. And the Big Macs are still going to be close to hot.” We had set the two lettuce boxes on the very back “shelf” under the glare of the hot sun shining through the plexiglass and, given that the lettuce boxes had been lined with aluminum foil and they continued to “bake” in the direct late arctic afternoon sunlight, there is every chance Dan is correct. “And Kobuk is way too small. There’s only four or five little kids there, and it’s going to be the little KIDS that sell the hamburgers FOR me!!”

    “Huh?” I reply and look at Dan quite dumbfounded.

    “Look, don’t you ever notice in the supermarket how in the checkout lane the little kids are ALWAYS bugging their moms to BUY them this candy or that candy??” “Yeah. Sort of, I guess...I dunno’.” I replied. “Well you watch what happens when we get to Shungnak.” he laughs!!


    Conclusion coming....I’m still writing....CD

  35. #35
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    An hour and thirty minutes later I roll in some forward trim as the village comes into view and we head back for Mother Earth. As I am concentrating on my descent rate and (eyeball) distance to go, Dan picks up the CB radio mike and turns the tiny silver rotary off/on/volume switch to the right then selects the “inter-village” use Channel 11.

    “Hellllll-oooooooo Shungnak Shungnak” he sings out melodically. “Hey, this is Dan Gunderson and I’m coming in from Fairbanks. Everybody come out and see what I got!!”

    He repeats the transmission again a second time adding,” we’ll be there in about teeeeen MINutes!!” I shake my head in utter disbelief, but hey. I’m the new kid on the block still and this...IS a different world I’ve decided. Much different than the one I had come from.

    Dan makes a point of telling me to REALLY “wake em up” as we arrive, and since I’d ridden with HIM doing the same, I pretty much knew that the only low altitude “limit” as it were was don’t HIT anything. Now Shungnak, much like Kiana was built on a bluff overlooking the river. Ergo, it seemed only appropriate to make my “Hi! We’re HERE!!” pass at window level with the houses closest to the river, at mid channel. Add in increasing the prop pitch as you flash by at just below bottom of the yellow arc airspeed, and one can be fairly certain that the entire village is now aware of your presence.

    I used to do the same thing at Deering (on the south shore of the Kotzebue Sound) in the early (for me) years as well. Although Deering was a little dicier because at window level in Deering you were only seven to ten feet above the water or pack ice depending on tides. Plus the beach had quite a little CURVE to it right where the houses were. Hell, the RUNWAY had quite a little curve to it at Deering, being BUILT just above the beach in those days.

    Unfortunately this fun arrival “procedure”was, after decades of use, to die out only a few short years later as the proliferation of telephones combined with an actual effort on the part of the FED’s (boy...now THOSE guys had NO sense of Humor....) to begin bringing the rural pilots to either “justice” or a more “civilized” way of flying....took it’s toll but, I digress.

    ( Regular CloudDancer followers know that I digress quite FREquently....)

    Pulling up off the river into a left half-chandelle puts me on a left downwind for an easterly arrival to Shungnak and I reach down to pop open the cowl flaps as I bleed the speed back into the flaps 10 range. Rolling into a left bank with another degree or two of nose up gets me well below the top of the white arc and as the turn passes twenty degrees of bank I shove the flap selector down to the first detent. The flaps reach ten as I roll wings level on a left base for about a mile and a half final. I lean forward to look to my left and notice that there are already a good half dozen or more trails of dust being kicked up on the road from town to the airstrip. At the head of each dust trail is a red Honda or Yamaha three-wheeler (quad-runners weren’t invented yet) with one or two people one it, and a couple tow small trailers with people in back.

    By the time we roll into the small one-airplane sized “bulge” in the end/side/threshold of the dirt strip that serves as a “ramp area”, more than fifty people of all ages have assembled.

    It’s REALLY unbelievable. Dan gets out the right door, as people are peering into the plane. ‘Who’s FREEZER??!! they all shout. “Where you GOing??!!” “You were in FAIRbanks, UH??!!”

    Dan opens the back doors and pulls one lettuce box down from the shelf. MAN!! I been SMELLING those things ALL the way from Fairbanks!! Dan says “Hey CloudDancer” and I turn to see him sliding me a Big Mac across the closed lid of the freezer. Thinking nothing more of it I open up the wrapper, take off the cardboard “crown” and (I’m STARVED again) start to munch.

    The “oohs” and AHHHs!!” from the people watching me through the open right hand door start as I open the wrapper, and as I chomp down on the first bite I hear the first kid holler “MOM! BUYMEBUYMEBUUUUUUUYMEEEEEEEE!!”

    I ALmost choke on that first mouthful as I hear Dan quote a THREE DOLLAR price to his customers, but the cold hard American ones, fives and tens are FLYING. And MORE people are STILL pulling up from the village.

    Thirty Big Macs, still lukewarm, went sailing out of the back of the airplane at three bucks a pop in a matter of four minutes flat. Interestingly enough...all cash...no CREDIT allowed on THIS good deal. We hung out for another ten minutes or so allowing time for another twenty big Macs to be sold. Everywhere I looked...half the men women and children were licking their fingers, wiping the last trace of the “special sauce” off their cheeks with a finger that proceeds diRECtly to the mouth, or feeling around with the tip of their tongue trying to drag that last little fleck of lettuce or sesame seed into their mouths.

    As the business dries up Dan announces we have to press on to Ambler our next stop which prompts one woman to ask Dan if we can take her ten year old over to Ambler with us and for how much. Dan says $15 and the lady says OKAY and drags out her change purse from her apron pocket. At this point I am tempted to say something to Dan such as “Where are we going to PUT the little bugger since the FREEZER is taking up the whole of the cabin and we cannot put down any seats. (Sigh) I should’ve KNOWN better......


    STILL Writing!!

  36. #36
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Dan takes the unusable chairs and shoves them alongside the freezer and places the remaining Big Macs all in one box which he places on the floor behind the freezer. This leaves the back shelf empty. Dan belts the young boy in on the back shelf using the tie down rings as seat belt anchors.

    With astern admonition to the boy to remain seated STILL and by NO MEANS touch the Big Macs he closes the aft doors and trots around the tail of the airplane to clamber into the left seat. Noting the disappointed look on my face as I slowly mount the right seat, Dan says “ Don’t worry CloudDancer. You can fly again after Ambler, when we don’t have passengers.

    That Dan. Such a STICKLER for RULES!!

    I marvel at the practiced ease with which he fires up the machine and has us blasting our own cloud of dust behind us as we roar off to the west. I hope to soon have that easy flow and confidence in this big machine too.
    It’s just a hop, skip and a jump ( or about 28NM or so) from Shungnak to Ambler and a couple of minutes after we level (at seven hundred feet MSL, of COURSE) I ask Dan “Aren’t you going to make an announcement to Ambler.” Chuckling Dan says “Turn on the radio”, meaning the CB.

    The “click” of the rotary knob turning is instantly followed by a female voice coming over the speaker. It is one of the ladies from Shungnak telling one of her friends or relatives in Ambler how she LOVES the little “crunch” of the tiny sesame seeds on the top part of the bun. A good five minutes pass as I listen to the praises of the Big Mac before FINALLY there is a break so that the mother of our passenger can call HER sister and announce that ten year old Timmy is coming to visit for a few days and would you please go get him at the “airport” (which is literally one of two dirt strips) that are laid out right in the MIDDLE of the village in the shape of a huge PLUS sign.

    Huge being relative here. What is HUGE for a plus sign (1800 feet across) is NOT really so huge when you are trying to plant an Cessna 207 on it; not to mention a much LARGER Beech C-54 Twin Bonanza as I would be doing in only a few short months!! Add in that the “plus sign” airport’s LONGER (1800 ft) runway was ‘humped” from side to side as WELL as lengthwise (you could see both ENDS if you were standing in the MIDDLE...but from either end you could only SEE to the middle...SHEESH!) Anyway. You can see why Dan wasn’t ready yet for me to tackle this place in the left seat. Hell, It was still a fair challenge in a fully loaded SKYhawk for me at THIS point in time.

    Ambler when we landed was a repeat of the scene at Shungnak, and to the our passenger’s credit it APPEARED at least that he had left the Big Macs alone. Pockets now bulging with ones and fives and tens we were shortly off for Kiana, with me in the left seat again. Way cool because being out of CB range of Shungnak and Ambler I got to do the “low pass” drill again.

    Dan was right. Nary a Big Mac one made it all the way to Kotzebue. Noorvik took the last twenty being at only twelve to fourteen miles away from Kiana and WELL within CB radio range the same sales methods did their magic. Even though by now the burgers were over four hours removed from the grill, would you believe the last TWO drew a bidding war by two VERY determined men. The winner ( I THINK) was the one who walked away with the money in his pocket still. The bidding was final at THIRTEEN dollars. :P Ray Croc HAD to be turning over in his grave!!

    So, nine and a half hours after we left we roll back to the ramp in Kotzebue and drag our now somewhat tired butts into the office after unloading the freezer onto the ground.

    Sitting at his desk, Dan and I empty our pockets onto the top and we begin sorting and stacking the bills by denomination. Dan gives me the first two twentys he finds along with a five and announces ‘There! We’re GOOD!”

    Counting the rest yields a total cash pot of an even four hundred and twenty-two dollars. And Dan counts it again to double check. Same number.

    Gleefully, Dan looks up at me leaning over the desktop where I have been counting along with him and says “GEE!! What a GREAT day, huh??!!”

    Looking back quickly in my mind, I know the day was enJOY able. I say as much to Dan adding “but I’m not too SURE we’ve really done too GOOD for ourselves as a WHOLE today.”

    Dan looks at me quizzically, as if my response makes NO sense to him. ‘’Okay” he says “THINK about it” This MORNing we (meaning the “air service”) had almost NO (operating) CASH and I bet there wasn’t ten gallons of gas in that plane out there. Right?”

    “Well that is certainly TRUE....” I began, but was interrupted by Dan saying “But look at NOW. We got a GOOD 3/4 tank left on one side....we flew eight hours almost......we got a brand new FREEZER....and over FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS cash MOney !! Now if that isn’t a Good Day’s Work....well...I don’t know what is!! C’mon kid...let’s go home and show my wife her new FREEZER and see what’s for dinner.”

    And that little voice kept nagging at the back of my consciousness, but I couldn’t hear it I guess ‘cause all I could think was......COOL! I gotta’ go HOME ‘n put my HEAVY time in my log book!!

    Th-e-e-e-e-e END!!

  37. #37
    CloudDancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
    Posts
    1,375
    Post Thanks / Like
    Reposition Bump

Similar Threads

  1. What is a "pre-buy" and how does it work
    By Macky in forum Cafe Supercub
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 03-13-2004, 12:09 AM
  2. Good reading regarding UNICOM radio work
    By Rookie in forum The Art and Science of Flying
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 06-01-2003, 02:03 AM

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •