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Thread: "Weren't Nobody SHOOTIN' at Me??!!"

  1. #1
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    "Weren't Nobody SHOOTIN' at Me??!!"

    Chapter One - I Got Five Aces

    By the autumn of 1978 I was back working for Leroy and Velma for the second time. Job number five in a career that was barely over five years old now. But that was NOT all too unlikely for a pilot in those days.

    Headstrong pilots would clash with headstrong owner-operators , or their WIVES or family members who RAN the office and did the scheduling etcetera ; resulting quite frequently in a verbal “quick draw” to say “&%$# YOU! I QUIT” beFORE one of THEM says to YOU “&%$# YOU! YOU’RE FIRED!!
    Knowing that there was nowadays more business and flying than you could shake a stick at, Bounce and I never worried about getting another job. Bounce, myself and one other fella' newly arrived from the states the previous year made up the flying force of Leroy's operation for which he really was grateful. We gave NO indication of ever wanting or planning to leave Kotzebue and we had by now at least a few years experience under our belts and a few (four to six) thousand hours apiece "in country".

    This was of greatest importance to an owner operator for as OUR business was building inthe arctic....the effects of the Airline Deregulation act of 1978 were creating a GREAT demand for new pilots stateside. Hence, other than the core "regulars" with EXPERIENCE like me Bounce and our buddy Dirk Freeburg who had started working for Leroy about a year and a half ago after arriving with a buddy on a flying vacation early last summer in their own plane; better than HALF of the fulltime pilots hired by the OTZ operators were nowadays young CFIs with 800 to 1000 hours total. If you were LUCKY you could occasionally land a newly minted 1500 hour ATR pilot. It was becoming a constant rotation or flow thru of young less experienced pilots such as we had been when WE showed up. Only now, and for YEARS to come it would be mostly US checking them out and training them no matter which company we were working for at the time.
    Most were here simply because the Alaskan bush was gaining a reputaion among the West Coast USA aviation community as a place to go get LOTS of hours QUICK at a good rate of pay. And then HOPEFULLY Horizon or Cascade or Metro Airlines or Rio or Henson or SOME "commuter" airline would hire you so you could be off on the road to airline riches, retiring as a multi-milionnaire after a life of relative leisure and priveledge.

    (DAMN!! Didn't ol' CloudDancer miss THAT train!! )

    All four or five of Kotzebue’s “on-demand” air-taxi and charter companies were booming and had anywhere from two to maybe even six or SEVEN hired pilots. In addition, as part of the fallout from the Wien Air Alaska ALPA pilot strike of 1977 to 1979 , a Nome based company in a precursor to what is now common practice in the industry, subcontracted a fleet of BN2A Islanders, Grand Commanders, and a Dornier SkyServant. They had replaced the long time Wien Twin Otters and Skyvans that had devoted their all to serving Alaska’s smallest villages for decades. So with the five pilots for that company along with up to fifteen “local” full time pilots and four or five F.A.A. Flight Service/ PART time pilots, hell, there planes and pilots EVERYwhere you looked mosta’ the time as compared to three or four years earlier when you could fly around the valley all DAY and never run into another soul in the skies.
    If you were only flying 125 hours a month as a full-timer you were generally considered to be a slacker. A NORMAL month was now considered to be 130 to 145 hours and anything over 145 hours was considered to be a GOOD month.

    I had spent the previous week in Waikiki in a little joint called “the Hideaway”. It was Leroy’s “home bar” during his annual island retreat which now.....given the rich flow of money and flying business throughout the Arctic , was turning into a SOLID three winter month per year refuge from the Arctic winter for Leroy and Velma who had purchased a condo in a nice building just down the street.

    Sidebar - At the intersection of Ala Moana Blvd and Kalia Road in Waikiki is the Wailana Coffe House, a SUPER good place to get breakfast. Come out of the coffee shop and turn LEFT on the sidewalk. Proceed down the street until a 7-11 convenience store appears around the bend ACROSS the street. Stop momentarily and look to your left. That’s where Leroy and Velma’s condo was. Cross the street and when you get to the 7-11 hang a RIGHT and go down the alley just this side of the store. About 50 yards down on the right you’ll find the Hideaway. Tell ‘em CloudDancer sent ya’. I been drinking there off and on for thirty years ever since Leroy introduced me to the place. Although no one THERE knows me by the name CloudDancer....IF they know me at all. I only get there two or three times a year for a couple a days at a time anymore.

    Don’t worry about showing up right after breakfast either. Even if breakfast is at 6:30 A.M. The joint....like ALL good local gin mills opens at 7A.M. one of only a HANDful of local bars that does.

    Good thing too. ‘Cause alotta’ the time Leroy was well past thirsty by 7A.M. in those days, although I generally tried to crawl in for a little hair of the dog by nine A.M. myself so as not to miss the opportunity to possibly score a freebie from one of Wakiki’s GORGEOUS young hookers who generally wandered in after THEIR (shift end) morning breakfast at the Wailana or the Denny’s down on Kuhio street.

    I mean..HEY!....don’t be lookin’ down your NOSE!! Hookers are people TOO ya’ know. They get thirsty TOO ya’ know. They put their quarters in the juke box and play music JUST like you ‘n me bub. Hookers need love TOO ya’ know!! HaaaarummmmpH!! Why I consider it an HONOR to help reinforce the girl’s sense of warmth....dignity.....and well BEING after a long evening spent dealing with some of the SLEAZES they must run into. You know...SOMEtimes in life....it’s nice to just lie there nekkid.....cuddle and.....WHAT’S that four letter word for intercourse???..... oh yeah.....TALK!!

    Oh LORDY!! Once again dear readers...the CloudDancer “train of thought” seems to have disappeared into a tunnel and never come out the other end ....the engineer of aforesaid “train” letting possibly delusional flashbacks to his misspent youth distract him from his original purpose........

    Let’s see if we can find out way back outta’ the WEEDS to the STORE - EE maybe!!

  2. #2
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    As I said...I’d spent the previous week in Waikiki dividing my time between the pool and pool bar at my hotel where I tried to spot one of the many unattached females who may be seeking a vacation fling romance. (Outrigger now Ohana West on Kuhio street....and NO.....I did NOT pick that as my hotel because Kuhio was the “red light” street in Waikiki....HONEST....I didn’t even KNOW it when I picked it. CloudDancer STILL stays there today as the Outrigger/Ohana chain has always been VERY generous in their travel industry rates and allows airline employees to cancel on the day of arrival without penalty if they are unable to get on their ‘space available flight)

    Daily I would meet with the Boss over at the Hideaway for post breakfast libations , dice lessons , hangar flying and an update from the home front. It was over the pay phone from the Hideaway that Leroy would run the family business with daily, multiple if necessary, phone calls from the bar to the office in our new hangar at home.

    Always answering the phone in the office would be Leroy’s eldest daughter DanniKay.

    Known to immediate family and closest of friends (us pilots....since we lived downstairs with the kids in earlier years) by her nickname Pepper (short for peppermint ...which apparently was her absolute FAvorite candy as a kid and which she still devoured at a rate of one per hour as a college girl) this girl was the old man’s soft spot for sure and she adored and loved him fiercely as well.

    But Pepper had learned the business at Velma’s knee and, taking a couple of semesters off from school after her freshman year, this was Pepper’s very FIRST time to be entrusted with the family business at the tender age of twenty. I think Velma was TOO tough on Pepper in particular and the girl could seldom comPLETEly satisfy her mom but it sure wasn’t for lack of effort.

    Pepper was very, very pretty and one of the nicest human beings I ever met. She had an inner beauty and innocence that radiated joy and tranquility on everyone (but VELMA) that she ever came in contact with. I THINK...I’m pretty sure I kissed her ONCE when I was working for her parents and living downstairs in one of the six small “guest rooms” that used to be used to house polar bear hunting clients in the days before I arrived.

    Leroy’s kids lived in three of the rooms and we pilots lived in the others.

    I remember having LONG serious talks with Pepper late into the wee hours of the morning about life, love, and our futures when she was a high school girl the first time I had worked for her parents. Now....she’s my BOSS at work....and much to Velma’s credit and training, young miss DanniKay don’t take NO crap offa’ NObody. Drunks...customer/passenger or NOT....or pilot employees EITHER. Leroy made it clear when he left for the islands. Pepper is in CHARGE.

    Probably one of the only good looking girls in Kotzebue I never even gave a serious thought to trying to “score” with could now go from being my buddy and sharing a laugh and a joke to verbally kicking my ASS in a HEARTBEAT!! But Damn. I admire her to this day.

    So I had wobbled up the astroturf covered steps into the Hideaway one day last week to find the Boss on the phone giving instructions to Pepper as usual and when he sees me coming in the door he tells her to hold on and dropping his phone hand he turns and says to me “WHAT day are you gonna’ be back in the saddle??”

    This being Thurday I tell him I will be at the office at “oh-eight-hundred Monday mornning”.

    He puts the mouthpiece back to his face and says “Okay Pepper. CloudDancer just came in and confirmed he’ll be there Monday morning so I’m gonna’ have the new guy show up on the morning Weinie Bird so’s Cloudy (acting as asst. Chief Pilot) can get all his paperwork and training done before the FEDs show up Wednesday.” He pauses then continues. “Yep. Already talked to those bastards this morning...we’re on their calender for Wednesday afternoon for two rides. Okay baby....bye-bye” and with a dull crunchy clicking sound, he deposits the grey plastic earpiece, scarred and melted in two or three spots I note with brown stains into it’s metal two pronged receptacle/cradle. Drunks with cigarettes no doubt.

    Meanwhile I’ve continued toward a couple of empty barstools infront of one of which is two packs of Salems and one half-ful and two FULL vodka screwdrivers. Hmmm. The Boss has been on the phone for a WHILE apparently or else just won a dice “side bet”. These items clearly indicate temporary ownership of said stool by Leroy and as I pull up the empty stool next to it and exchange morning greeting with the regulars the bartender hollers “Hey CloudDancer.....the USUAL?” as he reaches for the rum bottle from the top shelf behind the bar against the dirty mirror, smudged with countless hand prints. Although it borders the entire back of the serving area only HALF the bar can be seen in the reflection, the rest of the mirror being covered by assorted worn, dirty and autographed dollar bills, DOZENS of polaroids black and white and color snapshots, some faded and yellowed from times of yore, and a half dozen or so pairs of panties. Colors vary. Also autographed.

    As the Boss slides onto his barstool he nods at me and give out with a “ ‘Mornin’ KID. Get out yer’ cash....I’ll shake ya’ for the ‘bank’. ”

    As I lean sideways on the cracked faded red cheap plastic padded stool to reach in the pocket of my shorts for my wallet I respond to his greeting with “Well. I gather from what I overheard that we got a new DRIVer coming on Monday. Did you mange to get one with some experience??”

    The Boss cocks his head sideways and gives me that &%$# - eatin’ grin he likes to give me when he’s puttin’ one over on me or when I’m down to my last out of three dice shakes without having even matched my initial pair yet after he’s holding four of a kind. “Oh. This guys is no LOW timer. And he’s got PLENTY of 206 time too. Should be EASY to get ready for a ride on Wednesday. Talked to him a COUPLE of times yesterday after you left.”

    I suspect there is more that he is not telling me about this guy. And my inquiries into his age and hometown are rebuffed with the Boss GROWLING and SNAPPING at me that he can’t remember all those LITTLE details after talking to so many pilots all the time and why don’t I shut UP, thrown the bones and deal with this guy when I get HOME!!

    My right hand twists side to side and the five small spotted cubes rattle around the inside of the brown leather dice cup as the open top of the cup sweeps rightleftrightleftright in three seconds.

    Stopping the sideways motion with the cup in a “45 degree right bank” I tap the lower side of the cup's bottom rim three times quickly in succession on the bar in front of me before loosening the grip of my right thumb just enough to allow the left side of the cup to slide level. With a practiced smoothness of repeated efforts I now lightly pinch the rim of the leather cup between my right thumb and middle finger. Extending my arm quickly just six inches to an abrupt and instant stop allows the weight and “mass in motion” laws of physics to START the bottom of the dice cup swinging out and away from me.

    Snapping my hand downward with force instantly does the rest and the upper rim of the cup, now completely upside down SMACKS into the hard wooden bar with good THUD!! The dice are quiet. They have landed and I lift the cup to find...DAMMIT....not ONE PAIR!!

    Snatching the dice of the bar and throwing them into the cup, now cupped in my left hand before being tossed to the right hand to start the performance over again. From the snatch of the worthless first hand, through the identical shaking ritual, to the THUD of the dice cup again delivering news of my immediate financial success or demise takes no more than five seconds total before I again raise the cup to find......NO PAIRS AGAIN!!!!

    DAMMIT!! This is a THIRTY DOLLAR per PERSON POT!!

    I snatch the five traitorous black and white spotted cubes off the bar to throw them into the cup for my final shake. I decide possibly a sip of a good drink might influence the cubes to roll in my favor. Illogical? Maybe. Irregardless it can’t hurt.

    As I raise the glass to my lips I glance at Leroy. The old bastige has that DAMN grin on his face as he watches me drain the glass. I HATE that look.

  3. #3
    cpthazard's Avatar
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    Ok Dancer, I'm hooked, lets hear the rest of this story, Thanks cpthazard

  4. #4
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Hiya cpthazard and WELCOME to the "Chronicles".......TRULY a land of enchantment and wonder. You never know WHAT kind of CRAZY aerial adventure or amorous safari our continually randy yet oft aerodyNAMmically betrayed protagonist will take us on next!!

    But remember......one pilot's mental DisneyLand can become another's padded circular room with no doorway......

    "Hooked" are you? Well, I hope you mean as in on a fishing line and NOT sitting in some trash strew alley at the back door of some yuppie wi-fi cafe, clothes all dirty and raggedy and torn. Sitting there smelly, unshaven, and broke....DROOLING all over your greasy holey dinghy tee shirt and repeatedly slapping the side of your laptop screen as if SOMEhow it will help make the NEXT installment APPEAR (whether I've written it or NOT). Even all the regular caREER winos give you wide berth when passing your stoop.

    I've never actually KNOWN this to have happened for a fact; but I HAVE had both reports here at the "Chronicles" Forum as well as some fairly heartstring tugging (pathetic REALLY, if you ask ME) private messages from one fella' whose WIFE was threatening to try a never before attempted "remedy". FAILing to immediately turn OFF the computer and come to bed would lead to a new mating of technology and anatomy with the old phrase of....oh WHAT is that old axiom...something SQUARE into SOMEthing round......

    Just be CAREful cpthazard....that's ALL I'm sayin'. I don't know WHY people get HOOKED on these stories, but I recommend starting with SMALL doses....and try to STAY there.

    WARNING LABEL: Stories contained herein MAY cause LAUGHTER. Grumpy and overly SELF-impressed pilots are recommended to conSULT with their AME as to how often a dose of "CloudDancers Alaskan Chronicles" may be absorbed without risking side effects such as smiling or general good heartedness and benevolence toward all.

    Cloud(Your NEW Bestest Friend and Confidate) Dancer

    P.S. One more thing you may as well get used to right offa' the git-go cpthazard. New stories (i.e under construction) while approximately 98.6% factual are nonetheless.....under CONSTRUCTION....

    And in ol' Cloudy's case there is SOMEtimes alot of confusion in and around the building site which frequently results in oh...shall we say small "breaks" or brief lulls in the riveting and welding.

    I have a full time JOB you know!! And then.....after sufficient metabolization occurs...I have to go to WORK four or five days a week TOO!!

    Ergo....you can't read NEW stuff start to finish very often, if at all.
    Other than that......DAMN glad ya' get to MEET me!!

  5. #5

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    Taken with a grin Cloud.

    I wouldn't worry about your audience too much as they do have lives and they are not as dramatic as you sometimes tend to "paint" them in your posts. Remember, this is an airplane forum. While it's a good place to "vent" on your thoughts and ideas that might be going through your mind at any given time a day, those of us who found your truly-fascinating stories of real bush-flying were really impressed, and expressed our appreciation for reading them. I will leave it at that. Not really sure where you go when you rant about "rum" and "hookers".

    And Cloud, if you do want to hold on to your audience - be nice to them.

    Cheers dude!
    N2204F.

  6. #6
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    Many of us get almost as much fun out of your extracurricular stories as we do the flying. DON’T change the mix. You have our undivided attention. Thanks for all the tales. Jerry McCammon

  7. #7
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Stephan -

    I should HOPE taken "with a grin".

    Even though I may refer to something one of my readers may have posted or sent me in a PM ....I hope I ALWAYS OMIT even READER's names at appropriate times.

    I truly wish to offend NO ONE...even with my occasional "train went off the track" RANTS about various subjects.

    I fear Stephan that you have not quite yet got a total "feel" for my "weird" (for lack of a better term) sense of what is funny.

    Practically the ONLY time in life when I take myself seriously is "block-to- block" whether operating my A320 for pay or something smaller just for pure fun!! :P

    Forgive me if I have misunderstood the intent of the above post as MOST of the time my responses are usually as tongue-in-cheek as my regular writing. In fact....it is the ONLY way I've EVER been able to wordsmith....with HUMOR.

    Were I not fairly thicked-skinned ANYway ol' Jerry Gaston woulda' put an end to CloudDancer's first dramedy "Hey Pilot...I Got to PEE!" afore I'd ever gotten the rubber boot offa' my foot.

    Aside from my daily battle with my inner demons, it is MOSTLY the joy, pleasure and LAUGHS I get from reading ALL you guys 'n gals FEEDBACK that keeps me relatively addiction free for days at a time and doing battle with my desktop here.

    And NOW.......I am OFF to try and take us a LITTLE further into this story before leaving for DFW for the first night of this weeks four day hostage crisis and breakfast with Mamma CloudDancer tamale!!

    Cloud(don't EVER let me take myself to seriously you guys) Dancer

  8. #8

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    Please keep up the unedited and unvarnished tales! The total package gives us readers relativity to your stories. Having flown scheduled and unscheduled air taxi operations from Kotz to Ketch, the details you provide are poignant and accurate. Great stories!
    Bruce

  9. #9
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    aawwwww.............SHUCKS GUYS!!


    STOP it now......yer makin' me !!

    CD

  10. #10
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Two - Mercenary Pilot....or Novelist??

    In accordance with Leroy’s wishes, Monday morning at 8 AM found me atop one of the three “Captain’s Chair” barstools lined up along and behind the counter in our new office hangar. The stools were for the Boss or his pilots only, although OCCASIONALLY visiting pilot’s from our competitors were allowed to sit in one if one or two of us were out flying.

    The passengers and visitors we afforded the modest comfort of the hard plastic multi-colored school cafeteria seats lined along the longer wall of the 18 by 12 addition to the hangar's west end. The opposite wall, behind the counter was covered with a floor to ceiling and (almost) wall to wall map of Alaska that Bounce and I had put together from sectionals, with of course, the ubiquitous eyehole screw into the map at Kotzebue restraining the red yarn that, on the map, headed out across the Kotzebue Sound, nicked the corner of Cape Krusensern, and proceeded across the Bering Sea to someplace in northeastern Russia where it passed through another eyehole screw, thence to drop straight down to the two lbs. weight that kept it taut when not in use.

    The effects of twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep and a good greasy breakfast along with the SECOND gallon of coffee were starting to clear the final cobwebs from my brain and steady my hand good enough to be able to light a match to the tip of my cigarette without my head having to bob and weave like a punchdrunk prizefighter just to keep the flame near the cigarette.

    Lord. Would I EVER learn moderAtion in life?? (Apparently....no time in the TWENTIETH Century it seems!!)

    Oncet agin’ I had done rested and recreated myself for six straight day and nights to the point of almost being COmatoast!!

    Just yesterday morning I had taken the bus down to the Wialana Coffee House with my suitcase in tow for breakfast followed of course by schlepping down to the Hideaway where Leroy was just helping open the joint a little after seven AM.

    An hour later, after the regulars had bought me three or maybe four Bon Voyage morning “eye-openers”, and another half dozens hands of Four, Five , Six with the Boss and his cronies, it was time to call a cab and head for the airport for the nonstop flight to ANC on the Hawaiian Stretch DC-8.

    Handshakes all around, a few pecks on the cheek and lingering hugs from some of the “girls” (ooohhhh....BABY ......parts of you feel SO GOOD next to parts of ME!! :P ), and a 100 dollar “draw” from Leroy outta’ my next paycheck for cab fare and “incidentals” on the way home, and I’m waving goodbye to the Hideaway gang as the cab heads down the alley.

    Well naturally....it being the last day of my vacation....the cab ride was probably the longest I went without an “incidental” from the time I left the Wialana yesterday morning ‘til I fell face down on my bed twelve hours later. I pretty much "incidentaled' myself all the way through the five hour flight to ANC, a two-and-ahalf hour ANC layover, and the hour and twenty minute Weinie Bird ride home!

    At last...I could now return to being a proDUCtive member of the avaition community and society in general.


    DINGDING! DINGDING! DINGDING! And.....THERE's the bell FOLKS....and NO...that DOESN'T mean it's time for Final Jeopardy.

    But it IS time for ol' Cloudy to bid aduie (most likely) for a few days.

    Time to go out and make the donuts!

    if there is nothing from me AFTER this post by about 6 PM eastern time you won't see anymore before next Monday afternoon.

    Ya'll beHAVE now. Be good to each OTHER and maybe even a STRANGER or TWO.

    Thank You GOOD FOLKS as always for ridin' along with Cloudy!!

    CloudDancer

  11. #11

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    Jeezz! No wonder your talking "chicks" and "barstools" - you fly an airbus! I'd be boared stiff I flew an Airbus (I got a chance to fly a A-something.. can't talk about it.. sim once) - it was pretty much like punching buttons and inserting flight plans. I ask - when does a guy get to touch the ... joystick? Anyway, thank God I work at Boeing now.

    Cheers.

  12. #12
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    By the time the morning Wien 737 from ANC plops down on the snow covered numbers of runway 08 around ten-twenty in the morning, I’m feeling pretty good.

    Now a lot of our business, like all the operators on the field, was booked in advance, sometimes weeks in advance from places as far-flung as New York or, we had ONE regular customer who had come from Germany for three years in a row. Most local business, even government local business like the school district the troopers , and the Borough, often booked no further out than 48 hours ahead. The surrounding Kobuk Valley village traffic....well...that was about like a New Yorker stepping to the curb to flag a taxi. The phone would ring and off you go.

    But...each and every passenger jet that landed from ANC offered the prospect of walk-in traffic about twenty minutes after the engines were shut down.

    So as the late autumn sunlight attempted to filter increasing amounts of daylight through the overcast, I was not surprised when the ramp side door to the office was flung open to admit an unfamiliar face.

    Pepper, having been instructed by her Dad to use me as a last resort if need be had sent Bounce and Dirk out already and together we had sat talking and awaiting the arrival of our new pilot who was SUPPOSED to be in on this airplane. Often, believe me, OFTEN these guys get to Anchorage and chicken out or stand in the aft doorway atop the first step of the telescoping folding airstair staring in disbelief. Some have been known to never make it any farther than the ticket counter at the terminal in places like St. Mary’s, Bethel, Aniak and Kotzebue where they repurchase their return ticket to whereEVER the hell the came from.

    Heck...I’m just happy they do that before me, Bounce, Dirk and the Boss have to waste any of OUR time on these losers!!

    So...I’m never too surprised if one don’t show up. But since THIS guy has obviously just come from the terminal, OTZ baggage tag visibly dangling from the shoulder strap of his G.I. issue duffel bag....our new pilot should be hot on his heels as we are JUST 100 yards or so down from the terminal. Well. I’ll worry about him when HE shows up.

    Pepper and I simultaneously rise from our seats (Pepper at her Mom’s desk) and say simulTAneously ‘Hi! WHAT can we do for you?!!” cheerily and then turn to each other and burst out laughing.

    The old man’s creased and weatherworn face and brow wrinkles further as he stops mid-motion in trying to shuck his obviously heavily laden duffel and he joins us in a hearty laugh before saying one word. “Stereo!!”

    As he finishes shedding his load and stretches his right hand up and pulls off the fur-lined cap-with-flaps atop his head to...JEEEZUZZZ MAN!!

    Standing under the flourescent light the GLARE from the toppa’ this fella’s HEAD! Jeez! Does he POLISH that thing? The two atlas road maps serving as my eyeballs this morning squint only slightly as I try not to let my facial expression give away my sentiments to the old duffer. (I mean the guy’s GOTTA’ be fifty-sum. I mean. He’s OLDer than LEROY, but I note to myself in MUCH better shape. Heck, I think he’s even leaner than me!!)

    First to find my tongue again I ask hospitably ....”Were you lookin, to FLY somewhere today Mister?”

    Father Time is now kneeling beside his upright duffel and is working the rotary combination knob on the MasterLock holding the bag's contents secure. He stops and looks at me with a twinkle in his eye , and a VERY familiar facial expression....just like the one Leroy wears from time to time.

    “ Why yes young fella’. I think a little flying together sounds like a good IDEA.” He responds with a grin.

  13. #13
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    That's IT for this wek guys. I am OUTTA' here.

    C-u on Monday afternoon.

    that gives me four days to think up a snappy retort to Mister BORing...OOPs (typo!) I mean Mr. BOEing.LOL

    CloudDancer

  14. #14

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    Sorry Cloudy, maybe I misread your earlier post jez a little and thought for a moment you were making fun me and my missis.
    I have to admit - I did go a little nutz readin your stories, as I have not read a single book in over ten years. See, due to my 'gineering career and huge 'mounts of paper to push every day for years, I sorta lost touch with pleasure reading as it'd usually put way too much strain on my already-overworked brain
    I am starting to mellow out again, so I am cool. Keep on writing and keep on bringin' those crazy, nutty and amazing flyin' stories of yours. I may not be able to do as much readin' in the near future, as the folks I consult for decided that it's better to have people thinkin' and meetin' and designin' on two new airplanes instead of one. It's some new dough-savin' technique they've all been talking about, so I get home now with a spent brain that is not able to do much thinking or reading, other than watch the tube and play with the kid that sorta came around less than a couple of years ago. Good kid though - love spending time with him and teaching 'bout airplanes.

    So, I take my comments back

  15. #15
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Steve -

    Sure had to LAFF!! when I read your post!!

    You forgot.....you PRIVATE MESSAGED me about that stuff!!
    It was just too RICH to keep to myself and not have some fun and get a LAUGH with that ALL the readers could share.

    BUT.....I never said....WHO....it was!! DOH!!

    My friend......I wish I had a family. A good spouse....a child....they are BLESSING from the Cloud MAKER.

    Family FIRST always is well understood and even NO amount of money replaces time "invested" in those you love.

    For most people being alone and single is ONLY fun for some indefinate period of time that varies from individual to individual. Single, alone and OLDER most generally SUCKS.

    If you come home exhausted from work....work LESS (if you can).

    If you never have time to write or read in this forum again...as long as you are putting your family first.....I'll just learn to get by with one less reader. (*)

    There was never...EVER ANY need for YOU to make a post apologizing to ME. You are too kind. God Bless.

    CloudDancer

    (*) Just remember to purchase a copy of the (currently commencing the search for a publisher) CloudDancer's Alaskan Chronicles. It will make FINE bedtime story reading for your little up 'n coming SuperCubber of a munchkin.

  16. #16
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Keep em coming cloudburst.... err... uhhm.... clod-dancer ......ahem CloudDancer.

    Greatly entertaining.

    Bill

  17. #17
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Hiya Mr. Rusk!!

    Long time no hear! Hey. If that's the WORST I get called....I'm aHEAD of the game!!

    Well stupor-cubbers...I'd sure like to sit here at my keyboard and entertain you good folks some more today.

    But due to NUMEROUS mechanical and WX induced problems, my airline (our motto is...."We're not HAPPY...'til YOU'RE not happy!) has altogether re-wrote my four day torture test to be even MORE disgusting and I have to squeeze my "wide-ride" ass into a narrow coach (probably MIDDLE) seat and deadhead ALL the dad-blame way across the continent before dragging my pitiful butt up to the cockpit and OPERATE all the way BACK to where I STARTED today!!

    This is one of those days where I oft consider staking claim to my own little off-ramp on one of the local freeway underpasses and hanging out for a few hours a day with my little cardboard sign. "Will WRITE for food"

    CloudDancer

  18. #18
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Hi Everybody -

    I know you folks are anxious to read some more of this story and I'd PURELY love to write some more as well. :P

    Howsumever.......since I returned late Sun. nite from JFK (with the IDIOT on board )......after a "recuperative" two day break... my next four-day Survivor Marathon back and forth across the continent a few times trip starts TAMALE!!

    Pheeeeew!! One more stikin' four day trip and I am on vaCAtion for MOST of September. I do however promise to get further into this story on Sept 4th and 5th before I leave.

    And, as I have/carry no laptop.....and will be in Hawaii and Alaska (Fairbanks on the Chena MOST of the time)......there won't be a whole LOT of writing getting done during September, although I WILL finish "Weren't Nobody Shootin' at Me..." . but I'll keep you guys advised of "projected" writing dates using the "Stickys" so that you don't have to waste your valuable rest time checking the threads for nothing.

    Sorry I can't do more write now....but your humble "Chronicler" of Great Land flying funnies is............POOPED!! I REALLY need a NAP!!

    Best Wishes All...and as ALWAYS.....Thank You for your continued support....and for telling your friends....about our happy little corner of the internet world (thanks to sponsor STEVE and generous reader's votes). I keep seeing new names and avatars and getting messages from new folks all the time. It PURELY warms the cocktails of my heart!!

    CloudDancer

  19. #19
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Two - cont'd

    As the old codger kneels down, now thankfully no longer under the direct glare of the overhead florescent light , and unhooks the strap end holding his duffel shut I ask “ Well sir, whereabouts would you like to go today?”

    With a quick upward glance at me and a blank look on his faces he replies “Oh...I dunno’...I figured I’d let YOU decide that” and he again turns his attention to the now opened bag and starts digging in it.

    Pepper and I exchange somewhat bewildered glances at each other and I have a brief thought that this is maybe one of those “kook tourists” who appear out of nowhere with no real agenda other than to “experience the wilderness”. Over a couple of decades I would run across a dozen or so, some crazier than others and some completely rational. LIFE magazine profiled one of these idiots based on a diary recovered alongside his frozen carcass in ‘81 or ‘82 after the former Silicon Valley software designer turned “Grizzly Adams” (or whatever) ran out of food and starved/froze to death in the Yukon winter.

    Meanwhile the fella’ is pulling out some NICE big Eddie Bauer mittens followed by a COLT .45 chrome plated hogleg! Ohhhh.Kaaaay. The guy is either prepared or DANGEROUS. The Alaskan bush has always (and STILL is I suspect) been seen as a good HIDING place for various nefarious ne’er-do-wells on the run from the law in the Lower 48; although this doesn’t ALWAYS work out too well. The SMALLER the town to try to HIDE in....well.... let’s just say it didn’t always work out the way the bad guys wanted. And that was way before the internet days or “America’s Most Wanted”.

    A few more seconds of silence and the guys pulls out a large book Pepper and I BOTH recognize INstantly , and he tosses it on one of the plastic chairs where the embossed gold leaf print on the worn black hard cover is easily legible. It reads “Senior Pilot Master Log”. Pepper and I both glance at it...read it....then like some pair of dim-witted bookends, reminiscent of the very EARLIEST “animatronic” DisneyLand moving characters; we stand rooted to the floor hands on hips, mouths agape, stand looking first at each other, then back down at this...this OLD! man.....BACK to the logbook....and finally back to each other again.

    Spritely scrambling back upright, the old guy takes in our “show”. He laughs at scoring first, takes a couple of steps to plant himself square in front of me and sticks out a beefy right paw.

    Glaring up at my eyes from a two or three inch height disadvantage he enjoys my obvious discomfiture and with a big grin says.....”I’m Dave....your new pilot! Would you be CloudDancer??!!”


    Hey folks........banging away on some more of Chapter two as you read this...just wanted to put something up for you so you didn’t waste time coming here. Will have more on by 10 P.M. eastern tonight.

    Hope everybody’s having a nice Labor Day weekend......

    CD

  20. #20
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chap two - cont'd

    Now...Momma CloudDancer had taught me young that a person’s eyes are “the door to the soul”. They ALMOST always tell the truth about a person, and this had steered me fairly true through life thus far.

    Dave, having scored the first point was now looking into my eyes, and I into his. Caught momentarily off guard in the last few seconds , as I grabbed his hand firmly within mine and shook, I fumbled for something to regain my mental balance with. What came out was...”DAMN! You’re a lot ....BALDER than I expected!!” Which busted both Dave AND Pepper into a good guffaw!! As I let drop his hand I felt I had to take a shot BACK and I asked...”Do ya’ POLISH that thing??!!”

    Dave’s laughter ended as abruptly as it had erupted and he again looked me in both eyes as he responded in a slow and measured tone “Simonize. You LIKE it?” The tone was neutral...but the eyes had JUST a new ....wariness with a hint of ....MENACE in them.

    Hey.....WAIT a minute bub. This is MY place I remember thinking. With a bravado supported by good ol’ youthful ignorance once again I responded....”Weeell....it DON’T really do nuthin’ for me you understand.....but I ‘spect summa’ the girls in the villages around here MIGHT mistake you for Telly Savales (KojaK) and that could be helpful ta’ staying a little WARMer some nights if ya’ know what I mean!!”

    Dave responded with a laugh that was reflected in his eyes and said ‘Well. I’m HERE and I came to fly. What say we get started doing SOMEthing. Leroy said I gotta’ ride with the Feds Wednesday afternoon at three......by the way...how WAS Hawaii?”

    Having moved to the coffee pot by the end of the counter I responded by rasing an empty white porcelain mug and waving toward our newest addition I asked “Fresh mud Dave?”

    “Lord YES!! The coffee on that ANC bomber was the WORST I’ve ever tasted and I’ve had some BAD %$#@ substituting for coffee in my day.” he replied.

    With a full cup in each hand, as he repacked the mittens and the shiny .45, I motioned him to assume one of the Captains swivel chairs behind the counter and set the cup in front of it indicating his (at least tentative) acceptance as a pilot here.

    I resumed the conversation where it had been interrupted, by commenting that my week in Hawaii while being a nice break from flying every day had taken it’s toll on my liver to which Dave merely smiled and nodded knowingly. Then I just HAD to ask. “SPEAKing of YOUR day Dave....uh....um...when....exactly WAS your day...I mean I DON’T mean to be disrespectful but it’s pretty OBVIOUS this ain’t your first hoedown.”

    He said “You mean....how OLD am I?” to which I mumbled an soft and somewhat embarrassed “Uh..yeah. I Guess.”

    ‘Well...I’m a few weeks away from fifty-ONE yet....but I can still MANage to drag these poor ol’ bones into an airplane every now an’ agin’ and get some work done without hurting anything...not to MENTION this girl's Dad here” and he turns to look at Pepper and says “I assume you are DanniKay?”

    At this Pepper bounds out of the seat and says ‘YES!! And I am SO happy to MEET you! And CloudDancer IS right about one thing. “Oh? What’s THAT” he said. To which Pepper responds ‘The girls are going to just LOVE that head of yours. I think it’s SEXY!!”

    Dave laughs, takes Pepper’s hand in his and bowing slightly from the waist kisses her hand while saying “Tis inDEED an honor and a privilege to meet a woman so young beautiful AND wise.” He continued “You MAY well be the most enjoyable BOSS I’ve ever had.”

    Pepper answered. “We’ll see what you say in a couple of months. You’ve talked to Dad...and CloudDancer here is a real softie at heart.” (sticking her tongue out at me mockingly while saying this).

    “Mom RUNS the organization, handles ALL the scheduling inCLUDing dealing with the pilots.
    Dad may have hired you....and Cloudy will make sure you’re fit to fly and keep an operational eye on you ‘til Mom and Dad get back from Hawaii.....but MOM is the one who will FIRE you in a heartbeat if you mess up TOO bad around here...and SHE trained ME!!”

    Still holding Pepper’s hand in his, the old guy turns to me with a quizzical look and arches one eyebrow in question. In response I nod solemnly and say “Dave....I have YET to ever say no to EITHER of them. I VALUE my gonads!!”

    Suspecting that there may still be more to the story Dave drops DanniKay’s hand and says gallantly ‘Then it shall be as you WISH mistress.!!”

    “Good. That’s the company spirit I WANT to hear” Pepper says as she drops a pile of blank forms in front of the newest aviator in Kotzebue. “Here. Fill all this out to start with.”

    “Oh Lordy” sighs Dave as he drains the cups and slides it along the yellow formica counter top toward me. “At my last job...they weren’t real BIG on pilots filling out a whole lotta’ paperwork. Well, I guess it’s back to the REAL world and the federal government...wouldja’ mind putting a fresh head on that one for me please??”

    As I pour Dave a refill I ask....so what WUZ the last flying you were doing Dave and how long since you’ve flown?

    “Oh, I took a couple a years off. Thought maybe I’d try writin’ a book. Doubt you ever heard of my last job it was on the other side of the world from here. Little outfit called Air America.”
    He said it all without looking up from the paper he was writing on.

    I came up beside him slowly and placed the full cup alongside the form he was filling out.

    Setting the pen down he picked up the cup and as he raised it to his lips he asked “Do you KNOW anything about ‘em?” He stared me in the eyes over the coffe cup now raised to his lips. His eyes as emotionless and cold as a shark’s eye.

    I responded “Yeah. Yeah Dave. Believe I mighta’ READ a little bit about ‘em SOMEwheres.”

    Although actually I had only HEARD whispers and rumors about America’s “secret air force” in SE Asia. But if that’s where he came from...it was starting to explain a FEW questions that had been forming in my brain.

    "Hmmm" as he again picked up the pen and looked intently at the application form he was executing in the most preCISE penmanship i had every SEEN from a man's hand. "I'd be surprised actually'...spoken without ever looking up from the paper...'Don't think there was TOO much written DOWN about our outfit....BUT......I COULD be wrong.' Knowing DAMN well he wasn't.

  21. #21
    Jr.CubBuilder's Avatar
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    Cool, can't wait to hear the rest of this one

  22. #22
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Three - GroundSchool, on the Rocks Please

    Forty-five minutes later, feet propped up on the counter top, I was slouched down in the Captain’s chair going over Dave’s application and record of flight times.

    No WONDER Leroy jumped all over this guy. He had better than 22,000 hours!! FOUR times more than MY pitiful 5,100 hours. Hell. Dave had almost THAT much time just in the TURBINE column for chrissake!! And the score sheet also listed a good three thousand plus hours in 206's and 207's. I wonder where he did THAT time??

    Every few seconds I would glance out the window to observe (hopefully unnoticed by Dave) as to how thoroughly he conducted his preflight of one of the company’s three Cessna 207's.

    Nowadays, as Captain for a large airline, I fly with literally HUNDREDS of strangers sitting to my right. Of course, for almost eleven years PRIOR I flew with literally HUNDREDS of strangers sitting to my LEFT.

    No matter WHICH seat I was in for the last seventeen years; HOW the other guy/gal attended to the mundane everyday duties of cockpit preparation....PAPERwork preparation.....and checklists....not to mention the OFTEN UNBELIEVEABLE VARIETY of problems presented to you for YOUR DIVINE INTERVENTION by the gate agent, loadmaster, senior flight attendant et al.....how a pilot handles these mundane but essential chores...

    Grace and good humor? Anally fixated? STRICTly “by the book” or does he/she take a couple of extra minutes perusing “the book” for a possibly unique or creative way to (safely) resolve an issue. :P

    Generally, before I cross the “hold line” and enter the runway...99.2% of the time...I’ll have an accurate idea of what kind of PILOT this person is.

    Thirty years ago I made that judgement....MOSTLY accurately....based on the way a man would PREflight his air machine. MAINLY because at one point mid-way through MY second full year of Arctic flying....I got pretty...no... VERY lacksadasical about MY preflights. Until TWICE in one week I had SERIOUS incidents, one of which resulted in an unplanned landing, that would have been prevented by conducting a good preflight. Not an ANAL preflight. Just a decently good preflight!!

    So now, I watch Dave and not surprisingly I am pleased by what I see. Very thorough in a timely fashion with a smooth flow of action. I can tell I am going to enjoy flying with him.

    Twenty minutes later I am sitting in the right seat watching as his hands flow across switches knobs, clocks, and dials smoothly adjusting the panel for flight.

    Stopping in mid-motion he says “ Hey. Jeez. I’m sorry. I was just doing this the way I’ve ALWAYS done it. I suppose you want me to use a CHECKlist HUH??”

    Now I give HIM the look and say “Well Dave. If you use the checklist each and every time you fly one of these things then...yeah...I guess you’d better use the CHECKlist. HowEVER in the reMOTE chance that it might get LOST some day en route somewheres...it MIGHT be good to see how it is you’d get by withOUT one.”

    To which Dave’s knowing grin of a response let’s me know we BOTH understand how the REAL world works. And the coal black blades of the propellor merge into an indistinct blur of a disc with a yellow edging created by the yellow painted blade tips. And after instructing Dave in the finer points of the local F.A.A. F.S.S. radio system and the “local” flight planning procedures, I sit back in my seat and wait to be entertained.

    It was somewhat of a let down. Although Dave complained MULTIPLE times about himself and his performance to ME, I could find very little fault with his flying. So much so that after only thirty minutes I called for a little time out and allowed Dave to taxi back.

  23. #23
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Rather than waste anymore time or 100 octane I figured I light of Dave’s obviously (but for a little rust) very accomplished performance; we may as well get to the meat of the matter.

    So after topping off both the aircraft’s two wing tanks as well as our two coffee cups during a half-hour break I thought I’d put a little more pressure on. I gave Dave a few minutes to peruse our most current copy of the NOS flip charts showing the NDB 17 and VOR 26 approaches. I gave him all of five minutes then took the book away.

    We then put our jackets back on and proceeded into the hangar where I told Dave as I hoisted another to grab a case of engine oil and follow me. Out to the airplane we went. Back and forth a half dozen more times, until finally in addition to the full tanks of gas, the airplane would also carry four cases of engine oil in the nose baggage compartment and another ten cases in the cabin.

    With me ‘n Dave both weighing in at about 170 apiece (yes...I WAS skinny....once long ago.....) This brought us to somewhere within a couple hundred pounds of legal gross weight and was just slightly under the “average” 207 load. The “average” usually being FULL or slightly OVER full. Which of course means that many flights were MORE than “just slightly over” FULL to get the average.

    But my point is and was and HAS been throughout my career; it’s oh-KAY to teach people how to fly in EMPTY or far UNDERweight airplanes. But one way or another, ensure that before you turn them LOOSE with a precious cargo of human lives, assure yourSELF that they can fly a FULL airplane too!!

    Most generally I would just add 20 per cent of the useful load using SOME sort of “ballast”each or every OTHER training session. However in Dave’s case it was blatantly apparent that only one more or at most TWO training sessions would be involved. I grabbed the “hood” and the instument approach charts on the way out to the plane after one last check with Pepper to verify there weren’t any “pop-up” trips I needed to do.

    Again we worked through regular, turning and accelerated stalls and ULTRA slow flight and steep turns. If anything Dave was even smoother than two hours earlier. Damn MAN! This guy IS good. Time to see how smooth the old boy is with his vision restricted to the gauges. We had one of those BIG hoods!!

    Damn. This guy STILL nails ‘em all. Well. I guess we’ll go try a couple of approaches. FINALLY....FINALLY the guy screws UP!!. After absolutely NAILING the NBD approach with a strong westerly crosswind from procedure turn inbound...ALL the way down!! (MUCH to MY disgust) he MESSES UP the VOR approach to runway 26 offa’ the 10 DME arc!!

    ‘Course it’s ONLY ‘cause he mis-set the OBS by ten degrees on the final approach course and then discovered it about two miles outside the VORhouse. He reset it quickly but got all buggered up trying to recapture the radial that close in. So he wisely declares a missed approach and we go around and (no surprise again) nail it cold on the second try!

    I’ve seen all I need to see from THIS guy. In the middle of the go around from the second VOR approach as we are passing six hundred feet or so in a left turn. We are about the one third point of the runway in a climbing left turn as I direct Dave’s visual attention to the VORhouse off to the left discussing it’s relationship to the threshold. You ALL KNOW what’s NEXT...DON’T ya?

    Having properly distracted him my right foot slides back from my rudder, under my left leg and with the toe of my boot I hook the end of the black plastic fuel tank selector arrow at the bottom of the pedestal and push it to “off”.

    As the engine dies abruptly just touching 800 feet Dave’s head whips around to look first at me for JUST a split second and seeing the grin on my face looks down to confirm his suspicions. He then looks back at me with THE most PAtronizing look of inDIFFERENCE I have EVER seen as he begins to drop the nose and tighten the bank. He punches the flaps down to ten then turn his attention back out the window. He NAILS it one more time.

    Bounce and Dirk are back when we taxi in....and having BOTH been CloudDancer “victims” in THEIR new hire days had been eyeballing us from the ground as Dave showed his stuff around the pattern.

    They are both loading to go out again and take a couple of moments as we shut down to come over and meet the new guy and hear my assessment. As Dave heads off to get the fuel hose I briefly relay the happy news that we’ve got a winner it APPEARS and NOT someone we will have to watch out for or babysit for a long while. They are also happy to hear that, in MY humble opinion anyway, even though he IS by a long shot the oldest of us...he’s not some GRUMPY old man, but seems to enjoy life and a good laugh.

    By now it is pushing three in the afternoon and Dave and I are both hungry. I convince Pepper that with nothing else on the books....having PLANNED on keeping me free for the whole day if possible...that I should take the rest of the day off after our late lunch and get Dave squared away at our ‘bunkhouse” of sorts.

    I remind her that Dave and I STILL have much BOOK work to go over....at which Dave turns away (but NOT before I see the slight roll of his eyes.)

    After dropping Dave’s gear at the house and enjoying a decent lunch I remind Dave that groundschool is part of EVERY job, and the Boss expects me to have him up to speed in less than forty-eight hours. Reluctantly Dave climbs back into the company pickup truck.

    As I turn north in the center of the village Dave asks “where are we GOing?? Aren’t we going to the office??” I reply to Dave that I OFTEN prefer to conduct groundschool in a setting more conducive to learning....without the distractions of noisy airplanes and phones ringing and customers wandering in and out. He appears to be mulling this over, as if trying to figure out if I am serious or jerking his chain.

    Dave’s been in the Arctic for all of about six hours now. He hasn’t a clue WHERE the hell he is.

    I pull up in front of a building shut off the car and leaping out of the truck I holler at Dave...”let’s go. School’s about to start. And I bound up the three wooden steps to the broad porch and the single wooden door. As Dave get to the top step I fling open the door and the sound of the Bee Gee’s “jive talkin’” comes wafting out along with the smell of smoke.

    As Dave gives me a slightly puzzled look I bow slightly motion him in ahead of me ask as he passes. “So how do you like YOUR groundschool??? Straight Up? Or on the rocks/” and with a big grin in return says to me “oh...on the ROCKS, of COURSE..always...on the ROCKS!”

  24. #24
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    Chapter Four - Maintain Visual Separation

    Three or four weeks had gone by and Dave had shown himself to be one hell of a hard workin’ old man!! He kept up with us kids in the air AND on the ground.

    He’d bought a brand new Yamaha kick butt racing snow machine to get around on (paid CASH I’d discovered) and was never seen to be cruising at anything other than the fastest possible speed , unless slowing to stop.

    But he BABIED his airplanes and the engines and handled THOSE throttles with a great degree of smoothness and finesse. The contrast was remarkable really, until I thought of how Bounce Dirk and I behaved on OUR ground bound machines. It was just...I dunno’....WEIRD to see some OLD guy act like US!!

    Further....he had NO problem keeping up with ANYbody when it came time to relax and “unwind” from a hard days work at the Ponderosa or the Whale.

    I had noted during our “new-hire groundschool” conducted at the end of the Ponderosa bar, Dave could beat up on a fifth of Canadian Mist every bit as good as I could a fifth of Bacardi. After covering the basics of the Cessna 206 and 207's fuel and electrical systems including what slim emergency or alternative procedures there were; and not surprisingly, finding no gaps in his knowledge; I declared he had scored 100 % on his oral examinations and was now ready to begin his “ride-alongs”. I THEN tried to turn the conversation to talk about him.

    Might as well have tried to learn more about the origin of the ciderblock wall against which my shoulder comfortably leaned. Every question was either coyly deflected, answered with another question to me or just plain ignored. And when I mentioned Air America, and that SOME of the things about SOME of their operations I’d heard were a bit...uh...shall we say......ummm.......
    Questionably LEGAL?? Ol’ Dave just turned to me.....pinned my head back against that cinderblock wall with the absolute ICIEST stare I’d ever seen ......and said quietly “ Now, I wouldn’t know anything aBOUT that.” He then climbed offa’ his stool and headed for the jukebox. Discussion closed.

    His “ride-alongs” (what today we call Initial Operating Experience) were pretty much none eventful as well for the next day and a half.

    On the legs with passengers Dave would sit in the right seat furiously scribbling notes in a green covered loose-leaf spiral notebook. Headings........milages.....frequencies.....and making lots of circles and notes on his sectionals. I was very impressed.

    On the empty legs I would get in the right seat letting him fly and get comfortable some more in preparation for the checkride with the FEDs. Neither of us was interested in continuing this any longer than necessary as only I was getting paid. He was supposed to be “learning”. And after a leg or two I get tired (at least at THAT point in my life) of having to “share” my flying time.

    And, as you would imagine, Ol’ Dave WOWED the FEDs who were used to quite often getting the beJEEZUS scared out of them by all the newly hired young kids fresh up from the States.


    So here we are a little over a month from the day Dave hit town; and as Snoopy (in his frustrated author mode) liked to start out....”it was a dark and stormy night...”; except REALLY it was kind of a gloomy and dimly lit stormy winter’s DAY.

    The %$#^ing on again-off again generator for the OTZ VOR had crapped out a couple of days earlier and this was about our third day in a row of doing things the old (pre-VOR days) way. And to add a little spice to the days events the weather was jeeeeest BAREly good enough to keep flying. The control zone would go from MVFR to IFR to MVFR....back and forth....hour after hour.

    We’d fly circles over Nimuik Point...the mouth of the Noatak....Lockhart Point just north of town a couple of miles....and down southeast at Reilly Wreck. With one radio on 123.6 we’d listen to and communicate with flight service, and with the other VHF we’d gab amongst ourselves on one twenty-two point eight.

    Some of the gabbing was just gabbing and SOME was important!! There might be three guys holding at the mouth of the Noatak, two over Sheshalik, and maybe FOUR over Numuik Point.
    ALL of us are VFR...even though maybe HALF of us can’t see anything past our wingtips and are circling and blabbing whilst focused intently on the ADI and DG and altimeter.

    Visibility may be anything from vertical only to as much as four miles (that’s the best it’s been all morning) depending on which band of snowshowers is covering the neck of woods you’re holding over right at the moment. Hence it is EXTREMLY important that EACH and EVERY airplane know the whereabouts and ACCURATE altitude of the others holding in it’s immediate vicinity at the same place. So we TALK to each other.

    The ATC specialist on duty at Kotzebue Flight Service has added our tail numbers one at a time to his list along with our “holding” locations and will begin to issue Special VFR clearances into the control zone to one aircraft at a time in order, as soon as the NWS again reports a mile visibility and he/she can obtain “control” of the control zone from Anchorage center. But will that be in five minutes or THIRTY-five minutes??

    Who’s got enough gas?? Not enough?? Does anybody have a medical emergency on board?

    In some infrequent cases we will let one of our competitors even cut in line if they really need to. Hey. What GOES AROUND COMES AROUND you know.

    For now at least, we are past the days of stealing each others loads and not enough work to go around. So us poor ol’ rank and file line drivers do what we can to help each other out.

    The FSS people will try to help out by combining more than one airplane into one SPECIAL VFR clearance. (I actually think our record was twenty-two airplanes on ONE Special VFR clearance, but that was for TAKEOFF clearance in summertime fog.)

    But if you have planes at the mouth of the Noatak River, Lockhart Point and Sheshalik they....COULD...in THEORY.....be within sight of one another. Hence, upon noting that the next three airplanes in line for a clearance into the zone are located at those three points the FSS Specialist will transmit the following “Cessna 47 X-ray (over Sheshalik) and Cessna 33 Quebec (over the mouth of the Noatak) and Aztec 63 Charlie (over Lockhart Point0...are you able to MAINTAIN VISUAL SEPERATION?”

    Quick as a wink you hear “47X-Ray roger...33 Quebec ROGER!!...Aztec 63Charlie...you BET!!”

    Now..these guys....they don’t even KNOW yet where the others are most likely. I mean hell. There may be a DOZEN airplanes out there. The FSS guy....HE’s the one with the pad and a piece of paper. But that don’t matter. Here comes the clearance....

    “ATC CLEARS Cessna 9247 X-Ray, Cessna 7633 Quebec and Aztec 3563 Charlie to Enter the Kotzebue Control Zone. MainTAIN one mile visibility and remain CLEAR of the CLOUDS. MAINTAIN VISUAL SEPARATION and report arrival this frequency.

    Before the FSS specialist is even halfway through ISSUING the clearance ALL THREE aircraft have left the “holding fixes” and pointed themselves at the airport. Therefore, as soon as the FSS guy gets offa’ his transmit switch three (in sequence) acknowledgements are RAPIDLY transmitted back to him so that all three pilots can hurriedly switch over to 122.8 as they are ALL within a few short miles and pointed at the same place.

    Each pilot states his position and altitude first to insure we are at three separate altitudes. ( Hey! Three hundred feet is a GREAT place to be as long as no one ELSE is there!) Then in a matter of moments who ever is second closest says something like.... Okay.....I’ll stay at FIVE hundred feet until I hit Arctic Lighterage and then I’ll widen way out over the ice onto a left base and stay at five ‘til you call short final. To which the third guy says Okay. I’ll fly across the top of town at eight hundred and enter a RIGHT downwind to eight and turn MY right base when YOU call short final ( # 2).

    In a matter of three minutes all three planes have landed safely and canceled their clearances to make way for the next arrival or group of arrivals. And I never even caught a GLIMPSE of either of the other two airplanes in the air.

    I mean...isn’t that what they MEAN by “maintain visual separation”?? I mean..ifn’ I can’t SEE the guy...I MUST be visually SEPARATED.....RIGHT??!!

  25. #25

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    Jeezz! It's hard enough for me to pick out guys a mile away at Paine Field when the weather is 'clear below 12,000' , I can't even begin to imagine doing it in the soup like you are describing! Heck, the other day the clouds here were barely below 1,500 AGL , and the tower had ther darn beacon rotatin'! I am thinking, they probably don't know what real weather is, do they?!

  26. #26
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    I guess maybe I wasn't quite clear enough Stephan.

    We never planned to see each other, or even to try too hard to LOOK for each other. Ergo...THAT was what all the "private" (from the F.A.A.) interplane communication was FOR...to ensure we would infact MISS each other since in many cases we had absolutely NO expectation of SEEing each other.

    Kinda' like "see and avoid"...only without the "see" part.

    CD

  27. #27
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    Hey CD, how's the book coming?

  28. #28
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    Hiya Jr.CubBuilder -

    Thanks for asking. And the answer is....I DUNNO !!

    Only because I am in VERY unfamiliar territory and learning as I go. I do have a gentleman who is in the business who will do an intial edit on the work already done and he has promised to help find a final editor and publisher.

    One of the guys I fly with is also a commercial artist. I have designed the cover art for the book in my mind and I am having my first conversation with him about it tomorrow. And....no surprise here.....Steve Johnson ....SuperCub.org founder and Master of Ceremonies has also offered much good counsel and assistance.

    In short JCB (if I may call you that), still a "work in progess".

    I must finish "Weren't Nobody at Me" and then get "Hi. I'm From the FAA, and I'm Here to Help" written as well. That will be the tenth "Chronicle" and will wrap up Volume One.

    I will probably NOT publish that one here. OTHERWISE...you might not buy the BOOK !! (LOL) Why buy the when you can get the milk for free..!!??

    All MY stuff should be ready in less than a month or so...but then someone else has to take over and I just don't know the process/timeframe from there.

    It really totally overwhelms me sometime that this is even possible.

    Once again. I can only offer my thanks to you the readers....Mr. Steve Johnson. and my part-time accomplice in mayhem "hvyjet", who introduced me to SupercCub.org to start with.

    It is and will continue to be an honor and privelege to try to keep you laughing and entertained.

    CloudDancer

  29. #29
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    Chapter Five - The Faith of Our ForeFathers
    So Ol’ Dave had been pretty much on his own right outta’ the gate, as it was quite apparent he didn’t need anybody holding his hand (so to speak).

    He was also DAMN smart. He continually, for the first few weeks after his arrival, while sharing adult libations after the day’s flying was ended; consistently “pumped” Bounce, Dirk and I for tidbits of local flying knowledge. Given the depth and variety of his experience, this continuous probing quest on his part to amass all the local flying info was further impressing to me. I reported confidently and by now quite INfrequently to Leroy that our “newbie” was already comfortably shouldering his share of the load.

    As this rather challenging (weather-wise) day reached it’s peak of daylight at shortly past noon, I blasted off for Buckland in my favorite Cessna 206 focused on the difficulties of completing MY assigned trip under these conditions. This was about the worst weather Dave has had to contend with since his arrival, but I was fairly sure based on what I’d observed personally and through others that he would talk good care of himself and by obvious extension...our passengers as well.

    Calling “Clear of the zone” to Flight Service passing Reilly Wreck southeast bound released me from monitoring 122.2 any further and at 1500 feet with two miles flight visibility in light steady snow I eased my Midnite Blue, gold and white Cessna 206 into a gentle left bank. Changing from my base course of 127 degrees a few degrees more to the east will allow me to keep the western shore of the Baldwin peninsula comfortably in view , as oppossed to staying on my base course with the same visibility had the VOR been in service and providing course guidance for the first 30 miles at least.

    With the VOR down we now reverted to the “old” way of doing things. This basically boiled down to the following semi OH-ficial proCEEdure.

    You go out VFR and REMAIN VFR until unable to do so. Clearly...contact flying of the most basic kind accomplished by pilots in the 1920's and 30's all over the globe.

    You know how...sometimes it is rainy, overcast and a steady rain. Steady in intensity and visibility for miles and miles. And then SOMEtimes...sometimes you’re under a semi-ragged overcast....bases moving up and down. You fly into clear areas with five or six miles visibility and you can see up ahead there is a shower “cell” (for lack of a better term) and it is pouring out precip in a noticeable gray shaft. Maybe it’s a half mile across or around or maybe a couple of miles around. But you can see it and have the (airspace) ability (not really a PROBLEM in the Arctic) to fly around it without so much as a drop for moisture hitting a wingtip.

    Well, for those of you who HAVEN’T flown in snow, it is quite often the same type of thing.

    And this is what I was confronted with for the first two-thirds of my trip until reaching the north shore of Escholtz Bay. Sometimes I had five or six miles visibility and sometimes only one or two. I drifted slowly in and out from a base course line as required to keep the shoreline in sight or underneath me as the case may be.

    But upon crossing the base of the peninsula and looking out across the bay I was confronted with a different challenge. On a line as far as I could see from west-northwest to east southeast lay a solid line of heavier snow obscuring all that lay behind it. Now we were in for some SERIOUS contact flying!

    This was due in part to the reduced visibility, but the other big factor was the remaining geography between Buckland, my destination and the soft cushioned seat in the artificially warmed cocoon of aluminum which was hurtling through the atmosphere at a cruising speed of 135 KIAS.

    A straight course to Buckland would require crossing the south shore of the bay and then flying over terrain which rose and fell awkwardly and gradually from two to three hundred fifty feet MSL. This would mean an altitude of at no LESS than five hundred would be required just to keep from smacking into anything and I’d prefer to have SIX hundred feet or so to cruise at.

    The terrain immediately prior to reaching Buckland on the base course has no REALLY good features and will be for all workable purposes useless...a complete whiteout situation. Additionally to the immediate east side of Buckland across the very narrow river on which it sits, no more than two miles or so from the runway the ground slopes upward quickly into a low hill of about eight or nine hundred feet or so. And in the other direction a few miles further away (maybe about eight or so) but still uncomfortably close for “blind” flying lies a row of higher hills between Buckland and Candle and as I remember, one of them stuck up pretty good like close to 2000 feet or so.

    Ergo, planning for the worst determined a rather large deviation. I took one last deep drag on my smoke as I rolled the airplane steeply left and let the nose fall. Exhaling, I stub out my smoke against the sidewall mounted ashtray and snap it shut. The brief metal sliding against metal scrapping sound lasts but a half a sec. The click of the cheap metal ashtray cover colliding with the tin edging trim bordering the wall mounted receptacle indicates without my looking that it is shut securely and no further hazard.

    I snap the wings level again with the sound of the ashtray closing and revel in the speed building and the ground or rather the frozen snow covered surface of Escholtz Bay coming closer and closer flashing by out side.

    On a heading of eighty-five degrees now I am aimed at a point on the east side of the bay four or five miles ahead. The snow covered ice now streaks by me five hundred feet below at almost 160KIAS as the excess speed from my “cruise” descent slowly drifts back to normal cruise.

    For the third time since leaving Kotzebue I call out on both 122.8 and 122.9 one after the other.

    “Heeeelllloooo down BUCKland way! This is Cessna 756LS over Escholtz Bay headed for Buckland....anybody down Buckland way today???”

    Receiving only silence for an answer on both frequencies....I follow those transmissions with the following, again on both frequencies.

    “Hey alla’ you aviator type dudes (no GIRLS back then....) 6 Lickety-Split is over Escholtz Bay at 500 feet headed for the east shore to try to follow the river up to Buckland. There is a BIG... I mean HO -rizon to HO-rizon walla’ %^$# down this away looks like from maybe all the way somewheres over by Shishmaffy (Sishmaref) to as far as a guy can see over toward Huslia. Hard to tell yet if’n it’s moving northward or not...seems almost stationary I don’t see anymore of the east shore disappearing as I’m getting closer but it’s kinda’ hard to tell....I’ll let ya’ KNOW!!”

    Now THAT transmission gets responses on BOTH frequencies. A couple of “fly careful”s and the expected “Tell us whatcha’ GOT if ya’ get the chance after you get into it!!”

    “Roger that cat!! Lickety-Split’ll give ya’ the news when I can get a hand free...uh-oh....yeah boys....this &^%$ is definitely movin’ north...headed our (Kobuk Valley) way...the east shore of the bay is disappearing moving northward... I think it should start covering south side Selawik Lake in another ten minutes or so.....startin’ to look pretty thick....I gotta’ hang up now... talk to ya’ll in a while!!”

    Three or four more “thanks” and “be carefuls” and I am again alone with my airplane.

    Less than a mile to the east shore as I start screwing in the propellor control and ease the manifold pressure back to 20 inches. The A/S needle drops to just under the top of the white arc at 130 KIAS. I wait until I see 120 and then drop the first notch of flaps which slows me further.

    I have let my altitude drop by another 100 feet and now inside a half mile to go to the beach I start a gradual right bank which will put the east shore line and beach just under my left window and wing. I give the prop control another slow gentle full crank rotation.

    At 105 knots indicated as the wings roll level again at four hundred feet I barge my way into the oncoming snowstorm. OOOHHHH Yeah Baby! THIS is gonna’ take some WORK!

    Visibility is now SOMEwhere between three-quarters and a half mile. Yep. Loooks like I’m gonna’ hafta’ EARN my pay today. Oh well. Just so long as it don’t get MUCH worse I remember thinkin’ to myself. (Sigh) I GOTS to quit THINKIN’ to myself...

  30. #30

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    Cloudy, you are a true hero! Woa! What a mess you are flying your self into in this story! By the way, what ever happened to that 756SL? Looks like it's been deregistered

    B.S. - nice photos!

  31. #31
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    Stephan - Far...FAR from true hero......once again you are reading of youthful ignorance combined with exhuberance AND (at that point) an as yet UNKNOWN, even unto myself, capacity for thinking I was bullet proof because.....well...beacause I ALWAYS HAD beeen.

    The day THAT feeling went away was the day after my 27th birthday in 1981 and how well I remember it. But THAT airplane ride had NOTHING COMEDIC about it.

    The tail number for this flight was seven-five-six LIMA SIERRA..not SIERRA LIMA

    I most often called it Lickety-Split and one of my life long buddies (still flying all over the state today out of an ANC office) used to LOVE to tease me by calling me 756LONGSHAFT.

    His "trap lines" and mine had crossed quite often in Northwestern Alaska when we were much younger.

    As a matter of fact I was flying one of his airplanes when I had the above mentioned "Come to Jesus" (in more ways than ONE, damn near) experience.

    If you look up 756LS I think you will find she is alive and well and kicking around Lake Hood somewhere. She was my "baby" and sweetheart for a COUPLE of years. I got her when she was brand new (see "Don't look at ME, I'm Not Touchin' It!!")

    Thanks for your interest Stephan...hope you are doing well. How's Momma 'n that munchkin o' yours??

    CloudDancer

  32. #32
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    Experience is what you NOW call the foolish mistakes of your past....

    at ANY age!!


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    Thanks CD! Truth be known, I read your stories quite carefully. I just like to come back with my own "interpretation" of what "I think" I would do. You do such a damn good job of describing these situations, that I can almost picture precisely what you were doing, and I've never even been to Alaska!

    The munchkin is turning into a rascal and growing like a weed! Thanks for asking. Momma is doin' jess fine too, a little happier now that I am done going to a couple of night classes I've been taking on the side. Who knows, maybe next year I might just get to be one of them .. DER's, or somethin'.

    Oh, the N756LS still shows "deregistered". At least it doesn't say "destroyed". Probably means that it's been sold to someone in Canada, or some other far-away place. Hey, maybe it's in RUSSIA!! Sorry, I can't help look these things up. It's almost like being part of your story.. of course, I am not that crazy. Just heaving fun reading your stuff CD!

  34. #34
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    Chapter Six - "Weren't Nobody SHOOTin' At Me!!"

    As I had time and again over the past years I “butt-crawled” slightly forward on my seat giving up the comfort of reclining back against the upright portion of my chair. I don’t know that it helps. We’ve all done it. It just seems to be an almost universal natural reaction to the lower visibility. We feel as if somehow, that extra three to five inches closer your eyeballs are to whatEVER is coming closer, will afford you that mere extra NANOsecond of reaction time that will allow you to avert making a gooey sizzling mess of your innards all over the suddenly no longer in flight cylinders and engine block. Dumb. But we do it.

    With little more than two miles or so to the mouth of the Buckland river I barrel along still quite confidently even though in the Kobuk Valley region this IS one of the more difficult contact flying areas. Like the area immediately west of Selawik when coming from Kotzebue, the eastern shore of Escholtz Bay and the Buckland river yet to come are very, VERY sparsely vegetated.

    Flying the Kobuk river is SO much easier for instance, because there are such large and lengthy areas of tall green trees bordering both sides of the river as well as a significantly much higher riverbank on one or both sides at a time.

    The Buckland riverbanks are comparatively much lower in height and have many gradual slopes to the water with NO trees whatsoever along the way between the mouth and the village. And although the distance is only about fifteen miles or so (not counting the twists and turns of the river) it can seem much longer if the visibility really starts getting tough. With a sparse amount of green scrubby small bushes and what appears to be some occasional batches of straw sticking up through the deep snows....well.....there ain’t much to look at.

    It’s a VERY tight marriage of both instrument referenced quick glances to “what’s out the window” quick glances. That’s why since the beginning “the elders”, the Gunderson Brothers, Leroy and the other old timers had pounded into our heads an oft repeated lesson.

    Spend lots and LOTS of time down low learning what the world looks like from five hundred feet or less. And we did it over and over on GOOD days until we DID learn it.

    I new which way the next turn in the river was going to be beFORE I got there. I HAD to. I couldn’t afford to miss it if I wanted to find the village.

    So now, as the mouth of the river passes three hundred feet below the belly of my 206, I remain alert, and a little keyed up, but quite comfortable. I’ve given up more altitude and now with the visibility a consistent and solid half mile, I shove the flap lever to the twenty degree setting and crank the prop control in two more turns. The increased pitch of the Hartzell and drag of the flaps now take my speed down to a more comfortable eighty-five knots and I note with great relief that there is absolutely no change in the temperature and no ice accumulation at all. THAT would put a kibosh on this deal immediately.

    My airplane is empty and quit light and responsive to the controls as I bank first one way then the other then back again. The reduced speed also means less steeper banks to make the turns and that too is a relief under these conditions.

    About a third of the way upriver to the village I commit to an “approach pattern” mentally in my head based on the existing conditions remaining the same. As soon as I see the village I will line up and fly down the center of the three thousand foot gravel strip.

    After all this twisting and turning I MUST have an accurate DG setting in the pattern to make this work. Flying the runway at ten feet or so will allow me to reset my altimeter to field elevation. I’ll also reset the DG to 120 degrees with the airplane centered on the runway and get a good look at the windsock so I can cogitate a wind correction angle for the upcoming turn. I anticipate the winds will most probably be out of the east northeast as they usually are when these storms come blowing through.

    Reaching the end of the runway a climbing right turn to 200 degrees and four hundred feet ...wait 15 seconds going straight ahead....a steep (25 to 30 degree) turn totally on the gauges to a reciprocal 020 degrees and wings level for twenty seconds before make a turn onto “final” and descending to 300 feet on the altimeter. Make the “final course” about 310 to 312 degrees for the wind and within no more than a dozen seconds or so....Buckland should appear out of the murk ahead with JUST enough time and room for a final alignment with the runway if I am off a little bit. A NO-O-O-O SWEATer all right. As LONG as it doesn’t get no worse.

    But, of course it does, and as another couple of miles pass beneath my serpentine-like “slithering” up the river 206, I am forced to drop my final notch of flaps, crank the prop control all the way forward and butt-crawl forward ‘til my forehead is almost pressed against the left side of the black metal floatplane brace in the windshield.

    %#^& !! %#^& !! %#^& !! I-I-I-I...HATE it when it gets like this!

    Now down to seventy-five knots indicated and with only 150 feet showing on the altimeter visibility is DEcreasing and I KNOW I have ONLY five miles or less to GO!!! DAMN DAMN double dog DAMMIT!! I fear now that this may become one of those times where you get to see the village....maybe only a quick glimpse and then it’s GONE and having NOT been able to carefully set yourself up COMPLETELY for a decent APPROACH you must now just punch out and point for home!!

    Higher ground is just east of the east bank of the river and I hug the west bank tightly in what is now three-eighths of a mile visibility at BEST. If I can JUST hang on for another....

    Looking up from my every-other-two-seconds check of the altimeter I crane my head left and have it practically wedged between the V-brace and the left windshield post... I see.... MOTHER MARY!! No more than a few HUNDRED feet away I am about to enter SOMEthing that is dark grey and VERY SCARY LOOKING.

    ******

    Stay tuned folks. More to come tonight 'cause I hafta' go back to the REAL world (work) early tamale....and I kinda' want to wrap this segment up.

    CD

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    Chapter Six - cont'd

    That’s IT!! I AM OUTTA’ HERE!! I snap the wings level, slam the throttle home and pull the nose up ten degrees and the 206 responds as if launched from a catapult. And as I lock hard onto the gauges the world grows a little darker .

    In ten seconds the altimeter is shooting up through three hundred feet and the flaps have completed a partial retraction to twenty degrees and the VSI keeps increasing upward to 1000 fpm. As soon as the big hand on the altimeter passes the four I start rolling into a thirty degree right bank and bring the flaps up to ten.

    The ADF needle tuned to 720 for KOTZ is swinging it’s way counterclockwise and I start rolling out of the bank and retract the last ten degrees of flaps as it passes the ten degrees of the nose to the right position. As it settles in the twelve o’clock position I look out the forward windshield just in time to see a slight but definitely perceptible lightening of the darkness around me.

    There is the very finest slight coat of rime icing on the plane and the forward portion of the underwing area. No doubt. Getting out was the ONLY thing to do.

    A glance at my DG shows a heading of 330 which I KNOW can’t be anywhere’s near correct and the compass is still swimming around so I set 305 and leave it at that for a while. If the ADF says OTZ is straight ahead and I was within 5 miles of Buckland when I U-turned then 305 is close enough ‘til I get straight and level and the compass settles down for a good reading.

    Back in very cold air again I am solid on the clocks but there is no ice accumulating so I decide to take her up to 6500 ft since I am light and reach for the microphone.

    “Hellooooo...any traffic for Buckland this is 756LS climbing out of Buckland area to 6500 feet direct Kotzebue...anybody headed THIS way??”

    Immediately Dave’s voice comes back at me from the transmitter in one of the company 207's and he reports he’s on his way to Buckland from Kotzebue and has just leveled off at 5500 feet.

    Saaaaay WHAT?? I quickly pass onto him all I know and I’ve just been through and there’s a pregnant pause. I assume this has given him sufficient reason to turn around. And WHAT the heck is he doing at 5500 feet ANYway??

    Dave asks again how close I got to the village and reconfirms the perceived direction of movement of the weather in general. He then tells me...”Waaaa’ll %&$# !! I’m up here already anyway. May as well go on down and take a look-see, my Timex is workin’ pretty good and the ADF is too. Knowing he is on speaker and his passengers can probably hear me; as diplomatically as possible I point out that I DON’T see it getting any better he’s still pretty close to home.”

    He replies that the passengers said they will pay just to “take a look” in hopes of getting home so he may as well give it a shot.

    I urge Dave to exercise the utmost caution and have a safe trip. I switch radios and wait another five minutes to ensure I have passed safely over and beyond his airplane and then crank in some forward trim and once again sent Lickety-Split tearing downward in a high-speed cruise descent.

    I break out at three thousand feet about fifteen miles from Kotzebue with Reilly Wreck off the nose. With four miles vis and 1200 overcast (for now) the control zone is VFR and after getting traffic advisories I give a long and detailed pirep to Flight Service concluding with “....in my opinion....based on the darkness of the areas I BELIEVE there may be large areas WELL below marginal VFR.."

    The Flight Service specialist receiving the report knows only TOO clearly the exact implications of my phraseology. This ensures that if and WHEN he passes that report along to any other airplane headed that way that they will get the appropriate emphasis in the right places.

    Three hours later the storm is approaching Kotzebue, but I care not. I am already happily ensconced in an alcohol induced haze on the last barstool swilling my seventh or is it my EIGHTH drink of the evening so far. And...by golly......here comes good ol’ Dave.

    With a cheery “Howdy Cloudy!” the old geezer plops his lean frame on the barstool next to mine and hollers at the bartender for his Canadian Mist on the rocks as he begins shedding the upper portion of his snowmobile suit! As the large rocks glass hit the bar in front of him he grabs it, turns to me with his ever-present wicked smile and says ‘To aNOther fine day of Arctic Aviation!!”

    With a sigh and a smack of the lips another small sip is partaken of before he turns to me and continues ‘Yeah....just BARELY got in from that last Noorvik before the %$^# hit! And I SURE didn’t.....”

    “Hey Dave”....I interrupt without thinking....”wha’ happened on that BUCKLAND deal? Didja’ go all the way DOWN there??”

    “Oh YEAH.” sez he. “Made it in just fine.”

    “Oh” I say...”so the weather LIFTED for a while??”

    “Oh no. No. S’Matter a’ fact...you called it purty good Cloudy. I started gettin’ a little vertical about four hundred or so...’n then about three hundred I got that half to three-eighths a mile you wuz talkin’ about. Liked ta’ miss the damn place altogether!!”

    “O.K. , O.K.” I say, shaking my head a little to try and clear the enveloping rum fog that is slowly numbing my brain. “Lemme’ get this straight...you were going down there at FIFTY-FIVE HUNDRED FEET RIGHT??’ and he answers in the affirmative to which I continue.

    “So...so...you let down on.....you let down on WHAT??...the ADF and your Timex fer’ crissake!!??”

    Now, with a look on his face, at me, ....something like...what is WRONG with you boy Dave responds “Yeeaah. Izzat a PROblem for ya’ sonny??”

    “Well......GEE DAVE!! I don’t KNOW!! Don’tcha’ think that was drivin’ just a little TOO tough!!??”

    His response was immediate and spoken with the absolute most BLAND face and inflection of voice. Just a statement. One statement.

    “Weren’t nobody SHOOTin’ at me!!” he said.

    STUNNED! That is the only word that could describe my response. My mouth flopped open fully twice and closed. Finally on the third try my vocal chords kicked in and I responded....

    “Weren’t nobody SHOOTING AT YOU!!....Weeeelll HELL DAVE!! I guess that just flat takes alla’ the CHALLENGE right OUT of the day DON’T it!!??”

    With an exaggerated sigh he turned slowly halfway toward me on his stool and spoke quietly. “No CloudDancer it don’t....but it does make it a DAMN sight easier to concentrate on your FLYin’ problems.”

    I paused and thought for a moment of all the newsreel footage and gun camera films from three wars I had watched in my life. Never having had to dodge surface-to-air missiles, small arms fire from the groundlings or .50 cal or 20mm cannon fire from other pilots intent on knocking MY ass outta’ the sky while at the same time trying to manage the normal problems of a complicated flight; I realized that as tough as I THOUGHT I could fly....I was nothing compared to those that had.

    So. I shut up and bought Dave his next drink. I think that was the night I first heard him talk about Comanche Jones. ANOTHER real airman branded under fire.

  36. #36

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    Hi, "Cloud Dancer" been grinding my way around the world for the last two weeks and came across your saga. Once I figured out who you were then I had the magic decoder ring to figure out the rest of the cast in your tales.

    You were the second guy I met when I first got to "kotz", L.L. (Captain of the Starship Uniform) was the first. These stories really bring back memories of my short stay in the arctic before moving to the interior. I always say the "good old days, may they never return"!

    To the others reading these stories I can attest to "most" of them. It is important to realize just how fortunate we were to live through those times, a lot of our friends did not. In others words "kids don't try this a home".

    Give me a shout when you get a chance I still live in FAI, however my day job has me in some of the stranger parts of the world about half the month.javascript:emoticon
    Cheers

  37. #37
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    MasterRod -

    Sent you a PM - Please respond when able....

    CloudDancer

  38. #38
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    Chapter Seven - Two Kinds of Legends

    I’d been hearing about Comanche Jones for three or four years before I finally made his acquaintance.

    We’ve all heard the term “ a legend in their own time”. This of course, being VERY different from the similar sounding “a legend in HIS OWN MIND”, a self-affliction I now embarrasingly admit to being guilty of more than once or twice in my younger and less intelligent days.

    I was quite fortunate that “the Elders” as I liked to call them would wait until JUUUUUST the right time; and when I had sufficiently bragadociously verbally hung my ass out on a limb and they were tired of hearing about it; they would challenge me to PROVE it! And, of course, I would promptly go out the next day....jump in my 207, 185 or whatever; and make a complete FOOL of myself trying to do what they knew I wasn’t good enough to do ANYWAY.

    (Next time any of you 180 or 185 drivers think you’re pretty good...try and see exactly HOW FAR you can roll the tailwheel down the runway without breaking contact with the ground....with the MAINS OFF the ground. I dropped some MAJOR cabbage on THAT bet and then watched Leroy, completely hung over and operating from the RIGHT seat take our ‘67 model 180 down the CENTERLINE of the runway for a good three thousand feet or more before planting the mains back on the ground having MORE than proven the point.)

    But....there really ARE a few LIVING legends. Jack Jefford was one. Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield come to mind. And maybe...just maybe...Comanche Jones if we’re talkin’ Twin Otter drivers specifically.

    Now beFORE everbody gets their GOnads all in an UProar and hollers at me......there were many many DOZENS of SUPERLATIVE DHC-6 captains throughOUT the various “unimproved” hinterlands of the globe and maybe we ALL knew the greatest Twin Otter pilot ever.

    I personally served as first officer to two or three really GREAT ones. But Comanche Jones stood out from the crowd and I had heard MUCH about him before I flew with him and MOST of it was pretty intimidating to be honest. He was a big, gruff, grouchy FEARsome character
    who didn’t speak much. Boy. Was THAT an understatement (PART of the time!!)

    I think it was flying job number eight...or nine....maybe TEN for all I knew. I’d been hired by this outfit outta’ Barrow that was expanding into other areas of the state to drive their singles and piston twins and as a co-pilot on their Twin Otter based in Kotzebue. And I’d heard that one of their Captains was the notorious Comanche Jones. So, you KNOW who I got for my first Captain DON’T ya’!!


    (stay tuned folks....still whacking away at the keyboard yet. Should put up a LITTLE more tonight yet afore I.....

  39. #39
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    Chapter Eight - A Man of Few Words


    I showed up at oh-seven hundred for an 8:30 A.M. takeoff for my first trip with Comanche Jones. I wanted to make a good impression on my new company, not to mention my new Captain. I new he probably wouldn’t show much before an hour or forty-five minutes early, so I figured he’d be impressed that I had already “unwrapped” the airplane from her winter night clothes and along with our two-man ground crew had the plane half-loaded with cargo before his arrival.

    The Twatter’s seats...doubles on the right side of the cabin and singles on the left side of the aisle were of two varieties. They either hinged to the wall and collapsed and folded up when not in use or, the far more work and less desirable variety were NOT hinged to the wall and had to be locked in to BOTH the wall and the floor.

    In EITHER case the seats took a continual HELL of a beating and EVERY DHC-6 pilot (working in the BUSH at least) has spent HOURS cursing the designers and manufacturers as we struggled to put seats back UP that we had just taken DOWN at the LAST stop maybe as little as 15 MINUTES ago!! Cargo on some seats UP. Next stop...cargo off...lotsa’ peeps...seats come back DOWN until we get to the NEXT village where people get OFF but there are three electricians and 1700 lbs of toolboxes...put the same damn seats BACK up so we can get the tool boxes amidships....and so on and so forth. Three or four trips a day of as many as four legs each. Basically.....we just flew back and forth to work all day.

    Sure enough, about five ‘til eight I see the headlights pull into the parking lot and a huge hulking figure of a man in a green snowsuit with the hood pulled up emerges from the company pick-‘em-up truck and waddles slowing toward the hangar door. As I see him reach for the door with one mittened hand he stops, half turns and launches a dying cigarette butt into the air toward the ramp and I follow the glowing ember arc through the dark morning sky ‘til it disappears into the snowbank with an unheard sizzle.

    For the next fifteen minutes I keep watching the hangar door which opens to the ramp side of the security fence. Surely the Captain will come forth to, if NOTHING else, give final supervision to the securing of our fully loaded airsheen. But it does not happen.

    Finally at 8:15 with the loading and preflight completed on of the ramp hands says...”Hey CloudDancer. You better go see what Jonesy wants for gas if you guys are gonna’ get out of here on time. “Uh...yeah right” I reply and head for the building.

    Pulling off my face mask and mittens as I enter, I am hoping for a quick before we blast. But apparently I’ve not got the playbook quite memorized just yet.

    There, behind the counter sits Jonesy. A Winston hangs between his lips. The other end of the cigarette gives off a curlicue of smoke which merges with the curlicue of steam rising from his freshly poured coffee.

    I stride over and introduce myself and get a one word reply. “Howdy.” This was followed by complete silence and a blank stare. “Hey Jonesy...uh.....how much GAS you want.?” I ask.

    “Whatcha’ THINK!!??” Jonesy responds.

    “Well....we’re goin’ to Noorvik, Kiana, and Selawik...so I’d guess about 1700 pounds oughtta’ do ‘er....”

    “Aaawwww-right...” from Jonesy. That’s it. Nothing more. He remains firmly seated and takes another long pull on his Winston and then leans BACK against the wall. Well....even I can take THAT hint. I guess it means I’ll do the gassin’ up for this trip as well. Trying NOT to let my slight irritation show on my face I turn and proceed outside at the same rate I came in!!

    As I am reeling up the fuel hose I see Jonesy emerge from the hangar via the ramp door and walk to the nose of the aircraft. He carries a large metal thermos in one hand. Looking upward at both engine intakes in the still dark late autumn sky. Satisfied apparently that someone (our rampers) had pulled the foam engine air intake plugs and stowed them in the nose baggage compartment, I watch Jonesy hoist his green clad bulk up into the captain’s cockpit door as the last few feet of heavy black hose winds itself around the spinning takeup reel.

    Heading for the aircraft hear the metallic “THUNK!!” of the batteries being brought on line at instantly the hydraulic pump kicks on to bring the accumulator up to pressure and the glow of the nav light bathes the snow packed area through which I am walking in a soft red.

    Passing in front of the pointed nose I am reaching upward to grasp the handle to MY cockpit access door as I hear a loud “CLICK!” followed instantly by the SNAPSNAPSNAPSNAP of the dual igniters and the whine of the PT6-20's turbine shaft as the internal rotation begins.

    “APPARENTLY”....I think to myself as the feathered propellor slowly starts IT’s rotation a mere four feet from my left shoulder and I wrench my cockpit door open to see Jonesy staring down at me impassively over his right arm (raised to engage the spring loaded three position starter switch).... “it MUST be time to go FLYing now that all the WORK is DONE!!”

    As my buttcheeks hit the canvas covered seat cushion the Pratt & Whitney free turbine lights off and just as I am closing the door the first waft of burnt kerosene sneaks into the cockpit. God! I LOVE the smell of burnt kerosene in the morning!! :P

  40. #40
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    Chapter Eight - The Golden Triangle

    I hurriedly attach myself securely to the aircraft using the five-point seat belt-shoulder harness-crotch strap restraints as Jonesy fires off the other engine and watches it stabilize in a smooth and slow idle. And since turbines are ready to go to work as soon as they light off he wastes little time in getting us underway.

    His huge paw of a right hand....(that’s IT....this guy reminds me of a big ol’ grizzle bear just awakening from hibernation) moves methodically around the cockpit adjusting lighting rheostats and flipping on com and nav radio switches with fingers the size of small hot dogs before he jams it back into a huge padded black mitten that extends a good six inches past the wrist and overlaps the snowsuit sleeve by as much.

    Like Pooh swatting at a honey bee the now mittened paw raises up to swat at the overhead center ceiling mounted engine control knobs, and by turning his hand sideways he manages to just nail the two small box-like silver “knobs” that control the propellor pitch without touching wither the throttles on the left or the fuel flow red knobs to the right. They slide forward an inch or two before “falling over” the feather lock position and as Jonesy’s right paw grasps the throttles and eases the controls aftward to the Beta position I hear a loud metallic “THUNK” from down below in the darkened recess of the Capt’s rudder pedal well that indicated the spring loaded brake release has be actuated.

    The right prop, with just BARELY slightly warmer internal oil (having run a whole thirty seconds longer than the left engine already) slips into full coarse pitch just a second or two earlier than the left. But, with Jonesy already pulling both props into the Beta range through the use of the throttles the airplane, as he had planned, BARELY starts rolling forward as I reach back over my head to snag my David Clarks off the hook on the aft cockpit bulkhead immediately over my head.

    As Jonesy starts a right turn out toward the taxiway I, without thinking at all drop the David Clarks over the top of my head!! EEEEEE-YOUCH!! Even beFORE the DC are fully released from my hands and their built in tension clasps the black rubbers seals around my entire ear....I can FEEL the icy cold of the headsets spreading thoughout the sides of my head.

    As I rip them back OFF my head I see Jonesy, curious as to what might’ve provoked my outburst, looking at me as one would examine a specimen under a microscope. Sheepishly I admit out loud “I guess I forGOT how cold these can get. To which Jonesy responds with nothing more than a grunt before looking back out the window.

    As I am dragging the rubber earphones rapidly back and forth, up and down my right Levi covered thigh to warm them via the laws of physics (friction) Jonesy reaches the west end of the ramp. This place is quite often the runup area for eastbound takeoffs and Jonesy again wheels the Otter into the wind. Silently and with no prompting or input from me Jonesy runs through the various propellor tests one after the other. Overspeed. Auto feather. Beta backup. Having well over ten thousand hour in the Otter alone....the scrolling glareshield mounted checklist remains uncalled for and unused.

    Wanting to at least play some limited roll in the proceedings I have correctly assumed it must be my job about now to file a flight plan and get airport advisory services, which takes me all of about thirty second...the same amount of time it takes him to do the prop checks.

    The “THUNK” of the brake release and once more we are moving out onto the runway when Jonesy finally cuts loose with one whole word to me. “Flaps!” I quickly reach up and grasping the overhead mounted flap handle with my thumb I release the handle safety lock and set ten degrees which I know from my training to be the company standard takeoff setting.

    Now lined up on the centerline, Jonesy waits until the center windshield mounted flap indicator white needle ends it downward slide at exactly ten degrees (thank GOD). Satisfied that I can at least do THAT much correctly he shoves the two throttles forward and the DHC-6 accelerates brickly down the runway.

    With 65 knots on the airspeed indicator Jonesy eases the y-shapes floor mounted yoke aftward and the Twatter slips the surly bonds of Runway 08 with the nearby spinning propellor tips creating a noisy din that even through the David Clarks eats into your eardrums. At five hundred feet I see Jonesy’s right paw beginning to slide the throttles aftward so I grab the prop controls and slide them aftward as well. We climb into the dark moonless morning skies under a blanket of brilliant stars as the bleed air cabin heat, with the engines now REALLY making some fire and heat at climb power, begin to produce the excess pressurized heat our air cycle machine NEEDS to begin warming the cockpit and cabin .

    This is the biggest airplane I have ever flown so far in my life and as part of a two man crew, I REALLY feel like Mr. Big Time Heavy Iron Driver NOW!! At 1500 feet MSL Jonesy level as the bird off and already I can see the first twinkling lights of Noorvik come into view.

    Not a word one has been spoken since becoming airborne four minutes earlier and, as the very first twinkling lights of the village of Noorvik come into view.....Mr Big Time Heavy Iron Driver must face the grim realization that this might just be a “one man show”. I know my OTHER JOB for sure and reach for the aircraft logbook while unzipping the top of my snowsuit to find
    my pen.

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