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Thread: It Was Okay I Guess (Formerly UNTITLED)

  1. #1
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    It Was Okay I Guess (Formerly UNTITLED)

    UNBELIEVABLE! I can't remember WHAT the heck I was going to call this story! (Getting old SUX!)
    Nonetheless, that's no reason to deny you folks your daily dose of Alaskan aerial adventures and giggles. Eventually, I'll remember the damn name, and change the title of the thread. Meanwhile...here goes! Enjoy!

    *******************

    Chapter One - Oooh...the Wheels on the Plane go Round and Round



    It was the spring of 1982, late in the month of March. The trip had been on the books for more than two months. It was one of several recurring flights that had been repeated annually for last four years, since our small company had first started with one tired and worn out late 1950’s model Cessna 170 in the late nearly a decade earlier.

    My destination was a small “x” marked on the well-worn, four-year-old Fairbanks sectional chart that I had just extracted from the glove box in the 185’s cockpit, as I sat in the on the ramp with the engine idling, awaiting the skinny white needle in the cylinder head temperature gauge to come off it’s left peg. I’d never been to this particular “x” before, but had received a thorough long-distance briefing from my boss over the phone. I had arrived at our log cabin office earlier to find a note stapled to today’s scheduling book page reminding me to call the Chief Pilot in our Fairbanks headquarters before departing.


    As the engine slowly ticked over, spinning the propeller at just a lazy 700 RPM, I unfolded the barely still serviceable map gently. The originally stiff, multi-hued thick paper had now become quite pliable in spite of the cold temperatures inside the plane, which so far had only risen to maybe ten degrees warmer than the ambient 22 (F) degrees outside. The addition warmth at this point was mostly provided by the morning sunshine streaming through the plexiglass windshield of the eastward-facing Cessna workhorse, as the engine had been running less than two minutes and wouldn’t really be helping the cabin heat program for a while yet.


    Now with a consistency and feel more akin to that of a folded up, well used Bounty paper towel, the sectional came open with ease, which was a good thing. Pulling it open to quickly or unfolding it with force would, no doubt, further speed the deterioration already well evidenced by the several rips in the creases. Many of the creases and folds had holes where, first the colors had faded before going white, as the threadbare paper kept getting thinner and thinner with repeated folding and unfolding, before finally giving way to time and separating altogether.


    As I refolded the sectional to show the area east and north of Ft. Yukon encompassing the upper Porcupine River, several of my boss’s recent cautionary words echoed again through my mind.


    This was my first winter living and flying in the interior of the state. For the last almost nine years, since arriving in Alaska, I had been a West Coast boy. Kotzebue, Nome and Unalakleet was my country. For all intent and purposes I had literally learned to fly out there. Of the over eight thousand hours I’d already logged at the age of 28, all but 263 had been out there, and most of that in the upper and lower Kobuk Valley. And only one half of one percent of all that time had ever been in a ski-equipped plane, if THAT much.


    But today, I looked downward out of the window in the left door, in addition to seeing the familiar 8.50 x 6.00 Goodyear multi-ply tire attached to the axle of the 185’s leaf-spring steel main landing gear leg, the was a really huge and heavy Fluidyne wheel-ski and all the associated tubes, couplings, nuts and bolts, and springs and bungees necessary to make the thing extend and retract on command. Actually…command is not a good word here. “Command” indicates something such as maybe pushing a button to make things happen.

    Or maybe glancing through the window, focusing on the big metal slab, and clearly barking the word…“Retract!” and then just sit back and watch as the ski does as it’s told.


    Nope. Wasn’t that easy.



    CloudDancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 11-20-2011 at 03:09 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  2. #2
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Dang! Well...sorry cats and cupcakes! I wuz hoping to get the rest of Chapter One up here before I left...but I am outta' time an' runnin' around like a head with my chicken cut off trying to pack and jump into my monkey suit so I can go bore some holes in the stratosphere for the next three days in my Frog-assembled highly computerized kerosene-to-noise converter.

    The two layovers (LAX and MKE) are really short, so there won't be any new posts from hither and yon.

    Look for more on this late Saturday afternoon. I'm OUUUUUTTA' HERE!

    Cloud(whatIwouldn'tgiveforatimemachine)Dancer
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  3. #3
    Ruffair's Avatar
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    Looking fwd to reading/hearing you tell/ where Doug, was sending you...
    Old Rampart...?

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    skagwaypilot's Avatar
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    Eight thousand hours at 28? (all without autopilot, wing leveler or other assists, I assume)
    How many did you have when you left for your first airline job?
    May we ask how many you have at present?

  5. #5
    WIflier's Avatar
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    Hay CD how often do you get into MKE?
    Si

  6. #6
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Hiya EverBODY from the business center at the Hampton Inn Downtown in MKE -

    Ruffair - Hey! You been peekin' over mah shoulder? Either that or you are pshyco...I mean IC!....PHSYIC! Just about 80 to 85 NM northeast of of FYU on the Porcupine!

    Skagway pilot - Well, if you count my first "airline" job as Horizon, the first time I tried to leave Alaska in 1984 (that lasted for just under six months before I got homesick and returned to OTZ via a brief 10 week "stopover" in BRW); at that point I had about 9,000 hours or so. Today I'm sitting somewhere right around 25,000 or so...give or take two or three hundred.

    WIflyer - Funny you should ask that. This is my second MKE R.O.N. in as many months. But before last month I hadn't been here in oh...five or six years or so. Wierd how that goes.

    From time to time I give some serious consideration to either publishing a list of my overnights, or conversely, asking you guys and gals, if you are interested in meeting when I am wandering about the country. I have been over to Snert's house for dinner and hooked up with GumpAir in RNO for dinner out not to long back.


    Most of our overnights are barely long enuff to get a decent nights sleep, a shower, and a meal at the hotel. But ever now and again we have a few extra hours to enjoy, though not often. And I truly do enjoy meeting CloudDancer fans. The only rule I have is no pix without my sack on. So next time I get a decent MKE overnight, if you want I'll give you a shout.


    Okay. I shoulda' been in bed over an hour ago. Just had my Thanksgiving tonight with an aunt and uncle and one of my cousins and her family. Quite unexpected. Did not want to leave the warmth and joy and contentment of that home, that was such a rare treat for me, just to come back to yet another empty though comfortable and quiet hotel room.

    Got an oh-four-forty-five getup for one leg back to KPHX in the morning. So I can get home and....WRITE some more CHRONICLES for you guys!

    Oh...and an interesting liddle sidebar for you guys.

    Yesterday, out-of-the-blue as always, I received a call from a fella' by the name of Chris Diley, a former NWA (now Delta) Captain. If that name rings a bell at all, it is because he is mentioned in the Dedication of the Original CloudDancer's Alaskan Chronicles. In the course of the conversation he mentioned he was spending the day in MKE today. I said...WHAT! Where?? And he said Milwaukee. I said "Holy scheduling conflicts Delta Driver...I'M gonna' be in MKE tamale."

    Long story short, 'cause my cuz was stuck in traffic and 30 minutes late to pick me up, I was able to hotfot it down four blocks from the Hampton Inn to the HILTON! (note the DIFFERENCE in accomodations for the DELTA pilots vs. us "less fortunate and unwashed" airline pilots at our "low cost" airline) and spend about 20 minutes laughing and gabbing about all our friends.

    Such is the life of an "airline pilot". Hey Yukon John! Were your ears burning? They should've been.

    Nigh-nigh everbody.....



    CloudDancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 11-18-2011 at 11:02 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

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    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter One - cont'd


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    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:19 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

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    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter One - end

    Aaaah. There is my “X” on the map. About a hundred or so miles out of Ft. Yukon on the Porcupine River up near Old Rampart. Following the well drawn, dark black, straight-as-an-arrow black ink line back down the map toward it’s origin in the center the Ft Yukon VOR my eyes stop momentarily at the point it crosses the 360 degree compass rose surrounding the navaid. Looks like the zero-three-six degree radial to me. Folding the upper half of the map downward toward my chest I reach up and set the omni bearing selectors on both VOR heads to 036.

    After setting the second instrument my glance shifts to the right to take in the engine gauges. As I expected, the cylinder head temperature gauge was a third of the way horizontally from the left (cold) side of the instrument facing crawling slowly to the right, while the oil temperature needle had traveled barely a couple of needle widths the same direction on it’s almost identical instrument face. Same gauge actually I bet. Just different temperature numbers on the face.


    Creeping the throttle in ever so slightly, I brought the engine up to 1000 RPM and waited another minute before depressing the spring-loaded button in the center of the propeller control knob. It slid aft to it’s full travel limit with little effort and the two propeller blades responded almost instantly, flattening slowly. This allowed the cold, gooey Aeroshell oil that had sat within the unheated propeller hub all night to be pushed slowly out and replaced with freshly warmed oil from the crankcase. Pushing the knob fully in and out smoothly twice more in the next 15 seconds, completed the oil exchange process. The third time I cycled the propeller, if flattened and then coarsened it bite almost instantly. It was time to hit the skies.


    Goosing the throttle, I shoved the yoke full forward and mashed down on the right brake at the same time castering the stiff tailwheeel and swinging the Skywagon out of her parking space in a wide right turn for the runway.


    In less than two more minutes I had completed the engine runup and filed my flight plan with Fairbanks radio over the remote VHF outlet. I then announced to the world, or at least whoever was listening on the common traffic advisory frequency, that I was about to depart. So everbody pretty much get the hell outta’ my way…you know!


    “Ft. Yukon traffic Air Arctic 20807, a Cessna 185 is taking runway zero-three at Ft. Yukon for departure straight out.” And then I paused and waited for a few seconds before shoving the throttle forward just to give anybody whose radio check-in I might have missed a chance to respond. As a final check, before rolling out on the south end of the 5,000 foot long snow packed gravel runway, I now mashed on my left brake swinging my tail slightly to the north so I could lean forward and peer around my left wing, visually confirming for myself that the final approach was clear of all traffic. At an uncontrolled airport on a clear day, there is no LAW stating you have to even have a radio in your airplane to fly. A lot of folks ran around up here with no radios. Good procedure to check anyway.


    Now right rudder and right brake swung the tail back the other way, turning me onto the southern end of the runway. I kept slowly feeding the throttle in while allowing the propeller’s increasing torque to gradually drift the airplane to the left, toward the center of the strip as I accelerated and the tail began to rise. With the airspeed barely alive and still not up to the bottom of the dial yet, the tail was already flying, as I was the sole occupant and there was only about 50 gallons of 100/130 octane in the wings.


    Barely three hundred feet from my starting point, I mashed hard on the right rudder for just a moment to stop the left drift and aim my steed straight down the center, before relaxing the push of my right foot against the pedal slightly to maintain a straight track now. The tail rose slightly higher and in no more than another three hundred feet, with the airspeed accelerating rapidly, the Robertson STOL equipped 185 practically leaped in the air of it’s own accord as the airspeed needle passed clockwise through the sixty-five knot mark on it’s round dial. Like me, she was eager to be back in her natural element once again.


    Before I was three-quarters the way down the runway I was already passing six hundred feet above the ground and retracting the flaps. As I continued to raise the nose I was already rolling the power back to twenty-five squared for my climb to fifty-five hundred feet. That done, it was time for the skis.
    Rotate the selector switch. Grasp handle.

    Waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah goddam skis


    Waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah wah-gah (grunt) oughta’ make these sons-a-bitchin’ things electric dammit


    Waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah waa-gah…


    ***************************************
    Oooh-KAY everbody! Ol' CloudDancer's ass is getting sore from sittin' in this chair an' my ol' peepers are a'startin' to burn. I think I'm done for today. I'll see ya'll tamale. Same Bat-time! Same Bat-channel!

    CloudDancer


    Last edited by CloudDancer; 11-21-2011 at 12:28 AM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  9. #9
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Two - Well Now...Doesn't THIS Just Suck!


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    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:20 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

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    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    LA-A-A-ADIES a-a-a-and Gentleme-e-e-en! From the business center in the West Tower Lobby of the luxurious Royal Sonesta Hotel in downtown Boston, Massachusetts...

    May I present to you........

    Chapter Two - cont'd

    A bit of a sidebar here, for you fellers an’ gals that aren’t experienced with ski operations. There can be a pretty wide variation of snow conditions encountered when operating in different parts of Alaska. Because of that fact, what little experience I had, and the observations I had made while riding around with Little Dean or a couple of my other friends back out on the western Alaskan coast, were only of limited value to me now.

    And mostly the difference is due to the average 15 knot winds that blow all along the coast of Northwestern Alaska, as opposed to what may be an average of 3 to 5 knots daily in wind velocity, deep in the interior of the state.

    For as any math whiz could tell you; for an average daily wind of 15 knots, you have to have winds of 30 knots or so blowing at least a good part of the time. And the kicker is that the wind helps to hard-pack the snow. And in a lot of cases, large open flat areas, such as the frozen surface of some of the huge lagoons just inside the beachline along the western coast around Nome and Kotzebue; when repeatedly exposed to snow and wind, you’ll find the surface often covered in a hard crust with a shallow snow depth.

    But here in the deep interior of the state, there are areas that are very seldom windy. It’s one of the reasons I like living in Fairbanks. Seven knots is a windy day there. Year-round ! But, this does allow the snow to pile up deep and sans much of a crust.

    In either case it is important that you, if at all possible, make a low pass at a good flying speed, dragging your skis through the surface of the snow briefly before gunning the throttle and instantly lifting back off. Sort of like a “bounce ‘n go”. Then you whip around in a circle quickly, and fly over the spot where you touched your skis down to eyeball it. The idea is to check in the tracks your skis made and make sure the tracks didn’t darken. That would indicate water (overflow) on the surface of the ice. Not a good thing.

    This was something my boss had me practice several dozen times on Hospital Lake the previous week when I had gotten checked out in the 185. I was plenty comfortable in the 185 having already flown both it and the 180 for at least five or six hundred hours at previous companies. It was just the ski operation and the snow conditions that were new to me. I intended to be very careful and conservative, as this was my first big–time ski flight for my new company.

    With that in mind I targeted the middle stretch of the river’s operational area for my test. That would give me a lo-o-ong aiming zone, with a comparatively much more stable and less radical final approach than would be the case if I tried to do my “bounce ‘n go” where I planned to actually touch down when I landed. For you and I both know that, once committed to my planned landing, (a bare minimum airspeed short-field operation, this baby is gonna’ squat at the bottom of that big drop. It’ll just be a matter of…how much I can minimize the downward momentum of the approximately 2500 or so pound airsheen before it flops onto the ice.

    On this first pass I opt for flaps thirty, as I wish to keep a substantial cushion of airspeed in my hip pocket, and thirty degrees of flaps still provides heaps of lift in comparison to the associated drag. Thus after flying my skis down into the snow at a good 70 knots or so for a few feet, jamming the throttle in and hauling the yoke back slightly should launch me upward like a homesick angel, clearing the trees on the far end by a wide margin.

    I float leisurely across the treetops with a good dozen feet to spare indicating a steady seventy knots. As the last of the green fir sentinels guarding the Porcupine River slides aftward behind the big aluminum Fluidynes, I shove the nose down and creep the power back to only 1200 RPM. Hardly more than a high idle maintains my target 70 knot airspeed. I take a moment to pull my hand off the throttle and wave at Franklin as I pass by him still ten feet in the air and sailing along.

    Beginning my roundout, I then return my hand to the throttle and shove it in slightly. I feel and hear the IO-520 responding, and know without looking, that the airspeed indicator still holds close to if not exactly 70 knots or more. I push forward just slightly on the yoke and am immediately rewarded by snow flying sideways as the wide aluminum skis break into the top of the snow.
    Instantly I simultaneously haul back on the yoke and JAAAM the throttle in to the forward stop.

    The engine bellows as the prop chews at the air. We clear the trees on the far end by at LEAST three hundred feet. “O yeah” I remember thinking, as I retract the flaps to twenty and rack 20807 around in a hard left chandelle, “this is gonna’ be a no-o-o sweater here. Lot’s of room. A second pass at a slightly higher speed (with another jaunty wave to Franklin as I passed by) confirmed that there was no water in my tracks. Things were looking absolutely splendiferous so far. And once again I chandelled myself up onto another left downwind leg.

    This one I’d extend out an extra half-mile to the northeast. I wanted the extra distance to give me a few extra seconds to get myself perfectly into my very slowest, slow flight “groove”. This time I was “playing for keeps”.


    *********************************

    CloudDancer
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  11. #11
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Two - cont'd


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    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:20 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  12. #12

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    Who do you currently fly for?

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    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Hiya Kevin -

    Well....that's onea' those "I could tell ya'....but then I'd hafta' KILL ya'." kinda' deals. I do hope you won't take that answer as impolite or rude. It certainly isn't meant to be.

    I'm trying pretty hard to remain just "the man under the brown paper sack" to 99.9% of the world for as long as it lasts. Besides, there are days that my airline, much like Momma and Poppa CloudDancer in times past, would rather not admit I'm "one of theirs".

    There are a few folks here under the SC.org Big Top tent who know the answer to your query. So possibly someone might PM you the answer.

    But thanks for dropping the note. I allus appreciate hearing from everbody. Most importantly, it is personally very gratifying to know folks are stopping by to read the stories.

    CloudDancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 11-29-2011 at 12:20 AM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  14. #14
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Ah-L-o-o-o-HA! from Fairbanks on the Chena everBODY!The SNOW is FALLING! I'm in ALASKA and life is...WUNNERFUL! Canx my planned day in ANC today, as I was getting that 1st liddle tickle in my throat indicating a possible cold. Soooo. I decided to stay inside here, self-medicate, and take some Echinachea and Alka-Seltzer Cold Plus to make sure I don't ruinate the rest of my Alaska trip. (Sure miss good ol' NY-Quil. Two or three good pulls offa' the ol' Ny-Quil bottle sure seemed to always do the trick for me before. But that's a big "no-no" now...)

    Saw the Divine Miss Vickie at Tamarack Air and met mgallen and N24...damn...N24....aaaw...HELL! I got a SUCH a LOUSY memory for names. It allus takes me about four or five tries to remember a name. Unless o' course it's a really cute babe with a nice set of bodacious ta-ta's. Then I can lock that one RIGHT in!

    Met onea' THOSE yesterday too! AND she's a SuperCub owner-pilot to boot! But alas. She already has some hunky boytoy, and several more on her waiting list I suspect. Not to mention her Daddy is an old friend I used to fly with about three decades ago here in Bearflanks. HE'D purely THUMP me for entertainment! She's "too young" for me. (I'm thinking about finally breaking down and "clicking" on one of those Mature Singles ads that keeps popping up on my FaceBook page. Hey! That's it! I can start ones' those internet singles-dating services! I'll specialize in matching up cute young single bountifully-breasticled Supercub-owning females with financially cash-strapped recovering alcoholic somewhat middle-aged and slightly paunchy airline pilots who want to move back to Alaska men! I'll get RICH!)

    Ennywayz. Steve (N24...) doesn't qualify in either category. But he is a VERY nice and cool dude with a hangar over on Chena Marina, which I visited yesterday for an hour. And inside his hangar he was helping my ol' FED buddy "Lefty" (from "What's Good For the Goose...") do a complete rebuild on HIS SuperCub! and I just found out last nite from a close friend that Steve also did a complete rebuild on Jim Tweto's SuperCub as well. Long before Tweto became a "reality T.V." star of course.

    So...I'm having a pretty darn good time, and thinking I will use today for some creative output. Read on everbody!

    CloudDancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 12-02-2011 at 05:12 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  15. #15
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Three - When Yer' Up to Yore Eyebrows in Alligators...


    I stood there motionless for what must’ve been a couple of minutes. With my arms folded across my chest, I contemplated with deep self-loathing and utter frustration, the impending Herculean physical efforts that would be required to extract myself from this latest mess I had managed to fly myself into. From behind me, a voice broke the almost complete stillness that was accompanied otherwise by only the soft “ticking” sounds of the engine metals starting to cool.
    “You Deke Burnham’s pilot,uh?” And I turned to see Franklin who now stood in front of my left wing strut looking my eye-to-eye, which considering he was a good eight inches shorter than I, reflected the fact that his snowshoes where packing the snow down substantially.

    His question-statement was a typical inquiry, common still in those days, to villagers and rural Alaskans. In a strange way, it was a reference to the Alaskan bush flying heritage of olden days when almost all Alaskan aviation “companies” began, and remained for a while at least, a one-man, one-airplane operation, usually named after the owner.

    It was almost as if you were a possession of the guy who started the business. You Ryan’s pilot, eh? You Shellabarger’s pilot, eh? You Wien’s pilot, eh? So, as I always did, I just answered “Yeah. That’s me. I’m CloudDancer” and stuck my right hand out for the formal one-pump introductory handshake that the older natives of all cultures seemed to regard not un-kindly, as the obligatory formality of the white man upon meeting.

    Behind him were three trails in the snow. One made by his snowshoes and one on each side of that, created by two of the duffel bags he had drug over to the plane from the pile by the riverbank. The elderly Athabascan trapper continued on in stilted English that was obviously a seldom used “second” language “You want load dogs first, or this ones?” nodding at the duffel bag in his right hand which he now drug forward. Still buried in mental self-pity and problem solving mode, his question derailed my intense thought process, first prompting a micro-second flicker of anger…but then busted me up into gales of laughter!

    “Franklin!” I exclaimed, waving my right arm in the general direction of the airplane beside me. I continued “Can’t you see we’re nipple deep in SNOW here?! Do you really think we are going flying any time soon?! Man!” And I shook my head side-to-side slightly as I marveled at how anyone could be (in my mind, at least) so DUMB!

    Absolutely deadpan, and with an expressionless face he looks at the plane first for a moment before turning his passive eyes back to mine and sez “Won’t fly uh?” With a heavy sigh I replied “Yeah Franklin. That’s pretty much the bottom line. Won’t fly for a while at least. We got a lotta’ work to do before we can load ’er up and get outta’ here. You got a shovel somewhere?”

    CloudDancer
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  16. #16
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Three cont'd -

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    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:21 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  17. #17
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    More Chapter Three -


    So one day it became my task to drop off this fella’s stove oil on the way to Arctic Village, with a stop at Venetie on the way back, to pick up school teachers headed to Ft. Yukon for a confab of some sort. As usual, I first made a low pass over his cabin to announce my arrival before peeling off to go land on the frozen lake only two miles away as the crow flies. I was only on the ground a short few minutes while I unloaded the barrel no more than a couple of dozen yards down from the northwest “corner” of the lake. It was at that point that the trail to the cabin intersected the shoreline.

    Quickly pulling the over-sized cotter pins out of the hinges on the right door, I removed it and placed it leaning against the fuselage a couple of feet aft. Another 20 seconds and I had freed the heavy drum from its cargo strap shackles. Reaching up with both hands I firmly grasped the welded upper seam of the drum and pulled it outward and forward at hard as I could, whilst simultaneously making sure that I jumped my body back far enough so it wouldn’t come crashing down on either of my feet. That would definitely result in either a lifetime with a crushed foot or, if caught by the same edge I’d just used to extract the heavy object; it would most likely mean an instant, quite painful, and permanent amputation. Then I huffed and puffed for a full thirty seconds as I spun the drum around on it’s side before rolling it out well clear of the right wing where I knew my tailfeathers would clear it with ease as I taxied out.

    Less than fifteen minutes after touching down on the frozen surface, I am climbing out headed toward Arctic Village and flying across the trail to the lake. I look down and observe a small black figure trudging along the trail, already a quarter of the way to the lakeshore. Behind him he drags a narrow wooden sled that I judge to be about a yard wide and six feet long from my vantage point passing one thousand feet above. The long rope attached to both front corners of the sled is grasped in this right mitten-clad hand. I remember briefly thinking I must have missed seeing his sno-go parked somewhere in the willows close to the lake’s edge. Gasoline is precious in the bush and costly. So obviously he was saving some gas and would only use the machine to haul the sled loaded with the drum back to his cabin.

    Thus, I’m quite sure you can imagine clearly my absolute astonishment an hour-and-a-half later. I had swung only slightly off a straight line course between Arctic Village and Venetie in order to satisfy my curiosity with another pass over the guy’s cabin. I wanted to see if the liddle dude had managed to get the drum loaded up and all the way back to his cabin.

    I was completely flabbergasted speechless to see the old man pulling the sled back along the trail toward his cabin! Himself! No snow machine! Him…SELF! With the rope from the loaded sled now grasped in both hands, his arms folded in half with his hands up by his shoulders (as if in a “chin-up” position) his body was at a forty-five degree angle to the trail. He reminded me of a team of huskies straining at their harnesses! I had to circle overhead twice just to watch! Already several hundred yards away from the lake, the old Indian never broke his steady, labored short stride at the sound of my engine overhead. No time apparently to stop, look or wave now. There was work to be accomplished.

    It was only after I returned to Ft. Yukon and inquired, that I found out this particular fella’ had given up on dog teams, as too “expensive” and time-consuming to “maintain”. For the last 10 years, he had done everything on just snowshoes and leg power! Amazing!


    CloudDancer
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  18. #18
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    Some MORE Chapter Three -



    deleted

    ******************

    Okay! My wunnerful FAI hosts have prepared our traditional "Cloudy's HERE! It's Lasagna Nite!" dinner!

    I must go partake now! C ya' LATER!

    Cloud(youcancallmeGarfield)Dancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:21 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  19. #19
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Four - If at First You Don't Succeed...


    The easiest thirty minutes I’ve had since leaping out of the plane into the snow almost five hours earlier now followed, as Franklin and I finally got around to loading the airplane. Since I’d left all the seats in Ft. Yukon, the entire flat floor behind the two pilot chairs was available for the load, but even so, I had concerns as to whether or not I would have enough room for the huge pile of duffel bags, dogs-in-burlap-sacks, village Samsonites (bush pilot-speak for loaded Hefty trash bags), and a small six foot long birchwood sled.

    Accordingly, I decided to hedge my bets, and removed the thin flat plastic rear “cabin bulkhead”. I wedged my upper torso through the small baggage compartment door on the left side of the airplane. Then, I first grabbed the very bulky, but extremely lightweight (maybe 15 lbs.), insulated and motor oil-splotched dark red engine cover. I had rolled it up tightly and used it’s bungee fastening straps to keep it strapped in a tight ball. I threw it as far back into the darkened aft fuselage as I could. I followed that up with a couple of the lightest of the five Hefty bags, which were full of clothes and seemed lighter than the others.

    Even if there had been any of the duffel bags that were lighter, which there weren’t, I gave them no consideration. For the heavy plastic Hefty bags, as well as the engine cover, with it’s nylon outer skin, would be riding much of the time possibly in contact with the flight control cables. This was of course due to the fact that, since nothing was supposed to “ride” back there (aft of the bulkhead, you know) the control cables were all exposed for easy access in times of maintenance.

    At the very worst, I figured that if and where contact was made between the cables and those three items, the cables would still slide smoothly back and forth as needed. If any conflict existed, the cables would easily win, doing no more harm than simply chafing the nylon on the engine cover or tearing the plastic on the Hefty bags. On the other hand, I was worried about the shoulder carrying straps sewn on the canvas duffel bags and the heavy metal clips on one end. Metal eyeholes. Canvas offering much more resistance to a rubbing cable than the plastic or nylon. Yeah. The Hefty bags seemed like the right choice.

    Next, being a typically lazy pilot, I wasted five minutes trying to wedge the damn sled in around and past the right front seat, before giving up and stopping to remove the seat as I should’ve in the first place. Once I’d done that, the sled fit in easily, aft end first. Wanting the sled to ride with the rear vertical support of the sled as much flush against the aft cabin wall, meant that about 18 inches of the aft portion of the runners (where the musher stands while riding) would also extend aft of the cabin wall, which first required re-jiggering the Hefty bags.

    That done, it was now time to heave the other two Hefty’s, and what turned out to be eight duffel bags stuffed with beaver, lynx, and arctic fox pelts onto the 185’s floor. Lastly, the twelve huskies went aboard, riding on a comfortably on a soft mattress of furs. I made darn sure the forward-most riding dogs, all of which were amazingly docile and quiet, were facing away from me!

    After having flown dog teams a dozen times or more in my career in small single-engine airplanes, I had learned (the hard way) a number of lessons. # 1 of which is...make damn sure that none of the critters can get their teeth into any part of you. You never know what might set them off! Usually I am grateful if all I have to put up with is a bunch of barking. Half the time, their owners have ignored our instructions to NOT feed them before the flight. Let me tell you. Dogs are just like people. One of ‘em starts ralphing in a small warm confined space, and next thing you know, it’s projectile Kibbles ‘n Bits in every direction.

    Add to that, odds are the dogs haven’t had a bath recently, and natural doggie body functions, and you can take my word for it. Alaska’s bush pilots are grateful for short legs with a buncha’ Bowsers on board!
    Finally we are loaded and I reinstall the right door and help Franklin mount up. I hold the door firmly closed from the outside so he can rotate the inner door handle down and forward, locking himself in. As I walk around the front of the airplane, I remember to kick the crap out of the front of both skis from the side, assuring that they are “free” and not frozen to the snow. This prevents a common, but inconvenient, not to mention embarrassing amateur mistake, that is too often discovered only after trying to taxi or start your takeoff run. Not good. Puts doubts in the customer’s minds right off the bat.

    As the Hartzel prop started it’s rotation in response to my turning the ignition key at the lower left portion of my dashboard, my eyes fell on the electric clock face, just above my left hand. Gadfrey! It was almost three in the afternoon! Damn!

    ChunckchunckchunkchunkchunckchunckchuRRROOOOAAAAR! The individual blades spinning rapidly a few feet ahead of my face suddenly become a mildly transparent circular blur, as the 300 ponies under the hood report for duty yet again. And through the light grey vertical disc, I gaze forward to and note the shadows made by the tippy-tip-tops of the fir trees growing alongside the river. Seeming like a row of long knives, laid touching side-by-side, their sharp points slide immeasurably slowly across the snow's surface, piercing the right border of the flattened and packed “runway” ahead of me.

    Okay. I’ve had wa-a-a-y more than enough manual labor for one day. Time to get back to doing one of the two things I can do better than most in my little world. Aviating! My bird is pointed straight down the center of the snow strip, the ponies are chompin’ at the bit. Time to giddy-yap! I advance the throttle briskly and the engine starts to bellow as the blades bite into the dry air.

    *******************************

    Okay all you experienced ski pilots. MOST of you probably can foresee where this might be headed. Don't go spoilin' it for all the guys and gals who don't, alright?

    CloudDancer
     
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  20. #20
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    The REST of Chapter Four -

    deleted
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:22 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  21. #21
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Hiya EverBODY -
    Still a'movin' an' a'groovin' here in Fairbanks-on-the-Chena for about 40 more hours before hitchin' a ride to the Puget Sound region on the Friday mornin' Smilin' Eskimo Airline kerryseen burner.

    PRIME RIB at the Turtle Club 2-nite! Yummy-yummy on my tum-tum-tummy!
    Gotta' go mail out a set of CloudDancer's Alaskan Chronicles to yet another discriminating book buyer in Kivalina, and run a few other errands. Then I'll get some more of this story up. ALASKA just makes me SO HAPPY!
    CloudDancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 12-07-2011 at 04:48 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  22. #22
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    Chapter Five - On the Wings of Angels


    I pretty much ran out of names to call myself by the time I had traversed the width of the river to retrieve the wide scoop snow shovel which Franklin had tossed halfway up the riverbank into the willows. I was halfway back to the airplane dragging the shovel behind me, staring down at my Sorrels as I trudged through the snow, when I heard dogs barking. Looking up, I saw the old trapper pulling another burlap bag fulla’ husky off the pile in the airplane and placing it in the snow under the right wing.

    “Hey Franklin!” I shouted, picking up my pace to as much of a trot as I could “hold up man! What are you doing?” But he continued, either not hearing me, or paying no attention. And by the time I reached the plane another minute later, he had seven of the twelve doggies-in-a-bag laid out in the snow.

    “Franklin stop! We don’t need to unload the plane! I’ll just dig around here an’…” But the grizzled old fella’ just walked past me toward the tail uttering one word “Come!” So I followed.
    Stopping behind the tail feathers, once again buried deep under the snow, the old man stood and with his left arm and fur mitten-covered hand extended downward. Then sweeping the arm sideways back and forth, along the plowed trail through the snow made by the tail, he said, “You dig this one. Little ways.” “Yeah but Franklin…see…what I was gonna do…” was all I got out before he interrupted me in what seemed to be a bit of a stern tone, as if rebuking me.

    “This one.” again he said, repeating the arm motion. Then turning away, he walked through the churned snow to a point halfway back to the “runway’s” closest edge, maybe twenty yards or so. Turning to face me he says “This far.” before starting to walk back toward me. As he neared, I was preparing to ask him exactly what the heck he had in mind, and tell him what I had planned. But before I could open my mouth he looked me in the eyes and said simply “Dogs pull.”
    All of a sudden his plan dawned on me. He thought he’d have his dogs somehow pull the airplane back to the prepared surface! I almost laughed aloud. “Franklin” I began gently, and he stopped in front of me. “This plane is wa-a-ay too heavy. Your dogs wi…” He looked at me in quite apparent frustration. “We push! Dogs pull! No shovel too much!” he announced flatly before walking past me heading for the plane to remove the last of his team.

    Well…number one I’d always been taught to respect my elders. No matter what else, there was no doubt he was quite my elder. Number two, he had done what I asked for the last four hours and, number three, he seemed quite determined that this was how it had to be done. And since I knew I was going to need further co-operation from him in the near future, prudence dictated that I just keep my yap shut at this point and start moving some snow.
    I headed for the spot well aft of the tail, where the old man had marched to to indicate the length of the area to be shoveled, intending to start there and work my way back to the airplane. The one word “Pilot!” stopped me in my tracks. I turned to see Franklin under the wing shaking his head slowly side-to-side in a negative motion, as if in exasperation. Pointing at the tail he uttered simply “Start this way.”

    “Roger, roger Franklin. You got it.” as I headed for the rudder poking up out of the snow. “Good. Good now.” Yep. You could say Franklin had a certain economy with words.

    As I was just clearing away the first couple of yards of snow aft of the tail, Franklin came around behind the right elevator and laid down in the snow behind the tail. Using his comparatively huge beaver skin mittened hands almost like a pair of ping-pong paddles, he swept his arms back and forth clearing the snow from atop, beneath, and around the elevators. I’d scoop and glance back, and scoop and glance back again to watch him.

    Soon he had cleared the area and the entire tail wheel-ski assembly was in the open. Then, removing a mitten and digging deep in a bulky parka pocket, his hand emerges with what appeared to be about 10 feet of three-quarter inch nylon rope which he loops around the tail stinger.
     

    CloudDancer
     
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  23. #23
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chapter Five - cont'd


    deleted
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:22 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  24. #24
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Have anuther slice of Chap. Five - (while I go take a smoke break....)


    After another hour of snowshoeing, with Franklin’s help, the near end of our “runway” was another ten feet wider on the left side. We had widened only the first half, as I had concluded that anything beyond that would be unnecessary. If felt certain that by that point I would accelerate enough so that, even if I did drift over all that way to the left (which I thought virtually impossible) by the time I had done so, there would be sufficient forward speed to steer the airplane back to the right with the airflow over the rudder.

    Wrong-OH there huskie-breath!

    After reloading the airplane, I sat in the left seat with the engine ticking slowly over to rewarm it to operating temperature, supremely confident that we were now only moments away from being airborne and headed back to Ft.Yukon. Which was a good thing, for good daylight was rapidly slipping away a it was just after 6 P.M. now. The shadows of the fir trees had long since spread completely across the river.

    Shoving the right rudder pedal once again to the floor, I smoothly advanced the throttle to full power again. (Duh! You’d think I might learn to try partial power, thus reducing the torque and P-factor, until some airspeed built up to help the rudder control. But no! I need just one more lesson!)

    Off we head for the left side of the runway again, but I am too stupid to be worried yet. After all, I’ve got a good 25 or more feet on the left side than I did for the last attempt. And just like before the “drift” begins to tighten into an “arc” on it’s way to being a “turn” again. But we are picking up forward speed at a good clip too. We are just getting the first rise in the airspeed indicator, the very first response to the full right rudder, when time and prepared surface run out on me.

    I had no sooner detected the degree of the leftward “arc” holding steady instead of continuing to tighten further, (meaning that I almost had enough speed to conteract it with the airflow over the rudder) when the leading edge of the huge heavy Fluidyne on the left side plowed into the high snow off the left side once again. Damn!

    Instantly the plane was drug further left and then…BAM! We were a freaking snowplow again, having made it a good fifty or sixty yards further down the ‘runway” before heading off for the willows again.
    In the next two seconds, I made a hasty and risky decision. I let completely off the right rudder and let the ol’ girl have her head as we continued to barrel our way into an increasingly tighter left turn. For it seemed that our speed remained steady at about twenty-five knots.

    Removing the additional drag of the full right rudder even allowed the now tightly turning Skywagon to even accelerate a couple more knots, at least according to the “seat of my pants” speed meter. And November 20807 now began to run through the deep snow in a tightening circle. And this was, for the moment, just fine with me. I needed to make sure I didn‘t wind up slamming my right wingtip into the almost vertical riverbank which was swimming rapidly through my field of vision, left to right. First it came into view from the left and began filling the windshield ahead of me, before continuing to rotate to my right, allowing the deep snow blanket on the river’s surface to replace it in my straight ahead view.

    Cloud(IbeendumberbeforebutIcan'trememberwhen)Dance r
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  25. #25
    SteveE's Avatar
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    Geez Cloudy, on the edge of my seat and you take a break... You r killin me.

  26. #26
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Chap. Five cont'd -


    deleted
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:23 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  27. #27
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Gimme' a BREAK Steve! I'm still in Fairbanks! (Vacation mindset...) This is the most I've done in a short space of time in a while! I can't drink! I'm on a freakin' DIET in the middle of the holidays! NO EGGNOG! (Onea' my favorites!)
    And now I got YOU giving me grief over a lousy SMOKE BREAK! It's all I got left Steve!

    I TOLD the WorldWide Grand Poohbah of SuperCubbers EverWhere that this would happen when he first tried to give me this forum! I told him I might fold up like a cheap suit under pressure.

    The PRESSURE...I...CAN'T....TAKE...THE...PRESSURE!!

    Gimme' ! Gimme' !! and I want some too!! A LOTTA' !!

    GREAT! DAMMIT! Now I gotta' go call my A.A. sponosor!

    Cloud(Godgrantmetheserenity)Dancer
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  28. #28
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    The REST of the Story -


    But now I begin to wonder if I have leaped from the frying pan into the fire. For now I am in the air, albeit with a bar minimum of flying speed, yet on the other hand a solid wall of riverbank topped with tall firs rushes toward me already filling the forward windscreen for half it’s vertical span!

    It’s amazing how many individual thoughts can run through your brain seemingly all at once. Like four speeding cars approaching an intersection at once, they noisily collide into heap of tangled ideas.
    WHACK THE POWER AND LAND STRAIGHT AHE…NO! NOT ENOUGH ROOM AND WE’LL HIT THE DA…FULL FLAPS NOW! AND TRY THE TURN AND MA… NO! HANG HERE AND GET SOME MORE SPEED AND…

    And that’s all the time I had. We were there. From ten feet above the surface of the frozen river, I looked fearfully ahead and upward at the treetops now towering forty feet above me. Had the turn ahead been even seventy degrees or less, I probably would’ve give it a shot as the easiest way “out”. But the fact that I knew it exceeded a hundred degrees minimum put that option out of question. I wasn’t absolutely positive I could make it through a turn steep enough to make the corner without stalling.

    I was equally unsure at this precise moment as to whether or not I could clear the trees ahead without stalling either. But, at this point, it seemed like, if I was gonna’ come up short on airspeed and stall, it would make better sense (can you believe I’m seriously thinking this?!) it would make better sense to stall straight ahead, wings level, and fall into into the cushion of the trees; than to stall in a low altitude right turn and have one wing stall before the other and possibly cartwheel upon impact.

    Waiting for the last possible moment, windshield now completely full of embankment, tree trunks and green branches, and without a last glance at the airspeed indicator, which only a couple of seconds earlier was still a knot or two short of showing an even seventy, I made my move with the trees not much more than half a football stadium away.

    As I reefed backward violently with my right arm on the flap handle and simultaneously pulled aggressively aft on the heavy black plastic control wheel with my left hand I fervently prayed to my Lord and Maker as well. “Dear Go-o-od HELP ME!”

    The 185 pitched up steeply and blue sky appeared in the top of the windshield over the treetops as the stall warning horn erupted into a continual bleating. But I still wasn’t sure and pulled back even harder after the first two seconds. We mi-i-i-ght…..


    **************************

    DANG! I thought for SURE I wuz gonna' get this story finished tonight. But now it's dinner time here in Fairbanks, and somebody is cooking CloudDancer's Famous Royal Hawaiian Memorial Meatloaf for me. And then I hafta' go to bed pretty soon because tamale I have to get up early and go back to...THE WORLD!

    If that darn Steve E. hadn't got me all off on a tangent here. Had to stop and talk to my A.A. sponsor for a half-hour and lost that writing time there. Aaaah well. I'll be off on Saturday before taking off on my weekly four day hostage crisis for my airline. Should finish it up then. Unless Steve screws me into the ceiling again....

    Cloud(backtothesaltmines)Dancer
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  29. #29
    SteveE's Avatar
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    Thanks Cloudy, I take that as a compliment!!

  30. #30
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    Written for you enjoyment from the business center at the Hyatt Suites, KFLL
    CloudDancer
    Last edited by CloudDancer; 03-19-2012 at 04:23 PM.
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  31. #31

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    GREAT story! I love ski flying & think this could be one of the best stories this far, keep up the good work!

    -Jeff (#6 on the petition, best of luck )

  32. #32
    Flying Miss Daisy's Avatar
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    Thanks CD...........Coughing Up Seat Cushion #1 Departure from the River. So you did get that Ski Flying down pat.
    FMD
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a well preserved body but rather to slide in sideways, well used up proclaiming "WOW What a Ride"

  33. #33
    scout88305's Avatar
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    I felt like I was there. Great story CD
    Thank a sheepdog today for they are standing guard!

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