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"GOOD! We're VFR!!"


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L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
Chapter One - The Sun Also Rises

It’s the middle of December and the days just don’t get much shorter than they are right now. Here, 37 miles above the Arctic Circle the old “sun rises in the East and sets in the West” that kids Outside are taught from grade school just don’t cut it. :cry:

I always have to laugh when people ask Alaskans “How do you stand being in the darkness for six months?” But, I guess until someone explains it to you and you think about it for a little while you just accept it like....well....like “the sun rises in.....etc”.

So for you “outside”ers , for fun one day if you think of it, or to be more specific; mark the calender for Dec 21st and June 21st the summer and winter equinox and solstice. If you live in the Northern half of our great nation, on those two specific days, compare the time between sunset and sunrise from YOUR newspapers weather page and say Miami.

And you southern tier folks do the same thing for your town and say Bangor, Maine. The further north or south you live in the 48 contiguous states the greater will be the difference. And the FURTHER you get from the equator the more drastic the change, and you can see it on a daily basis too. Simply do the same thing on either MARCH or SEPTEMBER 21st and you will see that while Kotzebue is gaining or losing nine or ten minutes of sunlight a day Miami may only be changing by a minute or two at most.

This explains why in Kotzebue, on the day of this story the sun came up in the (almost) DUE SOUTH around 11:15 AM or so . Actually it rose vertically straight up about five degrees east of due south. After rising in a straight line to about 10 or 12 degrees above the southern horizon it then moved horizontally to the right about ten degrees, and then dropped vertically straight down below the horizon about five degrees WEST of DUE SOUTH, disappearing completely by about12:45 PM. Add on about 25 to 30 minutes or so of workable “civil twilight” before and after and you’ve got about two-and-a-half hours of “daytime” flying, even on the SHORTEST winter day in Kotzebue.

Of course, all this only applies on a CLEAR day. (...you can se forEVER....oops!) If it’s cloudy and/or snowy, you are lucky to get about 1:45 of early morning type “workable” daylight.

Which explains why, when one of the town’s other part-time “gun-for-hire to the highest bidder” charter pilots and full time ops agent for Wien Jerry Knickerbauer used to joke....”BOY I had a TOUGH day. I flew from ‘cain’t see’ ‘til CAIN’T see’ “ :Gwoohoo: it was pretty funny. At least in December.

Well supercubbers (and science buffs all). There’s your teaser to start with. Time for mean ‘n Momma CloudDancer to head on down to BOS Market (like I don’t eat enough chicken every gah-darn week in my CREW MEALS.) I swear. All across America every week hundreds of THOUSANDS of chickens and one half of one steer give up breathin’ to feed me and my fellow airline pilots. And that’s just at MY airline. What on EARTH pray tell will airline management feed us if both mad cow debris AND the bird flu pandemonium thingy hit the good ol’ U S of A at the same time? I shudder to think. Peanut butter and jelly for ALL!!

And BY THE WAY!! WHO made RANCH DRESSING AMERICA’s DRESSING!! I prefer a good raspberry vinagr...oops. SORRY!!

:OT% :OT% :OT% :OT% :OT%

Okay. To recap. December. Short Day. Sun...up/down in the south.

When I return you can bet the story will probably contain....

1. Butt-chilling cold
2. A horny reluctant co-pilot (star of our series, of course).
3. At least one...hell... NUMEROUS FAR violations, I’m sure.

Cloud(ya' gotta love 'im)Dancer :wink:
Chapter Two - Pants on Fire!!

Well I’ve been around Kotzebue for almost five full months now. And nearly every day is SOME sort of new adventure; a new village (rarely) or maybe a new “off-airport” landing strip. Most of the time, it may just be a new customer I’ve never met before or finding yet another prominent or subtle landmark I can add to the mental rolodex file I keep in my brain for locating village runways in less than ideal VFR conditions.

I’ve memorized every runway heading and field elevation for every village in our region and a few on the Seward Peninsula too. And for each village I now have memorized as well WHAT HEADING must be flown immediately off either end of the one runway for HOW MANY SECONDS/MINUTES at my (approximate sixty MPH) projected G/S during the climb....just in CASE!

Taking off from Kiana’s runway six is an immediate climbing right hand turn to a heading of 210 degrees for at LEAST eight minutes before turning to a heading of 256 degrees. That should put you just about over Noorvik, or no more than a mile to the NE of the village when you make your turn towards OTZ and within reception range of either the VOR or NDB at any altitude of 700 feet or higher (for the VOR). Now you can verify a bearing to/from OTZ to confirm that you are indeed a safe four or five miles to the south of the hills immediately west of Kiana.

Now taking off on 24 on the other hand requires an IMMEDIATE LEFT hand turn to about a south heading for at LEAST sixty seconds to avoid the ridgeline no more than a half mile to the west of the runway and about 800 feet higher. But don’t get distracted and forget to make a turn to the 210 heading because the Waring mountains which run east/westerly between Kiana and Selawik are RAPIDLY approaching your slowly climbing little ChickenHawk and will be intent upon swatting you out of the sky if’n you’re where you don’t belong.

Some villages easier and some a little harder. Pay attention and make SURE you wear a good watch!!

But some of the newness was STARTING to wear off, and while my job was far, FAR from becoming ROUTINE; I was sort of settling in and beginning to establish some comfort levels both on and OFF the job.

Much to my dismay and the absolute deLIGHT of the Gunderson brothers, while I wasn’t LOOKING, someone was settling IN with young CloudDancer.

Having been introduced to Kotzebue’s chief form of year round entertainment, consuming alcoholic beverages by the friggin’ BOATLOAD apparently, I was now a well known figure and good tipping favorite of the bartenders in two of Kotzebue’s three gin joints. Unfortunately for the piggy banks of the hard workers at Leroy’s Arctic Lounge on Front street, having only a beer and wine license, prevented me from spreading some of my growing wealth in their direction. Seems my sensitive pallette was unable to handle such unrefined swill as mere beer and wine.

I had NO problem whatsoever though pickling my internal organs with daily overdoses of the cheapest gins and rums, some aged I imagine for purt near a week or two.

Aside from owning the Arctic Lounge, Leroy also just HAPPENED to be the Gunderson’s number one competitor , often stealing a Gunderson trip (“I stoled ‘em fair ‘n square” Leroy was oft heard to say). A common method of which was, upon arriving in his parking lot and lighting from one of his planes 50 yards to the east of our lot, Leroy would spot a good 206 load of Gunderson’s passengers awaiting Dan’s return from the trip he was on.

Whereupon Leroy would casually holler over “Hey. Did you guys miss Dan?” and the people would reply “Oh no. We’re supposed to leave at three.”

Now Leroy glances at his watch and sees it is 2:55, and goes “Huh. Well GEEE. THAT’s kinda’ strange. (Lying now) I just passed Dan on my way in, about five miles out. He SAID he was going to Kobuk (or Shungnak , or Pt. Hope...ANYplace far away). I guess he must’ve for GOTTEN you.” Doubly devastating as Dan (unlike Leroy) is very likely related by SOME blood to the passengers. This would leave the passengers somewhere between frustrated, slightly wounded pride, or downright MAD.

Whereupon Leroy, who was occasionally VERY Unreliable himself and most likely didn’t have a DAMN thing to do for the rest of the day ANYway (and had been very slowly taking a couple of steps every few seconds toward the passengers) would make a big show looking at his watch.

He would then announce initially somewhat reluctantly it appeared that, “We-e-ell. I DO have another trip at four (liar liar ), but if I hustle I can get you guys over to Noorvik and get back in time, uh, as long as you guys are paying CASH. ” (TheGgundersons were know as real soft touches and extended WAY too much credit to WAY to many people, which would lead to their eventual undoing.)
Usually the passengers would agree and begin dragging their stuff over to Leroy’s yard. And once Leroy had their cash in HIS pocket (trust me, it WASN’T coming back out) no refunds here OR at the Arctic Lounge. The objective then became to load the passengers and baggage as quickly as possible and beat feet outta’ town before Dan, who might well have been calling in “west shore of Kobuk lake for advisories” with FSS as Leroy was touching down on runway 26 while listening to Dan on the radio.

This scenario would result in Dan taxying IN passing Leroy taxying OUT with Dan’s load, any one or two of whom Dan would probably recognize. Much the same as the chivalrous and glorious dogfighting of World War One would result in mid-air salute from the victor to the vanquished foe, an episode such as this often ended in a mutual salute (of sorts) between these two old foes as well. They were fewer fingers involved though. Between the two of them, the passing salute(s) used less fingers total that one good boy Scout salute.

So when I met Leroy, on my very FIRST trip to the bar, at the end of my second week in town (honest Ma, I TRIED to be good), I knew by then who he was, and had been warned to be wary of the man.

So imagine my surprise when the man, instead of treating me like “the enemy”, welcomed me by name and called me over to the empty barstool next to him, offering to buy me a “welcome to town” drink.

Regular CloudDancer followers will most certainly see where THIS little chapter is going to end...but alas......you shall have to wait for a couple of hours as I need a break..........

Come back soon......heah?

Chapter Two - cont'd

Never having consumed alcohol in any form other than communion wine, I was clueless as to what to ask for so I just told the gorgeous Eskimo girl behind the bar at the Drift Inn (the town’s ONLY thirty or so room hotel) “Gimme’ what he’s having”, which turned out to be a Tom Collins.

Over some following still (to me) unknown period of time, Leroy plied me with both friendly conversation and many, still (to me) unKNOWN number of adult beverages.

In addition to offering a few scattered tips (after all I WAS the competition) about some of the traps to be found in Arctic flying, summertime fog banks, nasty runways when rainsoaked etc. Leroy also, upon learning that I was new to this drinking business, kindly offered me the benefits of his years of overindulging experience as well.

When I allowed that the Tom Collins (gin) was actually a little too sweet when I finished it, Leroy suggested I try a ScrewDriver (vodka) as that had the added benefit of being healthy, containing orange juice ‘n all. Well, I’d always since childhood drank freshly squeezed sweet orange juice and the bar mixed with canned UNsweetened so that REALLY kinda’ tasted bad, but not wanting to offend Leroy who’d been generous enough to buy THAT drink as well I made sure to drain the glass as a sincere show of appreciation before commenting that THAT drink was just a LI-I-I-ITtle too TART! (Expecting the three bears to show up any time now).

I had expected Leroy to show a little disgust or slight impatience at my obvious youthful inexperience, as I struggled to come up with JUST the right drink to order. :oops: But, surprisingly to me, the man appeared genuinely concerned that his two suggestions had fallen short of the mark. Further, he INSISTED that he buy the next round as well in recompense.

He assured me that it was QUITE important for a man to find JUST the right drink that appeals to his taste buds. I believe he said something about it being one of the inalienable rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, and then suggested that possibly I should try a Scotch ‘n Soda (whiskey). Always loved the song, but as it turned out the Kingston Trio knew more about good harmony than good cocktails, this one being DEFINATELY too SOUR.

Again, manfully, I worked my way through this drink still basking in the warm glow of my new found friendship with this nice fella’ Leroy, who was obviously just GROSSLY misunderstood by my employer.

I’d been eyeing Sheila, the bartender, A good looking little Eskimo cupcake, she had LONG eyelashes and long hair down to her heart-shaped little Levi labeled butt. I’m tickled pink to find out that this is a part time job for her as she is a full time ticket agent for Wien and loves pilots it seems. The fact that she has a really...no I mean REALLY nice set of naturally tan love melons prominently displayed by the deep vee neck of her tight contrastingly virginal white cashmere sweater had absolutely NO influence on my firm decision to make her my FIRST future ex-wife.

Things were warming up in more ways than one, by the time I had finished my fourth drink, a RUM ‘n Coke. This drink had also been bought for me by Leroy who had decided that since I was so new, I hadn’t even gotten to my first payday yet; the VERY least he could do was spring for one more, and he’d glady wait for me to make it up to him on my payday.

By the time I had knocked back the Rum ‘n coke, which was good but still not PERFECT, a whole HOUR had passed....alREADY. My, my how time just FLEW by with good company!


In less than 20 minutes I sheepishly walk into the one room office to find Dan behind his desk, considerably cooled down, thankfully for me. Dan has kids only three years younger than me and has decided to approach this problem in a “fatherly” sort of counseling manner one time, at least.

Talking to me gently, he counsels me about overindulgence, forgives me. And offers me some fresh coffee which I gratefully accept. :morning: Everything seems to be going swimmingly and I am not going to lose my job it appears. That is, until Dan asks me what provoked such behavior anyway.

Like any good sinner, I welcomed the opportunity to shift as much of the blame as I could, and realized that it would ALSO give me the opportunity to share with Dan my perception of HIS MISperception of my new friend Leroy.

The INstant I mentioned Leroy’s name Dan tensed up. And, for SOME reason, as I explained the earlier part of the evening (the part I REMEMBERED) Dan’s face got visibly redder and redder as I talked about how nice, how generous, how pleasant....KAAAH....BOOM!!! :evil:

“Youuuuuu DUMmy!!” Dan screamed at me. “He spent all of 40 dollars getting you drunk last night and has al READY stolen THREE of our CASH trips this morning worth five HUNDRED DOLLARS.!! Get OUT!! Get OUT and GO FIND US A TRIP!!”

Man, I skeedaddled RIGHT back out the office door, went to my ChickenHawk and began furiously polishing my windshield. Reaching in my shirt pocket I pulled out my cigarettee pack and a piece of paper fell out of my pocket onto the gravel below.

Quickly I leapt off the step and landed with my size twelve right boot squarely on the 2 x 3 inch scrap of paper before the ever present OTZ breeze could blow it away. At the same time I struck then quickly cupped within my rolled up hands a Fire Chief match. Into the flame I buried the tip of my Malboro sucking deeply.

With the throbbing in my head gradually subsiding, the nicotine rush was further unwinding the tenseness inside from the morning’s abrupt and unpleasant start.

As I started to bend down, the whining of a nearby engine starter stopped me. I turned around just as the individual blades on the front of Leroy’s 206 turned into a blurred disc. Immediately he gunned his engine and was rolling down the property line that separates our yard from his toward the paved asphalt taxiway.

As he was passing, he leaned forward over the dash so I could see him clearly.

Chapter Three - And Then Along Comes Penny

As previously noted, much to the delight of my employers, the Gunderson brothers, I had SOME how, with no REAL effort on my part acquired my first live-in girlfriend. I fact, I CLEARly remember doing my darndest to dissuade this girl from moving in. No, REALLY. I MEAN it. :roll:

Seems seeing the name Penny and the four digit phone number (that’s all you needed to dial in Kotzebue in those days, as it was all one exchange, operating only slightly better than the party in Petticoat Junction’s mythical Hooterville) prompted some brief flashbacks to the previous evening. :eek:


It hadn’t taken a month from my arrival in Kotzebue and my new addictions had me in deep doo-doo. :help

But at least MY addictions hadn’t put me in the hospital. Dan Gunderson had been hospitalized for almost eight weeks as Christmas ‘73 approached for illnesses brought on by HIS devastating Coca-Cola

Once again you find yourself saying.....Cloudy.....ARE there any airplanes in this story?
CloudDancer!! Stop TALKING about the girls!! Get to some TECHNICAL STUFF!! Besides we know your just making the sex parts up. (You-u-u WISH!!)
CD (You long-winded horse’s patoottie!! Get to the POINT).....

Chapter four will get you on your way!!
Chapter Four - Seldom Seen Cedrick

Most ANY pilot regardless of their age when they start flying are generally working towards flying bigger, higher, and faster airsheens and I was certainly no exception. I had every intention when I started to be in at LEAST a 737 or DC-9 within a matter of a few years. That was another benefit of going to work for the Gunderson family as they were already operating both a Baron and a Twin Bonanza from the Beech family, but also a 1959 Dornier SkyServant STOL twin piston.

Added to the family’s already eclectic (even for the 1970's) collection shortly after my arrival was a 1960 model Aero Commander 560E. This high wing twin mounted two Lycoming GO-480-C’s putting out 295HP @ 3400RPM to lift it’s (legal) gross load limit of about 6600 lbs as I remember.

One of the earlier aircraft built with an eye toward passenger comfort, it’s plush interior seated five to seven in a cozy rear cabin in seats with ARMrests!!. The true sense of “cockpit” was added with floor to ceiling dark wooden panels behind the two pilot’s seats extending outward to the cabin walls. Combined with a cockpit totally cluttered with internally lit big rocker style switches, knobs, clocks, and dials with wheel and pointers everywhere you looked....MAN....now THIS was some BIG TIME HEAVY IRON !!

But the way Dan flew the thing you’da thought it was an ag truck!!
Standard practice for Dan when departing any runway was JAM! the throttles forward bringing a HOWLING scream from both engines and practically WARPING the propellor tips forward as they waited a few milliseconds for the rest of the attached blade/hub/engine-bolted-to-the-airframe to catch the rest of the assemblege up with them. As noted previously in other CloudDancer epics, Dan wasn’t exactly reknowned for....uh....FINESSE.

As a matter o’ fact; I knew a dozen or so Eskimo pilots in those days. There was Dan and Rod of course. Then there was Smelly Henry down in Nome and Jack Fredricks outta’ Barrow along with ol’ Barney Loveless from Bethel. Some more Eskimo pilots were another set of brothers Geoffrey and Randell Rheinertz, among whose many offspring, male AND female both, are numbered Captains for multiple Major US airlines and a couple of ATC controllers to boot.

In fact, only in Alaska would you EVER hear the following exchange between a 121 Air Carrier Captain and a enroute center controller, which I was privy to ONLY be cause Randell had allowed me the rare treat and PRIVELEGE of riding in the jumpseat of his Wein 737-200 combi that night.

Capt. Rheinhertz; (CR) ANC center, Wien 53 checking on, offa’ Galena at four-seven climbing to two-five-zero.

Center: (Sweet feminine voice) Well!! Looks whose here, wouldja’ now!! HELL-oh Wien 53. You’re cleared to climb to flight Level 310 and DON’T forget to tell me when you GET THERE this time.

Capt. (CR): Okay little girlie. (Obviously LONG before sexual harassment and sensitivity training) Hey!! What do you think about me heading straight home?

Center: Wien 53 you ARE cleared present position direct to ANC, but as for going straight home, Mom called and said to tell you to stop at the store on the way home and get some eggs and milk. Contact ANC center abeam McGrath on 128.9 Goodnight Daddy

Capt. (CR): Okay. 128 decimal niner. Goodnight Kitten!!

There was ol’ James Vandergriff in Aniak and more flying native families in Golovin and Unalakeet

But while they ALL were good and most of them GREAT or superb pilots (none has EVER been killed that I know of to date in an accident up there yet) their flying styles fell into one of two drastically different formats.

The airline trained guys, like Rod were as comfortable and relaxed on the gauges as they were in clear skies, and they flew with a sense of style and grace that eluded the others. They had more patience in general while in the air.

The others fell into Dan’s “camp” (so to speak). They could get TO anywhere FROM anywhere within three hundred NM of their home base with a quarter mile visibility VFR at the LOWest possible altitudes withOUT breaking a sweat! And these guys were as comfortable and relaxed THAT way as the other guys were thousands of feet above them, in the soup (VFR, of course).

And these guys were cowboy’s among cowboys. They purely reveled in making airplanes do what other pilots, even the manufacturers said they couldn’t.

As I was saying about Dan’s takeoffs in the Commander.....(I get sidetracked easily....) once all the parts of the airplane had sufficient (in Dan’s mind) airspeed flowing about them, Dan would (obviously) haul back on the yoke and get the nosewheel offa’ the runway. Now...which MAIN wheel left the ground first was MOST likely governed by the direction TO the destination moreso than the direction of the prevailing wind.

If the destination was a left turn out then invariably a good solid full deflection thumping roll of the control wheel combined with a little more back pressure would result in the right main parting company with the runway first. Of course, vice-versa, for the other direction.

As to the one remaining wheel still in contact with terra firma, I was never quite sure when watching one of Dan’s takeoffs, :crazyeyes: whether it left the ground before or AFTER the gear retraction sequence started, Dan being a firm believer in reducing drag ASAP in an effort to get there faster.

Well dear readers....alas I must call it a night, and a WEEK for that matter; as I am due to arise long before the sun in the morning for an 0620 show time at my nearby flow controlled and overcrowded aviation-type facility for another four day sojourn around North America.

The end of Chapter Four introducing you to Seldom Seen Cedrick, Kotzebue’s newest young wrench (hint, hint....mechanical problems ahead) will be posted upon my return late Sunday evening the 9th.

Meanwhile I’m already salivating at the thought of some reindeer sausage and sourdough flapjacks at Gwennies on Saturday morning in ANC.

Hi Folks - Tuff trip. Little under the weather. Look for something Monday night by 5P.M. or so east coast time.

Dan’s natural tendency toward exuberance in operating his machinery assured that there was always plenty of work around OUR hangar for the town’s only two wrench slingers Dudley and Clark.. :cry:

However, poor Dudley and Clark were in high demand CONstantly from the east to west end of the ramp. These resulted in a quite predictable and repetitive cycle wherein the mechanical dynamic duo would work exhausting hours for days or weeks on end getting all the operator’s flying machines back to an airworthy status. Whereupon having ascertained that all the really IMPORTANT work had been completed, having worked themselves out of a job so to speak; one would help the other cowl up the last airplane, and pockets now bulging with cash, they would repair post haste to the hotel bar and commence the second half of the cycle. :drinking:

The second half of the cycle they became the Drunken Duo far more concerned with wenches than wrenches. These fella’s worked had and played hard as well, and sometimes they played for a l-o-n-g, LONG time. This would invariably result in some A/C reaching the point where they just HAD to be fixed or a 100 hour had come and gone, THAT sort of thing.

That’s when either the operators did their own wrenching or, as one of my bosses enjoyed telling me (in later years) knowing I was NOT a mechanic.....”Hey kid, go out there ‘n 100 hour your 206.”

There WAS an understood procedure for me at that command. I uncovered the engine, pulled, sandblasted, gapped and then replaced all 12 plugs. This because we NEVER hardly had any NEW ones. Following that, I drained the old oil, pulled the oil screen and ran a magnet around the screen checking for any metal shavings or residue. Assuming there were none to be found I would replace the oil filter and throw in 12 quart cans of oil. If any (imPORtant) lights were burned out, you know, like nav or landing/taxi lights, and we happened to have any of THOSE on our part ledge at the time....I would also attend to THAT major chore.

Thus, having completed the required “100 hour”, it now became my obligation and duty to take 50 bucks from the cash drawer and proceed with the aircraft logbook down to the Pondu or the Whale in hopes of finding at least one of our mechanical miscreants able to focus well enough to legibly scrawl his name in aforesaid logbook. For the aforesaid 50 bucks, of course!! :agrue:

While this often “kept our boys in the air”, it also had the unintended effect of proLONGing Dudley and Clark’s “out of service” portion of their two-cycle lives, especially if too many 100 hours came due within a few short days.

In later years this would lead to one of Kotzebue’s operators, having finally lost patience with the “now you see us, now you don’t” hometown wrench benders; to actually importing a pair of A&I’s from the big village (ANC).

These two guys, whose names escape me, would generally knock back a couple every night, but would work every day. Reliably. Dependably, and most of all....CONSISTENTLY. And after a couple of weeks, the operators planes were good as new. ALL of ‘em. And the boys from Anchorage got on the big Wien bird and headed back from whence they came.

Well, the following week a big old Alaska International Air Hercumles drops outta’ the sky and deposits on Kotzebue’s ramp two Ford Econoline vans driving by none other than.....you GUESSED it.......the same two fella what left town LAST week.

Now having formed a company with “Have SocketWrench, Will Travel” and “Parts is Parts” emblazoned on each side of both trucks; the boys were back to make their fortune. And a fortune they did MAKE, having the forethought to load up the inside of their vans with (beside a small cot and LARGE toolboxes) durn near EVERY conceivable Cessna and Piper single-engine part you could think of except actual airframe pieces. They charged a premium for the parts as well as their labor too.

But this was years later and demand for travel had risen so much that operators could not afford any down time on the air machines. It was just TOO costly. So they paid the “mercenaries” as the operators liked to call them, the premium rate. And they WERE darn good mechanics to boot.

But that was years in the future......meanwhile back in (present day)

Ah-h-h-h.......supper-time folks. Just wanted to get something up for you readers. I'l doo some more 2-nite before I go beddyba.......
1973 is right. No bars in Kotzebue since I have been living there off and on for the last 11 years. Funny story. As far as that sun on the horizon. I have managed to take a pic of it the last 4 years. Here is that winter time high noon sun you were talking about. I think that 10 to 12 degrees above the horizon is way off. Doesn't look that high to me. This was the high noon sun.

Many of the children in the villages all over Alaska, like kids all over the world, were drawn to aviation and airplanes. And, also just like elsewhere in the world there were some who were not so interested in FLYing the darn machines as they were in figuring out what MADE them fly (work). Some folks are born pilots, and some folks are born take-it-apart-and-put-it-back-together people.

Young Cedrick Seevaak from Buckland was just one such young man.

And fortunately for all concerned there was a program available for native Eskimo and Indian kids from all over the state that would pay for their education in certain fields, aviation being one.

So Cedrick, whose mechanical aptitude was noted as a youngster, had gone off to school to get his A&P license in the big village on the banks of the Chena River, Fairbanks.


Subsequently, ANY time Cedrick headed out to the bars to get some “technical assistance”, upon arriving Dudley and/or Clark would demand alcoholic compensation for their “tech support” insisting the younger mechanic join them for “just one”. Invariably this would result in Cedrick’s absence from the hangar for the remainder of that day, as well as most probably the following day as well. As time passed, Cedrick's fondness for Olympia beer :cheers frequently outweighed his desire to further his career and sometimes he would go a week and be seldom seen at the hangar.

As the middle of December approached we had been calling him “Seldom Seen Cedrick the Mechanic” for a number of weeks now, as he had really EARNED the sobriquet, often going on two to four day binges.

Seldom Seen Cedrick the Mechanic was quite a lot to wrap your tongue around at one time so, as to be expected it was shortened to just Seldom Seen, as in “Hey. Where’s Seldom Seen?” or just plain Seldom as in “Hey. Anybody seen Seldom??”.

But this day in December, we were lucky. (Sort of). Seldom was not only here but clear-headed as Dan roused us way before dawn this frigid winter’s morning and announced “I want to fly the Commander toDAY!” Which was a total shock as both the Commander AND Dan had been hors d’ combat for about four months, and while Dan was now fit as a fiddle; our baby AeroCommander had been sitting unused and unattended for the last sixteen weeks. It was in fact, BURIED under massive snowdrifts, unheated, and uncovered.

Somehow I just KNEW this was gonna’ be one IN-teresting day! :crazyeyes:
Hiya' Torch - And THANX for the photograph of the noontime sun!! 8)

Looks to me like you are kee-RECt sir. That don't look much like ten-twelve degrees. :cry:

But ya'll gotta' remember I'm dredging all this material outta' some 17 to 33 year old memory bank brain cells what has been subject of quite some number of alcoholic "pickling" subsequent to storing the information initially. :Gnotsure:

In addition, one of my DEEPEST lifelong regrets :( is that, in over 16 years of actively flying the arctic I believe I took a total of about 80 or ninety pictures.

A dozen were of airplanes, and the remainder (as faithful CloudDancer readers would well expect) were of various adorable little brown-eyed local girls. :p

These pictures were taken in various living locations and featured these lovely young ladies modeling varying amounts of the latest fashion(s) of mostly lingere, :censor: and were preserved for posterity (I thought) in one priceless and VERY PRIVATE album.

I now have THIRTEEN pictures left. A DOZEN are of airplanes. Seems one of my live-in girlfriends one day found my album when, as women are wont to do, went digging around where they SHOULDN'T be in their man's PRIVATE THINGS.....!! :bad-words:

To this day, I am not really sure whether she was miffed that she didn't find HER picture in there yet (my camera had been broken for MONTHS) - OR- that her older as well as younger sister had alREADY earned their place in my personal version of Fredrick's of Hollywood. :wink:

Either way. It was the END of my collection that I had SACRIFICED so MUCH for. :boohoo

Ergo........I ALWAYS appreciate reader's contributions which will enhance the accuracy of my stories.

I do greatly wish to entertain, but the key to it is.....this %$#@ really HAPPENED!! As I oft say. Only the names (of persons AND villages sometimes) have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent, or those like me, who are usually GUILTY as HELL!! :anon

Chapter Four - TENTATIVELY titled 'the Pepsi Generation will be posted no LATER than THURSday nite at 6 PM eastern.

Haven't quite figured out tamale's complete agenda yet, but as I am leaving soon for my favorite watering hole after seven consecutive days of self-enforced sobriety in order to comply with my Airman Medical Examiner's orders to "try cutting back a little" ; I can at this point already say with some assurance that the entire morning tamale is alREADY shot all to hell 'n gone, with a good chance of the whole day being needed for rest and recovery in a prone position. :morning:

I'll C-U when I C-U!! And by the way, and I mean this MOST Sincerely. As Bartles & James used to say...."....'n we THANK ya' ...for yer' continued support...."......CloudDancer
Torch said:
Here is that winter time high noon sun you were talking about. I think that 10 to 12 degrees above the horizon is way off. Doesn't look that high to me. This was the high noon sun.

Kotzebue, being north of the arctic circle, should have one day when the sun is never visible. although, an inversion layer may let you see a little of the sun even though it's below the horizon.
:whis: Sorry Alexander - It just don't happen that way. Don't know why 'cause I ain't no scientist. But the sun is definitely above the horizon.

Google the words "sunrise sunset" and the first offered reference will be the US Naval Observatory.

I entered 12/21/2006 The sun will rise in OTZ :peeper this next Dec. 21st at 1PM, will peak at 1:50 Pm, and will set at 2:41 PM....remaining visible for a total of one hour and forty-one minutes.

or so says the U.S. Navy..........

Worthy of note :Ggeek: FYU (Ft. Yukon)...only THIRTY NAUTICAL MILES further south (seven miles above the Arctic Circle) has an ADDITIONAL 28, yes twenty-EIGHT minutes of sunlight. :crazyeyes: Truly amazing as you approach the polar extremes how MUCH difference just 20 NM of latitude can make, isn't it!!
Cloud dancer, Yeah, I know about the USNO site, been there a few times myself. I'm scratching my head here trying to recall exactly what you're supposed to get above the Arctic circle on the solsitces. Obviously, if the USNO says the sun rises on the winter solstice, it's not just an inversion layer. I haven't been in Kotz for a winter solstice, I have been there for 2 summer solstices (actually on was in Kivalina) but I wasn't curious enough to say up till 02:00 am to watch.
Figured out where I was screwed up.

Above the Arctic Circle, the sun's *center* is below the horizon for at least 24 hours on the winter solstice, and it's above the horizon for at least 24 hours on the Summer Solstice. Sunrise and sunset is when the top edge of the sun comes over the horizon, and obviously, the top edge is higher than the center, so you'd see part of the sun, even though the center is below the horizon. Also, atmospheric refraction allows you to see more than half a degree (34 arc-minutes) below the horizon, so even though the sun's center is geometrically below the horizon, you could probably see the whole thing at it's peak.

You'd have to go 50 minutes of lattitude north (16' for half the diameter of the sun, and 34' for atmospheric refraction) of the Arctic Circle to find a place whereh the sun wouldn't be visible at all on the winter solstice.
Man you are one fart smeller :Gparp: oops!! I mean one SMart FELLer' Alexander :Geureka:

'Course the was a couple o' purty big words that I didn't unnerstand in yer reply. :Gpurplex:

Later, after a little nap :sleeping: when my head don't hurt as much as it is right now :toilet I will get down my Funky Wagnells dictionary and figger out what it is you said.

Meantime it's just a relief to know I wasn't having hallicanations from over indulgence every winter. :nutz:

Cloud (WHY do hangovers last SO much longer when you get older?)Dancer

Chapter Four - The Pepsi Generation

I’ve always been kind of a morning person. If not in “recovery mode” from a previous night’s assault on one or more of Kotzebue’s adult beverage vendors, it was most common for me to wake up, even without an alarm clock within one or two minutes (usually) of EXACTLY eight hours from when I went to bed. And while I didn’t exactly BOUND out of bed full of vim and vigor; if not hungover. Getting out of bed was not UNpleasant :-? and I generally was in the shower within a matter of minutes having prepared the coffee pot the night before as do so many of us.

Also I am VERY much a “creature of habit” as the saying goes. So, since I lived MOST of my life as an unattached bachelor, and since I am endowed with all the natural kitchen skills of oh, say a CAMEL; after three days of cold milk and toast and Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast I KNEW I had to “come UP with a PLAN”. (Much like the character “Hannibal” on the television show “A-Team” :9mm I loved then, and still do, using the line “I LOVE it when a PLAN comes toGETHer!!”)

Chapter Four - The Pepsi Generation (cont'd)

As I rounded the corner and mounted the three rickety wooden steps of the ramshackle and dilapidated old 10 x 14 structure that served as the Gunderson’s “office” I noticed movement through the small portion of the hangar side window that wasn’t completely frosted over and covered by a large snowbank that had accumulated in the narrow, three foot opening between the two structures.

Poking my head in the side entry door revealed that Cedrick had beaten me to work this morning, a rarity indeed. Bundled from head to foot in a parka AND snowsuit only his neck face and hands were bare, with his ski-type goggles slid upward onto the top of his head pushing his jet black hair back and off to the sides in a style I can only call a Dagwood (Bumstead). Not hearing the door open over the roar of the fans from the oil fired heaters, Cedrick stood with his back to me examining a tear in one of the hoses for our Herman Nelson.

Now, If ya’ll don’t know what a Herman Nelson is, picture this. A 55 gallon steel drum sized main metal combustion chamber laying on it’s side on a “carrier” with wheels. On one end is a control box, an electric cord for plug in and handles to move the thing around with, kinda’ like to drive a wheelbarrow. And on the OTHER end of the “drum” is one LARGE “exhaust” over which you fit a “cap” with two or three smaller diameter hoses attached TO the “cap”.

When you light the sucker off, with a big WHOOSH, you have a large....LARGE volume flow of 250 degree or so air coming out the other end, which you can now direct to up to THREE different places which may be quite apart from each other and indeed is ONLY governed by the number and length of hoses available. Ergo you can run one hose to each engine on a twin and one to inside the cabin, a quite common configuration when using “the herman” at the time.

I’m not sure who invented the darn thing. I know it cost alotta’ dough, but almost NO operator ANYwhere was without at least ONE of those suckers; as the pre-herman nelson and Carter heaters days were a REEEEAALLL pain in the ol’keister, what with having to drain the oil every night and put it on the stove til you were ready to fly again. Then you’d carry it back out to the
plane it the morning and dump it back in the engine which you have already thoughtfully preheated also, probably with what is known as a “smudge” pot.

But each and EVERY time you got to use the darn thing you thanked your lucky stars you hand it.

I backed out into the bitter cold from the warmth of the hangar’s side entry. It was only 15 degrees above zero, but the damn wind was blowing it’s usual 15knots as well outta’ the east making the cold feel much worse.

Turning again toward the office so I could get completely inside and warm up for a few minutes I took a quick glance at the Aero Commander. It was firmly anchored to the frozen solid ground, each wing being tied to two drums of (frozen) water and one for the tail as well, facing into the usually prevailing easterly winds. The front end was absoLUTEly BURIED under a ten foot snow drift that was the result of the half dozen or so two, three, and even FOUR day Arctic blizzards which had occurred so far this winter.

The Commander was Dan’s PERSONAL plane and NObody got to fly it but him. It had been sitting idle for over three months now as Dan had been in Anchorage for over three months as a result of HIS addiction....Pepsi-Cola.

I’ve never seen anyone....anywhere...before or since that drank as much Pepsi as Dan put away. If the man didn’t go through two CASES of four six packs a DAY....EACH day....seven days a week...I’m a monkey’s uncle. I mean, a three hour round trip to Kobuk, and the guy would come back with one can out of a full six pack!! I mean I like soda TOO but ....Holy Liver a’Quiver Batman!!

After decades of swilling that much Pepsi, one day a few weeks after I had come to work for the Gunderson’s Dan took ill, went to the PHS Hospital and was subsequently sent to Anchorage for more intensive care. The details of the illness escaped me, but I remember he was in the hospital for a solid month before doing better, and then came two months of outpatient treatments.

And now, (at doctors orders) being “Pepsi Free” so to speak, he has returned from the Big Village much healthier, but much GROUCHIER than I’d first known him.

His mood was not improved one IOTA when he caught sight of his neglected pride and joy the Commander. I guess Rod had been telling him his “bird” was ‘just fine” and would be ready to fly upon Dan’s return home. Only Dan hadn’t given us any warning he was coming back a few days EARLY. Hence, this morning’s early rousting for Cedrick and I. Time to put on the coffee pot, enjoy a last couple of cups o’ java and another smoke before going out to begin what was quite OBVIOUSLY going to be a long and hard days work. No trips on the board yet for today, and it looked to be slow, flying-wise, as it was a Saturday.

More coming soon folk....just wanted to get something up. CD
Chapter Five -

We’d pushed the Commander nose first into an area behind our fuel tanks, two five hundred gallon steel cylinders mounted in twelve foot tall wooden cradles made of six by six heavy timbers which, given their height, allowed us to gravity feed almost all of the fleet without ever having to use the electric pumps which were ancient and crapped out constantly.

Underneath the cradles in the open spaces below gathered every sort of.....JUNK (for lack of a better word) that is normally associated with bush flying. Blazo boxes, a 55 gallon drum (the State Flower of Alaska), multiple wooden pallets...you know....JUNK!!

When we rolled the baby Commander nose first into the space behind the tanks in early September Dan had only been gone to the hospital a couple of days. The first nip of frost was in the air and we pushed on the struts as Rod guided the plane with the nose-wheel attached tow bar rolling over the gravel pad that constituted the ramp area in OTZ in those days. Only where the Alaska jet pulled in at the far west end of the ramp was paved. All else was gravel, except for the parallel taxiway that spanned all the operator’s lots.

Now the gravel, along with a lot of other stuff (including the forward third of the Commander) were buried under the snow and ice.

The Commander now squatted forlornly. It was buried aft and upward to the midpoint on both sides, with the engine nacelles completely packed with snow. From the leading edge of the wings aft she was fairly well free, although the snowdrift on the left side continued rearward to bury the entire left landing gear assembly before petering out halfway to the tail.

The propellers were absolutely immobilized having not moved so much as a quarter inch in the last three months or so. I could quite literally do chin-ups with my 165 lb frame on the horizontally parked blade of the 3-bladed Hartzell mounted to the right engine. Frozen SOLID this baby was. And Dan wants to fly this thing toDAY!!??

Cursing and slipping on the snowpacked ramp, Cedrick and I wheel the Herman Nelson out of the hangar, hoses dragging behind, a little before eight AM just as Dan come pulling in front of the office in his pickup. He leaps out and rushes over to help as Ced and I are trying to plow/push/MANhandle the unwieldy piece of equipment through the last small foot-and-a-half foot high snowdrift between us and the rear of the aircraft.

Dan is positively giddy as a child on Christmas morning, a beaming grin on his face as he THROWS himself at the opposite end of the bulky machine. Laughing and chiding, he exhorts us “kids” to “PULL...PULL.....PUUUUUULL!!” as he lifts and pushes the heavy end over in a burst of pure muscle power. As we break through the berm Cedrick and I pull the machine right out from Dan’s body and, tripping over the berm he goes down hard it appears.

But before we can even recover from stopping the momentum of the big machine and drop our end, the boss-man is up like a jack-in-a-box. Big grin none the worse for the fal he is chanting excitedly...”ohboyohboyohboyohboy....I get to fly my PLANE today!!” Like a KID!! And he races over to pick up the hoses as Cedrick and I swing the machine through a 180 degree turn to get it lined up with the hoses facing the airplane.

Dan scampers over and grabs the electric cord male end , throws the remaining coil on the ground and races hurriedly over to the hangar wall to get the big fire breathing monstrosity a power source.


Well readers, CloudDancer is off at oh-dark thirty in the morning for one last trip to God's Country on the company hoof. Drat! Did not get even ONE ANC trip next month. Rotten senior PUKES took 'em all now that the suns staying up late and the girls are starting to show a little skin .....rotten senior PUKES!!

Anywho......I will see you nice folks next week again. Long about Wednesday I'm thinking!! Hope everbody whose off for the weedend has a nice one!! CHEERS!!
Chapter Six - Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's OFF to Work We Go

Banging my boots against the side of the doorjamb to knock off most of the excess snow I push open the wooden door expecting to be greeted with a rush of warm air escaping the tiny room at face level, as the cold air from outside is sucked in to fill the void left behind. Instead I am disappointed to note that, while still MUCH warmer than OUTside it is relatively fairly COOL inside the office. DAMN!! :cry:

I note the 30 cup cafeteria-style upright tin and black plastic coffee maker is making it’s last few perks, boiling coffee spewing volcano-like up from the bottom of the urn, through the central tube, to erupt against the glass knob on the top of the cover and splash out horizontally in all directions to drain down through the grounds one last time. At least the coffee is going to be hot I note as I jerk my mittens off and place one hand on top of the oil burning stove type heater. No surprise. Cold as a stone.

Picking up the heavy black plastic receiver out of the cradle of the late 1950's style phone (the darn receiver alone is almost as long as a football and must weigh four pounds all by itself) I dial the four digit phone number of Arctic Lighterage in hopes of getting a quick commitment for an early delivery of stove oil.

As I press the cold plastic receiver against my ear I reach out to gratefully accept the steaming heavy porcelain mug of java proffered by Cedrick. It feels really good in my hand as I cup it without using the finger hole, and as I wait for someone to answer the phone, I raise the mug and hold it first against one cold cheek and then the other, allowing the warmth of the cup to permeate my face. :morning:


So, Cedrick muses as we take a warm-up in the hangar, over his coffee; that his mechanic’s training school did not really put a lot of emphasis on all the manual LABOR that was involved with his career choice, specifically shoveling huMONgous piles of SNOW! This seemingly was all too FREquently a part of his mechanic’s “job”. And of course, I allowed as how my Pilot training hadn’t EVER bought out that particular unpleasant aspect of my career choice either, but that it wasn’t too much of a surprise as, shoveling out of large snowdrifts was not a even an ANNUAL occurrence in my part of Texas from whence I had arrived.

In fact, I LOVED the snow almost ALL the time. But I could see my enthusiasm level for snow sliding down somewhat after day(s) like today.

Along about 11:15 AM, just as we moved the VERY last of the snow by hand; sunrise, the Arctic Lighterage stove oil delivery trunk, and Dan all pretty much arrived simultaneously. Even Rod had gotten hisself up and out early so he could come over and help on this momentous occasion. His contribution though was pretty much limited to a supervisory level although, to his credit, he DID get the stove fired up immediately.

After that, with coffee in hand he spent an HOUR trying to talk his brother Dan OUT OF what he considered to be a DUMB and ill-conceived and poorly planned flight. But Dan could easily be the most STUBBORN man I’ve ever known when he sets his mind to it. Ergo, Rod did not succeed, and then turned his attention to pitching in with all of us to ensure that (dammit) if his crazy brother insisted on fly the machine it should be as near perfect as possible.

More tamale good readers.....Ol' CD is headed out for yet ANOTHER determined attempt at finding some well endowed, nubile :p , cocktailing waitressing her way through college, perky, yet misguided in a sort of "I have a thing for older guys" way :wink: , companion for the evening, the weekend, or maybe to be my next future ex-wife.

Now, where the heck did I leave my Viagra............. :-?

It's GOOD to have a goal. :roll:
By eleven-thirty AM, in the weak daylight of the just risen sun, we were ready to haul the Commander out of her hibernation position. As we were unable, without moving a HUGE amount of snow by hand, to access the nose area of the airplane; this would be a two stage operation.

First we finally made some use of Rod’s brand new Dodge Ram by attaching it to the rear tie down of the baby Commander using a sixteen foot length of 3/4 inch nylon rope to make the connection between the two vehicles.

With Ced and I on opposite sides of the airplane throwing our limited weight against the respective landing gear assemblies on each side. What with the puddles of water that had come out of the nacelles, fallen to the ground and immediately froze into BIG puddles of glare ice on the ground JUST where we needed to get some traction with our feet to support the effort. No joy.

We then hit upon the idea of doubling, no, quadrupling the rope usage. Finding three more of the ropes, we first untied from the tail to Rod’s bumper. Then we added another rope and made the connection from the outermost portion of Rod’s rear bumper to the right main landing gear strut. The same was done on the other side, and now the Commander was BOUND to move. And in fact, she DID!! Popping out of the remaining snowbank like a cork out of a champagne bottle before stopping it’s rearward motion after only a roll of about a dozen feet or so. But that was all we needed. From here it was a matter of only a few short minutes before the Commander rolled backwards into her hangar berthing spot as the doors were slammed closed behind her entry.

Incredibly, outdoors, where the airplane HAD been parked; there remained behind an absolutely PERFECT detailed life-sized cave-like indentation in the snow bank.

Now, as the heaters poured out BTUs at a FURIOUS rate and volume to replace what HAD been the indoor warmth (opening the hangar doors in THOSE days, thirty-three years ago; even THEN was said to cost the operator upwards of fifty dollars in heating fuel) all of us stripped out of our snowsuits completely. Even though at the moment the temperature was almost the same as the outside air, within a matter of four or five minutes the heaters will have raised the temperature to about twenty above inside; and with no wind to suck the warmth OUT of your body, working in the hangar in just flannel shirtsleeves and your jeans is quite comfortable.

Snowmachine suits are GREAT for keeping you warm while you work outside or roar across the landscape at fifty MPH but they are much to bulky, for me at least. So I am the first to dress down any chance I get.

Finally now we can really get to work on this machine.
CD, just came in from the Kansas wind for what some people with 'real jobs' call 'personal time'. Poured some coffee, checked the email, Supercub site and I am always am pleasantly affected when I see that you have continued with the serial.

Thanks, just wanted you to know that I enjoy your experiences and look forward to the next installment.
Chapter Seven - Chitty Chitty BangBANG!!

Sliding the engine covers off, (these babies are HOT still) we hurriedly begin popping the various butterfly latches, zeuss fasteners and plain old phillips head screws that make the cowling whole and in moments the still hot to the touch engines are fully exposed.

Over the next few hours Dan, Rod, Cedrick and I, along with one of our ramp boys, perform every sort of revitalizing check and procedure we know of to bring the Commander back to a state of rediness she hadn’t seen since joining the company months before.

Stevie, our ramper was an airplane crazy sixteen year old second (or maybe third) cousin of Dan and Rod from Selawik . Like me, he was just so happy to be in his position working around real airplanes at his age, that he would’ve (and sometimes wound UP) doing it for free.

Of course, as neither of us were mechanics, anything we did was at Cedrick’s direction and under his supervision; and the first chore we were assigned was to drain the oil.

Buckets on Blazo boxes, snip the safety wire holding the plug, a couple of quick turns with the wrench and (OUCH) the burning hot oil is spilling down the (as yet) unremoved plug onto my hand.. This of course surprises me (DUH!) To the extent I jerk my hand back and, yes, DROP the damn plug into the gathering hot oil in the bottom of the five gallon plastic bucket. Diving back into the hot oil (better now and only burn the tips of my fingers than wait and burn more, or wait until it is cold and have to dunk my whole hand and wrist in the black sludge to fish for it) I retrieve the plug and throw it into the shop towel in my left hand to dry.

As I am about to come out from under my engine and go check to see how Stevie is doing, I note that the oil flow has dropped off dramatically after only the first thirty seconds or so. I peer into the plastic bucket and stick my pointer finger straight down into the hot oil ‘till I touch the bottom of the bucket and quickly jerk it out. The sludge mark level is barely at my knuckle and confirms for me that nowhere NEAR twelve to fourteen quarts of oil has come out of the engine. More likely only four or so.


Finally, at seven PM, with the sun long gone and inky black moonless night skies overhead we are ready to roll her out and try an engine run. Amazingly, but not TOTALLY unprecedented, the entire day has gone by without one lousy trip. No good for my pocketbook, but I DID learn a lot today.

Cedrick and Dan climb into the front and I ask Dan if I can sit back in the cabin and watch the proceedings over their shoulders.

Dan flips on the master switch and the warm glow of the white post lights and internally lighted overhead switches bathes the cockpit. From there...well....things just didn’t manage to go so good.

As Dan was firing up the second (right) engine, the first begins to cough, sputter, and die so Cedrick starts working cross-armed with Dan from the right seat trying to keep the left engine running with shots of boost, leaning then enriching the sliding mixture control knob and, and pumping the throttle.

Then engine number two catches with a roar for about two seconds and then joins it’s left side mate in belching, backfiring, roaring and then dying in a repetitive cycle. At least number two had a rhythm. ROOOAR.......BLAM!.........coughCOUGH.....SILENCE........ROOOOAR......
BLAM!.......coughCOUGH.........SILENCE.........ETC ETC ETC..

The number one engine has no such program. It roars for a few seconds then maybe it QUITS altogether or not. Maybe it backfires. Then it roars happily for a whole ten seconds before backfiring three or five times in a row.

Manifold pressure gauges, fuel flow and RPM needles are in constant motion swinging wildly about their instrumental arcs (Hey, at least you know THEY are working right) matched by the four arms frantically flailing about the small cockpit from lever to lever to high boost pump to magneto switches as Dan and Cedrick, like two competing conductors on the same podium trying to direct an orchestra composed of kazoos, moonshine jugs and a guy with only one cymbal and a ball peen hammer, to play Handel’s Messiah.

Finally, after about three minutes of this barely harnessed pandemonium, just as both seem ready to give it up and shut ‘em down the two engines begin to smooth out, the wild swings of the engines gauges start to dampen, and over the next two minutes a reduced to just an occasional every fifteen or twenty second minor hiccup from one side of the other. Dan seems much pleased by this and now reaches out to flick the silver switch that controls the........duum-de-dumdum....dadadadada.....JANITROL HEATER!!

Now, for those of you who have had the PLEAsure of using these things, you know what I mean when I say...you just never KNOW. Will it WORK today or NOT.

Particularly the EARLY models of this heater came soon to be cursed by pilots and mechanics alike. In addition, early on the pilots would quite often curse the mechanics as well as the heater assuming that there was something BASICALLY WRONG with a certificated mechanic who couldn’t keep a lousy simple combustion motor going.

Only later after we talked it out amongst our fellow pilots did it come to pass that we learned that nobody ELSE’s mechanics could keep the damn things running consistently either.

Well, of course the damn thing didn’t come on. Heard the motor fire up, but that was all, the FIRE didn’t fire up. And now there was the three of us just frosting up the windows after having been in the plane for over seven or eight minutes. As the engines settled down the windows frosted over on the inside
Over the next few minutes as the frost created by our warm moist exhalations built on the insides of the windows, Dan and Cedrick checked out the engines and other systems. Cycling the props numerous times gave all the appropriate indications and noise; the flaps went up and down and stopped where it seems they were supposed to, and even the external lighting produced a glow in the frost covered windows.

Seems only the heater was uncooperative as now the left engine continued to purr evenly at all RPM settings and gave a good mag check as well, as did it’s partner on the right wing although it did still give just the very briefest, almost instantaneously there and gone little hiccup.

Surely another closer examination of the fuel feed system and a few more swipes at the sumps would resolve that problem I thought. Dan asked Cedrick if there was an ice scrapper somewhere but a search of the airplane found none, so Dan was about to shut it down there and said we would PULL it back to the hangar from there.

This idea did NOT appeal to me at ALL as the wind was now up to about 20 knots out of the west and the plane was over 100 yards from the hangar. So fortunately as he was reaching for the mixture controls, I remembered I had my wallet in my pocket and hollered ‘Wait a minute Dan!”

Sure enough my drivers license had just enough rigidity to serve as an effective frost scraper and Dan first cleared his forward windshield and then passed it to Ced so he could clear the right side as well. This worked just long enough to taxi the plane right up into the glare of the lights from the open hangar doors, whacking the mixtures about 10 feet out and allowing the plane to bump over the lip of the hangar floor and drive itself nose first into the hangar on momentum alone.

As the plane came to a complete stop with only a little of the tail feathers still sticking outside we were once again “flying blind” behind the frosted windows. Flipping off the mags and the masters now left the winding down of the gyros the loudest noise in the universe it seemed.

Cedrick was ready to call it a night but Dan badgered him mercilessly until he agreed to uncowl just the right engine again and check the fuel filter and injectors and any other fuel related stuff he could think of so Dan could give it one more good run at least tonight. Apparently he had given up on the idea of flying her until tomorrow.


You know, it’s a GOOD thing that you can’t really see the future sometimes. :crazyeyes:
Hello FlynLow and Jr. Cubbuilder -

Thank Ya kindly for your nice comments; and it purely warms the cockles o' my heart to know that you enjoy and look forward to following the sometimes bewildering antics of our oft in turmoil of SOME sort fledgeling bush pilot.

All of these memories are so precious to me, and sharing them with readers here is both a privelege and a pleasure.

Seems I am destined to spend the last two decades (if i don't blow an internal gasket) far from my old "trap lines" in the Arctic. in fact Flynlow, I spend half my life now it seems talking to Kansas City Center and boring more holes in the sky over your great state every week (although I was lucky this month what with four ANC trips I never had to go east of DFW). So whereabouts in Kansas ARE you. What's your closest VOR?

The CloudDancer might just feel the need for a reroute so's I can go overhead and give you a personal wave of thanks from FL370.

The characters in these stories are all real. Almost all are still alive and some still flying up north, and many are retired.

It was truly an honor, priveledge, and mostly a BLESSING to have known and flown with these men and learned from them. Were it not for the patient instruction, hand holding, pats on the back, and more than a few swift kicks in the ass and knuckle raps across the side of my head (well deserved the oft times I would get a little too big for my britches in the early years and start THINKING I was GOODER than I was) administered to me by the likes of the Gunderson Brothers and their nemesis next door Leroy (whom I would work for twice);

There is a very good chance I would not be alive today Well more than a dozen of my contemporaries, friends or roommates all, aren't around to share the laughter any more. I have been fortunate.

A couple of weeks ago on my ANC layover, my F/O had never been to Alaska and was understandably excited and happy to find that he was flying with someone of my background. His enthusiam and the fire in his eyes to learn of what he called REAL flying reminded me of the young CloudDancer of whom I write.

Therefore, after breakfast at Gwennies, we got a ride over to the aviation museum there at ANC and I spent hours there. It was theraputic, it was fun, and in some cases heart-wrenching as well as I was reminded of the loss of some of my closest people while viewing some of the exhibits as well.

But the highlight of the trip was running into an old friend of mine who all of you have met and will meet again in other CloudDancer follies soon. I hadn't seen him in........oh......twenty years but recognized him instantly when we turned opposite corners of one of the hangar exhibits. He recognized me as well, even though I had changed quite alot over the years from the skinny CloudDancer he'd last known. He had his grown son and a friend with him, and like I, was sharing the joy of reminiscing our way through Alaska's aviation history. Although with him being born and raised in Alaska, his connectiont to and knowledge of the subject overWHELMS mine in comparison.

Apologies folks.

Those old and dear friends mean so much to me. I get started typing and.....well....you know how I get by now.

I have been rich ( a couple of times) and absoLUTEly dirt poor a couple of times in my adult life as well. It is the roller coaster one rides when one lacks sufficient self control in some areas. Or as I always like to put it.....

Mosta' my dough I USUALLY spent on bad bets :cry: , good strippers :p , and great booze. :drinking: The rest... I just WASTED!! :wink:

But through it all....up or down.....I was blessed with some really.....REALLY....great friends.

Some day.......when the book comes out.......the foreward will be dedicated to my old friends, and my NEW friends at Supercub.org.

YOUR comments, encouragment, and enthusiasm will have been directly responsible for the results. I am indeed lucky that someone tipped me off about THIS space.

I hope some day to be able to meet all of you and sit and listen as you tell me about YOUR favorite flying episode.


As USUAL......ol' diarhea mouth here can't shut up, and now it's time for dinner.

Hopefully we'll get back to our overly enthusiastic young Commander copilot and yet another coming conundrum tonight. But after last night's rather vigorous assault and eventual defeat of yet another bottle of fine Puerto Rican rum....ol' CD foresees an early night-night for the battle weary survivor. SO, if that happens...come back tomorrow to see what misfortunes befall our central character.

Thanks again Supercubbers.........CloudDancer
CD, the closest VOR would be DDC or LBL and I live almost exactly in between.

MEJ is my where my Cub sleeps when not on the grass strip in front of my house, 10 miles north.
We live about 35 nm southwest of Dodge City.

I also have lost some best friends, one of which died a couple miles from my house in a Air Tractor. I waited with him until the medical examiner arrived to pronounce the obvious. I agree about the people on Supercub.org.... I always thought " the more people I meet, the better I like my dog" until I happened onto this site.

I'll be keeping my eyes on the overhead aluminum for your greeting.

"All of these memories are so precious to me, and sharing them with readers here is both a privelege and a pleasure. "

My pleasure as well, CloudDancer.

Our own vivid, precious, cherished, thrilling and plain happy (mostly) memories of formative - they are still formative - Alaska flying adventures mean a lot to me and many others on this site. You have struck a nerve with us (ok, speaking for myself) me in your conveyance of your adventures.......who here in reading CloudDancer is reminded of their own previous adventures - and then also looks forward to the new ones, yet to live?

Bob Breeden

You hit the nail on the head :up with that one Mr. Breeden. IF Alaska grabs you, it's generally firmly...and for life. :Gupsidown: