31 December 2005
We've lived happily ever after.
Our relationship is never dull. I've discussed the fact that she was raised in the city and is uncomfortable in the dark, where I was raised with a pig farm outside my 4th Grade classroom and I absolutely hate the fact that ambient light keeps me from seeing the stars I saw as a youngster.
We argue a lot. We always make up. Making up can be fun.
In the first "Rocky" movie, when asked about his relationship with Adrienne, Rocky says "Gaps........she fills gaps in my life."
Sara Jean is my polar opposite.
I'm pretty laid back- she is a ball of energy.
I can be an insensitive jerk- she is expert at coming along behind me putting out fires.
She is a "clean freak". I...........well, let's just say I'm not.
The Greybeard family has spent the last week in our paradise, partly in celebration of this day. Unfortunately, Big Bubba has to be back to work at Oh-Dark-Thirty tomorrow morning, so we are packing the car and will be on the road the biggest part of our anniversary, (But I bought her the bling-bling yesterday, and she is pleased.)
She brings joy to my life in countless ways.
What would I do without her?
I don't want to think about it.
Happy Anniversary Baby.......
You are the solid foundation on which I depend.
Thank you for putting up with my quirks for these 25 years.
Ready for the next 25?
Our Hueys had ceramic/composite armored seats. These seats weighed 150 pounds each, and protected pilot and copilot from .30 calibre rifle fire approaching from the rear, beneath, and sides of the aircraft.
I also wore what was called a "ballistic" helmet, which was supposed to provide some protection for my noggin.
But we were unprotected from anything fired at us from the front or from above.
Before climbing into the aircraft, I would grab my gun belt and shift it 90 degrees, so the .38 was strategically located to provide a little protection for what I considered a pretty important area at the front of my body!
I never heard of an incident where the pistol actually helped deflect a bullet, therefore insuring a pilot was able to later father a family......but to me, feeling the weight of the revolver there during the flight was reassuring.
I was glad to take comfort anywhere I could find it!
28 December 2005
We didn't fire it for record, so my introduction to the piece was a lotta fun.
We fired 45's again in O.C.S..
I liked the .45. I found I could shoot it pretty accurately. I loved the fact that the round moved downrange slowly enough that I could see it in flight.
In O.C.S. we learned a little history of the weapon. In the Philippines, American Officers armed with .38's found that weapon would not stop the charge of Moro warriors intoxicated with narcotics. (.30 caliber rifles sometimes had minimal effect too.)
A new, more powerful sidearm was needed.
John Browning came to the rescue. The .45 had nearly twice the stopping power of the .38, and the weapon had an 8 round capacity... 1 in the chamber, 7 in the magazine.
Hit a man anywhere with the .45, and he was mighty sorry he had met your acquaintance!
You can imagine my surprise when I lined up to receive my sidearm in Viet Nam and they handed me a .38 Special... wimpy piece of soiled Kleenex!
But when I questioned the wisdom of issuing us .38's, the answer made sense:
If you are shot down and break an arm in the ensuing crash, you can still fire, reload, and fire again one-armed if you are shooting the .38 revolver.
Reloading and chambering the first round in the .45 with one arm could prove difficult.
It made sense.
I learned to deal with the idea.
Now, Sports fans, your intermittent trivia question:
(No Army Aviators are allowed to participate, obviously)...
When I climbed into my Charley Model Huey with the Western belt/holster style .38, what did I physically do with the pistol?
26 December 2005
Not the best photograph, I know. But what a bunch of happy, idealistic guys!
(Click to enlarge.)
Your humble host, and frequent commenter "Ole Prairie Dog" are both in that picture.
Look closely and you can see some of the Officers are wearing wings on their caps, an indication they had soloed the aircraft we were using for training, the Hughes TH-55 "Mattel Messerschmidt".
(Photo lifted from the website of CW2 James N. Post. Thanks James!)
The fact that many in the photo are not yet wearing wings indicates it was taken early in our training at Ft. Wolters, TX., probably February of 1968.
My research indicates about 40,000 helicopter pilots served in Viet Nam.
2,202 lost their lives there........that number is just the pilots.......I don't have solid numbers for crewmembers, but I've seen a figure of 1103 killed in the UH-1 (Huey) alone.
Most of the faces you see were in their early 20's.
Some had wives.
Some had wives and kids.
I had just turned 21. We all knew our chances of going to Viet Nam upon completion of Flight School was about 99.9%. Some of our classmates had already had a tour in RVN in another capacity........one of our mates was a Green Beret! Those guys had a clue about what their future would hold.......the rest of us were paying attention to our training, enjoying the camaraderie, and doing what young, healthy, focused young men normally did.
Most of us were anxious about the war, but I cannot remember anyone being depressed about it. We simply tried to pack as much life as possible into our remaining months Stateside.
How odd to look back at this photo and realize at this time I was younger than my son, who is now 22 and still in school.
Just a year after this grouping, the majority of these men would have a third of their tour in Viet Nam completed.
One would be dead.
We all are a product of everything that has gone before in our lives.
Certainly my life has been a product of the training I received in '68.
What course would my life have taken if I had not learned to hover?
We loaded tremendous responsibility on our young people then.
We still do.
Thank God there are still men and women willing to shoulder that burden......
We must always keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
If you have any interest, there is a wealth of information about helicopters and the crews that flew them at the
Viet Nam Helicopter Pilots Association website:
This is the patch designating my unit, B Company, 123rd Aviation Battalion:
23 December 2005
22 December 2005
Dad was always having back trouble.
One vivid memory is of my Dad on his back on the hardwood floor, Mom standing over him, leaning on his knees as he drew his knees closer to his chest, trying to straighten his vertebra.
Most of the time he got some relief from her efforts.
In 1978 my parents were talking about buying a new mattress.......
Dad was still having back problems, and they thought a new mattress might help him.
I suggested they get a waterbed. They were non-plussed.
Although I didn't own one myself, I had enjoyed sleeping on them and thought the new "fully baffled" waterbeds with their firmer consistency and heater to keep Dad's back warm might help his troubles.
Mom and Dad were suspicious.
We went shopping to see what was available......what they looked like, and what they would cost.
The folks saw they pretty much looked like other beds and weren't prohibitively expensive.
We saw one that I kinda liked myself, so I made the deal-clinching offer:
Buy this bed and try it for a while.
If you decide you hate it, I'll pay for it and use it myself.
The company delivered and set it up the next day.
Two days later my Mom had her first pacemaker installed. When I called to inquire how she was doing post-surgery, she said, "You can just forget about taking this bed!"
Even with the new pacemaker, she was sleeping comfortably.
And it did help Dad's back trouble, too.
Chalk it up to another good recommendation from Greybeard.
Fast forward to about 1998........I'd been online for a few years, talking to Mom and Dad about the wonders and conveniences afforded by computers.
Each time I would talk about getting them a machine they would roll their eyes and smile, shaking their heads......
They probably wouldn't be able to figure it out.
I had seen the ads for something called WebTV.
I got online and checked them out. WebTV provided access to the internet, email, and was user friendly to the extreme. I suggested Mom and Dad should get WebTV.
Again, they used delaying tactics on me.
With Dad alongside, I stopped by the local Circuit City and found a WebTV in the store, connected to the internet. There in the store, I entered the address of the website for my personal business. When the site came up, I showed Dad the picture of Sara Jean and I standing next to an R22 I had landed in our back yard. He was amazed. Right here in his home town in the local Circuit City, I had dialed up a picture of his daughter-in-law and his son.
We bought the system and took it home.
Simple to hook up, we turned it on and it did all the work......
found it's own service provider and walked us through the sign-up procedure.
The first thing we did was send out emails to all our relatives announcing Mom and Dad's online "birth".
Next morning, the "you've got mail" red light was blinking on the face of the machine.
Several cousins had written to applaud my parents, and comment that they wished their parents were so open minded!
At that moment, I pretty much knew that I could also forget ever having to worry about disposing of the WebTV.
We all fear change to a degree.
We all have Luddites among our family and friends.
Some still think computers are too complicated for older, "set-in-their-ways" minds.
But I have family I would love to be able to fire off an email to, or send a link to share something I know would bring a smile.
With one much loved Aunt and Uncle, I've even tried the old reliable trick......offering to buy the machine for them.....no dice.
If only they knew what they are missing......Email, Blogs, Google Earth, The Library of Congress at their fingertips.......
Kicking and screaming.........how to get them to give it a try?
I'm out of ideas.
Got a good suggestion?
I'll take all the help I can get.
20 December 2005
It was the summer of 1977, about 1 A.M..
Recently divorced, I was still experimenting with medicating myself with alcohol.
Vic... fellow Viet Nam Vet... fellow Army Reserve helicopter pilot, and I had reached that point where conversation was no longer necessary. We sat on his deck overlooking his back yard listening to light rock music playing quietly, absorbing the warmth of the night as the stars provided just enough light to differentiate trees from lawn.
What was that?
Movement back there... a man slid from between the trees and walked directly toward us... a fairly big man.
But non threatening. Good thing too... we were in no shape to defend ourselves if someone was gonna be aggressive.
He came up the stairs and said, "You Vic?"
Vic extended his hand and said "That would be me."
"I'm George Marquardt. Sis said I should come and introduce myself to you."
Vic's demeanor changed instantly.
This was no ordinary George.
George Marquardt was also a pilot.
On August 6th, 1945, he Commanded "Necessary Evil",
a B-29 flying in loose formation with another B-29,
"The Enola Gay."
Marquardt's mission was to take photographs of Hiroshima after an experimental weapon was dropped from the Enola Gay.
Three days later, Marquardt was piloting the Enola Gay as an advance weather ship, and again to take pictures of the results of another experimental bomb drop, this time over Nagasaki.
To say I was stunned would be serious understatement. I was mellowed by alcohol and unable to comprehend that this shadow, on the suggestion of his sister, Vic's neighbor, had seen us on the deck and had gone out of his way to come over and meet us.
We made polite chatter for a few minutes, and he was gone.
I googled his name and found
George was the sort of guy you got comfortable with in short order. I wish there had been time to get to know him better.
It's an experience I'll never forget... a brush with history.
19 December 2005
18 December 2005
I'm a sucker for aircraft and sunrise/sunset pictures.
What you see here folks, is an F-22 Raptor breastfeeding from a KC-10 tanker.
I hope you know something about the F-22.
If you don't.....time to Google!
These fighters are now being delivered to Air Force line units.....and they are SPECIAL!
Another story is in order here......
A personal acquaintance worked in weapons procurement for the Air Force. He was involved in the testing of the F-117 Nighthawk, specifically the Radar signature of the aircraft. They were looking at the Radar when suddenly the aircraft's Radar signature doubled. When they looked downrange at the aircraft through binoculars, a sparrow had landed on the wing.
He confided that the B-2 Bomber's Radar signature was an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE less than the F-117, even though the aircraft is considerably larger than the F-117! Hard to believe.
We can only imagine how difficult it is to see the VERY stealthy F-22 on Radar.
Add to this the fact that the F-22 uses "vectored thrust" to make it extraordinarily maneuverable, and that it can achieve supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners, and you have unquestionably the most fearsome fighter in the world.
I stole the picture from
If you are interested in things military, you MUST be reading their stuff.
Newly added to my blogroll!
16 December 2005
The helicopter you see here was produced by a company not normally associated with helicopters.
A machine of this type was the first helicopter to land at Pike's Peak.
In September of 1955, it landed and took off at an elevation above 14,000' with three people aboard.
Although the Army was a possible customer, a few civilian machines were also sold.
Can you name the manufacturer without cheating?
It's a Cessna!
The U.S. Army still owns one of these machines and used to display it in their Aviation Museum at Ft. Rucker, Alabama.
I went back to Ft. Rucker two years ago and toured the New/Improved Museum, and the Cessna CH-1 was nowhere to be seen.
I suspect it is stored somewhere, waiting for more viewing space to be opened there.
There is a comprehensive article about early helicopter history and the CH-1 in particular
I was surprised to find this machine was the first helicopter to be certified for instrument flight.
It also held several speed and altitude records for a while.
For years, I had heard that Clyde Cessna's son had been killed in one of these birds, and that was part of the reason the program was cancelled.
The article mentions nothing about the younger Mr. Cessna.
14 December 2005
The subject line said,
This from a great lady I dated in the early 70's and have stayed intermittently in contact with since.
Our communications over the last 30 years have been mostly from my receiving a canned newsletter from her, including a nice personal note from Rachel bringing me up to speed on things I would have an interest in.
She is a great gal, talented, diverse, and active. She married a handy guy that has taken her down a path I envy in many ways.......(they have built their own home more than once.)
I got the normal newsletter from Rachel last year, and sat down to respond to it. Somewhere along the line I got interrupted, and it was weeks before I found the aborted letter in a pile of "gotta get to later" stuff. By that time, motivation and time had eluded me. It never got sent.
Getting the email from her today was so oddly wonderful.
Now there will be no excuse for not staying in touch with her family. Rachel and her husband have been active in their communities. They have raised two wonderful girls that are also doing things to help better the lives of those around them. Now I can more easily get details of their lives.
Now my question:
What percentage of the population remains unconnected?
How many are still out there in the proverbial "Stone Age?"
And how many of those are immovable? (I suspect those that are still unplugged will be hard to convert.)
At another date, I'll tell you the story of bringing my Mom and Dad online, kicking and screaming!
12 December 2005
Once you are clear of the L.A. Basin, most of the time, visibility is unlimited until you get to El Paso.
Most fuel stops have a way to get weather information. More and more of them are installing computer weather systems, which give you a ton of information. They're wonderful.
And then there is The Weather Channel. Thank God for it!
Generally, the last thing I do before going to bed while on a ferry flight is to check The Weather Channel to see what they're forecasting the next day.
You'll recall they said it was gonna be 16 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday morning.
New helicopters leave the factory with 50 weight mineral oil in their belly.
50 weight mineral oil literally assumes the consistency of molasses at 16 degrees.
This thick oil puts terrific strain on the starter, making it difficult to spin the engine quickly enough to start it. If the engine does start, the oil is so thick it does not readily move through the lubrication system to do it's job on the bearing surfaces.
I called the owner's room......."have you seen the forecast?"
"They're saying 16 degrees in the morning!"
"Well, whatd'ya think?"
"I think we need to check on pre-heating the thing before we start it."
And he agreed.
At breakfast we called the airport.........No preheater available.
I assumed the owner had taken my hint not to start the helicopter under these circumstances. The forecast high for the day was 55, so my idea was to simply wait for the sun to warm the air.......the helicopter was painted a dark color, and the engine compartment would warm fairly rapidly under the direct rays of the sun.
The owner finished his breakfast and said, "I'll go ahead to the airport and preflight, and I want to do some reading in the gps manuals."
Good for him......good attitude.
I finished my breakfast, went back and cleared out of the room. Since we were obviously gonna be a while waiting for the ambient temperature to rise, I didn't bother the hotel folks about a ride to the airport..........it was a 20 minute walk, and I needed the exercise.
Imagine my surprise, when I hear the sound of a Robinson R44 running as I approach the terminal!
As I get into the aircraft he proudly says, "It took four attempts, but it finally started!"
Okay pal........it's your machine.......yours to abuse if you want.
Cabin heaters in Robinson helicopters are wonderful. It was already toasty when I got in.
After a good warmup, we were Eastbound again. I wanted to fly a short leg to the West Texas airport in El Paso and refuel there prior to taking off on a fairly long leg to Ft. Stockton, TX..
On previous trips I had noticed what appeared to be lava flows Northwest of El Paso. Small hills in this area have the tell-tale "dished out" look of a volcano that has blown it's stack. I modified our course to show my co-pilot the lava, then flew over "Kilbourne Hole" at coordinates:
31 58 10.35N 106 57 51.94W
A good article about Kilbourne Hole
Kilbourne Hole is 300 feet deep. We flew beneath the rim of the crater and circled around in the hole.
You can see some of the lava flow I mentioned just Northwest of Kilbourne.
We talked with El Paso approach and landed at West Texas airport after a 45 minute flight. Bathroom break and full of fuel, we were off again for Ft. Stockton.
If I am continuing East from El Paso I have to contend with the "Guadelupe Peak". Our course from El Paso this time took us Southwest, so we looked at Guadalupe from a distance, but if you have to fly Eastbound, you get "up close and personal" with this big rock. It is imposing, to say the least. Coordinates:
31 53 03.63N 104 51 29.37W
Go to the 3D feature of Google Earth and take a good look at Ms. Guadelupe....
she can get your "pucker factor" goin'!
West Texas is BIG........and there aren't many folks out there! When we landed at Ft. Stockton for fuel I realized I had made a stupid mistake......we hadn't filed a flight plan. There are places along that route you don't want to crash.....you won't be found for years! If I make the trip in that direction again, I'll be talking with my Flight Service Station specialist!
Fuel at Ft. Stockton was "self serve". I actually like these systems. Similar to buying auto fuel, you simply slide your credit card and pump your own fuel. They are open 24 hours a day, so you can get fuel even when airport personnel are gone home.
The flight from Ft. Stockton to San Antonio was beautiful......hills and valleys, many private airfields alongside gorgeous ranch houses.
We landed at San Antonio having flown 6.1 hours from Deming.
We were both ready to be out of the helicopter.
Flying cross country emphasizes how big our country truly is. I have driven this same route and it is a boring drive.......it seems you are looking at the same mountain for an entire day. The speed of the helicopter and the altitude you can safely fly are nearly perfect.....the mountains pass quickly enough to stay entertained, and at our altitude we easily saw Deer, Jackrabbits, and Javelina.
I recommend the trip. If you'd like to do it with me, contact me via email and I'll let ya know where to send the $400,000 check!
10 December 2005
Deming New Mexico is a great place to stop for several reasons. It's an uncontrolled airfield, meaning there is no operating control tower there. Helicopter pilots are rebels at heart.....most of us don't much like being told what to do. I'll take an uncontrolled airfield over one with a tower every time, all other things being equal.
Many airports are located some distance from the town they serve. This is great for noise abatement and keeping airplanes from running into people's homes. It's not so great if you land after dark when the airport administration has shut down and gone home for dinner. Sure, there is generally a pay phone handy, with important phone numbers listed there: Night fueling, Motels, and Airport manager.
It's nice to find an airport where you can land, shut the machine down, grab your bag, and walk across the street to a motel/restaurant.
I love to stop at Deming because the manager at the "Grand Hotel" caters to pilots. He's an Iranian transplant, and quite a businessman. Call from the airport anytime, day or night, and they will send a van to pick you up. The hotel is a converted Ramada Inn from years ago.........nothin' really special, but all we are looking for is a clean room, a bed, a shower, and a good place to eat within walking distance. The Grand has a good restaurant in the hotel. They serve a great Mexican dinner and a pretty good breakfast.
I was pleased to find that the owner, Mr. Khanbabian, has seen fit to install a Wifi system at the Grand. More and more, I'll be pickin' my layover choices by whether or not a fast internet connection is available.
The answer to my question about the ramp at the Deming airport:
I spot four Apache Attack helicopters and five OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopters there.
They may have flown in from Fort Bliss, shut down, and called Mr. Khanbabian to get transportation for a great lunch!
Tomorrow we'll finish our trip to San Antonio.
Visibility in the desert is amazing. With the exception of smoggy Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso, visibility is almost unlimited. You can easily see 100 miles in any direction.
We flew toward Phoenix, but upon reaching Buckeye, AZ., we take a shortcut Southeast to avoid the airspace around Phoenix International.
We put Casa Grande, AZ. in our sights. Before we get there, we overfly an airfield with a fairly long runway, out in the middle of nowhere, at
33 06 42.49N 112 16 10.06
Look closely at the parallel taxiway, and you'll see which organization thinks hot and high training is important.
A few minutes later, we fly over one of the biggest race tracks I have ever seen at coordinates:
32 56 37.48N 111 58 51.13W
This track, by my estimation, is 7-8 miles around, with banking like Talledega, Alabama. Several trips ago, my curiosity got the best of me and I flew low level past the sign out front.............Nissan.
In the image of the track, notice there are several test tracks inside the main track. You can also see the difference between the types of pictures Google Earth has available right now: Some images resolve with much more detail than others do. The fuzzy green looking terrain will not allow you to zoom in for as much detail as the more brown pictures will.
Continuing East, back toward I-10, my eye caught something strange at
32 57 16.60N 111 48 58.95W
Words and pictures don't do this feature justice. I estimate it is at least 400' deep......maybe more.
It's an old copper mine. The road you see cork-screwing it's way down into the funnel shape is big enough to accomodate a huge haul truck, so you get an idea how big this thing is.
My co-pilot, upon seeing it, simply said, "Oh My God!"
Now take a look at 32 30 33.33N 111 19 35.28W
This is Pima County airport, North of Tucson. I counted 20 Boeing 747's on the airfield. There are also DC-10's, L1011's, and various other huge airplanes there.
Will these airplanes ever fly again? I don't know. I assume the answer to that question depends on many factors, the economy being a big one.
We landed just South of Pima County at Marana, AZ for fuel. After taking off from Marana, we flew over the Military boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB at
32 10 04.40N 110 51 17.76W.
These airplanes, for the most part, are being cut up for scrap, so the scenery changes every time I fly by. Several years ago, the distinctive tails of many B-52's were VERY apparent.
Those airplanes were nowhere to be seen this time.
Shortly after we left Tucson, it got dark. We plodded along right over I-10 to Deming, N.M., where after getting my co-pilot current to fly his helicopter at night, we landed and called "The Grand Hotel".
Just for grins, take a look at the refueling ramp at Deming airport:
32 15 53.56N 107 43 27.45W
What do you see there?
I'll tell ya what I see, and we'll continue our trip tomorrow.
Hope this isn't boring you to tears!
08 December 2005
You've seen a machine similar to the one we flew home in the video I posted and thought was a fake.
The Robinson R44 Raven II we flew home had this same paint scheme.
I just got home from work this morning and I have a bit of a sore throat.
I'm gonna give ya some coordinates to get us started on our journey, and I'll post again later, if you don't mind.
We took off from Torrance, CA., West of Long Beach, and flew Eastbound, just North of the Long Beach airport.
There is now a permanent flight restriction over Disneyland, just south of Fullerton, so I contacted Fullerton Tower and asked to pass just North of them to avoid drawing the attention of the Federalis.
We then followed Highway 91 Eastbound past Corona and Riverside, and called March AFB approach to pass just North of them. Just East of March Air Base we join Interstate 10, and will follow it all the way to El Paso.
East of the Pass at Banning, CA., we contact Palm Springs approach control. Palm Springs always has trouble picking us up on radar because we are too low......behind the mountain from him. But around Palm Springs at coordinates: 33 54 50.69N 116 42 37.99W there are windmills just about everywhere. It's difficult to see them in the satellite image, but you can see the service roads, and that'll give you an idea how many of them are there. The wind flows through the pass one way in the morning, and then the opposite way in the evening. The windmills are always spinning!
Clearing Palm Springs, we can look forward to about an hour's flight to Blythe. I have a friend at Blythe that asked if I had ever seen the "Blythe Intaglios".
He gave me directions to find them, and I have twice been in the area he directed me to without seeing them.
Turns out, they are much smaller than I expected. The artwork done in the Andes during this same time frame is huge.........the size of a small town. If you are looking for something that large, it's easy to overlook something about the size of a tennis court.
The Intaglios are at 33 48 02.16N 114 31 55.67 W. That coordinate will take you to the two legged figure. If you look just Southeast of this figure, you'll see another artwork....this one with four legs.
Blythe was a large training area during World War II. The airport was a B-17 base.....there is a commemorative marker at the entrance to the terminal.
General Patton also used the area to train his tank Corps. My friend in Blythe told me the tanks ran over and ruined many of the Intaglios before they realized they were treading over ancient, irreplaceable works of art. How sad.
Look closely at the image, and you can see where someone drove over the two-legged figure.
These images are now surrounded by a protective fence.
These two figures are on sloping ground overlooking the Colorado river. As we fly over the river I comment that it's odd to realize we are looking at water that has been through the Grand Canyon.
Blythe uses the river for irrigating many crops: Hay, Lemons, Oranges, Cotton.
It is an oasis in the middle of rocks and small bushes.
Gonna hit the hay now. I'll be back later with some more sights to see, via Google Earth.
Have you downloaded "Google Earth" yet?
If not, go do it ASAP.
It's an amazing program that you'll enjoy spending hours on after you have it.
I'll be giving you coordinates of things we saw so you can see, via satellite images, some of what we saw along the way.
I think you'll enjoy my narrative a little more if you don't have to depend solely on my description of objects of interest to form a picture.
So go download the program. I hope to have my after-action report waiting on you tomorrow.
07 December 2005
This is a day that means a great deal to our family.
I flew home from San Antonio today.
As I walk through the concourse on my way to the plane, I always watch the gates that have just boarded and pick up newspapers the departing passengers have left behind......
It's okay to call me cheap.....I take some pride in it!
This morning I was lucky enough to grab the Chicago Trib, the San Antonio Express-News, and the USA Today.
All had articles about Pearl Harbor, but oddly, most of the articles were about how few of the survivors remain, and how many younger people don't even know the import of the date.
What a shame.
My Dad was born on 7 December 1921.
So had he lived, he would have been 84 today. Dad started smoking when he was 13 or so, and succumbed to lung cancer two years ago.
He was truly a part of what we now call "The Greatest Generation."
Dad had joined the Indiana National Guard when he was 19. When the news came on his 20th birthday that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, I wonder what he thought about this surprise birthday present?
At 20, I suspect he was frightened, but like most of his generation, knew there was a job that needed doin' and was ready to get to work.
My Dad was typical of many Dads of that era. He didn't talk a lot about what happened to him during the war, but in the jewelry box I had found the Purple Heart and knew my old man was special. He was like that about life too.
He didn't brag. He was not formally educated, but he was the type of guy the neighbors would bring their broken appliances to because they knew if Greybeard's Dad couldn't fix it, it was genuine junk!
He was a carpenter, mechanic, bricklayer, roofer, electrician, concrete finisher......you name it, he could do it, and he could do it better than average.
I was proud of him for a thousand reasons.
When I reached manhood,
I started hugging him and telling him THE WORDS.
You know "THE WORDS" don't you?
He was uncomfortable saying them, as were all the macho guys of his generation.
And because he was uncomfortable, I was too.......at first.
But over the years, the hugs and the words came more easily, 'til finally he was the hugger, and I was the huggee........
and he freely said THE WORDS.........
"I love you."
I was glad I had made him uncomfortable for a little while.
So now you know, for our family this day is important for more than bombs and battleships,
although we had family directly under the bombs on the West Virginia at Pearl, too.
I'd like you to share the importance of this day and honor my Dad by being the hugger.
Give all those you love a hug for me today, please, and say THE WORDS.
I know my old man would like that.
Happy Birthday Dad.
I love you.
06 December 2005
We got in just before dark. Total flight time was 11.3 hours, although we did a little touring along the way. Our average airspeed on the trip was 126.3 knots...
about 145 m.p.h.!
It's late. I'm tired, and I've had a little of "Uncle Al's medicine." I'm gonna hit the sack and save the trip report for when I can do it justice.
The question is........what am I gonna do when I grow up?
See ya tomorrow!
05 December 2005
All paperwork signed at the factory, and in the air by 10:30 this morning.
Getting out of the L.A. basin is the hardest part of this flight......
Obviously I'm relatively unfamiliar with the area, and there are several controlled airfields to talk to.
This helicopter is a good cross country machine. We have been averaging over 120 knots so far. The new owner is pleased with his machine.
It's Candy Apple Red with Gold trim and light saddle leather interior.
Helicopters are expensive to begin with. Avionics can make aircraft unbelievably pricy. He has equipped this machine with a normal VHF transmitter/receiver, a Garmin GPS with another transmitter receiver, and a Garmin 500 GPS with a collision avoidance system and XM receiver capability that can give you inflight weather reports!
I have to admit......I'm lost with this stuff. We both will have our face in the handbook trying to figure it all out tonight.
To follow along with us, we have been following Interstate 10 East. We landed at Blythe California for fuel, then went up to check out the Blythe Intaglios. (Google it.......pretty interesting stuff!)
Next landing was at Marana, AZ. just North of Tucson.
We then flew over the aircraft boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB.
Shortly after that, it got dark.
I gotta tell ya, I don't like flying a brand new helicopter after the sun disappears. We stayed right over the highway, and the helicopter buzzed along like a sewing machine, thank God.
Deming is cold tonight. 40 degrees when we landed, and they're predicting a low of 16.........let me say that again.........16 degrees tonight!
I had thought we might get an early start tomorrow morning, but with it being that cold, I don't want to start the helicopter unless we can get the engine warmed up some. We'll have to talk with the airport guys to see if they can pre-heat the thing.
Again, thanks to all for your supportive comments. All is well. This is such fun!
How do I do this full time?
With God's blessings, San Antonio tomorrow.
Watch this space!
04 December 2005
Things went without a hitch this morning.
First thing to report: Today was my first experience with the "Electronic ticket self service machine." Wow!
Long lines at all the stations of the ticket counter. No line at the E-Ticket dispenser. I walked up and pushed a button to start the process, it asked me to swipe a credit card, (for identification purposes only.....no charge).
A screen came up saying "Hello Greybeard! What is your flight number?" I entered my flight number and my intinerary came up on the screen with the question, "is this your itinerary?" I pushed yes, and my ticket dropped into the dispenser.
Done. The whole dog-gone process took all of 20 seconds!
Going through security was another surprise. I had planned for 90 minutes. It took all of 15.
I found myself at my gate almost two hours prior to my flight!
The flight to LAX was uneventful.........no food though.....beverages only.
The gentleman buying the helicopter arrived LAX 90 minutes after I did. We hired a cab to bring us to the motel. The driver was, as always, either Pakistani or Indian.
Nothing in the upcoming flight will have my attention like the taxi ride from LAX to our motel! The cab was an old Chevy. The brakes, (all four), were grinding like sharpening a machete on an old grinding wheel. Of course he had to prove how brave he was......driving 20 miles over the speed limit with brakes that should have been fixed in 1999. At one point the light surprised him, and we came to a sideways stop.......front wheels howling and tire smoke billowing.
(I don't think there was any extra charge for the display of driving skill.)
But we are safely checked in, fed, and ready to get started in the morning.
Thanks for your kind words, especially yours, Kit.
There is a power outlet in the helicopter, and while flying over a Starbucks or Panera Bread Company, I might very well have tried to see if I could get a decent wifi connection!
Keep me in your thoughts.
Tomorrow night......Deming, New Mexico, Lord willin'.
I've left myself in the position this morning of chasing my tail the way I wanted to avoid doing when I wrote "Rest!"
I'm off work at 6:30 A.M., leaving for my airline hub, and will be in L.A. this afternoon. Tomorrow I will go through the surprisingly easy process of signing for a $400,000 helicopter, and with the owner under my wing, will start beating the air into submission Eastbound along I-10 through El Paso.
The owner lives in San Antonio, so our plan is to spend Monday evening at the Grand Hotel in lovely Deming, N.M., then on to San Antone on Tuesday.
There, I will be forced to suffer the atmosphere around the riverwalk, no doubt consuming a Tecate or two and some sort of combination Mexican dinner Tuesday night, then Huevos Rancheros Wednesday morning.
I hope to be back home Wednesday evening.
I'm taking the laptop with me this trip, and, Wifi hotspots permitting, will blog along the way. Some of you have taken this trip virtually with me before......this will be my 16th trip back East from L.A. with a helicopter.......so you have an idea how wonderful this trip is for someone that is normally limited by the economics of rotary-wing flight to distances of less than 300 miles.
This flight will be approx. 1200 miles.........10 hours flying at 500' above the ground, low enough to read the exit signs on the interstate highway.
So stay tuned. I'll be back in touch as circumstances permit!
03 December 2005
I'm responding to a request from two family members with this post.
This is another of those stories that goes back to my High School Days.
The bridge in the picture is located in Avon, Indiana.
I'll not go into detail why the bridge was supposedly haunted......you can get a much better explanation of that story, along with more pictures
The bridge was a place of legend in the area.
With friends, I would frequently drive there late at night, park the car, and crawl up into the bridge to explore.
As you can see in the picture, the bridge had three major arches, and each of the major arches had 8 minor arches. What you cannot see in the picture is that there was a walkway running lengthwise, up and down the three major arches, through the concrete walls of the 24 minor arches and the two concrete support piers. You could walk the length of the bridge, up and down each of the major arches. It was apparent that hoboes had at times crawled in there to get out of the weather or sleep while awaiting their next ride.
Obviously, it was more than a little spooky at night...
a great place for a High School prank!
Ron, Tom and I were on the Varsity football team. We knew that three underclassmen, all on the Junior Varsity football team, were camping out at one of the kid's homes. We thought the bridge would be a great place to give them something to remember!
Here was our plan:
Tom and I took an old T-shirt and poured used motor oil on it. On top of that, we strategically squirted a little ketchup. We then fashioned a wire coat-hanger in such a way as to hold the T-shirt so that it was completely unfurled.
Tommy and I grabbed a flashlight and took off for the bridge, while Ron made his way to visit our campers with an offer of adventure.
Tom and I drove under the bridge and continued far enough that our car was out of sight. We climbed up into the bridge and made our way up and down the arches to the far end, then quietly waited for Ron to show up with our victims.
Of course, Ron had played up the "haunted" story for all it was worth. When he and our victims arrived on-scene, we could tell from the tempo of the chatter that the boys were pretty anxious and agitated about exploring the bridge.
It was easy to hear their progress as they made their way toward us........up and down two of the arches.
We waited until they were at the apex of the third arch, then turned the flashlight on through a filter of our fingers, so as not to make it obvious the T-shirt was empty..........
The reaction was predictable and instantaneous! After initial screams, we heard what sounded like a scuffle as the victims bumped into one another trying to make their way back to their entry point. The sound was very similar to Moe, Curly, and Larry trying to make their way through a doorway at the same time!
One of the underclassmen got confused in the rush to escape and made a 90 degree turn toward an opening in the bridge..........if Ron hadn't stopped him, he might very well have jumped/fallen 35 feet to the creek below!
Tom and I waited until we heard the others start their car and drive off, then made our way to our car and took the direct route to our local drive-in restaurant.
Ron, as planned, took the longer way there.
So Tom and I were quietly sipping our Cherry Cokes when Ron and the three J.V. players showed up, excitedly relating an unbelievable story about their "near death experience"....... at Avon's Haunted Bridge!
30 November 2005
All I have to do is teach them to fly the helicopter.......
they already know how to read a map, how to use the radios, how to stay out of airspace they shouldn't be entering.
They understand Mr. Bernoulli's principle.
What still surprises me is the attitude some of them bring to the table.
I always tell new students not to expect to hover until they have about 5 hours of helicopter time in their logbook.
Many airplane pilots hear the words, but you can tell from their attitude they don't believe me.......they think they will be different. They'll be the guy that gets into the helicopter and amazes me with their virtuosity!
The first hour is a frustrating, humbling experience for anyone.....agreed,
Something else that surprises me.
I ask ALL my students this simple question, and I almost always get an incorrect answer,
(Even from the experienced fixed-wingers) :
Why do we land into the wind?
The most frequent incorrect answer?
"Because landing into the wind produces more lift."
Think you know the correct answer? Leave it in the comments.......no charge for entering my contest!
I'll give you what I consider the correct answer in an update, here, later.
UPDATE:Well, that didn't take long........
Jason's answer is the answer I give to my students. In any aircraft, the difference in ground speed landing into the wind vs. downwind is twice the wind speed. For instance, if you land into the wind at 60 knots in a Cessna 150, and your wind speed is 10 knots comin' straight at ya, your ground speed will be 50 knots.
But land downwind and you have to ADD the wind speed to your airspeed to get groundspeed, so it will be 70 knots.......
a difference of 20 knots. On an airplane, the wear and tear on tires is reason enough to land into the wind.
Of course the critical thing is safety. In airplanes, helicopters, automobiles, etc., as speed doubles, crash forces are squared. It just makes sense to be going as slow as you possibly can if there is a chance of a sudden stoppage in your future!
Purple Tabby.......I don't know if I can make this really clear here, but I'll try.........For me, having learned to fly helicopters first, and then airplanes......crosswind landings were extremely difficult to learn. In the helicopter you do nothing different during a crosswind landing.......in order to maintain your course on final approach, you naturally tilt the rotor into the wind, and the machine takes care of the crosswind problem for you.
You don't even think about the crosswind.
In most airplanes, (not all), you bank into the wind to correct for it trying to blow you off your course, and use rudder to keep the nose headed the direction you want the airplane to go.
For me, it was a VERY unnatural thing to have to do!
I still hate crosswind landings in airplanes!
The rotor is also the braking system on the helicopter. Similar to reversing thrust upon landing in an airplane, you just vector the rotor's thrust in the opposite direction of travel, and it provides an effective braking force, (just like birds do when they land!) And similarly to airplanes, if you apply it when you have no forward movement, you can actually go backwards, (except when you do it in the helicopter you are actually flying, not taxiing!)
Fixed-wingers........is there a way to make this more clear?
Why is it whenever I watch either of the Senators from MA. give a speech, I feel as if I need a disinfecting bath?
If Ms. Sheehan has absolute authority to question our presence in Iraq because of the loss of her son, does my year in Viet Nam give me carte blanche to ask questions about that war?
If so, here are my questions:
A tour of duty in Viet Nam was a year, minimum.
Why did Albert Gore spend only 6 months there?
Did he receive special treatment because someone in his family was a U.S. Senator from Tennessee?
Why did John Kerry spend only 4 months in Viet Nam?
(I know, this has been flogged to death already,
but my real question is why he didn't want to go back to his unit after recuperating from his flesh wound?) Could his lack of loyalty to his troops be an indication of his character?
And why has he STILL not signed his SF180 so the general public can find the truth about his Viet Nam service and the status of his discharge?
What is he hiding there?
Inquiring minds want,
need to know!
28 November 2005
We have a love/hate relationship with the tracks.......
I love watching the big machinery, love hearing the whistle blow late at night as it crosses the intersection West of us.
Big Bubba works a stone's throw on the other side of the tracks, and has been late for work more than once because of the intersection being covered.
I waited 45 minutes in the wee hours one night for the crossing to clear so I could make my way to my bed. (I was too stubborn to drive a mile south to an overpass.)
The law is that a train cannot cover a crossing for more than 15 minutes. This does not include time in switching.......so if a train is back-and-forthing, the 15 minute rule is inapplicable.
On more than one occasion I have made a cell phone call about being delayed by the train, resulting in traffic citations being given to the railroad. The railroad is getting better about not covering the intersection.
But the topic I really wanted to discuss here is Amtrak. When Big Bubba was 4 years old, he went through a phase, probably common to all kids, where he was fascinated with trains.
He would ask us to slow down and intentionally be stopped by a train in order to be able to watch it pass.
I had to make a trip to California to attend a course to renew my Flight Instructor Certificate. I decided this would be a good time to take the family along for a little vacation. I thought Big Bubba would be thrilled to ride the train, so I decided I would check on Amtrak to compare their rates with the airlines.
The trip to L.A. would take 3 days........two nights on the train. Included in the cost of our 1st class tickets was a bedroom and three meals a day. Considering room/board/entertainment were included in the fare, we decided to take the train. We have very fond memories of this trip, but two things surprised me:
I was surprised at how poorly we slept. The train is the main transport link to a lot of towns out West, and it stops every 45 minutes or so in towns like Hutchinson, Kansas.
I was also surprised at the food.
They have REAL chefs on those trains, and they know how to make great food and present it well!
We got off that train feeling we shouldn't eat for days.
Amtrak uses the tracks near us. The train passes twice a day in each direction, and with the exception of holidays when students are using it to return home, it is always empty. Not surprisingly, Amtrak is losing money by the trainload. We can drive our car to a major city serviced by the line for half the price of a single-fare ticket.........why would the three of us ever take Amtrak?
My question then, is this: Would it not be better to have a standby rate for the train? If you allowed people to get on the train for almost nothing, space available, you'd certainly have more riders, and seeing the train with actual people occupying the seats might make others think taking the train wouldn't be such a downer.
My idea is they could start the fare ridiculously low, then increase the price until they started seeing resistance. They'd establish ridership, and in the process get some cars off our highways.
Some that started using the train under these circumstances might very well realize the value of the service, and continue using it even with a higher fare.
The present situation is quickly leading to bankruptcy.
Amtrak is under the microscope, and federal funding is shaky.
Would it not be a good idea to try something dramatically different?
I'd hate to see the service go away.
25 November 2005
Our shift change happens at 1845 hrs., (6:45 P.M. to those not familiar with the 24 hour clock.)
I meet with the day shift pilot and debrief him on his day.......clues about incoming weather, aircraft status, any other details of interest.
I meet with my medical crew to see if they have further details on possible problems with the aircraft from the medical viewpoint.
Hearing no problems, I do a weather check. I check current and forecast weather at several stations around our location to see what is out there, and what we will have to deal with later. I call our dispatchers and insure they have the names of the crew that will be manning the helicopter for the next 12 hours, and report the weather to them so they know if I will need to do another weather check prior to accepting any flight. Pilots are the final authority on weather decisions........If for any reason I'm not comfortable with the weather, no one questions my decision.
I have turned flights down because the temperature and dewpoint were too close together, indicating the possibility of fog formation. My med crews know I am cautious, and they appreciate it.
I then grab my helmet and go out to check the helicopter. I plug in and hang my helmet, adjust the seat and anti-torque pedals to my settings, and check the logbook to insure no pending inspection or maintenance will be due during our shift. If I find an item that may conflict with our ability to fly, I notify dispatch of that fact so that they can make plans to tag another aircraft with a flight later, if necessary.
After checking the log, I do my preflight. I fly the BK117, a medium sized, twin engine helicopter built by American Eurocopter. It is a German machine, with American (Lycoming) engines. There's a lot to look at on this bird. A really thorough preflight on a machine I was not familiar with could easily take 45 minutes. Even under normal conditions, it takes half an hour.
If a flight comes in during this process, we accept it. I'll do a VERY abbreviated preflight.......
Main rotor, check. Tail rotor, check. Fluid in all reservoirs, check. All cowlings secure, check. General overall appearance of the machine.......check. Sufficient fuel for the flight, check. Startup with normal procedures, and go.
Our goal is to be airborne within 8 minutes of getting notification of a flight.
I can normally do it in 6.
Wednesday night the phone rang at 2045 hrs.. A prisoner with a bowel obstruction needed to be transported to the State Capital for surgery. After coordinating with representatives of the prison and insuring they knew our rules for this flight, we were airborne at 2059 hrs, and landed at the sending hospital at 2123 hrs..
My crew packaged the prisoner and I briefed the guard on what I expected of him. While my crew loaded the prisoner aboard the aircraft, I showed the guard how to operate the door, how to jettison it in case of emergency, the location of fire extinguishers, how to fasten and unbuckle the seat belts. I grabbed a headset, plugged it in for him, and showed him how to adjust the volume control.
We took off at 2155 hours for the receiving hospital. It was a little bumpy, but a gorgeous night to fly..........50 miles visiblity. The guard loved it......our prisoner, in great discomfort, thought the bumpiness was the work of the devil.
We landed at the receiving hospital at 2253 hrs.. Their rules require a cold offload, so I shut down the engines and used the rotor brake to stop the rotor. We offloaded the prisoner, and while the crew and guard took the prisoner downstairs, I started the helicopter and flew to the airport to refuel for the flight home.
This flight took 3 minutes. At almost 11 P.M., the non-federal control tower was closed, so I made advisory radio calls of my position and landed on the ramp, where the fuel guy was waiting with flashlight/wands to guide me to my refueling pad. I shut down and showed him where the fuel tank was located, and he told me there was "Moose Tracks" ice cream waiting inside for me if I was interested.
I left him to refuel the machine and quickly moved to the refrigerator!
After a nice bowl of ice cream and a hot cuppa coffee, dispatch called and said my crew was ready to be picked up. I took off at 2341 hrs. and landed at the hospital at 2344. Again, I had to shut the engines down to load crew and stretcher. We left the capital at 2353 hrs. and landed at our company headquarters, (not our base), for fuel 44 minutes later.
Here, I hot refueled the aircraft while my crew went for their cuppa. I was nearly finished with refueling when my paramedic came out and told me we were on standby for an accident scene 20 minutes south of us. Fueling complete and fuel cap secured, instead of going to the accident scene, we took off for a local hospital 15 minutes south, where the victim had been transported.
Our patient was a 42 year old mother, whose two kids had been killed in the head on collision. Both her legs were broken, as was one of her arms. She had a suspected abdominal bleed.
We completed this flight at 0240 hrs..
Back at our home base, my crew finished paperwork on our flights while I shut down and refueled the aircraft. Having those tasks completed, I came in and closed out yesterdays flights in the aircraft log and brought forward the total airframe and component times for the following day, then logged the flight we had just completed.
The phone rang again at 3:15. My crew groaned......they were on the last hours of their 24 hour shift, and had been awake all but three hours of 24. We were dispatched to another small town hospital to pick up an 83 year old man that had no pulse in his right leg. When we arrived, we found that he had lost his left leg the previous year to a circulation problem. In flight, over the intercom, I heard my nurse and paramedic discussing the fact that this poor man was now going to lose this leg also.
We completed this flight at 0455 hours, and once again gathered in our base to tidy up the paperwork. By the time we were all done, it was 5:30, and we had the decision to make.......
Do we bother to lie down and sleep for less than an hour, or do we brew fresh coffee and just wait for the morning crew to arrive?
I sat down in front of Fox News on the TV and was asleep in short order, reclined in the chair.
Our relief started filtering in at 6:15. Fresh cup in hand, I briefed my relief on the previous nights activities and wished him a "good day".
In the 12 hour shift, I had been airborne four hours. I had transported three patients and one guard for the prisoner. I had shot 15 night landings to various rooftop/ground level pads. I had burned approximately 320 gallons of modified kerosene.
I was tired. I drove 45 minutes to my home, kissed my beautiful Sara Jean, and was snoring in very short order, knowing the whole process would start again in less than 12 hours.
But I don't get tired of this life, because it is never "routine". Our patients find ever more interesting ways to hurt themselves. I may or may not go back to these three hospitals over the next weeks or months.
Although we didn't land "on-scene" Wednesday night, we frequently do, and "night, scene landings" are as close to combat flying as anything I have done as a civilian.
I'm glad to have a job that I enjoy, where I can help people in serious trouble.
I'll have a difficult adjustment when I can no longer pass a flight physical.
24 November 2005
Did you get to spend time with your family today?
I hope so.
I did, although it was much, much too short.
I'm back at work as I type, waiting for the phone to ring, and the chance to go help someone in desperate need.
I was up all night long last night, spreading three flights over twelve hours. I think I'll write about last night later, to give you a taste of what my life CAN be like.
As I get older, I continually think about how blessed we are. We take so much of our lives for granted.......as if much of it couldn't disappear in a fraction of a second.
My job continually reminds me of it, and for that I am thankful.
We need reminders of other things too:
I remember one Winter night long ago, waking in the wee hours to the sound of our oil-fired furnace making a funny noise. It was a metal-on-metal sound. Not loud, but loud enough that it woke me.
Then the noise stopped. It was mighty cold outside, and the temperature in the house began to drop. I pulled the covers up snug under my neck........warm as toast.
The next sound I heard was my Dad quietly making his way to the utility room. For several minutes I heard the tinkling of tools and other sounds indicating that the Old Man was "on the case".
And sure enough, the furnace started making normal noises, and the chill in the house went away.
I didn't say anything to Dad for getting out of his warm bed to take care of us.........I took it for granted..........it was his job.
How easy it would have been to say, "Thanks Dad. It was wonderful staying in my warm bed while you lost sleep and took care of the problem."
I wish I had.
One of our flights last night was to transport a prisoner from one of the State Penitentiaries to a hospital in the State Capital. When we pick up a prisoner, they send a guard with us to insure a safe transport. The guy they sent along last night had the job description of "Jailer".
Would you want to be a "Jailer"?
I had a helicopter student that worked full time as a Nurse in a jail, and he told horror stories about the treatment he received from the inmates, all for much too little pay.
It's a job I wouldn't take for ANY wages.
I thanked this man for doing a job I wouldn't want to do.
He was pleased to hear my thanks.
It's easy to think of those that are overseas, doing a nasty job that needs to be done, protecting us, and be thankful for them.
We all do, and that is only proper.
But there are others too.........
Last year we had an ice storm come through late one night and our power went out. We were mighty glad for the heat of our water bed!
With the power being off in the entire neighborhood at 3 A.M. or so, it got mighty quiet.
Sure enough, in very little time you could hear the trucks moving down the road crunching on the ice, and you could see the searchlights checking the lines to see where the problem was that needed fixing.
We went back to sleep, knowing experts were awake, "on the case".
When the power came back on, the refrigerator, furnace, and ceiling fans all came on and woke us up. I checked my watch.......the power was off for three hours.
The Power guys spent three miserable hours outside in the freezing rain, while we were in a heated bed, able to take others for granted.
(Remember that my Old Man worked for a power company, so I especially take note of them.)
So please, in your prayers of thanks for our servicemen and women, remember that there are so many others that serve in ways we easily forget.
Include them in those prayers.
And if you get a chance to personally thank them, as I did with the jailer, they'll just give the stock, "just doing my job" answer.
Doesn't cost a cent to thank them, anyway.
And you know what?
It'll make you feel better too!
23 November 2005
Dawn is punctuated with intermittent shots.......boom, boom.........boom.
We've gotten accustomed to them and go right back to sleep.
We live on 2 1/2 acres, adjoining a 5 acre pond on the outskirts of a small town, in a rural area.
In our back yard I regularly see opposum, raccoons,
coyotes, turkeys, squirrels (red and gray), red-tail hawks,
Great Blue Herons, kingfishers.
Now and then we see red foxes.
Once we had a Bald Eagle perched in a tree overlooking the pond.
We are overrun by white-tail deer.
Big Bubba took Tae Kwan Do lessons at a business that devoted the second half of the building to an archery range. While he was going through his martial arts workout, I would go to the archery side and watch archers shoot.
On the wall in that shop was a state map, showing the white-tail deer population of the approximately 100 counties.
Two of the counties were red. One of the red counties was the county where we live. On the map's legend, I found that red indicated a deer population of more than 25 per square mile.
My first thought was, "that's impossible!"
25 deer per square mile is obviously a lot of deer.
But we see graphic indications of the number of deer here. It's not out of the ordinary for me to pass two or three deer dead alongside the road on my 32 mile drive to work.
I frequently have to use my "Mario Andretti" driving skills to avoid hitting a doe or two skittering across the road, generally followed by an amorous young buck at this time of year.
Some time back I was called to an accident site where a car on one side of the road hit a deer and threw it into an approaching car, where it went through the windshield and seriously injured the driver.
Blood everywhere, we couldn't tell if the blood was deer, or human.
I was listening last month, late night, to a 50,000 watt blowtorch Midwest AM radio station. A representative of the Department of Natural Resources of that state was talking about the problem they were having with deer getting accustomed to living in upscale subdivisions, if there were trees to hide in during the day. She reported that in some of these areas, they had as many as 85 deer per square mile!
(Made my surprise at 25-per seem pretty silly.)
It isn't out of the ordinary to look beneath our apple tree in the back yard and see 5 or 6 deer munching on apples that have fallen. A pasture across the road frequently has 20 or so standing and watching us as we drive past.
We put tulips out in our front yard, and when the plants got to be 3 inches tall they were irresistible to the deer.........munch, munch.
We can't put out a garden.........deer don't share well.
They are lovely to look at, and when the does are escorting their fawns you cannot help but smile. But they are quickly approaching "nuisance" levels, and I think the DNR people are gonna have to take some drastic action to control them.
I'm glad the hunters are taking them, rather than automobile drivers.
A mostly unrelated question to wrap this up:
At the end of the Disney movie, Bambi became a Prince.
Ever meet a guy named Bambi?
I didn't think so!
22 November 2005
I'm a little surprised at the way this day has passed. Very little has been mentioned about what did happen 42 years ago.
I had intended to post about the history of the date, and noticed I had been beaten to the punch at
with a thoughtful and thought provoking post.
I was a High School Junior. My recollection is that it was a gray, chilly, uncomfortable day in Central Indiana. Over the intercom system, Mr. Vandermeer broke into our class with the news:
The President had been assassinated.
How strange to look back on it now.
Just a year before, I had gotten quite upset over the tension caused by the Cuban Missile Crisis.......I'm talkin' about upset enough to lose sleep.
So looking back now, I'm surprised at my reaction to the news.
I knew it was a big deal. I was upset that anyone would want to kill the President. But I had no concerns about the succession.....I was confident that our political system was efficient and would survive this tragedy without destroying the country.
And of course, that's exactly what happened, thank God.
But in hindsight, it's obvious how naive I was.......we all were.
Historical scholars now say President Kennedy was unhappy with the way things were going in Viet Nam, and had planned on beginning a gradual troop withdrawal from there over the rest of his term. President Johnson did exactly the opposite, and forever changed my life.
What course would my life, and that of the other millions, have taken if President Kennedy had survived?
I can't imagine any scenario where I would be making a living flying helicopters today.
And then there are the conspiracy theories.
Don't believe in them?
If you are ever in Dallas, go to Dealey plaza.
What with the Zapruder film, and all the documentaries and news stories about it, you'll feel, as I did, that you've been there before.....discomforting.
There are folks there at all times selling tabloids and magazines about different conspiracies......
"a commie behind every bush!"
But THIRDWAVEDAVE poses a valid question....
why are all the records sealed until 2038?
If I ever knew that to be the case, I had forgotten it. Who, besides someone with something to hide, benefits from that edict?
And the question that has always amazed me:
President Kennedy's brain was removed from his body, and transparencies were photographed as they sliced his brain into paper-thin slices to show how the bullet traveled through it.
His brain, AND the transparencies, have disappeared!
(Play Twilight Zone music here.)
The history of this date deserves more attention than it is getting today.
Thanks to THIRDWAVEDAVE for helping to make sure it gets more attention than you'll find on the major news media.
P.S.......And GG, you almost certainly were in that same class.
Your recollections would be interesting.
20 November 2005
I think it would take an astute observer of this Blog to notice the changes I have made in my Blogroll over the last few weeks. I've added a couple Blogs and removed a couple I used to really like.
One of the ones I removed was
I loved Powerline. I still run by there now and then to check on goings-on, but I de-listed them from my blogroll for good reason.......
There was a great deal of chatter after Hurricane Katrina about how much "Pork" Congress was gonna be spending. One of the most contentious projects was the "Bridge to nowhere" in Alaska.
When pressure began to mount on Senators to review spending in light of all the hurricane damage, Senator Stevens from Alaska said, (and I'm paraphrasing here), "If Alaska is the ONLY State money is cut from, I will resign from this body."
John Hinderaker from Powerline quoted Senator Stevens as saying, "If they cut money from Alaska, I will resign", and challenged him to put up or shut up.
Hinderaker is a Lawyer in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and lists his office phone number, so I called and left a message on his answering machine, informing him of the misquote.
One of the things I love about Blogs is that if someone posts BS,
BS detectors go off everywhere, and mistakes, particularly at the major Blogs, and Powerline is certainly one of those, are corrected VERY rapidly.
I expected John to correct the quote, or post an update to correct the post, within 24 hours.
I was disappointed.
This whole "Blog" thing is changing rapidly, but I truly believe in the not-too-distant future more people will be relying on Blogs and the internet for their news than TV or Radio.
Do you check Drudgereport often, as I do?
Google news? MSN's Slate.com?
I hope my Blogroll indicates how important facts are.
Accuracy is important.
Ask Dan Rather.
The package says it will glue glass, plastics, metal, ceramics........blah, blah, blah.
A piece of trim on our car was loose. It's one of those "tab in slot" things that irreversibly locks in place when connected. The tab had somehow broken off, and the trim, visible from the driver's seat, vibrated in the slipstream.
Absent replacing the whole piece, bonding it was the only solution.
We keep our super glue in the 'fridge.....I don't know if that preserves it........ but it seems everyone does it, and we don't wanta be different, ya know?
Of course it had been months since we bought it, so it was no longer in liquid form, requiring the purchase of a new tube.
Yesterday, I applied glue to the trim, put a weight on it to hold the two pieces together firmly, and left it six hours to set up.
On the next trip in the car, it vibrated loose and "waved" at me in scorn.
With several years of intermittent research to fall back on, I have come to what I think is an indisputable conclusion:
Super glue is wonderful..........IF you want to glue your
thumb to your index finger.
For other applications, it's pretty much crap!
Immediately after publishing this post,
I was reminded by a nurse (who might know),
about another good use that I've heard of, but thankfully have no personal experience with.........
It involves a peeved wife and a sleeping husband.
I hear if used this way, it is VERY effective!
18 November 2005
That's the easiest way I know to fail.......quit!
There are lots of other ways, of course, but they're more complicated.
Lately I've heard the analogy comparing Americans to runners:
Many say we're sprinters, not marathoners.
Our enemies have learned this and know that to defeat us, all they have to do is be patient.
In our present, video game, "immediate gratification" society, we don't have the stomach to wait very long for success.
When I came home from my year in lovely Southeast Asia,
one of my heroes was a runner from Oregon
named Steve Prefontaine.
"Pre" was a long distance runner.
He was a short man for his chosen sport......had to take several steps while the tall guys took one.
But he was extraordinary.
He knew that if he could suffer more short term pain
than his opponents, he could outlast and defeat them.
He ended up with records that still stand in NCAA history, and ran in the Olympics in 1972.
Two very similar movies were made of his life, and I recommend them both:
Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, a Democrat,
and, I'm sorry to say, a fellow Viet Nam veteran,
has started us down the "Iraq = Viet Nam" road.
By reading books written by North Vietnamese authors like General Giap, we now know we had the Viet Nam conflict won, until the John Kerry types aided and abetted the enemy there.
We believed their negativity. We allowed them to convince us the short term pain was not worth the long term success.
And the failure, particularly knowing with hindsight that we were winning, makes Viet Nam veterans furious.
Will we make the same mistake today?
In the face of so much success.....Lebanon, Libya, trends in Egypt and Iran, successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, can we be convinced we are suffering too much pain and losing the upper hand?
I hope not. Look at France today and think of the long term complications.
Then think of "Pre's" recipe for success: keep the goal in sight and be ready to suffer more short term pain than your opponent.
Any other plan is a recipe for long term decline.
15 November 2005
14 November 2005
Millions of folks in Florida, and 527 votes separated the two candidates.
We all know that is WELL within the margin of error of our voting systems, and that is why the election result was so hotly contested.
As a conservative, it's chilling for me to think of those 527 votes.
Let me tell you another story, and why you should be amazed at "527" too.
Sara Jean had a brother, (Sam), who died within the last year.
Sam had Down's Syndrome, and although he outlived all predictions and died in his late 40's, he had the mental abilities of a 4 year old.
When Sara Jean's Mother was incapacitated by a stroke, Sara Jean became his Guardian. She/we controlled virtually every aspect of his life..........we were included in all decisions about him......
Social life, health care, work related decisions......(yes, even with a mental age of 4 yrs., Sam had a job).
When the 2000 election approached and was obviously going to be close,
I got to thinking about Sam, and the 15 other mentally challenged inhabitants of his facility.
I called and asked, "do they vote, and if so, how?"
"Yes, they all vote. They are all registered voters."
So I asked, "how do they know the issues? How do they know who to vote for?"
"Well, we leave the TV on for them and they watch the news." (!!!!!!!!!!!)
"So we ask them how they want to vote, and we assist them in the booth."
(I just bet you do!)
I don't know how you feel, but I am not comfortable with the idea of a "4 year old" voting.
I'm even less comfortable with the idea of a 4 year old voting with the assistance of a person whose paycheck depends entirely on government programs and support.
I'm pretty sure the person assisting Sam would not want to vote for a fiscal conservative, under any circumstance.
Do you really believe this assistant asked Sam how he wanted to vote?
If you had a 4 year old child, and that child could vote legally, would you bother to ask how they wanted to vote while you were "assisting" them?
And here's the "elephant in the room".........how many mentally disabled people are there in Florida, that were "assisted" by a government supported social worker when they pulled the voting lever..............hundreds? Thousands?
I'm guessing the number of people similar to Sam in facilities down there would be in the 10's of thousands.
It was certainly more than 527.
So you think it's not important for you to make your way to the polls?
If you voted for GWB in Florida in '00, you can count yourself among an important roster of 527............a small number that should look even smaller now!
09 November 2005
This is disturbing stuff to think about!
In previous posts, I mentioned that the main reason I continue teaching people to fly helicopters is because of the folks I meet along the way.
(Believe me, there's NO money in it!)
One of the first students I taught as a civilian,
I'll call him Gary,
got his private helicopter pilot's license in 1983.
We've been friends since.
In November of '86,
Sara Jean and I were invited to his birthday party.
I was standing near the refreshments when his Mother approached with a smile so strange, I immediately asked "what're you up to?"
She answered, "I just thought one pilot would enjoy talking to another........come along, I have someone I want you to meet!"
I followed like a puppy.
Nice lookin' man.......One of Gary's in-laws.
I shook his hand and introduced myself, then said,
"She's up to something. What kind of craft do you pilot?"
His company was based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
When the Shuttle Challenger exploded,
the U.S. Navy initially tried to handle the recovery themselves,
but quickly found their machines were not
the most efficient for the task.
They hired Gary's in-law to come pick up all the pieces.
Did you anticipate my first question?
"Were they alive?"
"Six of the seven had deployed and were wearing their emergency oxygen packs."
As I recall, after the explosion, it took about 15 minutes
for the first pieces of the spacecraft to start splashing in the water.
Three years earlier........in 1983.
Korean Air Flight 007, flying at 35,000 feet,
is shot down by a Russian Fighter aircraft.
It took 12 minutes for the Boeing 747 to crash into the sea.
Did the passengers don their oxygen masks?
Were they functional?
If so, like the Challenger Astronauts, they had a long,
terrifying time to think about their lives, and the reality of dying.
It is macabre,
thinking about how people would behave under such circumstances.
Obviously, some would be hysterical.
The Astronauts, the Pilots,
and some individuals on the airliner
would be methodical , trying to find a solution to the very end.
But 12-15 minutes surely would seem
like an eternity under such circumstances.
It's difficult to imagine.
The Challenger tapes are available,
but to avoid distressing families
NASA won't release them.
Do you think they should be made public?
If they were, would you want to hear them?
07 November 2005
05 November 2005
Then think of rain that hard for over a month, non-stop.
I was based 40 miles South of Da Nang. I could see the highest mountains in South Viet Nam from the front door of my hooch, and the South China Sea from the back door......
Except in late January-Early February, when the rain came down in bucketloads, limiting visibility, and negating any chance to aviate.
Since we couldn't fly, I had been up the hill to visit with a flight school buddy, Deane, who was attached as an OH-6 scout/forward observer Pilot with our Division Artillery, (DivArty).
We always dreamed about what we were going to do when we made it back to "the world" at the end of our tour.
During this visit we made plans to go to the Base Exchange the next day to get information on buying a new car through the PX system, so we could have new wheels waiting on us when we returned home.
I was on "Standby" the next day. It was still raining cats and dogs, so there was little chance of flying at all, but I had to remain in the company area just in case the weather cleared and someone needed gunship support.
And then the call came in......."could we go fly?"
The ceiling was about 400 feet, and visibility was less than two miles......
Impossible weather in any case, much less near the most rugged terrain in the country!
But 30 minutes later the phone rang again........
"how 'bout now?"
Then we made the mistake of asking.........
"What's goin' on?"
"Some scout ship is down along highway one, and they want us to go have a look."
So the team got together for a conference........
"if we hover down the highway we can at least check a mile or so on either side of the road, and surely no bad guys would be out in this weather to take a shot at two
UH1-C's hovering at 100 feet, right?"
So out we went.......cranked, lifted, and started slowly down the main highway going North/South the length of the country, in weather that kept sea gulls on the ground!
Fifteen minutes into the flight we got the call from Operations: "Mission canceled, the aircraft has been found. Return to base."
We hovered slowly back home, shut down and I made my way back to my hooch to get ready to go meet Deane to go to the PX.
On the way to operations I overheard a conversation between two pilots in front of their hooches.........and I thought I heard Deane's last name mentioned.
I stopped and asked, "What did you say?"
"******..........The guy you were searching for.......his last name was ******"
"And how is he?"
It was like a sucker punch in the forehead.
"No, that's not possible.
I was just going up to meet him!"
But it was possible.
A DivArty forward observer and his radio man were stranded at Duc Pho, 40 miles South of us on Hwy 1. Deane was asked to fly down and return them to our base. He agreed to do the same thing we had decided.....follow the highway low and slow, pick them up, and return.
Deane made it to Duc Pho, and started hovering back North.
But the visibility got too bad to follow the highway. Deane had two choices.....go East to the coast and follow it North, or go West until the weather improved and then cut back East......back to the highway.
Going West also put him near the hills, and into "Charlie Country".
I don't know what his reasoning was, but he went West.
They found the aircraft upright, intact, but on fire.
All three men were out of the aircraft, stripped to the waist, in the kneeling position, shot, execution style, in the back of the head.
Deane's OH-6 had either been shot down, or forced down by weather in exactly the wrong place.
Do you ever recover from something like this?
I think of Deane and his young widow more than you can imagine.
I was 21.
He was 22 or 23.
Now there are other youngsters facing these kinds of perils.
I thank God for them and pray for them every day.
I hope you do also.
04 November 2005
There are reports of similar rioting in Denmark.
Experts I am reading are frightened by these events, because,
in the case of France, they don't have the money,
or the attitude, to fix the problem.
So it may get worse......much worse.
We need to keep an eye on this situation.
If you have been ignoring the news, or if you haven't been paying attention to the Muslimization of Europe, do yourself a favor:
Go to Google.
In the search block, type: Malmo Sweden Muslims
Read the results.
Then you'll be paying closer attention.
And I'll reiterate........if you're not reading the blogs, you're not getting the real news!
Need more proof?
Hat tip.....Little Green Footballs!
03 November 2005
We all know one of the things you learn to do in Basic Training is how to March....."Drill and Ceremonies".
At Officer Candidate School, they tortured us by making us learn FM22-5, the Army Field Manual devoted to the subject.
In FM22-5 they describe in detail how, for instance, to do "Right Face."
I was surprised at how hard it is to put the mechanics into words........trying to teach someone to do something that seems so basic is not really easy at all!.... ("From the position of Attention, quickly pivot 90 degrees simultaneously on the ball of your left foot and the heel of your right foot.....etc.")
What I really want to discuss in this post is rest.
In descending order from most restrictive to least, the person in charge can command his formation to stand at Attention, Parade Rest, At Ease, or Rest.
When given the command, "Rest", a soldier can move about pretty freely, so long as he stays close to the real estate he occupied when the command was given.
Please, someone give me the command, "Rest!"
We are all suffering from too much stress.......life has become too complicated. During the last two months of my life, obligations in my professional and personal life came together in a "Perfect Storm".
Have you ever gotten to the point where you wondered if you could maintain your sanity if just one more thing complicated your life........the "straw" that breaks the camel's back?
I was literally to the point where one day, I put a sock on inside out. The thought of taking it off, reversing it and putting it back on was a stress factor that made me sigh!
Take the time to sit down to write checks for Bills?..........okay, but give me a chance to adjust to the idea...it's more than I want to handle right now!
It's times like these that fray or destroy relationships: Marriages, partnerships, friendships.
We do this to ourselves.
I accepted a leadership position in an organization that took more of my time than I planned. Coupled with that obligation, I had my annual checkride, my annual groundschool, quarterly company computer prompted training, and my Biennial Flight Instructor renewal come due during the same month.
My sleep has been less than satisfactory, and there has been too little of it.
I look, and FEEL ten years older than the birthdate on my driver's license.
For several years now I have been trying to simplify my life. So far, I've failed.
I've taken on obligations, voluntarily and otherwise, that use up most of my waking hours, and sometimes the hours I should be at rest or recreation.
Retirement is around the corner. Is that what it will take to get me to slow down and enjoy my family and friends as I should?
Reading other blogs indicates I'm not alone.
Are we all that stupid?
It appears so.
In some cases, it's the pursuit of material things that motivates us to this self abuse, but for me, money is no longer the driving force.......why am I doing this to myself?
The times we slow down and visit with friends and loved ones are the memories we reflect on when we need a break from the treadmill.
Why don't we force ourselves to spend more time in this manner, rather than the pursuit of things that, in the end, just bring us more stress?
I think we need to seek out those we love.......those with whom we can comfortably discuss absolutely ANY subject.........the people that help you relax because with them you can truly be yourself.
Do we need to be ordered to spend a certain minimum amount of time with them daily.......weekly.......monthly?
I'm not yet "King of the World",
but I'm still askin' for your vote.
If elected, I will give the command to us all: