25 April 2006

Happy Anniversary, "Pitchpull"

Exactly a year ago, at this same table, on this same laptop,
I published my first post.

The passage of a year........
a year not so significant as some in the past, thank Heaven.

My writing style has changed a little, and I've modified the way I compose my posts. Blogging has forced me to focus on writing to avoid misunderstanding. I hope my writing and style have both improved.

As I figured at the start, I've blogged about my flying experiences, but not exclusively. The Aviation Industry exposes me to many interesting people and subjects, and I've enjoyed sharing some of those experiences with all of you. I've also had to do some research in order to publish some posts I knew little about, and that has been educational and satisfying.

But what I appreciate most of all is the support and constructive criticism I have received from fellow bloggers and passers-by. Many have become "virtual friends". What a wonderful community!

I've told many of the most important stories of my life in the past year.
I'm considering going back and re-publishing some of them for readers that have just found "Pitchpull", so they don't have to slog through the rest of the crap to find the "pearls". Of course, what I consider a pearl may be a lump of coal to others. For those folks, the archive awaits.

My sitemeter now says more than 40 folks per day are stopping by. That's a number I would not have expected if you had asked a year ago. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, for criticizing when I need it, and for helping keep me out of trouble.

Let's all look forward to the year ahead!

Nearly Heaven

Coffee in hand, still trying to clear the morning cobwebs, I saw this very picture unfold in real time this morning, minus the surfer.
A pod of 12 or so dolphins were grazing in my front yard. Wonderful.

We are midway through our one-week stay in our little slice of paradise. Spring breakers all gone, traffic flows normally and there are no lines at our favorite eateries.

Construction is going on everywhere. Having seen how bad traffic is during Spring Break, or during the summer when vacationers are here, I can't imagine how bad it will be when they fill the condos that are now under construction here. They can't widen the roads enough to handle that number of cars.

The water is a magnet for humans. What was once a sleepy little place is undergoing a traumatic change, and from what I hear, it's happening near the coast almost everywhere. This, at a time when fewer insurance companies will consider writing a policy to cover hurricane damage. It will be interesting to see what happens when the political power that comes with the money involved here begins to flex it's muscle.

We're fortunate to be able to come at times we choose. The idea of coming during the "peak" season is less and less attractive.

20 April 2006

"The Sniffer" and "The Snatch"

What a title!
Bet this post doesn't go the way you imagine!

My Viet Nam Unit was one-of-a-kind.
I was in "The Aeroscout Company", Americal Division.
Our main mission was reconnaissance.
We accomplished our recon. mission by launching four helicopters:

  • An OH-6 Scout,

  • A UH1-C "Charley Model" Gunship,

  • An AH1-G Cobra Gunship,

  • and,

  • A UH1-H "Slick"

  • The little OH-6 Scout would fly low enough to part the tops of trees with his rotorwash and look underneath to see if any enemy activity was going on down there. I think the guys flying this mission had the most dangerous flying job in Viet Nam. No OH-6 in our unit accrued 300 total flight hours before being shot down during my year there.

    I followed the Scout in the "Charley Model" Huey, flying 50 feet above and about 1/8th mile behind, to cover the OH-6 in case he began to receive fire.
    This low altitude and airspeed also left me considerably exposed,

    The "Snake", (Cobra), followed behind me at 1000' altitude and 1/2 mile behind in case I got shot at.

    The "Slick" carried a squad of Infantry,
    (we called our grunts "Animals"),
    and followed along high enough to be out of the range of small arms fire.

    One of the special missions our unit performed was "The Snatch".
    If the little Scout saw a military-age male acting suspiciously in the area we were to recon, he would call for the Slick to land and the "Animals" would pick this suspect up for questioning.
    Obviously, this was a dangerous mission......on more than one occasion we landed the Slick, only to find we had inserted our troops into a hornet's nest. We'd then use the two Gunships to provide fire and protection for the Slick as we extricated our "Animals" from harms way.

    However, we were frequently successful at snatching suspicious young males who provided good information to our Division Intelligence folks.

    We used this same basic team to do another type of recon mission: "The Sniffer".

    The little Scout would pick up a specialty team with a special machine......
    The Sniffer.
    It fit in the rear of the OH-6, and had a sensor on a cord that was lowered 30 feet below the aircraft. We would then go out into bad-guy territory and fly just over the triple canopy jungle with the sensor just above the tops of the trees. We would start working a grid pattern downwind....the sensor would give you erroneous readings if it picked up the exhaust from the helicopters....and we would fly a grid that was designated by our Division Intel. people.

    The Sniffer picked up human perspiration. If it sensed perspiration, the technician operating the machine would call out "HOT" over the radio, and the Co-Pilot in the Slick would make a mark on his map showing where that "Hot" reading was taken. We would fly along for several minutes with the technician saying "HOT", "HOT", "HOT", "HOT", "HOT"every two seconds, then we'd do a 180 degree turn, move 1000' upwind, and sweep another path......
    "HOT", "HOT", "HOT", "HOT"....

    Keep in mind, the Scout and I are flying at near treetop level over triple-canopy jungle, in single engine helicopters, over what was probably a North Vietnamese Army Division.
    My fear: What are we gonna do if the engine fails? This job was tense....gave me a "pucker factor" of 9 out of 10!

    We flew Sniffer missions about once a week, but I don't remember ever being shot at during one of these flights.
    The bad guys were moving their troops to attack us and didn't want us to know they were down there. Shooting at us would have unquestionably exposed them and their position.
    By flying this mission weekly, we were able to plot the movement of large enemy units.

    Imagine how you would feel, flying along hearing "HOT"...."HOT"...."HOT"..... over the radio, thinking of (thousands?) of men below you, and all the possibilities that COULD happen!

    18 April 2006


    I'm on thin ice here........making bold, declarative statements,
    but I'm doing so because I want your feedback........

    How do you feel when you board an airliner?

    I've been airborne more than two full years. I'm certainly not afraid of flying,
    and I get to fly commercially two or three times a year.
    But as I board I still wonder, "What sort of crew is at the controls of this machine?"

    Flying an airliner is "safe as houses", whatever that means.
    But you still read about the now-and-then stupid decision......
    like the VERY seasoned KLM Captain at Tenerife that started his 747 on takeoff roll in thick fog while another 747 was taxiing on the same runway, resulting in the single worst aviation disaster in history.

    I have survived flying helicopters 38 years, including acting as a target for one of those years, partly because I don't take risks while I'm at the controls.
    My crews know this, and frequently commend me for it.

    When I get aboard an airliner, I hope the folks at the controls have that same attitude toward risk-taking. I'd be very comfortable if they would invite me to come sit up front and observe.......maybe even take the controls and fly the airplane a little. I like to be in control.
    Almost by definition, Pilots have to be conceited.....
    taking the lives of others into their hands.

    I like to drive. When I go somewhere in a car, I like to be the one behind the steering wheel.
    I know my skills. I know I am in great health. When I'm at the wheel, I control the risks that are taken between Point A and Point B.
    Control is the Big Kahuna........I don't like NOT being in control.

    The desire to make something happen.
    I'm not easily bored.
    When I begin to be bored, I try to make somethin' happen.
    If I don't like what's goin' on around me, I try to change it.
    Lotsa folks, including some of my loved ones, get irritated with me because I push. I admit I have a problem with being confident that I'm right, and sometimes what is right for me might not be right for someone else.
    But I truly believe in the old Army adage: "Do something, even if it's wrong."
    By putting a plan in motion, even if you fail, you learn something.......
    what NOT to do next time.
    And you know, there is GREAT value learning what doesn't work!
    See......we're back to the control thing, aren't we?
    By deciding on a plan and trying to make it work, you have control over your circumstances.

    Would you call me a "Type A" personality?
    Some do. I don't know.......I think I'm pretty laid back most of the time.

    But I have never fully understood the "Type B's"......
    those folks that mostly sit back and allow life to happen to them......
    hoping that what comes their way is good......
    being afraid to make a decision because it might fail........
    accepting mental or physical abuse as if they deserve it, because it was what "life" handed them.

    I've been discussing Co-Dependency with a friend.
    I understand the concept, but the self-centered blockhead in me cannot figure out why anyone would allow life to pass by, taking actions that reinforce behaviors that make life worse for both.
    Me, I'd be shouting, "I don't like the way this is turning out. Let's do something else!"

    I know......it's 'way more complex than that.
    So you see, I am trying to understand.
    I know it is addictive behavior, and I think we all have some of that.

    But.......wouldn't it be better to identify things in your life that are not making your life better, and try something else?
    The one that best knows what is best for you, is YOU!

    In other words, take control of the wheel of your life and DRIVE!

    17 April 2006

    Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

    Flush the toilet in our Master Bedroom.
    As the water tank reaches the end of it's fill cycle
    and the fill valve begins to close,
    the toilet makes a sound EXACTLY like the distorted guitar chord that begins the tune "I Feel Fine" by The Beatles!
    I'm SO proud of my talented house!

    Now, that set me to thinking......
    If you go back through the almost year of posts on this journal,
    quite a few of the posts themselves are music related.
    Many of the titles to posts.......
    "Magic Carpet Ride"......
    "Time in a Bottle",
    are ripped from songs popular during the late '60's and early '70's.
    Music is at the very core of the fabric of our lives.

    In an early morning discussion today I found myself using Bob Seger's phrase, "I used her, she used me, and neither one cared.........we were gettin' our share."
    And it was comfortable........it fit well into our discussion.

    In another post on another blog I discussed how "Rhapsody In Blue" will stop me dead in my tracks.....it's too beautiful to let pass without devoting full attention to it.

    I wonder........does everyone feel this way?
    Did previous generations feel this way?

    In closing, let me just say something I've wanted to use here for a long time:

    "Ya can't always get what ya want,
    But if you try sometimes, ya just might find.......
    Ya get what ya need!"

    So......NEVER QUIT TRYIN' !

    16 April 2006

    Horse Sense

    Just started my shift....
    I saw something on my way to work that I wanted to share.

    I passed a pasture that had six horses standing in the corner.
    Two of the horses were spectating, as the other four
    had formed a square formation,
    nose to tail-nose to tail, all around.
    Each of the horses was nibbling on his teammates rump.......
    obviously scratchin' an itch that needed scratchin'!
    It looked highly satisfying for all concerned, but I wondered......
    what's wrong with a hexagon, so that all six could share?

    For me, seeing it on this wonderful day put a smile on my face.
    Happy Easter, everyone!

    14 April 2006

    The Shroud

    Good Friday.
    Another great time to discuss Jesus Christ.
    Lotsa documentaries and conversation lately about The Shroud of Turin.....
    What's your opinion.....is that the image of Jesus in that cloth?

    Let me quote the Gospel written by John, Chapter 19, verse 40:
    (New Intl. translation)

    "Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices,
    in strips of linen
    . This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs."


    Now I'll ask again:
    What's your opinion?

    13 April 2006


    Just 'cause it flies and has a rotor, doesn't mean it's a helicopter.

    Yesterday, my student showed up for his helicopter lesson in his "Magni" Autogyro.

    I was thrilled to get a chance to fly with him in this machine......
    I have always wanted to fly one with someone I knew was not certifiably insane!

    The aircraft I flew in is the same type you see here.
    (Kind of a flying motorcycle!)
    I had to buy a disposable camera to get a photo of the aircraft I rode in......
    when the film is developed, I'll share that pic with you.

    Sara Jean threw a fit when she found out,
    but my attitude has always been that life is a series of calculated risks,
    and this is just another of those "things I always wanted to do" that I can now check off my list!

    11 April 2006

    On Second Thought-

    I just did something I've never done before.........
    I took down a post I thought was timely and well written.

    Those of you that saw the post before I put it in storage.......Good for you!

    Someone with whom I have had a "virtual" relationship for a while......
    someone I respect, emailed and cautioned me that under certain circumstances I could find myself in hot water from about six directions if I wasn't careful.

    I published the post when I was angry about innocent kids being hurt because of the carelessness of their parents.
    My friend pointed out that I could be in trouble with my company, or the parents involved, if the post became public knowledge.
    In it, I had been judge, jury, and almost executioner.
    Of course he's right.

    Now, here's the deal........(being devious)......
    Time is the thing here.
    If I wait and let water flow beneath this bridge for about a month or two, it'll be more difficult to connect the story with the actual event.

    My counselor agreed that everything I said was "spot on".
    (Don'cha love an appreciative audience?)
    I also love the fact that the guy was playing "point man" for me......coverin' my backside.

    I'll let that particular post simmer a while........
    get better and better while it rests.....
    and one night when I have writer's block........
    I'll have a "spot on" rant to share with you!

    Freedom of speech.
    Ain't it wonderful?

    09 April 2006

    Why Don't Ya Come With Me Little Girl?

    On a Magic Carpet Ride!

    A Navy F18 takes us for a cool spin,
    accompanied by John Kay and Steppenwolf....
    (This song was popular during my tour in Viet Nam....
    one of my faves!)

    Volume WAY up!
    ( 3 1/2 minute video, so long download).

    Thanks to Grouchymedia!

    06 April 2006

    A Smooth Segway.....

    I've commented before that one of the neatest things about working in the Aviation industry is the people you get to rub elbows with.

    I find people attracted to flying are more likely to be interesting than those that sit at home watching "As The Stomach Turns" on TV.

    I also think folks that like helicopters take that thought one step farther.
    Helicopter fliers, rightly or wrongly, are perceived to be just a little crazier than fixed-wing folks.

    One of my students owns a business here in town, and wanted me to come look at an area where he hopes to land the helicopter once he has his license.
    I surveyed his landing area and was surprised at how large it is... normally students seriously underestimate the area they will need to land safely, at least at first, when their skills are still developing.

    He invited me into his business to meet his employees, and then we visited his office. Over in the corner of his office it sat...
    calling to me...
    the "Segway".
    I've been fascinated with the Segway since I first saw reports about them. How hard would it be to ride? Would riding it be "instinctive"? How fast would it go?
    Here was my chance to find out!

    For those not familiar with this machine, here is a picture of one.
    (You may remember seeing pictures of President Bush taking a tumble while riding one about two years ago.)

    I can report that it wasn't as easy as I thought.
    It has two speeds... a slower one for novices, and a "scoot" speed once you get acclimated. On the higher speed, you'd have to run at a pretty good clip to keep up with the Segway.

    Basically, you lean forward to move forward... aft to move in reverse.
    A twist grip on the left handlebar is twisted forward to turn left, rearward to turn right.
    Starting out at the slower speed, I was amazed at how little pressure it took to get it to move.
    You don't actually have to lean to put it in motion... simply put pressure on your toes and it will start moving forward. Similar to flying a helicopter, it almost moves just because you thought about moving!
    Very slight aft pressure on the handlebars is all that is necessary to slow the Segway to a gentle stop. Panic stops can be accomplished by pulling the handlebars against your body.

    I was reasonably comfortable with it after 5 minutes, so my student changed the skill level to the more expert, higher speed setting.
    Wow... I immediately realized wearing a helmet would be a great idea on this thing!

    Big Boys and expensive toys...
    Aviation people are wonderful, and, like the Lamborghini Countach I got to test drive several years ago, frequently they own some pretty neat playthings.

    It was great to have the chance to check "riding the Segway" off my list of things I wanted to do!

    04 April 2006

    Bullet Hose

    The "Charley Model" Huey Gunship I flew in Viet Nam was armed with two 9-shot rocket pods and two .30 calibre miniguns.
    The miniguns were each capable of firing 3,000 rounds a minute.
    Continuous firing at that rate would literally melt the barrels on the guns, so there was a relay in the system that would only allow the guns to fire for three seconds, then the "interrupter" would shut the guns down.
    To fire again, you had to release the trigger, then pull it once again.
    This system worked well to keep excited Gunship Co-Pilots from turning the six barrels into the consistency of cooked spaghetti.
    Normally the Co-Pilot would fire the mini-guns,
    the Aircraft Commander would fire the rockets......a nine-rocket pod mounted on each side of the aircraft, next to the the miniguns.

    I found a video on the minigun here that illustrates their awesome power.
    As you watch, keep in mind that between each of the red tracer rounds that you see are three "ball" rounds that you cannot see.
    Therefore, what you see leaving the gun is only 1/4th the actually rounds striking the target.

    Another thing.......no helicopter would actually fly down a target line like you see here.
    The video demonstrates the lethality of the gun, but in the real world the pilot would use whatever means necessary to avoid being brought down by surface to air missiles or small arms fire.

    These new weapons systems can be computer assisted, making the manually adjusted system in the old "Charley" look pretty inaccurate. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to be on the receiving end of my attention in that old bird.

    (Thanks to Compfused.com)

    01 April 2006

    My Apology:

    Six months ago I complained that in my 20 years of flying sick people, I seem always to get stuck when we change our clocks.......working the extra unpaid hour in Autumn.......
    but being off in the Spring when an 11 hour shift pays for 12 hours work, and I suggested a way we could avoid all the confusion.



    I hope this becomes the new routine!

    So I'll be home with an hour's less sleep,
    trying to search out every @#*&% clock in the house/garage/cars
    in order to add the extra hour.

    Spring is busting out all over around Greybeard and family. Our plum tree in the back yard is really showing off this year.......
    vivid purple blossoms.

    I Hope your season is as nice.
    (Don't forget your clocks tonight!)