14 August 2006

After Action Report, 10-13 August, '06

How can I adequately describe this trip? Where do I start?

It's funny........ I really don't care much for travelling.
I don't sleep well the night before heading West to bring home one of these machines. There is stress from so many directions: Wanting to be sure I have all the proper equipment, handheld radio, charts, clothing, etc., to get the job done.......
Just getting to the airport from my front door takes nearly three hours. Add to that the time it takes to get a boarding pass and make it through security. That task was complicated this time by the news we were fortunate to receive before getting to the airport: we would not be allowed to take some items onboard in our hand-carry luggage: Deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo.........anything in liquid or gel form. My partner Don had prescription drugs in his bag that were divided into one of those Sunday-Saturday daily dosage thingies, and didn't have anything to indicate the drugs were his. We knew he would lose those if he tried to carry them aboard, so he had to check that bag.
Surprisingly, the chaos I expected at the Southwest Airlines terminal didn't materialize. We checked Don's bag, advanced through security, and were waiting for our airplane almost two hours before flight time.

Travel concerns aside, I love airports. It is SO entertaining to watch people........
The airplane we would use arrived from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Folks getting off that airplane were obviously dressed for warmer weather........ light tropical dress. They were tanned and happy. I was ready to buy a ticket for Ft. Lauderdale myself!

Four hours and change after takeoff we were in L.A..
Larry and Mary Kay met us after we got Don's bag and we drove in traffic that was lighter than I expected to our favorite Mexican restaurant. Bellies full, we headed to the motel near the Robinson Helicopter factory.

Up and at 'em on Friday morning, we arrived at RHC at 9 A.M..
It's been 15 years since Don has been at the factory, so he was amazed to see the changes in the operation since they moved from their old Crenshaw Boulevard location. Milly, Chief of sales, gave us a personal tour of the entire operation. I had not been through the newest addition to the factory, and I too was amazed at the technology they use to make the different parts of the helicopter. One new machine uses wire to cut metal parts, and can cut to tolerances of 50 millionth of an inch!

I have described the problem we had with the cylinder head temperature gauge. It is frustrating for me to be mentally prepared to depart on this 2,000 mile trip, only to have a problem abort the process. But we finally got under way, several hours later than I had hoped.

The difference between flying home in the R22 and the R44 can't be over-emphasized. The R22 is less stable, slower, and more cramped. It is a hard three day slog to get back to the Midwest in an R22, generally after about 20 hours flight time.
The R44 has a wider cockpit, is faster and more stable. You can put charts, etc. on the rear seats, freeing up all the space in the forward cockpit. Given an early start on day one, it would be feasible to make it home in two days in the 44 with a smile on your face, after 15 hours of flying.

We had hoped to spend Friday night in Roswell with Ole Prairie Dog, once again enjoying adult beverages on his beautiful patio. But the aforementioned thunderstorms and running out of daylight precluded that. We did make it to Roswell by Noon on Saturday and had a fine meal with Mr. and Mrs. O.P.D., then got both both of them airborne for a tour of Roswell and their home.

We flew through a gap in thunderstorms on the way to Plainview, Texas for fuel, then continued to Clinton, Oklahoma, to find the keys in the airport courtesy car. Checked into the motel, we purchased cold adult beverages and takeout from a local eaterie, then went back to the motel to catch the forecast and relax.

Sunday dawned crystal clear, but the old song, "OKLAHOMA, where the wind comes whistling down the plain" was proving true....... we started the big Lycoming in 20 knot winds, and the forecast was for them to increase to 30 knots in the afternoon. Time to head home!

The wind on this leg home was right on our butt...... our groundspeed was 141 knots: 162 m.p.h.!
We rotorheads seldom see a groundspeed like that, so Don and I both had smiles on our faces.
One interim stop was at an airport that had cold cuts, potato chips, and soft drinks for purchasers of avgas, and since we hadn't had breakfast, we were happy to partake of them.

We arrived home late in the afternoon after having flown 14.5 hours. The new 540 cubic inch Lycoming surprised us by burning only two quarts of oil while the parts were getting familiar with one another. The cylinder head temperature gauge continued to give us troubles off-and-on, so the probe for that gauge will be changed before delivery to the new owner.

Some afterthoughts:
Your formative years have such a profound effect on how you perceive the world! I was raised near Indianapolis, Indiana........ we called it "Naptown" for good reason. For it's size, Indy was a quiet, unthreatening place to grow up. Rolling hills prevailed, and the earth there is covered either with trees, crops, or water.

On this trip, we take off from an artificial oasis in the middle of the desert called Los Angeles.
It takes over an hour of flying at over 100 miles an hour to get away from that city; it is HUGE. The roads are ALWAYS full of cars and trucks.
As you fly farther and farther from the city, the ground gets brown, then kinda brown/gray. Vegetation gives way to rocks and mountains. For the next couple days, anytime you see green you know there is water involved, either natural or influenced by man. Obviously, there are folks that love the desert and want to live in that environment. They are uncomfortable when they cannot see 100 miles in every direction. I understand that feeling, but I can't identify with it. There are places along the route of this trip where you pray the machine continues to work as it should, because if it breaks, you'll be in a really desperate situation instantly.
It's an uncomfortable thought for this Midwestern soul.

Nevertheless, if things fall into place, I may be making the trip again soon........ this time in an R44 with an air-conditioner, a first time experience for me.
I look forward to including you in my experiences on that journey.
Thanks to those of you that sent your thoughts!


OlePrairiedog said...

I understand what you are saying, but in my visits back"East", I really get claustophobic when I am driving down a road and only occasionally can see a break in the trees and a hint of a house or structure through the undergrowth. I like being able to see El Capitan 60 miles to the west and to see Mon Jeaux and Apache summit at about 90 miles distance. Its comforting. But its sure not nice when the landscape is filled with parts of Arizona and western New Mexico enroute to Texas. Sometimes you can't see across the street.

Rubberducky1.0 said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you, OPD. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit some of my older brothers navy buddies up in New England. Walking through parts of D.C., I continually found myself quickening my pace to make my way toward a park or open square. Only while walking down the National Mall or while walking through Arlington Cemetery, did any real comfort come to me.

There is something calming about the openness of the West that speaks to me as if a natural part of my being. I honestly don't believe that spending any amount of time in the East could change that feeling. Well, when you grow up in North Dakota, Eastern Colorado, and Arizona, I think it only natural to have the need for space permanently etched into your soul.

I have to get you a picture of our National forest sign down the road. I honestly don't think there is a tree within 5 miles of the darn thing. That is counting those funky looking Joshua trees, that can't claim a population density of more than 10 per square mile.

Instrument rated as of last Thursday, and on the DPE backlog for my commercial. May end up in Phoenix before that time however, as a job opportunity may be available for my brother upon receiving his CFI rating about the same time as my commercial check ride.