12 December 2006

Coffee, and the Production of Lift-

Sometimes I fly.
Sometimes I sit and try to learn something new.

The other day, I was poking around the archives on Aviatrix's blog and found
this post.
I cannot imagine any pilot that has been at this trade for more than a few months not smiling and nodding as they read her words.
Caffeine isn't part of the aircraft's checklist, but without it,

lift may not occur.

For 14 years, I flew UH-1H "Hueys" with the Army Reserve in an "Assault Helicopter" company. The main mission of the company was to put together a flight of a few Hueys and carry infantrymen from point A to point B... point B frequently being the place where our passengers might be needed to confront adversaries with the baggage they carried with them.

To do our job well, we practiced.
We'd frequently plan what we called a "boondoggle"......
Well ahead of time, we'd plan a trip to some Navy or Air Force Base several hours away, requiring a fuel stop or two, then we'd stop and R.O.N., (remain overnight), and return the next day. Most often, these plans would attract several pilots, and we'd get to practice formation flying along the route.

One trip we planned was to fly to Pensacola Naval Air Station, spend the night in Officer's quarters there, then go to the Naval Air Museum the next day, spend another night in the Officer's quarters, then fly back home. Sixteen pilots expressed interest in making this flight, so 8 Hueys were blocked off for that weekend.

Weather didn't cooperate. Ceilings and visibilities went to pot,

and we ended up landing at an Air Force Base well short of Pensacola. Luckily, we found they had "room at the Inn" for all of us.
We showered, donned civilian clothes,
and made our way to the Officer's Club.

Hangovers were the order of the day when sun came up.

Sixteen pilots showed up at the Operations Office in desperate need of "the Army Aviators Breakfast"-
Cheese crackers with Peanut Butter, and a big cup of coffee.

Coffee was available- in a vending machine next to the machine that sold the cheese crackers. One pilot put in his quarter, and the machine failed to deliver the necessary caffeine.
Another tried, pounding the machine as he inserted his coins.... same result.
This is a real Emergency!

We notified the clerk at the desk and he called the vending machine service number. They announced they'd have someone there to fix the machine right away.
Now we're gettin' somewhere......
our fix was on the way!
We grumbled and shuffled around in the Ops office, yearning for that first cup.
Finally, a Van with the vending company logo approached and parked right in front of the main entrance. Wearing a one-piece coverall uniform, the serviceman got out of the Van, grabbed his tool box, and strode toward the door.
We could feel the relief coming!

He set his tool box down and turned to look at all of us.
He was portly, unshaven, and looked a little like a character from the movie "Deliverance". Seeing how badly we needed our first cup, he smiled and said, "you guys got it bad, don't ya!?"
He had no front teeth.
Where he had teeth, they were yellow-green with dark spots.

He pulled out his keys and opened the machine, saying,
"I bet I know just what's wrong".
Next we heard, "Yep! Look at that! Feed line is blocked."
The nylon tube that delivered the coffee to the cup was blocked with a gelatinous coffee/cream plug.
He put the nylon tube to his lips, took a deep breath, and blew....... Phlewwww!
We could hear a muffled pop, then the sound of air rushing through as the plug was cleared.
He put the tube back in it's proper place, then closed and locked the door. He put a quarter in the machine and selected "coffee with cream". The machine efficiently delivered the product.
He turned to us, and with his Jack-O-Lantern, Yellow-Green gap-toothed smile said, "There ya go fellas...... all fixed!"

At that point we all decided to soothe our caffeine addiction at the Coca Cola machine.



The funny thing about this post is, I was actually watching "Deliverence" when I read it. "He sure has a purty mouth, doen't he?"

Mommanurse said...

Loved it.

Anonymous said...

Columbian, Aribica, French Roast, Kona Blend, Sumatra, Sanani, Perhaps the only thing that smells better is popcorn, but I want coffee in the morning. And I want lots of it

Neil said...

Good stuff.

One of my favorite books is written by Rbert Mason, a Vietnam huey pilot. the book is ChickenHawk. Coffee is mentioned alot in there, too. : )

Greybeard said...

A great book,
and a must-read for anyone interested in helicopters OR Viet Nam, Neil.
Were you surprised with the ending?
I was.

Have you read the sequel,
"Chickenhawk: back in the world?"
It's worth your time.

Neil said...

Not yet, but I always planned to read it. Actually cant believe I havent read it yet, as much as I loved his first...

Yes, the end suprised me. As Mason writes, no one was more suprised than he. : )

It really is one of the most well written and engaging books I've ever read about Vietnam and it's helicopter war. I emailed Mason and told him as such, and he was thoughtful enough to get into a brief exchange of emails with me about flying, life, and books. Seems a hell of a guy, and is certainly a hell of a writer.

Anonymous said...

I just can't wait to buy a cup out of the vending machine at the rest area!