30 January 2007

One Reason For Me To Retire

I could attend a few get-togethers-
From the New York Times, via Instapundit:

"There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq.
Mr. Sparling spoke at a smaller rally held earlier in the day at the United States Navy Memorial, and voiced his support for the administration’s policies in Iraq.

Later, as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.

Capitol police made the antiwar protestors walk farther away from the counterprotesters.

'These are not Americans as far as I’m concerned,' Mr. Sparling said."

I would love the chance to meet one of these "spitters" in person!

Caring For My Wife

Sara Jean is such a complex, high spirited individual,
I really do need a "how to" instruction manual.

I sure was glad to find this!

Ahh, I'm just being alarmist, right?
How's that water, froggy?

27 January 2007

Birthday Responses-

Thanks to all for your kind birthday wishes!
And the tone most of you set is true... I passed my class II flight physical again today, although my hearing and eyesight are slightly worse this year than last. I can't complain... I'm still not required to "wear" glasses- just "possess" them.

I truly think you are right about piloting keeping you young. I'm composing a post about pilots and risk-taking. I'll publish it this week!

I'm no expert on flying big iron, so I'll expect someone to correct me if I'm mistaken here...
I'm flying as a commercial pilot under Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regs. The airlines fly under a different Part of the Regs- (Part 121? Help me someone.) Under part 135 I can fly so long as I can pass that Class II flight physical. Some of the guys that fly with my company, (all old Viet Nam Vets like me) are older than 60... one is 63. I also intend to hang on for a few more years!

Do I have your current email address?

Again, thanks to all of you.
60 ain't so bad!

25 January 2007

A Day For Personal Reflection

Indulge me please. It's a landmark day for me.
Today I'm 60 years old.

Remember my post about "The Ants And the Grasshopper"?
All my life, I've been an Ant.
For years, I have squirrelled away a goodly portion of my earnings for later use, denying my family the instant gratification those funds could have provided in order to have security "when I get old."
And there's the problem- when I started down this path, "old" was when I turned 60, or 62, or 65.

I'm through the first of those gates and I don't feel old.
I'm blessed with health good enough for me to pass a flight physical and pursue my job as a commercial pilot.
Still, I'm 60.
The Army will start paying me a pension I have anticipated for 41 years.
The day is here. I can't believe it.

Now what?
How wonderful to have options... "the first day of the rest of my life".
Life now presents different paths to follow... and I have decisions to make.
How odd that there is stress in making these decisions, even though things have gone pretty much as planned!

Have I run my race? 60, 62, or 65... Is it time to do the cooldown lap?
What a weird feeling.

21 January 2007

My One Night Stand With Agnes

I've mentioned I like motorcycles, but I don't think I've written before about how much I have ridden. I bought my first two-wheeler, a Cushman Motor Scooter quite similar to this one, at age 12 with money earned on my paper route. Law enforcement in our rural county looked the other way as several kids my age gave up bicycles and began to ride the streets.

I bought my first motorcycle when I was 16. I rode various bikes right up until the Army called for my services in '66.

I went bike-less, but stayed attuned to the industry via magazines until I came home from Viet Nam. I had never owned a Japanese motorcycle. I had never owned a bike with a two-cycle engine.
I decided I'd kill two birds with one stone and buy a three cylinder Kawasaki motorcycle.
It was incredibly fast... it would accelerate from 0-60 m.p.h. in 3.2 seconds. When asked about it's performance I would comment, "In first and second gear it's the fastest unicycle in the world!"

It wasn't a good touring bike. Too light. Too noisy.
Still, on three occasions, I rode from Savannah, Georgia to Indianapolis, Indiana...
13 hours, on Kawasaki Triples.

The last of those trips was notable: It was on that trip I met Agnes.
Pardon me, but Agnes was a bitch.

In Mid-June of 1972 I came to Indy to attend a motorcycle race (as a spectator).
I attended the race on Saturday, then started my trip South to Savannah at Noon on Sunday expecting to get home there about 1 A.M., grab a few hours sleep, then go to my job as a Flight Commander. The weather was great and I was making great time. I stopped for fuel in Chattanooga, Tennessee and when I paid for my fuel the guy at the cash register asked, "Where ya headed?"
When I told him Savannah he asked, "Then you haven't heard?"
"Heard what?"
"You're headed right into Hurricane Agnes!"

No, I hadn't heard. And bein' a 25 year old from the Midwest I really had no inkling what a Hurricane could do. Besides, I had to be at work tomorrow, so I really had no choice but to press on, right?

The rain started half an hour later as darkness fell.
Light showers at first- no big deal. It was warm, and I was wearing a windbreaker. I was wet, but I'd been wet before.
Just North of Atlanta the rain worsened.
As I entered Atlanta it was physically difficult to keep the wind from blowing the bike out of my lane. I found a Semi-truck and fell in behind him.
Up close, in his wake, I could control the motorcycle.
Just South of Atlanta, at about 9 P.M., I gave up.
Time to find shelter and warmth! I pulled off at the first exit with a motel.
"Sorry, we have no rooms."
Uh-oh. I hadn't thought of that. Everyone with a lick of sense had stopped long ago and rented rooms. The desk clerk tried to help... called all motels along the Interestate highway for miles.
No luck... no vacancies.

I was soaked. I could tell the clerk really didn't want me to even dampen a chair in his lobby, much less curl up and spend the night there. Reluctantly, I put my butt back on the saddle, got back on the highway, and found myself another big truck to follow.

It poured. And poured. The chain on the machine rusted... the automatic oiler couldn't keep up with that amount of water.

At that time, I-16 from Macon to Savannah was incomplete.
I had to get off the good road and travel 60 or so miles on two-lane roads. About half-way between those two towns, in a little place called Metter, Georgia, I was nearly out of gas.
Late Sunday night/early Monday morning... still pouring down rain, the only gas station in town was closed. I had no choice but to stop.

There was a soft-drink machine next to the front door. I found that by sitting on the ground with my back to the wall next to the beverage machine I could stay mostly out of the rain, and the machine gave off a certain amount of heat. Helmet and windbreaker almost kept me warm. I went to sleep.

The attendant arrived at 7 A.M..
Gray and gloomy, rain still coming down, I refueled and set off on the last 2 hours of my trip.

Finally home, I called my Assistant Flight Commander and told him he'd be on his own for the day. I took a warm shower and hit the sack.

Agnes had hosed me down for more than 9 hours. I had to replace the chain... rusted and stretched, it was ruined.

It's another of those things I wouldn't want to do again. But I'm glad I have the story to tell.

19 January 2007

ARGH! What's That Bright Orb?

I tossed and turned most of the night, every half hour or so glancing at the alarm clock... 3:14, 3:30, 4:05, 4:28, 4:58.
The alarm was set for 5:00, so I sat up in bed and turned the alarm off so it wouldn't wake Sara Jean. I HATE working days!

My natural cycle is attuned to night work.
It helps that I love flying at night.
An opposite shift pilot felt ill yesterday and called to say he wasn't coming in today, so I had plenty of warning that I'd be up at "Oh-dark-thirty".
It inevitably means I toss and turn all night long, worrying I'll oversleep.

There's this bright circle in the sky that I don't normally see while I preflight the BK 117!
During the pre-dawn drive to work, I realized I had left my sunglasses at home... had to borrow an extra pair from my female nurse.
(They look mighty pretty on me!)

Back to nights tomorrow, Thank God!

17 January 2007

This Just In-

I found a large Manila envelope in the mailbox this morning.
The sender was the United States Army. The contents included a letter that starts:

"Dear Major (Greybeard):
Your application for retirement under Title 10, United States Code, Section 12731, has been approved."

The tree planted in 1966 has borne fruit.


15 January 2007


A long, long time ago in a place not too far away,
I was a Flight Commander.
One of the Warrant Officers that worked for me, a guy named "Rex", was an avid sportsman. Professional and a hard worker, I liked him a lot.
But there was a subject we'd frequently argue about: killing deer.
His argument was that hunters sorta play Darwin by culling the numbers and keeping the overall population healthy.
I was 23, and of course knew everything.
I concluded that Darwin's laws would cull the weakest of the herd, leaving the strongest animals to breed and improve the population over time.
Hunters are naturally looking to kill the strongest buck with the largest rack of antlers. So in actuality they are "anti-Darwins".
Looking back, I can still see truth in my argument, but I now know I was no wildlife expert. Today I'm much more aware of what's goin' on around me, and I'm learnin' every day.

This time of year, the sun is long-gone when I leave home for work.
Tonight I backed out of my drive, put the selector in "D", and had gotten all of 15 seconds into my trip to work when a Red Fox darted across the road about 30 feet in front of me.
We don't often see foxes, so the sight brought a smile to my face. But it set me to thinking about the changes in wildlife numbers around our home:
More Foxes. More Deer. More Hawks. Lots of wild Turkeys.
We see a Bald Eagle now and then.

There are no longer any trees within 50 feet of a pond back in the timber behind our house. Beavers have gnawed them all down. Beaver numbers have risen enough that Department of Natural Resources folks have had to relocate several of them to less populated areas.

Wander into our backyard on a clear moonlit night when a train is whistling it's approach at the crossing down the street, and the response of Coyotes will set the hair on your neck standing up. There are a bunch of 'em back there!
I've written previously about the reason for the coyote explosion-
White Tail Deer.
I wish Rex would come sit in my back yard. He could help solve a problem I now have... trying to keep a vegetable garden. Sara Jean and I can testify that deer love tulips, tree seedlings, and most any vegetables when the plants are about two inches tall.
Tonight on my 32 mile drive to work I saw two Does dead alongside the road, struck by motor vehicles. Coyotes chew the carcass at night, Turkey Vultures assist during the day. One carcass was almost totally stripped of meat- it's ribcage gleaming white in my headlights.

I still think deer are beautiful- tawny color and big gorgeous eyes.
But they certainly have become pests. Their numbers are such that in some areas of the State there's not enough food for them all, and some die of malnutrition. The DNR is trying to find ways to properly control the population.

The increase in predators is obviously the result of an increase in prey.
I'm glad to see some of them, like the foxes, more often.
It's also good to see that DNR programs for some endangered animals seem to be working.

My question is, can we keep the predators, but reduce the number of deer eating my garden as it emerges in the Spring?

12 January 2007

Making a "Grand Entrance"

That's a Robinson R44.
Made by the Robinson Helicopter Company of Torrance, California, it has room for a Pilot and three passengers. Powered by a 540 cubic inch Lycoming engine, it can cruise at 120 miles per hour in heated/air conditioned comfort all day long.
I love the thing.

Yesterday, I got the chance to do something I love to do-
Most of the time, I fly students in the smaller Robinson-
the two seat R22.
Yesterday one of my students decided he wanted some time in the four-seater. Another helicopter flying friend had advised me of a nearby restaurant that has a large empty field adjacent to it, perfect for landing the helicopter. Wonderful!
Our R44 introductory flight included an off-airport landing, and dinner.

One of the neat things about helicopters is the amount of attention they attract. People going into the restaurant stopped to watch as we landed. People leaving the restaurant stopped to watch as we cooled and shutdown the engine. We secured the machine and walked to the restaurant, passing through the crowd like a couple of Rock Stars, answering the normal questions:
Is it harder to fly than an airplane?
How fast can it go?

Ya gotta be real careful about off-airport landings.....
Rotorwash can blow stuff and cause damage to surrounding property.
People can be a problem too- I once flew a U.S. Congressman to a meeting in a nearby town and landed, surrounded by a cordon of police cars I had called to secure the area. As I shut the helicopter down, 25 kids from an adjacent apartment complex came scurrying over to see what was happening. If the police hadn't been there to stop them there was no way I could have protected them, or the helicopter.

There were no such problems yesterday though.
I ordered short-ribs. They were unbelievable..... tasty, and you could shake the bone and the meat would fall off.
And best of all.....
knowing the financial plight of his instructor, my student picked up the tab!

08 January 2007


Dave Starr tagged Aviatrix.
Aviatrix tagged me and four others.
The assignment is to reveal five things my readers don't know about me. Click her link above and go read her revelations.....

Go ahead.... I'll wait here patiently for your return.

Dum de dum dum..... dum de doo dah......

Earthshaking stuff, huh?
An inflatable Dolphin?
Unless that Dolphin is an anatomically correct version
of Dan Marino,
I gotta say there's just not much there that tweaks my tweaker!
Sure, after a few beers I'd enjoy hearing more about her close encounter with becoming a spy, or maybe the "Olympic team" story, but those are about the only reveals there I'd care to pursue.

My first reaction was.....
"C'mon, there's no RED MEAT here!"

Then I started thinking about whether and how I would respond to bein' tagged, and realized it might be difficult for me to meet the requirement.
Aviatrix has done a great job of sticking to her Blog's subtitle...
she's stayed pretty close to writing a "discourse about aviation stuff."
Now and then she has shared some VERY personal things goin' on in her life... interesting too, but the detailed information she has revealed, for the most part, has been related to how it affects her job or her pursuit of a job.

On the other hand, as she indicates in her post, I've been much more forthcoming here at Pitchpull...
"Musings about life through the eyes of an old helicopter pilot".
But her reason for tagging me-

"....because there are a number of things that his readers know about him and can predict he will say...."?

But maybe she's right-
I've aired quite a bit of my dirty laundry here. And maybe I am predictable.
But it is harder for me to come up with facts you don't know because I've already told you many things I'm ashamed of..... stuff I hoped many of you had either experienced yourself or had been directly exposed to in your life, so you'd realize I'm an ordinary guy with many of life's problems and be more comfortable coming here, reading my now-and-again rants.

So I sat with pen and paper and gave it some thought.
Hoping to avoid having you yawn while reading my list, I tried to expose certain things that would make you say "hmmmmm!",

(at least while reading the lead-in.)
I also decided to follow the "Baker's Dozen" rule....
I'll give you six facts for the price of five so you don't feel shortchanged.
I do reserve the right to Blog about any and all of these things in further detail sometime in the future!
So without further ado-


Well, sorta.

When I was 13, a friend and I came home at dusk one evening to find a pickup truck parked in my driveway. The pickup belonged to one of my Dad's co-workers. Dad had driven it home from work and the co-worker planned on stopping by later to drive it home.
My parents weren't home.
The keys were in the ignition.
Today, a good lawyer would call this circumstance "an attractive nuisance".
We went for a 15 minute joyride and got back safely. Ten minutes after our return the co-worker arrived and came to the door, announcing he was leaving with his truck. Why he didn't notice the truck was already at operating temperature when he started it is beyond me. Maybe he did and just said nothing...... I'll never know.
But that night, two barely teenaged boys stole (borrowed?) his truck and got away with it.

I shook hands with President Nixon in 1971. If you are aware of the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon", you know that shaking hands with President Nixon probably puts me within six degrees of most of the population of the world, including Kevin Bacon.
For instance- I'm just two degrees from Presidents Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, certainly.
Nikita Kruschev, Leonid Breshnev, and Chairman Mao are also on that list.
The list could go on and on...... you get the picture.

Shaking hands with me puts you in pretty tall cotton.

I have a semi-interesting family surname.
I can't say it's uncommon, because there are variations of it making it VERY common. Our family surname is frequently misspelled because hearing it, folks assume a more common spelling. There are so few people who spell their last name as our family does, we can pretty much assume those that do are related to us in some way.
Back in 1968, during a break between classes at ARMY flight school, I went to the Men's room and had a Warrant Officer Candidate approach me. Having seen my name tag he asked, "Sir, where are you from?" Only then did I notice we shared the same last name. I told him I was from Indianapolis, Indiana, and found out he was from Pennsylvania.
The next day I met him again in the Men's room. He walked up with a smile and asked, "Sir, is your Father's name Harlie?" Ya coulda knocked me over with a feather! His Dad had met my Dad sometime in the past, and we were distantly related.
Anyway, the point of this story is that 200-some years ago, a man from Delaware with my surname signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
Another probable distant relative was in command of the first airplane to cross the Atlantic ocean- the date was September of 1917. That flight also was instrumental in cementing the use of the letter "N" as the beginning of U.S. aircraft registration numbers.

(The Golf Course at the Pensacola Naval Air Station is named for this man, and the airplane is on display at the museum there.)
None of that adds a cent to my paycheck, but it's still interesting stuff.

Now, let me back off that claim just a little-
Although I'm pretty sure, there's no way I can prove that.
I was ten years old. I wanted the paper route, but my parents and the route manager were worried I was too young to handle the responsibility. The route manager came and interviewed me, and after talking with my parents and me, decided to take the chance.

I had the route for almost five years.
It was a great experience, teaching me volumes about managing money, and life in general.

I was an Instructor Pilot in the ARMY.
I wanted to teach as a civilian, but to do that I had to take the civilian written and practical exams. The written exam was one of those that takes forever to complete..... it's a comprehensive son-of-a-gun.
I bought a test guide to help me prepare for the exam. I'd lie in bed every night reading the guide and found it to be one of the best sleep aids invented by man!
I finally gave up studying and decided to risk taking the exam.
If I passed it, that would be wonderful.... a cause for celebration.
If I failed it, at least I'd get the results from the exam to show me where I needed to focus my study efforts for the retake.

It took me almost exactly four hours to complete that sucker, and when I finished my head was swimming.
I was certain I had failed it.
When the test results came in the mail, I opened the envelope cautiously.....
I got a 70! (One point from failure.)
That fact doesn't change my paycheck either!

Oh yuck.
Well that lead is also a little misleading-
I DO NOT have genital herpes!

Like many of you, I had Chicken Pox as a kid... No big deal.
Fast forward to when I was 18...

I met a gal I was pretty enamored with.
Night after night, week after week I spent time with her I should have used to get much needed sleep. I exhausted my reserves and lowered my immune system's ability to protect me. I got a disease called "Shingles".
Shingles is cause by a virus called "Herpes Zoster",
the same virus that causes Chicken Pox.
Allowing my immune system to be degraded allowed the virus to flare up and reappear as Shingles.

Interestingly, just this week it was announced that a vaccine has been developed to be given to people over age 60 which will protect them against shingles.
You can bet I'll be taking that vaccine soon!

So there ya go.....
I've met my assignment, and more.
And ya know what? There's still more to tell!
Watch this space.

05 January 2007

Olby, Olby, Olby!

Some time back, we had a discussion about ratings on Cable TV News Channels.
Ratings are out for the past week.... let's check 'em out, shall we?
(Via Drudgereport.com)


FNC SHEP SMITH 1,374,000
FNC HUME 1,258,000
FNC GRETA 1,194,000
CNN KING 1,014,000
CNN COOPER 835,000
CNN DOBBS 814,000
CNN ZAHN 643,000
CNNHN BECK 467,000

That Keith Olbermann is really zooming up the charts, isn't he?
10th place!
Watch out O'Reilly, you "worst person" you!

04 January 2007

Meet, Greet, Eat, Bleat...

If you're a pilot that Blogs or a Blogger that levitates with no visible means of support, there's something neat in the works you need to be aware of-
The IFR Pilot has started the ball rolling towards a meeting of folks who write Blogs I have read and enjoyed for some time now.

We're in the initial planning stage- still trying to sort out the best place to meet. (Right now, it looks as if we're gonna have access to a lot of Canadian beer).
If you fly and have an interest in meeting and sharing an experience with a bunch of folks with large egos, click this link to add your name to the mailing list.

I think it'll be lotsa fun.
I KNOW it'll be interesting!