30 September 2007

Hi-Tech Scouts

Former student Tom calls and says, "I'm involved with an experimental unit of the Boy Scouts and I was wondering if you'd help me?"
According to Tom, the Boy Scouts are experiencing dwindling numbers. In the face of "Halo 3" and other distractions, scouting seems pretty boring to kids, I guess. Tom is a leader in a program the organization is testing to try to get kids interested in technological vocations like aviation. Tom owns a nice Piper Seneca, and has already exposed the boys to his airplane... showing them a thorough preflight, then taking them on a short flight. He realizes taking a bunch of boys (and a few girls) for a ride in the helicopter would be cost prohibitive, but wants me to talk to them about what makes the machine tick... helicopter aerodynamics... being safe around helicopters... what jobs are available today... what I think the future holds for the industry in general.

I'm glad to volunteer to help and flattered that Tom would ask.

Two hours before the Scouts arrive I push the helicopter out and give it a bath. I've been givin' it "a lick and a promise" for a couple weeks now, and I'm glad to have the incentive. "Pledge" on the windshield, a good vacuuming of the interior, then a damp cloth to take the dust off the instruments, panel, and all the hard surfaces. I'm pleased when the job is done.

The group arrives. There are 8 boys, 2 girls, and 4 adult leaders. I had forgotten about the semi-military nature of scouting, and was mildly surprised when Tom called the group to attention, then put them "at ease" to introduce me and ask me to detail my background.
I'm also surprised, looking at these 16-17-18 year old faces, to hear myself talking about almost 40 years of flying beneath varied rotor blades.

We discuss how helicopters are like airplanes, and how they are different. We talk about how to avoid being dissected by rotor blades. I hand Tom the checklist and we do a thorough preflight, discussing how the various components make the machine work, and how stresses sometimes make those parts break... necessitating a good preflight.

Three of the boys are soaking all this up like a sponge. The rest, including the girls, are along for the ride... they're "punching a ticket" for some reason... to get one more merit badge? I don't know. They're not disrespectful or disruptive... they're just "there".

Finished with the preflight, I position the group a safe distance away and start the bird, then do a short hovering demonstration, to include flying backwards. When I'm ready to land, I do a hovering autorotation, demonstrating what the pilot would do if the engine failed while hovering.

Another question and answer period follows with a few more questions about my demonstration. One of the kids asks, "what does the helicopter cost?" I can tell they're a little stunned at the answer.
I explain why helicopters are so expensive, but I sense much the same thing I feel whenever I talk with the public about helicopters... although the R22 has brought the cost of flying helicopters down by a huge margin, they are still prohibitively expensive for "everyman", and I don't think we will see a helicopter in every garage in the foreseeable future.

But the industry is changing. There are more and more helicopters flying. Within five years, virtually all the Viet Nam era pilots will have retired... the industry is aware of this fact and the numbers of students learning to fly helicopters is up dramatically in the last year. One flight school is advertising on National media outlets.

I hope Tom's experimental Scout unit works. Today's video games are amazingly realistic. Kids need to be exposed to the real world those games emulate.

27 September 2007

I Really Left My Heart, In...

Savannah Georgia.

Spring of 1968-

Ole Prairie Dog, another classmate, Jim, and yours truly were about to graduate from Primary Flight School at Ft. Wolters, Texas.
Our leaders informed us we had a choice to make:
The Viet Nam war was chewing up helicopter pilots at a pretty rapid rate. The ARMY realized a need to expand their training facilities and in addition to their Advanced Flight Training School at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, had just opened a facility at Savannah, Georgia to increase the output of pilots. Those of us that thought we might like to train at Savannah rather than "Mother Rucker" were told we should submit a letter stating why it would benefit the ARMY for us to get orders for Savannah. The whole idea of training in Savannah... heart of the
Old South and near the beach... fascinated me. I had to stretch pretty far to come up with a reason that might seem logical to my ARMY leaders... after finishing Flight School I had applied to go to Cobra School, which was located at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.
I suggested that if I was already at Savannah, the ARMY wouldn't have to cut new orders and bear the expense to send me there.
I don't know if my letter was convincing or if there were so few classmates asking to go to Savannah that all those requesting to go got their wish, but OPD, Jim, and I all ended up there.
I'll always be glad I made that decision. I loved the town.

We moved into a 200+ year-old townhouse in a part of town being gentrified.

We were all single. We knew at the close of training we were going to Viet Nam. We were in a town with a great history, a bustling economy, and great restaurants...
(we lived two blocks from the famous
Mrs. Wilkes boarding house.)
As you might guess, we tried to pack a lot of living into the four months we spent in Savannah!

We loved to eat at a restaurant called "The Boar's Head", located on River Street. There was one thing that kept us from going there as often as we would have liked...
River Street was paved with cobblestones, and driving to the restaurant rattled the fillings outta your teeth. I hated those stones!
That is, I hated them until I got the history lesson:
Ships from England would dock on the river to pick up mostly cotton, some tobacco, and other goods "the colonies" could offer. These ships came to Savannah empty, and were loaded with the stones as ballast for stability. Deckhands would throw the stones overboard to make room for the cargo headed back to England, so those stones were used to pave River Street. When I realized the cobblestones had all made the long trip from England on sailing ships, I had a different attitude about driving on them.

I looked for a photo to give you a look at the stones and found the one below.
If you've never been to Savannah I recommend you go.

But ladies... if you're gonna walk around River Street, wear flats!

24 September 2007

U.S. Health Care

"An MRI in May 2005 revealed a tumour in her brain. Her family doctor couldn't expedite appointments booked with specialists for July 19 and Sept. 19, 2005. As the tumour pressed on her optic nerves, her vision deteriorated."

Talk about terrible health care!
This system MUST be changed!
It's expensive, inefficient, and it's certainly not meeting the needs of the people.

And worst of all,
some folks want to model the U.S. Health Care system after it!

A malignant tum(our), removed in time to save the patient's life, in the U.S.!
C'mon, think about it... Do we truly want Socialized Medicine here folks?
Our Health Care system isn't perfect... not even close.
But it's a lot more responsive and a helluva lot better than anything else I'm seein' out there.

20 September 2007

Use It Up, Wear It Out?

Them's my new boots, just arrived from Sporty's Pilot Shop.
They're exactly like my old boots except I'll have to go through the temporary pain of having to break these in. My old boots were wonderful... like putting on an old pair of slippers.
But there's a big problem with my old boots...
my feet get wet when it's raining because there are "substantial" holes in the soles of both boots.

I've been wearing "Wellington" boots since High School. I like the look of them. While I was riding motorcycles I liked the protection they afforded my ankles. Once they are broken in I love the way they feel.

Normally I'll wear them until the soles wear out, then have them re-soled. With proper care, I'll re-sole a comfortable pair a couple times before cracks begin to appear on the boots alongside the widest part of my foot. Then I start lookin' for a new pair of Wellingtons.

My old ones were quite comfortable, and except for letting weather in, were perfect.
I took them to my local shop to be repaired.
The sign on the door said "Closed".

So I grab the yellow pages and search...
Shoe repair, boot repair, shoe sales and service?
No listing.

I ask friends.
Most referred me to my old shop, thinking as I did that it was still open.
Now I'm desperate. I ask friends from other towns... and find out most were driving all the way to my old shop for their shoe repair.

Last week, while in "Big Town", I ask friends if they can help. One tells me of a shop that is 60 miles from my home, but it's not far off the route I take when I come to town to teach students. Well if that's my only choice...
I walk into the store, and immediately there's a bad vibe...
The proprietor isn't friendly... he's got "attitude".
He gives my boots the once-over and without humor says, "Well, ya wore these out, didn't ya?"

"Yep. Are they repairable?"


He produces a form, takes down my name and phone number, then says "that'll be $70, and I need payment up front."

Seventy dollars!?
A new pair will only cost $104, and my company will reimburse
all but $4 of that as a uniform expenditure!

He shrugs. He's not tryin' to work with me at all.
"Do you want 'em fixed or not?"

"I think not. Thanks anyway."
I pick up my boots and walk out.

At the airport, after hearing my rant, one of my former students says, "I know this old Italian guy that'll repair 'em. He charges $38. I'll take 'em and have him fix 'em."

But there is an alarm in that sentence, isn't there?
"An old Italian guy?" He's more than 80 miles from my home.
Under normal circumstances I wouldn't make that trip to have a pair of boots repaired.
I'll bet he doesn't have an apprentice at his elbow learning his trade. When this old craftsman dies, what then?
We all know the answer to that question... we'll be pitchin' something into the trash that once could be recycled. Like so many things these days , it'll be something we can add to our "I can remember back in the old days" list.

Isn't that sad?

I don't want to end this post on a downer, so I figured I'd show ya this article to make ya smile!
Some of "the old days" are making a comeback!

Iraq's Future:

17 September 2007

Chris Muir Has A Set

And I want to support him:
In today's political climate, publishing this cartoon takes guts.
Thanks Chris.
Keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel!

It's Enough To Make Ya Scream!

I guess it's one of Murphy's Laws...
I'll have to get an updated copy of those.
Sara Jean and I just spent a great weekend in my old hometown, Indianapolis, Indiana. We stayed and visited with a couple of old friends. Saturday night we went to a dinner theatre and saw "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas", where I was shocked to find that Madame Mona had lied to me... there really IS "somethin' dirty goin' on" there!

Sunday morning we slept in, had a light breakfast, visited some more, then met another classmate we hadn't seen in eons for brunch at a Restaurant/Marina overlooking Geist reservoir in Northern Indy. Gorgeous day, good food, great company... a happy reunion.

We got in the car to head home knowing that our best bet was to refuel in Indianapolis... Gas prices at home are running $2.85 per gallon. We drove by a station offering fuel for $2.80... "I know we can do better than that!"

When I saw the sign that said "$2.65 per" I stopped and filled the tank. Total cost: $39.08. But I had saved almost $4.00 over refueling at home, right?

Back on the road I say to Sara Jean, "Let's just cross town on 38th Street rather than goin' back to the Interstate. It'll be a trip down memory lane for me."

Five minutes later the sign in front of the station said "$2.52".
Damn! That's 13 cents a gallon I just wasted!

Another five minutes... $2.44!
Where's my knife? I want to slit my wrists!

All the way across town, ALMOST to the Interstate on the West side, the sign said... you guessed it-

I wanta wring someone's neck!

A friend emailed and said with that price differential, there almost certainly was a car wash purchase involved. My response- at that price, I could have used the wash!

13 September 2007


Another neat picture, huh?
Beautiful boat... Beautiful girls.
And it's not hard to imagine how it was taken-
The boat is
zippin' along at 40 knots or so, with a helicopter... photographer half out the door, his camera click-whir-click-whir-clicking as he gets as many exposures as he can while the angle is right.

What's the pilot doin' while all this is goin' on?
Almost the same thing as the photographer...
He's watchin' the boat too, trying to keep the helicopter in exactly the right position so the camera guy can best get his job done.
Who's minding the store? What's in front of the helicopter?

What happens if the engine sneezes?

We know folks have more automobile accidents when their attention is divided between driving duties and talking on a cell phone.

How much more distracting than the cell phone is it to try to "fly formation" with a speeding boat while doing something with each of your extremities?

Now and then there's a tragedy. More and more we see those tragedies on video...
Helicopters crash spectacularly.

this incident, the "beautiful girl" happened to also be an emergency room nurse, and risked her life by jumping into a fuel/water mix to attempt to save a life. Unfortunately, her efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

Flying helicopters is a complicated task. Using them as a tool to do the things we do with them every day, all too often, makes headlines.

11 September 2007

Remembering 11 September

"Mr. Holland's Opus" is one of my favorite movies.
Haven't seen it? Add it to your list!
Like "American Graffiti", (also starring Richard Dreyfuss), I can't imagine anyone not being entertained by it.

Dreyfuss plays a musician having trouble making ends meet, so he takes what he thinks will be a temporary job as a High School music teacher, just to pay the bills until another "gig" presents itself. You can probably guess how the story unfolds.

While life goes on and this music teacher touches the lives of hundreds of his students, Mr. Holland is writing a symphony. I won't spoil the movie for you, but it ends with an orchestra playing the symphony Mr. Holland has written.

Until recently I thought the "symphony" we saw in the movie was pretty much the whole enchilada. Poking around YouTube, I find the work, actually composed by Michael Kamen, is a much longer piece... 8 minutes plus.

So here, to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack and America's response, I share with you-
"An American Symphony", by Michael Kamen, with images by Rebecca Duncan:

10 September 2007

The "Fight For Victory Tour"

I'll be busy catching up on my mandatory "10 hours of uninterrupted rest" tomorrow, so I won't be able to attend-
Shame too, 'cause I'm sure I'd love attending and bein' surrounded by folks that are not "self-centered."
But if you are within reasonable driving distance of the Windy City, please give consideration to making your voice heard with other like-minded souls.
You can check out the location and time by clicking and reading
ThirdWaveDave's post on the subject.

And if ya go, come back and comment about it, please!

It's Just Physics!

No question...
With wings it would FLY!

09 September 2007

CBS News

Yeah, I mean you... the Network that formerly employed that slimeball Dan Rather!
Still up to your old tricks, aren't you?
I was on my way into Bigtown to fly with my student, and at Noon I took a chance and tuned in your news broadcast on the radio.

Two things puzzled me:
1. You referred to the (new?) Osama/Usama Bin Laden video and said he looked younger and healthier.
Uhh... are you looking at the same video I'm seeing?
The one with the sunken eyes and the apparently fake "Just For Men" beard?

This is a still of the video I saw:

...And I'm sorry CBS, but to me it looks as if some dude with VERY, VERY long arms has one up OBL's anal orifice to control the movement of his mouth so he looks as if he's still alive.
Just sayin', ya know!

2. The other refreshing thing I heard was that "Conservative Nebraska Republican" Senator Chuck Hagel won't be seeking re-election.
Hello... CBS?
What planet have you been living on for the past few months?

Repeat after me....
You may not know what those letters stand for, so your assignment, should you choose to accept, is to go look 'em up on the search engine of your choice, and when you find the answer, leave a comment and let me know you can identify a real conservative when you see one.
(By the way, the Democrat most likely to succeed Chuck Hagel is more conservative than he is!
Good Luck Harry Reid!)

Thanks CBS.
It's good to know that in this ever-changing world, there are still some things I can depend on!

That's real comforting.

07 September 2007

$15 An Hour!

My Paternal Grandmother died of ALS... Lou Gehrig's disease.
She was an odd case, because she wasn't diagnosed until she was well into her 80's.
She had been extraordinarily active for an old gal, so it was exceedingly hard to watch her slowly lose control of her body...

become unable to form words...
eventually being unable to swallow.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit says if you view the 4 minute video, $1 will be donated to the fight against ALS. By my calculations that means you can earn the equivalent of almost 15 smackers an hour by just clicking this link and viewing the video.

So c'mon... click the link!
And Bloggers... post it too!
Friend John called after reading to extend his condolences at the loss of my Grandmother. I should have made it more clear... Grandma died almost 30 years ago. I'm sorry for the confusion. Thanks anyway John!

What's In A Name?

I can remember a story from some time back-
Sales of General Motor's Chevy II Nova in Mexico were falling short of expectations.
Someone finally figured out "No va" in Spanish means "don't go". When the car was renamed, sales picked up. Great story huh? It's really a shame the story is false.

Now come the Koreans with what turns out to be a pretty fine car, considering the price.
Do you suppose they gave any thought to what a Viet Nam veteran might think of the company name?

04 September 2007

Dear Jacoby,

Well Bub, for a 24 year old you sure know how to stir the pot!
I was at the races on standby in case there was a bad accident there.
Ken Schrader had just walked by.
Nice man. I got to shake his hand and tell him I "enjoyed his work".
The Modified class was on the track warming up for their first heat when a guy on an ATV drove up...
"Your dispatch is tryin' to contact you!"

Apparently we were in a dead spot for our beepers. I pulled out my cell phone and called our Base. Over the roar of the cars I hear-
"There's a bad MVA just South of Little Town. One known fatality there so far. All occupants were ejected from the vehicle. There are three survivors. Two other helicopters are also enroute. Your flight is a GO."

In three minutes we are airborne.
The flight to Little Town will take 9 minutes.

You picked a great night to have an accident, Jacoby.
A gorgeous evening... the sun was just setting. Mid-70 temperatures with a light breeze out of the Southeast, and there wasn't a cloud within 250 miles. The weather was beautiful, so something else had to make my job difficult:

I pulled the trigger to key my microphone-
"Base, this is ******."
No sidetone, no response.


"Base, this is ******".
No response.

This is more than annoying.
Lives are at stake here, I have a VERY short ETA, but that's meaningless if I don't know exactly where I'm going. And I need to know where the other flying Mixmasters are so we don't collide.

I switched to our alternate frequency-
"Base, this is ******, over."

"Base, this is ******"
Still nothing. ARRGHH!

We have a back-up radio in the rear that we use mostly for calling the hospitals.

I tell my Nurse what frequency to dial in, and she says, "You're up"-
"Base, this is ******"

I recite the alternate frequency to my Nurse and she dials that number in-
"Base, this is ******!"
"****** this is Base, go ahead."
"We're about five minutes from Little Town. Can you tell us where we're goin' and update us on our patient?"

"******, they now want you to meet the ambulance at the helipad at Little Town hospital.
Your patient is a 24 year old male, ejected victim of a vehicle rollover. That's all the information I have."

And that's you, Jacoby.

I take a chance on my main radio working on another frequency, this time to call the hospital-
"Little Town hospital, this is ******, over."

"******, this is Little Town, go ahead."
Thank God! It DOES work on some frequencies!

"Little Town, we have a 3 minute ETA to your helipad."

"******, Be aware there's another helicopter inbound for landing."

Head on a swivel, scanning the horizon for lights or movement...
It's getting dark. Seeing no other aircraft, I land.
I help my Nurse and Paramedic disembark, then look up to see another helicopter circling the pad.

I strap the BK117 to my back and bring both throttles back to operating RPM. Over the helicopter Unicom frequency I attempt contact with the other machine....
No response!

Oh well! I gotta get out of his way. I take off, then circle the helipad and watch as his crew gets out with a patient and rushes into the ER.

That's your brother on their stretcher, Jacoby.

He was ejected from the car so forcefully his jaw has been torn off. The crew cannot find his windpipe in the mass of torn tissue, and cannot establish an airway so he can breathe. They're hoping he lives long enough to make it to the ER where they will have better light and conditions to get his airway started.
But time runs out.
Your brother dies.

I land in a grassy lot adjacent to the helipad, shut the helicopter down and enter the ER. My crew is giving you a good look-over, preparing you for the 35 minute ride to Big Town.

It's certain you have a broken pelvis, and since you remember no details of the accident you probably have a head injury. You are scraped, lacerated, and bruised from head to toe. You are gonna be mighty sore when you wake up tomorrow.

We later find out you and your brother were in the car with your cousins, and one of your cousins was probably driving. We suspect he was driving because of tell-tale indicators- both his thumbs were broken, an indication he had his hands on the steering wheel when the car left the road, hit the tree, and began to roll.
Your cousin the driver is D.R.T... (Dead Right There, on the scene.)
Your other cousin's heart stopped at the scene, and they performed CPR on him in the helicopter until they got to where a physician could check him out and pronounce him truly and officially dead.

You'll want to know... your brother died from lack of oxygen in a room less than 20 feet from where we loaded you onto our stretcher to fly you to Big Town.
When I chatted with the Paramedic that attempted to save your brother he said,
"The car was a mess. We couldn't tell what kind of car it was, except that it was White. But the passenger compartment was relatively intact".

Jacoby, this is SO painful!
You (and yours) inflicted a lot of stress on a lot of folks.

And now we are all saddened because we know not only will you suffer physically, but there will be terrible mental scars too...
Your brother and two cousins are dead...
All of 'em young, vibrant guys.
And it's terrible to think they likely all would have survived this chaos if they had just buckled up.

Today on the local news, I hear that your home is my Little Town, so we probably have friends in common. I'll easily be able to check on your progress.

In the future, our paths may even cross while we are shopping for groceries.

It's my hope that in your case wisdom comes with age.
At 24, by the Grace of God, your physical wounds will heal quickly and fully.

The mental scars may take longer.
I'll be thinking of you.

Your EMS Helicopter Pilot,