30 March 2020

"Bad Boys, Bad Boys..."

Compared to others, maybe I've had a strange life.
I've worked at MANY jobs.
Being a Deputy Sheriff was one of 'em.

Now, don't get me wrong-
I spent virtually all the time I wore that badge in a helicopter flying overhead, mostly at night, providing "Night Sun" services to my guys on the ground who were actually doing the "dirty" police work. I continually marveled at how patient my fellow Officers on the ground were, dealing with society's "nasty underbelly".

Here in Phoenix, Arizona last night, a 32-year Veteran of the Police Force was shot and killed. Certainly, he had to be approaching retirement. Another Officer was wounded in the same attack and thank GOD will likely recover.

I was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam.
Before that, I trained to be a "11B Light Weapons Infantryman".

Knowing what I know now, I'd MUCH rather be flying a helicopter over enemy troops or walking patrol as an infantryman, than be a Cop in today's world.

They are "Front-Line Defense Soldiers" in today's environment.
And it's a scary nasty job.
I'm surprised anyone wants to do it these days.

When you see a Cop, thank him/her.
If you can... buy 'em breakfast/lunch/dinner, as we do.

25 March 2020


The sun is out. Our windows are open and we have ceiling and floor fans moving air.
It's PHOENIX for heaven's sake! And this "disease" makes us glad we are here for another reason.

Arizona is now one of the States suffering from few cases of the outbreak. I think at this writing there are less than ten folks identified with it, and no deaths so far.
We can't eat indoors in restaurants, but they are all still open so we are trying to throw money their way in appreciation of their suffering.
We DO NOT want the restaurants within walking distance to shutter their doors.

We had planned on flying home Monday. Word came today that won't be happening. The flight has been canceled. We are grateful for the extension on tax filing because that was the main reason we needed to be home.
We're just worried about our neighbors looking at our grass growing, wondering if they should call a local farmer to turn his cattle loose on our pasture.

We are blessed.
But we are at "WAR".
And we are now searching for ways to help those around us that are not so fortunate as we.
We've been overseas so we  CANNOT give blood, though we'd love to.
I think the TRUMP administration should illuminate what people can do to help others from the safety of their homes.

So, for tonight, I think we'll get takeout from Olive Garden.
Yes... I'd like parmesan on my salad, please.
And LOTS of it.

20 March 2020

Helicopter Air-To-Air Combat!

The MAIN mission for Army Helicopter Gunship pilots is to provide Close Air Support to the guys doing the dirty, actual work in Viet Nam; the "grunts". If they encountered serious resistance, they could shout for us. We'd come out and identify where they were, and where the resistance was coming from, and try to help them move on with their mission by eliminating that resistance.
To help them more efficiently accomplish their mission we'd frequently move a team of gunships to a safe harbor somewhat close to where they were doing their job so we could more quickly react to their needs.

One of the "safe" places we frequently re-positioned to was a little artillery base called "Polei Kleng".
This base was located about halfway between the city of Kontum, Viet Nam, and the border with Cambodia. It was VERY mountainous territory. In the valleys, the "elephant grass" grew so tall that when we inserted infantry troops into it they were simply swallowed whole... and I always wondered how in the world we'd ever be able to come back and recover them if that was necessary.

It was a scary place to fly. Our old "Charley Model" Hueys would not hover when we filled them with fuel and ordnance to do our mission. Our takeoffs were always done like airplanes...
Scooting along the ground until we were going fast enough for the rotor to reach out into the "clean" air necessary to lift all that weight. This was called a "running takeoff".
But we had a job to do, so we did it.

One day we got a call from an Air Traffic Controller-
"Almost nightly we've been watching a "primary" target come across the border from Cambodia and land just West of you. It's GOT to be a helicopter! Would you be interested in trying to shoot it down?"

Imagine the headlines.
Imagine the textbooks:
"First Air-to-Air helicopter combat in history!"
Were we excited? Were we all smiling?
Our faces HURT in anticipation.

So here was the plan-
ATC would call us when the "suspect" target appeared on their screen flying Eastbound. We would launch as quickly as possible on a Westerly heading. They would then guide us to the location of the "enemy" aircraft and as it reappeared on their radar after takeoff we would turn it into a ball of flames.
It would be... EPIC.

So we waited at Polei Kleng until the call came from ATC, right at dusk.
We launched in three minutes and headed West as fast as we could go.
From ATC: "He's just landing, about 10 miles West of you".
We couldn't see him, but knew we were eating up the miles between us as he offloaded whatever it was he was carrying into Viet Nam.

Again, from ATC: "Okay, he's back airborne, about two miles from your flight path."
And we're thinking, "We've got this S.O.B.!"
We still couldn't see him. It's getting dark, and of course he's "lights out" to prevent anyone from seeing him.
From ATC: "He's on your nose, about three miles distant."

ATC: "He's 12 O'Clock, four miles."

ATC "He's 12 O'Clock, six miles."
And we are pulling the GUTS out of our old Hueys trying to make them do things they were never designed to do.

We never did see him.
Our wager later was that he probably was in a French "Gazelle" helicopter, capable of about 30-40 knots faster airspeed than our old Charleys.

So we never did make history.
But it's a good story, and a fun memory.

17 March 2020

Lt. Bacon

St. Patty's Day rolls around and I'm always reminded of the guy that taught me to fly the Bell UH-1 "Huey". His name was Bacon, a 1st Lieutenant.
He was a Viet Nam Veteran, a great guy, and a Southern gentleman with an accent to match.
He told me this story-

"I had a set of students, both of 'em had been airline pilots prior to starting flight school. Both learned VERY quickly and were so good at performing new tasks, I had to search hard for things to downgrade them on when I filled out their daily report slips.
One day we were flying in particularly rough weather and both had difficulty maintaining assigned heading and altitudes. During the debriefing, when I showed them the 'less than perfect' grade slips, one of them commented, 'SIR! It was really rough out there!'
To which Lt. Bacon replied, 'Well guys... when this happens you should just say something like-
Sir, I think I have something in my eye. Can you take the controls for a minute?
That way I'll take the controls and see how difficult the conditions are, and I'll take that into consideration when filling out your grade slips!'

That night was St. Patrick's Day, and I went to the Officer's Club to partake of some green beer.
I partook of a LOT of green beer!
And the next day, while flying with these two excellent students, my gastrointestinal tract was acting up a little...
Correct that... my G.I. tract was acting up a LOT.
I could not help filling the cockpit of that Huey with an aroma so strong I was surprised it didn't peel the paint off the instrument panel!
After about my third 'volley', real SCORCHERS, over the intercom I heard-
'Sir, can you take the controls? I think I have something in my NOSE!"

I think of Lt. Bacon every time 17March rolls around and wish there was a way I could contact him. I can't even remember his first name.
But he taught me well, and I OWE the man a lot.
Including the ability to retell this story!

15 March 2020

Logic = Common Sense?

I started flying a helicopter ambulance in 1986.
An old ARMY aviator I respected that had been doing the job a couple years gave me the best advice I ever received:
"Ground ambulances were doing this job long before helicopters started doing it. Don't kill yourself, your crew, AND the patient by flying in weather you shouldn't be flying in!"
In other words, there are times where "Just say NO!" saves lives.

Here in Arizona we frequently see reports of someone who has gone out hiking in the mountains and gets hurt, forcing an emergency crew to risk their lives to save the injured.

Right now we're watching "The Perfect Storm" on AMC and the Air Force Blackhawk has been dispatched to fly in unflyable weather to attempt a rescue of the sailing vessel "Mistral".

Even after being warned not to put myself and everyone else in the aircraft at risk, I still sometimes ended up flying in situations where I used ALL of my skills, (and then some) to get everyone back to safety. And I learned from those situations.

If you-
Don't wear your seatbelts.
Ride a motorcycle and don't wear protective gear.
Drive after consuming alcohol.
You are putting yourself AND OTHERS at risk.
And I resent that.

Don't be stupid.
Live to fight through another day, and don't force others to take risks to save you.
And don't cause heartbreak for friends and family.

11 March 2020

Beauty, In the Eye of the Beholder-

Helicopters were NOT naturally beautifully machines.
When we speak of beautiful machines I think of the Jaguar XKE; the Gulfstream Jet; Raymond Loewy's Greyhound Scenicruiser. (Yes, the big bus!)
While I was in ARMY Primary Flight School I lusted after the Bell UH-1 Huey. Not because I thought it was beautiful, but because I knew I'd likely be flying that aircraft while getting shot at.

At Ft. Wolters, Texas, one evening I went to the Post theater and saw a movie called "The President's Analyst" starring James Coburn.
Near the end of the movie one of the characters comes onto the scene by landing in an aircraft similar to the one pictured above- A Bell JetRanger model 206.
I'd never seen one before. It took my breath away.

I couldn't have imagined at that time that I'd end up getting nearly 1600 hours total time in that model aircraft.
Other helicopters in the "nearly beautiful" category?
The AH-1G Cobra.
The Bell 222, (like the machine in "Airwolf".)
And the Sikorsky S-76.

Well... in MY eye they are!

07 March 2020

Virulent Virus

I'm inwardly shaking my head.
Now we can't shake hands?
Yep... don't wanta spread germs ya know!
And I wish I had some time ago bought stock in the company that produces hand sanitizer.

The cruise ships have been out in front of this stuff for a long time. When you show up to eat there you'll be met by a welcoming crewmember, smiling, and insuring you use the hand sanitizer before you enter the dining room.
NONE of the crew aboard the ship will shake your hand. The preferred method of contact is the fist-bump.
Cruise lines, knowing the spread of disease is their achilles' heel, have been VERY proactive trying to control it.
And they've failed.
We humans are bacteria-laden, nasty animals. So you use the hand sanitizer and get into the buffet line. While there you reach up and scratch whatever that irritating thing making your nose itch out of it's den of irritation. Then you grab the serving tongs. And the next person in line receives your hidden gift!

Some time back I was in a buffet restaurant. I had finished my entree and was ready for some of that wonderful looking banana pudding I had seen at the dessert station.
On my way to serve myself there, a young boy of about six ran ahead of me and got to the big bowl of pudding first. He grabbed the serving spoon, plopped a healthy serving onto his plate, licked the spoon with a very satisfied look, and returned the spoon to the bowl.
I decided the carrot cake looked wonderful.

We humans are social critters... wonderful and efficient at sharing stuff.

Wash your hands. Often.
And try to keep yourself otherwise in good shape.
You need every advantage you can gather.

05 March 2020

At the Dentist.

Some time back I broke a crown on one of my molars.
I immediately went to the Doc to have it checked out.
"The basic tooth is intact... it was just the crown that cracked. The tooth is fine. Can you stand the feel of it?"
Interesting question. The remnants of the crown WERE jagged.
Ever try to keep your tongue from going over there to cop a feel?
I got used to my tongue's flirtations with it.
And I put off the fix, knowing I'd be here in AZ soon.

My son turned us on to this (his) Dentist.
When we first moved him here to the PHX area, he lived in a nice apartment complex that was located in a... kind of questionable neighborhood. We first realized it was "iffy" when we saw the signs:
"Bait cars in use."
He never had any problems there, thank goodness, and has since upgraded his living quarters.
But one of the neat things that came out of the experience was his finding a new Dentist that serves this underprivileged neighborhood and serves it WELL. He loves it and recommended it to us.
They take digital X-Rays. They take them for FREE. Those pics are available instantly, and have cut the cost of our dentist bills DRAMATICALLY.

Dentistry has come a long way. I now have a new crown back there.
My tongue is no longer interested in that corner of my mouth.
And that's great.

04 March 2020

Why I Hate Dogs-

If you're here regularly you know my title is a lie.
But our Lucy will be 14 people years old in June. She's had some sort of funky psoriasis-like stuff on her belly since she first adopted us.
She's been under the Vet surgeon's knife three times... two of those to remove cancerous growths.
Now we're finding a weird flap of tissue on her belly again.
Could she survive another major surgery? Do we want to spend beaucoup bucks to have another surgery on a dog that's over 90 dog years old? And with her history, how long would it be before we had to make this decision again?

We've decided to let this play out.
It's tough, because our family agrees- this is the smartest dog we've ever owned.
You know... she's family.
And we know we'll lose her soon.

That's why I hate dogs.

03 March 2020

THE "Assault Rifle" !

"Wait... you DON'T own an AR?" he exclaimed.
And I understand why he's surprised. I own many different pieces, in many different calibers, figuring it would be better to have a variety so that maybe some sort of ammo would be available when needed.
I own an M-1 Carbine. The round, to me, looks similar to the 5.56 round used in the AR.
But I'm no ballistics expert.

I have a chance to buy a Ruger "Mini-14" on sale at a GREAT price.
The sale ends soon, so I need advice from my expert friends-
Should I pull the trigger on the Ruger, or wait for a great deal and buy an AR?