I have been out of pocket for almost two months. Here is a quick update, training went relatively well. I still have a couple more events but have completed all of the big stuff and I am waiting on flying to be scheduled. Way back in February, when I met my sim partner we had a very brief discussion about what it would be like. Chris is a really good dude who worked his tail off during training. But he is a single seat, zipper suited, sun god whose vast experience mostly included dropping bombs on the sand people. At the time; I don’t think he believed me I told him that it would be one of the most painful and humiliating experiences in his professional life but if he agreed not to judge me, I promised not to judge him. Today, I promise you he is a believer.
I was asked by a friend to describe why training is so hard. The closest thing I could come up with is to think of your family doctor. I am sure they are wonderful, competent and a highly skilled general physician with many years of experience. Send that same person back to medical school in China. It is the same human body with the same organs but totally different language and procedures. After thirteen years of working with my company, and twenty-six years of flying, I still found this training cycle to be a real kick in the pants.
I have been thinking about buying a sports car after I finished training. I was thinking that I had earned it and that I was probably responsible enough to safely and legally operate it. All that changed this past Monday night. I was driving the second fastest production car in existence on a round trip finishing up a short three-day training cycle. You might be wondering what the second fastest production car is so let me break it down. It is the economy class rental car from Enterprise. By the way, the fastest production car in existence is your friend’s economy class rental car. Crossing the state line into West Virginia, I was pulled over for going 82 in a 65. The officer told me that the speed limit dropped when I crossed over from Kentucky but that he would have still pulled me over for 82 in a 70. I didn’t tell him that I knew the speed limit would drop and I had just slowed down five miles an hour. Yes, it is a fact that I am not mature enough for a Corvette.
Which leads me to today which is my birthday. I have been racking my brain in the few free moments on suggestions for presents from my wife and kids. Last week they settled on the gift that keeps giving. Yard treatment from a local yard care company. My wife decided that I finally needed to have the best-looking yard in the neighborhood. To say that I was psyched would be an understatement. Thick, luscious, green grass that is free of weeds and needs to be mowed every three days is exactly what I have been dreaming of since I was twelve. My Dad had that kind of yard and when he made me mow it, I did my best to make it look bad so he would fire me from that chore. The good news is that she had not signed the contract so when I told her I got a speeding ticket, she said that she was canceling the yard treatment and I would be paying the ticket as my birthday present. I want to thank Officer Kennedy, the City of Kenova and the State of West Virginia for getting me out of that. Happy Birthday to me!
Finally, tonight I have to head back to training and tempt fate. The last time I was in airplane on my birthday was April 6, 2003 in Iraq. On that birthday, I used up three of my nine lives on one flight and I promised myself that I would never fly on my birthday again as my present to myself. Well, I have to climb on board that airplane but since I am ridding in the back, I am going to use pilot reasoning to trick myself that I am not breaking my promise to myself. I am going to include the links to the set of stories about that night. I wrote them in mid-April 2013, so they are new reading for many of our newer friends. I hope you enjoy. By the way, my heart still starts racing when I think of what happened that night.
I am going to spend the rest of the day watching the crab grass grow and thanking my lucky stars that Officer Kennedy gave me that ticket.
Until next time, keep on rockin!
I am going to be taking a temporary break from writing for a few months as I am going to school/training for the spring. This has been planned for almost a year now and I am looking forward to being completed with the school. In the grand scheme, it is a great time to be in training.
I will be missing some quality time with my wife, but being apart is something we know how to deal with and it is for a small season in a lifetime.
My kids are still young and while I will miss some little league baseball and middle school softball games. I will be able to make more of the events as they grow into their teens. But it isnt my fault that I am missing the ski season though, it is February the 17th and it is going to be in the 60s this weekend. I promise that Global Warming isn’t my fault.
I am going to miss a big part of the NCAA Basketball tournament and the opening of baseball season. But they will have more games next year.
I am scheduled to finish school in early May but I fully expect it to be extended a couple of weeks which again isn’t a big deal. I am still hopeful to be complete by June and making all of the summer vacation plans.
So off to school I go. I hope to drop in from time to time but I cant even attempt to promise when that will be right now.
But before I ride over the horizon for a while, I want to leave you with a new site that I found recently. Sean Patrick Hughes is a former military guy who has some really interesting views on the current political climate. I always try to give you guys a different perspective on what is going on in the world, but this guy takes different perspectives to a whole new level. He is so good that I am encouraging anyone who likes President Trump to read this site and he is so good that I am encouraging anyone who hates President Trump to read this site. I promise that you will not get Sean’s level of analysis anywhere else.
Until next time, keep on rockin!
You probably have noticed that I haven’t been writing much in the last few weeks. There has been so much rich material like the Super Bowl or President Trump or the Grammys or personal things like going snow skiing for the second time ever or Bar-B-Que. But I am going to training for work in a couple of weeks so I have been focusing on the pre-training and tying up some loose ends before school starts.
Our good friend, Karlene has written a new book. It is her fifth overall and fourth in the series starring Darby Bradshaw who continues her quest to make the commercial airways safer. Karlene is an airline pilot with over 30 years of flight experience, she has been at eight airlines, she has seven type ratings, she has two Master’s degrees and is completing her PhD in aviation safety. It the axiom is true about writing about what you know, they you can bet she knows the commercial aviation system.
The newest adventure deals with pilots and mental health. Now before you go off and think that all pilots are stable, rational humans like I am; consider that there are at least two documented cases of pilots attempting to kill themselves by crashing an airliner.
In 1994 a FedEx pilot, Aubrey Callaway was jump seating on a MD-10 and tried to hijack it with a couple of hammers and a fishing spear gun. He attacked the crew as the airplane climbed to altitude and left all three pilots severely injured. They were able to subdue him and land the airplane.
In 2015, Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was able to successfully commit suicide by crashing the Airbus airliner he was flying into a mountain in the French Alps. He was being treated for suicidal tendencies and was ordered not to fly by his doctor. He hid this from his aviation doctor and was able to continue to work.
I am sure there are more cases of death by pilot suicide and I am also sure that the missing Malaysian jet was one of those cases but since they haven’t found the jet yet, we will just have to speculate. But here is the deal with pilots and mental health. We are just like everyone else. Everyone has life events and everyone needs time to deal with those things. Pilots are no more fortunate or able to cope than the rest of the population. But unlike the rest of the population, if a pilot seeks professional help for their life issue, they could be in jeopardy of getting at least a year off work.
Maybe it would be justified like it was in the case of Mr. Lubitz and maybe it is too much. If a pilot takes medication to help them deal with a life issue, then they get a year off automatically before they have to prove to the FAA that they are healed. What kinds of life events am I talking about? You know the kind that happen every day. Marital issues, divorce, kids with health issues, death of a family member, debt, bankruptcy, criminal proceedings, substance abuse problems, and addiction problems just to name a few.
It isn’t uncommon to work with a 62-year-old pilot who is on spouse number four. Wife number one divorced him several years earlier and their three kids are all train wrecks with purple hair and nose rings because daddy was off in China every Christmas. Now he works a full month, sales back his vacation, goes on overtime trips to China and is pulling in 450,000 a year. But after taxes he really brings in 275,000 a year. That is great money until wife number one takes her 100,000 in alimony and child support. Wife number two gets 75,000, wife three also gets 75,000 a year. Now the gold digging, thirty-three-year-old baby mama to kid number ten thinks she is going to live on easy street with this guy. What is she going to do when she figures out every dime he makes goes to another woman? What is she going to do when she figures out that he doesn’t have any retirement and he is in debt up to his eyeballs? Do you think that guy has any stress in his life? He is a walking black cloud because of his life choices.
How else can you explain why a pilot would be in a normal, regularly scheduled bi-annual simulator when they snap. They take off their shoe and pull off a sock. They put the sweaty sock on their hand and start talking to it like it is a puppet.
“What should we do now?” The pilot asked the sock puppet.
“How about the one engine inoperative approach checklist?” The puppet said.
“That is a great idea, Mr. Puppet. First Officer, will you run the one engine inoperative approach checklist?” The pilot said.
As that conversation was taking place, the real First Officer and the real Instructor Pilot are watching this. It was the end of the simulator. That pilot is flying over your house at 35,000 feet today after winning a hearing to return to work with back pay because of being fired by their company because they got a really good lawyer.
But there are two sides to the mental health issue. What happens when the company decides to fire a pilot because they dared to bring up a safety violation to the FAA? What happens when the company gets a quack doctor to intensely interview/interrogate that pilot for two days like the CIA would do to a member of the Taliban? What happens when that quack, who is on the payroll of the company declares that the pilot is unfit to continue to fly because they have been too successful in life? They have too many advanced degrees, they have too many well-adjusted children, they have only one happy marriage, they are a follower of a God that died and was raised from the dead, and they still believe that the world can be a happy place. That pilot is obviously crazy and should never be allowed to get close to an airplane again so the company is justified to fire that pilot because they dared to speak up. This pilot is currently grounded because they chose to act with honor and integrity as opposed to the pilot in the above case because they immediately lawyered up.
That is what Karlene is writing about and the sad thing is that the truth is stranger than fiction because everything I just wrote about is as real as a heart attack and it all really happened. I can’t wait for my training to be over so I can find how Darby solves the mental health problem.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
I know I haven’t posted anything in quite a few days. Sorry, but I have been busy with life. Yesterday, was the first day in many that I had the opportunity to sit down and relax. My wife and I spent a couple of hours watching President Trump’s inauguration. No matter what you think about President Obama or President Trump, it is nice to know that in the United States we can still have a peaceful transition of power without bloodshed.
Watching the television coverage, my wife asked what Hillary was doing? I made some sarcastic comments and then we had our answer. She was there. No matter what you think of her, that is a classy move. At least that is what we both thought at the time. However, this clip casts a shadow of doubt on that theory. Maybe, President Clinton still can’t be trusted.
According to media outlets. Melania and Hillary’s outfits were both designed by Ralph Lauren. Maybe he was just comparing and contrasting the dresses.
Maybe this scream wasn’t about Trump after all. Maybe she was just projecting what Hillary was thinking.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Hope you all have a great holiday and 2017 has started off for you just as you have dreamed. We are going to continue the storytime series picking back up in the spring of 2005. When we last left off, I was crewed with Shydog the co-pilot, Anita the navigator, Richie the flight engineer, Carl D and Pat M as the loadmasters. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of self-induced stress and other human factors that left me pushed out of shape and probably not mentally prepared to conduct a war. But war doesn’t stop just because a person doesn’t feel good or is in top condition. So, I was forced to suck it up and be all I could be.
We were based at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) in Uzbekistan and flew every other day into Afghanistan. We would bounce between several fields in Afghanistan before returning eighteen to twenty hours later. We got the next day, twenty-four hours off and do it again. After a few weeks, it was already old and after a couple of months it would have been considered torture had we forced the PUCs (person under control) to live like that. Tactically speaking, Afghanistan was relatively safe with only pockets of danger. However, those pockets tended to either be in the population centers. Cities like Kandahar and Jalalabad. Smaller villages like Asadabad (I don’t remember the name of the dirt field we landed on there), Tarin Kowt (another dirt runway I don’t remember the name of) were dangerous because the US didn’t control land even as close as two miles from the runway. And all of the mountain areas were considered dangerous because you never knew where the Taliban might have been hanging out.
We did our best to be random and unpredictable when we approached all of the places that we wanted to land and avoided as much as possible overflight of the eastern mountains. Kandahar was one of the largest cities in Afghanistan and in 2001 it was the center of the Taliban’s area of influence. After we bombed the snot out of them and built up the base, it really wasn’t dangerous but it was still worthy of respect.
Having said all of that, there is really nothing as much fun as flying a fifty to one-hundred-mile low-level flight. I’m not talking about flying around at three hundred foot like we did in the States. I’m talking about a seventy-five-foot bubble where any obstacle might encroach within that radius. The dessert terrain in Afghanistan is much like the terrain of Colorado. There are some serious mountains and there is a high dessert plain which is not perfectly flat like Southern Iraq. So as the terrain rose or fell, we also climbed of descended to stay within fifty to seventy-five feet above the ground. Sometimes we had to climb to get over a mud house and sometimes we found ourselves at two hundred feet because the ground fell away from us. It sounds scary today writing about it, but when you flew around like that for hours upon hours every other day. It was normal and dare I say fun.
Making our approach into Kandahar, it was Shydog’s turn to fly. By this time in his career, he had three times more combat hours than he had regular hours flying the C-130. His first rotation was with Billy G, and Billy taught him well. Shydog was so good at flying, that he was teaching me stuff. We would have contests to see who could go faster and lower towards the runway before pulling off the power and landing within the first 500 feet. It was all I could do to hang with him. I promise you, he was razor sharp and it wasn’t unusual to be fifty feet above the ground, four miles from the field and three hundred and twenty knots before he started to slow down. I don’t think he flies like that at Southwest Airlines now, but if he is your pilot know that you are in good hands.
There we are, screaming in towards the runway and already cleared to land on the runway by a control tower that we can’t see because we were so low. At four miles, the airplane started slowing down and the runway just started to appear at the top of the horizon. Three miles out and just passing two hundred fifty knots. At this point, we are still going four miles a minute, forty-five seconds from landing. I’m not concerned at all and neither is the crew, I am just starting to put my flight gloves on for the landing as mandated by the rules. At two miles, we can clearly see the runway. The airplane is approaching the maximum speed to start putting out the flaps. As I do, the airplane starts to balloon because of the additional lift on the wings. Shydog holds the yoke forward maintaining the altitude. This is important because we don’t have distance from the field to slow down and descend. Maximum performance requires minimum altitude. At a mile and a half, I lower the gear and milk the flaps down as the speed bleeds off. Watching Shydog fly this approach is like watching Picasso paint a picture. It didn’t look good early on, but now it is a masterpiece.
As we slow, Richie sees a garbage truck approaching the runway from the right side. Every time it hit a pothole in the dirt road, dust billows out of the back of it. It isn’t a modern-day garbage truck like you see once a week, it is a 1950 era truck that should be hauled out instead of hauling out trash. Richie called it out to us and I told Shydog I would watch it so he could continue to fly. Undeterred, Shydog kept flying as I set the flaps to the landing position. Our goal was to have the checklist complete a full second prior to touching down so it was not unusual to be moving the flaps passing over the threshold. This day, Shydog slowed down about a tenth of a mile early, so I was moving the flaps to the final landing position about a quarter of a mile prior to the runway. You could feel the airplane pivot around the pitch axis as the nose noticeably lowered. We were not descending yet, this is strictly a function of drag so Shydog had to add power to maintain the airspeed. I probably called him a chicken for slowing down a tenth of a mile early. Don’t worry, he called me that and more. It is a tough life when everyone is striving for perfection.
I was about to run the checklist, when the garbage truck drove onto the runway. Then it turned right and started driving right down the centerline of the runway. It left a dust contrail in its wake. That is when it started.
Shydog had a documented history of being demonstrative on the flight deck. That means that he swore like a sailor anytime he did something that he thought was messed up. Other than some good nature ribbing, he never turned his anger towards another crewmember. For Shydog, it wasn’t self-abuse; It was normal.
“Go-Around.” Shydog said followed by. “Motherxxx…son of a xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx, I cant xxxx believe that xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, here we xxxx are xxxxx doing xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, then that xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxx garbage truck xxxxx xxxx xxxx xx xxxxx xxxxx…”
Tower called us and directed us to go-around after Shydog started to go around. I acknowledged it and Shydog was so mad that I am sure his voice was heard over the microphone. It was all I could do to keep from laughing as I raised the gear and reset the flaps. Shydog flew a perfect go-around except that he never said any aviation terms. As we went around, I know we passed over the top of that truck by about ten feet and I know that Shydog did it on purpose. I bet that scared the guys in the truck to death. The airplane is loud, we used to fly over friend’s houses stateside at three hundred feet and it would rattle china cabinets. When it flies overhead at one hundred feet it is really loud. I imagine that when Jesus returns, it will sound a lot like a slowly accelerating C-130 at full power ten feet above your head.
“xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx stupid xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx tower xxxxx xxxxx”. Shydog kept flying, pulling up into a closer to normal downwind. He never stopped to take a breath, just one constant, steady stream of verbal diarrhea. “xxxxx xxxxxx toilet xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx airport xxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx cookie xxxxx xxxx xxx xxxx xxxx ponytail xxxxx xxxx xxxxx.”
I like the rest of the crew couldn’t stop laughing. I moved the gear and flaps as he flew without any direction from him. Rolling onto final the garbage truck was now clear of the runway and once again we were cleared to land. The tower guy apologized and told him not to worry about it. It wasn’t his fault, it was just one of those things. I composed myself and spoke in my best radio voice with Shydog’s filthy language clearly in the background. “xxxxx xxxx xxxxx tower guy xxxxx xxxx xxxx garbage truck xxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx clear to land xxxx xxxxx xxxx.”
I looked at the final landing configuration and turned to look at Richie, Anita and to my surprise Carl D was up front with us in tears, enjoying the comedy show. We all gave a thumb up that we could safely land. We were happy but Shydog wasn’t. “xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx.”
The wheels touched down gently. “xxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxx.”
He pulled the thrust levers into reverse. “xxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx.”
The airplane slowed down smack dab on the center line. “xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx.”
I tapped his hand to signal that I was taking control of the airplane to taxi into parking. “xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxxx.”
The tower guy cleared us to our parking spot. Shydog’s duties now required him to talk on the radio. He asked if he could say something to the tower guy.
“No!” I said.
“Roger.” Shydog replied to the tower guy’s clearance. “xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx Robbie xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx won’t let me talk.”
We touched down and taxied clear. After we shut down the engines, we went outside the airplane to stretch our legs. Shydog was still upset. “xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx I xxxxx can’t believe that xxxxx I had to do a xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx go around in a combat zone. That is unacceptable.”
There were two Apache helicopter gunships flying around the pattern the entire time. They were taking turns flying over the runway. Richie and I never commented on them but we both knew they were doing flight training. We called it a Local Pro which was an abbreviated term for Local Proficiency Training. We flew those at home and we would fly non-tactical practice instrument approaches and normal procedures. It was only something you would do if we were certain that you were not in danger from enemy fire. To the Army guys, Kandahar wasn’t necessarily a dangerous place; it was home.
“What do you think those two Apache’s are doing?” I asked Shydog.
“I don’t know. Fire suppression?” He said.
“No, Local Pro. Dumb Ass.” Richie said.
The crew started laughing again and finally, Shydog started laughing at himself.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Another week went into the books over the weekend. Sorry that I was caught up in work that I didn’t get the update out earlier.
Of course the big news of the weekend was the victory of the Arkansas State Red Wolves over the University of Central Florida. Saturday was a really busy day for the house, I worked the night prior so getting to bed at 8:00 AM didn’t get things going off to a great start but I was happy to be in my own bed so all was good.
While I was asleep, my wife, kids and dog went to participate in a local 5K run/walk to support a family who has a 12-year-old daughter suffering from cancer. We know this family very well, they are an amazing family and an inspiration to the entire community. Before I send you to their place, bring some tissues. Not because of their story about their daughter who has cancer, but for yourself because you are not as strong/faithful/loyal/convicted/courageous/grounded/ as they are. If you want to check out the site they have dedicated to their daughter; here you go. http://courageouskatie.weebly.com/
After I slept through the 5K, I did drag myself up to go see Star Wars. No spoilers here so if you haven’t seen it you may read without worry. It was good but it was not Empire Strikes Back and there were no really cool flying scenes, like this twenty-four second scene from last year’s movie.
If you don’t care about the video, here is a photo.
After a breakfast of butter popcorn, a traffic jam out of the mall parking lot and some guy in a wrecked Camry telling me when a good place to spend the holidays. I went to my daughter’s Christmas party at Church. That was good fun but I was beginning to drag after a four-hour nap, that popcorn form the movie and two pounds of chicken nuggets. We got home about nine and I gathered up the local contingent of the Red Wolves fan club to watch the game on CBS.
As President of the club, there is no way that I am going to just throw on some jeans and tee shirt for a Bowl Game. Heck No, I go all out for a regular season game and add some extra flare for Bowl season. It isn’t pictured here, but I had on my lucky, big game underwear. Since they are only for big games, I wear them sparingly and never wash them.
The Red Wolves throttled UCF 31-13. It was my favorite kind of game, boring and from the beginning of the 3rd quarter, the outcome was never in doubt. If was just plain good fun passing out in my bed from exhaustion around midnight.
This weekend is Christmas. I know that might be a news flash for many of you but I actually researched it and it is true. I don’t normally promote videos but this one is really good and it puts this whole I didn’t get the right color, most wanted present ever in the history of my life, thing in perspective.
Probably not going to check back in until next year so enjoy the holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone…until next time keep on rockin.
Quick post today about one of the guilty pleasures of my life. Most of you don’t know, but I am the President of the Arkansas State Red Wolves Fan Club, West Virginia Branch. That’s right, I am in charge of the entire state. I organize watch parties, club events and cookouts for all of the ASU alumni in the great state of West Virginia. I took over the posting in 1995, I was elected to a record twenty-one year consecutive term last August.
I am proud to forward the following statement.
The The Arkansas State Athletics Department announced Sunday that its Sun Belt Conference champion football team has accepted an official invitation to play in the 2016 AutoNation Cure Bowl presented by Florida Hospital on Dec. 17 at 4:30 p.m. (CT), when it will face American Athletic Conference member University of Central Florida.
The Red Wolves, making a school-record sixth consecutive bowl-game appearance, will face the Knights at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., in a CBS Sports Network-televised game.
Bowl season is so much more fun when your team gets to go bowling too. And it is even better if it supports something worthwhile.
Until next time, keep on rockin