Friday, June 11, 2010

Marginal Weather Flying ~ Just for Grins

It's not really a good idea to do any marginal weather flying just for grins. I've learned that if something is going to go wrong, it will most likely go wrong when you are doing something you have no business doing.

The weather wasn't really marginal this day. It was actually pretty good. I wasn't in Korea either. I was flying offshore for PHI at South Timbalier 151.

I flew a 206B Bell Jet Ranger like the aircraft on the left in the picture below coming in for a landing at the end of the working day.

Though the weather was good the humidity conditions were such that when the oil men needing transport climbed onboard the inside windscreen immediately fogged up. I kept a rag near my collective where my left hand could easily grab it and wipe the wind screen clean when necessary.

I was working my tail off keeping the windscreen clean that day and getting tired of it when the thought hit me that there was nothing to bump into out there. I could see fine out of my side window and it was more than sufficient for what I had to do. So, the thought continued, "I should just takeoff and leave the windscreen obscured." After all it wasn't going to hurt anything, and so I did.

The oil man that had the pleasure of sitting in the front with me, looked at the obscured windscreen as I pulled pitch and lifted from the rig; he then looked at me all calm and peaceful without a care in the world; then he looked at the rag I had previously been wearing out. He grabbed the rag and started wiping furiously saying, "I don't know how you can see anything out here!"

I just looked at him and smiled. I didn't have to clean another windscreen that day. Life was good...

The above was short so I'll add another quick brief one from offshore...

I got a call to head to the beach and pick someone up. Soon after a fellow pilot buddy called and said he had a man on his rig that needed to go to the beach. He wanted to know if I could take him. It was no problem, so I agreed.

PHI had an altitude limit of 6,000 feet. Most of the pilots stayed between 300 feet and 1,000 feet never going any higher. Prior to landing on my buddy's rig I called weather to check winds aloft. All the way up at 6,000 I had a good tail wind that would get me to the beach pretty quick, so I made up my mind that I'd be heading way up there to take advantage of the tail wind after picking up the man on my buddy's rig.

The passenger climbed in. I pulled pitch and took off. Since I was heading to 6,000 I just left the pitch pulled in so I'd keep climbing to where I wanted to go.

In short order we went through 1,000 feet the highest altitude most oil men ever experienced in little birds. We kept climbing. The oil man didn't say anything until I climbed through 2,000 feet, then he looked at me with a puzzled look and said, "Where're you going?"

I looked at him and smiled with a questioning response, "To the moon?"

He said, "I, I, I believe you!".

It was still a good flight. Staying 1,000 feet or lower you never had to worry about yourself or your passengers needing to clear their ears to adjust to the pressure changes climbing to and descending from higher altitude causes. Also, it seemed a lot of oil men got scared up high. This passenger didn't complain and he also didn't seem to have any problems with his ears. He was obviously glad to have a short ride to the beach onboard a helicopter instead of a long ride on a boat, in spite of a pilot he didn't know that flew higher than most.

Clearing your ears would more likely be a problem if you were dealing with a cold. It is recommended that you not fly with a cold.

My wife often refers to me as "one more Dave". The two above were short, so I think I'll add one more that I was told.

It took place in the days before PHI pilots wore company uniforms. A seasoned pilot did a workover at a base where the oil men didn't know him. This pilot got together with the dispatcher to pull a PJ (practical joke) on the oil men. Since he was dressed like the oil men and looked like the oil men since PHI didn't have any company uniforms back then, he told the dispatcher, "My bird is ready. I'm going to go hangout in the lounge like I'm an oil man. After a little bit, go tell all the men the bird is ready and the pilot will soon be there as you point them in the right direction to go load."

Base dispatchers often assisted with loading.

The dispatcher went and relayed the message after a reasonable amount of time. The pilot joined the crowd and headed to the aircraft with them like he was one of the boys. When they got there, he climbed in the back as if he belonged with them.

There they sat patiently waiting for the pilot that was supposed to show up soon. Of course he wasn't never going to show since he was already there. After a bit and no longer patient one of the men started bad mouthing the pilot.

The pilot who was in the back joined in with the bad mouthing saying, "Yea, if that sorry SOB doesn't hurry up and show up soon I'm going to have to climb up front and fly this thing my own self."

A different oil man said, "Ah, you can't do that!"

The pilot said, "Well we'll just have to see." He then climbed out of the back and hopped into the pilot's seat. He noticeably looked around the cockpit until he spied the operators flight manual. He pulled the book out and thumbed through the pages until he found the section covering starting procedures. Then he started slowing going through the procedures awkwardly looking around for the required switch or whatnot. Saying out loud what he was looking for as he searched, "Battery switch?" His finger would go from switch to switch until he found the right one. Then with a happy exclamation he'd say, "Ah Battery Switch on!" as he flipped it. Then he'd go to the next item.

The oil men sat in the back obviously thinking, "yea right, this fool thinks he's going to fly this thing. It'd be a miracle if he even managed to get it started.

Finally the pilot read out, "Starter switch?" His search began. When he found it, he pressed the button, pulled the trigger, or did whatever was necessary for the helicopter he was in.

The turbine engine started to scream:

All the oil men bailed out with due haste when that happened.

The pilot completed a successful crank then he pulled his ID out and held it out the window shouting above the roar of the turbine, "I'm your pilot, I'm your pilot. It's okay, Come on and get back on" as he also tried to wave them back aboard.

The oilmen just stood there on the ramp shaking their heads no. The pilot had to finally shut down and call another pilot that he knew that one of the oilmen also knew to vouch for him before they would climb aboard again.

Shortly after that stunt, PHI pilots had uniforms.

Well, there's enough tall tales for today. I hope you enjoyed...


No comments:

Post a Comment