Monday, May 31, 2010

Marginal Weather Flying ~ Windshield Wipers

Huey Windshield Wipers

The Huey came equipped with windshield wipers. We were told NEVER to use them though. To save weight the Huey windscreen was made out of plexiglass until the Army finally decided to upgrade to glass which added an extra 40 pounds to the aircraft's basic weight. A single windscreen was held in place with something like 120 rivets I was told. (I never counted them for myself). If you used the windshield wipers they would glaze the plexiglass windscreen causing the aircraft to be circle red X'd from night flights due to the now hampered visibility from the scratches the windshield wipers caused. Flying with a glazed windscreen during the day wasn't very pleasant either. Your crew chief would have to drill out each of the 120 rivets individually to remove the now defective windshield so it could be replaced. It was not a pleasant job and you would be forever on his dung list if you were the one who caused the need for replacement through windshield wiper usage. So, the windshield wipers were for ornamentation only and NEVER to be used no matter what!

Crazy Harry (introduced in "The Road to Korea") gave me my 1st orientation flight in country. He was tagged w/ crazy for behaviors not involving how he flew. He was the units buffer zone check pilot and Cobra Gun Ship instructor pilot. In the aircraft he was a consummate professional and anything but crazy unless a genuine operational necessity dictated a real need for above and beyond.

One of the stories that helped Harry get tagged crazy involved his day off in Vietnam. Since he didn't have to fly he decided he would go out on patrol with a LRP team. (LRP = Long Range Patrol pronounced Lerp). The big deal among these guys was who could be the first one out of the aircraft. Harry had made up his mind that he would be first. On final approach to the LZ (Landing Zone) Harry spied a hugh mud hole. At about 50 feet he figured he could make it, so he jumped.

As soon as Harry was out the door the aircraft inserting the LRP team started taking fire, so they did a go around. There's Harry on the ground all alone in a hot LZ. He's just an aviator and not a real grunt like the LRPs he thought he'd spend his off day with. A short heated conversation pursued in the aircraft:

"Stevenson fell out!"

"No he didn't! He jumped! I saw him."

Anyhow the result was the same. Harry was on the ground all alone in a hot LZ. I don't know if that is the tale that helped him first get tagged with "Crazy", but it is certainly one that reinforced the nickname.

South Korea is separated from Communist North Korea by the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which is roughly along the 38th parallel of latitude across the Korean peninsula. Just south of the DMZ is a thin strip of land called the Buffer Zone. It took special training to be qualified to fly in the Buffer Zone. A BZ flight also required a BZ flight plan and an authorization number to enter the BZ. South of the Buffer Zone was a wider strip of land divided into three areas, TAC Zone "A", "B", and "C". These also required orientation and training to fly in, but the training was not nearly as extensive as what was required to fly in the BZ and neither did you need an authorization number to enter a TAC Zone.

Our unit, the 128th Assault Helicopter Company was stationed in TAC Zone "A" just to the north of Seoul Korea. My first orientation flight was of TAC "A" and the southern boundary of the BZ that bordered TAC "A". Airfields and helipads were designated with numbers in Korea. Triple Deuce Valley was a major portion of it because 222 airfield was a key landmark in the valley. On the orientation flight Harry pointed out numerous airfields, helipads, and small villages that had some significance. I was mostly just along for the ride enjoying the sights and not too concerned with mastering any of this stuff just yet.

A few hours after the flight back in our company's officer's lounge Harry was talking about different stuff and places, many of which he had just shown me. He would look at me and say, "You know where that's at. Remember I showed you today." I didn't have a clue. Harry was extremely skilled in how he did it. He didn't really embarrassed me, but his manner impressed upon me how important it was to became master of your AO (Area of Operations) if you wanted to be useful and accepted as valuable team player. I began putting the time in that was necessary for mastery of the AO studying my personal flight map of Korea. If and when Harry or anyone else would ask me if I knew where such and such was I would no longer ever again be clueless. That mastery of our AO would payoff many times over the two years I spent in South Korea.

This is a picture of the mountain top on the east side of the Uijeongbu Valley just to the south of the city of Uijeongbu looking across the valley to the west.

A huge set of electrical power lines crossed the valley just south of the city. They converged at an electrical substation where you could easily cross over the wires while only being a mere 50 feet above the ground.

While I was in Korea the 128th was stationed at A210 an airfield located in downtown Uijeongbu located at the top of the map shown. A common flight back then was between Yongsan and Uijeongbu.

I was ferrying an aircraft one day from Yongsan to Uijeongbu when I encountered a pretty significant cloudburst about where the green marker is on the map. Since it was a ferry flight only the aircraft's crew chief and I was onboard. I was in the right seat and he was in the left seat. Ahead of us the valley narrowed and the power lines crossed. The large volume of heavy rain beating against the windscreen caused my forward visibility to go to practically zero. Out of my side window I could see probably a quarter of a mile only. If I could pickup the small road that led to the power substation we could cross safely.

We continued to press ahead toward Uijeongbu when all of a sudden the windshield wipers came on. There is no way I would have ever turned them on after what I had been told no matter what. But, the crew chief was in the left seat with a front row view of what I was dealing with. If the windscreen got ruined, he would be the one that would have to hand drill each of the 120 rivets to replace the damaged windscreen. I guess the lack of forward visibility bothered him enough that he didn't care.

Immediately after the wipers came on the crew chief said, "Does that help Sir?"

I said, "yeah, sure does".

And they did help quite a bit. I could now see out the front almost as good as I could see out the side window. We easily picked up the small road that led to the substation and crossed the wires with ease. The airfield came into view soon after crossing the wires and I began to slowdown for an approach and landing. Once I began to slowdown I noticed the volume of water contacting the windscreen slacking off. I reached up and flipped the windshield wipers off.

After landing we hover taxied to parking. A small group of pilots that had been in the Operations building stepped outside and watched us park. They all knew I had just flown through a pretty significant rain shower. After shutting down and climbing out while they were all still watching, I got down and kissed the ground.

There was absolutely no damage done to the windscreen. After that I used the wipers whenever I considered the conditions warranted them. I never did ruin a windscreen. I shared my experience with other pilots and some of them also began to use the wipers in heavy rain. The secret was starting with a good clean windscreen and monitoring the volume of water contacting the windscreen. When the volume of water slacked up you had to be ready to turn the wipers off.

One problem with spreading info like this is that not everyone will be as diligent as necessary. On one flight with about ten aircraft the company commander who was along ordered us all to land on a levee and wait until the weather improved to continue. I could see one aircraft down the line sitting on the ground with their windshield wipers going wide open. Needless to say that trashed the plexiglass windscreens and caused one crew chief to be a very unhappy and busy fellow.

How many times does a good thing get ruined by a few who abuse the proper way to carry on?

There's my Tall Tale for today...


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marginal Weather Flying Intro

My post: 178 Seconds to Live covered a brief and unexpected encounter with marginal weather. Flying in marginal weather can both be a lot of fun and very dangerous. I have several Tall Tales I plan to tell involving marginal weather flying. Before I delve off into most of them I need to share some caveats.

I found flying to be an exercise in stacking the deck in your favor. There are no guarantees though other than staying on the ground and never flying. For a pilot to think, "It can't happen to me" is a negative safety attitude. It can and it will regardless of your experience and amount of flight hours if you don't play your hand right and lady luck decides not to smile upon you. I have never strapped a helicopter on without the realization that I might not get to unstrap. As a pilot I like for my mind to go first where my body will follow. In flying and other endeavors I attempt to visualize the full spectrum of possibilities from the absolute worse case to the best case and everything in between. That way, if the worse case attempts to materialize, I'm mentally ready to deal with it which increases my potential for a successful outcome. Aeronautical Decision Making is a broad topic that I won't cover in its entirety, but from knowing the negative safety attitudes to knowing how to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances all contribute to helping you stack the deck in your favor.

The Vietnam veterans I flew with in Korea taught me how to handle and deal with some pretty exciting and potentially dangerous situations. I have two parallel stories involving a similar mission where in one I felt totally in control and safe throughout the mission although some of the weather we flew through was extremely marginal. In the other there was a brief moment where the curtain could have been drawn and the lights turned out and there would have been nothing I could have done about it. I realized afterward that the situation I placed myself in did not allow for a suitable out, but fortunately lady luck decided to smile on me that day. She could have just as easily said, "See ya kid!"

A suitable out? That is a good thing to have for any situation you place yourself in if you have a choice. If you don't have a choice, then maybe it is best to not put yourself in the situation unless the call of duty gives you no choice. Then you better be able to face the worse case scenario should it decide to call on you.

There is a responsibility a more experienced person has toward a lesser experienced person. The lesser experienced person may observe the more experienced person pull off some seemingly difficult task and think he too can now do it. If everything plays out right, maybe he can... But, the more experienced person may have contingencies and suitable outs available to him that the less experienced person has never considered and wouldn't be prepared to execute should the need arrive. So, the point being, just because you observe or hear a good story doesn't necessarily mean you'll have all the right stuff should you attempt to try the same. Most aviation accidents are attributed to pilot error which usually amounts to poor judgment. I'm going to share what I think are some interesting tall tales regarding flying in marginal weather. This is a disclaimer should you be a pilot or become a pilot that you alone are responsible for the choices you make. Unless you fully know what you are doing and the potential consequences be safe out there! If you have to err, err on the side of safety.

One thing I have learned is that if something is going to go wrong, it will most likely go wrong when you are doing something you have no business doing.

When you are a pilot, people sometimes ask you to do some pretty stupid things. You may be fully capable of doing them, but should you? I have learned to run things through a pretty simple test involving the answer to two easy questions. This test works well for flying and doing other things in life and has served me well since I learned to use them.

The test...
1). If I do the requested thing, I ask myself how would I like sitting across the table from someone explaining why I did it?
Ans. If I wouldn't like explaining why I did something, then I don't do that something so I won't have to explain why.
2). Do I have a legitimate operational necessity for doing the requested thing?
Ans. Many things are a pilot's prerogative that do not require an operational necessity. He can do them if it pleases him/her or he can not do the thing in question if it pleases him/her. Somethings that are on the edge of whether or not you should do them are best filtered through the operational necessity test. That combined with question #1 usually gives you a pretty easy answer as to whether or not you should do something. It is nice when things are so simple to decide.

Not all flying situations are equal...
There is an ethos that goes along with flying, and it changes from company to company, job to job, situation to situation. Something may be completely permissible and acceptable in one while the same behavior could be demonized in another. I finished my flying career doing civilian EMS. EMS stands for Earning Money Sleeping... Naw, that's our inside joke. For those who don't know, it means Emergency Medical Services. Those are the guys that put their lives on the line to help people in their time of greatest need. GollyWood portrays them well with their close to death experiences. I've got some news for you that may seem a little bit cold. A pilot in the HEMS business (HEMS = Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) that gets tagged as a "Rescue Ranger" has a bad rep in the business that no one with any sense respects. A "Rescue Ranger" is someone that will push the envelope to get the job done and "save" the person that needs help no matter what.

Wooded LZ
I called a friend, Jon Molstad, who I had flown with in Alaska that had previously worked HEMS when I knew I was going to get a job doing the same. HEMS seems like a job that can use a pilot who is able to deal competently with poor weather situations. Jon told me, "Dave, if you make a bad decision and bend or break your aircraft or worse hurt or kill yourself and your crew, you just took that aircraft out of service for all the patients that will need it downline from your incident or accident. That aircraft is not there for any one given patient, but for all the patients that will eventually need it. So don't mess it up for any one patient." In other words a good HEMS pilot needs to make good decisions that will allow the majority of patients to utilize the benefit of the service. What does that mean? It doesn't make for good "Gollywood", but when the flight phone rings in the middle of the night the pilot checks weather before accepting or declining the flight. If the weather is questionable, the pilot declines then promptly goes back to sleep to Earn Money Sleeping.

The Coast Guard is a little different than a single pilot VFR only HEMS service. I have never flown for the CG so I can't speak from personal experience, but with the right equipment, training, crew staffing e.g. (dual pilots) etc. capabilities increase. But all that costs extra money and there are still no guarantees, even the Coast Guard can crash.

I thought I'd end this tall tale with a small weather story involving the use of windshield wipers, but I'll let this stand alone as an into to the marginal weather flying stories that will follow.

Enough for today...


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Point of Decision

"For many are called, but few are chosen."
Matthew 22:14
My personal belief is that few choose.

My day's work ended and I headed to the appointment I had arranged with the post chaplain Karen had spoken with. I was ready to make my case.

This man could have cared less about what kind of woman Karen was. All he cared about was the life of my baby that I was so ready to discard like a piece of trash. God used this man named Peter Borovec like a chisel plow on my cold, stony heart to see if there might be a hint of fertile ground down deep where seeds of righteousness could have a chance to grow.

chisel plow

A chisel plow is the first implement used in preparation for spring planting after the ground has lain fallow all winter. Fallow ground usually has a hard crust that a disc plow could only barely scratch the surface of until a chisel plow prepares it for the next step. The chisel plow has huge metal chisels that can sink deep into the ground and rip the stony surface crust open.

After the chisel plow is used the ground is ready for the disc plow.

disc plow

I was a young warrant officer in the United States Army. I was also a military instructor pilot. This is a little embarrassing, but when God raked that chisel plow through my cold, stony heart I was reduced to tears. My heart had been prepared to where God could now speak to me and find out what kind of decision I would now make.

Peter also told me that I could never expect a relationship to be blessed and workout unless I got truly right with God first.

When Peter was done with me I went and knelt in the chapel to pray. God came and spoke to me clearly. It wasn't audible, but I heard His voice almost as if it were. This is the conversation we had:

"David, you think you're alright, but I'm telling you there is nothing right about you. Especially with the things you have been holding to lately."

My response, "I know I'm not no saint, but who is in this day and age?"

"David, if you want to be alright, it is time for you to start seeking My son Jesus with your whole heart, soul, and mind. If you don't want to do that, then you just need to go to the devil and know who you belong to. Cause I don't want anything to do with you, and don't you ever feel good toward Me again."

"Whoa!" I thought. Those were strong words. I loved straddling the fence feeling good toward God and delving in the ways of the world mostly in promiscuity and drunkenness. God was telling me to pick the side of the fence I wanted to land on. He had brought me to a serious point of decision. I could no longer have it both ways with what he was telling me. He would no longer allow me to straddle the fence!

God then took me on a tour of the dark side if I chose not to follow Him and start seeking His son Jesus with my whole heart. He said, "If you're a little short on money, I've given you a smart enough brain where you can figure out how to rob a bank and get away with it."

I liked money as much as the next guy, but I'd never been interested in robbing banks. It was like God was telling me that if I didn't want Him it just no longer mattered what I did or what level of wrong doing I took it to.

Next He told me, "If you want to sleep with a woman and she tells you no, take it anyhow. What's she gonna do?"

"Whoa!" I liked sleeping with women, but I didn't want to rape any of them. God seemed to be telling me that my righteousness was like filthy rags compared to His and if I didn't want Him why have any semblance of righteousness.

I believe most people sin through ignorance. They just really don't understand the true nature of sin or its consequences until they or someone they love suffers from the unrighteousness they engage in. Then there are a few who truly have black hearts and don't care about the degree of depravity they engage in or the harm it causes others to experience.

One thing I knew was that I liked feeling good toward God no matter how much I liked my current lifestyle. God was telling me to make up my mind because He would no longer tolerate me having both. I took a hard look at the dark side. I have a personality that is subject to the power of suggestion. I figured that if I rejected God it wouldn't be long before I might find myself engaging in those things He had shown me. I also had enough sense to know that if I did pick those seemingly worse behaviors up I probably wouldn't last too long even though He told me I had a smart enough mind to figure out how to get away with it. I didn't think that was a good side of the fence to jump off on no matter how much I enjoyed and liked my current debauched lifestyle that the world seemed so quick to champion.

I made my decision. I wanted to go with God no matter the cost. I made a commitment right then and there to choose God and start seeking Him with all my heart, soul, and mind. I also invited Jesus to come into my heart and help me on my journey.

There is no doubt in my mind that was the moment I was born again. God had a big job ahead of Him to clean me up, but He is fully capable. I didn't have an overnight transformation, but I would begin heading in the right direction from that point onward, and God along with His son Jesus would help me along the way cleansing me from the sin I previously sought out and enjoyed so much.

"Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool, And so is wisdom to a man of understanding." Proverbs 10:23

It was a life changing decision for me that I have never regretted.

Lord willing there will be more tall tales from both before and after my born again experience. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus I pray you rejoice in my unworthy redemption. If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus I pray this story stirs your soul and makes you curious. Jesus desires for you too to make it through the narrow gate. Simply ask Him to help you on the journey and I believe you will find Him faithful. He is no respecter of persons. If He can do it for my undeserving self, He can do it for you. I've been on both sides of the spectrum and I know from personal experience that it is good over here. Come and taste and see!

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20


Onward to the P.O.D.

Sometime after praying and asking God to do whatever it took in my life to help me make it through the narrow gate a woman came into my life.

She was the prettiest thing I had seen since returning from Korea. She had red hair and was recently divorced with a 17 month old child.

Her name was Karen. Little did I know that she would be an instrument God would use to bring me to a P.O.D. (Point of Decision)

I invited her out on my ski boat which was a 19.5 foot long Reinell with a deep "V" hull.

Those were the days.

We hit it off pretty good and there seemed to be chemistry. It wasn't long before she invited me to move in with her. I took her up on her offer and started paying the rent on the apartment she had leased.

We talked about getting married and I thought we would. She seemed nice and I also liked her parents. Then one day we had a fight. It wasn't a physical fight, but I had never been involved in a fight quite like that ever before. I just knew the relationship was over and there was no way we could make up after what I had just experienced. I went and found an Army buddy and we went to the archery range to waste some time. Karen tracked me down. She was as sweet as she could be and we ended up making up after all.

That was only our first fight and far from our last. At times she seemed impossible to make happy. She would be way out on the end of some issue complaining about this or that. I would go out on that end with her and try to address her issue to hopefully bring some happiness back into our situation. The next day she would be 180 degrees out on the opposite end of her previous concern. It seemed crazy to me.

Each time we had a fight I would have second thoughts about getting married. Spending a married lifetime in a conflict relationship was not something I relished. She got the feeling that I was having second thoughts about us getting married, so one day she told me she was pregnant. She thought her being pregnant would cause me to hurry up and marry her.

During that time we allowed a couple of young Mormon missionaries to come into the apartment and give us their spiel over several days showing us mormon recruitment movies etc. Their solution to the pregnancy was to marry us right away and have us join their church. The day they offered to help me pour my vodka down the drain was the day I told them I had enough of mormonism. Soon after I also found out that Karen had been lying about being pregnant and was just using it as a tactic to coerce me into marrying her.

Our relationship continued on through rocky ground. The cycle of fights continued with me getting more and more of my fill of them with each occurrence. I had asked my good friend and mentor from Korea, Harry Stevenson, to be my best man. He told me he wouldn't be a best man in a wedding to Karen. I can only guess that he knew some things I didn't know, but I do know Harry was and is a good friend.

Our fights were mostly shouting matches. For an example of how bad they were, we were driving somewhere one day when a squabble erupted. The car windows were rolled up and we were sitting close to each other, but we were both shouting at the top of our lungs.

The final fight came when I returned home from work one day to an apartment that was now empty except for my stuff. Karen had packed all her stuff up and moved out without giving me any warning. I looked around the nearly empty apartment and thought, "Two can play this game." I then called a young couple that were Karen's friends before they were mine. They had a spare empty bedroom. I told the man what Karen had done and said I didn't want to stay in this now almost empty apartment alone. I asked him if he would help me move into their spare bedroom until I was able to find a place of my own. And so he did.

After getting all set up in their spare bedroom, it didn't take Karen long to find out where I was and show up sweet and conciliatory. I had made up my mind though that I was done with her and there would be no making up this time. I had had enough. I was as rude as I could be to her. I told her I was done and didn't care if I ever saw her again. When she realized I wasn't coming around this time she turned to leave.

She stopped in the doorway with a parting shot saying, "I have something to tell you before I go, and it is the truth this time. I really am pregnant now."

Even though I had prayed that God would do what ever it took to help me make it through the narrow gate I had been going from bad to worse. I still felt good toward God and knew He was the good guy, but my heart was pretty ugly. I told Karen, "You probably are lying just like you were before. But if you're not, there is one last thing I'll do for you. Take yourself down the road to the nearest abortion clinic and just send me the bill!"

I wasn't near as kind or gentle as the tone and lyrics in this song:

Karen left with my final words for her to send me the bill for aborting our baby. About three hours later she called me and told me that she had visited a post chaplain and told him that I wanted her to get an abortion and send me the bill. The first thing I thought of was the trouble my skinny little white hide was going to get into now especially if this post chaplain called my commanding officer and told him what I was doing.

I found out who the post chaplain was from Karen and then called him to set up an appointment for the next day after work so I could go and explain to him just what kind of woman Karen was before he called my commanding officer.

The meeting was set. Little did I know that it would cause me to reach the most serious Point Of Decision I had yet to know in my young life.

The story will continue... Stay tuned...


How I learned to master math after deserving to flunk

From Practically Flunking 9th grade algebra to learning how to make straight “A”s in Math, this post is dedicated to Zach. I wish you the best of skill buddy. You can do it, and if you can do math you can do anything!

I made it through 9th grade algebra with a “D”. I think I really deserved an “F”, but the rest of my grades were good and I don’t think my algebra teacher wanted to be the one that caused me to be held back a grade. So, she passed me with a “D”.

In my first semester of college which finally came 12 years later, I learned the secret to making all “A”s in math without cheating. I would continue to successfully use this secret to make all "A"s all the way through Calculus III the highest math I needed for my computer science degree.

My problem in the 9th grade...

All the way through high school I only did what was necessary to get by academically. Usually that amounted to an easy “B”, an occasional “A”, and sometimes a “C”. I wish I knew way back then that I had the potential to do well in math and would eventually even like it. After my near flunking out experience in 9th grade algebra I steered clear of difficult maths except for one geometry class where the teacher was exceptional and I did well.

In 9th grade algebra I found most of the teacher’s lectures always went over my head. The mathmatical gears in my head never meshed, they always missed. I solved simple equations through trial and error substitution. Anyone who understands algebra knows how stupid that is and how unnecessary. Equations balance! The equal sign acts as a fulcrum. What you do to one side of the equation, you also do to the other side and it remains balanced. It's all pretty simple to me now, but for some reason I didn't get it in the 9th grade.

My 9th Grade method of solving an equation:

Equation: a - 3 = 5
1st attempt: Try 10 for a; 10 - 3 = 7 oops, too large.
2nd attempt: Try 7; 7 - 3 = 4 oops, too small, pretty close though and the number is one below so a must be 8! Bingo! made it through that one.

What I should have known to do and oh so easy...

Equation: a - 3 = 5
step 1: Isolate the "a" on the left by adding a 3 to both sides: a - 3 + 3 = 5 + 3
Note: I added a 3 to the left side and to the right side so everything still balances across the equal sign. It’s like balancing a board on a fulcrum. If you add 3 pounds to only one side it will tilt out of balance, but if you add three pounds to both sides it will still be in balance.

step 2: adding 3 to the left side causes the 3 to disappear leaving only the a. Adding the 3 to the right side that has a 5 involves simple addition: 5 + 3 which is 8.

Pretty simple stuff if you understand it.

So, what was my problem? There is more to algebra than simply solving equations. There are rules such as knowing the order of operations, how the use of parentheses affect the order of operations etc. Algebra is foundational. It does take a little effort to assemble the building blocks. If any are weak or missing, everything you build above may eventually come crashing down. You also have to practice your art to keep it strong. Use it or lose it. My foundation was weak. Most of the stuff the teacher lectured on went over my head because I didn’t have the proper foundational blocks in place. She always asked if there were any questions. I didn’t know where to begin to ask, so I always kept my mouth shut and counted on my stupid trial and error method to get me by with a “D” I didn’t deserve. Ouch!

I covered why I didn’t go to college after high school in my post the road to Army Flight School. I finally did get around to my 1st college semester in the spring of 1982 after working a season in Alaska and having money in the bank with nothing to do, so I thought I’d try college.

Since I had not been in school in a long while I only took two classes; an english composition class, and an algebra class. My algebra class was for either intermediate or beginning algebra a little below college algebra, which was good because algebra is foundational and my foundation was weak so I needed to start low if I was going to have any chance at success.

Finding my Silver Bullet... It almost seemed like cheating, but it wasn’t.

Since I only took two classes I had some extra time on my hands. One day prior to algebra class I had some extra time and was bored trying to decide how to spend it. I decided to look over the section the algebra teacher was going to lecture on that day before going to class. I had to be bored to attempt to wade through that on my own. WOW! What a difference it made though.

It seems that it is not easy wading through algebra content on our own trying to make heads or tales out of it by yourself. Key issue: I wasn’t attempting full mastery, I was only attempting to get an initial introduction to the new terms and concepts covered in the section. I also looked over the example problems and toyed with working them. Doing this lined my mathematical gears up and got them ready to mesh! It would prove to be a secret weapon to mathematical success for me.

The teachers lecture that day was like having the icing put on a cake. I followed her completely. I was able to ask intelligent questions when necessary. My gears meshed and smoothly turned like a well oiled mechanism. My understanding and grasp of the subject matter increased significantly. It felt like cheating, but anyone could do it and I even found it as a recommended technique in a chemistry textbook. I fortunately just stumbled on it. The feeling in class was so awesome that I made it a habit to take a peek ahead before any math lectures for all my classes all the way through Calculus III and I managed to make easy “A”s all the way through with the exception of one teacher I just didn't click with whose class I dropped and took again with a different teacher with no difficulty.

This new found secret weapon totally revolutionized my attitude toward math, and my new found ease of success even made it fun.

A little extra...

Taking a peek ahead was my silver bullet and my main key to success with math. There are a couple of other key points to be aware of too.

1). As mentioned previously math is foundational, so don’t feel bad about starting at a lower level if it is necessary. Getting in at the right level will increase your chances of success and increase your enjoyment at tackling the math giant.

2). You also have to work plenty of problems. Math is a huge jungle with numerous interconnecting trails. The more problems you work the easier the trails will be to identify and travel. It is very similar to following trails through the woods. Well traveled trails are easy to follow and stay on. Rarely traveled trails can be difficult to pick out and follow. Your teacher is like a guide showing the way. It seems so easy with the guide present and showing you, but if you fail to wear the trails down the weeds and jungle will grow up and make the trails difficult to find and travel, so get in the habit of doing your homework and working lots of problems.

3). It is a balancing act to stay on top of the algebra ball. As long as you are on top it is doable. If you allow yourself to fall off the ball, it can be very difficult to climb back up. It takes a commitment and an effort to stay on top: a) Take that peek ahead, b) always work your homework problems, c) work extra problems if you have the time and inclination, d) and get extra tutorial help if you need it. By doing these things, even you can easily become king of the algebra jungle!

Unless you like wasting money or someone else’s time, don’t get a tutor until you have given a) take that peek ahead, and b) always do your homework; a chance. If you have done both “a” & “b” and still find you need extra help, go for the tutor assistance too when necessary. I've never used a tutor, but my math agility helped me to successfully tutor others.

Teachers can sometimes make a difference too. If you find you're not clicking with a particular teacher after trying all of the above, watch your drop date and try a different one. I did drop Calc III and took it again during a summer semester. Summer semesters go by fast and furious. I told myself I wouldn't attempt a difficult course like Calc III in the summer, but it turned out well with the right teacher when I had to because of time constraints. Also if you find yourself placed in a higher level class than you are ready for and things just aren't clicking like they should, don't feel bad about moving to a lower level class to get your foundation built up to where it needs to be. I did this once too after a long separation between college semesters when I needed a little extra help knocking the rust off.

Now for a little story...

I had been making all “A”s after implementing “a” & “b” mentioned above. This college professor was a beautiful woman and also did a good job covering the subject matter. Some guys liked taking her class just because she was so sweet and beautiful besides competent. It was test day. I was confident with my secret weapon of peeking ahead in place and working plenty of problems that I would do well and the test would be a cinch. All my algebraic trails were well worn and easy to follow. It was also fun. I felt like king of the algebraic jungle and expected a good outcome.

Wow! I even got through this particular test in record time! That seemed a little strange because working problems does take a bit of time even when you are good. I accepted my record time and turned my test in knowing I nailed every problem I worked perfectly.

When the teacher passed out our graded tests, I had a big fat “C” plastered across the front. I looked a little shocked and then turned the page over. There was a whole page of unworked problems on the back. No wonder the test went so fast. I still managed a “C” even though I skipped a whole boat load (page) of problems. A male student next to me saw what I had done and looked at the teacher and said with concern, “You are going to give him a chance to make that up?”

The teacher flashed a pretty little smile with a wink at me and said, “He doesn’t need it.”

And I didn’t... I had sure come a long way from where I had practically flunked 9th grade algebra. And, it sure felt good!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Spontaneous pneumothorax #2

My first summer season in Alaska was over. The year was 1980. I was about to take a Bell JetRanger south to the lower 48 with my mechanic Tom Barclay. We had gear packed to the ceiling in the back and several extra 5 gallon cans full of jet fuel in the baggage compartment. The extra fuel would help us cover long distances between fuel stops in Canada. This would be my first trip flying through Canada. I had arrived in Alaska by commercial air travel.

Everything was ready and I hopped in to crank when I realized I had forgotten my flight helmet in the office. I told Tom I would be right back as I hopped out and ran to the office to get my helmet. In short order I was back in the helicopter and cranking it for our long flight to Provo Utah where Rocky Mountain Helicopters main corporate office was located.

On climb out I started to feel some pain in my chest that was similar to the pain I had felt in 1977 while in the Army when I had a spontaneous pneumothorax. I told Tom what I was feeling and I told him about my previous experience. I also told Tom that the only way you could know for that you had a collapsed lung was by getting a chest xray. I told him rather than make a big deal about something that could turn out to be nothing that I would just plan on stopping in at some hospital along the flight back to the lower 48 and have a chest xray taken to find out for sure if we needed to bother anyone. He didn't say anything and went along went my plan, but later he told me he was trying to figure out how he could dump me out the door and get behind the controls before the helicopter crashed incase I passed out or worse. He had a little bit of stick time so there might could have been a very slim chance that he could have been successful if the need arose.

Years later a medic with no stick time asked if it was possible to shove the pilot out and get behind the controls and save the day if the pilot died. I looked at him and smiled as I said, "If that happens, the pilot dies first and the medcrew dies second. There is no chance in the world you can pull that off".

Our first stop would be Northway Alaska where we would refuel and I would have to file a flight plan so we could go through customs once we got into Canada. Northway was not large enough to have a hospital and I figured Whitehorse Yukon Canada would be the first place where I could get a chest xray.

We arrived at Northway without incident. Before I shutdown the aircraft I had Tom get out and place a couple of bricks where I then landed with my right skid on them so the aircraft had a tilt that would allow the fuel tank to take on a little extra fuel. After shutting down, I left Tom to refuel the aircraft while I walked in to the building to use the phone so I could call flight service and file the needed flight plan.

On my walk to the building the pain was incredible. This was definitely different than the first time where I was able to ambulate okay and felt no pain as long as I didn't jar myself. When I finally got to the telephone I was hurting so bad that the only person I called was my boss, Gene Franks, to tell him I was having serious problems and probably wouldn't be flying anywhere else. Gene said he would try to take care of getting me transportation to a hospital.

When I hung up the phone I headed back out to the aircraft to tell Tom what was going on. It was still a very painful walk. When I got within 20 feet of the aircraft my legs gave out and I hit the tarmac. Tom came over to me saying, "Davy, are you okay?"

I was laughing and crying at the same time. I was laughing because I thought it was silly I couldn't walk another 20 feet and I was crying because it hurt so bad. Tom summoned some assistance. They soon loaded me into a fixed wing aircraft and flew me to Anchorage Alaska.
Mt McKinley as seen from Anchorage
I ended up in Providence Alaska Medical Center where I was given a private room with a view of Mount McKinley.

It was confirmed that I did have another spontaneous pneumothorax. My options were discussed. With the second occurrence I would have to have it surgically corrected if I wanted to get my flight medical back. That was very important to me since flying was how I made my living. Next, if I did elect to have the surgery would I have it here in Alaska or back in the lower 48 somewhere. I decided to get out of the hospital and take a week to decide. Amazingly during that week the pain subsided. Collapsed lungs are strange things based on my experience. I sometimes wonder how many people walk around with one and don't even know it.

It was all setup for me to have the surgery done at Providence. There could be issues with flying back to the lower 48 with a collapsed lung that might complicate going that route. A bird in the hand is better than two in a bush, so I decided I would have the surgery done at Providence.

When i checked back into Providence I no longer had a private room with a view of Mount McKinley. I now shared a room with no view. It really didn't matter to me. Providence took good care of me. The wife of one of the other pilot's gave me a copy of James Clavell's Shogun and Gene Franks wife gave me a computer chessboard set, so I had plenty to occupy myself with. I always figured life can't be too bad as long as you can still read a good book and play a game of chess.

My surgery was scheduled. This would be a totally different experience from the Army hospital where I spent 4 days flat on my back unable to move. The day following my surgery they had me out of bed walking around. They wanted me to walk a little every day. I did have a complication that surfaced a couple of days after the surgery were the doc put another chest tube in me to drain off fluid. There were no half moons cut with a pocket knife this time. I ended up spending a total of 20 days in the hospital and they gave me a shot of demerol every three hours around the clock.

There was an old man on my floor named Gene whom I was told was once a successful business man that had burnt his brain out because of alcohol abuse. I watched him one day strapped in a big chair on wheels making time outside my door. He was definitely trying to go somewhere. I hollered at him, "Gene! Where you going?"

He said, "I gotta get out of here."

I would later be moved into Gene's room. A nurse came in one day to take his vitals. Gene grabbed her wrist with a vise grip and began shouting, "Get out of here! This is my room! I don't want you in here!" The poor nurse couldn't go anywhere with the vise grip hold Gene had her in even if she wanted too.

I was getting so many shots of demerol that both my shoulders and buttocks looked like pin cushions. The nurse giving the shot would always ask me where I wanted it. It didn't much matter to me. I tried to keep them spread around though.

Before moving into Gene's room they moved a man into my room that had attempted suicide. They told him to drink plenty of fluids. All he would drink was straight black coffee. He seemed to call on the nurses a lot. Once I was due for another shot of demerol. I was pressing my nurse call button and the suicide guy was pressing his for some reason and the nurses were ignoring us for who knows why. Finally my doctor walked in doing his rounds. A nurse followed him through the door with a syringe in her hand. The doctor looked down at me moaning on my bed and said, "I've never seen you look this bad." Then he looked around and spied the nurse that had followed him into the room and saw what she had in her hand. He said to her, "Here, give me that." as he took the syringe from her. He then opened a port on my IV line and inserted the syringe. There seemed like there was at least six feet of IV line, but as soon as he pressed the plunger I began to feel relief immediately.

Pretty soon I was sitting up in bed pleasantly chatting with the doctor. After that the nurses would ask me where I wanted my shot. I would tell them, "Ah, just stick it in the IV". They had orders for IM only so I never did get another shot through the IV, but I've never forgotten how much more immediate impact the shot given through the IV had.

Finally my stay in the hospital came to an end. I was given one non-renewable prescription for tylenol with codeine. Sometimes I'd take that with a beer, but I came off the demerol cold.

I told the doctor that did my thoracic surgery about the first doctor telling me I needed to choose between flying or scuba diving. This doctor said I could now do what ever I wanted. I never did try scuba diving again though.

I have no idea what my hospital stay and surgery cost. My boss told me they would take care of everything.

They all took good care of me. I would work the next summer season in Alaska where I would experience my only helicopter crash. I hope I get to return to Alaska someday before life's journey is over for me, but if I don't get to, I'm grateful for the two seasons I got to work up there. It is a beautiful and amazing place!

At the end of the second season I was asked to stay through the winter, but I was hungry for good spiritual fellowship. I enjoyed the work in Alaska, but I noticed it had a slow eroding effect on my spiritual health due to a lack of the right kind of good fellowship I hungered for and needed. So, I declined the invitation. I'll always remember the people I worked with during those two seasons and I hope they have fared well during their life's journey. If I get around to them, I have some more tall tales from Alaska I'll share someday.


ps Why the second pneumothorax? I was told I only had a 10% chance of ever having another one. Prior to going to Alaska I visited a Seismic Crew I had worked with out of Rexburg Idaho where I went out on the blasting line with the blaster to take some pictures. The blaster was crazy. He'd stand within 15 feet of the blast when he set off the charge and would disappear in the smoke. I have some old slides somewhere I need to wade through and try to convert to digital. Anyhow I was a little farther away. After he set off the first charge he told me, "Oh by the way, when these go off keep our mouth open so the air in your lungs will equalize." I thought, "Thanks, now you tell me." All seemed well though. Also I had a short bout of sickness that summer where I wore more long johns in the summer time than I ever wore back home in Louisiana during the winter. Contributing factors? Who knows...

My Alaskan doctor told me that after the corrective surgery my lung couldn't collapse again even if it wanted to. My handicapped son's last hospital stay showed me what an amazingly delicate balance the gift of life truly is and it is just a marvelous accomplishment that any of us manage to stay alive regardless of how much we take for granted this special gift bestowed upon us for a time and a season.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spontaneous pneumothorax

It was a Tuesday morning in September of 1977. I woke up at approximately 9am. I was scheduled to work that afternoon, but something was wrong. I had a searing pain through my chest. A good description of the pain is that it felt like someone or something was sticking a hot sword through my chest. I would have gone to sick call, but it was already over. Unless you had a serious emergency Army sick call started at 6am and was usually over by 9am.

I had shown up late for sick call once before. When I did sit-ups after returning from Korea it felt like my gut was burning. One of the pilots in Korea told me before I left that if I had been eating in the Ville I would want to be sure that I got dewormed before I left country. I told the flight surgeon, who was new in country, on my exit physical that I should be dewormed since i was eating in the Ville a lot. He looked at me skeptically and shrugged it off as not really necessary. So I left Korea without being dewormed.

One morning I passed a nine inch round worm. It did not catch me totally by surprise since I was told I should be dewormed. I through that rascal into a baggie and headed straight to sick call even though it was almost over.

When I arrived at sick call the room was pretty much empty except for a specialist sitting behind a desk. I approached him and said I needed to see the doctor. He tried to tell me sick call was over and I needed to come back tomorrow when the doctor came out from a back room and approached the desk.

I looked at the doctor and said, "Doc I have a present from the Orient for you and it's not VD" as pulled the baggie with the worm out and tossed it on the desk.

The specialist said, "Doc, you want me to make him come back tomorrow?"

The doc's eyes grew wide as he looked at the contents of the baggie. He told the specialist no as he motioned me to come with him. It took him about 10 or 20 minutes looking through medical books before he wrote me a prescription for a small vial of gray colored fluid. He told me to take it before my next meal. The prescription did the trick causing a boatload of dead worms to pass sometime after my next meal.

Anyhow I was deliberating what I should do about the pain in my chest. It was difficult climbing out of bed, but once I was up I was able to get around okay as long as I didn't jar myself. The pain also wasn't consistent. If I jared myself, it hurt pretty bad otherwise I felt relatively fine. So, I decided to go to work and see how I made out. I figured there was no since in bothering anyone unless I really needed too.

Work wasn't too bad. I climbed up on top of the helicopter to preflight and had to step lightly when I climbed down instead of my normal jump from the last step. Flying went fine. I decided I would go to work the next day too since this day had gone okay. I saw no reason to go on sick call unless I had a real concern.

I made it through the next day okay too. I told a couple of my friends about what I was experiencing. On the third day, now Thursday, one of my friends who I had been in Korea with, Captain Norvell, asked me if I was still feeling any pain.

I told him, "yes".

He told me, "Dave, if something hurts for three days in a row, you should really go and find out why."

So with that bit of advice I decided I would get up early enough on Friday morning to go to sick call. My flight commander also farmed me out to another flight needing an extra instructor pilot that was flying nights for Friday. If I didn't have to get up so early for Army sick call I could sleep in.

My alarm woke me bright and early on Friday morning. I was completely pain free. Since I was now completely pain free I probably would not have gone to sick call except I wasn't happy about having my opportunity to sleep in interrupted, so I decided I'd still go anyhow.

I described my pain to the doctor. I told him it was now all gone. He told me it might be a little bit of pleurisy. He also wrote me a prescription for candy coated aspirin. It was candy coated to help keep it from upsetting my stomach so I was told. Along with the aspirin prescription he sent me over to Lyster Army Hospital to have a chest xray taken.

I got my prescription filled and my xray taken. Then I wasted time until showing up at the new flight to work that Friday night. It was an exceptionally stormy night. No one flew. We were dismissed early and I'm sure I went to the O Club and partied all weekend as was my habit in those days.

I was scheduled to work a "day out/night return" teaching Tactics for Monday. I flew the complete day out portion. On the first leg of the night portion I received a call on my radio from my assistant flight commander.

He said, "Dave, don't get concerned. There is nothing wrong, but the hospital thinks something is wrong with you xray film and they want you to have another xray taken. The company commander has a phone number for you back at his office. You can return to Lowe and dismiss your students then contact the company commander.

I flew back to Lowe and dismissed my students. Then I called the company commander. He had already gone home for the day. He told me the number the hospital wanted me to call was on his desk and I could come by the next morning and get it.

I thought to myself, "Alright, I don't have to work tonight. I'll head home (to my BOQ), fix some supper, then go to the O Club".

The hospital did not wait for me to call. While I was fixing my supper my phone rang. It was the hospital. They first verified that it was me. Then they asked me if I could come to the emergency room. I said okay.

The hospital was within an easy walking distance from my BOQ. I can't remember if I finished my supper first and just headed over there, but when I entered the emergency room and told them who I was. somebody asked, "Do you feel okay?'

I said, "Yea, I feel fine."

They said, "Take a deep breath."

I did.

They said, "That doesn't hurt?"

I said, "Nope".

They then took 4 or 5 more X-rays of my chest. Then someone pointed out a chair in the corner and said, "Just sit over there and don't do anything. The doctor will be here in a moment."

I took my seat and waited not having a clue as to what was going on. I truly felt fine.

The doctor showed up a short while later and began to explain to me that I had a collapsed lung and that they would have to put a tube in me to blow it back up.

"Blow it back up?" I was thinking airway and wondered if they would put the tube down my nose or down my throat, so I asked, "Where are you going to stick that tube Doc? Down my nose or down my throat?"

He said, "Neither. It's going in your side."

I said, "Oh, okay"

They then gave me a hospital gown to put on while the doctor removed a chest tube from a cabinet that was slightly smaller than the diameter of my little finger. The doctor pulled out his pocket knife and began cutting half moons out of the tube half way up. They had me first sit on a gurney. A nurse came by and gave me a shot of local anesthesia. Then they had me lie down. The doctor made a small incision in my side. Then four big ole boys gathered around the gurney to watch the doctor snake this thing into my side.

I started praying quietly to myself. The doctor gets the tube halfway inserted then paused with a quizzical look on his face. He said, "Most people would be climbing the walls about now."

I just nodded and said, "uh ugh". I didn't think climbing the walls would be helpful to what they were trying to do, so I just quietly prayed and tried to relax. It was then that I realized the four big ole boys were not there just to watch, but to hold me down if I'd been so inclined to climb the walls as the doctor mentioned.

After the chest tube was inserted they moved me to a hospital room where I spent the next four days flat on my back. I was not able to reach my light switch or my nurse call button. My pain would come and go. Usually when somebody came and checked on me my pain wasn't too bad so I never said anything.

Rick the Jesus man mentioned in "The Journey Begins..." visited me once or twice. I think he was the only visiter I had during my hospital stay.

On the forth day the doctor that had inserted the tube stopped in. He reviewed my chart and told me that I didn't need to be a martyr and that I should take some of the drugs available for pain relief to help my comfort.

I said, "Okay". I wish he would have gave me some before he did what came next.

He said, "I need to take a look at your wound."

I said, "Okay", as he began to unwrap my bandage.

When he had the bandage completely unwrapped he told me to take a deep breath. I did. Then he told me to blow it all out. As I was blowing that breath out he yanked that tube with its half moons cut halfway up its length completely out of my body with one big snatch. That was absolutely the worst pain I had ever felt in my life as those half moons rat-a-tat-tated through the exit hole. I rolled over and moaned. That pain soon passed before anyone came and checked on me. I never did take any pain medicine and was discharged bright and early the next morning.

I was grounded for approximately a three month period of time and given some extra duty so I could be worthwhile to the Army while I was unable to fly. I had to pass a pulmonary function test (PFT) prior to being reinstated to flight status. After being grounded for the designated amount of time and passing the PFT I was cleared for flight once again and back in the saddle.

This was an interesting experience. I had had a Spontaneous pneumothorax. What caused it? Who really knows. I fit the most common profile: slim young male. When I was in high school I remember riding a bucking horse and I got tossed up into the air and came down hard hitting the saddle horn with my chest. I also remember spending several hours in a soybean bin walking the beans down so they would hit the auger and get moved out and loaded into a truck. I spit black for a couple of hours after climbing out of that bin. Did any of those things contribute to my collapsed lung? Conjecture and speculation say maybe, but you can't definitively know. The doctor said there was only a 10% chance that I would ever have another one. I asked him if I could still SCUBA dive. He said, "Take your pick. Flying or diving. But, I wouldn't do both." Flying was my bread and butter. SCUBA diving was only for recreational entertainment. I sold all my SCUBA gear soon after and have not been diving since.

I would have one more spontaneous pneumothorax in the fall of 1980 while in Alaska. That's another Tall Tale for another day, but I spent 20 days in the hospital with this one and had a shot of Demerol every three hours around the clock for the whole 20 days. So, I made up for my martyrdom in the Army hospital.

That completes my Tall Tale for today... Hope you found it interesting.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Journey Begins... Enroute to a P.O.D.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

I don't know what caused him to single me out and come to my BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) door, but he did. He was a fellow instructor pilot and warrant officer. I didn't really know him or anyone else who did. The only reason he came to my door was to tell me about Jesus. I felt good toward God and Jesus. Having been raised Catholic I knew they were the good guys, so I didn't mind listening. I knew I was no saint, but I thought who was in the day and age we lived.

I liked feeling good toward God. I also enjoyed my extra curricula activities that did not include God. I basically had no serious convictions at that stage of my life. I had a good work ethic, but I also enjoyed partying hard when it didn't interfere with work. My ability to determine right from wrong was cloudy. I basically believed in "live and let live" as long as you OBVIOUSLY were not hurting somebody else.

The collateral damage from our bad choices is usually not very apparent until it's too late.

I had not been to confession since graduating from the eighth grade when I began experimenting with drinking after reading my first western novel. I'd go to Mass on occasion and would sometimes think of going to confession, but would then look at the mountain of sin I had been accumulating since the eighth grade and tell myself, "No way I can tell any man about all of that." So I didn't, and life went on.

Doing this time period I remember riding shotgun out to the Long Branch Saloon near Newton Alabama with a commissioned officer buddy I had been in Korea with. The Long Branch was the second civilian club choice after the "Menopause Manor"(mentioned in Veracity Questioned) if nothing worthwhile was happening at the Officer's Club. On our drive back to Fort Rucker I remember the sky as being exceptionally beautiful that night with a full moon shinning through a broken cloud layer. The beauty made me think of how awesome God was even while I was in an inebriated state.

Anyhow, Rick the Jesus man continued to stop by my BOQ after my work day was done and share something or other about the Lord. I'd always politely listen. When he was done I would usually get a shower and head out to the Officer's Club to see if anything fun was going on.

On one of his visits Rick asked me, "Dave, if I bought you a Bible would you read it?"

As a general rule Catholics usually don't read the bible. They hear a little bit of scripture during Mass, but that is about the extent of their biblical studies for most of us who claim to be Catholic. I said, "Yea, I'll read it. I don't have any problem with that."

A few days later when I got home from work on the threshold of my BOQ entry door was a new book still in its box. I picked it up and tossed it on my dining table as I entered the door. I then set about getting a shower and getting cleaned up to head to the "O Club".

I was dressed and ready to head out the door when I looked at my watch and realized that it was a little too early to head that way. So, I sat at my dining table and said to myself, "Let me thumb through this book and see if I can find anything interesting."

The book opened to Matthew chapter 24, and I began to read:

1Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

4And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.

6“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8“But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

9“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

10“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

12“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13“But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."

Verse 13“But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." seemed to really speak to me. It was like I was hearing God say, "See there Dave! This is serious business. If you're not able to endure to the end, you'll just be wasting your time."

I then flipped a few pages and came to Matthew Chapter 7 where I read:

13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.

14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Wow! I never even knew there was a narrow gate. I could see clearly though that if this book I was reading was really true that if someone did not make it through that narrow gate, they just wouldn't make it.

I then prayed, "God, if this book is really true, I can see from what I just read that if someone doesn't make it through the narrow gate they just aren't going to make it. So if this book is really true, please do whatever it takes in my life to help me make it through the narrow gate." Then I closed the book and checked my watch. It was now a good time to head to the O Club, and so I did.

I have no doubt though that the simple prayer I prayed regarding the narrow gate set up the future events in my life for God to take me to a P.O.D. (Point of Decision) where He would knock me off the fence I so loved to straddle. He was going to find out if I was serious about the prayer I had just prayed.

There is more to come regarding this piece of a Tall Tale. Stay tuned to learn how it all played out.


p.s. the continuation posts of this story...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Veracity Questioned...

The Daleville Inn aka "The Menopause Manor" is located in the small community of Daleville Alabama just outside one of the gates to Fort Rucker the home of Army Aviation.

The lounge at the Daleville Inn was a popular recreational stop off post for some after hours adult interaction and beverages. It usually had a band that regularly played the song in this youtube video:

The band played other songs, but "Like a Fox on the Run" is the one I remember and seemed to be their signature song.

The Menopause Manor was the nickname given to the lounge due to the perceived age of most of its female clientele. They weren't all old...
Dave in Korea
I was in the lounge early one night when I met a young girl close to my age. I was either 21 or 22 at the time and fairly fresh out of Korea where I had stayed long enough to turn 21 and make CW2.

We struck up a conversation by the bar. She soon asked me what I did. This was a rare question since I usually hung with people who knew. I responded, "I'm a CW2 Instructor Pilot out at Lowe Field".

She said, "No you arn't!"

That caught me a little bit by surprise and I didn't want to argue with her so I said, "Okay. I'm an E5 and I drive a Colonel around in a jeep".

She said, "No you don't!"

I said, "Okay, I'm a PFC bus driver".

She seemed happy with that answer, so we chatted for about another 15 or 20 minutes before another girl that knew both of us showed up.

The two girls said their hello's first, then the new arrival turned to tell me hello. When the girl I had just met realized that her friend also knew me she told her, "You know what he tried to tell me?"

The girl that knew us both said, "What?"

My newest acquaintance said, "He tried to tell me he was a CW2 Instructor Pilot out at Lowe Field."

The girl that knew me looked at her and said, "Well, he is!"

The girl I had just met then looked at me hard and said, "You've been lying to me!"

I looked at her and said, "Well, I tried to tell you the truth. You didn't want to believe that, so I told you something you did believe."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Memory of CW3 Charles N. Hurt
16 JUN 1984

CW3 Charles Hurt
Later that same year, American pilot Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles N. Hurt and two other crew members were killed on a UH-1 Iroquois test flight outside South Camp.

David Robert Army Aviator

After my tour of duty in Korea I returned to Fort Rucker for remedial training... (Just Kidding). I was young in those days... I was sent to the Army Instructor Pilot course and became a school Instructor Pilot in:

UH-1 Contact

Introduces a pilot to a specific aircraft to include all its emergency procedures, normal procedures, and limitations etc.


Introduces a pilot to low level navigation and tactical procedures.


Nap Of Earth

Introduces a pilot to "extreme" low level navigation.

You may get to pick some pine straw out of the skids when you return to base.


Introduces the pilot to "extreme" unaided night techniques.

This includes lowlevel autos to an unlit stagefield without the use of a landing or search light.

I authored an article in the he Air Medical Journal titled "Minimizing the Dark"

I just did a free registration to see if I could view my article. Registration was easy except for: area of specialization (no aviation or pilots... I selected emergency medicine; and, profession (once again no pilots) I selected researcher... To see the article you would have to pay $10.00 USD for 24 hours of access... I signed over all rights to the article, but they should really give them back to me since NightHawk techniques are now obsolete due to the now ubiquitous NVG


Night Vision Goggles

I instructed WOC Charles Hurt in "UH-1H Contact". He was one of my more memorable students. He was a big boy, and he was also a very good student, but he did have a couple of unforgetable and memorable moments. Prior to going to flight school he was an Army Crew Chief on the Huey Helicopter, so he had a fair amount of maintenance experience.

A "WOC" is what you throw at a rabbit... Naw, it's a Warrant Officer Candidate.

The 1st memorable moment...
Soon after getting him as a new student we are going through preflight and runup procedures. There is a place on the checklist that says, "Collective pitch friction off".

Candidate Hurt grabbed a fist full of friction and turned it for all he was worth before I could say anything. My eyes grew wide. I tried to see if I could loosen the friction after he tightened it. Being over tightened produced a potential critical situation because there is an emergency procedure for a condition called collective bounce where the pilot has to apply friction to the collective to stop the detrimental up and down bouncing effect if and when it occurs. The friction would not budge. I had to call line maintenance over and they had to use channel-lock pliers on the friction to loosen it.

The next memorable moment occurred at Skelly Army Stagefield...

View Larger Map

As you can see on the Google Map, Skelly is just to the west of the Pea River a little bit south and slightly west of Elba Alabama.

Skelly had four lanes oriented North & South. The lanes you see oriented Northwest to Southeast were added sometime after I left the Army in 1979.

Hurt and I were doing lowlevel autorotations to the south on lane #4 closest to the river.

Our downwind leg was flown to the north over the river, then we turned west on our base leg and began to lose altitude. When we turned final we brought our altitude down to 50 feet above the trees until we entered the autorotation.

The practice autorotation is entered by lowering the collective to the full down position and reducing the throttle to the flight idle position. On a lowlevel autorotation you begin to decelerate the aircraft immediately upon entry to lose forward airspeed, then at approximately 10 to 15 feet you apply a slight amount of collective pitch in the upward direction to slightly check your downward decent. Then at approximately 3 to 5 feet you apply enough collective pitch to cushion the landing in a hopefully soft touchdown. Once you touchdown you maintain lane alignment and keep the collective up until the aircraft comes to a complete stop. Experienced pilots like to practice landing to a particular spot and terminating with minimum ground run. In initial training a good 20 to 50 feet of ground run is normal. The sparks do fly on a skid equipped helicopter.

I demonstrated a lowlevel auto to Hurt and then let him have the controls to try one of his own.

On any autorotation you attempt to touchdown in the first 1/3 of the runway and hopefully stop forward movement soon after.

Hurt did a perfect job except for one small factor. When he pulled his initial pitch he also leveled the aircraft by applying a very slight amount of forward cyclic. Leveling the aircraft will increase the amount of ground run, so it is not a good thing to do.

Hurt touched down beautifully in the first 1/3 of the lane right in the center with perfect lane alignment. But... Because he leveled the aircraft we were scooting down the lane like a bat out of hell.

Since everything looked good except for our excessive ground run speed, I decided to sit tight and see what Hurt would do and maybe let him scare himself a little bit. He maintained excellent lane alignment, but we quickly moved into the second 1/3 of the lane. There were no indications that we were going to slow down anytime soon. I saw the third 1/3 coming up.

You can see on the Google map that the center lanes 2 & 3 are wide lanes while the outside lanes 1 & 4 are narrow that terminate in a curve with section of pavement that connects the ends of all the lanes.

If we ran off the end of the lane at high speed that would not be good because the grass would grip the skids tighter than the pavement causing us to possibly tip over. I knew I had to do something as the third 1/3 approached, so I got on the controls and began to attempt a power recovery while scooting along the ground.

Power recoveries are pretty normal whenever an autorotation is botched prior to touchdown, whenever touchdown autos are not permitted because of company policy or insurance restrictions, or when practicing forced landings, but a power recovery while on the ground is extremely rare and this would be my first and only one.

As I took over the controls I began to roll the throttle back to the full on position. That made the aircraft pretty squirrely causing me to use some pretty delicate anti-torque pedal work to maintain lane alignment. As we entered the curve at the end of the lane I managed to get the throttle to the full on position and pulled the aircraft off the ground and stopped it in a hover.

Hurt looked at me shaking his head as he said, "Dog gone Sir! I was wondering how you were going to make that turn at the end of the lane!"

I looked at him and replied, "Me make the turn? It was your maneuver!"

He learned a good lesson about leveling the aircraft at the bottom of an auto and enough was said by the experience.

While many students just blend in and are forgotten I always remembered Hurt because of those two events.

Years later I returned to Fort Rucker as an Instrument Contract Instructor Pilot. (Those guys are civilians, but usually have some good military experience)

I was sitting on the couch in Carins AAF operations waiting for my students to file their flight plan when a man entered the room and was staring at me like he knew me. I looked up at him and didn't recognize him from Adam so I looked away. Then he pronounced my last name correctly, "Mr. Row-Bear?"

My name is spelled like Robert but is pronounced "Row-Bear". I explain it to people as something that happens to those of us born south of I-10 in Louisiana, but I tell them we do it for a reason... Because when the phone rings, we want to know if the person on the other end really knows us or just wants to sell us something. It gives others an advantage too. I may not remember you from Adam, but if you pronounce my last name correctly then I know you know me from somewhere.

When the man pronounced my last name correctly I got up to see where he knew me from. He said from Contact training. I asked him if he was one of my students. He said no, but he remembered me as one of the instructors. I then asked him if he knew who my students were and I mentioned Hurt. He said, "Yep". It was Hurt. Then he gave me the sad news about Hurt getting killed while doing a maintenance test flight in the Sinai. His aircraft chucked its rotor-head.

I sure hated to hear that. Hurt was a good man and a good student. Nobody is promised tomorrow and you just never know what will take you out and when. I hope Hurt finds it agreeable to him on the other side of this gift we call life.

You can find CW3 Charles N. Hurt listed on this website Search for or scroll down to "Egypt".

We miss you buddy, and hope to see you again sometime on the other side.

Well, there's my tall tale for today. Sorry I missed a few days. It's been a little busy around here, but all good!


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Road to Korea

After successfully completing Army flight school I took a brief leave back in Louisiana before shipping out for Korea my assignment of choice. I traveled alone to California where I was to be processed at Travis AFB for my journey overseas. I didn’t need a passport since I had a military ID card.

I took a tour of China Town before leaving California for Korea. The tail end of the tour we were treated to a meal at a Chinese restaurant. I remember their servers setting a bowl of steamed rice on the table. Being from south Louisiana I liked rice, but rice with lots of gravy. I looked at that bowl of steamed rice wondering what somebody could do with that. Then a man across the table started scooping gobs of this yellow gravy looking stuff onto his rice. I thought, “Yea, that looks like it works” as I copied what he was doing. I didn’t know what that yellow gravy looking stuff was until I took a bite of my rice now covered with the stuff. Chinese hot mustard!!! Oh homy... My sinuses cleared, my head cleared, and no telling what else cleared as the hot mustard did its sensory work on me. I kept my composure, but could only think, “might not always be a good idea to do as the natives do”. Otherwise I enjoyed the meal.

When I traveled to basic training I was with a friend also on his way to flight school. I was the only one who chose Korea as an assignment from my graduating flight class, so now I was traveling alone. That was alright with me, but I find adventures in life are usually always more enjoyable when shared with a friend. It can also be helpful to bounce decisions off of someone else too. “What’s that yellow gravy looking stuff that guy’s putting on his rice?” I had no friend to make this journey with until...

I rounded the corner of a hallway at Travis AFB and almost bumped into a CW2 Vietnam Veteran. This older more experienced man quickly looked over and sized up this young green WO1 (WO1 = Warrant Officer 1, CW2 = Chief Warrant 2). He flashed me a friendly smile and said, “Come on kid, I’ll take care of you”. He could have easily said, "Stay away from me greenhorn", but he chose to tuck me under his experienced wing.

His name was Chuck Hutchinson. It felt good to have someone to hang with who already knew the ropes. After being processed at Travis AFB they sent us to the Sacramento International Airport for a contracted civilian flight to take us overseas instead of a military transport. Chuck and I stepped into an airport lounge to get a drink for our journey. I’d been drinking in Louisiana since I was thirteen, I had a fake ID since I was fifteen, and the legal drinking age was 18 in Louisiana. I was now a military warrant officer and Army aviator, but I was only 19 and the legal drinking age in California was 21. I couldn’t buy a drink. I got to watch Chuck enjoy his while doing without. The situation would be different in Korea where I would stay until I turned 21 and got promoted to CW2.
Our plane landed at the Osan AFB in Korea in October of 1974 during the rice harvest season. I was sitting next to a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) whose uncle told her to write down her first impressions upon arrival in Korea. There were rice fields all along side the airstrip and korean women were manually harvesting the rice with sickles. She was freaking out. Having worked on a Soybean and Cattle farm while in high school and having operated combines, I did find the Korean method of harvesting rice rather interesting. Chuck said he saw three airmen on the side of the airfield as the plane went by one of them covered his eyes, another covered his ears, and the third covered his mouth. “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” This was going to be a different kind of experience. I had no idea what awaited me.

After landing Chuck and I were sent up to Seoul to the 6th P&A where in country assignments were made. After getting a good nights sleep we were in the latrine the next morning shaving and preparing to go meet our assignments officer. I looked down and noticed that the big toe on Chuck’s left foot was missing. I didn’t ask him about it, but I remember thinking, “Um, I wonder what happened there?”

I stood beside Chuck as we walked into the assignments officer’s office. The first words out of Chuck’s mouth was, “We want to go to the CAV!”

Chuck had been a cavalry officer in Vietnam. The assignments officer looked up at us from behind his desk with a jaundiced eye. I can imagine him thinking, “These guys WANT to go the the CAV?” I was later told by someone else that the CAV is not where you want to go. They spend an excessive amount of time in the field and attempt to be the best of the best where soldiering is concerned which usually amounts to excessive hardships for all but the most gung-ho individuals who relish the CAV experience. The assignments officer pulled out a book and as he opened it he said, “Well lets see what we have available.”

After looking through the book he said, “Sorry guys. I don’t have any openings at the CAV, but I can send you...” He looked at me, “ the 128th and I can send you...” He looked at Chuck, “ the 117th”. He was splitting us apart. Chuck accepted that without complaint. I didn’t know it then, but we were sent to the two best places you could be assigned to in Korea. These two companies had the largest variety of missions and offered the best possible aviation experiences that a kid fresh out of flight school could have. Chuck told me, “After I get settled in, I’ll be over to your unit to see who I know.”

We both got flown in by helicopter to our new units. My new company commander met me and gave me a tour of the company. His name was Maj.Carl Bierbaum. He was a good company commander and a good man. He looked at my youth and with a bit of fatherly advice cautioned me as he said, “You want to be careful with these older men. They’ll lead you to drinking and will take all your money playing cards.” I was both sober and polite as I responded, “Yes sir.” But, secretly inside I couldn’t help but think, “Alright! I’ve done landed in the right place!” considering my wild upbringing in South Louisiana. Can anyone say, “Boo-Ray”.

Later that afternoon I ended up in the company lounge where I began getting acquainted with some of these older men. Most of them were Vietnam Veterans. When they were young and green like me they had landed in a hostile country at war and most likely were met by a commanding officer that said, “There’s your aircraft son. Get after it.”

Chuck, true to his word, soon arrived and started hitting it off with a guy named Harry Stevenson. Harry’s nicknames were, “Crazy Harry and Dirty Harry”. Clint Eastwood didn’t have anything on him except maybe a little bit better looks.

Harry and Chuck began reminiscing about all these almost unbelievable war stories. I would soon learn about Chuck’s big toe on his left foot. Dwayne Gulker whose nick name was “Skid Tubes” because he came in too hot on a pinnacle landing once and knocked the landing gear of of his helicopter walked by Stevenson and said, “Where’d you find this guy to collaborate all of your stories Harry?” Harry just smiled. He was the real deal. Chuck told him to take good care of me because I seemed like a pretty good guy. Harry would be my most notable mentor in all of my aviation career and the one pilot I hold as definitely better than all the rest of the talent out there. He was only eighteen and became Cobra gunship lead while serving in Vietnam. He also flew loaches. A loach combined with a Cobra were called “Hunter/Killer teams”. Harry once told me that they used to toss a six pack in the back of the cobra for the flight home after the day was done. It was a different age and a different time than what pilots are now exposed to.
Harry had gotten a mission to try to find out where the hostile fire was coming from that was effectively taking down aircraft as they attempted to land at this one airstrip. He was flying a loach which at that time was a Hughes 500C aircraft whose military designation was the OH-6 Cayuse. His job was to loach around the area where the planes were getting shot and try to draw fire. Once he was able to draw fire and positively identify where it was coming from a Cobra gunship hanging out in the background would roll in and take the source of fire out.

After a bit of flying in the suspected area Harry finally drew fire. He could not tell where it was coming from though, so he pulled his loach into a high hover so he could get a better look. When he did (hover) the shooter popped him out of the sky. He received a minor wound, another purple heart, and some in-country R&R (Rest and Relaxation) until he recovered enough to go back to work. His mission was unsuccessful. He did not identify where the fire was coming from so the threat was still active and hostile.

Chuck then got assigned Harry’s mission. Chuck decided to go visit Harry before flying the mission to find out what information he could about it from Harry. The only thing Harry told him was, “Chuck, no matter what you do, don’t hover!”

Chuck said, “Okay”. And left to try and accomplish what Harry couldn’t.
After loaching around a bit, Chuck also drew fire. He couldn’t tell where it was coming from either. So what does he do? He pulled his loach into a high hover to get a better look. When he did, the round entered his chin bubble and took out Chuck’s left anti-torque pedal along with his big toe on his left foot. His helicopter spun down to the ground and crash landed. Chuck said his door gunner returned fire as they spun all the way to the ground. They were rescued and Chuck ended up joining Harry in his in-country R&R with his own purple heart. When Chuck saw Harry he said, “Harry. I hovered!”

Years later when I rehired with a small EMS helicopter company that had grown considerably larger than when I first worked for them I looked through the company phone book to see if there was anyone I knew. There was Chuck. I called him and had a nice phone visit. I then called Harry who was now employed with Executive Jet flying the rich and famous. I gave Harry Chuck’s number.

Harry called Chuck.

Chuck answers his phone, “Chuck Hutchinson”.

Harry says, “Whatever you do, DON’T HOVER!”

Chuck now confused says, “What? What do you mean don’t hover?”

Harry says, “Cause if you hover you’re going to leave your Big Toe in Vietnam!”

Chuck’s brain now made the connection, “Harry you ole son of a gun! What are you doing?”

I count both of these men as good friends. I can only imagine the depth of their personal friendship bonds through their Vietnam experience together.

Anyhow, back to the lounge at the 128th...

The evening progressed and the men told me they used to make new guys like me drink an initiation drink called a “GMF”, (The G was for green because the drink was a shot of everything behind the bar topped off with Creme de mint to make it green) but Maj. Bierbaum had outlawed the practice.

I said, “I can order whatever I want. Mix me one up.” And, so they did...

It was a memorable evening after the GMF, though barely.

I’ve never done too well playing cards. I usually get disciplined by losing. I did sit through a few card games while in Korea though. Whenever Maj. Bierbaum would walk by and observe, I’d be raking in the pots. I wish I could have hired him to watch all my games, cause I might have turned out an overall winner instead of a gambling loser.

Maj. Bierbaum never said much to me after that 1st night except with a smile, “How are you Robert?” He was now a teetotaler like I’m finally no longer a drunkard, but I’m sure he had his day. He was a good company commander and I had the opportunity to fly with him a time or two. I would know three company commanders in that unit before I finally returned to the states. I extended for an extra year, so I spent two years there. I flew 500 hours my first year and 700 hours my second. I got to see a lot of men come and go since Korea was only a one year hardship tour. Harry saw me come and go, because he spent a total of 4 years there. Somebody later told me Harry stayed in Korea so long to allow the statue of limitations to expire before returning to Fort Hood in Texas... I really don’t know if that assumption is based in fact, I can only imagine. There are a few more tall tales involving Mr. Stevenson if I hopefully get around to them.

Because of the men in that company taking the time to groom me and show me the ropes, my flying was pretty good. We all partied hard, but we also worked hard. They were all very professional and capable in spite of their after hours recreational proclivities. In all my adult work experience, there has been nothing that comes close to comparing with the time I spent in the Republic of South Korea.

Korea was quite the experience and the most enjoyable and notable of all my adult working life.

"Behind an able man there are always other able men."