Saturday, July 21, 2012
Scared Witless II
A repost since this wouldn't come up as a comment of Juvats post on Old AF Sarge's blog. http://oldafsarge.blogspot.com/2015/09/airport-festivities.html
In view of the Aurora, CO tragedy, something light; a flying story from the past.
‘Hey, you have a Commercial ticket?” “Want to make fifty bucks?” asked the man. I replied “Yes” to both questions. He said, “I need a copilot for one trip.”
Dumbfounded, I stared at the man walking towards me from a PB4Y slurry bomber on the ramp at the Jefferson, CO airport, circa 1968.
I’d ferried over a C-150 to have an annual inspection and, while waiting for my ride, wandered over to the US Forest Service’s slurry station to ogle the aircraft on the ramp.
That was my one and only encounter with the late “Red” Avery from Greybull, WY, one of the early slurry bomber operators. He was there fighting a fire on Mt. Evans.
“Don’t have a multi rating”, I told him. “You don’t need one to be a copilot”, he replied. “Look, the flight engineers does everything. You just need to sit there but I need a copilot to be legal. My copilot had to leave.”
A chance to ride in a WWII bomber, and get paid? Hell, yeah.
So the start up, taxi, takeoff, and climb out toward Mt. Evans was thrilling. Then, at the fire, he put the nose down at a much steeper angle than I thought possible. Into the smoke. Looked like we were going to crash into the fire. He dropped the slurry and we ballooned upward.
Smoke, noise, g forces; too bad you can’t make a carnival ride that will duplicate the experience.
I’ve been in thunderstorms and mountain waves but have never been in turbulence like we encountered. Scared me witless. I was still shaking when we landed.
“Want to stick around”?, he asked me as he was writing out a check. “Sir”, I said, “I don’t have enough hair on my ass to every do that again.” He just laughed and thanked me for helping him out.
As Dirty Harry said, “A man should know his limitations”.
When you see the aircraft on the ramp, the size of the thing impresses. Once you are in the cockpit, it is small and cramped. You start thinking about the crews that spent hour after hour there and you gain a new respect for what they accomplished.
As I remember, the controls felt fairly light during the brief period I had them while straight and level. Other than my sister, I’ve shared this story with very few people. Not my most shining hour, so to speak.