Tuesday

Environmentally Appropriate



My wife, who is perhaps the most intelligent person I've ever met, has had a bad cold and cough. I took her to the doctor and he prescribed some medication that included cough syrup. This morning before she headed off to work she told me that she was gonna stop taking the cough medicine because it tasted awful and really wasn't helping. Then she took a dose and left. Two hours later I get the following text from her...

"Can you please call the doctor and ask for the environmentally appropriate way to dispose of codeine?"

Really?

I mean there's 2 ounces left in the bottle!

Realizing that there is NO WAY on Earth that I can call a physician and actually have such nonsense spew from my mouth... I sent my beloved wife the following e-mail...

Environmentally safe method of disposing of 2 ounces of codeine-guaifen 10-10-0 mg/5 ml cough syrup:

While wearing non-latex protective gloves, safety glasses and 3M 6200 or similar class respirator spread out 55X64cm sheet of non-acid brown paper in a well ventilated outdoor area exposed to full sunlight at midday under no wind conditions. Carefully pour the 2 ounces of cough syrup onto the paper in a spiral circular motion extending from a center point outward until the entire contents are expended from the bottle. Build a 3 meter square metal screen enclosure and cover the paper so as to prevent any animals, bees or children from reaching through. Cover the paper with that screen using the greatest of care to not contact any of the liquid with any part of the screen. Place no less than six, 1 meter tall, international orange cones around the enclosure and top with a solar-powered amber colored strobe light. 

Allow to dry. 

Once fully dried, re-don the non-latex protective gloves, safety glasses and  3M 6200 or similar class respirator. Ensure that no animals, insects or bacteria are within 80 meters and using steel tongs remove the paper from the shelter and fold it as small as possible. Place the paper into a Trader Joe’s grocery double bag and ride your bicycle to the Atacama Desert. Once there, dig a hole 20cm in diameter and 1 meter deep. Using a bamboo pole, shove the bag to the bottom of the hole and cover completely. Then interpretive dance around the hole chanting, “OhwhatuhkluckIam” repeatedly for 16 hours or as long as your water holds out.

You may now feel safe and environmentally appropriate. Because the very fact that you have sincerely asked this question clearly demonstrates that you’ve already taken too much of this shit.



If you think this was fun, check out any of Wes' BOOKS!

FLYERS AND FOAMERS


Always have a good jumpseat story to tell.
Railroad engineer's kids, my sister and I Easter Sunday 1962... at the roundhouse in Saginaw, of course. Showing off our Sunday best for Dad... who was working that day.

I come from a railroad family- that’s why I talk loud. When you grow up in a railroad family, if you wanna be heard you gotta be loud. From the time I was born my dad was an engineer on the C&O railroad. For an engineers' kid, climbing up on an engine is simply no big deal... like going to dad's office. Been doin' it since I could walk. When I was little, often on the fourth of July, after the fireworks, I’d “got to work” with dad. He worked a half shift that night and I’d ride in the “fireman’s seat” aboard the engine as dad switched railroad cars in and around the Saginaw yard or the auto plants in Flint. On “payday” I’d get a C&O check for a half day’s work. It wasn’t cashable, but I never knew the difference. Dad would take it into the drug store and come out with some cash for me… seven whole dollars! I was a rich nine-year-old! It was a lesson in how you get money. You go to work and you get paid.
Photo from the Buck Wyndham collection (airline pilot and foamer)


For someone in aviation, going to the airport is also nothing special- it’s just a part of going to work. Same thing as going to the railroad yard for a kid who grew up in a railroad family- it’s no big deal. Goin’ to pick up dad or to fetch his paycheck while he catches some sleep. Yet, there are other similarities you may not consider. One day as I was jumpseating home to BWI and as we  taxied out for takeoff at MSP I noticed a crowd of people gathered outside the boundary fence at the end of the runway.

“Lots of foamers out there today,” I quipped.

“Foamers?” the captain squinted, “what’s that?”

“Those folks there at the end of the runway with the cameras,” I replied

After we blasted off and got into cruise the captain asked me to explain “foamers.” I told him that my dad was a railroad engineer and that was the term they used to describe the train-buffs who stand by the tracks and photograph and film the trains as they go by. The crews said that those guys foamed at the mouth when they saw a train coming.

“Hey!” he smiled, “I’m a foamer!”

Suddenly the cockpit conversation turned to trains as both pilots confessed to being friggin’ foamers. I told them that I had a story that they’d like.  Now…for people reading this who are not those of us who have spent endless hours in a cockpit at cruise, you should know that interesting cockpit conversation is of GREAT value- because the hardest thing to do in the cockpit is stay awake. Thus, I let go with my story and had a fully captive audience.

This story brought to by Wes' best-selling spaceflight book APOLLO PART ONE



When I graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1988 having finished all of my commercial and multi engine instrument pilot's ratings, I headed back to Michigan to stay at mom and dad’s house while I worked as a survey pilot for the DNR. Before I ever got that job and nearly as soon as I got into the house my dad casually says "Yer' goin' to work with me tomorrow."

Okay... been doin' that since I was a kid too- so, what the heck. I figured he wanted to show me, his newly minted commercial pilot son, off to the crew in the shanty. The next day mom made us both a couple of lunches and we headed off to the yard at Midland’s Dow Chemical plant. Dad had been working the Dow job for the past few years. He was WAY high on the seniority list of CSX (which was the company formed when the C&O was swallowed up) and could pretty much pick whatever job he wanted and hold it. He picked the Dow day job because it was just a few minutes’ drive from our house and he could pass the Dow security clearance for handling HAZMAT in the plant. Once he had that Dow badge he really could not be bumped.  We got to the yard and dad introduced me to the guys on his crew then he tells me I'm gonna run the engine from Dow to Farwell, Michigan!

"If you can fly an airplane commercially, you can run an engine," he reasoned.

So... I did!

Dad only had to show me the basics. I already knew where the throttle and the brake handle was located, how to see if the flashers were working by looking at the hole in the side and how to run the “notches.” I knew about the deadman’s peddle and so on. He did need to instruct me on the alert system that would go off if the engineer had not taken some sort of action after so many minutes. First an amber light would flash, and compared to aircraft “caution lights” in the cockpit, this was a big light. If you didn’t respond by making some action- tooting the whistle, adding some brake, cycling the deadman’s peddle or a half dozen other things that could be moved, the light would glow steady and then after so many seconds it would apply the brakes, stop the engine and begin blowing the whistle. He also coached me on how far from a crossing I needed to begin my whistle blow; timing is everything. Lastly both he and his conductor told me very clearly that if anything happened, we hit a car, a person or the train went “on the ground” I was to leave the engine and walk far away… like I was never there. Oh yeah, this was an unauthorized trip for me.

I got the "N" scale engine for Dad one Christmas... it turned out he had 8210 in his logbook! That's his UTU button that I keep pinned on it today.


Dad worked the engine inside the Dow plant as we only had a few cars to shove. Then we pulled  a few and switched to the line headed for Farwell. Now it was my turn to drive. I guess any of you foamers out there reading this would have been fully puckered and near orgasm, but frankly, I was right at home. It was like the first time I flew a Falcon 10, I’d been around it so much that it was a comfortable place. Besides… it’s a train… it can only go where the tracks go. On we went to Farwell and as we approached one section of track my dad told me to smile. Pointing down he showed me four foamers standing there taking our picture. I smiled and waved. Approaching our destination, which was actually a siding just northwest of the town of Clare, I got us stopped, with some coaching, where we needed to be and dad along with his crew of one switchman and a conductor parked the cars we had and picked up one to go back. Then I ran the train into Midland and, again with some coaching, got her stopped where we needed to stop. Once more the real railroad men took over and soon our day was done. I asked dad why they called it the Farwell job when it only went to Clare? He said it originally went all the way to Farwell, so they just call it that.

Today that line that I ran back in 1988, all the way from Midland to Clare, is a paved bike path! Yet nearly every time I told this story from the jumpseat I found at least one of the pilots to be fascinated by it. Dad told me that I could tell everyone that before I ever exercised my commercial pilot's certificate, I ran a locomotive. You'd never guess how many airline pilots are totally envious of that.
"Irish" 1981


My dad passed away in December of 2004 and although most people in the Saginaw, Michigan area remember him as the Zamboni driver for the local professional hockey team, the ice was his art, but running a locomotive was his career. When he worked the “road job” from Midland to Port Huron the line ran just 800 feet behind our house and you could always tell it was him by the whistle blow. His was two long, one short and one extra long. If you were listening on the radio you could tell it was him because all of the other engineers were called by their job number “2346” or “5418” or such… but they called my dad “Irish.”

For more of Wes' story telling check out his aviation spy thriller INVISIBLE EVIL




Thursday

"D" CHECK PART 5: YELLOW GUCK


“D” CHECK”
Part 5
YELLOW WING BOLT GUCK



One of the final parts of the Falcon 20 “D” inspection involved the wing bolts. All these years later I don’t recall how many wing bolts there actually were on each side. My Falcon 20 maintenance manuals do not give much information either. So, we’ll just say it was more than 12 and less than 18… somewhere in that neighborhood.

For weeks we’d been warned that the worst part of this job was gonna be the wing bolts… and they were right. In order to get the job done they needed two mechanics who could dedicate themselves just to this task for about 3 or 4 days- plus overtime. A fellow named Jim volunteered and I was volunteered by the shop A.I. Their reasoning in using me was the fact that I was hired on at near minimum wage and working under the shop certificate. Thus, they could charge $28 an hour for my labor while just paying me about $2.50 an hour. Additionally, I was well known as the model boat maker and was very handy with tiny parts and tools. This job was similar to dental work.

Our first task took the greatest time. The bolt recesses were filled with the hard crusty brown junk that was similar to that used inside the fuel tanks, but certainly a different formula. It was designed to keep all forms of fluids and moisture away from the bolts and effectively make them corrosion proof over the life of the aircraft. Since no other Falcon 20 had ever gone as far as a “D” inspection, the folks at Dassault wanted to know how well that crap was actually holding up plus they had a new method for re-sealing the bolts. Now we had to chip out that hard brown stuff and completely clean both the bolts and the recesses.

We were told VERY clearly, “No matter what you do, don’t scratch the bolts.” Each bolt was different diameter, numbered for its position and cadmium plated. The smallest scratch on any part of a bolt made either while uncovering it, removing it, or handling it would condemn the bolt and it would have to be removed and replaced. Thus we picked and chipped away with the greatest of care. Finally we ended up working with dental tools to get the last of the hardened crust removed so the bolts cold be inspected. As best I can recall we damaged just three. Yet about four others showed corrosion- and I’m talking near microscopic spots, not huge areas of rust. Bill, our A.I. would look at one and say, “Nope- that one’s gotta go.” And when it was removed I’d look at it and couldn’t see a thing wrong. Then he’d take the tip of his pen and carefully point out the spot of rust that would never have noticed. Such is the sharp eye of an inspector. Replacement for the scored bolts was another matter. New bolts had to be installed with the A.I. watching and torqued carefully to a very specific value WITHOUT compromising the cadmium plating. Then each replacement had to be properly stated in the aircraft logbook.

Once the inspection was over Jim and I were told to come into work the next day wearing clothes that would have to be thrown away and to bring fresh clothing to wear home at the end of our task. Personally I picked out a pair of bell-bottom jeans from the 70s that I’d never wear again and a shirt that a cheating former girlfriend had given me and I was good to go. Jim had some nasty coveralls that were so filthy they’d make you reflex vomit. We were also told that we’d get no breaks and no lunch because once we started we had to keep going until it was all finished. We did, however, get time and a half for the whole day… so who could argue?

Arriving at Hangar 6 that morning we were presented with a series of purple Styrofoam forms that were shaped like half of an egg. Each had a dimple molded into it that was the size of a wing bolt head and each was exactly the size of the recess where the bolts were located. With that came some bright yellow gunk that was called Mastinox Compound. I was told that it was a rubberized sealant that never hardens. It was non-corrosive and was supposed to keep all moisture away from the bolts. We had to, by hand, smear that stuff around each bolt head and work it in to make sure that there was no air bubbles. When the bolt was well covered, we had to take one of the Styrofoam half-eggs, fill its recess with the compound, smear some on the surface and shove it into the recess where the bolt was waiting. The compound oozed out and we had to carefully cover the exposed flat side with more compound. Above all, we were not supposed to rush the job.

Looking back, we should have been wearing rubber gloves. But it was 1985 and instead we went at it, Jim on the right side wing and me on the left, with our bare hands. As it turned out the hardest part was not touching anything else with your hands! When that yellow guck got on something it was there to stay- and it showed up real good too. Heaven forbid you should put your hand on the aircraft fuselage, or worse yet- scratch your head. Of course they brown papered the wing for a huge area and tapped brown paper to the fuselage up to the tops of the windows- we needed that. By mid day we had that stuff all over us, but I was focused so hard on doing the task properly that I really didn’t notice. The brown paper that was tapped to the aircraft fuselage and wings was covered with hand prints and slopped guck. We finished about mid-afternoon, both at nearly the same time. Sliding off the wing, I looked over at Jim and we both said, “Now how do we get this shit off of us?”

They hadn’t thought of that.

Aside from working the radios on the engine runs, those wing bolts were the last major thing I had to do in the “D” inspection. Weeks later I was back in Daytona at Embry-Riddle finishing my degree in Aeronautical Science along with my multi-engine commercial instrument ratings. Sitting in a Turbine Engines class I was still picking little bits of Mastinox Compound out from under my fingernails (no foolin’ folks). The instructor flashed a slide up on the screen of a CF-700 engine.





“I’ll bet none of you have any experience with the aircraft that uses this engine…” he said.

I raised my hand.


If you think Wes writes a good aviation based story check out his other works HERE

Tuesday

MEET ME IN THE AVION



With the UC being torn down and hauled away like so much trash, I figure it’s a good time to publish some of my memories of the place that was my home away from home for so many years… the Avion office. Considering that I was the one who haunted the office for a full decade… well, okay, it was just three terms… one for Carter and two for Reagan… I guess I’m best qualified to tell the story.

Often people attend Embry-Riddle and stay in the dorm for a term or two and then move off campus to a series of apartments, rental houses or even fraternity houses. Your classes and labs rotate and even your daily mean cycle can take you to many differing locations. The Avion office, however, had the unique ability to become an anchor point for us from our freshman year until graduation and perhaps a little bit thereafter. You could join the staff as a freshman and remain attached to the Avion through your entire tour at ERAU. There was no need to pledge or take an oath or change yourself to fit in, as we are all misfits. Dean Rockett has often said that no fraternity, organization, club or even ROTC has the sort of bonding that takes place in the Avion. Both as a student and as an alumnus, the Avion mafia remains strong.

I always wondered what non-Avion people did to survive on campus. For me, the Avion office was in effect- my office. I had people from back home come to campus and walk around asking where I may be found and the answer that always worked was, “Check up in the Avion office.” I had a phone number where I could be reached, a place to sleep when I got back to school and hadn’t found a roommate yet, free postal service and especially important; a family when I was away from family. We all had that same benefit. The Avion office was the place where we vented, goofed off, created, sang, scammed, mourned, laughed, argued, made fun of one another, ate, drank, celebrated and just simply relaxed. We were all equals with a common interest, differing goals and assorted points of view and we all respected one another. Those are rare circumstances in the real world.

When Teresa and I were first engaged, she told me one day that she was going to join the Avion staff, “…because you’re up there all the damned time, so I may as well be up there too.” For me the Avion office was just a part of my normal existence at ERAU. I’d first ventured into the office on Friday, February 10, 1978. In those days the Avion office was the narrow room that would later become the common purpose room. It was packed with upper classmen and instead of simply going in and taking some time to be the fly-on-the-wall, I was introduced by Dan-the-man to the whole staff as “This is the guy with the cartoons I’ve been telling you about!” as he slammed my portfolio of cartoons onto the layout table.

“Uncomfortable” is a rectal exam, this was more a kin to being dragged grudgingly to a back yard party at a complete stranger’s house and being immediately thrown into the pool.

As the entire staff began reading my cartoons and snickering, smiling and laughing, I started to relax a bit. What struck me was that they all “got it” they understood most of my twisted humor and understood jokes that my own family back in Michigan didn’t understand. Then it came time for editor Ray Katz to read… he never cracked a smile. He just stroked his beard pensively and then said, “Here’s what we’ll do, (Yes “we’ll”) you draw your ant life size and we’ll call it the adventures of Empty Ripple. I politely scooped up my portfolio, quietly said “thank you” to everyone and made tracks for the door. Jeanie Snyder and Keith Kollarik (the guy who was then assistant editor and would soon be editor) apparently both saw this coming and were standing at the door as I went out. Jeanie grabbed me by the sleeve and whispered to “forget Katz” and do it my way. Keith pulled me over and said that he was the one who took the paper to the printer and I should do my cartoon any way I want. He’d put a junk story on the editorial page where my cartoon would go and after Katz did his Monday read and went home, Keith would remove the story and insert my cartoon. “Once it runs,” he whispered, “Katz can’t do a thing about it.” I’d fallen in with authority-scoffing scamsters… I’d found a home!

By the end of that first trimester I found myself spending more and more time in the Avion office. The staff members there were nearly all upper classmen and being around them allowed me to become more and more a part of the university. By the following autumn term I’d gotten my roommate Jeff Barrow onto the staff and we were spending all of our free time up in the Avion office. I’d been tipped off to some nasty and underhanded events in the university and worked them into my cartoons, so I was soon a target. But I had two advantages- first, no one really knew who I was. The classroom instructors could never pronounce my last name always asked if they could just call me by my first name, which was registered as “Walter.” So when they called the roll and got to the “Os” I simply answered to “Walter.” Second was the sanctuary of the Avion office. With the prog. pilots, food services, housing administration, Delta Chi and WERU all gunning for my scalp, the Avion staff got quite protective of me. I don’t know how many times over the years that pissed off people came stomping into the office with an Avion opened to my strip and demanding to see me. The staff would just shrug and say that I only came in on weekends to drop off the cartoon. Of course I’d be sitting right there.
To say that we were friends on the Avion staff would be a short sale of what the relationship really was in that office. In the Avion office we were a family. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor or what color your skin happened to be or what part of the planet you came from.

It wasn’t unusual at all to walk into the office in the morning and find someone still sleeping on the couch, or find a few people actually having spent the night mapping out a new computer game that they’d loaded. Rafts for the raft race were built by staff who guzzled October Fest beer and the construction quality showed it. ( in October 1978 the Avion raft was so poorly constructed that raft race officials had to send a power boat out to tow it across the finish line so the awards could be given out the same day as the race) Photographers worked until all hours, sometimes printing off rolls of photos taken at the previous nights staff party, the approach plate for which had been laid out on the light table.

And, then there were things like “The Boards.” Someone would scroll something on the white erase board like “Tim meet me at the library at 10- Pat” and seeing that someone else would scroll, “Pete, you and me- the cone of silence at 1:45” And another staffer would write, “Holly, I really need you to meet me at the adult detention center at 4, bring a file in your underwear- Brian” which would  bait a response of, “Brian, I don’t wear underwear- Holly” and so on until the whole frigging board was just filled with hysterical nonsense. When nothing more could be fit in, a photographer would take a picture of it and after enough time for everyone to tickled by it the board would be erased. No one in any other office on campus ever did that sort of shit.

The annual “Avioff” spurred another office thingy- nicknames, many of which stick to this day. As staffers wrote their National Lampoon worthy prank stories, they began signing them with some prank names that evolved into their staff moniker. Around the office we had “Uncle Pat” “Jabba” “T.A. Binzo” “Tim Van Militant” “Larry Newguy” “Cheff Spagetti” “The Ferret” just to name a very few.

One of the best kept secrets of the Avion office in my era was the back hallway. Campus security almost never patrolled that hallway. In fact I’m quite sure that some of the campus security officers didn’t even know it was there. At night, the single guard who was on duty at the UC switchboard very rarely left his little nook. Thus, aside from being a good place to study for a test or a prog. or have a private conversation, it was also a freeway to monkey business. In the spring of 1979 the staff of the food service had set up a fine luncheon for the visiting board of trustees in the room next door to the Avion office… and neglected to lock the back door. Discovering that, Dan-the-man got a tube of super glue and went in and started gluing shit. He glued cups to saucers, napkins to silverware, water glasses to tables, menus to the walls he even glued the carrot sticks and celery sticks to one another so when you lifted one the whole lot came out retaining the shape of the dish! Oddly, for the rest of that afternoon, no one seemed to be in the Avion office… hummmm. Of course the best one that I can recall took place about seven years or so later- just before Christmas break. The trimester was over and the bookstore was doing their end of the tri. book- buyback… where they buy your text books back at about half price or less and then mark it back up to a buck under new and act like buying it is a bargain. They conducted this term’s buyback in the room next door to the Avion- and of course locked both doors at the end of each day. Rob Watt, however, found that if you stood on the back of the light table in the Avion office and slid some ceiling tiles aside you could drop down into the buyback room, open the door to the back hallway and fleece the book store right back. We went in and nabbed assorted high price books for three nights in a row and sold them back to the book store for three days in a row. Rob had to make it even more fun by selling them back the same text books for three days. You see, the people doing the buyback had no idea what your major was and if you watched and caught different clerks each day, you could sell the store back the same book you’d sold them the previous day. Some of those engineering books were expensive to. I made enough cash to buy my plane ticket home for Christmas and had some left over to buy gifts.

Yet no established society can exist without taxation. It was Brian Nicklas who introduced the “fry tax” to the Avion office. Thus anyone who brought French fries into the office was subject to the tax. It allowed everyone to reach in and deduct one fry from their plate while uttering “fry tax.” It’s a lesson that many of us passed on to our kids and grand kids.

For some unknown cosmic reason the university never fully understood the Avion office and the people who called it home when we were on campus. Solid proof of that came when a hurricane was heading toward Daytona. As a part of the standard preparedness plan the Avion office was issued huge black trash bags to cover our equipment- in the event of a roof leak, or loss. Additionally, a large roll of duck tape (yes folks, the original name for that magic gray tape was “duck” and not “duct” because it was waterproof. You never stop learning from me do you?). The tape was for taping up our office windows so that when the hurricane force winds shattered them deadly shards of glass would not blow everywhere. Big gray “X”s were to be placed over everything glass. Of course we had no windows- so we taped everything else that had glass… Uncle Pat’s glasses, my watch crystal, the computer CRTs and so on. It mattered little, because Pete Merlin dressed up like witch doctor and with hands full of palm leafs and stuff went out on the balcony, danced around and chanted “Booga, booga, booga, hurricane go away…” and the damned storm actually turned and went out to sea.

The most important thing for all of us, however, was to protect the sanctity of the paper itself. Forever the SGA and the university administration have wanted to gain control of the Avion. It is a struggle that continues to this day. More than once I have seen SGA henchmen physically “removed”… okay… bodily thrown from the Avion office. Our greatest protection from their low level tyranny has always been the fact that advertizing made the Avion self-sustaining, so when SGA threatened to pull the purse strings we simply told them to shove it… the Avion would be better on its own. Recently, even that protection has come under threat.

It was always a given that the Avion would take first prize in college journalism conventions. I’d always thought that the reason was that our staff were not journalism majors- thus we were not trying to advance any points, we were just reporting the news. Additionally, we learned hard lessons about layout and context and were garnished with some of the most amazing photos.

On the first day of March, 2019 I was again on campus… the university had actually put up a temporary sign in front of the administration building reserving a parking spot for “Klyde Morris” because my name wouldn’t fit. I was guided on a fantastic tour of the campus which is far, far larger than anything I’d ever expected.  The campus is fantastic, but the students are the same- they’re all there for the same reasons that we were there. The institute for the incurably professional remains itself; a bit over crowded, a few hassles, a few delays. While other campuses are wasting time protesting, our students are working hard with a goal in sight among the towering buildings and newly paved walkways. Yet, in the middle of the new campus I saw large equipment that was chewing away at what was once the UC. The final walls were coming down as I was there. The Avion office that I once knew was nothing more than a void. Of course the new Avion office is open on the second floor of the death star… directly across from the SGA office. Tyranny seems to never be far away.

Safely stored in the new Avion office is “the door” from the old office of my era. Avion alumni who visit are asked to autograph the door and it is covered with tons of signatures. Interestingly… the SGA has no such door. That’s because Dean Rockett was right- no group on campus has ever been as closely knit as those who resided in the Avion office.

I just took my daughter to the orthodontist... 
BUY MY FRIGGIN' BOOK! I need the money!


Thursday

HIGHLY FLAMMABLE BLUE JUICE


STORIES FROM MY REGIONAL DOG FLYIN’ DAYS; VOL. 277


It seems as if the weirdest crap hits the ventilator on clear blue sky days when everyone’s relaxed. It was early summer 1996 and I’d been flying the Saab 340 for nearly two years by now and that aircraft hated me as much as I hated it. Our mutual disdain had by now settled down to the agreement that I wouldn’t cuss it out in public and in exchange it would allow me a good landing about once a week. That was pretty much the same deal that the stiff-legged SOB gave to everyone else in the company, so I could live with it.

We were cruising along from Appleton, Wisconsin to Minniepoopolis chillin’ in the fine weather when someone came over our bullshit frequency.

“Everyone, get on ops. right now, there’s some real shit goin’ on!”

Normally the company required that we kept one radio on ATC and the other on ops. No one at our company ever did that. Instead we kept the second radio on a frequency we loosely called the B.S. channel, or “the five fingers” which was 123.45. Reacting more out of interest than of concern I dialed up ops. We heard a few exchanges between one of our flights and ops. There was a mention of having the flight attendant guarding the door to the aircraft’s lav. and then the captain saying that he wasn’t going to divert because they were close enough to their destination. My captain and I looked at one another a bit puzzled and then the ops. came up and gave the strangest order I ever heard come over the radio.

“All aircraft, have a crewmember go into your lav. and smell the blue juice.”

There was a pause and one of our aircraft came up and asked.

“What’re we supposed to be smelling for?”

That pegged my weird meter.

“We have an aircraft in flight,” ops. replied seriously, “that has avgas in their toilet instead of blue juice. We need every aircraft to check and see if they have the same problem.”

My captain reached to ding the flight attendant and I stopped him.

“I’ll go back and check,” I volunteered. If we did have aviation gasoline in the toilet, I didn’t want anyone doing anything about it- like trying to flush it away, or worse yet, using a lighter to tray and see inside. Never underestimate human stupidity when things are in weird mode.

I unbuckled, put a smile on my face and headed to the back. The flight attendant was one of the newer girls, and when I say “girls” I mean that many of these regional FAs were kids fresh out of high school. She was just serving pop and peanuts to back rows as I squeezed past and reached for the lav. door.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Oh, nothin’,” I quipped, “we just got a light up front that says the toilet’s running and I need to jiggle the handle.”

I left to door cracked so the light wouldn’t come on. Gave a general sniff, and got in as close as I dared and sniffed again. Oh the glamour of being a regional airline First Officer.

We had blue juice, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

“That thing is busted,” I told her aloud, “make an announcement that the lavatory is out of order, okay?”

“Sure,” she smiled sweetly and continued her serving.

When I got back to the cockpit I reported to my captain that we seemed to be okay, but I asked the FA to announce that the lav. was out of order. My reasoning was that if we did have avgas contamination, it may not come through until someone flushes. He agreed and then told me that two more aircraft had reported in with av. gas in their blue juice. One was on the ramp at an out-station and the other was about to land at their destination.


So, “how in the world could this have happened?” became the talk of  the crew lounge. Some speculated that maybe a disgruntled ramper had dumped a few cups of 100 low lead, which is blue in color, into some of the toilets. Others said that it was some sort of a gag gone wrong.

The answer was far more simple and quite innocent. The company that fueled our aircraft at Minni had hired a new fuel truck driver. That morning, when things were slow, he was given the avgas truck and told to go onto our ramp and top off all of the tanks on all of the ground equipment. The baggage loaders, ground power carts and such all had gasoline motors that were always fueled with 100LL. He did exactly as he was told, except he didn’t know the difference between the fuel tank on the lav. cart and the blue juice tank- which is opaque plastic and allows you to see the blue juice inside. So, he went over, opened the blue juice tank and topped it off with 100LL.



Now came the biggest problem. The company had three aircraft grounded with their toilet systems contaminated with highly flammable aviation gasoline. What do you do about it to make them airworthy again?

Our company mechanics had no idea… of course these were the same guys who though a valid fix for a ding on the back side of a composite propeller blade was to color it in with a black marking pen rather than using the repair kit which would require the aircraft to sit for 24 hours. Saab USA, had no idea and neither did Saab overseas! Then our FAA PIO, who could normally not find his ass with a funnel, got involved and the situation dragged on. The company swapped some of the southern system birds up to cover the shortage of airframes. It was summer, so our mechanics didn’t have to rip the deicing boots off before they could fly. Normally the southern birds had crappy boots and were not suited for the northern system.

Eventually the word circulated among the pilot group that they all decided just to drain the system the same way you would drain a piston aircraft’s tanks for an inspection, let it dry out, disassemble it, check for local leaks, and replace any of the plumbing that the avgas may have compromised. The fittings, tubing and seals were not intended to contain avgas and could be degraded. Under pressure the system could easily form a blue juice geyser on some unsuspecting passenger. As best I can recall it took about three weeks or so before the contaminated birds were back on the line.

I have no idea what happened to the fuel truck driver. Odds are they kept him. Hey, good help is hard to find and he was making more money than some of our pilots, so why would he wanna get out of aviation?

Go right NOW!!! And check out Wes' latest best-sellers... APOLLO PART ONE and INVISIBLE EVIL





Wednesday

Wes' aviation/spy novel



Wes hit's with a national Best Seller!
Invisible Evil: A Stunning Aviation Thriller With a Twist You Won't See Coming






About the Book: When an NSA analyst finds herself transferred to a field operations unit known as Facility Nine, her up-grade quickly takes her from passive intelligence gathering and into a global trek through a dark world where she crosses paths with a mysterious pilot. It is a place where the line between good and evil is not blurred- it is in fact nearly invisible. Her fresh ideas begin to peel back the layers of covert organizations where politicians are as bad as the terrorists as everyone is considered to be nothing more than collateral damage. It is a place where lives have little value and power is the best currency. Once the layers of this baneful onion are peeled deep enough she finds that the pillars of power are about to tumble down and countless lives are at stake because the weapon of choice flies over an unsuspecting world.

About The Author

Wes Oleszewski has authored 25 books since 1991 including his current six-book series “Growing up with Spaceflight.” Born and raised in mid-Michigan he spent most of his life with an eye turned toward the sky and spaceflight. Noted for his meticulous research, Oleszewski has a knack for weeding out the greatest of details from the most obscure events and then weaving those facts into the historical narratives which are his stories. His tales of actual events are real enough to thrill any reader while every story is technically correct and highly educational. Oleszewski feels that the only way to teach history in this age of computers, smartphones and video games is through “narrative.” The final product of his efforts are captivating books that can be comfortably read and enjoyed by everyone from the eldest grandmother to the grade-school kid and future pilot or historian. In his fiction work he applies the same methods of detail and use of real places and objects in order to provide a setting that places the reader within the story. Those stories, however, are not for the faint of heart or children. They are mature adventures that some may find realistic in the extreme. Born on the east side of Saginaw, Michigan in 1957, Wes Oleszewski attended public school in that city through grade nine, when his family moved to the farm town of Freeland, Michigan. In 1976 he graduated from Freeland High School and a year later entered the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida. Working his way through college by his own earned income alone, Oleszewski graduated in 1987 with a commercial pilot’s certificate, “multi-engine and instrument airplane” ratings as well as a B.S. Degree in Aeronautical Science. He has pursued a career as a professional pilot concurrently with one as an author and was nominated for an Emmy. A former airline captain and corporate pilot he holds an A.T.P. certificate and to date has filled more multiple log books with flight time- most of which is in airline category and jet aircraft. Recently he gave up the life of a professional aviator and now enjoys his job as a professional writer. To date he has written and see published three quarters of a million words.

Saturday

“D” CHECK” Part 4 : YOU GOTTA SPEND MORE!



Another part of the Falcon 20’s “D” inspection that was contracted out from Hangar 6 was the engine overhaul. That job was most economically done by a place that did nothing but complete engine overhauls. In order to get the two CF-700 fan jet engines to that shop, the one person who was on the crew that was best suited for the trip was… me.



Their reasoning was quite sound. First of all I was working under the shop certificate and thus the least qualified mechanic in the crew. Secondly, I was being paid the lowest hourly rate of anyone other than the hangar rat guy- and absolutely nobody was gonna trust him with a truck load of jet engines on a long road trip. Third, I was known to be  highly dependable. So, they sent me out to rent a U-Haul truck while the two CF-700-C engines were crated up and made ready to be transported. I was to drive them down to Springfield, Illinois and Abraham Lincoln Airfield where the overhaul shop was located.

The General Electric CF-700 series engines have an interesting history. Originally the Dassault Mystere 20, which was soon renamed the “Falcon 20” because people in the U.S. market had no idea what the hell “Mystere” meant or how to pronounce it, was first successfully wide marketed to Pan Am Airways with the condition that the original  Pratt & Whitney JT12 engines be replaced with the CF-700. Dassault looked at the firm Pan Am order for 40 aircraft with an option or another 120 and was more than happy to make that change. That was on August 2, 1963 and interestingly through that same time period in aviation history another variant of the CF-700 was being adapted for another use that would help to land men on the Moon!



NASA was in the process of developing a thing they called the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV). This was an odd looking series of pipes and propellant tanks with a cockpit all surrounding a single jet engine that thrusted straight down! 


That jet engine was the CF-700-ZV (the V stood for vertical and I have no idea what the Z stood for). The LLRV was a simple test bed to prove that the danged thing could fly and land like a Lunar Module… which it did. An astronaut training version, the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV), was then constructed and most of the Apollo astronauts got a turn at flying it. 


As it turned out, these critters (2 LLRVs and 2 LLTVs) were very dangerous machines with 3 out of 4 crashing and burning. The first crash was Neil Armstrong’s as he had to eject just over 2 seconds before the LLRV hit the ground and exploded; the date was May 6, 1968 less than 14 months before he would become the first man to walk on the moon. The three other crashes involved NASA test pilots all of whom ejected safely. Still, the vehicles kept flying until November 13, 1972 when Gene Cernan made the final flight just three weeks before he became the last man to pilot a lunar module onto the Moon’s surface. The astronauts had said all along that the experience of flying those machines was well worth the risks. It’s worth noting that the CF-700 was never the cause of a crash.

Now in the summer of 1985 I was all set to schlep two CF-700s from Freeland, Michigan down to Springfield, Illinois. The trip would take just over 9 hours because with the cargo of those two engines I was ordered to stick to the 55 mph speed limit. The afternoon before I left the boss gave me $375 in cash as spending money. Picture it, a guy working his way through college and normally living on a few dollars per day, now has 350 bucks for a 4-day trip! I was a happy camper as I drove the U-Haul home and parked it in my parent’s driveway poised for a pre-dawn departure. One of the neighbors came over and asked:

“What’s in the truck? What’re ya’ movin’?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told ya’,” I replied.

“Try me,” he quipped.

“Two jet engines.” I told him.

Of course he needed to get the whole story before he actually believed me. Then I added that when I bring them back they’re gonna go onto a jet that’ll take off right over his house. He looked a bit worried.

Departing long before dawn I was happily rattling down I-75. I’d resurrected my dad’s nine-year-old CB radio the previous evening and hooked it up in the truck. The stupid thing actually worked and I was sittin’ pretty until I ran head-long into one of those pea soup Michigan summer fogs. Traffic was slowed to 15 mph and it came over the CB that some clod up ahead of me had started a chain reaction crash. Just about that time a state trooper flagged us all off the expressway and down some country road. I just kept following the truckers and pretty soon I heard on the CB that we were well clear of the accident. Apparently the police just had not set up a person to point us back toward the expressway. With that the convoy just took the next left and we were back on the super slab. The only rough spot after that was I-294 south of Chicago. That stinking highway had pot holes like lunar craters. Finally after nearly 10 hours on the road I made it to the airport in Springfield while wondering if I-294 had shaken the CF-700s to bits.

They were waiting for me at the service center and a guy took my truck around front so they could unload the CF-700s. The coolest thing about this whole operation was the fact that I didn’t need to check into a hotel! Part of the building in which the repair station was operated also served as a hotel just for guys like me who brought in aircraft engines and waited for them to be overhauled. The room was great and those accommodations were included in the price of the job. They also had a desk where you could check out an “airport car” and use it to go and do whatever you wanted while you were waiting. Wow… what more could you want?

On the third day I was expecting to head on home in the next two days, but something unexpected happened out in the shop. The FedEx truck showed up with the daily parts delivery that was supposed to include a 160 pound box containing stater blades. Instead the parts guy was handed a two pound box of rivets that had a similar part number! Now the job would be delayed at least four more days. They sent me a message to call back home to Hangar 6 so I could get the news. Frankly I couldn’t care less, I was getting paid to hang out and wait- so no problem. Bob, the Hangar 6 ramrod back home asked,

“How’s yer’ money holdin’ out?”

“Great,” I replied, “but I have to damit I’ve spend about $80.”

“What!” he gasped, “I’m about to send you another $300! You gotta start spending more! Go hit the bars and shit!”

“I don’t drink,” I said calmly, “you know that.”

“Aww shit! Well go buy stuff. I need you to burn through that cash tomorrow!”

“Say what?” I was puzzled. Again... here's me, the kid workin’ his way through college who’d been surviving on Rice-a-roni for the past half dozen years. I could stretch $375 out for three months easily. I didn’t understand.

“Look,” Bob explained firmly, “if you spend too little then while you're down there, then when WE go down there the next time, the company is gonna give us less money to spend. Get creative, burn through that cash and call me tomorrow night and tell me your money is getting’ tight.”

Get creative? With money? I’m from a working class family that lived paycheck to paycheck and I’d spent my college career scraping for every dime. Now I have to get creative? How?

This post brought to you by Wes' aviation spy thriller INVISIBLE EVIL


Shuffling into the break room I asked a couple of the mechanics for ideas. Their answers were, of course,… hookers… bars… dice… more hookers and dope, none of which were gonna work for me. Then one guy had a suggestion that had some roots in it. Following his advice I drove to a local video store and rented a VCR, a large TV and every James Bond 007 movie that they had. I set the TV up in the break room and ordered more than a dozen large pizzas and a lot of soda pop for delivery. The management would not allow any beer, although on Friday and Saturday night some of the mechanics brought in their own. I ended up going back and raiding the video store for everything Clint Eastwood as well as some classic war movies and some very upper class movies like “Slapshot” and “Strange Brew” plus more pizzas. We had a guy’s movie festival goin’ on. Someone wants more food? Fine. If they deliver send it down- I got the cash. Hookers? Nope- you gotta use yer' own cash for that guys.

Still, I had more money left and I had to hit the mall for some new shirts, jeans and sneakers. It was dang hard to burn off $350. But when Bob called me back he didn’t even ask how my cash was holding out.

“Don’t say a word,” he he commanded, “Oh, you’re short on cash you say. I’ll have some more cash set up for ya’. Enough to get you back home… with nothing left… get it?”

“Yep,” I replied.

That afternoon one of the ladies from the office called me up to her desk and handed me an envelope with another $300 in cash.

Later in the week I arrived back at Hangar 6 and dropped off the truck with the overhauled CF-700s locked inside. It was after one in the morning, so I just hopped on my bicycle and rode back home to crash out. My dad, who had worked midnights my whole life, was off that night and when I got home he was up and watching some old black & white late night movie. He said that Bob had called earlier and left a message for me to take the next day off and stay broke. Dad had no idea what that meant and I didn’t bother to show him the wad of leftover cash in my pocket. I just stashed it away for college in the fall. It would come in handy.

 
NEXT: Part 5, Yellow wing bolt guck.

If you like the way Wes writes, check out his novel, INVISIBLE EVIL ! Get your copy now, while supplies last [insert some text here that will make people think it's like... really urgent to buy the book otherwise we'll run out. Yeah we know there's an endless supply, but we need to get our February number up. PS don't forget to delete this note before you post this blog entry. : Publisher]


Wednesday

“D” CHECK” Part 3: TORO’S TANK GUYS


Folks- If you're enjoying this series, please check out Wes' first novel and 25th book INVISIBLE EVIL it's got lots of aviation in it.


TANKS A LOT

Although we had everything needed to totally disassemble the Falcon 20 in the “D” inspection, there were some tasks that simply had to be contracted out. One of those was the dropping and cleaning of the fuel tanks.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the fuel tanks on aircraft such as this, in the case of the wing storage, there really is no “tank” at all. The fuel is housed inside the wing itself and resides among the spars.



The Falcon 20 does indeed also have two actual tanks in the aft fuselage, but most of the cleaning process in the “D” inspection involved the wing tanks. For that Aero Services brought in a specialist in wing tank cleaning. That was a fellow by the name of Leroy Toro and he was said to be the master of aircraft tank cleaning. He was contracted to fly in with his crew from south Florida with his crew to get the job done.


By 1985 I had already spent four years living in Florida and working assorted minim wage jobs in the effort to work my way through Embry-Riddle. It was the early 1980s and the national recession made getting any job in Michigan impossible until late 84. In Florida, and especially Daytona, it was fairly easy to gain employment. The hotels along the beach side alone hired anyone right off the street. Thus you often found yourself working with some really rag-tag people. The establishments that needed this ready labor usually did not hold back the first week’s pay, there was no state income tax and some places, such as Kmart paid in cash every week. Transients would work for one or two paydays and then either get fired or just move on. I’d been hired on the labor crew at the Daytona Plaza hotel in January of 83 just by walking in and asking for a job. They hired seven of us that day- by the next week there was only me remaining. Of course they hired six new faces. A three months later I’d seen a lot of the rag-tags come and go and I was actually a senior employee. Still a lot of dirty jobs got done and the weekly cash helped me pay for some of my school and feed myself until I found it worthwhile to head back to Michigan for a year. Yep- I was just as rag-tag as everyone else. Thus, when Mr. Toro brought his crew into Hangar 6 I easily recognized a bunch of my fellow Florida rag-tags hired on to do a very dirty job.


As Mr. Toro and our general manager went over the specifics of what his crew was going to do, our GM thought pensively for a while and then vanished into his office. Later that day he came into the lunch room and told us all that everyone was going to get a four day vacation! This was because one of the largest steps in the tank cleaning process involved actually spraying CH3C(O)CH2CH3 into the tank spaces after they had opened them up. What’s CH3C(O)CH2CH3? It’s the chemical formula for methyl ethyl ketone, or MEK. Anyone working in most industries or especially paint and body shops knows MEK as a great solvent and when exposed to it in modest amounts the worst it will do is make your eyes burn or your throat sore. But, when sprayed it can, like any solvent, pose serious health hazards and can be highly flammable. Aero Services was taking no chances. I  immediately began planning my summer trip up north to camp and watch the lakeboats go by at Sault Saint Marie.

Before they could spray, they had to drop the tanks. Normally, the inspection panels on aircraft are set in place with screws that are hand-tightened and easily removed with a speed handle. That is, unless some jackass before you has decided to use an air wrench and over-tightened them. You can usually tell when this has happened by the presence of a tell-tale tornado scratch mark next to the screw head. That says that the screw will likely strip and have to be drilled out. It also means a lot of time spent on one stinking screw- especially if the drill bit you’re using to make the tap hole breaks off in the hole! Now you’re talking a piece of hardened steel stuck in your hole and overtime on your time card… plus lots of swearing. The screws holding those fuel tanks together were not intended to be removed routinely, so their screws are not only over-tightened, but also painted in place.

Mr. Toro’s tank crew used plenty of elbow grease and just as much profanity as they put in 12 hour days to get those tanks dropped. Once the parts were on the hangar floor and the crew was ready to begin the spraying, I split with no regrets. The stuff they were cleaning away was a sealant that had been used during the construction of the wing in France. The sealant, PR-1422 and PR-1431, was a dark brown color and when you picked at it with your fingers it seemed hard a crusty. I wondered to our A.I. how some of that couldn’t help but break away and contaminate the fuel? He simply replied, “That’s what filters are for.”

By the time I’d spent four working days plus a weekend up north relaxing it was time to get back to Hangar 6 and the Falcon 20 that looked a lot like a skeleton. There we no windows, the cockpit was empty- including the entire instrument panel, every space that could be open was now a gaping hole, both engines were off the airframe and resting on racks, the rudder and every other control surface was off… but those tanks were all sealed up nice and pretty. Mr. Toro and his crew had done their job.

Of course they left us with a hangar that smelled like MEK for the next week or so.

NEXT: Part 4, You gotta start spendin’ more.

This saga brought to you by Wes' 25th book- the aviation, spy thriller INVISIBLE EVIL ! If you're into aviation, this book will draw you in.