31 December 2005

A New Year's Eve Anniversary

I met Sara Jean 25 years ago today.
We've lived happily ever after.
NOT!

Our relationship is never dull. I've discussed the fact that she was raised in the city and is uncomfortable in the dark, where I was raised with a pig farm outside my 4th Grade classroom and I absolutely hate the fact that ambient light keeps me from seeing the stars I saw as a youngster.
We argue a lot. We always make up. Making up can be fun.

In the first "Rocky" movie, when asked about his relationship with Adrienne, Rocky says "Gaps........she fills gaps in my life."
Sara Jean is my polar opposite.
I'm pretty laid back- she is a ball of energy.
I can be an insensitive jerk- she is expert at coming along behind me putting out fires.
She is a "clean freak". I...........well, let's just say I'm not.

The Greybeard family has spent the last week in our paradise, partly in celebration of this day. Unfortunately, Big Bubba has to be back to work at Oh-Dark-Thirty tomorrow morning, so we are packing the car and will be on the road the biggest part of our anniversary, (But I bought her the bling-bling yesterday, and she is pleased.)

She brings joy to my life in countless ways.
What would I do without her?
I don't want to think about it.

Happy Anniversary Baby.......
You are the solid foundation on which I depend.
Thank you for putting up with my quirks for these 25 years.
Ready for the next 25?

.38 Special Trivia

Here's the answer to my trivia question:

Our Hueys had ceramic/composite armored seats. These seats weighed 150 pounds each, and protected pilot and copilot from .30 calibre rifle fire approaching from the rear, beneath, and sides of the aircraft.
I also wore what was called a "ballistic" helmet, which was supposed to provide some protection for my noggin.
But we were unprotected from anything fired at us from the front or from above.

Before climbing into the aircraft, I would grab my gun belt and shift it 90 degrees, so the .38 was strategically located to provide a little protection for what I considered a pretty important area at the front of my body!

I never heard of an incident where the pistol actually helped deflect a bullet, therefore insuring a pilot was able to later father a family......but to me, feeling the weight of the revolver there during the flight was reassuring.

I was glad to take comfort anywhere I could find it!

28 December 2005

The Handgun Surprise

I first put my hands on the Army's M1911 .45 Cal. Automatic while being trained as a "Light Weapons Infantryman (Mos 11B), at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.
We didn't fire it for record, so my introduction to the piece was a lotta fun.

We fired 45's again in O.C.S..
I liked the .45. I found I could shoot it pretty accurately. I loved the fact that the round moved downrange slowly enough that I could see it in flight.

In O.C.S. we learned a little history of the weapon. In the Philippines, American Officers armed with .38's found that weapon would not stop the charge of Moro warriors intoxicated with narcotics. (.30 caliber rifles sometimes had minimal effect too.)
A new, more powerful sidearm was needed.
John Browning came to the rescue. The .45 had nearly twice the stopping power of the .38, and the weapon had an 8 round capacity... 1 in the chamber, 7 in the magazine.
Hit a man anywhere with the .45, and he was mighty sorry he had met your acquaintance!

You can imagine my surprise when I lined up to receive my sidearm in Viet Nam and they handed me a .38 Special... wimpy piece of soiled Kleenex!

But when I questioned the wisdom of issuing us .38's, the answer made sense:
If you are shot down and break an arm in the ensuing crash, you can still fire, reload, and fire again one-armed if you are shooting the .38 revolver.
Reloading and chambering the first round in the .45 with one arm could prove difficult.
It made sense.
I learned to deal with the idea.

Now, Sports fans, your intermittent trivia question:
(No Army Aviators are allowed to participate, obviously)...
When I climbed into my Charley Model Huey with the Western belt/holster style .38, what did I physically do with the pistol?

26 December 2005

Young, Dumb, and full of......Hope.



Not the best photograph, I know. But what a bunch of happy, idealistic guys!
(Click to enlarge.)

Your humble host, and frequent commenter "Ole Prairie Dog" are both in that picture.

Look closely and you can see some of the Officers are wearing wings on their caps, an indication they had soloed the aircraft we were using for training, the Hughes TH-55 "Mattel Messerschmidt".

















(Photo lifted from the website of CW2 James N. Post. Thanks James!)

The fact that many in the photo are not yet wearing wings indicates it was taken early in our training at Ft. Wolters, TX., probably February of 1968.

My research indicates about 40,000 helicopter pilots served in Viet Nam.
2,202 lost their lives there........that number is just the pilots.......I don't have solid numbers for crewmembers, but I've seen a figure of 1103 killed in the UH-1 (Huey) alone.

Most of the faces you see were in their early 20's.
Some had wives.
Some had wives and kids.

I had just turned 21. We all knew our chances of going to Viet Nam upon completion of Flight School was about 99.9%. Some of our classmates had already had a tour in RVN in another capacity........one of our mates was a Green Beret! Those guys had a clue about what their future would hold.......the rest of us were paying attention to our training, enjoying the camaraderie, and doing what young, healthy, focused young men normally did.
Most of us were anxious about the war, but I cannot remember anyone being depressed about it. We simply tried to pack as much life as possible into our remaining months Stateside.

How odd to look back at this photo and realize at this time I was younger than my son, who is now 22 and still in school.
Just a year after this grouping, the majority of these men would have a third of their tour in Viet Nam completed.
One would be dead.

We all are a product of everything that has gone before in our lives.
Certainly my life has been a product of the training I received in '68.
What course would my life have taken if I had not learned to hover?

We loaded tremendous responsibility on our young people then.
We still do.
Thank God there are still men and women willing to shoulder that burden......
We must always keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

If you have any interest, there is a wealth of information about helicopters and the crews that flew them at the
Viet Nam Helicopter Pilots Association website:

http://www.vhpa.org

This is the patch designating my unit, B Company, 123rd Aviation Battalion:

23 December 2005

23 December Open Forum





Got a question?
Got a comment?
Want to Rant?
Here's your chance!
Leave your comment here.

And, by the way.....
I hope Jesus' Birthday celebration is wonderful for you and all those you love!

22 December 2005

Changing Behavior, Kicking and Screaming

Back pain......almost incapacitating.
Dad was always having back trouble.
One vivid memory is of my Dad on his back on the hardwood floor, Mom standing over him, leaning on his knees as he drew his knees closer to his chest, trying to straighten his vertebra.
Most of the time he got some relief from her efforts.

In 1978 my parents were talking about buying a new mattress.......
Dad was still having back problems, and they thought a new mattress might help him.
I suggested they get a waterbed. They were non-plussed.

Although I didn't own one myself, I had enjoyed sleeping on them and thought the new "fully baffled" waterbeds with their firmer consistency and heater to keep Dad's back warm might help his troubles.

Mom and Dad were suspicious.

We went shopping to see what was available......what they looked like, and what they would cost.
The folks saw they pretty much looked like other beds and weren't prohibitively expensive.
We saw one that I kinda liked myself, so I made the deal-clinching offer:
Buy this bed and try it for a while.
If you decide you hate it, I'll pay for it and use it myself.
The company delivered and set it up the next day.

Two days later my Mom had her first pacemaker installed. When I called to inquire how she was doing post-surgery, she said, "You can just forget about taking this bed!"
Even with the new pacemaker, she was sleeping comfortably.
And it did help Dad's back trouble, too.

Chalk it up to another good recommendation from Greybeard.

Fast forward to about 1998........I'd been online for a few years, talking to Mom and Dad about the wonders and conveniences afforded by computers.
Each time I would talk about getting them a machine they would roll their eyes and smile, shaking their heads......
Too expensive.
Too complicated.
They probably wouldn't be able to figure it out.

I had seen the ads for something called WebTV.
I got online and checked them out. WebTV provided access to the internet, email, and was user friendly to the extreme. I suggested Mom and Dad should get WebTV.
Again, they used delaying tactics on me.

With Dad alongside, I stopped by the local Circuit City and found a WebTV in the store, connected to the internet. There in the store, I entered the address of the website for my personal business. When the site came up, I showed Dad the picture of Sara Jean and I standing next to an R22 I had landed in our back yard. He was amazed. Right here in his home town in the local Circuit City, I had dialed up a picture of his daughter-in-law and his son.
We bought the system and took it home.

Simple to hook up, we turned it on and it did all the work......
found it's own service provider and walked us through the sign-up procedure.

The first thing we did was send out emails to all our relatives announcing Mom and Dad's online "birth".
Next morning, the "you've got mail" red light was blinking on the face of the machine.
Several cousins had written to applaud my parents, and comment that they wished their parents were so open minded!
At that moment, I pretty much knew that I could also forget ever having to worry about disposing of the WebTV.

We all fear change to a degree.
We all have Luddites among our family and friends.
Some still think computers are too complicated for older, "set-in-their-ways" minds.
But I have family I would love to be able to fire off an email to, or send a link to share something I know would bring a smile.

With one much loved Aunt and Uncle, I've even tried the old reliable trick......offering to buy the machine for them.....no dice.
If only they knew what they are missing......Email, Blogs, Google Earth, The Library of Congress at their fingertips.......

Kicking and screaming.........how to get them to give it a try?
I'm out of ideas.
Got a good suggestion?
I'll take all the help I can get.

20 December 2005

George Marquardt



It was the summer of 1977, about 1 A.M..
Recently divorced, I was still experimenting with medicating myself with alcohol. Vic........fellow Viet Nam Vet.......fellow Army Reserve helicopter pilot, and I had reached that point where conversation was no longer necessary. We sat on his deck overlooking his back yard listening to light rock music playing quietly, absorbing the warmth of the night as the stars provided just enough light to differentiate trees from lawn.

What was that?
Movement back there.........a man slid from between the trees and walked directly toward us.........a fairly big man.
But non threatening. Good thing too.......we were in no shape to defend ourselves if someone was gonna be aggressive.

He came up the stairs and said, "You Vic?"
Vic extended his hand and said "That would be me."
"I'm George Marquardt. Sis said I should come and introduce myself to you."

Vic's demeanor changed instantly.
This was no ordinary George.

George Marquardt was also a pilot.
On August 6th, 1945, he Commanded "Necessary Evil",
a B-29 flying in loose formation with another B-29,
"The Enola Gay."

Marquardt's mission was to take photographs of Hiroshima after an experimental weapon was dropped from the Enola Gay.

Three days later, Marquardt was piloting the Enola Gay as an advance weather ship, and again to take pictures of the results of another experimental bomb drop, this time over Nagasaki.

To say I was stunned would be serious understatement. I was mellowed by alcohol and unable to comprehend that this shadow, on the suggestion of his sister, Vic's neighbor, had seen us on the deck and had gone out of his way to come over and meet us.

We made polite chatter for a few minutes, and he was gone.

I googled his name and found
  • this entry
  • about him.

    George was the sort of guy you got comfortable with in short order. I wish there had been time to get to know him better.

    It's an experience I'll never forget.......a brush with history.

    19 December 2005

    Laughable

  • This

  • is what citizens in the U.K. can use should someone break into their homes in the wee hours, now that they have given up their firearms.

    "Big Brother" is your friend!

    Thanks to:
  • Cold Fury
  • 18 December 2005

    Gee Whiz Stuff
















    I'm a sucker for aircraft and sunrise/sunset pictures.

    What you see here folks, is an F-22 Raptor breastfeeding from a KC-10 tanker.

    I hope you know something about the F-22.
    If you don't.....time to Google!
    These fighters are now being delivered to Air Force line units.....and they are SPECIAL!

    Another story is in order here......

    A personal acquaintance worked in weapons procurement for the Air Force. He was involved in the testing of the F-117 Nighthawk, specifically the Radar signature of the aircraft. They were looking at the Radar when suddenly the aircraft's Radar signature doubled. When they looked downrange at the aircraft through binoculars, a sparrow had landed on the wing.
    He confided that the B-2 Bomber's Radar signature was an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE less than the F-117, even though the aircraft is considerably larger than the F-117! Hard to believe.

    We can only imagine how difficult it is to see the VERY stealthy F-22 on Radar.
    Add to this the fact that the F-22 uses "vectored thrust" to make it extraordinarily maneuverable, and that it can achieve supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners, and you have unquestionably the most fearsome fighter in the world.

    I stole the picture from

  • "The Officer's Club"

  • If you are interested in things military, you MUST be reading their stuff.
    Newly added to my blogroll!

    16 December 2005

    Some Helicopter Trivia


    The helicopter you see here was produced by a company not normally associated with helicopters.

    A machine of this type was the first helicopter to land at Pike's Peak.
    In September of 1955, it landed and took off at an elevation above 14,000' with three people aboard.
    Although the Army was a possible customer, a few civilian machines were also sold.

    Can you name the manufacturer without cheating?
    ====================================
    ANSWER:

    It's a Cessna!

    The U.S. Army still owns one of these machines and used to display it in their Aviation Museum at Ft. Rucker, Alabama.
    I went back to Ft. Rucker two years ago and toured the New/Improved Museum, and the Cessna CH-1 was nowhere to be seen.
    I suspect it is stored somewhere, waiting for more viewing space to be opened there.

    There is a comprehensive article about early helicopter history and the CH-1 in particular

  • Here


  • I was surprised to find this machine was the first helicopter to be certified for instrument flight.
    It also held several speed and altitude records for a while.

    For years, I had heard that Clyde Cessna's son had been killed in one of these birds, and that was part of the reason the program was cancelled.
    The article mentions nothing about the younger Mr. Cessna.

    14 December 2005

    My Past.....Blasts!

    Today I received an email from an old friend, Rachel.
    The subject line said,
    "Finally Online!"

    This from a great lady I dated in the early 70's and have stayed intermittently in contact with since.

    Our communications over the last 30 years have been mostly from my receiving a canned newsletter from her, including a nice personal note from Rachel bringing me up to speed on things I would have an interest in.
    She is a great gal, talented, diverse, and active. She married a handy guy that has taken her down a path I envy in many ways.......(they have built their own home more than once.)

    I got the normal newsletter from Rachel last year, and sat down to respond to it. Somewhere along the line I got interrupted, and it was weeks before I found the aborted letter in a pile of "gotta get to later" stuff. By that time, motivation and time had eluded me. It never got sent.

    Getting the email from her today was so oddly wonderful.
    Now there will be no excuse for not staying in touch with her family. Rachel and her husband have been active in their communities. They have raised two wonderful girls that are also doing things to help better the lives of those around them. Now I can more easily get details of their lives.

    Now my question:
    What percentage of the population remains unconnected?
    How many are still out there in the proverbial "Stone Age?"
    And how many of those are immovable? (I suspect those that are still unplugged will be hard to convert.)

    At another date, I'll tell you the story of bringing my Mom and Dad online, kicking and screaming!

    12 December 2005

    Deming to San Antonio

    Being able to see where you are going is important. Running into a huge chunk of Granite will ruin your day.

    Once you are clear of the L.A. Basin, most of the time, visibility is unlimited until you get to El Paso.

    Most fuel stops have a way to get weather information. More and more of them are installing computer weather systems, which give you a ton of information. They're wonderful.

    And then there is The Weather Channel. Thank God for it!
    Generally, the last thing I do before going to bed while on a ferry flight is to check The Weather Channel to see what they're forecasting the next day.

    You'll recall they said it was gonna be 16 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday morning.
    Ouch.

    New helicopters leave the factory with 50 weight mineral oil in their belly.
    50 weight mineral oil literally assumes the consistency of molasses at 16 degrees.

    This thick oil puts terrific strain on the starter, making it difficult to spin the engine quickly enough to start it. If the engine does start, the oil is so thick it does not readily move through the lubrication system to do it's job on the bearing surfaces.

    I called the owner's room......."have you seen the forecast?"
    "No".
    "They're saying 16 degrees in the morning!"
    "Well, whatd'ya think?"
    "I think we need to check on pre-heating the thing before we start it."

    And he agreed.
    At breakfast we called the airport.........No preheater available.
    I assumed the owner had taken my hint not to start the helicopter under these circumstances. The forecast high for the day was 55, so my idea was to simply wait for the sun to warm the air.......the helicopter was painted a dark color, and the engine compartment would warm fairly rapidly under the direct rays of the sun.

    The owner finished his breakfast and said, "I'll go ahead to the airport and preflight, and I want to do some reading in the gps manuals."

    Good for him......good attitude.

    I finished my breakfast, went back and cleared out of the room. Since we were obviously gonna be a while waiting for the ambient temperature to rise, I didn't bother the hotel folks about a ride to the airport..........it was a 20 minute walk, and I needed the exercise.

    Imagine my surprise, when I hear the sound of a Robinson R44 running as I approach the terminal!

    As I get into the aircraft he proudly says, "It took four attempts, but it finally started!"

    Okay pal........it's your machine.......yours to abuse if you want.

    Cabin heaters in Robinson helicopters are wonderful. It was already toasty when I got in.

    After a good warmup, we were Eastbound again. I wanted to fly a short leg to the West Texas airport in El Paso and refuel there prior to taking off on a fairly long leg to Ft. Stockton, TX..

    On previous trips I had noticed what appeared to be lava flows Northwest of El Paso. Small hills in this area have the tell-tale "dished out" look of a volcano that has blown it's stack. I modified our course to show my co-pilot the lava, then flew over "Kilbourne Hole" at coordinates:
    31 58 10.35N 106 57 51.94W
    A good article about Kilbourne Hole

  • Here

  • Kilbourne Hole is 300 feet deep. We flew beneath the rim of the crater and circled around in the hole.
    You can see some of the lava flow I mentioned just Northwest of Kilbourne.

    We talked with El Paso approach and landed at West Texas airport after a 45 minute flight. Bathroom break and full of fuel, we were off again for Ft. Stockton.

    If I am continuing East from El Paso I have to contend with the "Guadelupe Peak". Our course from El Paso this time took us Southwest, so we looked at Guadalupe from a distance, but if you have to fly Eastbound, you get "up close and personal" with this big rock. It is imposing, to say the least. Coordinates:
    31 53 03.63N 104 51 29.37W

    Go to the 3D feature of Google Earth and take a good look at Ms. Guadelupe....
    she can get your "pucker factor" goin'!

    West Texas is BIG........and there aren't many folks out there! When we landed at Ft. Stockton for fuel I realized I had made a stupid mistake......we hadn't filed a flight plan. There are places along that route you don't want to crash.....you won't be found for years! If I make the trip in that direction again, I'll be talking with my Flight Service Station specialist!

    Fuel at Ft. Stockton was "self serve". I actually like these systems. Similar to buying auto fuel, you simply slide your credit card and pump your own fuel. They are open 24 hours a day, so you can get fuel even when airport personnel are gone home.

    The flight from Ft. Stockton to San Antonio was beautiful......hills and valleys, many private airfields alongside gorgeous ranch houses.

    We landed at San Antonio having flown 6.1 hours from Deming.
    We were both ready to be out of the helicopter.

    Flying cross country emphasizes how big our country truly is. I have driven this same route and it is a boring drive.......it seems you are looking at the same mountain for an entire day. The speed of the helicopter and the altitude you can safely fly are nearly perfect.....the mountains pass quickly enough to stay entertained, and at our altitude we easily saw Deer, Jackrabbits, and Javelina.
    I recommend the trip. If you'd like to do it with me, contact me via email and I'll let ya know where to send the $400,000 check!

    10 December 2005

    Choosing an Overnight Stop

    Traveling in a private aircraft is wonderful until you can no longer use the aircraft. Once you land, you have several options. Having made this journey several times, I've learned which airports are most convenient for transient pilots.

    Deming New Mexico is a great place to stop for several reasons. It's an uncontrolled airfield, meaning there is no operating control tower there. Helicopter pilots are rebels at heart.....most of us don't much like being told what to do. I'll take an uncontrolled airfield over one with a tower every time, all other things being equal.

    Many airports are located some distance from the town they serve. This is great for noise abatement and keeping airplanes from running into people's homes. It's not so great if you land after dark when the airport administration has shut down and gone home for dinner. Sure, there is generally a pay phone handy, with important phone numbers listed there: Night fueling, Motels, and Airport manager.

    It's nice to find an airport where you can land, shut the machine down, grab your bag, and walk across the street to a motel/restaurant.

    I love to stop at Deming because the manager at the "Grand Hotel" caters to pilots. He's an Iranian transplant, and quite a businessman. Call from the airport anytime, day or night, and they will send a van to pick you up. The hotel is a converted Ramada Inn from years ago.........nothin' really special, but all we are looking for is a clean room, a bed, a shower, and a good place to eat within walking distance. The Grand has a good restaurant in the hotel. They serve a great Mexican dinner and a pretty good breakfast.

    I was pleased to find that the owner, Mr. Khanbabian, has seen fit to install a Wifi system at the Grand. More and more, I'll be pickin' my layover choices by whether or not a fast internet connection is available.

    The answer to my question about the ramp at the Deming airport:
    I spot four Apache Attack helicopters and five OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopters there.
    They may have flown in from Fort Bliss, shut down, and called Mr. Khanbabian to get transportation for a great lunch!

    Tomorrow we'll finish our trip to San Antonio.

    Day One, Part II

    After refueling at Blythe, CA., we resumed our trek Eastbound on I-10 into Arizona. One really odd thing here.......almost immediately upon crossing the Colorado river, you begin to see the big Saguaro cactuses. I have never seen one on the California side of the river, and it puzzles me. Weather has got to be almost exactly the same, so why do they only grow on the AZ side? They are magnificent......some growing to 20 or so feet in height.

    Visibility in the desert is amazing. With the exception of smoggy Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso, visibility is almost unlimited. You can easily see 100 miles in any direction.

    We flew toward Phoenix, but upon reaching Buckeye, AZ., we take a shortcut Southeast to avoid the airspace around Phoenix International.

    We put Casa Grande, AZ. in our sights. Before we get there, we overfly an airfield with a fairly long runway, out in the middle of nowhere, at
    33 06 42.49N 112 16 10.06
    Look closely at the parallel taxiway, and you'll see which organization thinks hot and high training is important.

    A few minutes later, we fly over one of the biggest race tracks I have ever seen at coordinates:
    32 56 37.48N 111 58 51.13W
    This track, by my estimation, is 7-8 miles around, with banking like Talledega, Alabama. Several trips ago, my curiosity got the best of me and I flew low level past the sign out front.............Nissan.

    In the image of the track, notice there are several test tracks inside the main track. You can also see the difference between the types of pictures Google Earth has available right now: Some images resolve with much more detail than others do. The fuzzy green looking terrain will not allow you to zoom in for as much detail as the more brown pictures will.

    Continuing East, back toward I-10, my eye caught something strange at
    32 57 16.60N 111 48 58.95W

    Words and pictures don't do this feature justice. I estimate it is at least 400' deep......maybe more.
    It's an old copper mine. The road you see cork-screwing it's way down into the funnel shape is big enough to accomodate a huge haul truck, so you get an idea how big this thing is.
    My co-pilot, upon seeing it, simply said, "Oh My God!"

    Now take a look at 32 30 33.33N 111 19 35.28W
    This is Pima County airport, North of Tucson. I counted 20 Boeing 747's on the airfield. There are also DC-10's, L1011's, and various other huge airplanes there.
    Will these airplanes ever fly again? I don't know. I assume the answer to that question depends on many factors, the economy being a big one.

    We landed just South of Pima County at Marana, AZ for fuel. After taking off from Marana, we flew over the Military boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB at
    32 10 04.40N 110 51 17.76W.
    These airplanes, for the most part, are being cut up for scrap, so the scenery changes every time I fly by. Several years ago, the distinctive tails of many B-52's were VERY apparent.
    Those airplanes were nowhere to be seen this time.

    Shortly after we left Tucson, it got dark. We plodded along right over I-10 to Deming, N.M., where after getting my co-pilot current to fly his helicopter at night, we landed and called "The Grand Hotel".

    Just for grins, take a look at the refueling ramp at Deming airport:
    32 15 53.56N 107 43 27.45W
    What do you see there?

    I'll tell ya what I see, and we'll continue our trip tomorrow.
    Hope this isn't boring you to tears!

    08 December 2005

    Two Days of Stirring Air
















    You've seen a machine similar to the one we flew home in the video I posted and thought was a fake.

    The Robinson R44 Raven II we flew home had this same paint scheme.

    I just got home from work this morning and I have a bit of a sore throat.


    I'm gonna give ya some coordinates to get us started on our journey, and I'll post again later, if you don't mind.


    We took off from Torrance, CA., West of Long Beach, and flew Eastbound, just North of the Long Beach airport.
    There is now a permanent flight restriction over Disneyland, just south of Fullerton, so I contacted Fullerton Tower and asked to pass just North of them to avoid drawing the attention of the Federalis.

    We then followed Highway 91 Eastbound past Corona and Riverside, and called March AFB approach to pass just North of them. Just East of March Air Base we join Interstate 10, and will follow it all the way to El Paso.

    East of the Pass at Banning, CA., we contact Palm Springs approach control. Palm Springs always has trouble picking us up on radar because we are too low......behind the mountain from him. But around Palm Springs at coordinates: 33 54 50.69N 116 42 37.99W there are windmills just about everywhere. It's difficult to see them in the satellite image, but you can see the service roads, and that'll give you an idea how many of them are there. The wind flows through the pass one way in the morning, and then the opposite way in the evening. The windmills are always spinning!

    Clearing Palm Springs, we can look forward to about an hour's flight to Blythe. I have a friend at Blythe that asked if I had ever seen the "Blythe Intaglios".
    I hadn't.
    He gave me directions to find them, and I have twice been in the area he directed me to without seeing them.
    Turns out, they are much smaller than I expected. The artwork done in the Andes during this same time frame is huge.........the size of a small town. If you are looking for something that large, it's easy to overlook something about the size of a tennis court.
    The Intaglios are at 33 48 02.16N 114 31 55.67 W. That coordinate will take you to the two legged figure. If you look just Southeast of this figure, you'll see another artwork....this one with four legs.
    Blythe was a large training area during World War II. The airport was a B-17 base.....there is a commemorative marker at the entrance to the terminal.

    General Patton also used the area to train his tank Corps. My friend in Blythe told me the tanks ran over and ruined many of the Intaglios before they realized they were treading over ancient, irreplaceable works of art. How sad.

    Look closely at the image, and you can see where someone drove over the two-legged figure.
    These images are now surrounded by a protective fence.

    These two figures are on sloping ground overlooking the Colorado river. As we fly over the river I comment that it's odd to realize we are looking at water that has been through the Grand Canyon.

    Blythe uses the river for irrigating many crops: Hay, Lemons, Oranges, Cotton.
    It is an oasis in the middle of rocks and small bushes.

    Gonna hit the hay now. I'll be back later with some more sights to see, via Google Earth.

    Before My Debrief.......

    I look forward to reviewing my low-level trip home from L.A. with you soon, but I'd like to give some of you time to do something so you'll get more out of it.

    Have you downloaded "Google Earth" yet?
    If not, go do it ASAP.
    It's an amazing program that you'll enjoy spending hours on after you have it.

    I'll be giving you coordinates of things we saw so you can see, via satellite images, some of what we saw along the way.

    I think you'll enjoy my narrative a little more if you don't have to depend solely on my description of objects of interest to form a picture.

    So go download the program. I hope to have my after-action report waiting on you tomorrow.

    07 December 2005

    7 December

    "A date which will live in infamy", according to Franklin D..

    This is a day that means a great deal to our family.

    I flew home from San Antonio today.
    As I walk through the concourse on my way to the plane, I always watch the gates that have just boarded and pick up newspapers the departing passengers have left behind......
    It's okay to call me cheap.....I take some pride in it!

    This morning I was lucky enough to grab the Chicago Trib, the San Antonio Express-News, and the USA Today.

    All had articles about Pearl Harbor, but oddly, most of the articles were about how few of the survivors remain, and how many younger people don't even know the import of the date.
    What a shame.

    My Dad was born on 7 December 1921.
    So had he lived, he would have been 84 today. Dad started smoking when he was 13 or so, and succumbed to lung cancer two years ago.
    He was truly a part of what we now call "The Greatest Generation."

    Dad had joined the Indiana National Guard when he was 19. When the news came on his 20th birthday that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, I wonder what he thought about this surprise birthday present?
    At 20, I suspect he was frightened, but like most of his generation, knew there was a job that needed doin' and was ready to get to work.

    My Dad was typical of many Dads of that era. He didn't talk a lot about what happened to him during the war, but in the jewelry box I had found the Purple Heart and knew my old man was special. He was like that about life too.
    He didn't brag. He was not formally educated, but he was the type of guy the neighbors would bring their broken appliances to because they knew if Greybeard's Dad couldn't fix it, it was genuine junk!

    He was a carpenter, mechanic, bricklayer, roofer, electrician, concrete finisher......you name it, he could do it, and he could do it better than average.

    I was proud of him for a thousand reasons.

    When I reached manhood,
    I started hugging him and telling him THE WORDS.
    You know "THE WORDS" don't you?
    He was uncomfortable saying them, as were all the macho guys of his generation.
    And because he was uncomfortable, I was too.......at first.

    But over the years, the hugs and the words came more easily, 'til finally he was the hugger, and I was the huggee........
    and he freely said THE WORDS.........
    "I love you."
    I was glad I had made him uncomfortable for a little while.

    So now you know, for our family this day is important for more than bombs and battleships,
    although we had family directly under the bombs on the West Virginia at Pearl, too.

    I'd like you to share the importance of this day and honor my Dad by being the hugger.
    Give all those you love a hug for me today, please, and say THE WORDS.

    I know my old man would like that.
    Happy Birthday Dad.
    I love you.

    06 December 2005

    Alamo Town

    Made it!

    We got in just before dark. Total flight time was 11.3 hours, although we did a little touring along the way. Our average airspeed on the trip was 126.3 knots...
    about 145 m.p.h.!

    It's late. I'm tired, and I've had a little of "Uncle Al's medicine." I'm gonna hit the sack and save the trip report for when I can do it justice.

    The question is........what am I gonna do when I grow up?

    See ya tomorrow!

    05 December 2005

    Dateline: Deming, N.M.

    We're here safely.

    All paperwork signed at the factory, and in the air by 10:30 this morning.
    Getting out of the L.A. basin is the hardest part of this flight......
    Obviously I'm relatively unfamiliar with the area, and there are several controlled airfields to talk to.

    This helicopter is a good cross country machine. We have been averaging over 120 knots so far. The new owner is pleased with his machine.
    It's Candy Apple Red with Gold trim and light saddle leather interior.
    Beautiful!

    Helicopters are expensive to begin with. Avionics can make aircraft unbelievably pricy. He has equipped this machine with a normal VHF transmitter/receiver, a Garmin GPS with another transmitter receiver, and a Garmin 500 GPS with a collision avoidance system and XM receiver capability that can give you inflight weather reports!

    I have to admit......I'm lost with this stuff. We both will have our face in the handbook trying to figure it all out tonight.

    To follow along with us, we have been following Interstate 10 East. We landed at Blythe California for fuel, then went up to check out the Blythe Intaglios. (Google it.......pretty interesting stuff!)

    Next landing was at Marana, AZ. just North of Tucson.
    We then flew over the aircraft boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB.
    Shortly after that, it got dark.
    I gotta tell ya, I don't like flying a brand new helicopter after the sun disappears. We stayed right over the highway, and the helicopter buzzed along like a sewing machine, thank God.

    Deming is cold tonight. 40 degrees when we landed, and they're predicting a low of 16.........let me say that again.........16 degrees tonight!
    I had thought we might get an early start tomorrow morning, but with it being that cold, I don't want to start the helicopter unless we can get the engine warmed up some. We'll have to talk with the airport guys to see if they can pre-heat the thing.

    Again, thanks to all for your supportive comments. All is well. This is such fun!
    How do I do this full time?

    With God's blessings, San Antonio tomorrow.
    Watch this space!

    04 December 2005

    Time To Spare? Go By Air!

    That's misleading.

    Things went without a hitch this morning.

    First thing to report: Today was my first experience with the "Electronic ticket self service machine." Wow!

    Long lines at all the stations of the ticket counter. No line at the E-Ticket dispenser. I walked up and pushed a button to start the process, it asked me to swipe a credit card, (for identification purposes only.....no charge).
    A screen came up saying "Hello Greybeard! What is your flight number?" I entered my flight number and my intinerary came up on the screen with the question, "is this your itinerary?" I pushed yes, and my ticket dropped into the dispenser.

    Done. The whole dog-gone process took all of 20 seconds!

    Going through security was another surprise. I had planned for 90 minutes. It took all of 15.
    I found myself at my gate almost two hours prior to my flight!
    The flight to LAX was uneventful.........no food though.....beverages only.

    The gentleman buying the helicopter arrived LAX 90 minutes after I did. We hired a cab to bring us to the motel. The driver was, as always, either Pakistani or Indian.
    Nothing in the upcoming flight will have my attention like the taxi ride from LAX to our motel! The cab was an old Chevy. The brakes, (all four), were grinding like sharpening a machete on an old grinding wheel. Of course he had to prove how brave he was......driving 20 miles over the speed limit with brakes that should have been fixed in 1999. At one point the light surprised him, and we came to a sideways stop.......front wheels howling and tire smoke billowing.
    (I don't think there was any extra charge for the display of driving skill.)

    But we are safely checked in, fed, and ready to get started in the morning.
    Thanks for your kind words, especially yours, Kit.
    There is a power outlet in the helicopter, and while flying over a Starbucks or Panera Bread Company, I might very well have tried to see if I could get a decent wifi connection!

    Keep me in your thoughts.
    Tomorrow night......Deming, New Mexico, Lord willin'.

    Cross Country

    Freight Dogs like my friend John have a right to smirk a little about what I'm gonna post today.....

    I've left myself in the position this morning of chasing my tail the way I wanted to avoid doing when I wrote "Rest!"
    I'm off work at 6:30 A.M., leaving for my airline hub, and will be in L.A. this afternoon. Tomorrow I will go through the surprisingly easy process of signing for a $400,000 helicopter, and with the owner under my wing, will start beating the air into submission Eastbound along I-10 through El Paso.
    The owner lives in San Antonio, so our plan is to spend Monday evening at the Grand Hotel in lovely Deming, N.M., then on to San Antone on Tuesday.
    There, I will be forced to suffer the atmosphere around the riverwalk, no doubt consuming a Tecate or two and some sort of combination Mexican dinner Tuesday night, then Huevos Rancheros Wednesday morning.

    I hope to be back home Wednesday evening.

    I'm taking the laptop with me this trip, and, Wifi hotspots permitting, will blog along the way. Some of you have taken this trip virtually with me before......this will be my 16th trip back East from L.A. with a helicopter.......so you have an idea how wonderful this trip is for someone that is normally limited by the economics of rotary-wing flight to distances of less than 300 miles.
    This flight will be approx. 1200 miles.........10 hours flying at 500' above the ground, low enough to read the exit signs on the interstate highway.

    So stay tuned. I'll be back in touch as circumstances permit!

    03 December 2005

    The Haunted Bridge










    I'm responding to a request from two family members with this post.
    This is another of those stories that goes back to my High School Days.

    The bridge in the picture is located in Avon, Indiana.

    I'll not go into detail why the bridge was supposedly haunted......you can get a much better explanation of that story, along with more pictures

  • here.

  • The bridge was a place of legend in the area.
    With friends, I would frequently drive there late at night, park the car, and crawl up into the bridge to explore.

    As you can see in the picture, the bridge had three major arches, and each of the major arches had 8 minor arches. What you cannot see in the picture is that there was a walkway running lengthwise, up and down the three major arches, through the concrete walls of the 24 minor arches and the two concrete support piers. You could walk the length of the bridge, up and down each of the major arches. It was apparent that hoboes had at times crawled in there to get out of the weather or sleep while awaiting their next ride.

    Obviously, it was more than a little spooky at night...
    a great place for a High School prank!

    Ron, Tom and I were on the Varsity football team. We knew that three underclassmen, all on the Junior Varsity football team, were camping out at one of the kid's homes. We thought the bridge would be a great place to give them something to remember!

    Here was our plan:
    Tom and I took an old T-shirt and poured used motor oil on it. On top of that, we strategically squirted a little ketchup. We then fashioned a wire coat-hanger in such a way as to hold the T-shirt so that it was completely unfurled.
    Tommy and I grabbed a flashlight and took off for the bridge, while Ron made his way to visit our campers with an offer of adventure.

    Tom and I drove under the bridge and continued far enough that our car was out of sight. We climbed up into the bridge and made our way up and down the arches to the far end, then quietly waited for Ron to show up with our victims.

    Of course, Ron had played up the "haunted" story for all it was worth. When he and our victims arrived on-scene, we could tell from the tempo of the chatter that the boys were pretty anxious and agitated about exploring the bridge.
    It was easy to hear their progress as they made their way toward us........up and down two of the arches.

    We waited until they were at the apex of the third arch, then turned the flashlight on through a filter of our fingers, so as not to make it obvious the T-shirt was empty..........

    The reaction was predictable and instantaneous! After initial screams, we heard what sounded like a scuffle as the victims bumped into one another trying to make their way back to their entry point. The sound was very similar to Moe, Curly, and Larry trying to make their way through a doorway at the same time!

    One of the underclassmen got confused in the rush to escape and made a 90 degree turn toward an opening in the bridge..........if Ron hadn't stopped him, he might very well have jumped/fallen 35 feet to the creek below!

    Tom and I waited until we heard the others start their car and drive off, then made our way to our car and took the direct route to our local drive-in restaurant.
    Ron, as planned, took the longer way there.

    So Tom and I were quietly sipping our Cherry Cokes when Ron and the three J.V. players showed up, excitedly relating an unbelievable story about their "near death experience"....... at Avon's Haunted Bridge!

    UPDATE:


  • This site
  • has more pictures and an interesting narrative.