Lets talk a little bit about past flying

Sheik_Yer_Booty

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Lets talk a little bit about past flying jobs we’ve all had to endure.


The good with the bad, the normal to the odd, the criminal to outright insane…
I have found talking to other aviators that most of us, nonmilitary type have had some rather interesting experiences time building.

In my last traditional box hauling job which I held for only 3 months before landing my first jet job we had a co worker who grew up in Africa, came to the states to train then returned to Africa and fly for a relief organization into and out of such places as Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. He has the scars and pictures to prove his baptism by fire. He actually had a Piper Chieftain shot to pieces around him and he landed it on a roadway only to have to run for his life from an angry crowd.

He returned to the states to pursue a degree and ended up marrying a beautiful woman and ultimately acquired legal US citizenship. He now flies for a regional carrier.

Myself… well I towed banners, ferried planes, flew boxes, fire patrol, runner and then one season as a slurry pilot. While it’s not quite the same as making the midnight run over Baghdad looking for a bunker to bust amongst all the flak. Ridge running in the west and southwest can definitely reach a level of danger all its own.

The most excitement I had was, as a runner about 10 years ago near San Bernardino in a Baron. My job was to fly into the area and choose the best path for the slurries and tankers to enter and exit from. We would then coordinate with the guys on the ground so I would drop 7,500 gallons of fire retardant on them.
You usually had a spotter in the backseat moving from one side of the plane to the other constantly looking through binoculars and yelling into a two-way radio.
Once I agreed upon the track to take we would hookup with the tankers, usually DC-6’s, L-188’s or C-130’s orbiting above the fray and in we would go.

The trick is to get them low enough to make a solid cluster drop, not letting it spread out all over the place, while maintaining a safe altitude. Sometimes you are trying to hit a slope on a mountain that is literally at a 50-degree incline. It’s a hell of a rush to put a Baron on its wing tips at 500 feet AGL scream thru a canyon pass, but its unnerving to catch a quick glance over your left shoulder and see an L-188 just 300 yards behind you in that same 50 to 60 degree bank. Believe me brother… you make your peace with God real fast.

These slurry drivers put their fate and their very lives in our hands as runners. They would follow us into the smoke and haze starting at a distance of about ½ to ¾ a mile. You would dive in throttles to the firewall, continentals screaming and pray you could clear the smoke before the slurry ate up the ground between you and him.

80% of the actual run was IMC due to the smoke but you couldn’t look at the gauges at all, you were so low that the only change you had to pull it off was to hope you saw tree tops in time. Most of the time on climb out, the slurry is now several thousand pounds lighter than it was a second or two ago and they would almost overrun you. I’ve got a kick ass video taken from news chopper of me disappearing into a smoke bank with my slurry in tow, a few second s pass, you can barely see the outline of the tanker, then read cloud of retardant and all goes white and gray. The camera man follows us on through and you see on the other side of the canyon me come out of the smoke and roll immediately hard right and less than two seconds later the slurry come out and roll hard left.

Man I tell ya I was beautiful!!!

I sure do miss those days, especially the hours after RTB, clean up and de briefing. We’d all camp out in the hanger, grilling burgers and dogs, sucking down brews just **CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED** happy to be alive.

And exactly why did we do it? That’s simple, because we could.:cool:

Folks outside of the fraternity we call aviation sometimes believe that our military brethren are the only ones who go into harms way while airborne.

What’s your story?

Sheik
 

Sheik_Yer_Booty

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Oh yea… one more thing.

We had a little saying amongst the runner and slurry pilots.

“From heave to the gates of Hell… in three minutes.”

The time it took us on average to hook up, start the run and hit the smoke. On larger fires we were working an average of one tanker every 12 minutes.

A good runner could work an entire fire by himself and run 4 to 6 tankers per hour by shaving a minute or two here and there.
 

avbug

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"Runners" are called leadplanes (now ASM's), and birddogs in Canada.

Flying lead requires specialized training, and nobody gets carded their first few seasons.

What you described sounds like a recount of "Always," but nothing like the tanker flying I've done. In fact, it doesn't sound anything like the tanker industry I have been employed in.

Makes a great story, but it's not real life.
 

avbug

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Incidentally, what tanker do you know of that drops 7,500 gallons of retardant?

We operated four types, and the biggest was a four thousand gallon tanker, contracted at three. The biggest tankers in the industry, in the US, carry three.

Tankers don't roll to 60 degree banks; USFS and BLM sets the standard at 30 degrees, and we're held to it. 500'? SOP is 150-200', higher for brittle fuels which don't take the weight of the retardant well (350-400' in Florida the past few years, in many cases).

Gates of hell? That's cute.

"Spotters" are called Air Attacks, and Air Tactical Group Supervisors, and don't go low level. They don't need or use binoculars, either. Seldom use handheld radios, unless it's an emergency call when needed setup. And they don't do lead work.

No tanker pilot puts his "fate" in the lead; he makes up his own mind and makes a judgement call after surveying the fire, and calls BS on a bad run; Ive done it many times. It's a team effort in a big way.

We called it slurry in the 60's and even early 70's. It's been retardant for many years now.

80% of the run was in the smoke ("IMC")?? You were doing it WRONG.

Camped out in the hangar, did you? Have you been to a tanker base that has a hangar? I haven't. How about one with indoor toilets, or running water? Didn't think so. Not even Boise at the national interacency fire coordination center (NIFC) has that for the pilots, let alone a hangar. Sucking down a brew at the tanker base? Hmmm.

Why did we do it? Because it was a job, and it paid well.

While you're touting the glory, don't forget to mention the fatality rate (10% in some years), the attrition rate (136% fatalities since 1969), the lack of insurability, the broken marriages, the inflight breakups and lack of work off season. Don't forget to mention sitting in a hot cockpit all day without air conditioning, covered in salty retardant and oil, and eating stale food with avgas, jet fuel, and soot soaked in. Don't forget checking out of the motel every morning because you don't know where you'll be at the end of the day, or missing your kids learning to walk and talk because you've been gone ten months out of the year. Glorified...not.

There's a reason we're called "tanker trash." We'd be white trash, but we're not all white, especially at the end of the day, and the name was already taken. It's a job, pure and simple. It's not a pretty one, it's not one that generates much public interest, and it's one that few people want. It's a good job, but it's not the top gun action you've described...from one who has been there, done that enough times, and owns a whole stack of T-shirts to prove it.
 

Sheik_Yer_Booty

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Avbug…

I’ve read you response, and then I bit my tongue, thought a bit and said what the hell…

I’ve noticed that here, you and one or two other posters love to point out stuff, factual or non-factual for the absolute sake of opening an argument.

Personally I think you are a sour, old a$$hole who probably trolls the forums here and elsewhere all day looking for a brawl, a chance to drag someone down to your level.

Sorry pal… ain’t’ gonna stoop to your level… take Yer p$$ing match, your full of B$ belly aching elsewhere.

I have a fine life, I have a wonderful flying job and I have had a wonderful career path that has led me here.

I’m sorry you don’t agree with me, but then again folks like you get their kicks out of posting $hit such as you have displayed here.

If you would like to compare prick size that can be arranged too…


Nice life Avbug… just don’t understand folks like you…

Sheik

:eek:
 

givpicachanc

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Looks like we could use some fire retardent here
 

avbug

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It's not a matter of stooping. Your post rabbited on about something you obviously have no experience with. It so happens that a few of us on this board DO. It's a very specialized industry, and if you open your mouth in an area such as that when you know nothing about it, it shows.

It wasn't flame bait, it was simply someone calling you on a poor snow job. You'll note that I didn't resort to name calling, inappropriate language, or childish comments.

I do find it offensive that you will throw out such stories and align yourself with an industry peopled with folks who regularly lay down their life in the line of duty, when you're not part of the industry, and haven't been. Your language betrays you. I'm not flying tankers right now, but I'm still a firefighter. I've done it in the air as an air attack, air tanker PIC, and SIC. I just completed Single Engine Air Tanker quals for this season, though I probably won't be doing it. I've been a firefighter on the ground doing structure and wildland in various capacities for years. Those in the aerial firefighting industry are often said to be firefighters first, and pilots second, though I don't necessarily agree.

With all the publicity for the fire service following the recent losses in NY, it's a popular thing for people to align themselves with the industry in some way, wearing hats, shirts, and bumperstickers. That's okay, but a far cry from claiming to be part of the business. I happen to know the business, and called you on it.

I'm not trying to start an arguement. I'm stating that you published information that wasn't true, in a public forum. You tried to aggrandize yourself by claiming to be a part of a segment of the industry you know nothing about, and it shows. A lot of good men (and a few women) have died in the service of their country and their company in this business. Don't try to elevate yourself by riding on their coffin lids.
 
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