One of my first bosses in the helicopter business was a can do kind of guy, but only in the sense that he never turned down a job. That left those of us that worked for him to figure out how we were actually going to accomplish the work. When I look back on some of the flying jobs he got me involved in I can’t decide who was crazier, him or I.
The first frost flying job he sent me on was typical of the work he accepted. The customer was unknown to us and we had only a general idea of where his farm was. I headed off with darkness fast approaching and not enough fuel to reach the farm. My fuel truck, according to my boss would be parked in a field outside a town that neither I nor the truck driver had ever been to before. I can’t recall if the truck driver ever found the right spot but I never found the fuel truck which left me with a little problem. I had enough fuel to make it to a place that I eventually got fuel. I am going to have to take the 5th amendment on just how I managed that little feat. A couple of hours later after fueling I was on my way, and guided by the flashing lights of the farmers tractor, managed to land right side up in his pasture. My bubble window as almost entirely fogged over inside and after connecting the heater hose and rewiring the sad little fans I was ready to fly. It was all in a days/nights work.
I told the boss a few days later when another last minute mission came up that I wanted good directions this time to my destination.
“It will be easy” he said. “The place is out on its own. The only cabin on the only road north of this little town that is in the middle of nowhere. Easy.”
The owner had told us where he hid the key and I was to land, (again, with not much fuel left) and bunk in for the night. The fuel truck driver would be out at first light and we would get the flying done and be heading home before the wind came up in the morning. It was raining at the time but forecast for early morning clearing.
I flew off in the rain and approaching darkness getting to the cabin with not much fuel left, which was good for the work we would be doing but was still a source of anxiety until I actually spotted the cabin. My joy was short lived. The cabin’s roof had apparently collapsed after last winters snow storms. I needn’t worry about finding the key. I would be sleeping in the rain on the front seat of my helicopter. Shit!
It wasn’t more than a week later when another flying job of similar nature came up. “Another roofless cabin, in the middle of F*%*#n’ nowhere?” I asked.
The boss had anticipated my whining and with that in mind would be positioning a truck at the remote site earlier that afternoon.
“Put a couple of jerry cans of fuel in the truck for me, just in case.” I added.
The work we were doing was brush spraying and getting to the job light on fuel meant we could carry more in our spray tanks. The jerry cans were there just in case the piece of crap truck wouldn’t start. At least I would have fuel to fly into the Motel I would be staying at that night. I arrived at dusk and was relieved to see the truck parked as promised. My fuel was on minimums but that was ideal for the next morning, besides I had some spare fuel in the truck.
There turned out to be no jerry cans of fuel in the truck. I looked around the area but no cans were hidden anywhere.
Oh, well no problem as long as the truck started. The truck would never start. As my boss said later,
“I got a ride from your truck all the way over to my Motel, it was hours later when I realized I still had the keys to your truck in my pocket. Sorry about that.” he laughed.
For some reason, I continued to work for the guy. Maybe just to see what else he would come up with. The greenhouse spray white-washing job was a classic. I did it and it went as expected. Nothing but common sense and logic would have prevented us from ever trying to paint greenhouses with a spray helicopter. One hours flying and about 30 hours of scrubbing later convinced me to start looking for another job.
I was sent out to spray a cattle feed lot to kill the fly swarms. No amount of protesting could dissuade the boss from the advance money he had taken to do the job. If you have never seen a stampede in a shit filled feedlot with several hundred cattle running wildly back and forth than you just have not lived. Two passes and I left before the cattle got hurt. I landed with my fly spray mixture back at the base shut down quickly, jumped in my pick up and got outta town before the posse arrived. If nothing else I had managed to learn that move from my boss.
The more I write, the more I remember, and some of the notations in my old logbooks still make me laugh hard reading them 30 years later. Those will be stories for later blogs.