So if you follow the ramblings of my warped mind with any regular consistency, you will recall that the Boss and I took a trip a few postings back. I booked us on one of the Big-Wig jets assigned to our base only to find out the bathroom was actually a drawer. You DO remember that, right? If not… scroll down to 3-28-2010 and get caught up. I’ll wait.
I SAID I’d wait. Go read it.
All caught up now? Good. Try not to fall behind again… it ain’t fair to all my regular readers. All both of them.
So anyway… it was a dark and stormy night. Wait… that ain’t right. There we were… eight miles up when… No. That ain’t it either. So anyway… (yeah… that’s more like it) the boss and I wrapped up our visit which had something to do with national defense or feeding the hungry, no… wait… a cure for cancer? Well… I don’t know what it was, but anyway, we wrapped it up and had to get home.
Now after the trip there, I was dreading the flight back home. I was hoping for a couple of things: 1. A BATHROOM and not another toilet drawer. I didn’t HAVE to go, but you just never know. 2. A PROFESSIONAL crew that knew how to drive the airplane right by keeping their hands on the steering wheel. See… I didn’t want much.
So the day to fly home arrived. Beautiful sunny skies? Oh no. That would have been asking for TOO much. Cloudy and rain. Wind. Rain. BUCKETS of rain. Wind. Rain. Did I mention it was raining buckets with high winds?
Yeah… GREAT flying weather for anyone. Especially me.
Now I fully expected to get out to the plane and have the same type we flew in on. That would have made sense, at least to me, since those are the ones stationed at our base. But that’s just what I expected. And seldom do I get what I expect.
So we get out to the plane and it’s different. A LOT Different. This thing has propellers on it. I didn’t know they still made propellers. But they had made at least two cause they were on this plane. I’ll bet there are fifty-leven-dozen airplanes in the Air Force that have jets on them and we get the only ONE that has propellers. But it was raining buckets and the wind was blowing and I wasn’t about to argue the fact.
I would regret not arguing very shortly.
So we got in, got seated, strapped down, prayed, check my seatbelt for tightness, glanced out the window, prayed again, checked my seatbelt for tightness, prayed again, pulled the seatbelt tighter, got worried cause my legs were numb, so I loosened the seatbelt to allow blood to flow back to my lower extremities, and gripped the seat arm.
As soon as that first propeller got cranked, sweat broke out on my forehead. I had heard that noise before. Growing up in eastern North Carolina, my aunt and uncle had a farm. And I had heard that sound the propellers were making when they had this guy (who I referred to as an idiot) spray the fields.
Now if you never grew up near a farm or were raised in the city and have never seen a crop duster spray a field, you have missed a show. These guys fly these little, itty-bitty planes at about, oh… I don’t know… 1,000 miles an hour. And they dive down until they are right over the crops… maybe 10 or 15 feet off the ground… and spray they field. And a lot of times there is a bunch of trees right at the end of the field. So at the last minute, in a split second, like the blink of an eye… they pull up really sharp. And that plane shoots up in the air. And they get up high enough, and get turned around, and line up for another run.
It looks really cool. Now the “key” word in that last statement is that it “looks” really cool. There ain’t enough money to pay me to ride with one of them guys. I get queasy just watching. I bet it feels worse than a roller coaster. And I don’t do them either.
So that propeller got wound up and then the other one got wound up and we got to going. And again, this was a Big-Wig mode of transport. It was actually a little larger than the Lear Jet. This was a Beechcraft King Air. It had about 10 or 12 seats. So again, the Boss and I were relatively comfortable.
And the rain kept pouring. The wind kept howling. And we started rolling down the runway. And rolling. And rolling some more. I bet we were up to a whopping 40 mph when we lifted off.
And then the fun started.
Now again, I’ve heard Ron White talk about flying on small planes. I can relate to what he says. We were flying about the speed of spit and they had to seat the boss and I on opposite sides of the plane… for weight and balance purposes. If one of us got up for some reason to sit on the OTHER side, we would need to tell the pilot so he could lean the plane over the opposite way to compensate.
All I could think of was that crop duster from when I was a kid. Watching him dive down and at the last possible moment… pull up and circle around to do it again. And I got to wondering what would happen if one of them propellers stopped? How far could we go? And Ron White came to mind again… we could make it all the way to the scene of the crash on one propeller.
Now this storm was a doozy. The plane could fly as high as 32,000 feet and the storm was higher than that. So we were gonna have to fly through it. And we bounced and dropped and spun. I had my left foot in, but the Boss was ahead of me and was already doing the Hokey Pokey.
Now at some point, one of the crew felt the need to come tell us we would need to keep our seatbelts on for the duration of the flight. I was so scared, I couldn’t respond, but I remember thinking there weren’t enough folks on that plane to get mine off of me right then.
Have you ever gripped something so tight that your fingers hurt? Maybe when you were a kid… that first visit to Santa? Or your first trick or treat night when you’re waiting for the goblins to jump out? And you hold your Mom or Dad’s hand so tight that your fingers hurt? Just a dull ache? A throbbing pain that shoots up your hand into your arm? Ever had those? I was having one. Those arm rests still have indentions from my fingers gripping them so hard.
Now, there are many things that don’t make sense to me. I know that surprises many of you. I have an opinion on everything, but don’t understand a whole lot. And while I was sitting there wondering how long I could hold out before I passed out from the pain in my fingers, I paused one of my on-going continuous prayers to wonder about something. Why did this plane have windshield wipers?
I have had the unfortunate opportunity to fly a good bit in my life. I was back and forth to Europe a few times. Flew to the Middle East. A few trips around Europe. Some here in the states. Never on planes as small as this trip entailed. And I had never thought about windshield wipers on a plane.
But this plane had ‘em going full blast as we brrrrrrrrrppppppptttttt-ed along at 12 miles an hour. (Had it not been pouring rain, I would have stepped outside to hail a cab). Now there we were at 30,000 feet… what were they gonna see out that windshield? A red light? Our exit? A pedestrian? There ain’t a whole lot to see up there when the sun is shining, let alone when it’s raining buckets.
That flight HAD to be the longest ninety minutes of my life. My fingers were numb by the time we arrived back to our base. It was still pouring rain. The wind was still howling. They had to line that plane up almost sideways on the runway so we could get down. I think the pilot was looking out his side window to get us lined up right.
Now I know they do what’s called “touch and goes” at times as a training thing for aircrew. They circle a runway, get lined up, just barely land (touch) and then take-off again (go). They get credit for so many takeoffs and landings by doing this. And I understand that it was storming when we landed… wind howling… raining a torrent. But after about the sixth or eighth landing I was ready to ask them to just hold it steady and I would get out right there.
But in the end, we made it back safely… although with some sore fingers. And any time after that, when the boss asked me what I had scheduled, it was always a root canal. He must think I had the worst teeth in the military.
And that’s MY take.