Saturday, June 16, 2012

'Olde Omaha'

Capt. Ev Roth and his Snow Broom (11) It was a cold morning, having snowed moderately during our overnight sojourn at our downtown Omaha hotel. Small drifts of snow covered the streets as we carefully drove to the airport. Soon the captain wiih his little crew of three, captain, copilot and stewardess turned the crew car into the parking area near operations and turned off the ignition. Retrieving our suitcases from the trunk, we hastened into the airline's operations office. Both of the ancient overnighting DC-3's slumbered on the tarmac, patiently waiting to begin yet another day's labor. This then, was the scene that greeted us upon our arrival at Eppley Field's WPA-era fieldstone airport terminal. I was paired with the inevitable joker, Bill Robbins. Roger "Ramjet" Anderson served as Ev Roth's capable and faithful assistant on that frigid morning. Immediately upon our arrival in the operations office we began our preparations for yet another day of DC-3 flying. As best I recall this, many years later, Ev and "Ramjet" were scheduled to depart at 0715. Bill and I were scheduled to fly the flight that would depart fifteen minutes later at 0730. When we entered, Capt. Roth, who'd arrived slightly earlier with his crew, had already gone outside to where the airplanes were parked overnight. He intended to assist the agents, using a broom to clear the snow that had accumulated on the DC-3's wings and tail overnight. "Ramjet" was occupied with spinning his trusty plastic CR-2 Jeppesen circular computer, writing down the winds and computed ground speeds for the morning's flight. After exchanging pleasantries with him, I also opened my black flight bag for access to the accoutrements of the pilot's trade. After consulting the wind forecast, I also began to manually compute the length of each of our flight legs for that day. Bill Robbins looked over my shoulder for a little while, then quickly lost interest in our duties and opined that he'd have a quick cup of coffee before he also went outside to help clear the snow from our DC-3. Coffee cup in hand, Bill sauntered over towards the frost-covered windowpane of the office's outside door. "Ramjet " and I completed our flight plans at nearly the same time. Hastily gathering my flightpapers and bags, I decided to join them. I can still picture the lineup of the three of us, Bill, "Ramjet" and myself at the door leading out to the ramp. Just before he opened it, Bill leaned forward to take a quick look through its frosty windowpane. He then reversed his footsteps, trodding backward upon "Ramjet's" shoes as he abruptly decided to not open the door! "Oh-boy, wait a minute, you gotta see this", Bill hastily said! Recovering from our three stooges act, "Ramjet" and I each in turn looked through the window in open-mouthed amazement as Bill pointed and said, "Lookie there, Ev's sweeping my DC-3!" Contemplating this from the warmth of the operations office, I could palpably sense the instantaneous conflict raging within "Ramjet's" mind! What to do - what to do! Should he burst forth from the door, warning his senior partner of the mistake? Or should he share – albeit from a distance – the comeuppance? What to do – what to do! A dilemma of the highest magnitude for a co-pilot, without a doubt! After a short period of what must have been a wrenching conflict within his mind, "Ramjet" suddenly made a decision. He remembered that he hadn't been to the men's room since leaving the hotel earlier. Setting his bags down on the floor near the door, he abruptly set off in search of that facility around the corner and down the corridor. Leaving us giggling and pacing back and forth inside – until one of many furtive glances through the windowpane revealed that the overcoated figure had finished and the airplane's surfaces were now completely devoid of snow. Picking up his bags while telling me to do likewise, Bill pushed the door open with his shoulder and we stepped outside into the tarmac’s frigid air. Confidently striding across the tarmac, with me following head down, Bill mounted the first steps of the DC-3's airstair door. A blustering inquiry, rather strident in tone, burst forth from an incredulous Captain Roth. "What'n the devil are you two think you're doing, getting into MY airplane?" Bill then turned to cast a somewhat dismissive glance back over his left shoulder towards the figure, standing with broom in hand behind the wing. He allowed the slightest smile to play around his lips as he said, "Oh, mornin', Ev, I sure gotta thank you for cleaning the snow off my airplane, see ya!" as he turned to resume climbing the airstair's steps. I, of course, followed, thinking to myself all the while, "Oh-boy, I just hope I don't have to fly with Ev anytime soon!" A glance through the windows as we climbed the airliner's aisle confirmed our amused thoughts. His facial expression revealing his internal turmoil, Captain Roth glanced at his wristwatch, studied our aircraft's company number - clearly painted behind the cockpit’s side-window - and again consulted his watch. He then dejectedly turned with the broom in his hand, stomping off through the snow towards the adjacent DC-3, his assigned aircraft for the day. All the while shaking his head over his mistake and mumbling to himself! Randy Sohn - 1999 ©

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More from Randy Sohn...

Hello everyone! I'm fresh back from the MKT Airshow and what a FUN day that was!! Photos, stories will follow soon seeing I hadn't been there for some 30+ years...:) Today, please enjoy another story from our friend Randy Sohn! OOPS! SORRY, CAP'N, I GUESS THAT WAS YOUR OVERCOAT! (9) In the beginning! How's that for the beginning of a story? Well - at least before we were hired - the airline's seniority list was made up of pilots that we only knew as captains. It's hard for us to conceive of this, I know, but some of these captains once were copilots themselves. They’d also sat over in the cockpit’s right seat, subjected to all the non-stop criticism and instruction and blandishments of their captains. Just as we did in our apprenticeship years! It's almost inconceivable for us to contemplate that these people - who appeared like gods to us – had once upon a time been just like us. But a certain percentage of the first few, hired as captains, were always captains and just knew they were captains. I guess these few could be thought of as five stripers – or legends in their own minds! Probably, speaking in “olde English“, we’d say “to the manor born”. Although certainly – and I must stress this – not all of them, nor even a majority, fit this description. Whoever it was, Bob Swennes meb’be?, was the captain of that Lockheed Model 10, way back in North Central's earliest days. When the captain called for an amount of flaps to be extended, the copilot hurried to comply with the captain's command. He reached for the crank and began to rotate it as fast as he possibly could. Yes, Virginia, back in those days – on that airplane – the flaps were mechanically moved by means of a crank at the side of the captain's seat. Leaning towards the captain in his efforts, the copilot noticed through his peripheral vision that the captain seemed to be drawn – more and more – towards a closer inspection of the process. “I’d better hurry”, the copilot thought, “the captain’s looking over my shoulder and probably wondering why it's taking me so long to get it done!” Focusing his vision upon the recalcitrant flap gauge, he redoubled his already valiant efforts! He eventually reached a point when he absolutely couldn't crank any further because of the increasing difficulty experienced rotating the crank. Nearly collapsing from the effort, he expelled an exhausted breath in the frigid cockpit. Gasping for breath, he looked up – and over – at the captain. This occupant of the left seat, face crimson, eyes bulging and veins about to burst from sheer rage, was leaning about as close to the copilot as possible within the confines of that Lockheed's small two-man cockpit. Suddenly, the copilot was struck with the realization that the harder he'd cranked, the further the captain’s heavy gray wool winter overcoat had been pulled into the crank's gear sprocket and chain. The right side of the overcoat was being wound into the chain, covering it with black grease and shredding it – more and more – with every turn of the crank! Ah yes, the "good ole days!" Randy Sohn - 1999 ©