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 ©

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