Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Still Can't Believe It...--April 18, 2010

Woke up at 7:45 A.M.  The skies were lookin' good.  I did the morning routine and headed over to the airport.  It's back in the saddle again.  I headed over to the hills and began the routine.  The mountains were turbulent again, and I wasn't too thrilled about that.  But today, I just put my proverbial head down and pushed through it.  I was DETERMINED to finish this flight plan that I had started.  It was nowhere near comfortable, but I wanted to finish something, dang it!

I was havin' some problems, though.  I was missin' the beginnings of some of my lines due to the wind and turbulence, and THEN I had another problem!!!  I was getting numerous exposure errors.  Hmm.  Sometimes the sun causes that.  So I kept on.  The next line finished up all of the missed pictures.  No problem.  I WAS getting some worse turbulence, though.  I just wanted to finish up the plan and head in!  5 lines.  4 lines.  4 lines.  4 lines.  The exposure errors were back.  I would refly a line over.  Error.  A different line.  Error.  Crap.  I knew what was happening.  The camera was giving out.

I headed in.  I couldn't fly anymore.  I had 4 lines left remaining.

I landed and then called our Vice President to let him know.  I sent in some files and then went out to eat by myself.  I headed to a WONDERFUL BBQ joint.  It was fantastic!  I also learned that a couple of the other guys were comin' into town.  They were just up in Laramie, Wyoming, and would be heading this way.  Jensen and Chris were coming while Kenton had to stay behind due to alternator problems.  Sweet!  More people!

So I waited around a bit.  Mike finally landed, and I filled him in.  I waited for the other two pilots to land and decided to check out my camera lense.  Sure enough, it was broken.  I let the boss know.

The day was FANTASTIC, though, so I decided to go for a run.  It was actually hot enough to wear shorts and a cut-off tee!  I was kind of excited to finally get to run outside again!  I was also fixin' to hit up the pool later that day.  I received a call from Tammi, and we lined up some grilling out tonight.  What a perfect day!!!

And then...

I overheard a conversation in the room between my boss and our Vice-President.  Basically, the idea was thrown out there by my boss to have me fly my faster airplane over to another location where some 172's had just finished a project and were waiting for another one.  I could steal a camera from one of the planes and then come back and be ready to go for tomorrow morning.  As soon as I heard it, I literally said out loud, "No, please no."  I was staring at my laptop, not really believing what I was hearing.  It was 3:45 P.M.  Then I heard the affirmative.  I knew right then and there what was going to happen.  I was anything but thrilled.

My boss hung up, and I was told to head to Omaha, Nebraska.  Unbelievable.  Like seriously unbelievable.  I was anything but thrilled.  I made a phone call to my friend and tried to make it so that he could hear me canceling the plans.  Oh, I wasn't too happy at all.  It was going to be a three-hour flight there, 45 minutes of changing the camera, and then a three-hour (or 3 1/2) flight back.  <sigh>  I grabbed my gear and tried to head for the airport.  But the plan was to have me take one of the two incoming pilots on a flight to get them some multi-engine time.


I mean, I was thrilled to share the experience and flight time, but I was just eager to go.  It was already 4:00.  But I waited.  Sure enough, Jensen took us up on the offer of a flight, so we headed for the airport right after he came to the hotel.  Here we go.

I prepared myself.  Or tried to.  And I pointed the plane in the direction of Omaha.  At least as best I could.  The GPS wasn't workin' very well, and I didn't have all of the charts between here and there.  We found both of those out while in the air.  But I took off and then let Jensen have the airplane.  We climbed up to 7500 and headed in the general vicinity of Omaha.

The flight was pretty long.  Basically, there's not a whole lot that goes on up there.  I explained some of the instruments and all, but I just sat back and let him fly.  We were kind of all over the place in terms of heading (5-10 degrees), and without holding the controls, it was a bit disorienting.  I wasn't used to it, and I certainly didn't like it.  It didn't help out that it was a bit bumpy, either.  But we kept on.  I was a bit out of it, though.  I couldn't pinpoint why, but I just didn't feel 100%.  But we kept on.

With a bit of help from a controller, we finally managed to make it to Omaha.  It was night-time by this point, much to my surprise.  I thought we would be able to fly there, change the camera, and then come back with a half-night flight.  Boy, was I wrong.  We had a hard time finding the airport in Omaha, actually choosing one on the wrong side of the city first.  A chart sure would have been nice.  But we finally found it, and I aimed for the runway.  I didn't have a taxi or landing light, but this runway had the very bright lights down the center stripe.  No problems.

3.3 hours of flight time.

I instantly went to work on removing my camera.  It turned out that it was the most difficult one to remove, and it took me about 45 minutes.  We had one of the other pilots come out with his camera, and we made the switch.  It was very dark, and all I had was a headlamp.  It was a bit tough really.  But I pushed through.  After over an hour, I finally had the "new" camera in.  The guys had gone to get me a sub sandwich, and I finally enjoyed that at 10:00 P.M. Central time.

I checked the weather at Omaha's airport, and we had some thunderstorms back in Denver.  But I was struggling.  Like big time.  I wasn't feelin' great on the flight over, just out of it.  And I was now VERY tired.  Very tired.  But this whole flight would be a waste if I didn't make it back.  Every hour that I fly, big bucks is being spent by the company.  They were dropping a crap-ton of money on this flight just so that I could work tomorrow.  I was being counted on by my boss, by the Vice President.  Plus I had another pilot who was ready to get back.  He told me so.  He was very tired, too, but he wanted to head back.  The problem was it was night.  I was the only one fully proficient in the aircraft.  And he was tired.  And I was anything but positive that I could make the flight safely.  I honestly wasn't sure if I could stay awake.  And so I had about a 10-minute battle in my mind.  They NEEDED me back.  I NEEDED to be there by 8:30 tomorrow morning.  This pilot wanted to go.  But I was tired.

I finally made the decision.  I was not going.  I wasn't safe.  I wasn't anywhere close to safe.  But now I had some other decisions to make.  Where to sleep, how to still get back by tomorrow morning.  It was not too fun.  Our Omaha FBO was closing at midnight.  And there were no other airports between there and Denver that were 24-hour.  No halfway points to get to.  Agh, what a mess.  I called up Lincoln, just 48 short miles away and found a place to stay for the night.  A hangar for the airplane, and a pilot's snooze lounge.  It would have to do.

Jensen and I hopped in the airplane, and we made the short jump.  Another 0.5.  I walked into the FBO, and I was beat.  I knew it was a smart decision, but I was still 3 1/2 hours away from where I needed to be.  I found the small snooze lounge with two recliners, and I hunkered down for the night.  In order to meet our window open time of 8:30, we needed to be wheels-up at 5:30.

The alarm is set for 5:20 A.M.  Central time.  That is 4:20 what I'm used to.  I am not thrilled about that.

What a day.  What a stinkin' day.  7.7 hours total.  Over the course of a 16-hour actual day.  I HATE it.

I hate that I can't have a "closing" or "off" time with work.  Agh, I'm just so frustrated.  And so unbelievably tired.  Went to bed around 11:30 P.M., I think.

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