Posted 7 years 169 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick
…First though, some other fun stuff. Just some random examples.
3) Classic statement
(firmly, pointedly, lips pursed, no-nonsense tone of voice) (arms folded) (foot probably tapping, but I didn’t dare look)
“I want you to understand I know just as much about flying this helicopter as you do. I’ve been flying on these machines for five years, and I’ve seen it all. You understand me?”
Simple One (face straight): “Yes, Ma’am, I hear what you say…”
(thinks: “YOU, my dear, are a CLASSIC”)
4) Playing drums on the computer screen
Weather is bad. Really nasty, heavy rain & lightning, but clearing through to the East though. We have an urgent flight, very sick child, which will take us South bound 95 miles or so towards a major City. I reckon I can curve slightly Westbound, and by the time I get to my destination, weather will have cleared through. Med Crew don’t want to go because of weather. Okay, I say, I will inform Dispatch, and tell them I am happy to go, but Med Crew are not. Med Crew tell me they want ME to tell Dispatch that I am not happy to go. Apparently it has been remarked upon how some Med crews fly a lot less than others. I say, hold on, I can’t tell lies here. Truth is I am happy to go, I respect their right to not want to go, but I can’t tell lies. If I call Dispatch, I tell them the truth. Nurse walks over to (heavily red) computer screen, starts hammering on it, pointing at weather over Destination, stating: “WHAT IS THIS???” I guess I’m supposed to feel I’m being shown up in front of everybody.
To which pilot replies (straight face): “THAT, Ma’am. Is part of the weather information available to me. It indicates CURRENT weather, and not what we are likely to encounter in a hour’s time…”
I stay cool, and now the Med crew are worried about not getting to the destination hospital. I tell them that as long as we get down there, in the vicinity even, there’s a dozen fields we can divert to. It’s a big City. I call Dispatch, and speak with a very sharp fellow, who knows exactly what’s going on. More for the Med Crew benefit than his, I outline my plan to head on down, armed with a contingency plan to head off to another field if need be. The sharp chappie at Dispatch is enthusiastic. “Sure! Just get down here, and park it up anywhere! A football field, whatever. We can get an ambulance out there in a heart beat! Good job!”
I try, very hard, to show I fully understand their concerns. That I am warmly sympathetic, and concerned about their comfort and well-being. I say I’m perfectly happy to scrub the flight, if they want to. But I offer the opinion, that it can be done, perfectly safely. This is all happening in the old days, long-long-time-ago, before 3-to-go and 1-to-say-no has become established in concrete. Set in stone. The equivalent, in the world of AirMed flying to what “I never inhaled” has become to Presidential… Presidential… sagesse.
The Med Crew agree to flight. Is there a hint of frostiness? Pursed lips? Annoyance? We go, no problem, safe ride as planned. We fly around the bad stuff. All the way to the destination hospital. I think I’ve done a good job, in flying, making my employer some much needed money, AND I think I’ve been tactful and sympathetic towards my team members. Honestly. I really think that. Uh-huh.
Med Crew nonetheless afterwards complain to Head office: “This pilot pushes the weather”.
I am reminded of the words of Next-to-God, after my initial indoctrination. I sigh, and kind of chuckle to myself as well. I can see the funny side.
5) Sterile cockpit?
Night flight, up in the mountains, coming down into a restricted LZ. Lots of rocks and trees. I’m coordinating with a cop on the ground. Med Crew chatter from the back really isn’t helping, and drowning out the cop on the ground. I know they are trying to help, but they simply are not succeeding. I KNOW there’s trees and rocks about. We’re in the m-o-u-n-t-a-i-n-s. I’m not real interested in the ones we’re passing by. I’m interested in the ones ahead. I ask them very nicely for a sterile cockpit. No chance. Constant chatter of no value, and I really, really, want to maintain two way with the cop on the ground.
“Ladies, I really need a sterile cockpit here. If you don’t be quiet, I’m going to have to isolate you…”
“You can’t do that!”
Rumpus. Phone calls. Chief Pilot telling me I can’t do that. Write ups. Nastiness. I politely point out what the FAR’s say in regard to the Aircraft Captain being “the final authority” to effect the safe outcome of the flight. To no avail. Apparently the FAR’s don’t apply when you’re flying EMS. Hm…
6) Dyslexic middle men passing on GPS coordinates.
How many times did that happen? It’s amazing how some people simply cannot pass on basic GPS coordinates without swapping two digits around. My buddies applauded my dry comment one day in the Gulf of Mexico. I had a passenger with chest pains, and I wanted the coordinates of a hospital they wanted to go to. I normally carried passengers, not patients, and I was not familiar with this destination. Comcenter dutifully passed me coordinates, to which I replied that I was “unable to go there”. When asked why, I told them I had insufficient fuel.
“Insufficient Fuel!?” You could hear the alarm bells ringing already. All the way up to the D.O.’s office.
I continued (politely) that I was trying to go to the State of Louisiana, (from eighty miles due South offshore) and they had just passed me (quick mental arithmetic) a GPS position somewhere off the east coast of Florida! Outstanding.
In a similar vein, I would get passed an approximate geographic location, say, fifteen to twenty miles SOUTH of Blogsville, and then when the GPS coordinates arrived, they would indicate a position forty miles NORTH EAST of Blogsville. Result? Delay and confusion. Phone calls. On several occasions, I would just launch in the general direction, and try and sort the mess out in the air. I was quickly to learn that our take off times were scored according to the following matrix:
Rule Numero Primo) “If it takes too long, it is ALWAYS the pilot’s fault. He is a Dummkopf.”
Rule Numero Secundo) “if it is clearly NOT the pilot’s fault, RULE NUMBER ONE applies…”
In truth, if you have already fueled up, checked the weather, and you KNOW where you are going… why would you delay? For what reason? Finish your coffee? Have a snooze? Finish watching the movie? Because you just can’t be bothered? Hardly.
7) First day of hitch - Coming on Duty – the Warm Welcome
I’m a simple fellow, and I’m not too worried about my station in life. I’ve done all sorts of things, from running a multi-million dollar freight forwarding company for many years as General Manager, to cleaning toilets. (I was a barman) I’ve driven trucks, sold Ice Cream, and hawked Insurance. It’s all the same process of making a living. I’m easy. I don’t look down on anybody. Everybody has a story.
However, at this base, my story interested exactly nobody. I would come in to start my week’s hitch. You know, I’ve been gone a week. Maybe I’ve done things. Seen places. Driven my motorbike. Fallen off a bar stool, laughing. You know, maybe I’ve had a life somewhere. And just maybe, if you’re interested (or just polite), if you were a nurse who was going to fly with me, you might say:
“Morning, Jeremy! How was your break? Glad to have you back!”
Nope. I noticed this funny thing, and it stayed in my mind. You would walk into the crew room, and the nurses would briefly look up. Their glances communicated nothing. Vacant. Barely even a “Oh, it’s just HIM.” Whatever they thought, if they thought anything, there was ZERO reaction. Nothing. The eyes, glazed perhaps, and then they went back to their conversation, their book, or the TV. It was as if I was the proud wearer of an invisibility cloak. This seemingly trivial detail leads in to the next story, which was anything but trivial.
8) The execution squad
In this manner, wearing my invisibility cloak, I was seated around the corner in an alcove, playing on the Internet. Two nurses were talking around the corner. They knew I was there. But it didn’t matter. I was irrelevant. Invisible. The hired help. Uncouth fellow.
Soon I realized, to my surprise, these two Flight Nurses, who I shall call Beatrix and Belinda (not their real names) were –proudly – going down a list of people they had helped get fired!
I know, that’s a little hard to digest, so let me perhaps approach it from a different angle. Whilst trying to engage myself on the Internet, and whilst trying to really NOT listen to somebody else’s conversation (a bit hard, when you’re sitting in the same room), I found myself listen to somebody’s name and occupation, the reason WHY they slipped up and got terminated, followed by a cackle of LAUGHTER! Say, what? The long, long list of names included pilots, nurses, porters, ground support staff, administrators… all sorts. You would hear this:
“Remember such-and-such…?” HA-HA-HA!
Then a reminiscing of how said person fell foul of the two sisters, and how payback was exercised. Judgment administered. These two were regular executioners! At some stage they started talking about some nurse, who had been new and young apparently. It seemed she had possessed the temerity to defy the two sisters. There then followed a comment that has stayed with me, all these years, and is of sufficient insight value to bear relating here:
Says one executioner to the other: “What did we get HER on?”
I seem to remember my jaw sagged open.
9) The Law Suits
I should mention at this stage, that one of the two heavenly sisters had no less than TWO law suits going against former pilots from that very same base. TWO. That seems a lot. One would be a lot. TWO seemed a lot of lot. Oddly, both cases, being fought with enthusiastic attorneys on both sides coining it in, and whipping up the fire for all they were worth (and costing), centered on a similar offense committed by these dastardly former pilots. What, pray, was that dastardly offense? Well. Sexual harassment. Against heavenly nurse Belinda.
Um. I don’t doubt that, in general, men can be very silly. Most pilots however, value their jobs. Some have been known to even possess a modicum of morality. It has happened, but it’s got to be exceedingly rare for a wage needing pilot to be so common sense defying stupid, to harass a nurse he has to WORK WITH. For this nurse to have suffered at the hands of no less than TWO of these miscreants, seemed, in terms of statistics, to be highly unusual. Perhaps even improbable. However, the suits were ongoing, and the Lead Pilot felt it was his duty to warn me to never make advances to any of the nurses. Well, I was married, to start with. And I felt little trepidation in that area, as Beatrix & Belinda were… um… not my type. Psychologically, spiritually, and (ample) anatomically. Just not my type. So I acknowledged the warning, with a straight face, and decided to be careful even with my jokes. So I had no real fear in that department at all.
10) the big write up
It was therefore like a thunderclap from the heavens, when the Lead Pilot called me by phone (must have been a special day) to tell me, gravely, that he had bad news. I had been written up. A grievance had been filed against me by heavenly Nurse Belinda. I remember being incredulous:
“What!? Sexual harassment?? ME! Against HER…??”
I was flabbergasted. The lead Pilot, on the phone, seriously dealing with this case, (in between eighth and ninth hole), continued on in a grave voice.
“No, it’s not sexual harassment.”
Me: “Well, what is it then??”
Lead Pilot: (straight voice) (serious) (reading from a report) “At or about 3 p.m. on (date) I was trying to rest in my bedroom, when I was disturbed by “the pilot” (sic) rattling the pots and pans in the kitchen.”
Me: I was RATTLING THE POTS AND PANS IN THE KITCHEN AT THREE P.M. IN THE AFTERNOON???”
Lead Pilot: (seriously) “Yes”
Me: (trying not to laugh) “So is that going all the way up to Head Office?”
Lead Pilot: (seriously) “Yes, it already has…”
Me: (???????!!!!) (thinking: “I’m updating my resume”)
11) “My happiness is complete”
So I was sitting around the corner at the computer one day, and heavenly nurse Belinda walked in, to start her new hitch. Nurse Beatrix was ensconced on the couch, reading. Her and I had barely exchanged a word. I think I had said “Good Morning!”, and she had just “looked”. In walks Nurse Belinda. Addressing her heavenly sister, she said:
“Well, my happiness is complete!”
She then proceeded to relay the latest in a long running saga of her and her ex husband. It had always been a source of long running amusement to the heavenly sisters, that Belinda’s ex husband would turn up at her door, drunk and crying, begging for them to get back together again. This was like a soap opera regular, and the two sisters would end up in peals of hysterics on the couch after each rendition of the latest saga. “Poor fellow”, I thought, but then I’m soft.
This particular morning, some event had occurred, that really affected the soap opera, and Belinda was eager to spill the beans. It turned out the player here was her teenage daughter. Her only child. Belinda said that her daughter had stated:
“Mum, you are a BITCH, and I’M GOING TO LIVE WITH DAD…!!”
And then she left!
Belinda’s take on her only child leaving: “Thank goodness for that. Now I’ve got the house to myself. Peace and quiet!”
I experienced a two-fold reaction. Part of me wanted to jump up, walk over, and give her a cuddle. Another part of me thought:
“Oh! You bitter, twisted, LONELY woman!”
I sighed. I knew the well meaning sympathetic cuddle would cost me a law suit. Heck, one guy was apparently being sued for going to the toilet in the middle of the night wearing only his briefs. She had cracked open her bedroom door and seen him. He had returned to his room, not having even seen her peeking out, not a word spoken, but it had earned him a law suit.
An arm around her shoulders? I’d be TOAST.
12) “We’re GROUNDED” (the Leather Strap episode) (Part TWO) (FINALE)
I had already sent out my updated resumes, and I was even then waiting for an interview date with my likely future employer. I try hard, but I know when I’m licked.
Phone call from lead Pilot. PHONE CALL. He wanted me to know that things were looking serious. Head office had looked into several issues, most especially my version of events of events relating to the leather strap repair. I was puzzled. What did he mean? Well…
The version of the Lead Mechanic at the Maintenance Base differed totally from mine. According to this gentleman’s version:
1) He did not know I was Pilot on duty. He thought I was off duty at home.
2) He told me not to touch it, that he would drive over and fix it himself.
3) But apparently I INSISTED on doing it!!
I remember vividly the image of a bloody big BUS. A bright RED, old fashioned, London bred, DOUBLE-DECKER bus. And little moi, being unceremoniously thrown under it. Retrieved. And thrown under again. Just to make sure.
Classic! Well, when the two stories are THAT FAR APART, somebody is doing the HAIRY EGG routine. Right? It was obvious that the Lead Pilot (ninth hole coming up) was anxious to get off the phone. We hung up. Oh, well.
The next PHONE CALL was from the Area Manager, who told me he was far too busy to bother to come and see me over such a (trifling, I guess?) issue as a pilot under his watch being terminated. So he was just giving it to me by phone, that my behavior was totally unacceptable. I had been warned at the interview to never, ever, work on a helicopter, and I had ignored that warning. And I had also disobeyed the Lead Mechanic’s instructions. There were also other issues, a nurse’s write up, my inability to get on with my team members, my pushing weather, my isolating crew members in flight, my late departures, my fundamental lack of ability and integrity. He was very cold and dismissive. I was accordingly being relieved of my duties. Terminated.
I was polite, I didn’t argue, and I thanked him for the period of employment.
Philosophically, I asked myself the question, that I have asked myself many times before in Aviation. It can be paraphrased perhaps in this way:
“Well, Francis… What is the lesson we learned here? Did we screw up again? What you reckon, Jeremy, old boy?”
But deep down, I already knew the answer. I had tried, really, really hard. And I bore the bringers of my doom no ill will. I had hoped to be a member of The Team. Welcome. An included member. In this hope, I had been thwarted by a dynamic beyond my control, or even my understanding. It left me disappointed, puzzled, but not bitter or angry. I could clearly see the funny side. Especially the London Double-decker bus. The RED one. I knew I had no axe to grind, (or even a leather strap to pierce), like my immediate predecessor, who had indulged in his heated fifteen minute rant when we first met. On my day One. I still admired good Medics, and the work they did. You want to see them coolly walk up to some of the spurting blood and ghastly intestinal gore they routinely deal with. The screams and the tears. The anguish in victims’ eyes. The stuff of most people’s worst nightmares. People shot in the face, or squashed in cars, or babies burned by crack smoking boy friends. I still believed in the principle of Air Med work, and the validity of the daily grind. I had no wish, ever, to rant against Medics in general. I knew then, as I know now, that such broad generalizations are unfair, not to mention absurd. For every pilot diatribe against his former medic crew mates, you know full well that there are opposite stories that could be penned by frustrated medics about an equally obnoxious and maybe unsafe pilot… I just wished it would have worked out. But it didn’t. Oh, well. The revolving door was set to continue to revolve. (NEXT…!)
A few minutes later, as I prepared to leave the building, a now former AirMed Helicopter Captain, the Lead Pilot called back.
Oh, and they were anxious to get “Jeremy’s” uniforms back. Make sure I leave them on the ops room table. I tried to keep the amusement out of my voice. Of course. THAT I understand.
A Little About Moggy - Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick (www.chopperstories.com) admits to not
being terribly bright, but he did first grace the skies (more or less)
totally on his own some forty-five years ago. He is rumored to have
solemnly intoned these memorable words on the downwind leg.
“Holy Crap! NOW what have I done…?”
He is working dutifully on his eighty-sixth incarnation (he does,
admittedly, get sent back a lot – for another try) , and he describes
himself as a ‘chopper jockey’. He says it’s basically a case of a nut,
hanging under a nut. (BIG nut, though). Compared to trying to attain
Wisdom (he was a Buddhist monk once) (before he got demoted to galley
hand), he reckons it beats working for a living. It ranks right up
there with being a happy penguin, and spending all day sliding down icy
Moggy loves spinning a good yarn, and his greatest reward is simply
your enjoyment. His many friends caution you he does tend to tell his
bar stories with verve and gusto, and much arm waving, so you are
advised to move your pints and other drinks safely out of his way.
Peace. Got a pickle sandwich?