Sunday, January 02, 2005


Hector's Tackle Wins The Game!!!

My brother Corey, (you know him as "Santa", or "Gene, Recessive"), is a helicopter pilot, and also prides himself on being somewhat of a story-teller. He is younger than I, and he spent time during my "early years" in Aviation as our Base Manager at a combined Float-Ski Base in Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba. He developed a love for aviation, and soon after received his Helicopter Pilot Licence from Provincial Helicopters, Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. He then gained employment with a company, and started to gather flying hours. One of the initiations of most "green" helicopter pilots in Manitoba is to be sent to a northern community to fly the "breakup", or "freeze-up", depending on the time of year. His story takes place in the 1990's, at a community in the northern reaches of the province. I will let Corey relate what happened. It is hilarious, and here it is!!!

Okay, just to change the pattern of the last few weeks I thought I'd share a story of something that happened to me when I first started in helicopters. Everything is completely factual, with names and locations changed or ommitted to protect the innocent (I.E. Guilty!):

I was flying in my first season after getting my licence. The machine was a turbocharged piston that actually was a good performer when it wasn't overloaded (which pretty much meant when I was alone). I had just dropped off some native trappers at a fishing camp and had to take a guy and his wife back to the community we were working out of. This was all taking place during "freeze-up", when many of the northern communities of central Canada rely on helicopters for almost all transportation.

After I unloaded the guys I brought in, the people I was to bring back to town showed up with all their stuff. I stood there using four-letter words as I surveyed the pile of guns, beavers, ducks, geese, moose meat and fish that I was somehow supposed to take-off with and fly 50 miles to town. Finally, muttering under my breath, I started loading the machine...luckily(?) I had utility baskets on the side of the machine to handle the bulky articles. I quickly noticed the pile didn't seem to be diminishing as the baskets filled up... then I found out why... every time I turned my head to load the machine, someone threw more birds on the pile! When I caught them at that I swore loudly at everybody for about five minutes... the placid calm that they exhibited at my, very vituperative, onslaught told me they'd heard it all before.

So, I was finally loaded up and ready to go. In a move that preceded air-bags in cars by several years, I had securely packed ducks and geese around the front seat occupants to protect them in the event of a hard-landing. With all secure I went to full-throttle... this apparently was a signal for everyone in the camp to gather in front of the helicopter grinning toothily (some of them anyway). Brimming with confidence I calculated how many "extra" RPM's I might need to clear the trees in front of me (at this point I had such a death-grip on the cyclic I could barely squeeze the trigger due to cramping), inhaling deeply I pulled pitch, rotated and "went for it" (a very exciting if not-recommended departure procedure... however, very necessary in this "situation"). As I climbed, all the people ran under the helicopter spinning and smiling like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. "Oh well" I muttered, "it'll be a soft landing if the engine quits". As the trees approached I started to worry a bit, as it appeared the tips of the blades were barely going to clear... confirmed seconds later as the fuselage passed through two tallish trees like Lui Passaglia kicking a field goal. Suddenly the low-rotor horn sounded, "right on schedule" I thought as I lowered the collective slightly to recover RPM. As I "milked" the collective, at tree-top level, with all those people still running beneath me, I felt a bit like Wile E. Coyote, cranking that hand railway cart as he chased the roadrunner. Finally, the trees gave way to lake and I could dive, get some airspeed and silence the horn as the RPM came back into the green. I leaned back and smiled with pleasure at another successful take-off.

So, after an uneventful flight :wacko:, I landed to disgorge my passengers. It wasn't until I walked around the front of the machine that I discovered (by tripping on it) a steel wire, roughly the size and consistency of very thick guitar string, hanging off the pitot tube. It was wrapped very tightly around the tube, and then trailed over the toe of the left skid and thence down the left side of the aircraft for about 40 feet. Since this put the wire well past the tailrotor... which was on the same side... I had a moment of pride that I always flew in trim :blink:.

At this point was where my finely honed "pilot instincts" took over. I ignored the wire while the people were still there... I looked around furtively when they were gone and disposed of the evidence... and began to plot the cover-up. If you're wondering where the wire came from... so was I. After some surreptitious investigation (the band constable came over and told me there was no communication with the camp I was just at over the HF radio), I brilliantly deducted that I now owned an HF antenna.

Unfortunately, I had to go back to the camp to pick up the people I had dropped off that fateful day... or it would have been ok with me to fade from the memory of people around there. As I landed at the camp I was rehearsing the explanation and apology in my mind to make sure it all came out right at the camp. As everyone gathered around I did my best to put on a brave face (and decided to play dumb). The head of the camp (who had been my passenger a few days before) walked up to me. The dialogue went something like this (names ommitted... and you have to do his voice in a northern aboriginal accent):

Him: "Uhh... you make a lot of work for me!"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Him: "You see those two trees?"
Me: "Yes, I flew between them when I left here the other day."
Him: ".....We know.... Our trapline radio antenna was between those two trees..."
Me: "Oh? Did I hit it?"
Him: (looking me straight in the eye) "Uhh... You hit it alright.... and the radio was yanked from the tent and went bouncing through the camp... and we all try to catch it but it gets away... and then Hector", at this point he points with his thumb at a young man who has bandages all over his face and an arm in a sling, "tackled it and you dragged him through the camp and then over all the logs and stumps between here and the lake.... it's a good thing he got wedged under a fallen tree or you would have taken him water-skiing!!!"
Me: "(speechless)"
Him: "Anyway, are we ready to go?"

In retrospect, that take-off was even more of an accomplishment than I'd thought!


P.S. This story was intended to amuse people with the details of one man's folly. I don't condone any of the actions that took place here... with the exception of Hector tackling the radio... that was a good move... or I might have landed with it.

P.P.S. I would like to invite others to share their stories. I have heard so many over so many pints... it's good to get them recorded for posterity... I may have already broken the rule with my story, but "brevity being the sole of wit", a short rendition of what happened and how it wasn't your fault would be welcome.



What a great tale! Having flown extensively in the north and having dealt with the people, as I read the story I get a vivid video in my mind's eye of how it all took place. The north and the bush is an amazing place, with lots of stories and memories. Thanks for this memory!!


Engine screaming, "Wile E. Coyote" pumped the railway car. In the distance behind the helicopter, "Hector" was not letting go.....! Posted by Hello

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