Sunday, February 13, 2005


"Magellan" Circumnavigates The Globe!! - (Or, "Projectile Noodles")

"You're LOST, what are you going to do?" I barked. "Hey man", was the reply, "I'm going to get sick! H-U-U-R-R-L!! HHH-HH-UU-U-RRRRR-RRRR-LLLllll....."

The flying in my career has been somewhat varied, and done mostly in Manitoba and Ontario. I have time on twins, turbines, floats, skis, and taildraggers. As in other industries, as your experience increases, it needs to be passed on. This is done in a number of ways, with one of the most common being aircraft-type checkouts. This consists of a number of hours of flying with the new pilot to gauge his ability in different situations, one of which is navigation.

The most important trait to be a competent pilot is "attitude". You can have all the talent in the world, but if your attitude is poor, it is a major barrier. A lesser talented person who listens, is willing to learn, and isn't a know-it-all, can be moulded into a much better pilot. Like in hockey, give me the "grinder" over the "prima donna" anyday (Iginla over Jagr, I guess so!!).

I have done many Float Ratings in the past, lots of Company initial and recurrent training, and also Multi-Ratings, and training for PPC rides. Most of the pilots had a proper attitude, and respected my experience. Then, along came Jay.

Jay was hired to work the dock at our satellite floatbase. He had gotten the job through connections (shudder), as his ex-Air Canada pilot uncle knew the owner of our company. He had a bad attitude from the get-go. I had him figured from Day 1, but I guess I was the only one. He figured flying was all about sunglasses and women (and I wish it was, too), but it isn't. It is hard work and long hours. Around the floatbase he wore shorts, no shirt, and 99 cent K-Mart flip-flops while working on the dock. There is a lot of activity on a floatbase dock, as in loading and unloading outboards, gas drums, lumber, generators, etc., and the tieing on of boats. If you are wearing flip-flops and don't have broken toes, you are not doing your share.

All of the incidents with Jay annoyed the hell out of me, but the owner decided to give Jay a checkout on the C-185 after a couple of months. Guess who the lucky guy was that got to check him out? You guessed it.

Overcoming my initial anger at having to checkout a bad-attitude-dude, I figured I would give him one chance, ONE chance. We did some flying off the river for a couple of hours, and Jay did OK. I told him the next day we would check his navigation on a route-check. We discussed the route, went over the maps, and I told him to be ready for the morning.

The morning came, and our floatbase was busy, so we were delayed slightly. During the delay I asked Jay if his plane was ready to go, and it wasn't. STRIKE 1! He scurried to get his plane ready. Then he disappeared. I found him up in the office eating a bowl of noodles he had boiled up. Boy, my ears were starting to steam. After some adjective-laced name calling, Jay was down on the dock warming up the C-185.

Finally, we were airborne heading north. Jay was very fidgety and within 40 miles I could see things were going astray. We were off-course to the east, but I let the charade continue. I pretended to be a large American tourist, putting my faith in the pilot, that he knew where he was. On, we continued. Jay kept looking at his map and looking out MY window, Lord knows why. We continued to drift east. My blood continued to boil. He was in a pickle, as I knew he was lost, but he continued to fly north, becoming farther off-course every minute. That was it, my patience was tested enough.

"You're LOST, what are you going to do?" I barked. "Hey man", was the reply, "I'm going to get sick! H-U-U-R-R-L!! HHH-HH-UU-U-RRRRR-RRRR-LLLllll....." Jason had grabbed a sick bag envelope, and pulled out the folded-up sick bag inside, threw it over his shoulder, and puked in the envelope. Unbelievable! Then, he closed it and looked at me inquisitively. "I don't think so, I'm not holding your slather for the rest of the flight!" I yelled. He popped open his side window, and out went the envelope. I started to chuckle inside, but my exterior was all anger. " I badgered him again! "You're lost, what are you going to do?" The question must have set off a new attack of queasiness, as he reached for another envelope! "Use the BAG inside the envelope", I yelled. Jay caught on this time, used the bag, and filled it to the rim with oriental noodles and liquid. They looked like small fish swimming happily around in a fishbowl. He looked at me again... "Don't even think it..." before I finished my sentence, Jay had popped his window, and the 5-pin bowling-ball-sized bag of noodles was out the window, and experiencing gravity once again, after just experiencing weightlessness during the ride up the esophagus. My inner chuckle was growing, seeing him in distress caused by his own arrogance.

Jay recovered somewhat, and I told him to head west, as we had become off-track 30 miles after traveling 90 miles north. Every 3 miles he went north, he went 1 mile off-track. Pathetic! We eventually made the lake we were going to, and off-loaded our supplies. The trip back to base was made without incident, and not much conversation took place. I figured it was pink-slip time for Jay once we returned to Base, but after relating the events of the day, the owner wanted to give him another chance. I was dumbfounded. Did Jay have some kind of compromising pictures of the owner? Anyhow, since Jay was going to be around for awhile longer, he would now need a nickname. I settled on "Magellan", (not after the GPS, but after Ferdinand, that great Portuguese explorer). I figured this nickname was appropriate, because the course Jay was flying to get to the lake we were trying to reach would have had us circumnavigating the globe before we arrived.

Jay had another chance, and did marginally better. He was given some more training, and then we found out the insurance requirements for our company had risen along with everyone else' due to the hammering the insurance companies had taken from the stock market downturn, and then 9/11. This meant Jay didn't have the necessary flying time for us to employ him. The company was given an out, and Jay was let go.

Jay ended up flying at an Indian Reserve in northern Manitoba, and apparently finally overcame his initial shortcomings. He has matured greatly, and I have seen him since, and his attitude has seen a total reversal. I sense some humility.

In closing, a lot can be learned from this short tale. Flying, like numerous other professions, is usually hard work, and is a respectable profession. I personally don't like anyone to tarnish that image. Also, when you behave like an ass, you usually get kicked in the ass. Being humble and respectful will advance you along in your chosen profession much quicker than brashness and rudeness (in most professions, anyway, except if you are a lawyer or a huckster). I have seen, trained, checked-out, and worked alongside a lot of good, professional pilots in my time, and the common denominator was always a "good attitude". So, be humble and respectful, as the picture people see of you is usually what you project!

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