So there I was in the heart of San Diego when I suddenly found myself behind the wheel of a brand new Dodge Challenger. The pilot I worked back-to-back with at the time had such a high status with the rental car company after renting for so many years, that he could pick pretty much anything he wanted for a mid-sized car price. He would get the car, then switched with me wherever the helicopter was parked at the moment, and I would get to drive the rental back to the nearest airport to fly home for my days off.
I don’t even remember the other cars we came across that fire season but driving the Challenger with paddle shifters, massive horse power, many extra features, and such, I couldn’t help but think the whole time driving it “Man, this thing has CHUCK written all over it!” Which then in turn inspired this new mini-series.
But don’t worry guys, this will not suddenly become a comic strip centered around cars. We just thought we need to touch on the fact that most Chuck-type pilots we know, kind of have a need for fancy cars. The other funny thing about this whole story is the fact that on the other hand almost all the best A&P mechanics I personally know drive really beat up, old cars …
Flashback! We are throwing in another classic strip for all of you who may not have been following us since 2002. I can’t believe it has been close to 15 years already! Maybe it is time for another “Silver Chicken”.
Even though we might find ourselves laughing at Chuck here, the ones among us who fly will know that big airports can be confusing and to some very intimidating. I am the first one to admit I have made the occasional mistake which lead me “down the wrong path” so to speak much to the dismay of the ground controller. But since the conception of this strip, “runway incursions” have become an increasingly bigger deal with the FAA with fines increasing as well. The current penalty for suddenly finding yourself on the wrong runway is a 60 day license suspension according to the AOPA websites we have found.
Most ATC controllers I know rather have you verify your clearance when you are not sure instead of going nose-to-nose with another aircraft. So essentially, Chuck is doing the right thing here (imagine that!).
The Roost Air crew sure knows how to deal with customers. I actually prefer seeing employees having fun at their job, or not being 100% serious all the time to dealing soulless zombies, who had the love for life sucked out of them by the corporate machine. But if I was scared of flying, I would probably prefer them being serious in front of me too.
Do you guys know that old helicopter joke: “What is that big thing on top? A fan. The moment the thing is turned off, the people inside start sweating.”
I think once again, Chuck may have been taken things way to literally. Please don’t try this at home, no matter how hot it gets. It’s just a cartoon!
Even though the joke probably refers to the rotors turning in the air (which is always a good thing and we go through great lengths to make sure they keep turning), there is some truth to it that relates to reality. Imagine, during fire season, having your car parked in the sun until noon (You can use window shades, that’s fine. But you need to take them out when you get in the car), then get in wearing a flight suit and helmet and wait about 10 minutes before you turn on the AC in your car. That is about how long it takes going through the check list items in a Skycrane before you start turning rotors and the AC doesn’t turn on until then. Those 10 minutes feel pretty long, let me tell you 😉 And some of our machines don’t even have AC, like the one I’m flying this summer.
Also, almost all smaller helicopters I have flown for fire and utility in the past don’t have AC either to save on weight. They get off the ground quicker most of the time where the “FAN” will move some air bringing a little relief together with gaining altitude, but not if you are stuck on the ramp in North Las Vegas for example, waiting for clearance through Nellis Airforce Base airspace during Red Flag Operations. But we do it because we love it 😉
Do you all know the saying “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission?” Well, Alex can be glad that Chuck doesn’t seem to have heard of that one yet. Or maybe he has, and Alex just knows she really has to keep an eye on her keys!
One of the greatest things about being a cartoonist is the dress code. Or should I say the lack thereof? I sure love the fact that I only have to wear ties on special occasions, such as weddings. I also love the fact, that in my case, the job I have and the one I want are one and the same. But does anyone know about a similar rule that works for *income*?
Anyway, this rule of dressing for the job you want can really only apply in a corporate setting for people with modest goals. If you work as a garbage collector, but want to be the president, I think a pinstriped suit would probably be an impediment in your current job. Or if you work in a fast food joint but would rather be a deep sea diver.
In the real life version of this strip I was sitting in the office with the real Nobu talking about the accident history on one of our pilots while setting up our new safety manual. Some of you might know that I was involved in a helicopter crash many years ago before the invention of Chuck and his friends. I asked Nobu “Have you ever had an accident?”
“Just one” he said.
“Oh yeah? What happened?”
“I accidentally became Director of Operations here.”
And just like that another Chicken Wings comic was written….
One of the keys to being able to survive as a cartoonist is a frugal lifestyle. So, I can understand Chuck’s impulse to save a buck here and there. They all add up, in the end. But in my opinion, being frugal is mostly being smart about the big investments, such as your house, your car, etc. Or, as in Chuck’s case, aviator watches. For his latest watch, Chuck could have gotten himself about 500 pizzas! I know how I would choose. But then, I’m no watch collector.
When passengers suddenly get quiet, it is almost never a good sign. In this case Chuck lucked out but in general my experience has shown it means that they are getting sick. I have been flying for way over half of my life and over time it seems you develop a second sense about these things. I can often just look at a passenger and will know if he/she is a puker or not. And it is usually the ones who are way too excited when they show up and talk way too much. It shows that they are nervous even though they don’t even know it yet. I have surprised a few when I gave them an extra bag because they thought for sure they could handle the mission but were glad later on that I prepared them.
What seems to be the worst part (I know from watching since I don’t get sick myself) is that once you get sick in a helicopter (or plane for that matter), it will take you a long time before you recover from it long after landing.
Kids are more tricky. I usually did better not ever bringing up that there is a possibility of getting sick. That way they don’t think about it, have no idea they COULD get sick, and just enjoy the awesome ride while you keep them engaged. It almost always works. But if you mention it they start thinking about it. They get scared “Wait? I can get sick?”, and you almost guaranteed have a puker who, which makes kids worse than adults, NEVER give you a heads up 😉
The story continues almost how it happened in real life. These hot shot movie producers came from New York and had never been in a helicopter over LA at night. They showed up with Hawaiian shirts because that is what they thought we would wear in LA. I showed up with my flight jacket having an understanding how the weather works in LA in April. Initially they laughed at me when I asked them if they brought any more clothes which then quickly changed. Especially in the spring it can be very mellow in Southern California on the coast but as soon as the sun touches the horizon it suddenly gets pretty cold. Now imagine sitting in a helicopter with the doors off right when that happens! You make that particular mistake only once, let me tell you 😉
Yet, even with me having that problem solved ahead of time, it still wasn’t a very comfortable flight for me. The mission was to take black and white footage of the rough neighborhoods for some sort of documentary. Having flown in the area before and knowing helicopter cops I knew that these people don’t necessarily want other people peeking into their backyard. Low circling helicopters get shot at sometimes in LA but that is another story for another time …