I love flying Skycranes! They are not a comfortable helicopter to fly in by any means nor do they go far or fast, but boy can they pick up a lot of weight! It’s nice to watch the fire go out when you drop that much water on it per shot. As far as aerial firefighting goes and when utilized properly as a fast moving “initial attack” tool around urban interface, the Crane is absolutely the best helicopter for the job I have ever flown. It works really well here in Greece with the added ability of picking up salt water from the sea.
But now, after almost 3 months on the road, I am happy that today is my last work day I am getting a few day break away from the orange beast. I thought it would be appropriate to post a comic about Cranes to celebrate the occasion.
Orange is actually not the best color for flying around in the smoke I have found btw. We always get all kinds of questions about this helicopter. And most of the time, people even let us finish our sentences, LOL. I’m sure you guys all have met somebody who bombards you with questions without listening to the answers. We also have the guys who come up to us with a question and then proceed to dazzle us with how much THEY know about the machine 😉
Let’s open the blog section for Crane relate questions y’all might have. I’d be happy to answer them.
Since I have seen both side of this coin, I do feel for the mechanics. This happened to me plenty of times in my younger years. The pilot landed and walked away while I was there all night fixing the helicopter. And now, almost exclusively working as a pilot, I try not to be “that guy” for that exact reason. Yet there are times, after flying a noisy helicopter all day, looking into the sun, on a busy fire with many aircraft to watch out for, and no air-condition in the aircraft, when you just have to walk away at the end of the day because you would probably do more damage than good if you stuck around trying to swing tools. Also, and this might be an age thing or the fact I have a far better and prettier half, I don’t go chasing girls after a day like that anymore but rather seek a cold beer and then a clean bed pretty much right away.
There is one thing I have always thought is funny about aviation seminars. It’s the difference between mechanic seminars and pilot seminars. I have been to both. On a mechanic seminar, when it was said that it starts at 8 am, it almost always started right at 8 am with everybody sitting down, pencil in hand. On pilot seminars, … not so much. At 8 am they would still be trickling in, find other pilots they know, catch up on the latest rumors, grab another cup of coffee, stand around chatting, until around 8:20 the speaker would try to get everybody to shut up and sit down so we can get started with the meeting 😉
It’s time to throw in another classic. This one stems way back to the beginning when the chicken strips were just passed around the office and long before websites, books, etc…
The “Chuck, is that you?” phrase was just barely coming to fruition back then but we knew already we wanted to keep it going. And to be honest, we still think they are funny. By now the black&white strips have just about disappeared from the internet but you can always get the whole collection by buying Book No. 1.
It’s hard for me to look back at some of the old jokes we had done because I can tell we just barely got into the groove on how to properly set up a 3-panel joke. A few stories are literally how they happened and therefore a little disconnected before we figured out hot to properly twist and cut them to fit the format. I guess it’s probably the same feeling an old actor must feel when looking at his or her early work. But I like to compare the old material to our newer stuff and see how much Chuck and his friends “have grown”, so to speak. My personal favorite Chicken Wings book out of the bunch is still our fourth book. Maybe there will be a new favorite soon? 😉
When it came to things like juggling or balancing something on your hand, my brother was always better than me. Maybe that’s why he became a helicopter pilot and I a cartoonist. Rarely do I ever have to balance a pencil on my palm, but my brother needs to keep those metallic beasts from losing balance all the time.
And now this strip gives me an idea … Maybe I should get him a unicycle for Christmas!
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 😉
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 …
Just in case you were wondering: This little story here is what happened to me as a young charter pilot pretty much exactly like we drew it. The only difference is the aircraft was a Jet Ranger. I have dealt with many low budget film crews in my life and they are very hard to work with. Most of them are way too excited about their cause and they expect you to do a lot of additional stuff they didn’t pay for. And somehow a lot of them had it in their minds that a Jet Ranger would cost the same amount as a taxi cab and they are always shocked about the real price. One company I worked for learned the hard way to collect the money BEFORE we did the flights.
Working in Hollywood is not always as glamorous as it may look on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” …
And if you are wondering why Chuck is wearing a jacket instead of his usual pilot shirt, you may need to tune in again this Friday. 😉
Did Chuck unearth his leather jacket to impress the guys from the film crew? After all, long time readers may remember that he’s been working on a movie script for almost as long as on his corsair.
Since Roost-Air is rapidly approaching their 15 year anniversary, we thought we would show you a classic strip “from back in the day” every now and then with a little background information mixed in. Some of those are from pre-website days and are otherwise only available in our first book.
I was flying off-shore at the time and transitioning to an oil-rig off the coast of California which had me transition through Santa Barbara’s airspace. The easiest route was to transition along the shoreline but the tower preferred us to be low so he can route approaching fixed wing traffic on top of us. Well, there is a little hill on the shore between Santa Barbara and Goleta where the airport is, so radio reception and radar coverage wasn’t the best. Yet the tower always made us fly low and squawk a code, but then turn around and complain he wasn’t picking us up. We tried flying further offshore and as high as we could without busting the given ceiling but it never worked quite right. So since they always gave us a really low number to squawk (maybe that is what was assigned to them, not sure how that works), the joke was born inside the aircraft about trying to get a higher number. Of course in the real world we didn’t transmit this part (even though we probably should have just for the fun of it, but I was flying for the government and we all know how much fun can be had while doing that).
This is also one of the first strips ever to use the “Chuck, is that you?” line. It was around this time we decided to just make this a permanent thing. The original idea was to always have Chuck park his pick-up in front of the hangar and Julio complaining about it with the standard line “Move the truck, Chuck!” which is based on a true story. But we could never really fit that in the strips as much and once the radio issue idea came to be we felt it was a much better fit and quite frankly, way funnier. One of my personal biggest wins was the first time I sat around a air tanker base with a bunch of pilots I had never met before a few years later. Somebody messed up on the frequency and a pilot in the ready room yelled out “Chuck, is that you?” which got everybody laughing. I knew then we were on the right track with this punchline and that is why you still see it. The next goal is to achieve notoriety similar to “I’ll be back”, HAHA!