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 …
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.
I have worked for many operators over the years and seen many different ways of how they deal with aircraft parts. I have encountered everything from small operator parts rooms where you just walk in and sign out your part, to massive operators where the internal system is so sluggish it takes you almost a day to get the part after filing your way through numerous TPS reports and parts requests. “Parts trace-ability” is a big word in aviation and in my mind very important.
Either way you want to go though, one thing I have learned is that it is never a good idea to let pilots in a parts room. Especially when you have Chuck as your pilot! 😉
Also, I really like the pink child gate Julio put on the door in 2004…
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 😉
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.
Well, it seems like Hans found yet another way of trying to save money. I am pretty sure Julio will keep him in line though. I have fought many battles over the years where the owners tried to save money and the mechanics tried to do what is right. I like working for those companies where the mechanics win that particular battle. Stepping over a dollar bill to pick up a dime never pays in the flying business.
I have seen many shady operators in my day I would never work for no matter how much they paid me. It always shocked me how long some of them were able to stay in business especially in a field that is scrutinized as much as aviation is. Have you ever worked for a shady operator?
So, there I was on this little survey job flying a Long Ranger all over the Western States. The job ran long due to constant weather issues (since their corporate department decided the spring would be a good idea to go surveying in the Pacific Northwest with delicate equipment that won’t work in the rain) and everybody was under pressure to get the job done. We were stuck once again with several bands of snow moving in and the weather blocking a mountain pass we had to climb over to get to the next location. You can see the snow would be coming in bands on the weather charts and the briefer at the flight service station confirmed my suspicions as well. But after already several days of waiting the customer somehow started to feel that I wouldnt want to go fly for some reason. It was weird to me because I just love being stuck in a hotel away from home and not fly (insert sarcasm font).
So, every time the weather cleared for just a second and the sun started to come through the phone rang and they said they wanted to try to fly. I told them there will be more snow coming but got tired of them implying I just dont want to go. So after a few days I said nothing changed but lets try it since I wasn’t doing anything else all day anyways. It cleared up, we packed up, drove to the airport, pushed the aircraft out of the hangar got ready to take off, and promptly got snowed on. The equipment they had wouldnt work in the snow, so it was a no-go. So at this point we secured everything again, pushed the aircraft back in the hangar, and went back to the hotel. We must have done this 3 times that day until they caught on to the fact that when the pilot says today is not a good day, it means its not a good day and not I rather sit alone in my hotel room than go fly. And some time shortly after telling this story to Stefan this strip was conceived …
It is funny how you sometimes fail to see the simplest solution. I have done something similar before. We landed a helicopter in Reno with some special equipment on it that kept it from being moved with a tug. Not wanting to remove and re-install it, we opted for tying down the aircraft really well (at below freezing temperatures, btw) which took a while. Then we had to take them all off again the next morning. Everything was frozen. We had to rent a “Herman Nelson” heater to heat up the gearboxes, and so forth… It ended up taking us way more time than simply taking the equipment off and putting the aircraft in a hangar.
It really wasn’t funny at the time but it eventually worked its way into a Chicken Wings strip. Sometimes it takes me a few days (sometimes weeks) to see the humor in what is currently happening to me. But when I do, it usually works out for Chuck and the gang 😉