Hey everyone! I'm a little behind these days on keep this updated! I have been working pretty hard for great folks over at NYCAviation.com ! I have also been doing some article for airlinereporter.com and most of all, I have the privilege of guest blogging on capnaux.com!
I will try to keep this a little more current! In the mean time, please check out those great folks!
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Okay, so maybe it’s not the great graphic image issue I made it out to be right there, but I've certainly heard a lot of chatter about it. Granted this has been mainly in the online response sections to articles on various media outlets, but it’s chatter all the same. I thought that this would be a taboo subject to write about, so being as sensitive as a train wreck, I nominated myself as the man for the job.
I find myself in an interesting position when it comes to dealing with graphic images in the media, the silver screen, or in real life situations. I have been involved in public safety in one aspect or another since I was 17 years old. I started out by getting my emergency medical technician’s license at 17 and worked on different rescue services throughout time. In addition to this I've professionally been both a police officer and public safety dispatcher. As you can imagine, I've seen my fair share of horrible losses of human life, and no, they’re not pretty.
I don’t care what anyone tells you, the first tragedy is not anymore pleasant than the tenth one that you see. The difference is that you know how to process it. You know how you’re going to react, and what you need to do to take care of yourself and stay well. I would compare this to a physical injury. Being involved in what we called a “critical incident” was akin to an mental health injury, if you will. You had to apply the appropriate first aid. This could be anything from walking it off to a big operation. The important thing to remember, is that everyone handles these things differently.
On to the aviation side of this, we have on our hands with MH17 a very unique situation. It’s not often that an innocent jetliner gets dropped out of the sky into a war zone. I won’t get into my political rant and speculations, as they’re just that. I will say, however, what we do have is an airliner shot down in the age of the internet. An age where cell phone cameras abound, and the ability to put your images online with the tap of a screen are available in even third world countries.
It has been my experience that the news in that region of the world is far less censored than American news. Graphic images are posted freely, and seemingly without much regard for those who may find them. There is however, a large cultural difference here at play. You are dealing an area that has seen war, that is living war, and has lived in war. Modern conveniences are not as abundant, such as safety equipment or excellent medical care. It is a safe bet that death has been a much more up close and personal experience for the folks living in this region.
Which brings me back to this: They know how to process it. I’m not saying everyone does, so I suppose I shouldn’t say “they”. To be fair though, a large number of them have experienced deadly accidents or violence first hand. I watched a journalist’s graphic video on the issue of the deceased recently. The victims were scattered over a large area, many in dismembered, over a sunflower field. One thing that caught my particular interest was the plight of a family who had two bodies in their field. It amazed me that they had them so nicely covered up in plastic sheeting weighted down with rocks. When bringing the film crew around they uncovered them gingerly. I felt that this was a sign of great care and I gained a new respect and common ground with these folks whom I would never meet.I say common ground because in my public safety career I worked with numerous folks who were extremely compassionate and conscientious in this same manner. Despite the emotional toll it took on them, they were consummate professionals.
But alas, everyone has a breaking point, and despite reading only a translation, you could hear the desperation in the tone of their voice. Their plea was to have the bodies removed. The exposure to this “critical incident” would take more than “walking it off” for this family.
Many of the comments after this particular piece were aimed at the graphic image content and how it was disrespectful of the victims. Interestingly enough, the mix of ethnicities and religions on the aircraft all view death and burial in different manners and levels of importance.The problem comes when the people doing the reporting, the people doing the clean up, and the people doing the grieving are not all on the same team.
I personally feel that this type of reporting is often necessary to show people the reality of the situation, not just a canned and sanitized sound bite. I can only relate this to the police department. In the event of a major accident where someone died and there was to prosecution, the prosecutors office would sometimes come to the scene to witness it first hand. They would get to smell the smells, hear the sounds, and touch the hardware. This impact on them personally allowed them to pursue the case a with a clearer understanding.
Several of my friends live a clean, fairly safe, comfortable life here in America. They’re not exposed to death and violence unless they choose to be, in most cases. Face facts, we’re pretty lucky up here in Maine. It has always amused me that as Americans we let so much slide in terms of violence, sex, and death in video games, movies, and music, but when we present real graphic images of the news, that’s no good. Ah, the privileges we have and some don’t even realize how lucky they are.
I’m certainly not advocating that we go posting pictures of the deceased in mainstream media. I’m saying in the proper journalistic setting, aimed at the proper audience who has been forewarned, this type of reporting is extremely valuable in accurately representing the magnitude of the disaster. I feel that sugar coating the issue wouldn’t provide the social justice needed for those who died. The story of their death needs to be told, and the visual just happens to be part of that story.
In the aviation community there are many who will be affected by this tragedy. Some of us will set about it intellectually, looking at policies, procedures, and politics. Some may have it nagging at the back of their mind as they walk down the jetway to scoot off to another meeting in yet another state. International crews will no doubt have the elephant in the room for some time to come. All will be sad.
I feel safe in saying that there is a little button on all of our hearts labeled “melt”. This button certainly leads to a different part of the heart for all of us. In my case it is kids and stuffed animals. My son has a sock monkey. I think I love it more than he does. As a cop I gave tons of “stuffy” away to kids in traumatic situations. You’d be amazed at the amount of hope and comfort a “stuffy” gives. If you ever get a chance to read “JetHead” Chris Manno’s blog, do it. Read the one about rescuing the stuffy. He nails it on the head and became my new hero, right behind John Glenn. I tell you all of this because the last picture of wreckage I looked at from MH17 was an image of mangled seats, and on the ground next to it: a stuffy. Someone hit the “melt” button and the hard shell went away. Leaving behind horror. No more processing, just stark, cold, horror.
It is my sincere wish that each and every victim is repatriated and cared for by their family in the manner of worship that they so choose. They’ve earned that. Even the stuffy.
**Notes: Please remember: All views are my own. I’m not an expert on culture or religion, this is all just a take on things from my basic education and slightly more trained than john q citizen position. This work is not copy edited so please expect poor grammar.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Things to Consider:
Please remember, this is my fun writing for me and fellow avgeeks. It is not copy edited and grammar and spelling may be a little rough. Enjoy!
I recently had the good fortune to obtain an advanced copy of There I Wuz! Adventures from 3 Decades in the sky Volume 1 by Eric “Cap'n Aux” Auxier, published by EALiterary Press. It is a compliation of aviation stories from Auxier's aviation career, as well as guest stories from other aviators. I felt this is an excellent book for anyone involved in the “avgeek” aviation enthusiast community.
The first indication one has as to the qualifications of the author is that the forward is written by Karlene Petit, international airline pilot, author, and television news commentator on aviation matters. The second indication is the lineup of guest authors, which also includes fellow author/pilot Mark Berry.
The bulk of the text is not one continuous story, or even a series of stories. All of the stories are separate, yet they still seem to tie together the overall theme of Auxier's career in aviation. There is, however, a large dose of humor in most of the stories, such as found in the story I Nearly Wet My Pants, a story about a flight where Auxier's bladder “overpressure relief valve” was tested to its limit.
Several of the stories will be recognized from Auxier's blog, www.capnaux.blogspot.com, which has now moved over to www.capnaux.com. There are also some previously unpublished accounts as well. You'll notice from the title that this is Volume 1. One of the stories, in particular Gone with the Hurricane, directly states that the rest of that story will be told in Volume 2. This particular story sees less of the typical Cap'n Aux humor, and more of the serious, reflective Eric Auxier. The story reveals a little bit of why Eric Auxier is the man he is today.
If you're an outsider to aviation and just wanted to read a book about an airline pilot's career from start to finish, than this is not your book. However, if you're curious about some of the behind the scenes aspects of aviaiton, than this book will certainly offer you a great cross section of stories from the pointy end of the plane. This particular work caters to the “blog” crowd, as there are lots of links to guest authors work that can be found on line.
As a devout “avgeek” and lifelong aviation enthusiast, I found There I Wuz to be extremely entertaining, enlightening, and just plain funny. I would recommend this book to “avgeek” and outsider alike, offering not just the stories in print, but resources for finding further adventures on line.
*Full Disclosure: I was provided an editor's copy of the book by Eric Auxier free of charge. This, however, in no way has influenced my opinionn of the text. My opinons remain my own. I'd be happy to tell Eric his book stinks if that were the case, but it's certainly not.
Friday, May 23, 2014
A Word about Sacrifice
Like some Americans, I am guilty of getting hung up on some materialistic and luxury items. Today I caught myself complaining that my company didn't give us Memorial Day off. Then I remembered what it was all about, and shut my mouth.
To those of you that know me, shutting my mouth is somewhat of a foreign concept. I've never been a stranger to making my opinion known. In some ways, I'm doing that right now, and quite frankly, I have no shame about it.
Starting in EMS, then moving to emergency dispatching, then law enforcement, I got to see my fair share of death, misery, and destruction. This doesn't even begin to hold a candle to what close friends and co workers of mine have seen in combat zones. Things that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
My dear friend and mentor passed away several years ago now. I miss him very much. I can't begin to imagine the ache that a parent feels of the loss of a child in service. I worked with a young lady who lost her brother in Afghanistan. A young life cut short. She never really discussed the hurt with me, as we weren't close, but you could see it in her eyes. That always stuck with me. An older co worker once said of his child in service that “It's easier to go off to war yourself than to see your child go off to war”.
I would also like to point out that all of the Gold Star Families I have met have something in common: they don't complain. Not at all. Even though they are hurt, they speak of how proud they are that their child, brother, sister, spouse had served. That they were just doing their job. But no one complains.
I recently gave up my seat on a flight to a gentleman headed to a specialist appointment. He was a service member with a prosthetic. I don't tell you this because I'm trying to tell you how great I am. I'm telling you this because that man taught me something. He taught me that he had a smile with one foot. That he didn't give up. That I could make the journey of multiple connections easier than him, but he wouldn't complain if he did. If he's missing an appendage, than he probably knows some people who gave it all. And to all of them, thank you. And God bless you.
To the rest of us: Take a minute. Stop comparing what you have versus what your friends have. Take inventory of the fact you're alive, have what you have for limbs, and you're not being shot at. And be thankful some stranger died in the name of freedom so we could be here.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Another Good Deed
Donald Campbell was only in his mid 50's when he passed away that October afternoon. He was piloting a Cessna 207 for Penobscot Island Air to the island of Matinicus. Matinicus is in Penobscot Bay, off from the Midcoast area of Maine. Penobscot Island Air flies out of Knox County Regional Airport and services the islands. They hold many contracts from UPS to government entities. To many people they are a lifeline.
I'm not really sure what Don was delivering that day, but I know he was alone, which leads me to believe he was flying supplies or mail. I've never read the FAA report, but I am aware from others that the winds were at a sustained high and gusting about five knots higher. I'm guessing around the high twenties to low thirties wouldn't be unheard of. On that fateful day, Don crashed and was killed while attempting to land. And the world lost a great son, father, husband, soldier, and mentor.
Now I titled this another good deed, because it seemed to me that Don was a man of many good deeds. He retired from the U.S. Army as a mechanic. I met Don through the Knox County Flying Club. We were both starting in aviation in one form, but we were at totally different points in life. I have always collected military things, and Don was kind enough to give me some things from the Army for my collection. As time wore on, Don charged forward, gaining multiple licenses and ultimately flying for Penobscot Island Air. He really loved his job and the people he serviced. He was always at work, it seemed, and he always went above and beyond.
My favorite good deed happened when I was about fifteen. I was at the airport one day doing some cleaning in the flying club when Don showed up. He brought the plane out, I believe it was his dad's Cessna 150 but I forget, and began to hunt around for things to wash it. I helped break out the required equipment and we got to work. It was a bright summer day and Don was always fun to talk to. I'll never forget that when we were done he said "Well I suppose I've got to take you with me, you helped me clean it, after all." I wasn't expecting this as I didn't know he was going anywhere! It wasn't uncommon for guys to just come and wash their plane and hang out. Soon we were headed to Limington-Harmon Airport in Limington, Maine. We enjoyed a great breakfast at the fly-in hosted there and roamed around the airport a bit. Some folks had some very nice planes to look at, and it was fun meeting some new people. When we took off to head home, Don let me do the honors of flying us back. It was really a great day.
I never could have imagined I would one day live so close to that little airport in Limington. The same way I couldn't have imagined reading the news that morning in October of 2010. Although we had lost touch, Don was one of the many people whose kindness helped shape me into the man that I am today. I can not thank him personally anymore, but I can honor his memory by sharing this with you. I believe that you only truly die when the last person has spoken about you for the last time. I hope that Don's kindness inspires others to live an honorable life like he did. Thank you for your good deeds my friend.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Saturday was an amazing, beautiful day. I took a swing by the Sanford Regional Airpatch to see what was shaking. Judging by the full apron at the FBO, there were lots of hundred plus dollar hamburgers being eaten at the Cockpit Cafe next door. While sticking my nose over the fence, I saw a beautiful Super Cub with Tundra Tires taxi in. I haven't seen one of those in some time. Tundra tires aren't all that common up here as one may think. Just then, a Mooney departed at the speed of stink, and it was gear up before it left the ground it seemed. The pilot must have been Navy...
At any rate, there will be more stories from the blog soon enough. I have a couple I'm working on, but they're just not done yet.
In other news, I am looking forward to seeing the Delta MD-88 disrupt the morning solitude on my way to work tomorrow. Nothing like a little Mad Dog action to sooth the soul before headed into the office...
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
I Hate Ohio (no offense)
However, if you take offense, then you clearly have a distorted image of Ohio. As we climbed out of Missouri and headed toward Ohio, I couldn't help but think things could only improve from here. Boy, was I was wrong.
We plodded along in the Might Cherokee and got passed along from center to center, listening to the big airliners above us doing their elephants on parade thing across the imaginary highways of the sky. I dutifully minded the GPS system and occasionally took the controls, fulfilling my duties as "domestic relief pilot". The weather was beautiful, and were not bothered by any nasty clouds. It seems the duty midwest thunder storm was on leave that day.
One of the interesting things I noticed about Ohio is that it's flat. Like pretty darn flat. Eventually, we had the airport and all that was Sidney in sight. Steven put the Mighty Cherokee into a the local pattern, announced our arrival, and made a pretty acceptable landing. As some of my naval aviator friends would say, it actually looked "shit hot" as far as general aviation goes. You can damn well bet it was the best looking Cherokee landing Sidney has seen to date.
I have to admit, it was one of he most quaint little airports I had ever seen. I expected to see an old man push a J-3 Cub out of the hangar and depart into the golden sunset. It was that good. I kicked the over wing door open to let the warm summer air into the cockpit, thus alleviating the stench of sweaty man and Capri Sun. The sweet smell of fresh cut grass immediately filled the cockpit, and I actually let my hard feelings toward Ohio go away for a minute. A minute. That was about how long it was before the we had to YIELD to a non-airport related, giant piece of farming equipment on the ramp. Don't believe me? Check this crap out.
Now, Steven, being no dummy, and also having a penchant for airport loaner cars, planned each facet of our flight to include being able to use the airports car for wayward pilots. After we shut down, tied down, and grabbed our gear, we headed to the FBO office. After taking care of getting our aircraft fuel situation covered, we asked about the car. Sure the guy says, take the car, it's right out there. He inquired as to when we were shoving off. We said we'd like to be headed out around 8 or so. Well, that was no good. You see Harvey, he has to use the car to check the runways for any debris (FOD) etc in the morning. We can't make a move until Harvey checks it out. And he can only use the car to do that.
I could have understood all of this if the car was, say, bright yellow with flashing lights on it. Sure, maybe it had a radio in it or some sort of measuring equipment. I could understand that. But that's not the case. It was a beat up old police cruiser, devoid of any type of special airport equipment. In the end, it was a car to use for free, so we went ahead and thanked him kindly and wandered into town.
Downtown Sidney was kind of neat. I looked a lot like one of those fifties posters with the hold cars out in front of a diner or something. On the way toward the hotel we went under what I knew, from my years as the child of a rail fan father, to be a viaduct of the C&O railroad. When we finally wheeled into the hotel my prayers were answered. There was a Sonic in the parking lot. Now this may not seem to be a big deal to those of you near one, but the closest one to me, still, is two states away. I do love me some hot dogs and tots.
We parked the car and checked into the fabulous hotel. It was a hotel that would prepare anyone for a career of flying and staying hotels bid out by the airline. We headed out into the fast failing sunlight towards the palace of tots that was built in the parking lot; Sonic. So we're standing there trying to read the menu in the dark, and then it occurred to us, they may be closed. I mean, it was after all a light up menu, and it was pretty much dark at this point, and it wasn't lit. So we did what anyone would, we stared at it. Here are two men that can operate a piece of machinery to haul us home, but we could only just stare at a menu board. It was really the only thing for us to do. Clearly.
The story has a pretty happy ending though. The staff remembered to turn the sing on. You would have thought they were expecting the Presidential Medal of Freedom for doing so though. Holy cow. We lugged our food back to the hotel and chowed it down over a few episodes of whatever Ohio type TV was on. I didn't really pay attention as I was tired.
Steven after the menu lit up.
Speaking of tired. We got up at the butt crack of dawn, packed our gear, and headed down for the free breakfast. Half he reason Steven picked the darn room was that it came withe free breakfast It was actually pretty good considering it was free. Everything tastes better when it's free. So after we ate, we knew it was coming up on Harvey time. Now by this point, we had cursed his name, his family, and his religion for causing us to have to leave so early. We had quite the mental image of him built up and were actually anxious to see him.
We headed across the flatness and made our way back to the airport in a reasonable amount of time, arriving before the requested time. Upon our arrival, however, there was no one there. This afforded me the chance to snoop around and see the old Air Force T-33 they had on static display there. As time ground on, the gentleman we had spoken to the previous night showed up. As it turns out, Harvey wasn't coming in after all. That's right folks. Not. Coming. In. Me, I was, well we shall say, not impressed. My hatred for Ohio returned, and Harvey, wherever you are, I'm sure you're a nice guy, but I never want to run into you. Ever.
So, after the gnashing of teeth, some final checks were made, final pees were had, and we cranked up the Mighty Cherokee and pointed her east. It was a happy departure. Let's face it. Ohio is all frabbed up.
Sidney's ramp area. Pretty neat really.
Departure was smooth and we cruised into the sun, slowly clawing our way toward Maine, one click of the DME at a time. The Mighty Cherokee was a great plane, but this particular model had a design flaw. The version I flew had nice high back seats in it. This little sucker had low back seats that were original to it. Not fun going across the good ol' USA. As is evidenced by me sitting here typing this, clearly I survived.
The rest of the trip actually flew by rather quickly. We made a quick stop in the Finger Lakes region of New York to get some fuel. After that we headed straight to Eastern Slopes Regional Airport in Fryeburg. It was a beautiful day for flying and it was a laid back flight. We managed to aviate, navigate, and communicate all within the law, with no near misses on top of that.
It really was a great trip and it afforded Steven and I chance to do and see a lot of things. I am forever appreciative of his parents for shipping me out there, and even more so to Steve for having me along for the ride. It was a great adventure I won't soon forget.