So, I moved into the pit, the hose connected, and I watch very carefully as the “mud” is pumped on board. My phone usually rings during this time, but I ignore it. This time we are loading from the right. It’s the first time I’ve flown *this* particular 802 since February or March. With the right window open, we get a full treat of the exhaust fumes in the cockpit. I turn the a/c on “high”, which helps some. I time my “hand drop” perfectly, and I have 700 gallons onboard. Allegedly. Things don’t always work out….
As I taxi out, I hear the ramp manager call base with “my gallons”. 685.
WHAT??? I get on the radio, and they confirm. As I taxi out, I notice a small card taped to the right side, just under the window. Hmmm…”FRDS correction card”. “When meter indicates 700 gallons, 685 in tank”. Nice. I should have found that earlier. I read further. “When indicating 750 gallons, 785 in tank”. Really nice. Not only does the correction have to be applied, it’s in opposite directions right at the point I need it to be most accurate! Things don’t always work out….
(A brief side note about weight. We have maximum weight that the plane can haul structurally…i.e., the weight for which it is certified. We have maximum takeoff weight, for the runway at hand. We have maximum weight for the altitude at which we will drop..which can literally be thousands of feet higher than the airport. All of these weights are different, and all are affected by temperature. Each takeoff requires accounting of fuel on board, as well as retardant. At 9.3 pounds per gallon, the retardant volume changes things.)
Off I go. Air Attack leaves about the time I do, but since he can outrun me by 60 knots or so, he gets there quicker. His plane is a King Air, carrying a pilot and the Air Attack. Mine is carrying me and
700 685 gallons of mud. I’m the first tanker on scene. We have a brief discussion of his desired tactics, and I make a good first drop. That worked out…
Several more cycles were made, but on the third drop as I was coming to the “Fire Traffic Area”, when I call Air Attack, for an answer I get a squeal that mimics the ones emitted by the pigs as my grandfather castrated them. Okay, now what? I circle, call a couple times, finally do the “if you understand me click your mike twice” call. Two clicks confirm, and I do a couple of statements of intention, with the double mike click to confirm each time. I get all set up, and the pilot of the Air Attack plane (usually only the Air Attack himself talks on the radio) confirms the “go-ahead” with the plan.
I’m all set. Turn from high to low ground, set up on the most active part of the fire, gate is armed, the Air Attack pilot confirms that the line is clear. My finger is literally starting to pull the trigger when I spot a lone firefighter
walking right through my path!!
Sometimes things don’t work out….