The vagaries of weather have created an unusual fire season. We had a fairly quick start, then things changed. Avoiding bed sores had become a large part of our daily routine. Dramatic cutbacks in food intake were needed to avoid becoming so suddenly overfed that climbing into the plane represented a major challenge.
Speaking of climbing into the plane…I had never thought much of how we mounted/dismounted from the plane. There are two steps that extend below the wing. First the left foot, then the right, grab the handle, put left foot on wing. Grab next handle, put both feet on wing. Left foot into “foot-hole” on the side of the fuselage, put right foot on ledge of cockpit, grasp tubing on inside of cockpit, lower left foot into fuselage, swing head/torso under cockpit roof, put right foot inside, lower self to seat. You’re now sitting about 12 feet above the ground. Note to self: Do not fall off wing. It hurts. Buckle In. Helmet on. Start engine as soon as possible to allow operation of air conditioner.
Last week I had a visitor. A friend came to visit. We toured the Lake Tahoe area, drove over the famous “cliffs on both sides” pass several times, visited Donner Pass, kayaked on Donner Lake, and in general had a great time. The most amusing part of the weekend was when she decided she wanted to visit the tanker base. Reno Stead Tanker Base is probably one of the best, if not The Best, tanker base in existence. Run by a genuine Real Character who is one of the best managers in the fire business, it provides humor at every opportunity.
Girl has publicly stated that becoming a pilot is a Big Deal for her. Naturally, this led to a stated desire to climb up and sit in the 802. I quickly demonstrated the maneuver as described above, and even though I have the “middle-age spread”, I usually can get in and out of the plane forthwith. MSG started up.
The first step or two was fine. Then when on the wing, it suddenly looked a lot higher. (Remember, the back edge of the wing is about chest height). I helped her get her foot in the “foot-hole”, and her right hand on the handle above the cockpit. Then it stopped. As in stopped altogether. No movement. No forward motion, no coming back down. Just frozen in time. I tried to help. Really, I did. Yes, perhaps my hands weren’t exactly well-placed, but what’s a guy to do? I didn’t want her to fall…(and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
Then I started laughing. My Director of Operations started laughing, in between yelling at me for not helping her more. The ground crew was laughing. The Girl was not laughing.
I always assumed when people “froze” that they wouldn’t talk. Not the case always, I can assure you. I was described with several adjectives and adverbs that questioned my knowledge, my judgement, and probably my national origin. No amount of discussion seemed to help. Finally, the realization that the day would be very long if she didn’t move came to her, and she moved to the cockpit.
Coming down was a bit more smooth, and I was greeted with “can you teach me to fly it?”.