Tag Archives: aviation

Ponderings on Memorial Day

In my younger days, I pretty much lived at the airport. My boss, a member of the greatest generation, an Air Force Colonel, and a B17 captain had started a civilian flight school post retirement. Every once in a while he’d show me a letter from the USAF where they wanted him to return, and had even carved out some loopholes in order to make it possible for folks of his age… He often said it was tempting, but then he’d say “I like my life the way it is”.

At 60+, he’d gotten married just a few years before and had a young son. It was a totally new life for him. In his younger days, he’d been married, had a family, sent the kids off to college and then his wife passed on. The joy in this new life of his and the great faith he had was an awesome inspiration… and yet, his WWII experiences came across as vivid as if they were yesterday. He’d flown his 25 missions, became an instructor, and then lived an air force career for many years, followed by a corporate job and years of the reserves.

Short of really bad weather when nothing was flying, there wasn’t a day when the office didn’t come across as an American Legion or VFW post with the number of veteran aviators and other veterans stopping by. There was an air of intense bravado and self sacrifice… it was if nothing could rattle these guys. The proverbial hands of steel ran very strong. I heard stories of the hardship of the B17, or folks having to bail out, the fear of being captured, being captured, the horrors of war…

I also heard of crazy pilot stuff, like drinking until 2AM, sleeping a few hours, and then putting on their facemasks at ground level and turning the O2 to max as a means of clearing their hangover for the next mission. The proverbial eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die ran very strong. A lot of fellows didn’t make it back…

But some of this was only inferred… hearing of the amount of damage a B17 could take, and still be airworthy enough to make it back, and/or get it down on the ground was amazing. But then, when the fuselage would get hit with flak to an extreme, there were guys back there too and some were either were killed instantly, or passed on shortly there after. Few if any would talk about that aspect, and if they did, the firehoses turned on in a huge way. At times, the eyes and hands of steel got hit with a hammer and while it didn’t win, there was great silence.

I saw a photo of my old boss’ son a while back, and I could see his father through him. It got me thinking about the horrors these young guys experienced. As a 20 something captain, how does one process the partial loss of ones crew, ones friends? The mission has to became the primary and near exclusive focus, and future life became a sequential series of missions… in between one would go off, process things a bit, and then be back on task for the next one.

This is not so easy though… many fellows chose the path of the bottle, and a fair number of them entered 24/7 alcohol land and succumbed to it. My boss talked about such too, had it not been for the grace of God, he too would have never made it to 60, or even 40 for that mater.

The fact is war continues for many, well after the initial time of combat has passed… and some won’t make it. In today’s, world, unlike WWII, there’s a newer phenomena occurring, where in folks are getting hit with PTSD, even apart from combat situations… followed by ending their lives. Its a difficult, and very troubling sociological and psychological issue and one which is not so easy to address. Its far easier to wipe such under the carpet as its too hard to think about… but think about it we must.


Today, let us remember those who have passed. Tomorrow, let us work to keep those who served, and are currently serving from ending their lives prematurely. It doesn’t have to end that way.

Waiting for my Batteries to Recharge

In my state of brain fade, I forgot to recharge my 18V batteries. As a result, no string trimming, no hedge trimming, and I only got a tiny bit of tilling done before the last remaining one took a dive… so its writing time.

So, establishing a new normal… how?

My buddies suggestion of some sort of impulse to clear my head logically makes sense. He said, get out of your element for a week, and then jump back into the fray… ok, but there are so many elements I’m into, been into, or entered and left, the easy possibilities are few and far between.

One thought I had was to do a boat trip.The last time I piloted a boat was 20 years ago out on Lake Michigan, so it would pass the out of element thing time wise… In addition, navigating in open water far from shore and dealing with crazy weather on one of the Great Lakes is most assuredly out of my element. The problem is, I don’t have a Coast Guard 6 pack, my experience is far from recent, and as such, there is an element of foolhardiness which could easily swing into darwin territory weather wise… Things can change in a heart beat in the open water on the great lakes, and you need to keep your wits about you.

A related thing would be to make a boat run up and down the Mississippi River. This would be relatively easy to do, albeit doing so solo adds a fair bit of complexity. Alas, there is the issue that my boat hasn’t been on the water for years… and who knows what sort of mechanical headaches I may run into as a result. Granted, years ago, this would be a non-issue, but today, I might well end up exchanging one set of headaches for another. A prime issue is that the transmission is old… its never given any problems, but years of non-use combined with being close to mtbf doesn’t make for a lot of confidence that such will remain that way.

Bottom line though, will either serve as an impulse to clear my head, or are they simply delays and/or time killers? I’ve got a roof to reshingle, a house to paint… does it really make sense to do any of the above without a good feel that progress will be made… probably not.

To some extent, I wonder if the impulse response thing is wishful thinking… certainly there is an element of change process that an impulse event can precipitate, but it makes me wonder if making a commitment and just pushing through it might be just as apt to clear my head as an impulse event would.

Making a commitment and pushing through is how I’m dealing with my flight instructor renewal course this time out… in the past, all one had to go was pass the chapter exams, so it was easy to just click through 70% near useless content (30% was pretty good), go right to the exam and easily pass things as the exams were so lame. So… rather than making the exams tougher, they now put timers in place, so you read something, wait, wait, and wait some more, and then click to the next page. The fetish for time on task no doubt makes some bureaudolt happy, but egads, talk about annoying and demotivating. I’m finding I just have to push through it… and play lots of Journey albums while waiting. Major pedagogy 101 fail.

Along that line of thinking, one of the fight instructor reg changes that hit home was new criteria on weight / neck size. Post snowmobile fire some years ago, I had to jump a boatload of hoops for my FAA medical and just recently have things finally cleared up. The last thing I need to do is add another series of hoop jumping on my aviation side due to weight, yep, I’ve gained a ton.

One of the issues with long term caregiving is the lack of sleep, so I ate in order to stay awake… a bunch of donuts at 3AM works wonders for being alert enough to take on medical procedures, but doesn’t do the wasteline any good at all. So… I’m now on the borderline for sleep apnea in the FAA’s eyes due to weight and neck size. The good part is in the last month I’ve knocked off 5lbs… but to make the FAA take a hands off approach, I need to drop 30lbs, and ideally would make it 75lbs so I could instruct in a 2 seater with a full load of fuel. (I’d rather have fuel in aircraft than fat in my gut LOL)

Alas, weight loss is not an impulse stimuli for change, nor is it a means of head clearing… but it is a commitment driven process. The whole calories in calories out deal. Bottom line I’d rather exercise 12 hours a day on 1800 calories than deal with FAA paperwork… but to lose 30lbs, or even 75lbs,  I fortunately don’t need to go to such an extreme.

Maybe commitment driven processes are part of the answer, rather than impulse stimuli. Michelle, an old friend, put the fire in my gut to get the bass back out, as I was vacillating back and forth… too much to do, too much grief, is getting the bass out going to really make a difference? or is it just a time sink / distraction. Well, it turns out its made a huge difference. 2 hours a day practice, and on some days quite a bit more works wonders for keeping my head clear. Its pretty obvious its not just a time sink… I’m even singing a bit LOL

Last winter, my wife said I should plan to rebuild the Saab this summer. Michelle told me to do so last night and I dismissed it as… its not really out of my element. Then again, she was right on the bass thing, perhaps she is right on the Saab thing too.


It would take a ton of effort to get it looking as good as this photo from wikipedia… I’d be happy if I can fix some rust, repaint it, and address some driveability issues. (Its not a car to take if one is in a hurry… stopping for gas takes at least 15 minutes due to bystanders wondering what it is, but it is a blast to drive).

Still waiting for my batteries, but I’m running out of sun time to get other things done… writing complete for now.