Saturday, October 29, 2011

confessions of a front seat hog

This is the view my helicopter crewmembers see most of the time from the back seat:

This is what I get to see from the front:

The Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness

Maybe, as a helitack foreman with hundreds of hours flying left front seat, I should do what so many of my kind have done: fade graciously into the background, stay in the office, and spend my time struggling with government computer programs that sound as if they should be fun but are anything but: 52 tracker, talx separation reporter, Aglearn. I should let my employees fly in the front seat more, giving them valuable experience sizing up fires, helping navigate, and operating the radios. Maybe...oh, who am I kidding. No way!

Great Northern Mountain

Flying in the front seat, I have evacuated civilians from the path of fast-moving fires, advised air tankers where to drop retardant, located stray cows, and participated in search and rescue. I have bonded with pilots during long ferry flights across Alaska and survived some scary moments that we both decided not to talk about afterwards. The possibility of flight gets me through dark winters spent in a cubicle in the main office, torturous video conferences, and the oddly named "family meetings". The helicopter just left less than a month ago. I can't wait for it to come back.

The Beavers in Minnesota were cool, but helicopters are still better!

I'll be here, ready to jump in the left front seat, with my name on the manifest and my ex-military flight helmet, with my GPS and bag of candy. The rest of them will get their turns soon enough.

Small fire by Aspen, CO

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