Friday, October 5, 2012

zen and the art of type 1 helicopter management

I'm on the road with the type 1 helicopter. While this may sound exciting (Big helicopter! Travel to new and exciting places!), in reality there can be a downside (Big = noisy = relegated to an airport, lots of travel = lots of driving for the manager).  For someone who is used to jumping in an initial attack helicopter at a moment's notice, it can be a little disconcerting to go on an assignment where most of the time you, well, sit around. The first few days were difficult. I paced around. I bothered the mechanics. I started my paperwork early for something to do.

Then I realized I was going about it all wrong. Instead of fighting against it, I needed to embrace the madness. You can learn a lot in the helicopter manager class about administering contracts and filling out paperwork. But here, for any new managers headed out to the type 1 life, are a few other, essential things I've learned:

1. Get to your area and look around. What would make it better? Being men, the previous managers had not thought to order a porta potty. Noting the lack of cover and proximity to an active runway, I immediately procured one. A nice chair is also a must.

Note the lack of cover. Behind the hangars was a rodeo arena.

2. Make friends. The mechanics were sometimes bored (this is a good thing). They liked to talk. As a general rule, mechanics also love cookies. As a result of some chatting and cookie procurement, I would arrive at the airport to find my chair set up and my extension cord for my computer already in place. Thanks, guys!

The entourage

3. Kindle books. Buy some. I'm on day 9 of my assignment and I've read four already. Or, People or Toyota Owner magazines. No judgement here.

My mobile office. I also have a printer.

4. Beware the sport eating! This can lead to the dreaded "heli-butt", or worse! Bring your workout clothes. At times I roamed the neighborhoods around the airport, possibly scaring dogs and small children because of my all-black attire (One of the mechanics called me "Johnny Cash.") I also attempted to eat healthy foods to counteract the cookies I had to try to make sure they were fit for the mechanics to eat.

5. Two words: Flip flops. Essential for those long drives to catch up with the helicopter. Staring down the barrel of a 16 hour drive in a well-used Forest Service truck with only an AM/FM radio? Well, I am, and at least my FEET will be comfy.

6. Relax already! Slap on some sunscreen and a boonie hat and just hang out. It's been a long fire season. You deserve it!


  1. Good advice--and possibly translatable into other work situations! :-)

  2. Embrace the madness. Nice one Lynn, you always manage to slip one in.

  3. I'm one of those 3 mechanics.


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