Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

07 April 2011

Aviation and the Mafia...Whaaaat?

Busy? Oh Lord, I’ve been busy. Between shepherding this stupid helicopter through a particularly difficult Annual Inspection, and trying to hire a replacement for myself, and bringing the boss’s new (to him) business jet online, and helping another friend get the Annual Inspection on his helicopter done, and helping two friends move – why yes, I’ve been very busy, thank you very much. There hasn’t even been much time to ride the damn motorcycle. And the weather’s been gorgeous. So I'm kind of frustrated.

And no, I haven’t quite terminated my employment with this company. I had planned on leaving at the end of February. But as I’ve reported, I agreed to stick around while we get some things sorted out. The end of March passed, and now we’re getting way into April. My real, real, I’m-serious-this-time final day will be April 30th…but!...I did agree to be the aerial coordinator for my boss’s wedding in mid-May…which will be held on some property about 110 miles away from our home base.

There will be guests arriving in their own airplanes. Those guests will need to be shuttled by helicopter to the wedding site, and the pilots of said planes will need to be taken care of (fed, etc.) while they’re on the ground waiting. There will be aerial photographs of the wedding site to be made. And of course the boss and his new bride will be whisked away in the helicopter after the ceremony. (I will paint "Just Married" on the side in shoe polish, but had to draw the line at attaching strings of tin cans to the landing skids.) It’s not a huge logistical challenge, but it is one my boss would rather not worry about himself, and he’d rather not trust it to a new pilot who’s been on the job for about a month. If we even hire one, that is. Sometimes I wonder…

The helicopter is back “up” and flying well. I’ve flown with two prospective pilots, both of whom could easily step in and replace me without the boss missing a beat. But flying the helicopter is a relatively small part of the job. The bigger part will be getting along with the boss. Rich guys can be a little, um, demanding. Learning to put up with their idiosyncrasies can be fun. And of course it goes without saying that the boss must trust and be comfortable with the pilot.

We hired-gun pilots like to think we’re the final authority in our aircraft. And in certain respects we are. But we also have to remember that we don’t own the aircraft; the boss does. And sometimes aircraft owners want to do specific things that we lowly pilots might not want to do. For instance, my boss prefers to fly low. He is uneasy flying higher than about 1,000 feet. His brother (who is a fixed-wing pilot/airplane owner) regularly berates me for acquiescing to my boss’s demand to stay low. (I chalk it up to sibling rivalry.) I say, as long as I can accomplish the job safely at the altitudes my boss wants to fly, then I’ll do it even though it makes me uncomfortable and I’d certainly prefer to fly higher. I know that if it bothers me too much I always have the option of quitting and finding another job. Oh wait...

With any luck, we’ll have another pilot hired by the time you read this. Getting him trained and up to speed will take some time. Still, I’m looking at the end of April as my last day on the payroll (with the aforementioned “special guest appearance” in May).

I’ve been thinking about taking a trip on the bike. Summer’s almost here, I need to get out on the highway, and I’ve got some friends I’d like to see again. But another friend wants me to ferry his aircraft from Point A to a very distant Point B, which could definitely eat into my “me time.”

Aviation is a lot like being in the Mafia. Once you're in, you just can't seem to quit.


Redlefty said...

Still with ya, my friend. Meeting with my boss tomorrow to have the same discussion (when will I really leave).

And here you and I still are, in our jobs, and the next thing not yet determined. Livin' by faith!

Bob said...

I wonder if, on July 4th, we'll be reading a blog post saying you'll definitely be done by end of summer? :-)

Guanaja Sharon said...

Well, Bob, you have gone above and beyond (so to speak) in complying with your "bosses" wishes. Nice of you to be so concerned about him, very admirable. However, don't you think you are taking it a bit too far in worrying about whether or not your boss will "get along" with your replacement? If the guy meets the requirements for a pilot, you should not have to concern yourself about their compatibility! So, I look to see you still hanging around after April! Hope not. Too many fun things out in the world to focus on! Good luck.

cameraman57 said...

Just wanted to say thanks for writing a great blog. I stumbled across it by accident, like most things, and spent the rest of the day reading it. We're the same generation, same tastes in music, the only difference is that you get paid to fly whilst I spend a small fortune trying fly my r/c model.

BTW if you get the chance, try to watch this 2003 BBC series called Grumpy Old Men, it sums up our generations grievances with modern life and had me in stitches.

Bob Barbanes said...

Well thank you for the kind words, cameraman! I appreciate you taking the time to read some of this junk. I did watch an episode of Grumpy Old Men (BBC version). Hilarious! Those guys sure are grumpy! I have to say, I'm right there with them on most counts. Only...watching that show made me ironically *less* grumpy! I'll have to watch more. Maybe some day I won't be grumpy at all...

Anyway, thanks again for stopping by. I appreciate every reader I can get :)