Sri


Words on Wednesdays…

In memory of Sri

Fly 'n Things

NaNoWriMore

“Sri Rama Chandra Murthy!” yelled Chung.

The voice reverberated across the floor. Each of us, stopped what we were doing, while we waited for the echo to end and peered around to see what the ruckus was about. A yell from Chung of this magnitude meant only one thing: not good.

“Keep your shirt on, Chung. I am right here,” Sri responded, with a hint of laughter in his voice, after what seemed an eternity, getting up from one of the desks in the corner.

Chung eyed him squarely, as if he could devour him with his gaze. “And what took you so long to respond?” he queried sternly. “I thought you might like a moment to chill out,” smiled Sri, nonchalantly and easily, as he headed over to the front desk.

“Hey dude, you know I thought you handled Bert with aplomb. I knew I could count on…

View original post 556 more words

Sri


NaNoWriMore

“Sri Rama Chandra Murthy!” yelled Chung.

The voice reverberated across the floor. Each of us, stopped what we were doing, while we waited for the echo to end and peered around to see what the ruckus was about. A yell from Chung of this magnitude meant only one thing: not good.

“Keep your shirt on, Chung. I am right here,” Sri responded, with a hint of laughter in his voice, after what seemed an eternity, getting up from one of the desks in the corner.

Chung eyed him squarely, as if he could devour him with his gaze. “And what took you so long to respond?” he queried sternly. “I thought you might like a moment to chill out,” smiled Sri, nonchalantly and easily, as he headed over to the front desk.

“Hey dude, you know I thought you handled Bert with aplomb. I knew I could count on you. Hearing you giving him the run through on the club rules and how you would make mince-meat of him if he even had a single straying thought in that direction was superb. You know I always admire the way you handle things around here with the precision of the military general. You know you never finished telling me the story about how you…”, the voices faded as Sri, yet again smoothly and suavely, averted another showdown with Chung and had him distracted enough, to be eating out his hands. I could soon hear laughter as yet again Chung reminisced about his war days recounting another of his escapades, the issue with Bert long forgotten.

Sri was an easy going chap, always smiling, cheerful and well-loved equally by instructors and students alike. He had a sharp mind, a computer engineer by profession, and a flight instructor by choice. He had shown up at the flight school a couple of years ago wanting to get flying lessons. He had swarmed through the professional program that Dessert Air offered from private pilot to certified flight instructor within a year and was now a part time CFI. Most weekends he could be seen hanging out in the lounge when not teaching, having long debates with anyone who was around about any topic in the world. He was a geek at heart.

Truth be told, I had a fondness for Sri. He was my first student at Dessert Air.

One fine summer morning, he had shown up at the flight school asking about classes. Things were slow. Not too many students to feed all the out of work CFI. I hung around the lounge, anxious to get in the air even if in a two seater. Being in the air felt normal. Sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone or something was not my thing.

On one of those bright summer mornings, Sri had shown up promptly at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he queried the front desk personnel, “I want to learn to fly. What do I need to get started?”

It was one of those lucky days for me. I was glad I had woken up early and showed up at 9:00am. Sri was an exemplary student. He was a quick learner and at times spoke incessantly. I could hear the concern in his voice as he expressed doubts and the assertiveness as he argued a point. He had a plethora of random bits of knowledge and it was impossible to outsmart any debate with him. He almost always had the last word.

At the end of that first discovery flight, he admitted to having an aunt who was pilot and having flown with her over the glorious San Francisco Bay as a 17 year old. The joy and incredible enthusiasm in his voice as he recounted those memories and how they sparked his excitement and eagerness spoke volumes about his passion for flying. How could I doubt a teenager’s eagerness to be a pilot?

I had been in his shoes, not so long ago. In a way, Sri was my savior. On a day, when my world was crumbling, he was the anchor that steered me in.

And so began my second career as a CFI.

September


I finally have the next three weeks free to work on my novel. Almost. Once I am done with what is still undone 🙂

Here is my revised chapter on September.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

I was in the deep throes of slumber, when I was rudely awakened by my very persistent alarm clock. It can’t be 4:00 a.m. already, I thought sleepily, as I pulled the comforter tightly around me, reaching over to hit the snooze button, without opening my eyes. I must have set it wrong. It definitely had to be wrong. Hadn’t I just barely gone to bed?

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

The alarm screeched again, more persistent than ever.

Okay you bugger, stop barking, I swore getting out of bed and leaning over the damn clock to put an end to its misery and just for added credence checked my phone to verify it indeed was past 4:00 a.m.

Yawning, I sleepily pulled on a sweatshirt and made it to the bathroom. I had 30 minutes to be ready before my ride arrived to whisk me to my job. This was going to be a long day. The first leg of my trip was a short hop to LAX, we would pick up our next batch of passengers for the longer haul to JFK.

I turned on the coffee machine, while brushing my teeth and wondered if I should spend an extra day in New York. I was at the end of my current rotation and not scheduled to fly the next couple of days. Flights on reserve were few and far in between, considering the long list of pilots on reserve. On the other hand, I could work on my motorcycle, change the oil and rev it up for my upcoming trip with Alan. It wasn’t long after I joined Galt Airlines as First Officer that I had run into Alan Sheppard. He too was a First Officer at Galt and a motorcycle aficionado. Every opportunity we got, we stole away in our bikes hitting the Pacific Coast Freeway or one of the Highways east: 41 or 46 or 58.

RING. RING. RING. RING.

The phone rang, waking me from my reverie.

“Just checking you’re up dude,” Tim, my ride, spoke lazily. “I will be there in 15 minutes. Don’t keep me waiting, I still have to swing by Eliza’s.” he spoke.

“How come? I thought we agreed that I would be the last one you would pick up,” I said annoyed to lose my extra 10 minutes.

“Well, things changed.” he laughed.

“Yeah, I bet Eliza likely sweet talked you into it. What did she offer?” I asked.

“Dude, nothing. It just worked out best for the route. I’ll see you soon.” he said as he hung up.

I ran through my morning ablutions almost in automation still wondering about New York. Should I pack an additional pair of clothes or not, I pondered when I got the buzzer from the front desk “Your ride is here.”

Quickly grabbing my backpack, cap and blazer I headed for the elevators. New York can wait. Maybe another time.

We pulled into the terminal building by 5:00 am. I checked in the pilot lounge and signed in. Perusing my schedule, I saw I was flying with Captain Bill Atwater. Bill was always fun. He could tell a story well and he knew many a story. After a brief stint in the army, doing a rotation in Nam, Bill had returned home and pursued a career in the Airline industry. He had a solid 30 years of service, well respected and admired by many budding pilots, including myself. The day although long, was at least not going to be boring!

I headed over to the airplane to begin the pre-flight checks. As first officer, it was my duty to do the outside walk around and inspect the flight. Entering the cockpit, I saw Bill already there going over the details of the flight.

“Morning, John. Looks like it is going to be an easy, breezy flight. I see you are also on the schedule for the next flight leg to the east coast.” Bill greeted me.

“Captain,” I responded. “Good to see.”

“Everything look good on the outside?” he queried.

“Everything looks fine. Charlie mentioned that we have an old friend jump seating.” I said.

“Did he? Did he say who?” Captain appeared pre-occupied pouring over the flight schedule.

“No, he’s keeping it a surprise. Anything bothering you,” I asked.

“We might have a problem with extra baggage.” Bill responded absentmindedly.

“Okay, shall I talk to Charlie?”  I asked.

“Not just yet. We’ll…”

“William Turner Atwater!” bellowed a voice.

“Teddy! Is it really you?” laughed Bill, getting up and hauling Teddy into a warm embrace. Theodore Edward Graham was another legend at the airline. “So you are the surprise. Well. Well. John, do you know Teddy?”

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but of course I have heard about him. Who hasn’t?” I responded.

“He and I were together at Nam and fought side by side. We quit the army around the same time and chose a career in aviation. Thirty years. And it comes to an end soon. I heard you are retiring soon, Teddy.” Bill said looking at Teddy.

“Yep. In fact today is my last day. I jump seat with you to LAX, pick up the flight to DCA. My last flight.” He answered.

“Are you planning to retire in the Capital?” questioned Bill.

“No, just have to take care of some business out east, and then I will move permanently to Lancaster, CA. I still own a home there. Millie and I will settle down there. How much longer do you have?” Teddy asked.

“I retire at the end of the year. Good to hear that you are still going to be in California. Jill and I plan to retire in San Luis Obispo, so we will be practically neighbors.” Bill responded enthusiastically.

“Captain, ready to load the passengers?” asked Nina, our chief stewardess, peeking into the cockpit.

“Yes, better get them in, before they start a strike,” joked the Captain.

Thirty minutes later with the herds loaded, weight and balance resolved, we finally closed the airplane doors and taxied in line to depart from Runway 28L.

I like these early morning departures. Daylight was barely breaking through. There was some early morning fog hugging the coastline. The lights of San Francisco were like beacons suspended in space. Off to the right was the Bay Bridge glistening in silver. Even this early in the morning, I could see traffic beginning to increase. And to the right, glinting golden with the streaks of dawn was the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, connecting Marin County to Downtown San Francisco. Wisps of white fog floated. We climbed steadily and headed towards Point Reyes, before turning to intercept the 281 radial to Woodside.

I always enjoyed flying the Golden Gate Arrival during evening twilight or dusk as well. It is breathtaking, or sometimes, as is often possible, when the fog rolls in and the Golden Gate remains suspended in space, resplendent in the evening glow. Seeing the Golden Gate any time of the day or night means coming home. The setting sun over the Pacific, the crisp sunny skies with fog looming over the valley, are a comforting sight. I love flying from my home town of San Francisco, CA.

The trip to LAX was a mere one hour and 2 minutes. Within minutes we were headed direct to Avenal VORTAC and cruising in level flight. Arriving at Avenal we will execute the arrival procedure into LAX.

After a brief stint as a charter pilot, I had jumped at a chance to fly First Officer at Galt Airlines. The housing boom had propelled the Silicon Valley to great heights. I was what was known as a reserve pilot: always on call. The past two years, I had grabbed any and all flights that I could get. Over the last two years, I had flown this route many times.  I could literally fly that route blind folded.

I could hear the bantering between Bill and Teddy as they joked about bygone days. I wished the flight were longer. One did not get the opportunity to fly with not one but two legends in the same cockpit. Bill flew the plane with expert precision and finesse.

We had arrived at Avenal and were already working through our before landing checklist, when a call from our dispatch office buzzed in. Seconds later, we had communication with the Air Traffic Control.

Neither of us knew that moment, how irrevocably, all our lives were going to be changed.

Try, Try, Try Again


Words on Wednesdays

‘Tis a lesson you should heed: Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed: Try, try, try again.
— William Edward Hickson.

Legend has it, that after Robert the Bruce was defeated for the sixth time by the King of England, he fled and hid in a cave. He lay there, ready to give up all hope, when a spider caught his eye. It was hanging by a long silvery thread from one of the wooden beams above his head, and trying to swing itself to another beam. It tried again and again, failing each time.

Six times.


Photo courtesy: livescience.com

Robert thought, “I too have failed six times in my fight for Scotland. But if this spider succeeds the next time, I will try once more to regain my kingdom.”

The spider swung again – and on its seventh attempt, it succeeded.

Robert the Bruce threw off his despair and went on to battle the English and eventually, won at the Battle of Bannockburn.

This was the story I learnt during my childhood. One that has remained with me over the years, because it talks of persistence, perseverance and determination to achieve one’s goals.

Moral of the story, if at at first you don’t succeed: try, try, try again!

December


Words on Wednesday

It was a few months later that I ran into Captain Bill Atwater, rather accidentally at the Thursday evening Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo. SLO as the locals loved to call it.

Alan and I had driven our motorcycles that morning down to SLO, a small gem of a town, nestled along the coast between San Fran and LA. Alan had attended school at CalPoly and still had some connections.

Earlier in the day we had visited the Jet Center and the FBO at the airport to see if there were any jobs to be had. I didn’t really want to go back to charter flying or flight instruction, but with the way things were, I would be fortunate enough to get any job. Since the weeks and months following the terrorist events in New York, the airlines and air travel took the hardest hit. Airlines cut schedules. Aircraft were being retired. Many smaller airline companies had gone belly up. Furloughs had started. And junior officers were the first to go.

“John! Fancy running into you here,” Bill exclaimed as he slapped me across the shoulders. “Have you met Jill, my wife?”

“No. How do you do? This is my friend Alan.” I responded.

“What are you doing here?” Bill insisted.

“Alan and I rode down here this morning. He always spoke so highly of the Farmer’s Market that I decided to check it out. Are you retired then? I heard you say, you were going to settle here?” I asked in return.

“Yes, December 1st. That business back in September was a terrible business. I was given the choice to leave early and I decided to. There was nothing left to keep going on. So here we are. Jill and I moved in just before Thanksgiving and it is splendid.” Bill responded profusely.

“What are you doing these days? I heard several first officers were let go…”

“Yes. Still looking for jobs. That is why Alan and I are here. We were at the SLO airport this morning.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“Sorry to hear that. If this was a few years ago, I would have been in a tight spot. As it is, I am in a tight spot. I have been trying to get in at SLO as well. No charter jobs. Just flight instruction at the FBO. These day,  there are hardly any new students. The industry has been hit hard!” Bill pondered the gloomy future.

“Have you had dinner yet?” Jill asked. “A friend of mine has opened this neat restaurant a block away from here. Bill and I were going to try it tonight. Why don’t you and Alan join us?”

So it happened, that Alan and I had dinner with Bill and Jill that night. It was as we parted ways that Bill said: “Why don’t you talk to Teddy? Jill and I were over in Lancaster visiting for Thanksgiving and he was talking about a flight school in Mojave looking for instructors. They also have a test school there I think.

“Okay,” I had responded.

At that moment, even I couldn’t have fathomed what was in store for me.

See Also:

September: NaNoWriMo Wrapup

Heroes in Fiction


Words on Wednesday

First there is the theme song, then a suave, and handsome Bond, as he walks and shoots. One of the first movies, I remember watching as a teenager was James Bond films. James Bond was obviously, always smartly dressed, handsome, knew every trick, and walked away without a stain to his suit. He got the beautiful girl to boot, as well!

Heroes

The earliest recollection of reading I have are, when I started to read in middle school. We had a competition going, on who would read the most or the latest books. We read in school buses. I wanted to be well ahead of my friends in the most read Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. With family members who read, I had no dearth of books to read, ranging from Arthur Haley, Robin Cook, Alistair MacLean, Arthur Hailey, Irving Stone, Irving Wallace, Ian Fleming,  Daphne Du Maurier and more. My favorite undoubtedly was Alistair MacLean.

Maybe it is the books I read, but I have always been a fan of the strong, and  silent hero. He always knew how to solve a problem, was resilient, strong, and got the best of the toughest villains. And the girl in the end.

I did have one gripe though: the girls in Alistair MacLean books, although beautiful, and most often assisted the hero, were also categorized into the dumb blonde category. Golden Gate, Seawitch, Force Ten from Navarone,  and so on come to mind. There is a lot of history in Alistaire MacLean books. Set during the war or involving espionage, they are great read. And did I mention language? Language matters to me. There are few authors that can say what they want to say in the most efficient, effective and incredibly profound way, without resorting to vulgar dialogue. Alistaire MacLean was one of them.

Another author, who used words in the most effective way was Ayn Rand. Her books are based on philosophy. How can I talk about heroes without mentioning Roark,  Galt,  di Anconia and maybe even Rearden. If literature could influence and inspire me, it was in the books of Rand.

As an adult, I discovered and read Dick Francis vociferously. There are many heroes in Dick Francis novels: Syd Halley who spans three books, Kit Fielding who spans two, or many others who present an incredible strength of character to stand for what they believe in and ultimately win the day. Struggle, persistence, perseverance and other such emotions are excellently described and portrayed in Francis’ books.

Heroes come in all sizes and shapes. I am a great fan of Marvel Heroes as well: Iron Man, Bat Man, Spider Man, and more. Although I don’t read much comic books any more.

What inspires you? Who is your hero? Drop me a line….

West with the Night


I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine. I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know — that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it. These I learned at once. But most things come harder.

Beryl Markham, West with the Night

How is it possible to bring order out of memory? I should like to begin at the beginning, patiently, like a weaver at his loom. I should like to say, “This is the place to start; there can be no other.”

But there are a hundred places to start for there are a hundred names…

So the name shall be Nungwe:

Date: 16/6/35
Type of aircraft: Avro Avian
Journey — Nairobi to Nungwe
Time — 3 hrs 40 min
Pilot — Self

So begins, West with the Night by Beryl Markham.

It was one of the first books written by an Aviatrix, that I read after I obtained my private pilot license. Not the least because, there is some overlap with people and places, with the book that became a popular movie, “Out of Africa” written by Isak Dinesen.

Flying in early 20th century was precious. Being a women, and flying in early 20th century was incredible!

The book, West with the Night,  covers the authors experiences of living and flying in Kenya, Nairobi, Tanzania and more. If the mention of Kifaroo or Muthaiga club makes you nostalgic, this might be a book for you. If you are a fan of Out of Africa and the BBC TV series In the Heat of the Sun, this might be the book for you.

On September 4th, 1936 Beryl Markham took off from Abingdon, England and after a 20 hour flight, crash landed in Nova Scotia, Canada. She was the first women to cross the Atlantic solo. She was the first women to fly from England to North America, non-stop, from east to west.

You can read all about the adventure in the book.

The book can be purchased as hardcover, paperback, audio or Kindle edition. Here is the description from Amazon:

Beryl Markham’s life was a true epic, complete with shattered societal expectations, torrid love affairs, and desperate crash landings. A rebel from a young age, the British-born Markham was raised in Kenya’s unforgiving farmlands. She learned to be a bush pilot at a time when most Africans had never seen a plane. In 1936, she accepted the ultimate challenge: to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, a feat that fellow female aviator Amelia Earhart had completed in reverse just a few years before. Her successes and her failures—and her deep, lifelong love of the “soul of Africa”—are all chronicled here with wrenching honesty and agile wit. Hailed by National Geographic as one of the greatest adventure books of all time, West with the Night is the sweeping account of a fearless and dedicated woman.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull


Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time.
Heaven is being perfect.
And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour,
or a million,
or flying at the speed of light.
Because any number is a limit,
and perfection doesn’t have limits.
Perfect speed, my son, is being there.

— Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Words on Wednesdays: The Rescue


NaNoWriMore

“Help,” I tried again. More muffled sounds and chokes.

Now that I had my heart beat under control, I could hear the outside sounds. Aircraft taking-off, ground vehicles moving, and was that voices? I willed myself to perfect stillness.  Someone was outside, talking.

“Tell Eddie, that he needs to get his carburetor fixed,” said one raspy voice.

“You know…” strayed off another voice.

I strained to hear, but the second man was soft spoken and his voice got softer and softer. I heard some shuffling sounds and realized that they were walking away. If I had to attract their attention it had to be now.

I struggled to roll. And roll again. It took my breath away. But this was my only chance. So I tried again. And again. Until I finally got moving, and moving until I hit a wall. Even I heard, the slight juggling sound. I tried, rolled over and tried again and tried screaming, “Help!” Over and over again.

I had to. There was nothing else I could do. I couldn’t give up hope, when I was this close. No matter the consequences. I didn’t care about the pain. I didn’t care that with every twist, my whole body contorted even more. I didn’t care that my body protested over and over again. I had to keep going, as long as there was a chance. As long as there was hope. So, I continued rolling, and rattling the door.

It had to be a hanger door.

I rocked it over and over again, incessantly. I didn’t care what I was doing to myself, or to my body. All I knew, was I wanted out of here. As long as there was someone outside nearby, I needed to do everything I could, to attract their attention.

“Help,” I tried again. This time, I could hear a feeble voice. “Help,” I repeated more forcefully. I rolled harder, rocking the hanger door harder.

“Did you hear that,” I heard a man say, as I panted and puffed, commanding my heartbeat to slow down.

“What?” asked another voice, “I heard nothing? What do you mean? Now don’t beat about the bush. I was saying….”

I forgot all the pain, rolled hard and rattled the door again.

“Help!” I tried again as I rocked harder over and over again trying to attract the attention of whoever was outside nearby.

“There,” said the first man. “Did you here that? There is someone in that hanger. Isn’t that Wilson’s unused hanger? Am pretty sure I heard banging in there. Let’s see if we can get it open, and then we can talk again.”

I really wasn’t sure how lucky I was, until I saw the hanger door open and two men arguing whether they heard anything or not. They continued on for some minutes, oblivious to the fact that I lay there.

“I tell you there is someone behind this door, why don’t you believe me?” persisted the first man.

“What do you mean someone is inside the hanger? See, satisfied there is no one……”

“What the devil are you staring at man, I tell you…” both turned abruptly at the same moment and stared aghast at me lying prone, all trussed up.

Words on Wednesdays: From AAA to FLY


Fun with Airports: Part 1

It’s been a while since my Pilot Speak series.

grass1

The idea for this post came from a related email from the 99s mailing list when a member submitted this:

if you were to fly from Wenatchee, WA  to  St. Petersburg, FL, your three
letter identifier route would be  EAT  PIE. 

In the past I have posted some entries on similar topics. It has been a while, since I posted another. So here goes 🙂

Did you know you have to travel 969 nm from ABE to LNK?

Or you are an AAS and a FUL to travel 1,604nm?

Or you are a BAD AAS, when you travel 504nm?

Don’t be a CAD and EAT in less than 1,460nm.

Or be FIT to FLY in less than 1,502nm.

Or GAG and GAS in less than 852nm.

In fact,

I would kick AAS, be an airport BUM, CON everyone, DAB in everything, EAT exorbitantly, FLY everyday, GAD often, HUM forever, and put down in INK and JOT all for eternity!

Stay tuned for more  fun with airports!

See Also:

Pilot Speak
How to Speak like a Pilot
I Speak Pilot 2