Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Passengers Ask/Say The Darndest Things

Back in the late 1950s Art Linkletter had a show on television, and one of the segments of that show was "Kids Say The Darndest Things." This summer I have been reminded of that show quite often when dealing with passengers. So I thought I'd ask other Doc Reps, bus drivers and even some Shore Ex staff what some of the "darndest" things their passengers have asked or said.

This is what they told me:

"Do these stairs go up?" 
(a nicely dressed gentleman on the Sapphire Princess asked the Shore Ex)

"What is our elevation here?"
(duh, we are at sea level...!?)

"What currency do you use here?" along with, "Do you have cell phone service here?"

"How do we get off the gangway?"

"What time do the whales show up?"
"At what stage of a deer's life does it turn into a moose?" (true story from a bus driver)

"Am I the first one to check in for the tour?"
(at two minutes before tour departure)
"The tour left already??" (at 15 minutes after departure time)

As a Dock Rep, we stand, holding our signs and a passenger will run right up and get in our face and say, (in rapid speech) "Where is my bus, which bus do I get on, where do I get on the bus." Usually I respond by taking a breath and saying, "Good morning." They then say, "Yeah, good morning, where's my bus what bus do I get on......."

Also, the flying tours require us to "manifest" our passengers. We have to get their names and body weights (weight is so the pilot knows where to seat them for weight and balance of the airplane). So, we collect their tickets, write down their names and then ask the dreaded question: "I need to get your approximate weight."

 "With or without my clothes on?"
(well, we don't have you fly naked)
"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."
"Can I whisper it in your ear?"
(and then you get an earful of hot breath)
He says: "110 lbs" (he chuckles)
(clearly he is every bit of 250 lbs)
I say: "okay, 310 lbs" (then he gets truthful)
"Before or after the cruise?"
"Do I have to tell you the truth?"
I even had one man tell me an obvious lie about his weight. I told him that out at Taquan they also fly freight and so they have a big scale that they weigh all the freight on. And it has an enormous LED read-out of the weight that everyone can see. So if he doesn't give me his correct weight, they will make him stand on that scale and then everyone will see his weight (Oh, I say this with a lovely smile on my face).

The Reps have to be on on the dock 30 minutes before the tour's departure. And the first tour of the day for each ship we have to get the passenger counts for each tour we have with them. And then we get our bus number from the bus coordinator. We really are not ready to check in passengers until we get all this important information. So, we don't display our tour signs; we hold them down, or close to our bodies, anything so the passengers don't see the sign until we are ready for them. One of the biggest pet peeves of all the Dock Reps is when we are busy checking these numbers, passengers will come up and interrupt us with the Shore Ex and ask, "What is your tour?" (perturbed because they can't see the sign) Or bend down to see if they can see the other side of our sign. The absolute number one thing that we all hate is when they grab the corner or our sign and try to turn it over to see if it is their tour, which usually it is not.

     But one of the best questions I have been asked was from a lovely gray-haired lady who came up to me and asked, "I know that you probably get asked this question a lot, but......" I responded with a smile and said, "Ma'am, I may have been asked that question a lot, but it is the first time you have heard the answer."

  Don't get me wrong; I do get a lot of fun passengers. The favorite time of day for me is when it is early afternoon and I have time to visit with some of the passengers when we are waiting for our bus or for the tour to depart. I enjoy getting to know them. And when I get on the bus to tell them about their tour, they get excited. I can joke with them and they will joke back with me. That's what makes my job fun.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Earlier this summer I was flying from Thorn Bay to Craig on Prince of Whales Island and saw what was left of a DC-3 wrecked on a salt marsh.  I asked about it then looked it up on the web.  here are the pictures I took and the accident report.

 Terse were some lucky guys.  There are mountians all arround this site.

Big Salt DC-3 Crash report

EC-47 42-24304
EC-47 Crash Landing in Alaska, enroute to SEA   (note:  It was enroute FROM SEA to Elmendorf )
From USAF Accident/Incident Report Dated 9 Nov. 68

Upon arrival at McClellan Air Force Base, California, Lt. Colonel Ronald A. Bena, Major Jerry E. Marshall, Major Floyd J. Brazile ans SSgt Thomas Kaminski, were directed to ferry EC-47Q #42-24304 to Southeast Asia.
The personnel performed the following duties on the flight: Aircraft Commander, Lt. Colonel Bena; Copilot, Major Marshall; Navigator, Major Brazile; Flight Engineer, SSgt Kaminski. The crew departed McClellan AFB, California, for McChord AFB, Washington, at 1930Z 24 October 1968. Flight time enroute was four hours.
At 1500Z, 25 October 1968, the crew departed McChord AFB, Washington for Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Flight altitude was 10,000 feet IFR and estimated time enroute was eight hours and thirty-seven minutes.
At approximately 1955Z the aircraft yawed to the right. Lt. Col. Bena, the aircraft commander, feathered the right engine. The nearest suitable landing field was determined to be Annette Island Coast Guard Station, Alaska and an immediate turn was made toward Annette.
Altitude could not be maintained on one engine so an enroute descent was made to 6,500 feet. The flight continued until at approximately 2020Z when the left engine lost power. The aircraft was still approximately 70 miles north west of Annette Coast Guard Air Station. Attempts were made to restart the left engine. When attempts to restart the left engine proved fruitless, the right engine was unfeathered and attempts were made to restart it all to no avail.
During the descent following loss of power on the left engine the C-47 became IFR at 5,000'. Upon reaching 3,500' a break in the clouds to the right of the plane revealed water below. A turn was made toward the break in the clouds and decision was made to ditch rather than bailing out over very mountainous and wooded terrain. VFR conditions were attained at approximately 3,000 feet. The cargo door was jettisioned in preparation for ditching.
As a pattern was set up for a water landing, a small marsh on the edge of the edge of a lake was observed. This lake was Big Salt Lake, actually an inlet of salt water on the western side of Prince of Wales Island. A left hand pattern was initiated for a gear up landing on the marsh. Final approach was at 90 knots and half flaps. Initial contact was made almost simltaneously by both wings on three large stumps.
The right wing was partially seperated near station 100 and both wing tips were torn off near station 340. Ground contact was made shortly thereafter by the rear portion of the fuselage. The aircraft traveled approximately 430 feet after contact was made with the stumps. Initial landing slide fairly smooth. At approximately 60 feet from the final resting place, the right wing separated completely from the aircraft at station 100. Approximately 40 feet from the final resting place the aircraft hit another stump which caused the aircraft to swerve to the right. Final restingplace of the aircraft was on a salt marsh on the north side of the eastern tip of Big Salt Lake.
No serious injuries were received by the crew and the aircraft did not catch fire. Parachutes were deployed to assist other aircraft in locating the crash site. This was of prime significance because the aircraft was painted with camouflage paint.
A USAF KC-135 arrived over the site approximately 30 minutes after the crash. Contact with rescue aircraft was complicated by apparent survival radio malfunctions. Shortly after the KC-135 arrived overhead, an Alaskan Airline Golden Nugget Grumman Goose aircraft, an amphibian, landed on the lake and evacuated the copilot, Major Marshall and the flight engineer, SSgt Kaminski. The Pilot, Lt Colonel Bena and the navigator, Major Brazile remained behind to guard the classified equipment aboard the aircraft. The pilot and navigator were evacuated by a Coast Guard H-52 helicopter about 5 1/2 hours after the crash. Security of the aircraft was maintained by tow Coast Guard security personnel who were aboard the helicopter which evacuated Lt Colonel Bena and Major Brazile.
{{ NOTE: }} For those of you not familiar with the phrase, "station 100" or "station 340" etc., these are references in inches measured from a particular point on the aircraft. I can't recall where the wing measurments begin, but just for the sake of clearification, we will call it at the center of the fuselage and measuring from there outboard on each wing. The same measuring system is used throughout the aircraft and I believe the fuselage measurements begin at the nose and count toward the tail. Among other things, these "station locations" are used for referances as you see here and for weight and balance of the aircraft when loading cargo or when making modifications that either add or deduct weight from the aircraft structure. Hope this helps you to understand.
{{ NOTE: }}This aircraft was enroute to Pleiku according to the report.
Having crewed and flown many hours on the C-47, this is my opinion based primarily on the times given in the above report and the fuel capacities and consumption of the aircraft. Having myself flown one of the EC-47s from Grenier Field New Hampshire to Tan Son Nhut along the same route in September 1966, I remember the 'spagetti mix' of plumbing and valves in the 2 auxilary 250 gallon fuel tanks, giving approximately 5 additional hours flying time, it looked like a nightmare.
I have never located a report of what may have caused this aircraft to go down, but as stated in the above paragraph, I do have an opinion. I will, until proven wrong, believe the auxilary fuel system was the cause. My opinion is based on normal used fuel consumption figures of 100 gallons per hour, and assuming the auxilary fuel was burned off before switching as we did, to the normal aircraft fuel system. The aircraft had been airborne 4 hours and 55 minutes when the right engine was lost, one of the 250 gallon tanks is now empty. At 5 hours plus 20 minutes, 25 minutes later the left engine was lost, the other 250 gallon tank is now empty. The aircraft went down with a normal full load of fuel, 804 gallons still in the wing tanks.
I believe that the right engine was lost after switching the fuel supply. It is possible that in the spagetti of fuel lines and valves that the lines or the valves were improperly installed and instead of switching to a new fuel supply, it switched to a vent or other line with no fuel available. It is also possible that the valves were mis-labeled. And lastly, it could have been human error in the switching which I would first discount. 25 minutes after the right engine was lost, the left engine is lost, and again the fuel available and fuel consumption fall well with the range of fuel exhaustion.
This is in no way intended to place fault on the aircrew, but is an honest oppinion of the cause of the loss of this aircraft.
James C. Wheeler MSgt Ret. Flight Mechanic - 361st TEWS Nha Trang - 1966/67

Saturday, September 1, 2012

To Market, To Market, To Get A Crab Dinner.......

We decided to have crab for dinner so we went to the market, Alaskan style. I called Nancy to meet me at Taquan. I had an open seat to pick up some passengers from a bear watching tour. 

We left early so we could check our crab traps. It was a 20 minuet flight to Polk Inlet, about the same time it takes to go to our grocery store back home. 

On our way we flew over some "Seiners" out fishing for the day. There are small boats that draw the fishing net out from the large boat in an area where they think are a lot of fish. Then the small boat brings the net back to the large boat.

Then they pull a line, closing the bottom of the net (like a purse), capturing the fish. There is a rolling drum on the large boat and it reels in the net with the fish in it.

We made a landing and coasted to a stop at one of our crab traps. It had 2 large (and as we were soon to find out) tasty Dungeness crabs waiting for us. We put them in the float compartment and taxied over to the dock for a short wait for our passengers.

Back at Taquan we off loaded our passengers and I ramped the Beaver. I took out the crabs and cleaned them. By that I mean broke their shells off on a dock cleat and separated the legs and claws from the rest. 


At home Nancy made a salad and boiled potatoes, then boiled the crab legs.

It was an hour and a half from the float to the pot. It doesn't get any fresher than that!

Mmmmm good!