Contrast In Piloting
The regular reader of this blog knows that I have bought a scanner. I've been revisiting my past through photographs. It is inevitable that I will compare the old times with the new. This post is not criticism (for which I am well-known), rather merely comparison of different times, situations, and conditions.
Number One Son is a Lufthansa pilot. Today, large passenger jets approach long runways on straight and gently sloped glide paths, all controlled by computers (to reduce irrational fear of the folks in back). It takes a great deal of skill and knowledge to handle such a complicated machine. Even helicopters are stuffed with electronic gadgets unimagined in my day.
Now for the contrast I promised...
This is the view of a real runway and a real airfield. Even in poor weather, it's kinda hard to miss.
I flew in a different era, in a different type of aircraft, and in a different type of environment. We flew with our two hands, by the seat of our pants, and without adult supervision. Computers had been invented, but had certainly not made it to the trenches. The Air Force had air traffic control, but I served its poor relative.
Where's the "runway"?
This is a Korean fire base in Vietnam. They liked to perch their luxury accommodations on the most-inaccessible mountain tops. Everybody and everything had to be hauled by helicopters. Uncle Sugar was nice enough to deliver the goods on a daily basis. We were delivery truck drivers, but had bigger egos and more fun.
Anyone that has flown in mountainous regions should be able to spot the "runway". For those that need help, it's the only flat piece of land (yes, there really is one!) in the right/middle of the photo with a whiff of colored smoke (to help the pilot gauge wind direction and velocity). If it's hard to see, you can share the pilot's daily dilemma. Heavy loads and quixotic winds reduced the margin for error to something close to zero. But, it was a job...and certainly a nicer one than that done by the folks living in this palace.
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Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.