Friday, July 17, 2009

Changing Horses in Midstream

While I flew the final flight for this job yesterday, my most excellent colleague was multitasking: sunbathing while fielding telephone calls and text messages from company. Field personnel have looked at the facilities we're supposed to use and while the runway is a usable 5000' gravel strip in reasonable repair, the accommodations are ATCO trailers that don't even have doors. This is deemed unacceptable even for pilots, so they've chosen another more remote and seemingly even more poorly maintained strip. The FAA description uses phrases like "GRASS & WEEDS GROWING ON RY SFC WITH RUTS UP TO 4 IN. RY SOFT WHEN WET," and "RAMP AREA SFC ROUGH; STANDING WATER & SOFT WHEN WET." A flurry of overlapping e-mails discuss this and in the end it is determined that some sort of global warming research organization has taken over the aerodrome and not only upgraded the runway but established wireless internet.

We know that the plans will probably change again a few times, but we seemed to be at least up-to-date on the changes, and they were about to book flights, which tends to cement things a little. An engineer even texted to ask that we book him a hotel room.

My co-worker called him back. "No problem. In which city, province, territory or state?"

He'd apparently been told to book a flight here, where he was to do the maintenance, and then when that's done we're to fly the airplane to Whitehorse and go home from there. Whitehorse, Deadhorse, what's the difference, right?

Later I am invited to a local pilot's house party, where someone mentions the recent haphazard flight services. The locals say that the specialist has just come back from a visit with an out of town boyfriend, and then worked a double shift. We spend a few minutes speculating on whether she is exhausted, hungover or distraught from a break up with her boyfriend. In aviation this is known as human factors. In a small town it is called gossip.

In appreciation of local hospitality, and to give anyone local who stumbles across this blog a smile, I'll identify the pilot house as one with an elaborately decorated Tiki Bar complete with a stunning tropical poster that stretched across two walls. That must be an extremely welcome sight when the door leads out into twenty below and snowbound darkness. Good folks. Good town. Moving on to Whitehorse next. There's no guarantee that when we get there they won't change their minds again and send us to Alaska anyway.

This on-again off-again where-will-we-go-next? stuff is a staple (almost typed "stable" there, in keeping with the horse theme) of my working life. I don't usually chronicle it in such detail because it makes for confusing storytelling and I usually already have the charts so I can mostly ignore the deliberations until they are final. The other variation is when they tell us we'll be working out of one base for a month and we do things like buy a fridge full of groceries, just before they change their minds and tell us we're leaving tomorrow.


Geekzilla said...

I would say neigh to all this and go try out the new fishing gear.

viennatech said...

hmmmmm an ATCO trailer with no doors, the thought alone makes me homesick. :)