Friday, November 22, 2013

This Is What I Do Now

A long while back I wrote about what I do.  Only I don't do that anymore.
And then I wrote about feeling spikey.  Only I never told you what I was doing that got me into feeling spikey.

Remember how I said I was more-than-half-convinced that the imaginary posts in my head had already been written?  Yeah.  Totally embarrassing.  I'm just cruising through my old posts, doot de doo, and it suddenly hits man, I never explained the backstory on that one.  Dang it. I seriously thought I had.  Sorry!

So anywho, here's what I used to do:

That pic above is a production platform.  The well is owned by someone (probably Apache Corp) and run by lots of other contractors.  Some wells in the area where I worked were 50 to 60 years old.
Older wells, like this one (above), may start slowing down and producing less oil.  In that case, the company may choose to cap and abandon it, sell it off, or redrill it.  That's what they were doing on this platform...see that tall structure that goes off the picture?  That's a drilling rig.  That particular one worked on that well for such a long time, they decided to just plop the rig down on top of the platform.  (That means the poor galley hands suddenly had over double the number of workers onboard to feed every meal.)

I got stuck offshore that day (above) as a front rolled through.  That wall of clouds was too low for me to safely fly beneath.
Above is the same platform, opposite side, different day.  It's a pretty big platform.
Those are storm clouds.  Small enough to be no threat, far enough away to look like mountains.
That's what rain looks like from 500 feet.  I don't get to see it too much anymore.

I was heading to the airport every two weeks to catch a plane down south.  Then I'd get in my car and drive farther south, and spend the next two weeks on the shores of Louisiana flying guys back and forth to the platforms. I missed home.  I missed David.  Time flew by so fast when you were only there for half of it.

So I put in for a transfer.  I didn't think I'd get it.  But I did.  It's a hospital contract right here in Cleveland where I live, but it required a major aircraft transition (though I got to stay in my own company).  And now here I am.

Well, I guess, here I am:
...but it's such a bad picture (I was wearing a man's flight suit, too, since my own hadn't come in yet).  I haven't gotten around to getting a good pic, and probably when I finally do, it'll just be me all bundled up like a big black marshmallow.  It's getting cold here.

So you what do I do now?
I fly a little bigger helicopter.  Instead of guys going to work, I carry a team of nurses who assist a patient in moving from one hospital to another.  I have a partner that I fly with now (I'm just a second-in-command these days), and we don't fly as much as I used to in the Gulf.  And we run checklists like airline pilots.
But sometimes I still get to see the beautiful water...this is the Lake Erie shoreline by a hospital east of Cleveland.  Wind off that lake is cold.

So in order to get up here, I had to learn a new aircraft.  This is kind of a big deal and represents a lot of training and studying and a major shift in the way I carry out my day-to-day at work.  My company ran me around for about 7 weeks straight, getting me set up to fly the new contract, plus I had to learn to use night vision goggles, the ones those antelope wear in that one commercial.

And that's the back story, y'all.  "Spikey" happened in that first week of training, and I must say the next 29 didn't get much better.  Training is training, I guess.  It doesn't help to be glued at the hip to a stranger in an unfamiliar town the whole time, either (my "simulator partner").  And now that I'm on the job, I'm still adjusting: having to make ridiculously slow approaches, start-ups taking a full 6 minutes in checklists, wearing enormous helmets, flying an aircraft that sounds like a tornado so you can't fly lower than 1,000' at any time or risk the neighborhood complaining your base out of existence (literally, they abandoned a base across town because of the unmanageable complaints), and the whole "dual pilot" idea...and I like and respect my partner here, but I'm still not a big fan of the concept.  Anyone drive their car with a "co-pilot"?  Calling out your speed at regular intervals? Telling you whether you can or can't make that parking spot? Questioning your navigation methods? Making fun when you hit the wipers instead of the headlights?  I'm getting used to it.  Slowly.

So now that I'm a second-in-command, I have about 5 months to get ready for a pilot-in-command upgrade.  This means that, technically, my company would now trust me to make the kinds of decisions I used to make every day back in the Gulf, and, technically, I could be held accountable for anything that went wrong on the flight (got me a free pass right now, 'cause I'm "just the SIC"!).  It also means lots, and lots, and lots more studying to do.  Projects at the house on hold indefinitely.  Again.


  1. Great post!! Thanks for posting. Lucy's response to seeing your pictures was, "Lucy fly helicopter!" And I said, "Well, Lucy, it's pretty tricky tricky." And she said, "Mommy help."
    Your job is so important and cool!!! Way to go :).


Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC