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Diary of a Hawaiian Freight Dog

By Nick Voge
May 5, 2009

From introspection to Indiana Jones, Nick Voge offers a glimpse of what life is like as a Hawaiian freight pilot.


October 6

Since going to work for local freight outfit my life has devolved into a bleak, proletarian ritual of staggering out of bed at some ungodly hour, wolfing down what ever is left in the fridge and then driving in the direction of Honolulu Airport with all the drunks, druggies and others whose failed lives find them on the freeway at 2:45 in the morning instead of in some nice warm bed with a nice warm honey, which is where all the sane people are at this hour. Still, there's nothing like humping a ton of cargo into a Beech 18 to get you nice and warm—and sweaty, and dirty. Then, climb in through the window while trying not to think of how you're going to get out of this flying coffin if anything goes wrong, thunder off into the night sky for the evocatively named Mud Flats and hope the runway lights come on as advertised.

Of course, because your captain's life is even more screwed up than yours, he hasn't even had breakfast yet, so as soon as he gets the beast aimed in the general direction of the island of Moloka’i, he says, "You, got it," and starts in on his egg McMuffin (or, is he really just trying to find out if the new guy can keep the airplane more or less straight and level and on course on a moonless night over the Ka’iwi Channel with only a VOR and an artificial horizon?) Later, If I'm really lucky, I get to fly with the boss, who will mince no words in telling me what a hopeless kook of a pilot I am and that my pathetic attempts at flying his airplane don't bode well for any dreams I may have had of becoming a professional pilot. After ten or so hours of variations on this theme, a few more tons of cargo, two more flights (followed by wiping off all the oil puked out by those old radials) I somehow make my way home and collapse in front of the TV while devouring anything left over in the dark recesses of the refrigerator.

Still, there are compensations.


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Photo © Nick Voge


January 12

It couldn’t last, of course. The balmy days booming along over the ocean at 2,000’ with the side window open; with not a care in the world and with those big radial engines reeling in the horizon at 140 kts.; the clear nights and smooth rides spent scanning the eastern horizon for shooting stars upon which to wish in the pre-dawn darkness; soaring through cloud castles in the tropical moonlight. Dues must be paid. For everything gained, something must be lost. Yin and yang.

Winter arrives in the form of a powerful low-pressure system that’s drawing up a strong southerly flow of moist air, along with the usual gusty winds, rain and thunderstorms. Though I’m certain we won’t be flying this morning, I’m on the schedule so I show up at 3:00 a.m., as usual. It’s too cold to sit still, so the boss and I load up the Beech in the driving rain then retreat to the office to check out the radar pics. They don’t look good. The Hawaiian Islands are enveloped in cloud, a flash flood warning has been issued and there are advisories for strong winds. “Tis the season to be jolly,” grumbles the boss. An allusion, no doubt, to the blues, oranges, reds and greens of the radar echoes covering our entire area.

My pilot (I’ll call him Keana) arrives and we all traipse outside to see what it looks like and are astonished to find that the fully loaded Beech has jumped its chocks and, like a sailboat at anchor, has weather-vaned 90° into the wind. We run out, chock all the wheels and race back to the shelter of the office. With time on our hands we call up the ATIS at MKK and are surprised to discover that the viz. is more than ten and the ceiling is 1,500’. A look at the satellite pics confirms this, as the rain and clouds are concentrated over the island of Oahu, the Ka’iwi channel and points west.

“I think we can get in,” says Keana. “It looks clear over Moloka’i.”

“Are you crazy?!” I want to yell. “There’s a fricken’ hurricane raging out there!” But being the new guy I keep my mouth shut and hope the boss has sense enough to put the kybosh on any such nonsense. No such luck. A few minutes later we’re pulling the props through and getting ready to head out. There’s still time for me to back out of this insanity, I think, but of course I don’t.

So, I clamber up on the rain-slick wing, wiggle in through the side window and settle down into a puddle of water on the right seat. Seems the small side window has been open all night and the cockpit, instrument panel and seats are soaked. We fire up the engines, do our run-up then taxi out into the darkness and the driving rain. It’s pitch black. The plane rocks in the sudden gusts. We’ve asked for the shoreline runway, as it will give us a better slant into the strong crosswind blowing in off the ocean. Halfway there one of our radios starts acting up. “I don’t like to fly with just one radio,” says Keana but keeps on taxiing. Waiting for clearance at the end of the runway, the only things visible are the runway lights and the sheets of driving rain reflecting in our landing lights.

“Twin-Beech cleared for takeoff on 8 Right,” comes the call and off we go. As soon as we break ground the plane slews hard to the right and into the crosswind. At 500’, as we’re pulling back the power to 31” for cruise climb, the tower announces that the field is now IFR. How considerate of them to wait for us to get off the ground.

Reassuringly, the lights of Waikiki are still visible at our departure altitude of 1,500’. But as soon as we head out over the Ka’iwi Channel we are enveloped in total darkness. Are we flying through clouds? Or, is it simply too dark to see anything? A moot point, as the windscreen has a virtual river flowing over it. About halfway there the curtain lifts and the distant lights of Moloka’i’s west coast become visible. The ceiling lowers as we creep along the south shore in the dark. A few clicks on the mike turns on the runway lights and Keana manages to squeak us in there with one of his typical hairy landings.

However, by the time we’ve unloaded the weather has deteriorated further and we opt to wait it out. I lie down for a snooze in the now empty Beech and Keana goes off to talk story with our loaders.

After about an hour Keana deems the situation to have improved enough for us to head back. At least now it’s light enough to see. “We’ll pick up an IFR clearance if we need it.” Since it’s my leg back, I fire up the engines and start to taxi out, at which point the tower notifies us that Honolulu is still IFR. Great. Why don’t we just hang out until the weather gets better? What’s the rush? But, no. Keana says nothing. So, I line us up on the centerline, bring the engines up to 20” on the brakes, make sure all the gauges are happy, then let ‘er rip. A few moments later we blast out over the whitecaps, crank in a big right turn (God, I love this job!) and run scud up the coast at 1,000’. Unfortunately, we soon run out of scud under which to run. About ten miles out over the ocean it starts going zero-zero, so while I fly in circles under a rapidly lowering ceiling Keana calls Honolulu for an IFR clearance.

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Photo © Erick Stamm

“Turn left to 265° and maintain 3,000’ feet,” says a soft feminine voice. She sounds so relaxed! As if we’ve just interrupted her from a friendly chat with a co-worker. She probably has a hot cup of coffee in one hand, her shoes off under the desk. She wouldn’t be relaxed if she were up here with us. That’s for sure! 3,000’ puts us right in the clag. There are strong updrafts and downdrafts in here. I don’t dare take my eyes off the instruments. About halfway back I overhear the captain of a United heavy ask to have the runway lights turned up brighter. Not good. As we start lining up on the localizer Keana takes the controls (You can have it!) and I try to distract myself by checking the instruments. The first thing I notice is that both fuel flow needles are on zero. Still, the engines are running fine and we’ve got plenty of gas on board, so it’s probably just the gauge. Probably.

At 300’ there is no sign of the runway, or of anything else. We drop lower. The tower comes on and says, “You’re too high to make the field.” Keana spots the runway through a hole in the clouds and says he’s going down. I key the mike and, masking my terror, casually say, “Ah, we’ll be okay.” Keana STUFFS us down whatever hole he saw and we pop out over the field at about 200’, halfway down the runway and waaay over to the left (the strong crosswind is still blowing). Somehow Keana skids us over the runway, but now we’re only about ten feet off the ground and still at a 45° angle to the centerline. I no longer fear the worst, but I’m still gripping the bottom of my seat with both hands (hence the expression ‘white knuckled’). As the mechanic in me starts to total up the cost of a couple of props, two engine strips and some sheet metal work, Keana jams in a leg-full of left rudder, straightens us out and plops us down on the centerline. I don’t believe it. The controllers must be going nuts. If this were a movie you’d say, only in Hollywood, but we’re not in Hollywood. We’re in the middle of rainstorm in a fifty-year-old airplane at six in the morning and our only audience is a few guys in the tower and some sea birds.

When we get back to the hangar we’re greeted like returning heroes. But I don’t feel the least bit heroic. What I really am is badly scared. With the passage of time this may make a good story, but right now all I want to do is to find a quiet place where I can sit and digest the experience. In truth, I feel the way a young soldier must feel after his first experience with the realities of combat. The words of Howard Fast come to mind: “And you’ve lost your youth and come to manhood, all in a few hours…. Oh, that’s painful. That is indeed.”

I’m scheduled to fly with the boss in his personal Beech on our next run. By this time the weather has improved somewhat, but the ceilings are still very low. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to,” says Keana after we get the ship loaded. (He hasn’t been too chipper either since we got back.) Not a chance.

We run scud out and back, and for the first time the boss lets me fly his ship through the clouds on instruments. Prior to this he had always taken the controls when we filed IFR. Under normal circumstances a flight like this would leave me stressed, but after this morning’s adventure it’s cake. When we shut down the engines back at base I wince in anticipation of the usual harsh debrief. But aside from a few comments about a botched radio call, the boss says nothing.

Things are looking up.


February 16

In the pre-dawn darkness Keana and I slam 750 lbs. of frozen New Zealand salmon into our company’s new Cessna Caravan. The fish comes in bulky Styrofoam tubs weighing 75lbs. each. Keana’s real job is baggage handler at Hawaiian Airlines, a skill that serves him well here, as he tosses the heavy tubs up against the forward bulkhead like they were 5 lb. bags of flour. No sooner are we done with the fish then the boss rolls up with a pallet stacked high with 500 lbs. of fresh fruit and vegetables. There are Thompson grapes from Chile, organic lettuce and strawberries from California, fresh blueberries, local bananas, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, fresh bread, orange juice — heavy stuff up front, light stuff in the back and anything squishable on top or in the underside pods. We finish up with two cases of French Chardonnay and some Dom Perignon. The good stuff, packed in wooden boxes.

“Ho, dey eat good on Lana’i, yeah?” says Keana. They drink well, too.

The pricey provisions are destined for the two luxury resorts on Lanai, some of the most exclusive in Hawai’i. The island itself is owned by financier and businessman David Murdock.

In spite of the morning chill and the brisk trade winds sweeping down from the Ko’olau mountains we’re both stripped down to our T-shirts and sweating like stevedores. I’m also bleeding, as I’ve cut my forearm on a nail sticking up from one of the pallets.

After the food’s on board we start in on the general cargo: two auto mufflers, a portable generator, coils of copper wire, four big bags of dog food and two full pallets of UPS boxes. Grunting and swearing like fiends we cram 2,851 lbs. of cargo into the hold. Every square inch is filled. When we're done the `Van squats on her landing gear like an old truck with sagging leaf springs and blown shocks.

Once again it occurs to me that it takes a lot of faith to head down the runway in a heavily loaded airplane.

As Keana jogs off to the office to calculate our weight and balance I wolf down a day-old doughnut and tend to my forearm. It’s not bleeding too badly, so I grab a paper towel from the bathroom, bind it over the jagged cut with duct tape then start pre-flighting the airplane.

Fifteen minutes later, the beaches of Waikiki, glowing golden in the morning sunlight, are slipping away beneath our left wing. Keana gets the plane squared away as I work the coms. Before long we are at our cruising altitude of 5,500’ and we switch on the autopilot.

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Photo © Mike Paschal

Like little children we gaze out upon a wonderland of sea and sky stretching to infinity. In the far distance, like a Zen garden, the volcanic peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa rest serenely upon a perfectly groomed bed of cumulous congestus. Here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we are about as far away from every place else as it is possible to be. The fine scenery of Hawaii’s skies is one of the few things that still belong to everyone, so our pleasure at its beauty is untarnished by envy.

Not for nothing does mankind imagine a heaven above the clouds.

“Want half my baloney san’wich?” says Keana.

“Sure.”

I break out a bag of homemade cookies, and like the sandwich they disappear in no time.

Caloric deprivation is our constant enemy. Between the physical exertion of loading and unloading three or four tons of a cargo a day and the stress and concentration demanded by flying, it is almost impossible to eat enough to keep meat on our bones and still maintain the high energy levels required by the demanding work. I use the verb ‘work’ merely for want of a better word, for although we are flying a million-dollar airplane loaded with thousands of dollars worth of cargo, we are paid almost nothing. Keana will be lucky to take home $150 for his day’s exertions, while I, as a co-pilot, am paid solely in flight time — a Faustian bargain which we have no choice but to accept in order to gain the real-world experience needed to find a good flying job. Thus are we called ‘freight dogs.’

As we begin our descent into Lana’i I watch Keana out of the corner of my eye. Keana is a natural pilot, what professional pilots call an ‘artist.’ As though in a trance he guides the plane smoothly and effortlessly down the glide slope. His steering inputs are almost imperceptible. The plane seems to be flying itself, and we merely passengers.


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Lana’i
Photo © Nick Voge

When we first started flying together, and before I understood such things, I used to ask Keana why he handled the plane the way he did in certain situations. He always seemed taken aback by my questions. As if no one had ever asked such things before, as if he’d never even thought of such questions.

“Well,” he would say with a shy smile, after dropping the plane smoothly onto the runway on the verge of an accelerated stall, “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”

Not coincidentally, Keana is also an accomplished surfer. Good pilots, like good surfers, understand intuitively that at critical moments — on the lip of a cresting wave, or when landing on short runways in gusty winds — it is best to turn off the brain and allow the body to do what it has already learned. React, don’t think. That is the mantra. Stop to consider your actions and you will be too late. The wave will crush you onto the reef, the plane will veer from its flight path. Like surfing, flying airplanes well in critical situations is not an intellectual pursuit. Too much thinking can get you into trouble. Your body has its own wisdom, and if you are to succeed in such consequential pursuits you must learn to listen to it.

Pure knowledge is inarticulate, because it is learned with the body and not the mind.

As we’re unloading the cargo at Lana’i, an Augusta A109 helicopter lands near us on the apron. A well-dressed young couple alights from the exotic-looking craft and run laughing to a waiting Range Rover.

“Must be nice,” says Keana.


June 16

When the sailing ships began arriving off Kalaupapa in the late 19th Century their crews often simply threw their passengers into the sea, forcing them to swim for the rocky shore or drown trying. This was in part because Kalaupapa has no natural harbor. Located midway along the north shore of Moloka’i, and fully exposed to the almost constant onshore wind and powerful waves, Kalaupapa is a sailor’s nightmare. To venture too close to this ironbound coast on a sailing vessel was to risk ending up on the rocks. The other reason for the drastic disembarkations was that the passengers were lepers — pariahs exiled from Oahu for their loathsome and contagious disease.

In the era before sulfa drugs, a diagnosis of Hansen’s disease was a sentence to a slow and horrific death. Doubly cursed, the sufferers were torn from family and friends, and banished to the isolation of Kalaupapa, their children orphaned by the state.

The frightened citizens of Oahu could not have chosen a more suitable location. Kalaupapa sits on a small leaf of land between the world’s steepest sea cliffs and the unforgiving sea. Like the infamous Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana, escape was virtually impossible.

Today, a guided tour of Kalaupapa is de rigueur for the serious visitor to the Hawaiian Islands. On it you will learn about father Damien, the Belgian priest who went to live among the outcasts and who, after a lifetime of good works, shared the fate of his parishioners.

Kalaupapa is no less challenging a destination for pilots. The short runway bisects a narrow spit of land jutting out into the wind-torn sea. The runway is narrow as well as short, and a pilot must know his airplane well to avoid ending up in the rocks at either end. When the swells are large, as they are for most of the winter months, the breaking waves send up great sheets of spray over the departure end of the field. Wise pilots learn to time their takeoff rolls to the intervals between sets.

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Kalaupapa
Photo © Je89 W.

Seen from the air, the small cluster of cottages huddled tightly at the foot of the brooding cliffs appear out of the sea mist like a scene from a Chinese landscape drawing. The settlement consists of a scattering of single-story houses fronted by a narrow crescent of sandy beach on which the waves beat ceaselessly. The simple dwellings are made of wood or lava rock. Most have a vegetable garden shaded from the tropical sun by papaya, banana and coconut trees. Chickens roam freely along the unpaved streets. It is quiet here and very restful. If you knew nothing of Kalaupapa’s history, you might think you had finally found paradise. You might dream of a cottage of your own, of a surfboard hanging from the rafters and of an island girl you know.

But now is not the time to indulge in escapist fantasies. The boss is letting me fly the tricky approach to Kalaupapa in his personal Beech 18 and he’s watching me like a hawk. Although we’ve just unloaded 400 lbs. of cargo at Moloka’i airport, we’re still quite heavy and I have to be very careful not to allow the plane to get `low and slow’ on approach. Having watched the boss fly this approach many times before, I mimic his technique and hug the cliffs until we reach a small shelf of land jutting into the ragged sea. There, a bank to the left lines us up right on the runway. In times of low ceilings and poor visibility, knowing this landmark can make the difference between getting our loads in or returning full to Honolulu.

At 200’ and 100 mph the boss takes the controls and performs one of his regular miracle landings in the strong crosswind.

No sooner do we roll to a stop on the grassy apron then a small convoy of trucks pulls up and their drivers crowd around the plane to divvy up the load.

“Ho, you got choke cargo today, yeah?” says Alani, one of the regulars.

Indeed, we have lots of cargo on board. Today’s load is typical: medicines for the local clinic, crates of milk and juice, fresh bread from the bakeries of Honolulu, cartons of eggs and of frozen meat, beer, soda pop, and a new bicycle for a lucky child.

The crowd disperses as quickly as it arrived, and after a few minutes of talking story with the locals we climb back in through the side window and strap in.

Takeoffs from Kalaupapa are like scenes from an Indiana Jones movie. Close your eyes and we’ll do this one together. Imagine first a short and narrow runway bordered on three sides by a white-capped sea fringed with black lava boulders and on the forth by towering slate-grey cliffs. Overhead, scraps of crumpled cloud race each other to the horizon across a trade-wind sky. There’s 20-knot crosswind from the right with gusts to thirty. The wind sock is pinned straight back.

Cockpit checks complete, we adjust the trim for takeoff, double-check that the fuel is on, mixture levers full forward, throttles cracked, master on, generators on, flip the engine selector to left, left boost pump on, prime for three seconds, turn off the boost pump, allow a few seconds for the fuel to vaporize inside the cylinders then, “clear left!” and hit the starter button. One, two, three blades and flip on the left mags. As soon as the engine fires check for oil pressure. Repeat for the right engine, then bring up the avionics. (Don’t forget to flip the engine selector switch back to neutral.) When both engines are running pull back the mixture levers to lean out the mixture for taxi so we don’t foul the plugs.

We’ll back-taxi to the very end of the runway, jockey the plane around using differential power and line ‘er up on the centerline. Tighten up the throttle friction (you don’t want the throttles sliding back when you reach down to pull up the gear). Mixture levers full rich. Then, we’ll get on the brakes together, hold them tightly and start bringing up the manifold pressure. Check the gauges to make sure they’re all happy. At 20” the brakes start slipping. Let `em go and put the balls to the wall! Now things start to happen quickly. The superchargers kick in, the propeller tips go supersonic and an avalanche of sound crashes over us as the dual Pratt and Whitneys unleash 900 unmuffled horsepower a mere three feet away. Keep in that right aileron!

Airspeed’s alive. The sea and rocks at the end of the runway are now careening towards us with rapidly increasing velocity. The plane starts to veer into the wind so we lead with right throttle. Rotate at 100. We’re off! If there’s an engine failure now we’ll be the lead story on this evening’s news. But once again the big Pratts earn their reputation and seconds later we thunder out over the whitecaps and crank in a sweeping left turn at low level as we turn for Honolulu. Out over the left wingtip, the tiny settlement is already fading into the sea mist, a small blot of color at the base of the brooding cliffs.

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Photo © Mathieu Pouliot

And I wonder, how is it possible to be homesick for a place that was never one’s home?


August 30

Lanai airport, automated weather observation, one seven two niner zulu, wind zero four zero at two six, peak gusts three six, visibility one zero, clear below one thousand seven hundred, altimeter two niner niner zero, remarks, temperature one niner celcius, dew point two zero celcius density altitude one-thousand five hundred, airmet Tango for turbulance and airmet Sierra for mountain obscurations, thunderstorm information…. not available.

In plain language this means that at seven twenty-nine a.m. at the island of Lana’i the wind is blowing about thirty miles an hour with gusts as high as forty. The wind direction is northeast, (right down the runway) which is good. What is not good is that the runway at Lana’i sits on a 1,200’ plateau. With the ceiling at 1,700’ this leaves only about 500’ of clear air between the runway and the clouds. Other complicating factors are the 4,000’ Mt. Lana’ihale five miles east of the airfield and the sheer cliff dropping off to the sea one mile before the approach end of the runway, where the plateau meets the sea.

What all this means is that we can expect strong turbulence on our approach to the airfield. This is because air does not like to make sudden changes of direction. On the upwind side of a mountain the wind flow is smooth and predictable as it flows up and over the peak, giving birds (and airplanes) an elevator-smooth ride upwards. On the downwind side, however, things get nasty, as the laminar flow breaks apart at the summit and tumbles downward in vicious and unpredictable rotors. The stronger the wind, the stronger are the rotors. Also known as wind sheer, in a worst-case situation these rotors can tear the wings from an airplane or slam it into the ground. I turn off the radio and begin the engine start sequence.

During our early morning flight to Lana’i from Honolulu, Keana flew a very high, straight-in approach from the west, keeping us in the smooth air at 5,500’ until the last minute, then chopping the power and diving steeply down towards the field. This kept us out of the turbulence for as long as possible and also avoided the secondary turbulence at the cliff line. Still, on short final we got hit with two very strong gusts that knocked the airplane into a bank so steep we had to use full aileron deflection to keep us straight and level.

On our second flight to Lana’i we stop first at Moloka’i, where we unload six boxes of mango seedlings, 300 lbs. of pizza flour, four truck tires and a flat-screen TV. It’s my leg to Lana’i, and as I lift us off the runway towards a setting moon I can see across the Kalohi Channel that Lana’i is shrouded in low cloud. However, it’s clear over the sea to the west (where all the turbulence is). What to do? Never having landed the Caravan in such strong winds before what I’d really like to do is give the controls to Keana and let him deal with it. But of course, I can’t do that. I have chosen the path of professional pilot and now must walk it.

I have two options: take us up high to the west and dive down in a straight-in approach, like we did earlier (and burn up a lot of fuel in the process), or sneak us in under the clouds over the peninsula upwind from the airport and avoid the turbulent area all together. Problem is, the cloud cover over the island is very low, meaning we’ll be skimming the tree tops most of the way in. In my previous life as a commercial glider pilot I developed a strong distaste for the leeward sides of mountains and cliffs so I opt for the smooth and low approach. Still, flying safely is all about options. You always leave yourself a way out. I decide that if the clouds are too low, or if the turbulence is worse than expected, I have two escape routes: slam in 675 Pratt-and-Whitney-turbine horsepower, pull back on the yoke and take us up through the clouds on instruments, or crank in a big right turn, dive over the cliffs for the ocean and pull a right 180° back towards Moloka’i to take us out of the rotors.

We come in over the island at Little Shipwrecks at 2,200’ and once again I marvel at the deserted beaches lining Lana’i’s north coast. The land rises towards us rapidly and soon we are skimming above the scrub in a thin seam of clear air between the clouds and the ground. “Ho, I think I saw some deer.” Says Keana. “Look, they’re right down there in that dry wash.” My hero. Here I am, stressed out and flying on the edge of my ability and he’s looking at the wildlife and planning his next hunting expedition. But it’s working out. The clouds are dropping lower but the air is glass. I pull back some power to slow us down and keep us close to the field on downwind, drop 20° of flaps and turn us in on the center line. Wham! The plane slams over on its side in the rotor.

“You got it, Nick!” Yells Keana. “Fly this baby in, fly it in.” Sure enough, once again, after the one-two punch the ride smoothes out as we get over the threshold and I manage to roll it on in one of my better landings. Taxiing off the runway we both burst into laughter as our adrenaline levels return to normal.

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Photo © Klaas Reinder Sluijs


December 12

She was cute, and quite a bit younger than I. We were sitting on the only couch in the hotel lobby, waiting for our rooms. When she sat down next to me I could sense reluctance on her part, so I moved over to give her as much space as possible. I was going to say something to her to break the ice but thought better of it. Age has schooled me well in the ways of women. I had long since learned that if you want to strike up a conversation with a pretty girl the best thing you can do is ignore her. Besides, it had been a long day, and all I really wanted to do was get my room and hit the sack. Through the open foyer I looked out into a velvet night perfumed with plumeria and thought of other times. But when she turned to me and asked me where I worked, I thought for a moment and answered, “In the sky.”

She seemed puzzled by this and fell silent. Then, after a pause, “And what do you do in the sky?”

“Well, I deliver packages to people.”

This brought a wry smile to her face, as she could see that I was toying with her. And if there is anything that a pretty girl cannot stand it is not being taken seriously. She turned away, and we lapsed again into silence. But before very long her curiosity got the best of her. “What kind of packages?”

“Whatever people want,” I told her.

“How do you know what people want.”

“They write and tell me.”

She thought about this too for a bit, then asked, “Would you bring me what I want?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether or not you’re a good girl.”

“But how would you know if I’m a good girl?”

“Oh, I know.”

She frowned at this. “Well then, I guess I won’t be getting what I want.”

“Don’t be so sure. Most of us are better than we think.”

This seemed to put her mind at ease. She relaxed and moved closer to me. Her leg brushed against mine.

“Captain, your room is ready,” came the call from the front desk.

As I walked over to pick up my key a well-dressed woman came hurrying down the hallway towards the lobby. When she saw the girl she beckoned to her impatiently. The girl leapt up from the couch, ran towards the lady and exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy, I just met Santy Claus!”

Written by
Nick Voge

Nick Voge lives in Hawaii, where he spends his days dreaming of a world as pure and clean as the skies in which he flies.

9 User Comments:
Username: CrimsonNL [User Info]
Posted 2009-05-12 10:20:56 and read 32768 times.

Thank you for sharing this amazing article! I loved every part of it!

Keep those Beech 18's flying!

Best Regards, Martijn

Username: Spr773 [User Info]
Posted 2009-05-17 21:57:11 and read 32768 times.

Hey thanks for that detailed "word" trip to Hawaii....I mean apart from the photos I really felt that I was seeing you doing your busy chores in that cargo aircraft...you should seriously think about writing a book / books :)

Username: Aimoku [User Info]
Posted 2009-05-19 20:22:56 and read 32768 times.

Awesome. It was like I was over your shoulder the whole time. I use to live in
Ewa Beach, so I would watch the Airliners land everyday.

Username: Fox9 [User Info]
Posted 2009-06-01 09:16:33 and read 32768 times.

Well done!

Scud running is exciting and dangerous, but we all have to do it. I'd prefer that to ice, any day.

I flow the Gulf coast most of my earlier years. Most of my scary flying was flying VFR through Houston - they report 2200' ceiling, but you still can't see the tops of many of their radio towers there. It's too big to divert around, unless you go off-shore. They fly blimps, float planes, they skydive, and there are helicopters darting around all day. And, they have a major airport north and south of downtown, with big jets trying to push through the clutter on their narrow corridors.

I don't mind the towers - they have lights on most of them, it's the guide wires you can't see.

Username: Motopolitico [User Info]
Posted 2009-06-03 19:43:49 and read 32768 times.

Excellent. Is this factual? If it isn't you've certainly done your research. Thank you for sharing it with the community.

Username: Hsw3rd [User Info]
Posted 2009-06-23 23:13:02 and read 32768 times.

It seems from the stories that you fly as well as you write. Keep up the good work, on both counts. I hope your career is as rewarding as mine. When I was a junior puke a senior capt for our commuter (early 80's) told me to change my attitude to have a long and happy career. He was right. I wish you well in yours.

Username: Jcamilo [User Info]
Posted 2009-09-01 18:02:01 and read 32768 times.

really cool article!!!!

Username: RWY8L [User Info]
Posted 2009-12-11 10:37:25 and read 32768 times.

Awesome articles! Always used to see you folks fly over my place in West Oahu. Mahalo for the great reading, "Santa". Happy Holidays!

Username: Fridgmus [User Info]
Posted 2009-12-19 23:05:20 and read 32768 times.

What a fantastic article Nick! Hope to hear more from you in the future!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Marc

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