“BJ, that takes care of communicating to the embassy’s that have choppers, what now?” asked Cindy.
“Cindy, can you setup a connection with VCATS so I can speak with Amy Lockerman please?” I asked.
“Sure thing BJ,” Cindy replied.
“While you are doing that, I’ve got to pee something bad. If you like I can get you another mug of coffee as I refill mine,” I replied.
“A refill would be great,” Cindy replied.
The first call after pee break and mug of coffee was to Amy Lockerman.
“Hello BJ, I have been expecting you to call after my boss jumped the gun on us and sent out your control packet to the embassies,” she replied.
“It has been an interesting morning, that is for sure,” I replied.
“Are you aware that three of the choppers out of service? One is in Khartoum Sudan, another is in Bamako Mali and the third is in La Paz Bolivia,” I asked.
“Yes. I was going to talk to you after Christmas to see if anything could be done. Our worst fears are happening; Black Water has thrown in the towel early,” Amy replied.
“I will know before the end of the day about the choppers. Who do I need to contact for in-flight refueling, or are we forced to use commercial airline routes?” I asked.
“McJames can order that, why?” Amy asked.
“Its 4500 miles from Morton to Bamako Mali across the Atlantic; it will take two in-flight refuelings,” I replied.
“The DOD has the equipment to do just that. They will cross bill the State Department directly for it. I will make the call McJames and authorize an open Purchase Order to use whenever you need it for our contract. Just send me an e-mail to confirm each time you use it. He will send you a 24/7 contact number you will have to call, try to give them as much lead time as you can. You will have the numbers within the hour,” Amy replied before she hung up.
I called McJames to ask if what I wanted was even possible to do.
“Sure put it all together on paper then call me,” he replied.
I dug in my desk for a world map then drove to Morton Field. When I walked past the offices, I saw Lorrie, Marcy and Jenny were in one of the large office areas with people I did not know. I assumed they were the owners of one of the Bell 407’s. It looked like they were signing papers, finalizing the purchase.
I walked on through and into the hanger where the choppers were lined up. I noticed several men in lab coats with Robbie and several of our new aviation techs assisting them near one of Bell 407’s.
“Robbie, how are things going – is it a success story yet?” I asked.
“The factory techs are doing the run ups and checks outside first. Then we bring them inside and remove all the inspection panels for them to finish the inspections. So far three have been completed and approved,” he replied.
“Can you pull the lead tech over? I need to confirm a couple things with him,” I asked.
“BJ, this is Glen Burton, chief field tech for Bell helicopters, Glen this is BJ the big boss,” Robbie made the introduction as we shook hands.
“Glen I need to put two of these 407’s in a C130. If my research is correct, if we remove the rotor blades they will fit side by side, nose to tail in the C130 cargo bay. Is that a feasible job?” I asked.
“Yes, you will have to mark the position of the blades and install them back in the same position – that way they will not have to be rebalanced. At that point, all you need to do is torque all the pins and retainers to specs, use new safety wire and cotter pins, check fly it and you should be good to go,” Glen replied.
“How long will all that take?” I asked. By now an audience had gathered round us. Pilots always find something to do around new planes especially when they are in the hangar. Why should it be any different with choppers here? All of them were in the hangar trying to look busy, they had moved in to listen in on the conversation.
“It will take two techs two hours per chopper. Where are they going and when if I may ask?” Glen said.
“One is going to Bamako Mali and the other is off to Khartoum Sudan, Africa if I can find pilots and technicians willing to go. Then if I can coordinate in-flight refueling in time, they would leave early tomorrow morning,” I replied.
I saw hands go up in the pilot group and two from the technician group each saying, “I’m in.”
“Do all of you have up to date passports?” I asked. Then I added, “You may not be back in time for Christmas.”
“We are still in,” the older of the pilots replied. The entire group of qualified C130 pilots were ex-military and so were the two C130 mechanics.
“ Ok then I need a flight plan to make it come together, you better get with it. Robbie, don’t take anything apart until I clear it with Lorrie,” I said as I walked away followed by the pilots.
They went to the pilot area and started pulling maps and charts while I walked over to the table where Marcy, Jenny and Lorrie had just finished with another owner looking at the world map I had brought from the office.
I spread the map out on the table and started explaining my problem, what I need to do and how it needed to happen. I explained about taking the rotor blades off, putting two copters in the one of the C130’s and sending two techs along on the flight. I explained about bringing the two out of service choppers back on the return trip
Marcy’s and Lorries eyes kept getting bigger and bigger. Their mouths opened to say something and then closed.
I pointed out the route I anticipated that the C130 would take and the areas than I thought the in-flight refueling would take place. My smarter than smart phone started dinging that I was receiving messages as I finished.
“How do we refuel in air” Lorrie asked as I was looking at the messages. One was from Amy and several from McJames with the contact names and numbers I needed.
“I have a number to call to make that happen,” I replied.
“Who is going to pay for all of this?” Marcy asked.
“The State Department, Amy has authorized a P.O. for it with add-on fees,” I replied as I sent her the e-mail from Amy.
Charlie Campbell approached the table, “As light as the load is going to be once we get to altitude, we can feather 2 engines and extend the fuel ranges a long way with no problem,” he said. He then added, “We are almost finished with the planning. We assumed that we would be using the international flight corridor between Bamako and Khartoum.”
“You know more about that than I do. Finish the planning with best guess for the refueling so I can call it in. I need a copy in writing because I have to send a copy to State and the DOD for the refuel,” I replied.
“Let’s go see Robbie and get the loading started,” I said. “One of you pilots is going to have be the loadmaster to help with the loading and getting the Bell strapped down.”
By the time we made it to the hangar the inspections were completed. Robbie and Glen Burton met us. “We are finished. You are good to go with all six of them,” Glen said.
“Robbie, these two are the ones going,” as I pointed them out, “Put JBG decals on them. Charlie is going to help you get them positioned in the C130 and strapped down,” I said.
“I am off for the next weeks. For a trip to Mali and Sudan you pay my expenses, give me some spending money and I will go along and help,” Glen replied.
I looked at Marcy and she nodded OK.
“I am a free man, no wife or kids to deal with so my holidays are quiet. This will add some excitement. You are going to fly my guys back to Long Island tonight anyhow so it will work out,” Glen replied to my questioning look. “I will help with the blade removal then head to the nearest Walmart to pick up some things.”
Another thought hit me while he was talking, “Charlie, you need to make sure that the two airports you are going to have fuel and will take our fuel cards,” I said. He nodded in reply.
Our conversation had been so involved that we were not listening to the airport radios. Now there was a definite thump, thump, thump coming to the airport. I knew from the sound what it was; I had heard it so many times.
The Black Hawks had flown straight in from the south east and turned to land in front of the main terminal in formation, “Military pilots for you, they never forget all that training,” I thought.
“You call for the marines?” Glen asked.
“ Hell no, they belong to us,” I replied to an astonished look.
The pilot stepped out of the 1st chopper, waved me over, “They made us sign for the freight, if you want to call it that. All six of them are loaded and they stressed that you are responsible for it and to lock it up good and tight,” he said as he slid the door back for me to look inside.
I looked at the crates; I had unloaded those kinds of freight many times in the sandbox. I went to each of the Black Hawks and looked in. Each of them was full of something different. “What the hell am I going to use this stuff for? This stuff is for serious turf defense.” I had a feeling and it was not good.
Dad and Jake walked to me while I was at the last chopper looking in. Jake looked over my shoulder and said, “Oh Shit, what are you going to do with that stuff?”
“I don’t know yet. But I don’t want anyone to know about it until I find out. Can you and Dad help me unload them? There is an empty shipping container over by the maintenance building. We can use the small forklift. We will load it on pallets,” I said.
The pilots knew what they were carrying and volunteered to help. Dad drove the forklift to and from the shipping container while Jake, the pilots and I stacked box after box of the stuff on pallets. The container was full when we finished.
The shipping container had multiple places for locks on the door and I put a new lock on every spot. I even thought about having one of the guys weld the doors shut but decided against it.
The shipping container was at best a very temporary storage for that hardware. I had to have something much more secure than that, and soon!
By the time Jake, Dad and I were finished, the two choppers were in the back of the C130 and Glen was on his way to a Walmart. The Bell crew were on their way back to MacArthur Airport on Long Island.
The C130 group had finished planning and they were double checking their numbers, with Lorrie closely watching.
I faxed the plan to the necessary people and called the number that McJames had sent me. I let Charlie talk directly with the controller. When he was finished I asked, “You have double checked the fueling coupler and verified that everything works correctly?”
“Yes ma-am, all of us have, twice,” he replied.
“You are leaving at 0400; go home, pack and rest,” I replied. “You have to do the same thing with one of the Black Hawks next week,” I replied.
I looked at Lorrie and Marcy, “Have you added all this to the insurance?”
“We are working on it, almost done,” Marcy replied.
“They are going to need travel cash just in case, four bags – one for each pilot of the group,” I replied.
Each bag had 25,000 in it in $100 bills. It would take two bags to fill the tanks on the C130 one time in the average market, if the location would not take the fuel card.
“Got it,” Lorrie replied.
I finally had a few minutes to spend with Jake and Dad as soon as I could find them.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Joe H.