Waking up with Vicky this morning wrapped in my arms kept me grounded in this life I am now in. It’s been almost a week without Jenny in my bed and I missed her so much even though I swapped partners night to spend equal time with all my mates. I missed the all of them equal, the hugs the intimate touches even more I missed feeling the babies move in her big belly when I held her close.
Today finally came, Monday the day to go home. It started like the five previous mornings, waking up to a little mischief to end in a searing shower, followed by packing and breakfast to finish our visit this embassy. When we finally caught up with Vance and Josh at the plane we discussed a plan of attack for today’s activities.
Whatever happens today it depends on what transpires in the next few minutes –will we go to the last embassy together or will we split up? We will find out when I see if Jakes jet is ready to be picked up now or later today. If it’s ready now, we will fly back to Dubai for the plane and split up or go to the embassy as a team then go get the plane. After I checked my emails the decision was made for us, the plane was ready – we were going to Dubai
When we landed in Dubai, I transferred my clothes to Jakes plane and Vicky and I went our separate ways.
Vicky and Josh would fly in the JBG plane to Riyadh and pick up Bob and Linda Jackson. Then they would fly to Madrid Spain and wait for us to meet up there. We would refuel both planes there and then fly home. If all the timing was right we would arrive at Morton about 7 AM Tuesday.
The information was that the bodies would arrive at Dover between 11 and noon. This would give Vicky and me some family time before going to the base.
The reason Vicky and I split up was the rules required two to fly a plane of that class, a pilot and a copilot so that’s what we were going to do act as copilots. Vicky and I could fill that function for the airport security cameras at least. Once the plane was airborne it could fly on auto-pilot, once the information was programmed into the computer anyhow. The pilot could take off and land the plane by himself so the copilot was just a backup.
It was a little white lie we did, but it was the best we could do today. I did not want to tie up two of our pilots for three or four days on commercial flights getting the plane back to Morton Field. We were going to be short as hell on pilots again after having to supply four more to the embassy security division.
I emphasized that I wanted both Josh and Vance to rest during the day as much as possible.
Abdul-Hakim Mohammad and his son met us at the plane with a hand-full of paper work. Most of it was to do with warranty and copies of the inspections and sale receipts.
Thirty minutes later we were in the flight line waiting our turn to take off. I was in the co-pilots seat trying to concentrate on everything Vance was telling me.
Jack did the same thing on every flight we flew with him. If there was an experienced co-pilot on the flight, Jack had us change places with the co-pilot. If it was an inexperienced co-pilot, then I would crouch between the seats and he would coach both of us.
I was surprised as hell when Vance – after engine run-up and equipment checks at ground control’s instructions – said, “Pull it onto the runway and stop at the white line. Leave your hand on the throttles.”
“November 397 Golf, this is the tower, you are cleared to take off.”
“Tower N397G Roger, we are cleared to take off,” Vance said.
Vance put his hand on mine, “Steady acceleration to full throttle,” as he pushed the throttles and my hand to the throttle stops.
“Now put both hands on the yoke, maintain it in the neutral position. Do you see the air speed indicator on your panel? Use the glance method – don’t stare at it – look mostly at the planes position on the runway keep it on the white line please. Now call out the airspeed as we go,” Vance said.
“60 knots, 70, 80.”
“Do you remember what I said rotate speed was?” Vance asked.
“Yes, 150 knots,” I replied.
“90, 100, 110, 120,” I said.
“Do you feel the plane getting light like it wants to fly?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“At 150 pull back on the yoke somewhat slowly, maintain the 150 air speed, no more that 20 degrees climb. Not too aggressive, don’t bang the tail on the runway, and don’t stall the plane,” Vance said.
At 150 I pulled back on the yoke and quickly lost sight of the runway.
“Fly 280 and level off at 20 thousand feet, secure the landing gear,” Vance said.
“Roger,” I said remembering more of the things that Jack had taught me as I glanced for the landing gear switch and then flipped it to the closed position.
“Gear doors are closed and I have three red lights,” I replied.
“That’s good,” Vance replied.
“We are climbing through 18000, throttle back to 60% and level out,” Vance said.
I pulled the throttles back, watching the computer display and lowered the nose. “We are at 19500 and 490 knots,” I replied.
“I’ve got the plane,” Vance said.
As soon as I saw him take his yoke, I took my hands away from mine. My palms were dripping sweat and my muscles hurting. I did not realize I had been that tense. I dried them on a paper towel.
“In 20 minutes we will start setting up to land. I will handle that. You did outstanding, an excellent job. Jack was not kidding when he told us that you picked up things quickly, were a fast learner and remembered what you were taught.” Vance said.
Half an hour later we were parking in the general aviation section of Kuwait International Airport.
With my smarter than smart phones – one clipped on each side of my belt – and my briefcase holding my two laptops left sitting by the stairs, Vance and I walked around the plane with him pointing out more things he said I should for as a pilot, like looking for oil leaks and anything else that could be wrong.
After all, this was the first flight in a while and a seven thousand mile flight was tomorrow; we wanted everything to be right. He did a more thorough job than normal.
Without having Vicky by my side, I needed to be more diligent taking notes of the conversations. Vicky always took her own set of notes and if I missed anything we could compare notes.
The day went on like all the rest minus Vicky, meet, greet, and interviews – same procedures, just a different place. Ambassador Rick Abbott – like the others on this trip – had the workup sheet from the security audit that Victor had ordered. He wanted to know what actions were being taken from the audit.
Ambassador Abbott didn’t know that I already had a copy of the report in an e-mail on my laptop, but also the approved request from the State Department.
“You are getting another 407, five additional employees and an additional Suburban as action items from the audit,” I replied.
“What? When? The audit was just completed Friday! It’s not even had time to get to someone’s desk yet,” he said.
I turned the laptop around after I opened the folder for Kuwait. Then I flipped through the pages of his audit, only now there were hand written notes and initials of high-ranking State Department officials. Then I opened the sheets stamped ‘Approved’ for the additional people and equipment.
“The when is within the next ten days for the people and the Bell 407? The Suburban’s were ordered a couple months ago as part of the normal replacement cycle. The old ones will just have to stay in use a while longer. I will use the new ones to fill the extra request,” I said.
I finished my business and an hour later was sitting in the co-pilot seat again. We had to make a circle back over Saudi territory to avoid the continuing insanity that was Iraq. Then it was over Jordan, Israel and then the Mediterranean Sea. Josh Vicky, Bob and Linda were already in Madrid enjoying the sights. We had a long night ahead of us.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Joe H.