Vicky left to go help with the new people who were being processed at the gym. I had a couple more things to do, and then I was going to the office to help as soon as there was a lull in activity.
I was waiting on the Sikorsky crew to show up. They were to be here by nine and I had told Johnson Black that I would meet them in the terminal.
I was looking out the big window with Lorrie at our two extended C130s preparing to leave on the freight run. They were in the run up area doing engine checks. One was to Charlotte and the other to Harrisburg. Moments later they were both gone.
I had just turned to walk with Lorrie to her office when the suits approached, “Ambassador Jones, Johnson Black president of Sikorsky and this is Alexander Pope, Sikorsky service North East. I would have approached you earlier but you have been extremely busy.”
“The technicians left BWI 40 minutes ago; they should be here any time. Have you got a few minutes to talk?”
“This is Executive Vice President Lorrie Smithfield Jones; she is over all JBG aviation. We can go to her office,” I replied.
Behind the closed door, Mr. Pope spoke first, “There were some misunderstandings in my office that led to the delay in your call getting to me that I need to apologize for. I can assure you that any future calls to my office will be handled in a much different fashion.”
“I appreciate that and I think your other large customers will too. I want to thank Mr. Black for his help and assistance in the matter,” I replied.
“It’s my understanding you bought these Blackhawks from our allies a short time ago?” Mr. Black asked.
“Yes, they were part of an aid package and we bought the chopper part of that package from them. I needed them to go with our embassy security contract. We have a lot of Blackhawks and a few Bell 407s scattered around Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America,” I replied.
“I see you also have other Lockheed aircraft in your flight line,” Mr. Black replied.
“We have a little of everything in the flight line; Beechcraft, Cessna trainers and Cessna business jets, Gulfstream G5s, 450, 550, Bombardier 200s, C130s, C5, Thrush crop dusters and Bell 407 choppers,” Lorrie replied. I could tell Lorrie had some pride in the aviation division.
A group of men came into the terminal wearing the Sikorsky logo on their uniform jackets and caps.
“Looks like the technicians are here. Lets take them to your shop and look things over, and then I would like a private meeting with you and Lorrie,” Mr. Black replied.
The meeting with Robbie went well; it was a really good group discussion. The factory techs wanted to know the process our helicopter techs used.
Robbie began the explanation, “First we have to reassemble the rotor blades on the chopper; they have to remove them to ship them. At least they identified the position they were removed from to help with balancing. Then we refill all the fluids; the EPA requires them to be drained prior to long term storage.”
“Then we verify that none of the rotating parts have been tampered with and are still secured and safety wired. They were shipped with the batteries removed. All the batteries are given a 48 hour slow charge and a 24 hour static rest period, then we test them to see if they meet the specifications to put in the chopper. If they are not, we install a new battery.”
“Before they are moved outside, a complete set of recording test gauges is installed on both engines via laptop; a printout of that goes into the permanent file. Then they are run for 30 minutes through the complete engine test and flight control test cycles.”
“If the chopper passes the preliminary test it is moved back into the shop and the fluids are drained, with a sample sent to a lab for analysis. At that point a complete structural, mechanical and electrical inspection is done. The radio shop pulls all the electronics for a quality test and/or upgrades.”
“After a review of all the defects, the appropriate mechanics are assigned to do the repairs. Any rotating parts that meet the advanced inspection requirement or look suspect, are given either magnetic, dye penetrate or x-ray inspection.”
“Who do you get to do the x-ray inspection?” one of their techs asked.
“We do it in-house; we have three different x-ray machines, some things we can do on the chopper with the portable unit, some can be done on the flat table machine,” Robbie replied.
“Once all the repairs are done we roll it to the paint shop for painting and decals; as soon as it’s dry it is reassembled for final testing and flying. When it passes that we move two of the rotors into a transport position for shipping in the C130s,” Robbie ended.
“That certainly covers everything by the book. The techs are staying in a motel on the island and will stay until you get all of the choppers you need in service. They have passports, expense accounts and can travel internationally if you need them to. They can unload their tools and get started. Show them where you want them to work and what choppers to start on,” Mr. Pope said.
The four of us went back to Lorrie’s office. Once there, Johnson Black outlined Sikorsky’s world wide service network and how Sikorsky was willing and hoping to improve the business partnership with JBG. It was a sales pitch and an attempt to make up for bad first impressions.
Sikorsky had several service centers on the African continent that were located on civilian/military joint use airports. Some of those were located in or relatively close to the US embassies we were supplying security for.
In the Middle East they had three centers – in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi – and JBG was going to have choppers in those countries as well as several adjoining countries. It might well be a beneficial business arrangement after all. The meeting lasted an hour and ended with a handshake and a business card with the private cell numbers of both Black and Pope.
I went to the office to help there. For days I wondered what to do with Ellen, Alice and Linda, now that I had gotten my wish that Woodman no longer wanted them back.
The remedy to the question had presented itself with the last group. All three of them helped the State Department trainers with protocol required in the daily embassy business. They were also to help train the persons we needed to run the embassy communications rooms.
Burt and Robert – working with our IT guys – had taken three offices and copied the design specs that the state department used to set up and control embassy- to- embassy communications. The three offices looked like the real communications room in any US embassy.
It was working very well; the girls were able to pass along some of the things about the embassy way of code speaking that I had worked to learn. They were giving the new people the course on diplomacy that the State Department used to, only now it could be done on our terms, like when they needed a break from other strenuous training.
I spent the rest of my day in the office helping out where-ever something needed to be done. All the while I was waiting to hear updates on the flight to Bamako. The three planes were not going land until at least 6 PM our time; midnight there.
It was 7 PM when the call came in that they had landed in Bamako Mali. Swapping the loads around was in progress; each of the C130s had unloaded one of the Suburbans they had carried to be replaced with a Blackhawk and the necessary men to bring the compliment of the embassy where they were going to the required 40 man level.
The rest of the men were flying general aviation to their destination. The day ended on a positive note with so many different pieces coming together and no surprises.
The rest of the week went that way. With the RRT as trainers I was able to back off the training, except for enough to stay in shape.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.