Fortunately, I got a decent night’s sleep last night. I woke up at 0400 and hopped on the crew bus 45 minutes later and headed to the airport with about 40 of my compatriots. Jocularity abounded as we all put aside our thoughts of home and put on our game faces to get this deployment underway.
I wasn’t at all disappointed at the airplane an hour later when the flight engineer came back during his preflight and announced that we were broke, thanks to an engine fire light that wouldn’t test properly. Those lights are always important to have working properly, particularly so when you’re flying over the open ocean for hours on end. This meant another day off in St. John’s, which is a fun little town, the eastern most point in North America.
We spent an hour or so in the lobby of the FBO that morning awaiting word on whether or not we could get fixed today as we watched the buildings 100 feet away disappear in the morning fog. Our home base was going to launch a rescue bird to come up and fix us later in the day and we wanted to be ready for them, and also have a plan in place for how we were going to get around Hurricane Katia moving her way up through the North Atlantic. We bided our time by setting up Skype accounts so we’d have phone numbers and voicemail during this deployment. E mail me and I’ll give you my number if you’d like to leave me a voicemail. It’s pretty cool, although I was a little disappointed in the calling capability on Skype, I kept getting disconnected when I called home because there wasn’t enough bandwidth in the hotel. That concerns me because I’m wondering how much bandwidth there is going to be in the desert for the next 4 months.
By 10:30 we were back in our hotel rooms, and after a little nap to make up for the 5 hours of fitful sleep the night before, 6 of us rallied up in the lobby for lunch and a little exploration. Lunch was held at the Yellow Belly brew pub where we had wood fired pizzas and a sampling of the beer brewed right there in house.
After lunch it was time to walk it off and we made our way toward Signal Hill, truly the furthest east you can go in North America. Signal Hill was given its name back in the old days before any kind of electronic communication was available. As a major port, St. John’s received a lot of shipping from around the world. Merchants would send their people up to the top of the hill with a colored flag. When their particular ship came into the harbor the flag bearer would fly his employer’s colors so they could prepare for the arrival of their wares.
More historically, Signal Hill was also where Guglielmo Marconi completed his first ever Transatlantic wireless transmission with Cornwall, England back in December 1901.
Hearing Marconi’s name always reminds me of a lesson I learned in pilot training when dealing with in-flight emergencies. My instructor pilot always asked me who contributed more to aviation, Marconi or Bernoulli? While the radio plays an integral role in flying as we know it today, Bernoulli of course, invented lift and that’s what makes an airplane fly, not radios. The lesson is one of priorities; Aviate, navigate and then communicate when dealing with that next in-flight emergency.
After our visit to Signal Hill it was time for another nap, although this time it was unplanned. The walk, the cold and rain, and the beer conspired against my consciousness as I slipped into a mild coma as I attempted to write another blog entry. I woke up just in time to adjust my position in the chair and sneak in another half an hour of sleep before rallying up downstairs at 1800 for the next day’s plan.
Dinner was back at the Yellow Belly because the grilled salmon looked a whole lot better than the pizza was, and the pizza was pretty good. The salmon was even better, grilled to perfection, topped with a chipotle hollandaise sauce and coupled with steamed veggies and risotto somethingorothers that resembled hush puppies but with flavor and texture. Washed down with a couple more pints I knew I’d be ready for bed.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a local organic deli and picked up lunch for the next day. Tony remarked that going to war has changed a lot since his grand dad left in 1943. Back then guys heading overseas in liberty ships had to worry about u-boats, icebergs, and who knows what else, and we were just worried about how well the organic peppers on our open-range chicken sandwiches might sit with us on a 7 hour flight after spending the night in our 4 star hotel.