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Tales from the cockpit (thanks, Droopy)

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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:45 PM
Original message
Tales from the cockpit (thanks, Droopy)
Thanks to Droopy for the inspiration to write some of these down while I still remember them.

Background: For the last 10 years of my career ('89 to '99) I flew 747s for Nippon Cargo Airlines, based at JFK.

Flying cargo was not only much easier than dealing with passengers, it was a lot more interesting.

The Circus Plane, or...Noah's Ark?

I flew into LaGuardia around 2 p.m. and got a taxi to our hangar at JFK. Checked my company mail, put in some revisions to my approach charts, and chatted with the office guys for a while. Went up to the crew lounge to try and get a nap in preparation for our 2 a.m. departure to Anchorage. It's hard for me to sleep during the day, so I wound up reading for a few hours.

At about 11:00, the time I'd be turning in at home, I splashed some cold water on my face and grabbed a cup of coffee and a smoke.
OK, let's get it on.
The other two guys on my crew had arrived and we exchanged pleasantries.
Stopped by the dispatcher's desk to take a look at the weather forecast and the load manifesto to see what kind of trash we were hauling tonight.
Cargo pilots refer to themselves as 'trash haulers' or 'freight dogs'.
We'd have the formal briefing at midnight.

"Hey, Suzuki? What's this? We're hauling llamas, camels, zebras?"
"Yes, trof-san. Tonight you fly Siegfried and Roy's circus for Japan tour. No Cats. Just other animals."
Well I'll be damned. Never a dull minute.

We waded through the usually boring but necessary briefings and paperwork and arrived shipside for the preflight.
When I stepped off the stairs onto the main deck I was eyeball-to-eyeball with a zebra.
He blinked and whuffed and put his head down to munch on some hay in his stall.
They were the same kinds of stalls we used to haul thoroughbreds, but that's another story.
The place smelled like a stable, not unpleasant at all.
I made my way up the ladder to the upper deck and cockpit.
Introduced myself to the two S&R wranglers who accompanied the livestock.

The cockpit preflight, engine start, taxi, and takeoff were uneventful. In fact, aside from our exotic 'passengers' the whole flight was uneventful, as most of them are.
Once we were at cruising altitude with the autopilot on and all the after take off stuff out of the way, I excused myself from the cockpit.
Back in the galley I pulled the huge tray of raw veggies that was part of the provisions that commissary had put on in JFK.
I stepped back in the 8 seat passenger compartment where one of the wranglers was still awake.
"Is it OK to feed the animals?"
"Whatcha got there? Broccoli, carrots? Sure. They'll love it."

I filled a barf bag with veg and went down to the main deck.
For the next 15 or 20 minutes I was like a kid at the circus all over again.
Except this time I got to feed and touch the animals.
They seemed to really enjoy the munchies. The zebras and camels were very docile.
I was a little leery of the llamas. I knew about the spitting, but these guys were gentlemen. Or ladies? Anyway they were happy to eat from my hand and let me stroke their heads and necks.

We landed in Anchorage at sunup where the plane would be refueled and a new crew would take it on to Tokyo's Narita Airport.
We headed for the Hilton where I fell asleep about 17 seconds after I hit the bed and dreamed of riding a camel across the desert.
;-)

About the big cats: One of the wranglers told me that the cats always had to go by boat. "They just go nuts on an airplane. Too high strung, I guess". So the cats had left by freighter a week or so earlier.



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bicentennial_baby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:50 PM
Response to Original message
1. That is a very cool story!
:bounce:
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:54 PM
Response to Original message
2. Tigers high strung? Who knew?
Kidding, but it's interesting that they couldn't fly them anywhere.



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auntAgonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 01:15 PM
Response to Original message
3. YAY tales from the cockpit
Excellent story.

:applause:

Glad you didn't have to deal with the big cats though.
I hope to read more of your adventures.

I'm going to share this one with a friend who did cargo flights for FedEx. He'll love it.
thanks for posting.

aA
kesha
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 01:32 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. Big cats on a cargo ship, get marooned in lifeboat with passenger...a book, maybe? nt
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 05:56 PM
Response to Reply #7
14. You may have something there.
Go for it.
:-)
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 02:12 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. Tell him 'Hi' from a fellow freight dog.
:hi:
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Flaxbee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 01:20 PM
Response to Original message
4. nice, thanks for posting...
I enjoyed it! :hi:
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grace0418 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 01:24 PM
Response to Original message
5. LUCKY! I'm so jealous!
What a great story. Thanks for posting it!
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Robb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 01:32 PM
Response to Original message
6. Thanks for the story, trof!
Make sure you add this to yer journal, could be a good use for it. :hi:
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 01:34 PM
Response to Original message
8. Big cats can't be easily sedated. nt
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MajorChode Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 02:23 PM
Response to Original message
10. I've always called them box haulers
Unless you're hauling blood and urine lab samples. Then you're a pee hauler.

They swarm the DFW area at night flying everything from Caravans to 747s.

I know a retired pilot that flew freight at one point in his career and he had a lot of interesting stories to tell. He said they were hauling elephants once and they had been well fed and watered before the flight. They had set up some type of small pool around them to contain the waste, but when they pitched down for the descent the stuff breached the levy and a lot of it surged into the cockpit.
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lizziegrace Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 02:25 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. Ack!
x(
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 02:28 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. I like 'box haulers' too. We had some Freight Dog T shirts made.
Very cool.
;-)
Don't know what happened to mine. My daughter might have taken it.
I had a pretty eclectic collection of Ts and sweatshirts from around the world. She liked to 'borrow' them.
:-)
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 02:34 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. Oh yeah, we hauled a lot of toxic chemicals also.
55 gallon drums of stuff they can't send in the baggage hold on passenger flights.
One of our pilots had a degree in chemical engineering and was probably the only one who knew what that crap really was.
You'd see something that looked like 'Seven (7) 55 gal. cont. mesothesobromothalidamide' on the manifest and think "OK, another 7 barrels of *something*."

One night as we were taxiing out he said "You know, if we should crash just after takeoff they'll have to evacuate Long Island."
whew
I think I was better off not knowing.
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auntAgonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 12:03 AM
Response to Original message
15. kick for the night owls.
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Droopy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 08:12 AM
Response to Original message
16. Excellent!
:dem:
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never cry wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 12:47 PM
Response to Original message
17. Thank you!
I have enjoyed Droopy's tales over the years and enjoyed this one too, I hope more will follow!
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Callalily Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 01:01 PM
Response to Original message
18. Great story, and what fun
to feed circus animals!

Hope you plan on sharing more tales with us.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 02:27 PM
Response to Reply #18
19. OK. I'll tell you about the thoroughbreds in a new post.
And thanks.
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