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Everything posted by hlminx

  1. Coff looked so peaceful as he slept on one of the couches in the Pilot’s lounge.. I almost hated to wake him, but I knew he had to be off as soon as possible, so rather than shaking him, I gently wafted my steaming cup of Coffee under his nose and waited for the reaction… His nose started to twitch and after inhaling he smiled and opened his eyes. “Where did you get that from?” he asked. Knowing Coff to be THE connoisseur of roasted beans on the planet I wasn’t sure if I had sparked his curiosity or just offended him! “Peet’s Café, over on Webster Avenue, just down the road”, I said cautiously. “Not bad at all”, he replied. I breathed a sigh of relief as he gave me a hug. “I do, however, have a present for you” he continued, “and this is from my private stash”. He pulled out a small pouch of what appeared to be his own blend, which I gratefully received, “and, you will want this too” he continued, holding the Mutley’s baton out to me. I looked quizzically at it for a moment. It looked pretty much as I remembered if from last time; no glowing, no humming, no snakes (thankfully), nothing that would allude to it being anything other than the genuine article. Even though suspicion is a regular part of my other life as ‘Sharon’, a heightened sense of self-preservation would not go amiss here, given some of the reports I had read recently from JG and Tim. I took it from his grasp and pushed it into the side pocket of my rucksack; I’m sure it will all be fine. “You take care and have safe travels.” he said as he waved to me and disappeared off to his waiting Taxi. I wasn’t due to take off till the early morning, so I sat for a few moments to finish my coffee and then headed back to my hotel where I met up with some of the crew I would be travelling with the following day. Grant, my co-pilot, and Andy, the Crew Chief, were both sat in the hotel bar when I collected my room card and waved to me to join them. As this was a military ‘goodwill’ trip, I was honoured to be taking the left seat, although Grant and I would share the piloting duties. We would be taking the USAF version of the Osprey across no fewer than 8 states over the next couple of days, and I could barely contain my excitement. It had been a while since I had flown a Tilt-Rotor, and although my preference would have been for a C130 or a A400M as I was more ‘current’ on them, I was looking forward to the incredible flexibility that you can only get with an aircraft that wants to be both a fixed wing and a helicopter. It really was an amazing feat of engineering, and although they were not used as much as they could have been in the military across the globe, they still had a special place in it. The aircraft was set up for carrying soldiers as opposed to vehicles, so the cargo bay was kitted out with seats, although this was a matter of opinion as they gave no indication of comfort whatsoever, but then again, this whole aircraft was utilitarian, so I expected to need a chiropractor when I got back to the UK. Crew Chief Andy had organised the taxi to the Alameda Naval Air Station for 3am, so I was up at 2, showered and ready in the lobby by 2:45. Alameda had been decommissioned as an active NAS in 1997 but is still used as a testing ground by the popular TV series ‘Mythbusters’, and for ad-hoc ‘missions’ like ours. The USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier was sited at the other side of the airfield and was now a museum depicting her active duty during WWII, Vietnam, and later as part of the Apollo program, recovering astronauts from Apollo 11 and 12. Our planned altitude on the first leg from Alameda to the Air Force Base at Ellsworth would be 17 to 19 thousand feet depending on weather. The expected westerly winds would extend our range, but with our heavy load of fuel and passengers, it meant we would need to refuel en-route. Pre-flight done, and our 24 passengers in the rear, we were ready to go. The USS Hornet is in the background Thats a nasty crosswind Climbing out and the sun will be up any second The speed at which the Osprey goes from ground to air is much quicker than one would expect, even with the load we were carrying.. this aircraft wants to fly. I, however, still wanted to do a bit of sightseeing over San Francisco bay on the way out as I had never seen Alcatraz Island from the air. We went round for a second pass much lower, and with the sun up, we could see a lot better Flying past Benicia, Martinez and Concord Heading out to the East, we would leave California, cross Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming before our planned stop for the night at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. Although the winds had been favourable, it invariably came the time to re-fuel, and as this was both a goodwill tour, and from what Grant had briefed before we left Alameda, a ‘training’ session for all concerned, we would top up the tanks mid-air. Now, personally, not having done this before, I was not allowed to even attempt it (and quite happy to put my hand up to the fact!) It was pretty intense, let alone dangerous, but necessary training for those who pilot the CV-22. I didn’t think taking photographs at this crucial time would have been distracting and inappropriate, so I will satisfy your curiosity with a video link which I think pretty much sums up what we went through.. https://binged.it/2MCs8pz Tanks topped off, we continued through Idaho close to the border with Utah …and then into Wyoming. Passing over the Bighorn National Forest A few more miles on, just North East of Gilette and Sleepy Hollow, a large dustbin shaped mountain finally came into view. It’s one of those iconic places which, unless you have seen it in real life, you would question its very existence! There were no alien runways, no ‘piggly-wiggly’ trailers hauling equipment, and no false anthrax warnings for the local population. Devil’s Tower is now a tourist attraction which welcomes thousands or tourists every year, fascinated by the Laccolithic butte (where magma is injected between existing sedimentary rock layers, forcing them upwards). The site holds significant spiritual significance to the Native American Tribes, and is known as Bear Lodge, by the Crow, Lakota and Cheyenne, and Bear’s Tipi by the Arapahoe. We did a couple of circuits of the site then turned East in case anyone decided to report us. Crossing over the Black Hills National Forest into South Dakota, I couldn’t help but hum along with Doris Day in my head, “the pines are so high that they kiss the sky above”. As light began to fade and we came into the pattern for Ellsworth Air Force Base, I could understand why Doris and Howard Keel loved the ‘Indian country’ so much. Approaching the Ellsworth pattern Downwind Days End... Our flight the next morning was after sun-up, so I might actually get a lie in.. on an AFB? Who was I kidding… Located just Northeast of Rapid City, Ellsworth is home to no fewer than 5 units, hosted by the 28th Bomb Wing, and hardly a quiet place to overnight. Time to do a walkaround and prepare for departure Our flight today would take us North to Deadwood (I just had to say I’d seen it), then Southeast to Sioux City, Iowa, and then to Eppley, Nebraska, where I would be dropped off, and our aircraft and passengers would continue to their destination of Offutt Air Force Base. Lining up at Runway 31 Ellsworth. The bright start to the day was now turning into a heat haze. We headed North leaving Rapid City behind us …and on to Deadwood just past those Black Hills Turning South East, we followed the I90 for a while. When the I90 intersected with the Missouri River we followed that all the way down to Sioux Gateway airport. Back in 1989, Sioux City was the unintended destination for a United Airlines DC10 which suffered a catastrophic engine failure, resulting in all loss of hydraulics. The story of the crash and the efforts of the cockpit crew, local fire and rescue services and the Air National Guard, are remarkable piece of history. Approaching Sioux Gateway Airport After our brief flypast at Sioux we continued due South On the approach to Eppley the ATC advised they had suspended inbound and outbound flights due to some protestors who had managed to get out onto the field and were a danger to aircraft movements. Waiting for options from ATC We pressed ATC for an alternative as we had ‘orders’ from the USAF to offload me at Eppley, and after some hasty deliberations in the Tower, we were finally granted clearance to “hover” out to the far East of the airport where there was an area of grassland... we just had to get close enough for me to descend by a wire. Not strictly PC, but hey, this is ATWC so we must be creative when necessary... I was hooked up and having made sure my rucksack was still attached to my harness by carabiner, I was dropped rather unceremoniously out the back. Whooooaaah... s**t Back on the ground, I made a line for one of the Aircraft hangars and put in a call to Mike. His number went straight to Voicemail. Dammit, I could be here for a while.. I persuaded one of the hanger mechanics to take me over to the main terminal where I had to make my excuses to the authorities about my unorthodox arrival, and then having delivered a reasonably believable story, I was free to go. Still noting from Mike.. where was he? Never mind, I would find somewhere to grab a cold beer and keep myself occupied while I waited. No sense in crying over spilt milk is there. (Jess, want me to send this to you when I’m finished?)
  2. Oh no... i'll be away then Can someone share some pics?
  3. Matt.. your written words are music to my ears..Rarely do i get the pleasure in my day to day of such wonderfully written narrative! So immersive.. I'm struggling with some technical issues but i will be there to collect the baton. I bloody well hope its not still 'shining'. Do i need a geiger-counter? Can you do me a fave and bring me a good dose of your best dark blend.. caffeine is required!
  4. Happy belated birthday Andrew.. I know the date signifies the date that the 'stork' brought you ...but i still reckon it was a 747.. Hope you have great memories of this year's celebrations. ATB S
  5. .. channeling Julia Roberts: "it was so good i almost pee'd my pants"... and that was just from the Weather forecast! Oh dear Tim, chucking your cookies at 20+k ft is no fun at all. Just make sure you use a cotton bud to get the last of it out of the overhead switches.. I'm slightly concerned by the 'glowing' baton you have there.. if your hair starts falling out all of a sudden, and you start to look like the Ready Break kid, be sure to share [obviously not the 'ailment'] so we can make our hasty exit Stage Left. ps. Judging by the attention Yanet is generating, I'm not sure that having 'rear end' work would help keep me in the shadows, which my covert work requires.. plus I'd be worried that i'd become a 'shelf' for beer glasses, elbows etc..
  6. I'd be interested to see what everyone has to say on this topic... I tried PFE (Pro Flight Emulator) about 2 years ago and hated it so much i sent it back to Amazon! I've been itching to try PRO ATC/X for ages but i can't justify cost/time.. All the reviews i've seen have been mixed, but the positive side is that it is constantly being updated and improved.. Looking forward to the comments! :-)
  7. hlminx


    Oh heavens.. some great shots there..
  8. Nice one Al Have you been there more recently? Lance is begging me to go.. i think he wants to check out his old haunts, and the place at the end of RWY09 where he used to go fishing off the end of the rocks at night ;-) I'd love to go and fly in there just to say i've done it. Those cross winds have got to be experienced to be believed
  9. I did have an older FSX add on of the vulcan but it doesn't want to load now.. heaven knows why. My husband was the only one that ever flew it so i might not bother with the JF.. although i reckon it will be a vast improvement on my old one ;-)
  10. My husband and his family lived in the RAF quarters building at the south east of the runway in the 70s. Every day they would watch vulcans and other RAF aircraft depart, In Gibraltar X (Aerosoft) his old home is modelled too.. One of my favourite add-ons although i've never been there.
  11. Outstanding Pirep JG Once again you take that bar and shift it up a couple of notches. Brilliant piece of writing, and some great pics. Ps. I'm surprised you managed to fall asleep at Bill's brother's wedding.. surely the strangled cat singer would have alerted you to 'audible danger' Pps. Was that actually Tom Hardy getting some RLE with the Royal Marine Commandos? Swoon !!
  12. hey Alan... happy reminders of when the stork brought you
  13. Lovely shots there.
  14. Brilliant leg Tim, and loving the pics.. Good to hear that you didn't fall foul of the dodgy fuel out there.. Nothing worse than being at 23,000 ft and having a questionable quality of gas. Enjoy a few bevvies while you can. I sense things are going to be hotting up very soon with ATWC
  15. Fret not, Matt.. the Baton is in safe hands..
  16. Loved your Pirep JG.. as always a great yarn with plenty of suspense and intrigue Some great pics of the Panama Canal too.. is that an add on? Keep us posted with the next update on Putinfeld.. 'Sharon' will need to stay clear
  17. Fantastic write up JG, and thoroughly entertaining (well, it would have been if I hadn't been there too) Thanks for getting me to Panama City in 'style'... always had a soft spot for the L1011 Joe, I think I deserve a rest! Getting the snakes and "Baton" (cough) to Eldorado was one challenge but then having to do the quick change into my alter ego Sharon, beating JG back to the airport, and then getting straight back on the Tristar without any (beauty) sleep...
  18. I'm ON it ! Just finishing off clearing my outstanding crossgrade licences (2 to go) but now i know what i've got, its a teeny tiny excuse to take advantage of the offer..
  19. Why is it that you always get a phone call just when you are right in the middle of an important negotiation? The mechanic from ACME Air Maintenance, or whatever it was called, was giving me the run-around, and I wasn't even wearing a skirt! What is it with mechanics and women? There was no way he was going to charge me 30% more for the privilege of changing a landing light! I was determined to ignore the buzzing of my mobile until this guy had lowered his extortionate price. Even though I wasn't paying for it, I’d be damned if I was going to be fleeced, even if someone else would ultimately be paying for it! Eventually, he gave in and I could finally check who had been calling my mobile incessantly for the last 10 minutes. Kieran! I’d not expected him for at least another 3 hours, so he must have broken the sound barrier to get here that quick. I sent him a text and told him to meet me at the coffee joint in the International building and left ‘rip-off’ mechanic a deadline of 2 hours for the light to be swapped out. Even though I’d only been flying for Joe and the Hangar for a couple of years, on and off when it fitted in with my IT job, and my <cough> clandestine work for Philippe, I was more than familiar with the dangers of transporting the baton, and some of the unsavory characters that would be tailing us along the way. I had come close to some of Putinfeld’s goons on a number of occasions and had always managed to stay one or two steps ahead, but it seemed that the goons had got a bit too close for me to have the luxury of a decent night’s sleep before heading out. Kieran had 'commandeered' a rather beautiful and iconic Vulcan, which I would have done anything to have used for my leg, but Kieran had to see it safely 'home', so the baton was going to have to come with me via GA. Ouch! GA. Dark forces are closing in and I had to look after the baton in a Cessna 208! I wished Kieran a safe journey and pushed the baton into my rucksack... time for a quick change of clothes and hair then I could be on my way. I swiped the key card and opened the door to my hotel room, throwing the rucksack on the bed and flicking the TV onto Sky News. At least that was something familiar wherever I was in the world, even if all they could report on was Brexit! I went through the selection of wigs in my luggage and settled on a short dark do, that at a distance, I could even pass as a man. Black jeans, a combat jacket and a make-up free face finished the look. I wasn't due to check out till the following morning but that would be part of the diversion... If the Goons had got this close, they would be waiting for me to surface from my room in the early hours, but I would be on my way with the baton and cargo this afternoon and in Eldorado by nightfall. The Landing Light was replaced and working so I was OK to go, once I had a rubber stamp on my cargo. Now, don't get me wrong, there is very little that I won't transport, given my 'varied' jobs, but the one thing I will NEVER transport is arachnids! Just as well that my intended cargo was... Snakes.... Yeah, yeah, I can hear it now! Samuel L Jackson, Snakes on a plane... I never even watched that movie which is odd for me as I watch EVERY aircraft movie there is, even the useless b-movies that leave me screaming at the TV “that’d never happen” and “who was the technical consultant for this piece of tripe”. My precious cargo of those beautiful but venomous reptiles needs to get from Simon Bolivar to Columbia, and no one else wanted to take it! Even my friend Philippe, who gives me many of my globetrotting assignments, didn’t want to touch this one. I should have followed his example, but I promised Joe I would get the baton to Eldorado by any means possible, so this was it. The Cessna 208 was a lease from an outfit that bought up old military aircraft, and in pretty poor condition, but my job was clear... get the slithery things to Columbia and then get back to my ‘job’ in the UK. My fellow pilot on this leg was a twentysomething guy called Chuck from Baltimore who was down in South America trying to get his flying hours up by flying cargo, or whatever else he could get his hands on before sending another pile of airline job applications. He seemed a nice chap, and had a good sense of humor, so this trip should be a breeze. The last job for this bird had been passengers, so some of the seats would need to be taken out to allow the wooden crates to be loaded. One row of seats would be left in place for the two 'snake wranglers' and the third guy who I guessed was the owner of the reptiles. He looked more like Jack Nicholson with greased back, thinning hair, dark glasses, with one sinister looking arched eyebrow, and a thick cigar between his whitened teeth. Moments after the truck arrived with the crates, the airport customs arrived and demanded to see our export and broker paperwork. Not being one for the legalities of transporting dangerous animals in this part of the world, I hoped that everything had been stamped, and was in order, so if they were happy then I was happy, but they seemed overly suspicious, and wanted to see inside the crates. One by one, the reptile wranglers opened the crates up, using their hooks to keep the occupants from slithering out. After what seemed an age, the customs officer gave a slight shrug of his shoulders and handed the paperwork back. At last we could be on our way. Chuck and I made sure that they were secure, and the reptiles unlikely to escape. ‘Jack’ had already taken up his seat in the cabin and was barking in Spanish on his mobile and chewing on his cigar. It wouldn’t be a long trip thankfully. Although the authorities had given us confirmation we could leave, the sudden manner in which they had arrived, and the potential danger of opening crates with live reptiles in, played on my mind. I’d better make sure I was on my toes this trip. Lining up at Runway 03 ready for take off Continuing our climb Not a lot to see apart from green hills and valleys on our way to 13,000 feet As our route would take us over the mountains, we were soon assigned a cruise of 21,000 feet. It wasn't a problem for our Caravan which could happily go up to 25 but it would be a waste of fuel if we didn't need to. On top at 21,000 feet Passing 'San Francisco' on the starboard side (the 'other' one), and passing over the huge Parque Nacional Complejo Valcanico Dona Juana Cascabel Almost 2 hours into our journey to the Columbian border when I overheard a call from a business jet that got my immediate attention. The accent was unmistakable. Had Putinfeld tracked me down that quickly? Surely not... even he can’t have figured out my strategy that fast, but it was still a possibility. Our delay in leaving Ecuador and our significantly slower speed gave Putinfeld and his goons to catch up. It was possible that they hadn’t identified our flight, but I couldn’t take the chance that the baton might end up in the wrong hands. Pulling the baton from my flight bag and tucking it in my jacket, I told Chuck to take the controls, while I went back into the rear of the plane to check that none of our cargo had managed to get lose. Eager to get some flight time, he readily agreed. The reptile wranglers were deep in conversation and Jack appeared to be sleeping under his hat, although he still had his half-chewed cigar in his mouth. Although the crates were secure, I had noticed during our delay leaving SEGU that some of the crates had an inspection hatch, and that was just about to get me out of trouble. Hoping that the occupants of the crate were not going to have time to react, I swiftly unclipped the hatch of the closest crate, and pushed the baton in. Checking behind me, I was relieved that that no one had noticed my actions, still, I pretended to check ropes and then walked back up to the cockpit. I almost jumped when ‘Jack’ stopped me as I squeezed past his seat, grabbing my arm and demanding to know what was going on. “Just a routine check on our passengers” I lied “everything is secure”. I let Chuck keep hold of the controls while I monitored the ATC, listening for signs of Putinfeld’s flight, and their ultimate destination. Perhaps I had been a bit hasty in concealing the baton, particularly in a place that I hadn’t really considered the difficulties in retrieving it! Damn... The ATC conversation confirmed my fears that Putinfeld, or at least some of his goons, were indeed heading for Eldorado too. I hoped that he hadn’t worked out which of Joe’s team was on this leg, and what aircraft I was in, as they might spot me, even with this disguise. They would arrive well in advance of us, and if they had worked it out, I needed to be prepared. Approaching Bogota and our destination of Eldorado (not to be confused with the cheesy early 90s TV series of the same name), we had to slot in behind a long line of jets, but I was in no hurry, the dim light of dusk might be an advantage. As we neared Bogota, I got Chuck to request ATC have a customs team to meet us at the stand to assist with a possible escaped reptile. Chuck’s eyes widened, and he looked nervously back into the cabin and I put my index finger to my lips; he got the message and visibly relaxed back into his seat. It wouldn't be ATWC without some moody sunset shots would it.. Approaching the turning point to join the ILS. I could see the long line of aircraft on approach. Turning onto the approach for Runway 13R we were caught in a strong crosswind, and at over 8000feet above sea level, I needed to be careful I didn't run out of height. Blown off course at a particularly inopportune moment.. Made it down in one piece, although I think the undercarriage might need an overhaul after that bumpy landing. We were directed to one of the stands away from the passenger gates and in a quiet area. I was wondering how long we would have to wait for the authorities to turn up. Nearing the stand, I caught sight of several burly looking men who, although trying to look like ground crew, seemed not to know what they should be doing. Once out engine was shut down, they began walking towards us, and even in the dim light, I spotted one of them trying, unsuccessfully, to hide his revolver inside his overalls. My mind raced with thoughts of a counter move, but with the baton safe, I could probably stall them with the 'lose snake' scenario until help arrived. Not a moment too soon, the customs team arrived, together with several police vehicles. With weapons drawn, the police chief instructed us to exit the aircraft with our arms raised. The goons, realising that they were in the middle of a customs sting, were forced to abandon their plan and retreat into a nearby hanger. Chuck, ‘Jack’ and the wranglers were ushered into a police van and taken to a holding area in the main airport building while the crates were unloaded from the aircraft. Needless to say, there was no sign of any escaped snakes on the plane… Sat in a holding cell with a completely hideous cup of coffee, I wondered how long it would take for the authorities to start asking questions on the unflattering selection of wigs in my luggage, and the number of stamps in my passport. The door opened and Philippe strode in, his arms open and a vaguely amused look on his face. “Ma Chère” he began, “how do you get yourself into these situations”.. It wasn’t a question. Before I could come back with some retort, the Police chief came in and sat down opposite me. “We have been trying to crack open this smuggling ring for months and it looks like we have caught them red-handed this time”. “Smuggling snakes?” I began. “No, money” he replied “a lot of money. Each of those crates had a false bottom which was full of it”. 'Jack' had been running quite a nice little operation across the border, and his plan to avoid anything other than a cursory check of the cargo would leave him free to transport whatever needed to be moved. Philippe had got wind of what was gong on, and had contacted the authorities. Whether his decision not to take the job and leave me to handle it was a question I would be taking up with him as soon I got out of this Police Station! “There is just one thing that puzzled us about the shipment” the Police Chief continued, “we found it in one of the crates with one of the Boas”. He took out a rather familiar object from his inside pocket and placed it on the table. “I take it that this is yours?” he said with a wry smile before turning and leaving the holding cell with the door open. Knowing that Putinfeld’s goons could be anywhere in the airport building, waiting to follow me, to see who I would meet to pass the baton to, or worse, I dialed the number for John and told him to meet me at the Police station to collect the baton. The goons wouldn’t be stupid enough to hang around here, so John could come and go without raising suspicion. I would get a flight out the next day, and that would keep Putinfeld’s goons on the false trail before I changed my look again and disappeared. I like it when a plan comes together. No snakes were harmed during the course of this trip
  20. OK guys (and gals), i have the solution.. easy lemon squeezy!! put [ followed by img and then ] at the start of the html link, then after you have your file type (.jpg or .png etc.) put [/img] You can then complete the Word or text document with all the links in as above and copy/paste it all in one go
  21. Yeah I tried that but all I could see was the html link. So peeved.. worked fine in the past and now it's not argghh
  22. Linking images - quel nightmare! HELP!! i can't post my PIREP.. can't get the images working since FS snaps went, and whatever i try isn't working.. Questions: 1. can i link .PNG ?? if not i'll have to go back and re-save all the pics 2. Regarding the link.. i used to post with at the beginning and end of the http link but thats not working. What am i doing wrong? Any ideas guys?? driving me bonkers as there isn't a more up to date explanation of how to link for 'numpties' Cheers
  23. anyone got an img of the baton that i can paste? i don't have fancy pants software so its Paint or nowt
  24. Another great PIREP there.. Don't they call them 'man-bags' .??