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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Burning Oil

That top picture will apply to several chapters in this story.  I just found it on the internet and wanted to post it here, so I don't lose it. The second one is just a joke, but it will probably come in handy later also.  You can borrow them, if you would like.

Dan Wylie was hired by Allegheny Airlines, our home town airline, in March of 1978, at age 22.  When he quit at Graham Aviation, he had said, "I'll be burning oil in 6 months."  (Jet engines burn kerosene, oil, instead of aviation gasoline.)  Dave went to work for an air taxi operator in Indiana PA. BS was gone, Weber was gone.  I was left without my chili meeting pals, with Redman and McCowin.  I was trying to get along and they seemed to be also.

I began to feel that my time was passing.  My dream to be an airline pilot was slipping away.  All my friends at Butler seemed to think that none of us were destined to be airline pilots.  I had my own doubts.  That is why I decided to get the helicopter license.

The guy I flew to the first Steeler Super Bowl bought a King Air C-90 a really nice turbo prop airplane.  That means that instead of an internal combustion, piston engine, it had a turbine engine that pushes propellers.  Much smoother and safer.  More reliable.  More expensive.

McCowin was checked out on it, but the powers that be wanted me to begin to get checked out.  Necessity is the mother of all qualifications.  They needed me to fly as a copilot with McCowin for a company that had that requirement.

He was making a big fuss about being careful and attentive when starting the turbine engines.  After the P Navajo, which he had never flown, that was a joke.  All you had to do with the King Air was watch the engine temperature during the start to make sure it did not exceed a maximum marked by a red line on the gauge.  If it looked like it was going to, you shut it down.  BFD, especially considering what would happen in the future.  

In flight, it was even easier.  With big, air cooled piston engines you had to be careful not to push or pull the throttles too fast at any time, because of the possibility of cracking a head.  With the turbo prop, there were fuel controllers to prevent you from increasing or decreasing power too rapidly and you did not have to worry about cooling it down by reducing power to idle as quickly as you wanted to in flight.  But, you know, he was the Big Captain again and I was just a little captain.

Dan's dad, JB, was a captain at Allegheny.  He and Dan sat me down one day and explained the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 to me.  They explained that, as far as I was concerned, it meant that there was going to be lots of airline pilot hiring and my self inflicted handicap would not be a problem.  They told me to get a flight engineer rating to enhance my resume.

I started checking around.  Most flight engineer schools were associated with airlines and were very expensive.  They used the full motion simulators of the airlines.  I found a company that was considerably less expensive and they also taught the quicky, weekend classes to prepare you to pass the written test for the rating.  It was called Flight International and was located in Atlanta.  

You probably remember me telling you about the flight in my friend's Aztec to Norfolk with my kid brother.  That is where I attended the class for the FE written.  It consisted of a two day ground school, then a third day to take the test.  It was my first exposure to learning transport category, jet airplanes.  It was just learning the correct answers to the questions, then taking the test before you forgot them.  That was in early July, 1978.  My last flight with Graham Aviation was in Early August, with Bravo Hotel, no less.

Dan and JB had convinced me that time was of the essence.  Flight International had a class in early August and I signed up, sending them a deposit check.  Redman was on vacation, so I asked McCowin if I could take the time off.  He said OK, but Redman was not happy.  August was in the middle of the busy season.  I went anyway. 

I had managed to remain unattached and air mobile for several years.  I knew I had to be able to move fast when the time was right.  I packed my bags and drove to Atlanta.  My brother, Jim, lived there and he said I could stay with him while I attended the school. 

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