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Thursday, December 8, 2016

2 Dads

There was a captain, named Jack Bingham, with whom I flew a lot. We liked doing the same kind of stuff, we were both trying to make as much money as we could and everyone else did not like him. 

I had some issues with him myself.  He was one of those guys who thought the first officer was a voice activated autopilot.  He would reach over and extend the gear or flaps before you called for them.  It pissed me off at first, but once I asked him WTF he was doing (with a smile on my face), he kind of backed off a little.  

Jack was a big, white haired guy and to listen to him, he had done a little bit of everything and was an expert on all things.  I didn't mind that either.  What I liked about him was that he promoted crew esprit de corp on layovers.  For example, we would always make arrangements to meet after we got some sleep, then get together to do something.  It usually involved eating and drinking beer and sometimes an activity like watching a football game on TV.

Jack knew where every buffet in every town was located.  He was retired from the Air Force and when we went to Seoul, we took a bus to an officers club with a big seafood buffet.  Once in Honolulu, we got a couple 6 packs, a cooler and rented a sailboat to sail around Pearl Harbor.  As I write this, it is 75 years and one day after the "date which will live in infamy".  Chuck Hippler, who worked with me at Florida Express, was the flight engineer.  We had a blast, then ate dinner at an O club nearby, probably a buffet.

Real airlines bid for a new schedule every month, 12 times a year.  At UPS, after the first IPA contract, we bid every 8 weeks.  It's a little complicated, but we bid about half as much and the way it was set up, it gave UPS flexibility in planning for their Peak months  November and December.  

What this meant for us was that we had a long time to fly with whichever crew members we matched up with.  This was fantastic if you liked them and terrible if you didn't.  It was still an improvement over the way it was before, when our bid periods were 3 months long.  Geez!

Most of the pilots liked this setup, but I hated it.  They liked not having to bid every month, but I thought it was too challenging to get important events off, especially if you were junior.  Most of our schedules were week on, week off.  With that alternating pattern, you could miss a birthday or anniversary if they didn't fit the pattern.  You had to prioritize and compromise.  Juniority sucks.  I would have preferred bidding every month.  We had lots of time on long legs to do it.

Bidding is set up, so that captains are awarded first, then the first officers and flight engineers the next day.  This gives them a chance to avoid captains they don't like.  There is no way for the captain to avoid crew members he doesn't like, but he or she is the captain.  This is why I ended up flying with Jack so much.  I didn't mind flying with him and we liked doing the same kind of trips, ones that made us the most money.

At this time, UPS had a lousy retirement program for its pilots.  The mandatory retirement age was 60 and for many, they needed to work as much as they could beyond that age to keep the cash flowing in the right direction.  Jack was getting close to 60 and one bid period, we flew with George Gillette, who had been a captain, but continued working as a flight engineer in the 747 after age 60.  There is no mandatory retirement age for engineers.  The 3 of us would be flying together for 8 weeks, week on week off, laying over in Narita, Seoul and Hong Kong.  I always refer to this bid period as the time I was flying with 2 dads.

I was not yet 50 and still had some color in my hair and I was flying around the world, literally, with 2 white haired geezers who were always giving me advice, some good, some not so good.

Jack had just gotten involved in an investment scheme that had something to do with oil fields in Texas.  As I listened to him describe it in glowing terms, it sounded like a Ponzi scheme to me. Jack was trying to talk me into getting into it, but it sounded to me like I would be one of the ones getting in too late.  No matter what I started talking about, Jack was trying to push this scheme on me.  If I said, "Gee, Jack, it looks like the sky is very blue today."  Jack would say, "Gee, Denny, you really need to get into this oil field deal."

Every time Jack would get up to go back to the john or something, George would lean forward and whisper, "Denny, don't do that oil field deal.  It's a bad deal."  I would say, "Don't worry, George.  You have to have extra money to invest and that is not a problem for me."  I was starting to get caught up with my financial recovery from the 2 bankruptcies, but was not quite there yet.

Jack and I liked to go out on the town in the Asian layover cities and eat and drink where the locals did.  That was always easier and more fun in Hong Kong, because it was a British colony and it was full of folks from England, Australia, and New Zealand.  We all spoke the same language, sorta.  George was what we refer to as a slam/clicker.  He always went to his room, slammed the door closed and clicked the lock.  Then he would order room service.  Every meal, every day.

At the end of our 8 weeks together, Jack and I got on George's case about never joining us for dinner and a drink.  He finally relented and we met in the lobby to have a beer.  When we were deciding which restaurant to go to, George insisted on going to a spaghetti restaurant right across the street from our hotel in Kow Loon.  We were so glad he was finally going with us, that we did not complain.  We just sat there in one of the most exotic cities in Asia and ate our Chef Boy freakin' Ardee  spaghetti.


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