A "Professional" usually makes things
look extremely easy. It also means being aware of your surroundings
and being man enough to admit a mistake. I got a lot of good comments
concerning my flying mostly because I got the front seat passenger going
with a question and answer session if it was too quiet in that ship.
If I saw them looking at a particular instrument I would talk to them about
it and put it in terms that they could understand.
Mr. Rickman gave me the best complement I ever got. He was the man in charge of tires for all the jobs and with some of those things costing several thousands of dollars each he was a pretty important man that I flew often. As he was getting out of the front seat one day he told me that he could fly Nelliebelle, he couldn't fly any other helicopter, but that he knew he could fly Nelliebelle. He was dead serious about that too. That sure made me feel good.
Making things look easy requires that you stay on top of things and that means being very observant. Though the boss or head man usually rides in the front seat I had to pull rank sometimes for the benefit of all. One of the rules of flying states that the more attractive a lady is in any given group of passengers, there will always be another passenger that will require the front seat. It happens every time too. If a passenger is exceptionally large or tall then that passenger has to have the front seat so that the others will be able to sit in more comfort in the cramped back seat . Being single at the time, I was keenly aware of that rule and hated it.
Adjusting passenger seating is just one way of being observant. One other was that you had to watch for the people with colds or sinus problems. With those people, going "up" is no problem but coming "down" sure can be. A stuffed up ear can become very painful when it can not depressurize when coming out of cruise altitude. If I noticed a passenger with such a problem that meant, a lower cruise of 2,500 ft instead of the usual 3,500 ft and a 10 minute decent out of altitude instead of a 3-4 minute decent. One day I had to low level the entire trip because the boss had a very bad cold and even minor changes in altitude greatly effected him.
This next section deals with 2 additional pilots that were eventually brought in as the operation grew. I talk about them in greater detail a little later but I felt their actions warrant mention here. I do not wish to name them by names so I will call one "Super Pilot" because he was afraid of nothing flying wise and the other "Cowboy" because of the way he handled the aircraft.
Being "observant of passengers" was not much of a concern with "Super Pilot" because he was usually too engrossed in flying for that. Cowboy came up to me late one afternoon and told me that Super Pilot had taken a load of secretaries up to the northern jobs and took them up to 10,000 ft to show them the top of the clouds. Coming out of that high an altitude was so painful for the one secretary with a cold that it made her cry. Super Pilot then had to climb back up and which added almost 1/2 hour to the flight and come down with a long slow decent that she was able to take. Nothing was ever said because the other girls didn't want to get him in trouble.
Sometimes being "Professional" means you have to eat a little crow once in a while. One incident that really irked me was when I got a call from Super Pilot concerning a heater malfunction in Nelliebelle. It was late autumn and early morning flights required the use of the heater. He said it had started OK on the ground, just before take off, but had gone out soon after and they froze going up north. I told him it sounded like he forgot to pull the vent control to the open position. He said he would look into it.
The next morning I noticed that nothing had been written up on it in the logbook. On a hunch, I called Mr. Bolton and asked him how the flight back went the day before. He said that the heater had gone out and that Super Pilot had told him that he would have it fixed for him that night. He said it was not as cold coming back as it had been going up that morning. Super Pilot had elected to let his passengers shiver out the return flight in order to save face and managed to turn the situation around to where he would look like the good guy. He was good at office politics but pilot wise; he had a long way to go to become a real "professional".
Going back in time a little, in the very last week of A&P school I had a really sharp instructor that got on the subject of "professionalism". Our class had started out with 43 students and was finishing with 13 or 18 as I recall. He told us that maybe 2 would be real mechanics, the rest of us would be simply "remove and replace artist." That stuck with me. I can add to that now that you begin becoming "professional" when you start to see all the little things that are sometimes wrong or that could have been done better in any given situation. It also means knowing, deep down, that something is wrong and taking on the "Big Boys" when needed. Sticking one's neck out seems to be the biggest hurdle for most apprising professionals.
Two occasions come to mind when I really irritated Super Pilot and both dealt with engine work on Pierre. The first centered on a "Flow Fence Actuator" that was not functioning properly. The actuator helped the engine put out more power when need. Super Pilot was deeply concerned that an "engine" specialist be brought in to trouble shoot the system and change out the actuator if needed. I told him that I was school trained and could handle that. I change it out and Pierre worked just fine. I had to fly it for the next flight because Super Pilot didn't feel safe with me doing that kind of specialized engine work.
The second instance was when Pierre's fuel control went bad. I had one flown in next-day-air but when I put it on it would not idle out right. I checked my work several times but could not find where I had done anything wrong or did my adjustments in the wrong direction. Our flights were really backing up and I sure did not want to wait another day or two for another fuel control to be sent to us. Since it was new I figured that it had been benched checked properly or it would not have been released. It could have been knocked around in shipping but the box looked OK. It had to be something else.
I called the manufacture and checked the serial number and it was indeed meant for our ship. I was then told how to trim it out but I already knew that and it did not work. On a hunch, I called the "test Pilot" division of Bell Helicopter and spoke with one of their "Test Pilots". I knew that the engine Pierre used was the same being used on a new model helicopter that they were just about to release. I told the "Test" Pilot my problem and sure enough, our fuel control was idling exactly where their idle settings were.
I then called back to the manufacture and told them what I had just found out. They again checked and insisted that the serial number was correct for that ship. I was given an option though of sending it back or making a special adjustment to a "flow bench only" adjustment screw. I chose to make the adjustment and they walked me through the procedure.
Super Pilot was sitting next to me and listening to all of this over the phone. He insisted that I not attempt the adjustment and if I did, he would refuse to fly the ship and tell the boss that I was making "unauthorized" critical adjustments on the ship. I told him that he was judging me on "his" low level of mechanical professionalism and that I had been authorized to do the adjustment and that I was indeed capable of such. Super Pilot then walked out and went home.
The adjustment was made, the ship test flown, and the proper entry made into the engine's logbook. I took the next flight with Pierre and he worked just fine. I was proud of the fact that I had stood my ground and found the real problem and thought of what that A&P school instructor had said years before. I informed the manufacture of what I had found and left it to them to figure where they went wrong. Super Pilot flew Pierre after he saw that the adjustment had worked. Besides that, he felt it somewhat of a dishonor to fly Old Nelliebelle when he could be flying Pierre. As far as I know he never did tell the boss about my "unauthorized" adjustment. I believe he learned something "deep down" that day but I do not believe he accepted it on the surface if you know what I mean. Oh how I wish I could have picked my own people.