Content Warning: This contains some fairly bad language.
Actually, it is chock full of cursing, swearing, verbal abuse and
severely irritating grammatical errors.
"Uh oh." Cricket is staring at a dim circle of metal lying on the
flight deck; it has fallen there after we put one of the stabilators up
and folded the tail. We were, up until this point, getting ready to pull
the bird into the barn for the evening. Now this happens and blows
everything out of the water.
"I'm serious, the goddamn thing is falling the fuck apart." I am
standing in the smoking area relating the events of ten minutes ago to a
slightly incredulous listener named Bill. Bill is the Navy's equivalent of
a telephone repairman and works on the internal communications system
onboard the ship I am riding around on, as if anyone didn't know that
"Whaddya mean, falling apart?" Eyeing me with what might be evident
suspicion, then again it could be complete and total boredom caused by being
awake at two o' clock in the morning.
"I mean, shit is falling off of the airplane." Exasperation.
"What fell off?" The same bored tone as before.
"Is it important?"
"No, it only keeps the goddamn thing from going bugga-bugga-bugga and
then flying off of the back of the fucking plane." I wave my arms around
for dramatic effect; it fails to impress the intended audience.
"Hard to fix?"
"Nah, need some glue though."
"Glue?" Right eyebrow jacks up higher than the other in an evident
display of interest.
"Yeah. Hysol. Strong stuff."
"You're goona glue the fucking thing back together?" The left eyebrow
joins the right. "Jesus fucking Christ Yurei."
"Oh yeah." I grin madly at Bill betraying my own lunacy brought on by
the sum of the square of the two sides of the triangle. On one side we have
time left to the end of cruise, on the other we have the distance to the
western coast of the United States of America. The hypotenuse is
ridiculously long when viewing it from the ground. "Do it all the
"Remind me not to fly in that fucker."
"Yurei, it's not your fault." Next morning Scott and I are sitting on
the fantail chain smoking cigarettes in equatorial sun. This is a form of
behavior that I normally abhor however today is an exception. Not only that
but the fact that it is ungodly hot coupled to the continuous loop of Bill
Paxton's leering smile and patronizing voice spitting out 'yeah man, but
it's a dry heat' helps nothing. "Seriously."
"Uh Scott, in the event you aren't aware of this already, THERE IS A
FUCKING HOLE IN THE FUCKING BOTTOM OF THE FUCKING AIRPLANE." Screaming
produces a few odd looks and then the inevitable settling back into
conversation. Most everyone around here is well aware of my occasionally
off-kilter behavior, so screaming about holes in the plane did not disturb the others around me in the slightest.
"Calm down Yurei, calm down." Scott attempts to be rational when there
is a hole in the bottom of the airplane that you can see daylight
The hole has been caused by corrosion and I am not exactly happy about
this at all. I found the hole this morning while getting ready to pull the
radar antenna cowling off. This is a large circular affair about eight
feet in diameter and a foot deep, commonly called the 'swimming pool' due
to the obvious resemblance. I crawled under the left main mount, just
forward of the tire (where I always start,) and glanced up toward the
underside of the belly. There in the middle of an inch wide blotch of
interrupted gray paint was a distended blob of olive drab metal. For
starters, metal is not supposed to be olive drab unless it corrodes.
Aluminum corrosion usually looks like a gray blemish on polished metal
usually accompanied by a slight pitting inside the corroded areas. When
this corrosion gets bad enough it will turn from something called surface
pitting into something much nastier called exfoliation which occurs when
the metal actually starts peeling apart like an onion. This causes the
distended bulge on the bottom of the airplane that I am staring at in
disbelief. Rather gingerly, as if defusing a large bomb with a hammer,
I remove a six inch Gerber folding knife from the belt running around the
waist of my coveralls, open it and then poke at the center of the olive
patch. The point of the knife goes through the metal and disappears a
quarter of an inch into the airframe. The aluminum skin of the aircraft is
a sixteenth of an inch thick.
I remember being a kid and doing something stupid. Several of my friends
and I were standing in an unkempt field near the tract development we all
lived in on what was then the outskirts of Livermore, California. It was
at the time, now from what I hear it is the center of what are the outskirts
of San Francisco. Anyway, Neal, Dan, Neal's younger brother Kevin, my
younger brother Seraph and I are sort of milling around in this field
looking for something. When you're eight years old anything will do, you
just need to find something moderately amusing to keep you busy for three
hours until the street lights come on and then you are inevitably forced
away from your newfound entertainment. (At the risk of dating myself one
way or the other, my family had just gotten cable television at the time
and it was considered a big deal in the neighborhood.) We found precisely
what we were looking for in the form of a large patch of tomatoes growing
wild near one edge of the almost square field. At this time I would like to
mention that the edge of the field was actually a road. I would now like
to offer the collected audience something of a rather simple equation.
BI= blatant irresponsibility
EC= errant children
ET= excessive time
Therefore we can safely assume:
SOTFBIAROCBPU= Screeching of Tires Followed By Immediate Ass Reaming of
Formerly Errant Children By Parental Units.
Splat. Screech. "HEY YOU LITTLE FUCKERS." Angry man chase the Yurei and
his friends whom having found their feet again, are running about as fast as
they can towards their house. This unfortunately is an enormous tactical
blunder on their part since the individual in the automobile began to follow
them back to their houses. This marked not only this first time that I had
ever felt a cold sense of fear due to something that I had just watched
happen but also the first time I had ever been officially addressed as
'fucker.' Surprisingly enough this has occurred frequently since that
occasion which makes me wonder if I had dodged some sort statistics prior to
Cold fear washes through me despite the heat and the humidity baking the
flight deck as we near the equator for the second time this cruise. (The
first of the two times was marked by something called Wog Day that is
actually now an officially monitored Flailex and not anything close to
what it once was.) I stare at the point of the knife receding from the skin
of the helicopter and wonder what the weather is like this time of the
year at Fort Leavenworth as this is probably where I am headed right now.
One of our airframers looks at the hole, laughs, and then goes to find some
tools. Eight hours later the fluorescent drop light we were using to work
under the plane is unplugged and we begin the six hour wait required for the
potting to dry under the new layers of metal. I still hate feeling cold in
the middle of the day.
We're all tired. The birds are tired after having had nearly 1300 hours put
on them over the last year. I sat down yesterday to roughly calculate the
number of days I have been deployed since January of last year and came to
the round figure of 300 out of 390. One month of hurried vacation trying to
see as many people as possible, find a new apartment and get back into the
mentality of being at work at home once again. Three weeks after settling
into a nice comfy spot I was standing in front of the Bahrain International
Airport wondering why it was that there was no one to pick me up and I was
again being left up to my own devices with respect to getting to the boat.
There was supposed to have been someone there, I am still bitter about
Since 1981, Sikorsky and United Technologies were of the opinion that
the maximum life span of the SH-60B airframe would be 10,000 flight hours
before they would need to be sent to the desert and broken in half. In 1998
then there was a 2,000-hour extension added to that figure to allow the
airframes to fly to a total of twelve thousand hours before retirement.
With the 60R program coming online the aircraft that we have now on this
detachment will have their tails cut off, major wiring in the cabin/cockpit
replaced and then sent back to the fleet with few other changes. The paint
will be stripped off and a new layer will be gunned on in careful
applications to be ruined by the first fleet wash job the plane receives.
The patch beneath the radar cowling will still be there, the metal
carefully bonded and riveted in place just as the manual says. They'll give
the airframe another few thousand hours after the upgrade.
Imagine six months. Periods of half a year at where you work, live, eat
and sleep in an area 500 feet by 75 feet. 350 other people live with you,
90 of you at a time in coffin racks three high and eight deep. The space
from your chest to the metal of the rack above you is about a foot, enough
that you can read a magazine through some interesting gymnastics. That is
if your rack light works and you aren't so dead tired after a twelve hour
shift that all you want to do is sleep for the period remaining until you're
rousted for work again. This goes on for seven days a week with the
occasional interruption for a port visit and the inevitable escape from
work, assuming that it isn't a working port in which case your hours do not
change at all. Typically you will spend between twenty-five to forty days
at sea before you have a three to five day port visit and then after that it
all starts all over again. After the first three weeks you settle into a
mode where you work, eat, work, eat, work and then sleep. Everything runs
into a blur, you forget to care what day of the week it is and profess
amazement at the fact that another week has passed. People stop wearing
watches all together due to the mechanics of the way the ship works, when
you are less than a minute walk from work it becomes very hard to get stuck
in traffic and be late. After three months you do not remember what it was
like before you got there and actually fear going home in a small way
because it will mean a break in the regimen. It all tastes the same, looks
the same and you cannot help but wonder what happened yesterday. Last week
becomes something of a myth so don't even bother trying to figure out what
you were doing a month ago. Imagine six months.