Monday 20 May 2013 07:55 UTC
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Pretty sure there's nothing in this relating to PPL flying but as I'm almost out of war stories I thought I'd share this one for entertainment.
After my stint flying night freight on Cessna 210s I moved to the C402, an eleven seater twin, flying charter and scheduled (Regular Public Transport in Aussie aviation parlance) flights out of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The company I worked for operated a hub system with Darwin as the main port serving outlying larger communities with turbo-prop aircraft. These communities served as mini-hubs and would often have a C402 left there with the pilot of the day ferrying in and out on the turbo-prop, a Metroliner. These 402s would have to be ferried to Darwin for 100-hourlies and the like but meantime lived at the outstation.
On the day in question I was to ferry such an aircraft from Darwin to Maningrida, approximately 275nm to the east in Arnhemland. The Metro had already left. I was to follow, refuel in Maningrida for the morning run around Arnhemland, wait while the Metro flew Maningrida-Darwin-Maningrida, fly another round trip and then hop on the Metro for my ride home. A long day made more so by the weather (Wet or Dry season, it was always >30C) and requirement to fuel, load, unload, fly up to eight sectors, sell tickets, tap dance along the wings and keep everyone happy. The Darwin-Maningrida leg was to be easy though as there were no passengers, at least until one of the check-in staff asked if I could take a couple of people who had missed the Metro. "Have their bags been checked?" I asked. "No bags" came the reply. "Sure, throw them on". Now the bag question was important but not for the reason you might at first imagine. Security as we now think of it was not the issue, it was booze. It's no secret that alcohol is/was the cause of an enormous amount of trouble in aboriginal communities so their elders had taken the decision to ban it. They had also decreed that in the event of grog-fuelled trouble whoever brought it in, knowingly or otherwise, would be held responsible so it was company policy to ensure that none was smuggled in on any of our flights.
The two (male) passengers were escorted to the aircraft. One wore nothing but a pair of shorts, the other had jeans, t-shirt and a large ghetto blaster so nowhere for any grog to be hidden, right? Instructing them to hop in via the clamshell door and take a seat as far forward as possible for mass and balance purposes I set about putting the ghetto blaster under a freight net behind the rearmost seats before a final walkround, closing the clamshell and hopping in via the crew door which is nothing more than a large window by the left wing root. As I did I found passenger #1 already asleep in the co-pilot seat, fair enough I did say sit forward, which would present an olfactory challenge until I got some air flowing through the cabin (the locals weren't big on personal hygiene). #2 was seated in row 3 behind a folding passenger seat near the overwing emergency exit and seemed happy so I ran through a safety brief before getting the engines going as quickly as possible. #1 was particularly ripe and I could only hold my breath for so long.
Twenty minutes later we were approaching our cruise altitude, around 7000' or so from memory, on a fantastic dry season day. Visibilty was good, the aircraft trimmed out nicely and I completed the cruise checks before flicking on the auto-pilot so as to wade through the plogs, manifests and load sheets for the coming day. A minute or so into my paperwork I heard a wailing sound and looked over my shoulder to find #2 'singing' along to his ghetto blaster which he had hauled out from the rear. The wailing gradually got louder and after I few minutes he went from singing to crying. Then came a series of thumps as he utilised a seat as a punchbag, repeatedly punching the the folding back, standing it up, punching it forward, standing it up..... "OI! Dopey! Knock it off! (I was always good at CRM) If you break that you can pay for it". This instruction from me, the pilot in command with the flash watch, Ray-Bans,crisp shirt and three gold bars led to me being informed that I was a 'f***ing white c***', something I have been sure to include on my CV ever since. Then I spotted the bottle tucked down the side of his seat, Bundaberg rum, no doubt smuggled on board within the ghetto blaster. Emboldened by his intake thus far he took a defiant swig and added to my qualifications while promising to kill me. It looked like he'd had at least half the bottle of Bundy, no wonder he was so shirty.
There was little I could do. Single crew, past the halfway mark, drunken passenger. Yes he weighed about half as much as me but there was no way I was going back into a confined cabin to trade blows. Far safer to let him drink more and press on which became my plan. Recalling that our handling agent in Maningrida was married to the local police sergeant, Geoff, I called ahead and arranged a reception commitee. My plan to let him drink himself to sleep seemed to be working and he was headed for the gulag. Ha! That'll fix him. He, however, seemed not to have read the memo. Catching movement out of the corner of my eye I turned to see him coming forward, bottle in hand. Somehow it didn't look as if he were about to offer me a drink, this was not looking good. Reaching under my seat I flicked off the ring around the fire extinguisher, pulled the pin and pointed it at him. "The stuff in this is poisonous" I lied "If you don't give me that bottle, sit down and behave I'm going to spray you with it then beat your body to pulp with the empty". I didn't get the Bundy but he did return to his seat, not for long though. As I was replacing the extinguisher he lurched forward. I fumbled it and the cylinder fell under my seat so I flicked off the autopilot and reefed back hard on the yoke, his already wobbly legs gave way and he fell to the floor. Seeing my airspeed decay I pushed forward fairly aggressively and was rewarded with seeing him float up about a foot off the mat. Pulling back again thumped him down, another push and he started screaming while clutching for handholds. Fun though this was I couldn't keep it up all the way to our destination and I was fairly certain he'd wet himself so I levelled off and re-engaged the autopilot. He scrambled into his seat and covered his face which I took to be a surrender. Unbelievably, throughout all this his friend stayed fast asleep.
With constant glances over my shoulder I flew on to Maningrida while he finished the bottle and passed out. As we joined the circuit there came a thud as he fell into the aisle so I poked #1 awake with a pencil and ordered him back to secure his mate for landing. "He sick?" he asked. "Nope, he drank a bottle of Bundy". "He drank my Bundy?!" "Aaaaah, so you were in on it. You're in trouble too". He scuttled off but returned immediately. "No way I'm touching him. He p1ssed himself eh" made me laugh out loud. After landing I taxied in and shutdown. I'd seen the paddywagon making a dusty rooster tail toward the field so hopped out the crew door, walked down the wing and opened the clamshell ready for unloading. As I did so I felt the airframe shake and heard a low curse as #1 bailed out through the crew door and ran along the wing, burning his foot on the hot engine, in a break for freedom. Clearly he wasn't hanging around. Now you know those loops on the waistband of your jeans? They're for holding your belt, right? Wrong. They're so the police can pick up p!ss-soaked drunks without soiling their hands (then drop them on hot tarmac, I swear I heard him sizzle) and throw them in the paddywagon.
While dozing in the air-conditioned office between the morning and afternoon rounds I received a call from Geoff who gleefully informed me that #2 was going back to Darwin that afternoon on the Metro. I looked forward to that. Why Darwin? Well it seemed there was a warrant out for him, something about hitting a cab driver over the head with a rum bottle. Clearly that was his MO and any doubts I might have had about beating him up with + and - G disappeared there and then. The Metro flight proved interesting too. On seeing me during boarding he tried to break loose and all through the flight kept looking back at me (I'd bagged the back row) with wide eyes. Geoff never revealed what he'd told him about me but whatever it was he was terrified. Oh, and I found out that #1's desire to disappear may have had something to do with his having been released from Darwin jail that very morning.
Excellent story, thanks for sharing !
I was always wondering what happens if in 1 man crew operation you get a naughty passenger
Btw, re "paddywagon" - are the police Irish in .au ?
<-- (yet another) ppl blog.
Prob75 this msg was sent from iPad, not any toy.
Even the British used to call them paddy wagons. Of course, I wouldn't dare speculate how that came about......
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