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Hey, Hey, Hee ... It's An Airman's Life For Me

By Fred Kuzyk. Copyright 2001, Freddy The K Communications. No reproduction without permission.

Hey, Hey, Hee…It's An Airmen's Life For Me
(Revised July 28/01)

"Why even the name 'airman' sounds like something from a gol' darn Funny Book".

(From "No Time For Sergeants", the 1950's movie about the peace-time U.S. Air Force.)

Poster from the movie "No Time For Sergeants, which was also a TV show in the early 1960's, both featured the country-boy "Stockdale" who drove his Sergeant crazy!

They say that war is hell. But the peacetime military can be hell, too. Often they are under-funded, under-strength, and under-employed. In this context, I began to settle in to Squadron routine. Getting to know the place, the Otter, the job & people.

When you first arrived, you were just a recruit. You would eventually have to choose a trade. In the Squadrons, there were only so many to choose from. The girls often went to the Orderly Room & were Admin Clerks. But a few became technicians. Examples were Tony Cardoni, Jillian, Yolanda, Joanne Pilsener, & Donna Lugey. Some of the women techs were useless. Many of the women became Safety Systems (SS) techs. They'd pack parachutes, service aircrew helmets & extinguishers. We didn't have ejection seats & such for them to play with. Packing chutes wasn't considered very manly but Smitty wanted to do the trade. He was a bit of a dweeb. The other technical trades were: Aero Engine (AE or "Fitter"), Air Frame (AF or "Rigger"), Instrument Electrical (IE), Communications or radio (COMM) techs. The #2 Regular Support Unit (2 RSU), the Regular Force personnel that looked after the planes on a daily basis, had a few more trades. Such as: Metal Tech (who could fabricate panels & parts), Refinishing Tech (who stripped & painted planes), and Photo Tech (who looked after the aerial cameras & developed film). At "real" bases where they fired ordnance, they also had Weapons Techs. But not here. In the American USAF, they had many more specialized trades, such as Tire Techs, that did nothing but know about every kind of tire used on their planes. Things weren't so specific in the unified Canadian Armed Forces.

So I had to choose one of the Reserve trades. I remember that there was a sales pitch by some of the techs. Riggers & Fitters were the most plentiful. Well the AirFrame lads swayed me by saying that the engine guys were always covered in oil & grease. Besides , 90% or so of the plane was Air Frame - from brakes & wheels, hydraulics, skin & struts, cables & controls, right down to windows & seats - were Air Frame. I was eventually sold. There was another position that you could aspire to, that of Air Crewman. These were the lads that would accompany the planes, do the paradrops, check the planes & do repairs while in the field, etc. Many were considered but few were chosen.

At some point, I was issued my very own aged, metal toolbox. This contained rudimentary hand tools. Sockets, pliers, a multi-tip hammer (copper or lead on one side, rubber on the other). If things didn't fit you could always "get a bigger hammer", as the saying went. There was also side cutters for the removal of split pins (not "cotter" pins, as I was corrected). The pliers were handy for twisting lock-wire used on critical nuts & bolts. Common tools issued for servicing the planes were screwdrivers (to unfasten DZUS fasteners or panels), a 90 degree flashlight, an inspection mirror, and Ear Defenders (hearing protection "ear muffs") for use during aircraft starts.

I'd come to know that the Otter was indeed a versatile craft. Primary missions were light transport, Search and Rescue (SAR), and aerial photography. The planes could carry about 9 people or a bunch of stretchers for medical evacuation (Medevac). The U.S. Army bought a bunch of them & they called them the "Flying One Ton Truck" for their cargo carrying ability. Sometimes we called them the "Steam Otter", because of their age. They were great for parachute drops and with their Short Take Off & Landing (STOL) ability, you could land in many places other planes couldn't. Especially when they were fitted with floats or skis, you could land on lakes or snow. Yeah, they were crude but dependable & fun.

Life revolved around our two hangars. There were signs posted to remind everyone that smoking wasn't allowed on the hangar floor. Signs & posters cautioned about the danger of sparks, so no clickers on shoes or hobnailed boots were permitted. There were also reminders about the danger of FOD (Foreign Object Damage) which is what happens when stray bits of garbage gets thrown around by jet blast or prop wash, or when items get sucked into engines. The south hangar was the Servicing Bay where the in-service planes were kept. The north hangar was the Maintenance Bay, where the sick birds were repaired. It's also where the Royal Canadian Navy "Banshee" jet fighter sat. This Korean War vintage McDonnell-Douglas plane probably flew off the deck of HMCS Magnificent, one of the aircraft carriers Canada use to have. The Air Reserve was restoring it for the museum in Ottawa. I hope they weren't in a hurry for it. It would sit there for a total of 13 years. Between the two hangars were the RSU shops. This comprised: a tool crib, tire bay, metal shop, repair office, photo shop, engine bay, electric shop & battery room, and they also had a canteen for food and beverages. 

The RSU Canteen. On the wall at center is the Rick Richarz plaque & below it is a photo of Rick in Crewman gear holding a helmet in front of an Otter. Other aircraft photos adorn the wall. Not in frame was one I recall of a Flying Boxcar. Andy Gyorffy photo.

Corporal Freddy K at left plays cards in the Canteen with future WO Dave Fisher, at center, circa 1981. Andy Gyorffy photo.

Above the shops was a storage area, reached by a freight elevator. There was a passageway between the hangars that you could drive a mule through but too narrow to take an Otter! At the back also were stairs that lead to the 2 Air Reserve Wing & to the AirCrew Selection Center. The ACSC was where hopeful pilot & navigator candidates would receive their initial screening. In front of the canteen was the Meteorological Section, or Weather Office, as well as a Departure Lounge. Folks waiting to board one of the military passenger flights occasionally used this. It was possible for those being "shipped out" to grab a flight to Trenton & from there to any base the CAF flew to, even Germany. Above this area was the 400 Squadron offices, reached from stairs in the Servicing hangar. I'd see lots of this place. On the south wall of Servicing were doors that led to the RSU offices, where their Warrant & Officers hung out. There was also a door to 411 Squadron's offices. Never went there. The pilot's area was also on this side. They had a Briefing Room with folding theater-type seats. We'd have the odd briefing in there. There was also a room there where charts were stored for any area we had to fly to. Aircraft Servicing was at the front of the hangar on the south side. This is where we spent a lot of our time. 

When I first started, they had a TV set in Servicing. Just about everyone was huddled around it to watch the exploits of "Black Sheep Squadron", the WWII program that featured "Pappy Boyington" & his misfit fliers shooting down the Japs. This only took place on Thursday nights at the time that we were working. Fans of the show had to wait until summer re-runs, as the set was removed. Someone decided that we'd get more work done that way. Playing cards would suddenly become popular.

Photo from the TV show Black Sheep Squadron, starring Robert Conrad. Yes, while we had the TV set, Thursday nights were exciting watching the Corsairs taking on the Zeros. They did have one thing in common with our Otters - they were piston engine, propeller driven aircraft! In the peace-time jet age flying low performance planes we could imagine that we were still fighter squadron heroes (as was our original heritage) even though we lacked machine guns then!

The military loves acronyms and I was becoming familiar with them. We've touched on some of the popular ones like FOD, SAR & GMT. But there were tons more of them just for Officer job titles. SAMEO referred to the Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Officer. While BAMEO meant the Base equivalent of this title (which was a RSU Officer). The Base Administrative Officer was the BADO. SECURO was the Security Officer. FINO was the Finance Officer. CO was the Commanding Officer. You get the idea. I learned the word "snag", which was a problem with an aircraft that needed to be fixed. You could use it in a verb tense, as in "I'm snagging aircraft 3671", which meant that you were taking it out of service because of a problem. "Prang" meant to damage a plane, either by the plane contacting something (like the ground in a crash) or by something contacting the plane (like driving a mule into the side of a parked plane). There were stories about those dumb-ass Reservists with the Montreal Squadrons who pranged another aircraft wing by towing it into a hangar door. Of course, we never pranged aircraft, except for legitimate crashes.

A Day In The Life

A typical night or weekend would begin with "signing in". At the bottom of the stairs to 400 Squadron, hung a clipboard with a sign-in sheet on it. You'd print & sign your name & indicate whether you were here for a half day (Thursday night) or a full day (Saturday or Sunday). 

400 Squadron Washroom, taken in 2000 Sometimes we'd head upstairs to use the washroom, say "Hi" to the Orderly Room girls, or check for mail. Up here is where our CO, SAMEO, FINO, etc. were doing their thing. If we didn't arrive in uniform, we'd have to go change or put on our white coveralls if we expected to do anything messy. White is a misnomer, as the coveralls could get quite dark with use. In the summer we'd often not have a uniform under the coveralls, just jockey shorts. There were a couple of locker rooms. My locker was in Maintenance, in a bathroom by the foot of the stairs that led to Wing. In one of the toilet stalls was graffiti that said "Doug Burley drinks on trains, Doug Burley trains on drinks". It was from before my time. After changing, you'd report to Servicing. Sergeant Jim Train was in charge behind the desk. On the wall hung status boards that had metal tags for each of the aircraft. These were reversible - red on one side indicated the plane was not in service while white or green meant that it was ready to go. We had about 10 planes but one (9420) was the "Hangar Queen" and always sat in Servicing Bay kind of like the Banshee, never to fly. There was something wrong with it that it never quite flew right. Measurements & weight and balance checked out but nobody could find out why she didn't handle right. It was one of those unsolved mysteries. So we'd just use it for spare parts. Notations on the status board in the various columns indicated if an A/C (aircraft) was flying & what its mission was, departure time, pilot in command, etc. At one time we had two crews, "A" and "B", in Servicing. I was on the "B" Crew, under MCpl Wally Wellington. Sgt Train would assign aircraft to the senior Cpls & MCpls for the A, B, AB, DI, & PI checks. The DIs & Bs were the first concern. (B = Before Flight check, DI = Daily Inspection). There were checklists for each & under supervision, we'd complete them. This involved things like checking oil levels, the amount of fuel on the gauges, draining a bit of gas from each of the three tanks to check for condensation water in the fuel, etc. In the AF trade, this also involved tire pressures, checking the movement of controls, ensuring the presence of control locks & covers and then their removal before flight. Generally, checking the condition of the interior & exterior of the plane. We had our tool pouches that carried the basic tools needed: flashlight, screw driver, etc. On a nice day, we might do the checks outside the hangar. The other checks were done for other instances. An "A" check (After flight check) was done as the name implies. An "AB" (After-Before flight check) was done if a plane landed & was doing a quick turn around back into the air. A "PI" (Periodic Inspection) was a major operation & was done when the hours dictated. This was a big job that took time.
Aircraft Servicing Desk. Behind it is Sargeant "Cookie" Cookson. This is the Kiowa era in 1981. Andy Gyorffy photo.
Aircraft Servicing. Andy Gyorffy photo.
Here you can see the Aircraft Sataus Board. Note the date on the calendar: December  9 (1981).  
Andy Gyorffy photo.

Once the checks were done, they had to be signed for in the A/C logbooks. Only qualified techs had Signing Authority for the various trades. After the inspections & paper work was completed, it was time to roll them out. We'd open the hangar doors. This took a bunch of us "mutts" to unchain each door & push them off to the sides. They never upgraded the doors to electric power. In winter, you might wait to the last minute to open the doors. In summer, we often would open them first thing to let air & light into the hangar. Experienced techs would drive the tow tractor "mules". You also needed a current Military Driver's License, called a "DND 404". If your 404 had expired it took time to get it renewed. This was a great way to get out of work, the same with not being currently qualified for a task. I can remember days when those who showed-up weren't qualified to do much of anything, so the poor Sarge would end-up having to sign for checks & tow himself! Somehow the birds were readied on those rare days, even if the Warrants & SAMEO would have to get their hands dirty, or else the pilots would find their missions "scrubbed".

Otters on skis in the Servicing Hangar, ready to go! Roy Clark photo.

Dave McNee is in the cockpit of a plane "riding the brakes". The static electric grounding wire is removed from the grounding plug on the plane. "Brakes On", he says. The statement is repeated as we hold up the tow bar, lining it up with the tow hook on the mule as it backs up. Contact, the hook is locked. "Chocks Out", someone says as the crew removes the rubber chocks from the main wheels. "Brakes Off" the mule driver shouts. Dave McNee repeats this as he removes his feet from the pedals. 

Towing an Otter out of the hangar to the tarmac. Roy Clark photo. The Otter slowly lurches ahead, away from its spot and it turns into the center of the hangar. We walk from our positions at the wing tips with it, ensuring ample clearance. Constant flashing of a thumbs-up signals that we're OK. The plane slowly goes over the rails of the hangar door tracks and on to the tarmac. We stop our "wing walking". A couple of us jump on to the mule. It then picks up speed until the plane is brought out to a spot near the grass at the edge of the flight line. The mule turns a circle and then backs the plane into its spot. If we had to put one in a tight area, say between two planes, then the A/C would be turned in front of the others. The A/C brakes applied, tow bar unhooked from the rear of the mule, the mule turned around, tow bar latched to the front hook of the mule, and the plane would be pushed forward carefully into its spot. After parking the plane and before releasing the tow bar, the brakes went on & metal ramp chocks were placed on the wheels. The process was continued until all the flying birds were parked.

Each spring, we'd convert a couple planes to float configuration. Towing the float Otters was a little trickier. They handled differently than the normal 3 point Otters, being on 4 wheels. They also stood higher and level - you got use to the Otters in their usual configuration with a nose-up attitude when on the ground. The floatplanes took more room to manoeuvre. The tow bar could only move so far. You had to use the technique of placing the plane in front of its spot, unhooking, and then pushing it in. The small bow or nose wheels (which retracted by arcing up over the front of the float & into its top) often wouldn't pivot around to go in the other direction. So while the mule driver pushed the plane, a tech would kick it repeatedly with his steel toe boot, until it turned around. To get into the floatplane (amphibian is more correct, as these planes could land on water or on an airstrip with the float's retractable wheels) one had to climb onto the float & up a ladder to one of the rear doors. Since the plane sat so high, a long tool was used to put on the pitot cover.

Float Otter or "Flotter" on the ramp. Roy Clark photo.

Meanwhile, while we were ground-handling the planes, the pilot's would have their briefing. They'd get the weather forecast from the Met Section. Depending on flying time & destinations, the planes would need sufficient fuel. Often, they were filled at the end of the flying day, but sometimes one might slip through the cracks. Servicing would call for a tanker truck or "Bowser". Eventually, you'd see the Bowser making its way from the motor pool area, over by the tower across the runway. Turning the bend in the road, finally reaching the flight line. The Otters burned aviation gasoline. Which meant we saw a lot of the old yellow Bowser with "AVGAS" and the NATO numbers on its side. When a transient jet A/C need fueling, we'd see the modern, green camouflage Bowser with "TURBO" and the corresponding NATO fuel numbers. So the truck pulls up. You'd connect a grounding wire from the Bowser to the plane (for that pesky static electricity). I believe we also connected one to a ground point on the tarmac. You'd stand by with a fire extinguisher, just in case. The Otter had three fuel caps on the left side. These were a simple, round aluminum cap with a thread cut in it. On top were two slots to aid tightening & loosening with the shank of a screwdriver. They had a small chain securing them to the plane so we couldn't lose them. Incidentally, they weren't cheap. I once had to order a replacement for a defective one. Looking up the part number, I noticed that the cost was several hundred dollars. A princely sum for something that someone could easily lathe from some round aluminum stock? I recall the Sarge saying that with a low volume part like that, unit cost would be high. Personally, I think deHavilland was ripping the CAF. Tales of those $500 military hammers & toilet seats suddenly seemed plausible! The pilots liked to have the front tanks filled, rather than the rear, for better weight & balance. The fuel nozzle wasn't like those at a self-serve station that kicked-off as you got near the top of the tank. It kept on pumping. To avoid embarrassment & being coated in volatile hi-octane gas, you'd have to listen carefully with one ear cocked next to the filler neck in-order to slow down pumping. Like most things, you got good at this with practice. New kids would always get their first gas bath, then walking around in a gas soaked parka or uniform until they could change clothes. Fueling done, you'd hold onto the nozzle while the Bowser driver reeled-up the hose. Disconnect the ground wire & it was down to the next plane or send the Bowser back to the barn.

Sometimes before starting the Otters we'd "walk the prop". This supposedly made the engine start easier, especially if sitting outside in the cold for any length of time. Otters have a large, three-blade propeller. After making sure that the batteries & mags were off, we'd rotate the prop in the direction that it turned by having a few techs line-up & taking turns grabbing a blade as it came down and taking it as far as you could. The next person would grab the next blade as it came down. This pumped a bit of oil around & loosened the pistons in their bores. If the pilots still weren't ready to depart, sometimes the crew chiefs would have us do a "FOD Walk" on the tarmac. We'd line-up spaced several feet apart & slowly walk the flight line looking down for debris. While a small screw or a stone might get sucked into a jet engine, it wasn't very likely with an Otter. I think it was simply one of those traditional "busy work" kind of jobs for us.

Once the pilots were finally ready to go, they'd do a pre-flight circle check around the plane - grabbing this & jiggling that. Also making sure that the pitot cover & engine intake cover were removed & that birds hadn't nested there. Sometimes there was a co-pilot or aircrew. They'd all board. Depending on the mission, there might be passengers or cargo to load. Sometimes the cargo doors were removed, if they were doing paradrops. We'd hook-up an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) onto the back of a mule & bring it to the right side of the plane. It was always good to start the APU by servicing before bringing it to be certain it worked & had gas, again to save embarrassment. There was an attachment socket on the plane where we'd plug in the power cord. Starts were noisy. We'd wear our ear defenders. We communicated with the pilot via hand signals. One hand inserting into the other was the sign to the pilot that you were plugging in. You'd throttle up the APU to a certain RPM. Meanwhile, a partner manned a dry chem or CO2 extinguisher off to the left, where he could see the pilot & engine. The pilot would twirl an index finger in an upward circle, indicating that he was about to start the engine. The extinguisher man would ditto the signal.

You'd hear the starter whine & build-up speed. Then it was engaged & the prop would jerkily turn. The engine would sputter & sometimes fail to start. A re-start would then happen. Once the engine caught, there were puffs of smoke. The prop would burst into a blur. The engine would race & produce its own deafening noise. The APU guy would signal "disconnect" by pulling one hand out from the other. Pilot would acknowledge. Keeping clear of the dangerous prop, the tech would unplug. Once the engine was stable & warmed a bit, the pilot could decrease throttle. He'd give the signal for "chocks out" (2 fists together, thumbs outward, and move the hands apart) and we'd reply. Chocks were removed & placed in the mule. Since the plane hadn't burst into flame, the extinguisher was then stowed. If in tight quarters, we could watch his wings & marshal him out. This wasn't usually necessary. We'd exchange a thumbs-up or a salute with the pilot and they'd be off to taxi, do their run-up & take-off.

After they were all in the air, it was a down period for Servicing. We might be detailed to mop drip trays or sweep the hangar floor. Or maybe to wash a plane. This was done with very long handled brushes, pails of soap & water hoses. A large crew made the task enjoyable & everyone managed to get soaked. If you were on the Maintenance Crew, you might be assigned a PI in the Maintenance Bay. Not very common on nights, more often the PIs & repairs were done on weekends, so the Maintenance Crew could slip away early on a Thursday night! Quite often we'd have some kind of drill until it was time to put the planes back into the barn. Sometimes it was a practical drill on some piece of equipment. Sergeant Kevin Lockett would be the instructor. More often the drill was a lecture in the classroom & Lockett would go on & on. To break up the boredom, he would occasionally do something completely different. Like bring in a ghetto blaster & play Frank Zappa's "Catholic Girls". We'd howl. Then one time someone brought in MacLean & MacLean's "Fuck Ya" & that tune became a Squadron theme song for a time. Today, those "drills" are more memorable than the legitimate technical ones. And of course, we'd sing our own Squadron & Military songs at any opportunity!

I posted a tribute to MacLean & MacLean's "Fuck Ya" at YouTube sometime ago: WATCH ON YOU TUBE

FreddyK's 400 Squadron song video 

There wasn't a radio in Servicing so that you could hear the aircraft & tower transmissions. I thought this odd. You couldn't tell when they were landing, so you had to look for them out of the Servicing window. As they taxied to the flight line, you'd grab the orange paddles, or flashlights with the extensions that glowed if at night, and a parka if it was cold, from the hooks by the door. You'd run out to meet the plane & marshal them in. Visual signals told the pilot where we wanted it. If the flight line were crowded, sometimes we would have one person direct the pilot to another way down the line. We'd indicate the spot we wanted the plane in, then whether to come forward, turn left or right, and when to stop. Pointing at one wheel while waving towards yourself indicated that you wanted the brake applied on that wheel & have the plane turn with the other. Two arms waving towards you told the pilot to keep coming straight, while crossing your two arms meant for him to stop there. Otters could not go backwards so it was important to know how they handled. They were "tail draggers" but that tail wheel could be turned by remote control by the pilot to help make a tight turn. Once parked, it was a matter of throwing down the chocks, installing covers & locks, giving them their "A" check, and tow them in.

And so it would go. It would take several months of OJT (On the Job Training) to complete "Common Aircraft Servicing CSR 123 Otter". Eventually, you'd be qualified to sign for A, B, & DIs in your trade. Later, you'd qualify on the PIs. Then, in my case, it was completion of "AirFrame Technical Basic". All of these providing reams of forms signed by Supervisors, SAMEO, BAMEO, CO, & Admin. Clerks; to fill-up your Unit Employment Record (UER). You fell into your groove & mastered your trade. At times, even a simple job could be overly complicated due to the bureaucracy. Forinstance, the Otter had its own on-board engine fire extinguisher. To check or repair this involved three separate techs. You'd all have to cram into an access panel in the belly called the "hell hole" (named for appropriate reasons). Safety Systems was responsible for the actual fire bottle. Air Frame for the mounting bracket. Aero Engine for the plumbing leading to the engine. All just to make sure it was charged & in place. I remember doing a repair while working with the RSU. The Privates & Corporals did all the difficult work under the supervision of the Sergeant. Then the RSU BAMEO, Captain Enema, had to come & inspect the work. He glanced at the plane silently. After which he grunted "OK" and went back to his ivory tower. You never saw him or the SAMEOs much. I got the distinct impression that while he may have known the tensile strength of various metals, he had no clue how an airplane went together or came apart. He'd never physically install a part but he was like the Pope giving his blessing on our labours.

Flying was the best part. There were ample opportunities to go along for the ride. A daytime excursion around the CN Tower & downtown was always a blast! There were frequent take-off & landing practice sessions. Sometimes, the pilots would do "touch & go's", where they would touch down on the runway & immediately take-off again, to do another circuit around Downsview. Night flights were also exciting. The sight of the city & airport lights out the window was awesome. Looking out the window you could also see the aircraft's own lights - the flashing strobes & the reflections from the red rotating beacons. Yep, I never grew tired of going up for a flight (or a "fright" as we called it).

Andy Gyorffy was a Crewman. In his Flying LogBook, he had the following entry: "Float Otters are beautiful!" Indeed, they were. Since they spent a lot of time landing, mooring, and being in water, they carried additional equipment - rubber dingy, Mae West's, A bilge pump, hip waders, anchor, ropes, etc. The dinghy & life preservers were needed safety items. The pump was needed because the floats weren't entirely waterproof. They'd all leak a bit, so you'd pump them out. We'd place some kind of orange chemical inside the floats to help spot leaks on the outside for repairs. Thus the bilge water was always orange coloured & really stank! Hip waders were used by the Crewmen in tasks such as beaching the plane or getting it out from the sand. Each year, exercise "Rubber Duck" was conducted, during which float operations were practised & perfected. I believe this involved a lot of time on a lake near a pilot's cottage. Which also meant lots of fishing, drinking & fun! I recall being on a "fright" that landed in Toronto Harbour for some practice landings. It was marvellous.

A Flotter in Russ Brown's era with Ron Peirce (later to be 400 Squadron Commanding Officer). Russ Brown photo.

A Flotter on the water. Keeping the pilot dry? Barry Hubbard carrying Archie Kay. Russ Brown photo.

Beached Otter in the RCAF days. 9420 when she actually flew before becoming the Hangar Queen. {L to R; S/L Dunston; Russ's Mom; Sgt. Fournier} Russ Brown photo.

All was not serious stuff. There were plenty of jokes. One of the running jokes was to send a new recruit off to several people for "a bucket of prop wash" or "a few feet of hangar line". He would then be re-directed elsewhere in this fruitless search. I didn't fall for this one. Then there was the time we took Chip Ray's locker from the locker room & suspended it from one of the rafters in the hangar. Took him the longest time to look-up & find it, then there was the problem of getting it down. A couple of guys did a number on Bob Stopp & his new car. They kept adding gas to it. He would go on about how fantastic the mileage was. Then they would siphon out gas & he couldn't understand why it was now lousy. Bob was too easy.

There were two "Relief Tubes" on the Otter, better known to us as Piss Tubes. We'd have some fun with these. There was a compartment at the tail, behind a bulkhead at the rear doors, which housed the belly camera, radio gear, power inverter, and other stuff. A curtain gave you privacy from the cabin. One of the tubes was located here, while the other was in the cockpit. It was just a funnel on a rubber hose, with a hook to mount it on the wall. A joke was to tell a new kid that this was the pilot's intercom to the crewman at the rear. In reality, helmets & headsets plugged into jacks for radio & intercom. We'd tell the kids to give it a try & speak into the funnel or hold it to their ear. They'd usually become pissed themselves when they found out what this was really used for! It wasn't environmentally friendly. The tubes simply drained out the plane's belly. I hope the urine dissipated enough at altitude that we never wetted anyone!

I remember being on an extended flight. Major Ken Money was the pilot. I believe his Co-pilot was Captain Dave Byart. Now Dave was a funny guy, a joker. Instead of choosing the tube right where he sat, he got up to relieve himself by employing the privacy one at the back. Ken Money was a pleasant man, one of the first men picked for Canada's astronaut program. He was efficient and serious. Well, this time he turns around & says to me "Let's have some fun", with a huge smile. At just the right moment, he begins pitching the a/c's nose up & down, doing a series of "Rollercoasters". Dave eventually comes forward & is laughing. He says, "the piss kept coming back up the tube!" With each steep dive, gravity was overcome & the liquid would come back to haunt him. I think it was a bit messy back there but nothing was shorted-out.

There weren't any provisions for taking a dump. I guess you had to pull the plane over at the nearest gas station rest room. Except for aircraft 3669. I always liked "69" (great number). This plane was done-up as a VIP aircraft (in case we had to fly someone important) by Rick Richarz. Rick was one of the RSU techs. He may not have been keen at regular jobs but give him a project & he would really dive into it. He built the RSU Canteen & did a hell of a job. So it was with 3669. Everything in the cabin was plush. There was RCAF tartan curtains on the windows. The interior had a nice covering. The lighting was like that in an airliner, as were the ventilation controls. The seats were large, comfortable airline types, a vast improvement over the standard small, Spartan variety. I think there was even carpeting on the floor. The piece de resistance was a porta-potty in a compartment with a locking, sliding door. Bloody luxury! It was a thrill for me going up in this plane, not having been on 707's or other commercial planes at this point in time. Everyone liked to fly in this baby & hoped to join the "Mile High Club". What's that, you ask? It's having sex while flying above 5,280 feet. I never personally joined that club. I'd bet the farm that a few did!

You'd come to learn that there were rivalries between the various trades. Rivalries also existed between the Squadrons. We tended to feel superior over those idiots in Montreal who were always pranging planes. We also felt superior to those boobs in our sister 411 Squadron. There were rivalries between the Reservists & the Regular Force of the RSU. Some of them called us "donkeys". It was frustrating to have a new, young Reg Force Private, who you had made an effort to befriend, begin to make disparaging remarks about "asshole Reserves". There was also friction at times between our people & the others on base. Like the miserable Private in stores who issued me a dress uniform tunic that was 3 sizes too big. Air Force & Army always saw themselves as different from each other. Even while wearing the same blasted green uniforms.

So you also got to know the personnel, the denizens of the asylum. Some of the associations would last for decades. The bonds would form & strengthen at Summer Camp. But before we go to North Bay, lets meet some of the players..

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