Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jingle Bells

So besides being a beat cop, I have a couple collateral duties.  I am part time on the SWAT team and part time in our aviation unit.  When I fly I am an observer or what we call TFO Tactical Flight Officer.  Basically I do the law enforcement function so the pilot can focus on flying.  We Fly MD500E helicopters and we have an awesome surveillance plane as well.  Most of the time I fly in one of our helicopters and the basic duty is to monitor in a scan mode our normal 4 district channels to listen for stuff to go to as well as two other PD channels for highway patrol and other agencies as well as two aviation channels so I know when my pilot is talking on his channels so I don’t try to talk to him at the same time when he is talking to tower or other aircraft.  I run the same computer we have in a patrol car, a spotlight and a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) camera which is thermal imaging which is operated with an Xbox like controller.  So you hands are full so to key the mic to talk you have two buttons on floor one to talk to the pilot and the other to talk on which ever of the 7 channels I am listening to I select.  It gets busy to say the least.  Now you fly around a have to be able to know where you are, where “they” are and describe in a clear enough manner that the bad guy gets caught.  Its serious multi tasking.  Now factor in leaning out the cockpit to look for things find flying in circles and not getting sick, it gets pretty tricky.

One night a couple years ago shortly before Christmas I was flying as TFO and we had a passenger in the back.  It’s always neat to fly around Christmas time because its fun to see all of the Christmas lights.  But since its cold we fly with the doors on, which looking through the curved Plexiglas makes things look funny so I don’t dig doors on very much.  It was my first time flying with NVG Night Vision Goggles and they were not set up for me (which I would learn later in NVG School at the local Air Force Base is a bad idea)  Within moments of taking off my inner ears let me know they were not happy to be flying.  Looking though the curved glass and flying in circles did not help the nauseous feeling in my gut. 

A few calls into it were flying circles around a house and I am keeping the spot lot on the target while officers search in side for a suspect.  My job is to notices any squirters (people who come squirting out of the building running) and start calling out their description and direction of travel and talk the ground units in to apprehend them.  My pilot asks me on the intercom (ICS)  “Hey, you ok?”  My response was something similar to Ving Rhames line from Pulp Fiction when Bruce Willis comes down to the basement of the pawn shop to free him.  “Nah, I’m pretty freaking far from okay” He could tell I was struggling to not puke.  I must have looked pretty green even in the darkness.  He says “Okay I will level out a bit, fly  a wider orbit and when we are done head back to the hangar”  and when we are done we start to head back to the hanger and another priority call came out and he does an banking S turn to change direction to head toward the call. 

For 68 minutes I had been doing everything in my power to not barf but that was too much.  I put my hand up to my mouth, moved my mic out of the way and up it came.  I didn’t want to clean it up so like a champ I swallowed down the first batch, which pretty much guaranteed a second batch which was now blocked by my hand so it took the path of least resistance, out my nose.  Yup, peas carrots and Raman noodles shooting out my nose.  I moved my mic back down and shouted “barf bag” and reached back to the lady in the back, who promptly threw a barf bag at me.  I’m retching my guts out and my pilot gets on ICS “No, no, no I’m a sympathetic puker” he looks left away from me pulls collective, shoves the cyclic forward and starts singing jingle bells to distract himself between radio transmissions to the tower. “Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way….Falcon five are we clear for direct approach…negative on gecko approach….request direct approach…Jingle bells, jingle bell”  We came skidding in and I pulled my mic cord and jumped out to finish my business. 

After when I was done cleaning up myself and the helicopter the lady in the back and pilot were both laughing at me and she said I heard you ask for a barf bag and wave your hand like “Look bitch, hand me a barf bag now! So I threw it at you as soon as I could”.  We all laughed. I haven’t barfed again since.  I now have my NVG set up correctly and my pilot still sings jingle bells from time to time to make me laugh.  The rest of the guys made me special barf bags with my name on it and a happy little picture of me.  I still get grief about it every time I fly.  Good times to be had by all.  But I won’t eat Raman.

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