November 23, 2011 Helicopter Ops!
We had a surprise yesterday...over the pipes came an announcement that areas of the ship would be secured for Flight Ops. There was a passenger transfer that was going to occur...someone needed to get off Healy – and the only way to do it...on a helicopter!
When Dr. Ashjian was explaining Flight Ops Con 1 and Con 2, I immediately asked for permission to be on the weather deck during Flight Operations. My students KNOW how CRAZY I am about flight and all things that fly! I teach 18 weeks of aviation and aerospace and have flown in an F-18 with the Navy Blue Angels, glided with a former NASA Space Shuttle Commander, completed aerobatic flight training in an Extra 300 and even JUMPED from a plane during my Parachute Familiarization training for my own suborbital spaceflight.
The XO, CDR Tlapa, agreed to allow me in the Helicopter Control Operations (HCO) Shack during the Flight Ops. I was ecstatic! He fitted me for cranial – protective headgear that has built in hearing protection and googles. The Captain, myself, Dr. Ashjian and the Helicopter Communication team were ready and waiting in the HCO.
All of the important information for the Flight Operations were written on the windows....they actually WRITE it right on the window!
Everything happened very quickly. Radio communication informed of when N401ES (November Four Zero One Echo Sierra) had left Barrow, and when it was 5 minutes out. It landed beautifully on the flight deck. The passenger was loaded and they were underway within minutes.
Thank you SO much CDR Tlapa for allowing me to be on the Deck during Flight Ops...what an amazing opportunity...in the Arctic, on an Icebreaker, watching a helicopter land. TOO cool!
There was also a different kind of excitement. About an hour after Flight Ops, the ship came to a stop. We were in much thinner ice, so it was decided to take one of the engines off-line. We also wanted to begin the next science station at 1800, right after dinner. During the lull in the science action, the General Emergency alarm rang: Flooding in the HCO Shack...this was NO DRILL! We grabbed hats and gloves and headed to our Muster Station. Up two decks, outside, in the dark...following the rule of Up and Starboard, we made our way to the Science Conference Lounge. Attendance was taken, those scientists sleeping in their staterooms were awaken and accounted for. It seems as though pipes in the HCO Shack have frozen and burst. Over the PA, we got the message “Potable water AND sewer are secured until further notice”...NO drinking water and NO restrooms!! I am sure the Crew of the Healy will everything working in no time! Other than eating dinner off of paper plates and not having running water or restrooms for about 2 hours, all was good!
And another Arctic winter day passes...
Stay tuned as we continue our exciting voyage on the USCG Cutter Healy. Until then...
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever” - Mohandas Gandhi