A Champion First Officer a fictional tale by Esteban Erik Stipnieks
The ASA Brasilia sat out on the ramp. In the terminal building a group of passengers were waiting for the first leg of their journey the 20 people would almost completely fill the airplane. They would fly from Dothan Alabama to Atlanta and all over the USA one was her way to Germany. A pair of men the cockpit crew walked together to the airplane. They were what amounted to an inverted team. One was was tested in combat and competition aviator. He a year ago had been deemed the third best pilot in the world when it came to precision helicopter flying. The rookie Captain had been an Emery Riddle grad and the night before had enjoyed the storys of his first officer. The Emery Riddle grad was the kind of pilot that Richard Collins wanted always learning sober of mind and passionate about his job.
The first officer did the pre-flight. Having seen combat in 1969 at the controls of a Cobra gunship and having racked up hours as a flight instructor in both airplanes and helicopters the man loved flight with a passion and was thrilled with finally making it the ranks of professional airline pilot even at the lowest rung. He took the inspection seriously as man who had learned to fly at Ft Wolters on the high plains of Texas soloing in a TH-55 west of Mineral Wells along the Chisholm trail deep within him a rotor wing sensibility was hammered in if everything was going right something was indeed wrong. He represented what would passengers wanted. The first officer was a pilot for the Army National Guard out of Georgia.
The passengers boarded the airplane. All the CRM lessons that both men had gone through. One of them seeing the evolution of CRM through the years as the lessons written in blood through his flying career had hammered into him the attitudes. Both men loved flying and both men were in pursuit of the perfect flight and the weather for the flight was clear the fear of complacency was the belt over the suspenders. The older Warrant officer knew the Captain was in charge the Captain respected the capabilities of the man he shared a cockpit with. Understanding their roles and their common passion would make things even more safe. Both engines were started and the airplane taxied the same ramp that had a C-5 on it that shipped the OH-58s to Europe for the competition. The airplane taxied to the same departure runway. The latest generation turbo prop engines accelerating the airplane neither with a swift kick the pants or slowly hot and high with a load but the runway that could handle a C-5 handled the Brasilia. The performance on takeoff and climb was neither stellar nor sluggish. The first officer was flying the leg through familiar airspace. The Captain would run radios and intervene should an emergency arrive. The auto pilots took control and both men did their assigned duties of the flight. It was under an hour from takeoff to landing in severe clear hot and humid late summer weather.
Two of the passengers recognized the name. They were new Warrant officers recently graduated from flight school at nearby Ft. Rucker. As they departed the airplane asked "Were you on the Precision Helicopter Team?" CW4 Harding responded "Yes" the two were in uniform. The young female just five years older then his two daughters asked "Can you autography my log book?" Warrant officer Harding smiled. In the military he was an Instrument flight examiner, he was a flight instructor. Instantly the role of mentor took over the other warrant officer asked "Can you sign mine as well" With straight forward but meticulous script he wrote a personalized message "Carry the torch honor the legacy" with his signature in each of the log books. As he was doing this other passengers were surprised to find out that the first officer who had been a part of the team that had flown the skies of the south was champion pilot.
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