I glanced out the side window as I struggled to stay awake. Suddenly, something caught my attention that instantly woke me up. There was oil running out of the left engine. Not just a small leak like there always was. This was a steady flow that trailed down the top of the engine cowling and off the back of the wing.
     “Wake up!” I said to The Co. “We've got a problem.”
     “That's fine,” The Co mumbled in his sleep, “you can take care of it.”
     I quickly scanned the gauges for the left engine and found that the oil pressure was dropping, and the oil temperature was rising. This confirmed that we were losing a large quantity of oil quickly. There was no way of knowing how much we had lost already, but judging from the extremely low oil pressure, it wouldn't be long before the engine quit.
     The proper procedure in this circumstance is to shut down the left engine. If it lost all of its oil, the engine would seize up, destroying itself. By shutting it down prior to that happening, the engine could be saved, the oil leak could be repaired, and the engine reused.
     I'd had enough for one day though. I was pretty disgruntled at this point and decided that I didn't care if the engine was destroyed.
     “Let them pay for a new engine,” I growled. “That'll teach them.”
     I left the doomed engine at weekend power*; I figured I'd just run the hell out of it till it blew up. This kind of abuse of the engines, which happened on a daily basis, was a big part of the reason the planes had so many problems in the first place. That, combined with the lack of proper maintenance, of course. But when a company constantly treated you this poorly, it became hard to care about taking care of their airplanes.

* - Weekend power means full throttle even if that takes the engines over redline. This may result in airspeed exceeding the maximum speed for the airplane, which would set off a warning horn. If that happens, you just pull the circuit breaker for the warning horn, disabling it. This would allow you to overspeed the airplane without the annoyance of that pesky horn.
     Weekend power got its name because no one wants to fly on the weekend, so, if you have to, you fly full power, getting the flight over with as fast a possible so you can go home. Some pilots have also used the terms “Horn Fridays,” and “Overspeed Sundays.”




     Before long, the storms were right in front of us.  I scanned the radar to find the path of least resistance through the line.  As we entered the weather, the turbulence started to kick up, and heavy rain began to hammer the plane.  I tightened my lap belt and turned up the cockpit lights to drown out the lightning.  The plane got tossed around like a rag doll as the updrafts and downdrafts took us. 
     “Ask for a block altitude,” I told Chip.  This would allow us to ride the waves through the storm easier without having to maintain a constant altitude.  Chip didn’t say a word.  “Chip, you hear me?” I yelled.  I looked over and realized he was catatonic.  He sat there in his seat, staring straight ahead like he was looking into the face of a ghost. 
     I got the block altitude myself.  It seems like no matter who I fly with I always get stuck doing all the work. 
     Damn worthless copilots! 
     The lightning flashed as bright as daylight all around us as I continued to fight the storm.  The lights in the rear cargo area flickered on and off as the boxes bounced around back there hitting the light switch.  I watched our airspeed as it fluctuated wildly up and down, continually making power adjustments to keep the plane within tolerances.  Saint Elmo’s fire crept up the windscreen, and the radios blared with static interference. 
     That’s when I smelled the s***, literally.  Chip had s*** himself.
     The weather was over before long as we punched out the backside of the line but the s*** smell stayed for the rest of the night.  What was worse was that, when Chip came out of his catatonic state and started speaking to air traffic control again, he started crying on the radio, saying things like “Tell my parents I love them,” and “I’m too young to die.” 
     “Will you calm down?” I said. “You’re spilling your placenta all over the radio.” 
     I had to pull his headset cords out of the mic jacks to save us from further embarrassment.


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 Copyright © 2009 Alexander W. Stone.  All Rights Reserved.