How I make money after retirement.

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Cat Driver
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How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

I have decided to try and defend some of my so called bragging about my flying career.

It gets a bit tiring being put down by some of the regulars here so here is one of the ways I make money when not flying.

I write stories about some of the more interesting flights I have done over the past half a century.

This story was sold to a British aviation monthly magazine " Today's Pilot " in their May 2008 edition.

It paid me quite well which was why I write the stories.

Some here will have read it of course but a lot of the newer members have not so it is for them I am posting this.




Arcturus, Missing Hours and Fate
By . .:

Finally after over a week of just plain tough flying weather the stars came out and we would depart Johnston Point on Banks Island for what should be an easy flight. This flight would turn out to be remembered forever as one of the closest calls I have ever had in almost fifty years of flying. The year was 1975, late February. We were flying supplies to a cat train that was shooting seismic lines for oil exploration on Banks Island in the high Arctic.

Johnson Point, an oil exploration base camp with a paved runway, was the main airport for supplying the western Arctic. In these very high latitudes winter means total darkness for months and navigating in that very hostile environment is difficult at the best of times. We had just gotten our first twin otter equipped with a new navigation aid called Global Navigation System. G.N.S. was based on very low power radio transmitters located in various parts of the world. In order for the computer to be able to navigate it had to acquire at least three G.N.S. transmitters.

Latitude and longitude had to be entered, for both our departure and destination points, in the computer. This entry was done with little wheels to select the numbers and other information for each trip. A further limiting factor with G.N.S. was that we had to have accurate positions for the computer to navigate to wherever we set it. Cat trains are always on the move, consequently requiring a navigator with each train to take celestial shots whenever he could to accurately keep track of their new location.

Once the G.N.S. stations were acquired and the trip was set up it was so accurate we could fly several hundred miles and then return to our parking ramp at the airport without a hitch. To us G.N.S. was like having died and gone to heaven. Being able to navigate so accurately in the high Arctic, where the magnetic compass always points strait down, was a "god send". This particular trip to the seismic train was uneventful with no cloud cover at all just the stars from horizon to horizon. After the last week of flying all our trips from takeoff to landing on solid instruments while relying on two radar altimeters one in front of each pilot for our landing decision height this one had been easy. The only visibility restriction we had was the complete loss of forward visibility in the snow which blew up when we went into reverse to stop on the short runway, which had been ploughed for us, on the ice.

Sometimes these strips were not much over 1000 feet long due to the location of the cat train at that time therefore, reverse was a necessity to stop before we ran off the landing strip. With clear weather and no rush to get back to Johnson Point we went to the cookhouse, had a leisurely meal, listened to the tape recorder playing music such as North to Alaska, which we of course changed to South to Alaska. Finally, off to the airplane we went where we decided to hell with waiting to reset the G.N.S. Instead, with such a clear night, we would fly back to home base using the astro compass. After lighting up the two P.T.6's we taxied back to the runway and lined up with the flare pots. We got the almanac out and shot Arcturus. It is one of the easiest stars to identify and shoot due to its position and brightness in the sky. Arcturus is the first bright star out from the handle of the Big Dipper. We read our heading on the astro compass, set our direction indicators (gyros) and off we went for Johnston Point. Once leveled off in cruise there was nothing but the sound of the engines and the big canopy of stars that ended in a faint white blur which was the endless Arctic snow just barley visible below us in the faint starlight.

Sitting in the warm cockpit with only the sound of those dependable turbine engines and no sense of movement through the dark night I slowly became aware that something was wrong but could not quite figure out what it was. I remember asking the co-pilot to see if Johnson Point was showing up on the A.D.F. After a few minutes he had no luck, now I came wide awake and said, "This doesn't look right. Let's get another shot on Arcturus.". Once more I gave him the time and he read the almanac to set the astro compass. Again there was no change in our D.I. settings. All of a sudden a possibility came to me and I asked him what time he had. When he read his watch we both knew we were really in trouble as there was almost three hours difference between our watches. I will never forget the feeling of real fear when I realized that we had departed the cat train with a D.I. setting that was almost forty-five degrees in error.

The sudden realization of just how serious our position was made it very difficult to convert the position of the stars versus what I figured they should look like. Now there was no doubt, in my mind, we were far off our track for Johnston Point, so far in fact I knew we might never be found.

Time was now critical. We had to decide which watch was right. Making a quick position guess based on nothing but the time we had flown on this heading and instinct we turned ninety degrees to the right starting a slow cruise climb for better fuel burn. All we could do now was wait and hope.

In this part of the high Arctic, at night, there is absolutely nothing but endless white, to try to recognize any feature below you is hopeless. Now both of us were really worried, questions and doubts started. Whose watch was set wrong? Had we turned the right way? Why had we not noted the runway heading after landing? Why had we not written the heading down so as to be able to confirm our star shot? Why did we not check both of our watches, especially in that the clock in the airplane did not work which in these temperatures was normal? Radio reception was so poor we could not raise anyone on H.F. or V.H.F. then all of a sudden the A.D.F. came alive and there was the Johnston Point N.D.B. strait ahead. Soon we could see the lights of our destination on the horizon. For some time I had been quite concerned about our fuel state. Seeing the lights in the distance was just to good to be true. However, to be on the safe side we stayed at eleven thousand until we could definitely make the airport as distances can be so deceiving at night in the high Arctic.

Descending through one thousand feet the low fuel light came on telling us we had eleven minutes of fuel left in the front tank. I really don't remember how much fuel remained in the rear tank. Of course, how much fuel there was in the rear tank is now a mute point. It really doesn't matter, because like in Earnest Gann's great book "Fate is the Hunter", that night so many years ago the hunter did not find my young co-pilot, whose name I cannot even recall, and me. Had we turned left instead of right we would have been so far off course it is possible no one would have ever found the airplane or us in those millions of square miles of ice and snow. After landing and going into the Atco Huts, that were our accommodations, we finally found out it was my watch that was wrong. To this day I do not really know why I chose to make the decision it was my watch, even stranger the damn thing worked just fine after this what should have been an uneventful trip.

That just leaves fate as the best explanation for my decision to turn right that night. Isn't it strange how words like Arcturus, Missing Hours and Fate can have such chilling meaning when flying airplanes?
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dumbbell daddy
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by dumbbell daddy »

Great story! Well written. You should write a book ..
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by flyer 1492 »

Great story. Keep them coming. What's the old adage?, "learn from other people's mistake, as you won't be around long enough to do them all".
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

Great story! Well written. You should write a book ..
Thanks it really means something to me to that it is worth my time writing about flying.

Two years after that story was sold my wife died and it was like someone turned the lights off and I lost all desire to write about flying because it just brought back memories of her sharing my flying life.

Seven years have passed since she died and somewhere deep down I am finally realising she would want me to continue writing about flying.

Now all I need to do is get off my ass and start writing again.

Anyhow I am happy you like the story.. :mrgreen:
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The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no


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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by frog »

You have a gift ! Use it !
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by confusedalot »

Good gig, wish you continued success.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

You have a gift ! Use it !
Thank you.

I have several unfinished stories that are probably better than that one and I am going to finish them.

The mind is a strange thing, I still do not seem to realise I will not live forever because I still feel like I am young, but reality is I am eighty two and eventually time will catch up with me, so I had better get busy and start writing again.

By the way of all the machines I have flown over my life time the most fun was gyroplanes, they even beat helicopters for fun. :)
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The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no


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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by CpnCrunch »

Great writing. Perhaps you should see if COPA is interested in publishing your stories, as well as writing a book.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by DHC2eater »

Hi Cat.....believe it or or not....I also was at Johnson Point the winter of 1975....there were 2 DHC6 and an MU2 (from time to time)...you must have been with Borek....I was with Athabasca....great experience and interesting memories!!!!


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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

Wow what a small world this is.

Actually I was doing a one of short term job for I think it was some drilling company,,,jeses my memory must be slipping,,, I will eventually remember who it was.

I do remember I had just got home from Chile and the change of temperature was brutal.

And that was my first time flying the Twin Otter on wheels.
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The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no


After over a half a century of flying no one ever died because of my decision not to fly.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by dogone »

I was at Johnson Point in winter of 72/73. I worked seismic and was on my way to Elleff Ringnes Island. Bad weather stuck us there for several days. Borek was the big player in western arctic then. Bradly in the east. La Ronge Aviation had a TO out of Inuvik a few years later. I didn't fly then but sure must have been good times for aviation. Our oil company clients spent huge money for our air support. In our high artic camps everything was flown in but water and we used propane to melt snow. Spent 8 winters up there and was a great time of my life. Biggest rabbits on earth at Johnson Point.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

did you ever visit the riding academy in Inuvik doggone? :mrgreen:
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The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no


After over a half a century of flying no one ever died because of my decision not to fly.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by squash junky »

sh1t, I've only spent money
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by jschnurr »

I didn't know what a "cat train" was, until I looked it up.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by CL-Skadoo! »

Incredible piece of writing, Mr. ., this is the best post I have seen on this site in a very long time. i appreciate you taking the time to share it.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by niss »

I remember that story from earlier on. Great writing Cat. If you don't want to disclose the amount that's fine but can you shed some light on what sporadic writing like that pays?

All the best!
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by YesMassaPayson »

Nothing says "I'm above your criticism" like a self-important j3rk off thread about how great a freelance writer you are. We get it, you think you're better than us.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

Incredible piece of writing, Mr. ., this is the best post I have seen on this site in a very long time. i appreciate you taking the time to share it.
Thanks, isn't it amazing that the forum trolls who take every opportunity to belittle me about my flying history are silent on this thread?

Why would that be? :| :|
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The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no


After over a half a century of flying no one ever died because of my decision not to fly.
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Re: How I make money after retirement.

Post by Cat Driver »

Nothing says "I'm above your criticism" like a self-important j3rk off thread about how great a freelance writer you are. We get it, you think you're better than us.
Ahh it seems one can not please everyone by the tone of that comment.

Where did I infer I am better than anyone else?

Then again I really can not help someone who may feel inferior, but there are professionals with the qualifications who may be able to help you yesmassapayson.
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The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no


After over a half a century of flying no one ever died because of my decision not to fly.
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