Welcome to my Blog

I am starting this blog just as I am starting my airline career. Feel free to ask any questions, or if you are in need of any help related to seeking employment with an airline then just let me know. I really enjoy helping others in any way that I can.

This is my blog with a name that stems from a long standing joke. Damnit Bobby was a term thrown out during a fun family sports match. Damnit Bobby Airlines was destined to be a loving name given to any flight I conduct which has passengers on board

I was a flight instructor and a part 91 (private carriage) pilot prior to becoming employed with an airline. Please enjoy the blog, and feel free to comment about anything and everything.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Days gone by

So today, while working with my father at his business, I started to reflect on some of my time as a mission pilot with the Civil Air Patrol. It was something I was very proud of, I was not only the first mission qualified pilot who was a Cadet, but I was also 17 at the time I passed my mission pilot checkride. I would have never thought that being a mission pilot would bring so many opportunities to be involved in actual searches. I had figured that as a Cadet, I was to be more of a marketing tool (which, I was published in several local papers and in the CAP's Monthly Newsletter). As I was talking with Dad about the missions I went on, a few came to mind that I thought I should share with the world. It is something that I think will help me get a little frustration out, and share some stories that few people outside of a small circle have ever heard before.

My first actual mission was in 2000. There was a local pilot who had departed Malvern Airport at 6am on a business trip to Sulphur Springs Texas. I was just getting home from school when Dad called me (he was our Squadron Commander), and said they needed me to fly a mission. All of the other mission pilots were not available at this off-hour time of day or were out of town. I headed down to the airport, and finished the paperwork for the flight and mission. We took off about 4:30pm to relocate down to Malvern airport as this was going to be mission headquarters for this search. When we got there, several other flight crews had already arrived and were getting ready to begin the search. As my flight crew got our briefing, we found out the details of the proposed flight the pilot intended on making. Sadly, like all accidents there were a string of events that combined to result in an accident. The pilot was a newly instrument rated pilot, and on the morning of his departure there were widespread IMC conditions all over the state. He had an important business meeting to attend, so delaying the departure time meant loosing a possible lucrative contract. After failing to contact ATC following his departure from Malvern, ATC began the process of notifying the proper authorities of an overdue aircraft. Purely due to timing of phone calls, the Air Force AFRCC center received a "hit" from an ELT in the general area of Malvern. You have to keep in mind that ELT signals will "bounce" off of metal buildings, and I have been tracking aircraft that the AFRCC said was 20 miles from an airport only to locate the ELT on the field and being improperly tested or disposed of. So, for the ELT to be "in the area" really didn't mean much, but the fact that one was going off in that general area was cause to get CAP involved prior to their usually 3 "hits" before they contact us. We began the search about 6:00pm, and we flew a "grid" that was not far from the airport. The first CAP aircraft to arrive was already sent on a GPS direct track between the two airports, and they hadn't located anything.

The part of that whole day that still grips my heart occurred after we got back from our first search pattern. We fueled up, and were taking a break (hot day, and we were staying about 1,000 AGL). As I was getting a drink of water, this lady walked up to the three of us and asked if we saw anyone out there. I told her that we hadn't found anything yet, but we will not give up. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked me... "Please help bring my husband home". I couldn't say anything because of the lump in my throat, and she gave all three of us hugs and then said "Thank you all so much, please help us bring him home". The Observer flying with us was a retired engineer who worked for a brick company, but he had also been flying for over 40 years (he was 82 when flying with us).. He was the one that managed to talk to this nice lady and tell her enough to not give her false hope, but also just enough to be able to keep the hope alive. We went out with not much daylight left. We were just about to head back to mission base due to the low light situation when the scanner (Dad - who has unbelievable vision) thought he saw a shimmer in the trees off in the distance a little. We went to investigate (going off anything is better then nothing), and we did locate the accident plane. It was almost impossible to see from the air due to the small size of the crash area in the trees. I later heard a comparison from the Sheriff's office that the total area of the accident was no greater then a washing machine. The near vertical flight path profile meant there was very little relative damage to the forested area. Jerry, being the observer, called our coordinates back into mission base, and we headed back shortly there after. I was dreading getting to mission base because I was sure the wife was going to still be there, however she wasn't. I never saw her again, but I don't think any of the three of us wanted to either.

The last CAP search I wanted to share is a much shorter story... at least I am going to make it much shorter ;-). My dad woke me up at 5:30am on a Saturday. I don't remember the month, but it was towards the end of winter, because it was very cold and very wind this day. The day before, a Beechcraft Baron was going into my home airport, Hot Springs, AR (KHOT), and the pilot was going to fly a GPS approach to runway from the southwest's IAF of the TAA GPS approach. There was another aircraft inbound to HOT, so the Barron was just being extremely polite when he let them go first. It was a hard IFR kind of night, but the Barron pilot planned on holding over the IAF. The problem was just a momentary lapse in situational awareness by the pilot. I don't remember the exact details... I will search for the accident report after posting this, and when I find it I will append it to this post.... From my memory, after letting the other pilot proceed in for an approach he began the hold, but didn't reset the autopilot's altitude preselect for the minimum altitude at the IAF, he had it set for the intermediate segment of the approach. As a result, during the inbound leg of his holding pattern they descending into terrain.

We tried to get airborn to aid in the search of the Barron, but the ceilings were too low and Jonesboro FSS told us that even the TAF's were not promising all day. We assembled our ground team and went to aid Hot Spring County Sheriff and rescuers with the search. We got there around 8am, and the Sheriff put us to work right away. They sent us to the area where they felt was a high probability for the location of the accident site. They had a team in there earlier, but they couldn't get more than a few miles into the woods before they had to stop due to terrain - Very hilly, they didn't have any stamina for the job. We split into two teams and began the search through the woods. I was with my Dad and the other team went with a senior member from the Little Rock CAP Squadron. We found the crash site about 6 miles in, on the top of a hill - what we call a "mountain" in Arkansas. Actually, Dad smelled it before we ever got close enough to see smoke... Unfortunately, when I say Dad smelled it I mean that because of his time in the Air Force he was very aware of what burnt flesh smells like. You could smell that "odor" well, and it wasn't until we were closer that you could smell the avgas. The people in the plane all looked so peaceful. It really sounds strange, but aside from the fire, they didn't look dead at all. The two on board were not completely burned. The passenger in the right front seat still had his hands crossed in her lap. The pilot just had his head slumped down, but sitting upright in the seat. Probably, the rain aided in keeping the fire somewhat at bay.

After we were relieved by the Sheriff's department, we went back on ATVs with other search personnel to mission base. When we got there, the family members of the victims were arriving. They hadn't been informed of the news yet, and you could tell by the look on their face that they were all very scared but praying about the safe return of their loved ones. Dad was very good at avoiding the questions they started asking us (we were in military uniforms, people tend to go straight to you in situations like these). A crisis manager from the State Police's office quickly came over to talk to the family members, and took them inside the trailer the Sheriff's office had brought. Thanks to radio's, everyone already knew we located the accident site. But, let me tell you... I heard a scream from that trailer that I never want to hear again. The wife of the pilot was the one who was screaming... she had to be carried back to the car after they had told everyone of the news. Then, I'm not sure if it was because she was still in disbelief or if she was just so distraught that she couldn't think straight... She asked one of the police officers if she could go to the crash site so she could get his wedding ring.

So, if you have ever read any of my other posts elsewhere where I talk about not remaining with the CAP as a senior member, this is part of the reason why. The other is because of all of the bureaucracy and politics involved.

EDIT: Here is a link to the NTSB report of the above: http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20001204X00053&ntsbno=FTW99FA074&akey=1


P.S. Tomorrow or Sunday I am planning on another blog entry about my latest experiences while flying the SAAB and I hope to be able to make a big announcement then also.


  1. Hello, Bob. I have a Google Alert to send me web postings containing Sulphur Springs, Texas,my hometown, and that's how I found your blog. Just curious, besides Dammit Bobby Airlines, are you free to tell me the corporate name? My son is a captain for Expressjet and I see the Continental aircraft picture at the top of your blog. By the way, being fairly familiar with flying terminology, I cannot decipher what "IMC conditions" are which you mentioned in your post today. -- Best Reagards, Phil

  2. IMC is a fairly common term which means Instrument Meteorological Conditions. It is in the Pilot Controller Glossary. Here is the entry:

    INSTRUMENT METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS- Meteorological conditions expressed in terms of visibility, distance from cloud, and ceiling less than the minima specified for visual meteorological conditions.

    DBA is just a term of endearment for me. It isn't a business or corporation. I actually fly for a Regional airline based out of Memphis. I am based in Houston, and loving every minute of it.

    Is your son going to be forced to move to Chicago?

  3. He hasn't said a word about moving to Chicago. He, too, works out of Houston, the hub for Expressjet. He spent his time in the NJ hub and hated every minute of it, but you do what you have to do.

    So, IMC is synonymous with IFR?

    And I didn't state my question clearly: I was just curious if you are at liberty to mention the airline you work for.

    Looking forward to more blog posts.


  4. Great stories, Bob - thanks for sharing!