There are certain words that I have heard more the last few years, Toxic is one of them, another is Entitled.
I have spent my life avoiding toxic people as I have never done well with those types of folks and trying to function in a toxic work environment is very counter productive.

Entitled can show up anywhere but the work environment is what’s on my mind as I write this.

The Entitled example that comes to mind happened in St Johns, Washington where I was flying for Wes Gossard.

The Palouse Country is an interesting place to Crop Dust; if you find a flat and square field you need to slap yourself and wake up as you are not in the Palouse Country, odd shapes and rolling hills is the order of the day. The country there is so rolling that even seasoned pilots can have a queasy stomach contouring the hills at a 130 mph. Someone like me who doesn’t have a great stomach is normally sick from start to finish; not so sick that you can’t fly but sick to the point of throwing up.

Yeah I’ve thrown up more than once flying, not something that I’m proud of but just the facts; not alone in that category either.

I worked for Wes the last 3 years that I flew for a living, 2007, 08 and 09. The FAA pulled my medical the winter of 2010 and ended my career as a pilot. Fourteen years later I’m still working, not in a aircraft, just working.

The Palouse season would start the end of March and run for about 10 weeks. Wes housed and fed me so that helped with my expenses. I was flying for Evergreen Flying Service out of Rayville Louisiana fire fighting and would fly for them the rest of the spring and summer into early Fall.

Normally I’d have a few months break in the Fall and then head to Yuma for a short stint there flying vegetable crops day and night. Night Crop Dusting is a different story and I’ll get to that later.

Wes was about 10 years younger than me so neither of us were youngsters. We were seasoned pilots though and that helped us get through the rough Palouse Country flying. He was a South Dakota kid; I told him I never knew that there were Hill Billy’s from South Dakota until I met him. Although the flying was tough he was good to work for and I always enjoyed it there.

The last year that I flew with him we had 3 different young pilots come and fill in. Wes had 3 Bull Thrush’s fitted with ‘the Wright 1820, 9 cylinder, 1200 horse power Radial engine. It’s the same motor that powered the B17 Flying Fortress during WW2. I had flown that particular model before so a refresher course on start up and shut down was pretty much all that was needed.

Coming from Yuma where I flew the 402 Air Tractor with a Turbo Prop engine and then stepping into the Bull Thrush was somewhat like climbing off of a nimble footed filly and onto a stiff necked Stallion. No I’m not original on that comment as the WW2 pilots that went from the Spitfire to the P47 Thunderbolt felt the same way, in fact that is where the expression came from.

Wes had earned his wings, so to speak somewhat like I had, the hard way. Nobody ever gave us a break, we just didn’t quit.

I’m not sure of the exact year but Wes had been in North Africa, probably Morocco spraying locusts with a DC 7. They had 4 of them and it was quite the adventure, something to make a movie out of.

On the way over there they landed at the Azores to refuel. Their aircraft had been recently fitted with a Loran guidance system. On one of them the system failed and they followed the aircraft in front of them into the Azores. After leaving the Azores heading on the last leg of their flight to Africa they lost sight of the other aircraft but simply dead reckoned to Africa and turned left or right after determining where they were on the coast and headed into their home base.

I don’t recall how long they had been there when things went south for them.

They would fly in formation covering huge areas at a time. I’m not sure the altitude above ground level that they flew but I assume it was relatively high.

One day as they entered the valley they were assigned to fly the 3rd aircraft took a hit from a ground launched anti aircraft gun and disintegrated in front of the 4th aircraft. Before he could take evasive action the 4th aircraft took a round that destroyed the number 2 engine and it burnt and fell out of the motor mounts.

They were still flying but the damage to the number two engine caused the prop governor for the number one engine to over speed and that motor was going to come apart if they couldn’t find a way to control the RPM’s.

The fight engineer was able to manually pause the RPM’s but then the engine would run away as soon as he released it, so he worked his magic with the off and on again RPM’s to keep the motor operating. Both engines out on the left wing would have made it impossible to keep the aircraft flying.

Half of the crew was for landing on the desert floor and the other half was against such an idea. They figured if they survived the landing that a bullet in the brain was the best they could expect from whichever Bedouin tribe had shot the other plane down and knocked an engine off of theirs; they did a slow climbing turn and headed for the coast.

They made the coast and found an airstrip and got it down in one piece; minus an engine.

The flight engineer was completely unhinged and never flew again, possibly some of the rest of the crew didn’t either. Wes made it home after finishing the contract and eventually bought a flying business at St John’s Washington. I had met Wes at an Aerial Applicators Convention sometime in the 90’s but didn’t go to work for him until 2007.

My journey in Aviation did not include working in Africa or even out of the States but in it’s own right was every bit as exciting as well as tragic. The amount of friends and acquaintances you lose in Aviation is staggering. Not sure why we continue to fly after the loss of so many but we do. I’ve never felt that I was a better pilot or luckier but at the same time I never took an Aviation accident lightly. Towards the end of my career I would scour the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board reports looking for a common thread. The most common thread was pilot error, weather was a contributing factor and aircraft maintenance popped up often as well.

Back to St Johns Washington and Entitled pilots.

Like I said Wes and I had paid our dues, so why does a pilot show up, young, inexperienced or at a minimum at least and figure it’s their privilege or entitlement to be treated as equals? Which we did treat them as equals. Flying with Wes wasn’t the only time I ran into this problem. I could write a book on the number of pilots I have known that couldn’t buy a flying job one year but a year after starting their first job the new it all.

Flying was a huge challenge for me, I worked hard for what I got out of it and felt that I had had very few breaks. Growing up flying with my dad was a huge influence for the better in my flying career and then flying for Lee Swain at Davenport Washington was without a doubt the second best thing that happened to me for a career in aviation.

One day after a not too grueling day we three pilots were in Wes’s hangar winding down and visiting and this young pilot mentioned that he was born to do this. Wes and I glanced at each other but didn’t say a word. Our new super human pilot lasted for another week or two then didn’t come back. Part of it was that Wes and I were able to keep up with the work but in another conversation between the two us us he mentioned that he didn’t see any point in investing in someone that had no desire to learn or improve.

Often throughout the rest of that season, normally in the afternoon a load or two before quitting for the day when we were being pounded to pieces by rough air, one of us would call the other on the radio and and say;

                                                                               ‘I was born to do this’

Entitled; what does that mean? You’re owed something, what are you owed? Not a damn thing. Go earn it, you’re not entitled. You have the privilege and opportunity to work for it, train for it, get better at it by your experience and hard work but thinking that you are entitled to anything is a huge mistake; unless of course you are;         


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