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> The Shortest Distance Between Two Points..., Can Take Forever! Arrival on the Healy
post Jun 15 2005, 04:19 PM
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Monday, June 13, 2005
#1 The Shortest Distance Between Two Points….Can Sometimes Take Forever!

Weather conditions here this morning were about the same; Lower 30s and very foggy. Actually it was more foggy than usual, which is one of the reasons we were again delayed in getting to the ship. Another factor was other aircraft coming into the airport. It’s funny how you tend to think it should just be something as easy as having a helicopter fly in and fly out, but it’s not. It gave me a good appreciation for flight controllers and an understanding of how many factors are involved in what seems to be a simple helicopter ride.

Our Means of Transportation
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The Coast Guard had two of these helicopters going simultaneously, but it still took more than half a day to get everyone to the ship

Anyway, this morning was basically another waiting game. We had expected the first crew to fly out at 5:45 am, and the rest of us were wondering if we would have time for breakfast that started at 7:00. Well, at breakfast, the first crew was still there….NOT a good sign. Those of us who had wondered earlier about being able to get breakfast, were now discussing over lunch if we would be there for dinner too! While I’m all for being flexible, it did get a little frustrating knowing the ship was only a few miles offshore, but we couldn’t get to it. The shortest distance between two points…Can sometimes take forever! ohmy.gif

Well, we finally got the go-ahead as both the skies and the air traffic began to clear up. We were taken to the airport in groups, and I was about the second or third group to go out to the airport. Once we got there, we had to wait a little more as we could only be carried out in shifts of 2 or 3 people on the helicopter.

Are We Having Fun Yet?--Still Playing the Waiting Game
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From left to right, scientists Paul Johnson, Margo Edwards, Dennis Darby, Jens Bischof, and Greg Cutter await their turn to get on the helicopter

While waiting, we were given a quick safety briefing about flying on the helicopter, and had to get into what was called a mustang suit. We also wore helmets, mostly to protect our ears since the helicopter is very loud.

Trying for the Third Time
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Because the ear protection is so tight, these helmets aren’t the easiest things to put on. I had the pleasure of doing it three times due to flight changes. Oh well, the mustang suit (what I’m wearing here) kept me warm while I waited.

I had to play the waiting game a few more times too. Twice I was asked to get ready to go out, but then there was a change of plans in terms of how many people could be shuttled to the ship, so I ended up having to wait again…That ol’ flexibility thing again! Having to wait, however, again gave me an appreciation of flight considerations…The weight of the luggage and passengers is a critical thing, especially on a helicopter.

When it finally was my turn, I went with two others. We had to sit in the back against a wall and put on a 5 point seatbelt….Definitely a very hard thing to do in such a cramped space…We were all pushing and knocking into each other trying to reach the belts, and having to do this in those bulky mustang suits was even more interesting. The three of us were relatively small, so I could only imagine the contortions those who went three at a time and were larger had to go through. Even TWO large people would have been interesting to watch get settled.

Once our struggles were complete, we took off and headed for the ship. The ride was a lot smoother than I had expected, but it definitely got a little cool, especially when one of the crew opened the door several minutes before we landed! Looking out an open door at the cold Arctic Ocean water below also gave me some second thoughts about whether that safety training we had in Fairbanks in April was going to come in handy after all!

Cramped Quarters
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The crewmen’s area was spacious compared to what we had in the back. This is a good view of the inside of the helicopter.

Not to worry, though. We landed safely and were ready to start the next phase of the journey….Life aboard the Healy.

Are We There Yet?
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The helicopter ride was exciting, but it was still nice to finally see the ship we’ve been trying to get to for days.
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