Have you ever done something in your life that was so stupid it could have got you fired but on the other hand, that “something” was so much FUN!?!? It was the winter of 1993 and Linda and I were working in Fort Vermilion in northern Alberta. I was flying as an air ambulance and charter pilot and Linda was teaching kindergarten. It was approx. 9:42 pm and I was playing hockey at the local rink when my pager went off. (Remember those annoying things)? When I found a phone, dispatch relayed to me that I needed to be at the airport within 15 minutes for a medivac flight to Fox Lake. I was a little ticked because our game wasn’t over and I would probably not be in bed until after 1 a.m. I got changed, drove to the airport, met the other pilot Lance, towed our King Air 90(see above) out of the hangar and then loaded up the paramedics in the airplane.
There is something you need to know about flying air ambulance in a small community. Quite often we would get to know our patients fairly well because we would fly some of them on a frequent basis. So was the case with a certain patient I will call “John Doedoe“. John was known for faking illness at times so he could get a free flight to town because Fox Lake was a bit isolated (a strike against socialized medicine). He knew the paramedic lingo and would use it often. Before the EMT would ask him what his pain level was at John would offer the information by stating, “On a scale of 1-10 my pain level is a 10″. The medics and the pilots found this quite humorous.
So here we were taxiing out to runway 25 when the paramedic Allan casually asked Lance and I, “Guess who we’re going out to get”? All of us in unison unenthusiastically said “John Doedoe”. Allan hinted as he asked me, “Hey Rick, I heard there’s going to be a lot of turbulence out there tonight, right“? I shot back with “I got the same report“! We all laughed. We arrived at our destination on a snow covered runway where the nurses would put out battery-powered lamps on the sides of the snowbanks so we could land safely at night. (We could always tell when there was a new nurse putting out the lamps because the lamps would be put very close together giving us very little room for error when landing between the lights…but that’s another story). We loaded up Doedoe and took off for Fort Vermilion. After levelling off at 8500 feet I decided to have some fun. I took the yolk and jiggled it forward-back and side-to-side, forward-back-side-to-side. I could hear the medics in the back chuckling a little. I offered the yolk to Lance and he did the same but with a bit more force. The chuckling turned into laughter. Being the Captain, I was not about to be outdone by my co-pilot so I proceeded to yank and bank and create moderate to severe turbulence. The laughter in the back of the cabin had turned to convulsive hysteria!!! At that point, reality overtook me and I realized that I had crossed the line from professionalism to feeble-mindedness!
The next day a friend of ours who was a nurse at the hospital called Linda and asked if I had brought in Doedoe from Fox Lake. Linda asked why and Deb proceeded to tell her that Doedoe was telling everyone that, “That Rick Crosby was trying to scare me last night! He was rocking the airplane and making it bumpy”! I appreciate friends that think the best of me because Deb told him, “Rick would never do anything like that“! When Linda called and told me what was going on, I knew I was in trouble. I went straight to the GM of Little Red Air Service and relayed to him what had happened before he heard from other sources. In a small town of 700 people news travels fast…especially when it’s ’pilots who make their own turbulence’ kind of news! A couple of days later the GM called me into his office and with a smirk on his face “tried” to rebuke me for my unprofessional behavior. I bet he wished he had thought of it first! He gave me a letter of reprimand and I believe to this day it is still in my file in Fort Vermilion.
What did I learn from this you ask? Save the fun for your last day at work!!!
Tags: air ambulance, airplane, airport, alberta, charter, EMT, Fort Vermilion, Fox Lake, friends, fun, GM, hockey, King Air 90, medics, medivac, nurses, pager, paramedics, pilot, professionalism, rink, small town, stupid, turbulence