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trof's Journal - Archives
Posted by trof in The DU Lounge
Mon Mar 09th 2009, 04:25 PM
Although I already had several hundred hours in the 747 at TWA, when I hired on at Nippon Cargo I had to go through their training program.
There's the American Way, and the Japanese Way, and they're very different.

After ground school and simulator we started line training. That entailed going on actual working flights with a Japanese instructor/check pilot.
Captain Ito was an older pilot, several years my senior.
He was a strict taskmaster in the cockpit, but when we hit the ground for a layover he was a party guy.

One night we were in Anchorage at a little bar and grill next to the hotel. It was December 7 and the usual stuff about Pearl harbor was on TV news in the bar.
Ito was drinking Long Island Tea.
Yeah, I know.
He was buying rounds and insisted that the crew join him.
So I sipped on my 'tea', slowly. Musn't offend.
Ito drank his down and ordered another.
And then another.
He was getting extremely 'loose'.

Now the Japanese usually don't like close physical contact.
But Ito looked at me for several seconds, then got up and walked around the table. Put his arm around me.
And VERY seriously said "Trof-san? Pearl Harbor? BIG mistake!"
I could only agree.
"Yes, Ito-san. Big mistake."
well, I guess we didn't have to talk about that any more.
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Posted by trof in The DU Lounge
Sun Mar 08th 2009, 01:39 PM
This is a fairly short one, I think.

I worked for a Japanese corp. for 10 years.
In both business and government they have some rules and regs that we consider...strange?
But there's usually a method to their madness.

Thoroughbred horse racing is big in Japan, but Japanese breeders don't like outside competition. So, in order for a horse to race in Japan, it must be BORN in Japan. Clever, hunh?
I think this was originally aimed at the Saudis, but it applied to all foreigners.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that we wily westerners are good at finding ways around rules we don't like.

So that's how I found myself ferrying a planeload of American thoroughbred mares in foal to Japan. Most all of them were from the big Kentucky horse farms.
The pregnant horses would drop their foals at a facility in Japan and then we'd bring the mares and colts back.
Of course the colts were born in Japan and thus eligible to race there.
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Posted by trof in The DU Lounge
Sat Mar 07th 2009, 12:45 PM
Thanks to Droopy for the inspiration to write some of these down while I still remember them.

Background: For the last 10 years of my career ('89 to '99) I flew 747s for Nippon Cargo Airlines, based at JFK.

Flying cargo was not only much easier than dealing with passengers, it was a lot more interesting.

The Circus Plane, or...Noah's Ark?

I flew into LaGuardia around 2 p.m. and got a taxi to our hangar at JFK. Checked my company mail, put in some revisions to my approach charts, and chatted with the office guys for a while. Went up to the crew lounge to try and get a nap in preparation for our 2 a.m. departure to Anchorage. It's hard for me to sleep during the day, so I wound up reading for a few hours.

At about 11:00, the time I'd be turning in at home, I splashed some cold water on my face and grabbed a cup of coffee and a smoke.
OK, let's get it on.
The other two guys on my crew had arrived and we exchanged pleasantries.
Stopped by the dispatcher's desk to take a look at the weather forecast and the load manifesto to see what kind of trash we were hauling tonight.
Cargo pilots refer to themselves as 'trash haulers' or 'freight dogs'.
We'd have the formal briefing at midnight.

"Hey, Suzuki? What's this? We're hauling llamas, camels, zebras?"
"Yes, trof-san. Tonight you fly Siegfried and Roy's circus for Japan tour. No Cats. Just other animals."
Well I'll be damned. Never a dull minute.

We waded through the usually boring but necessary briefings and paperwork and arrived shipside for the preflight.
When I stepped off the stairs onto the main deck I was eyeball-to-eyeball with a zebra.
He blinked and whuffed and put his head down to munch on some hay in his stall.
They were the same kinds of stalls we used to haul thoroughbreds, but that's another story.
The place smelled like a stable, not unpleasant at all.
I made my way up the ladder to the upper deck and cockpit.
Introduced myself to the two S&R wranglers who accompanied the livestock.

The cockpit preflight, engine start, taxi, and takeoff were uneventful. In fact, aside from our exotic 'passengers' the whole flight was uneventful, as most of them are.
Once we were at cruising altitude with the autopilot on and all the after take off stuff out of the way, I excused myself from the cockpit.
Back in the galley I pulled the huge tray of raw veggies that was part of the provisions that commissary had put on in JFK.
I stepped back in the 8 seat passenger compartment where one of the wranglers was still awake.
"Is it OK to feed the animals?"
"Whatcha got there? Broccoli, carrots? Sure. They'll love it."

I filled a barf bag with veg and went down to the main deck.
For the next 15 or 20 minutes I was like a kid at the circus all over again.
Except this time I got to feed and touch the animals.
They seemed to really enjoy the munchies. The zebras and camels were very docile.
I was a little leery of the llamas. I knew about the spitting, but these guys were gentlemen. Or ladies? Anyway they were happy to eat from my hand and let me stroke their heads and necks.

We landed in Anchorage at sunup where the plane would be refueled and a new crew would take it on to Tokyo's Narita Airport.
We headed for the Hilton where I fell asleep about 17 seconds after I hit the bed and dreamed of riding a camel across the desert.

About the big cats: One of the wranglers told me that the cats always had to go by boat. "They just go nuts on an airplane. Too high strung, I guess". So the cats had left by freighter a week or so earlier.

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