Fly The DH6 North: Look For The Red Truck
Occasionally, I would co-pilot one of our 35 fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft on regional assignments. I preferred a DeHavilland-6 STOL (Short-Take-Off-and-Landing airplane). It was “old-timey”: Removable canvas and aluminum tubing seats to fit cargo; rock-solid and dependable; no airconditioning. At 4,000 feet, it was nearly as hot as on the ground. But it had a GPS (Global Positioning System), twin 600hp variable-pitch turboprops and full-length wing flaps.
Soft field takeoff was: Lock brakes/ drop flaps/ max power/ pop brakes and “levitate” like a seagull.
Hard runway “Vso” [or nose wheel liftoff speed] was ~58 KIAS [Knots Indicated Air Speed/~66mph) and landing speed was only ~64 KIAS with full flap extension.
Fly north ~600km [~373mi] past the Iraqi border crossing. Look for the red GMC Suburban. Land on the gravel plain. Taxi behind the sand dune. Do your business. Fly home. Fun where there was none.
Iraqi? Are You Wacky? Working For Eyad and Saddam
During and after SandCity, I worked occasionally for Saddam’s first cousin, Eyad Hussein [pronounced “Eye-Ad”]. He was British-trained [did they all go toSandhurst?], spoke excellent English and was attuned to western customs. Nice guy—and buddies with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam.
Eyad was Director of the Bureau of Research and Planning. Hmmm? My job, if I hadn’t tangled with that pink-bowtied waggit who was our Local Keyhole, would have been Chief Technical Advisor to the Amanat al-Assima, the regional government.
The Baghdad area was beautiful. Farms. Palm groves. Great green-tiled, onion-shaped domes on mosques. Huge bazaars full of exotics and mystery. A brewery. A cigarette factory. Hard liquor in hotels. Unveiled women.
But no real coffee—only instant, which I hate. I was paying about US$400/day at the al-Hamra Hotel, because Saddam wanted scarce US$, but couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee! I even tried bribery.
[Saddam was on a barter system—oil for this and that, but no real gah-wa.]
Saddam was ingenious at barter. He had 3000 +/- carcasses in an automobile graveyard south of Baghdad, on the way to Basra and the Maj-noon [Crazy]Islands. That’s where we’d go to scavenge for automotive parts for everything from Audis to Zils.
Iraq was a great, secular country set in the middle of 6th century neighbors and hated beyond death by the Israelis. A secular paradise surrounded by religious strangulation.
Iraq was like an open Bible lesson: Euphrates River, Babylon, Tigris River, Baghdad, Mesopotamia. [Saddam was restoring the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, destroyed by American troops years later].
Late one night [we did 18-hour workdays] Eyad and I were touring. See the 13 high-rises on that island in the TigrisRiver, for the horribly wounded (*) from the (ongoing) Iraq-Iran war?
(*) SIDEBAR: Of the many details about Iraqi conditions that American TV broadcaster’s biased, simpering, neon-toothed news propagandists fail to mention is the horrific cost of war. Israeli war. American war. Iraqi war. Iranian war. Doesn’t matter.
Fat-ass politicians spewing nonsensical patriotic slogans never fight the wars. They send unknown virgin children to contests inVietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, to fight the wars for them and be killed or mutilated. And kill or mutilate other people’s virgin children.
When an artillery shell [or a land mine] explodes on the concrete-like surface of a desert baked by eons of sunrays, its effectiveness is magnified. The fragments hop, skip and jump along the surface in a greater radius. That’s why those 13 buildings are jammed full of double, triple and quadruple amputees.
Once, at lunch in the al-Hamra, I saw a gorgeous black-haired woman in a red velvet form-fitting dress lunching with her 2 young children and Papa, a silver-haired aristocrat. She was in shock. The children were goggle-eyed. They had just seen a monster.
It was Daddy. No arms. No legs. Nothing except his trunk.
During our night tour I mentioned above, I complained of hunger. How bout we stop in one of those nightclubs along the river, eh? Eyad mumbled something.
Dinner For Two?
Eventually, Eyad pulled into a fully-lighted, but completely deserted, amusement park. We took an elevator to the top of a huge water tower and looked out over all the lights of the city.
We watched something? —An Iranian rocket? What? Chuff—chuff—chuff past, very high overhead.
Lights? Yeah. No worry about Iranian airplanes; ain’t got none to spare. The Iranians used rockets and sacrificial civilian ground-pounders stoked on religion instead.
We drove to a nearby big Mariott? Hilton? It was dark, except for a light in the lobby. We went in. Eyad rousted the night manager. They engaged in heated conversation. I fidgeted.
Finally, I was escorted to the dining room’s archway. I heard fusebox handles being pushed. Grind, click. Grind, click. Grind, click.
The room’s 10? Chandeliers lit one by one to reveal a hundred? tables.
With an absolutely straight face, Eyad asked: “Where would you like to sit, Sheikh Rubert? You are our honored guest from Am-rika.”
As God is my judge, that’s what he said.
“Here will be fine.”
We had orange juice, sliced cold lamb, cucumber, lettuce and tomato salad and pita bread.
After dinner, I thanked the manager profusely—in Arabic—for his hospitality and we left.
[I knew I should have avoided the salad, except it would have offended the manager and Eyad—and I would have gone hungry. As expected, the American’s gullet was not as resistant to the salad’s local exotica as the Iraqi’s are. He had the Baghdad Gallops the next day.]
Funny—I have eaten lots of times back in water buffalo country, drank green-glass liter bottles of Chinese beer, eaten bowls of chillie crab and be-hoon [noodles], and scarfed warm shwarma sandwiches and other exotic foods, but Baghdad and Acapulco were the only two places I ever got The Gallops.