Checking Out And Heading Out, Part 5


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

Well Friday night,the night from hell”, ended and transitioned into Saturday morning, the day I hoped to be checking out of this facility!

As the Sun started coming up over the horizon, the room activity increased with every minute.  First up on the agenda was take my blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and of course whip those sheets back and check out the ol groin and pubic region for a bruising check!  Everything must have delighted the new morning nurse, ’cause she too busted out into some tee-hee-hee’s and giggles!  I didn’t know that looking a bruise could be so humorous.

Once the new nurse gathered up her composure, she left my room and returned with breakfast.  I had forgotten just how unappealing hospital food could be until my tray was presented to me for my edification.  I will attempt to adequately describe the culinary delight to the best of my ability.

First off, the centerpiece of this breakfast was a heaping mound of egg-like material.  It appeared that the eggs were just barely cooked enough to coagulate into this mound.  Now my family will attest that I don’t eat eggs unless they are cooked for a while, like well done…PERIOD! Looking at this yellowish globular mound almost turned my stomach!  The sidekicks to the eggs was a bowl of cream of rice, which was very tasty, toast, orange juice, and two sausage links that were the consistency of glue when eaten.  Those two little dudes stuck to the enamel of my teeth, and hugged the base of my tongue like criminals avoiding a police manhunt!  Yummy was not the words that came to my mind after attempting to eat my breakfast!

The next few hours were spent awaiting the doctor’s arrival for a last minute check over and a release to go home.  That waiting period took until approximately 1:30pm.  At that time my surgeon, the Electro-Physiologist, strolled into my room totally apologetic about not getting to my room much earlier in the morning.  He said that he was filling in for 53 doctors in Fresno that day!

Once he gave me the “once over”, he signed the release orders.  Now all that was left was to get to get the IV needle out of my left forearm, go over all the releasing documents, and oh yeah removing that pesky little catheter that is still up into my bladder!  I can only imagine how thrilling this procedure is going to be for me!!  Yippe yo ki yeah get along little doggy!!

Now my nurse was a very nice young women, about the age of my two sons.  I am thinking to myself, this is not going to be a huge ball of fun.  More importantly, I am not sure what the procedure for my catheter removal is going to include, but I am reasonably sure it involves “hands on” maneuvers here!!

Now I must digress.  Just as a side note here, the only women that have ever touched me where this nurse was about to grab on to, drunk or sober, were women with which I have had an intimate relationship.  However my friends, I have now entered into an area whereby I have become totally unnerved, and completely uncomfortable!  Can someone please help me!  Can I have an AMEN?

Now that the time has come for that catheter to be removed, I am very nervous and extremely uncomfortable.  I ask her a couple of questions and I am feeling like it is time to “fish or cut the bait.” So she soothes my anxiety with some small talk, she says to take a  big breath in and then exhale, she will remove the catheter on the exhalation.  So I follow her instructions and out comes the catheter with a burning sensation! Yoweee!

Following the catheter removal, my nurse departs my room and gives me some “privacy” to get dressed.  I am thinking that this is a very odd situation.  She just was in a position to not only see all of me, but to grab a “handful”, in my case that Saturday morning was a very little handful, and remove the catheter.  Now she gives me some privacy to get dressed.  I am thinking that there has to be some irony in that scene!!

I get dressed and the hop into my classic, low tech, hallway cruiser and transporter.  Some of you may know it by its name in the previous century, the wheelchair.  Down the halls, into the elevator and out the front door to my waiting transportation to my sister’s house for some badly need sleep and recuperation!

I am checking out and heading out of here!

As the Sun sets in the west, I am taking off to new destinations.  Happy trails to you, until we meet again!

Cardiac Ablation, Part 4

The Friday night from Hell!

In Part 3, I left you with this thought; “You can NEVER rest in the hospital.”

Let me explore and expound upon this thought.

From the moment that I arrived back into my room, there were nurses coming and going about every 20 minutes,  They would come in and take my temperature, take my pulse, check my left groin, monitor the bruising that occurred there, check my catheter, and dump the fluid out of it as needed.

Now most of those activities are ok.   However, when the nurses check your catheter tube and its connections, that is somewhat degrading.  More emphatically, when they pull down the sheets and check the bruising that is in you left groin and pubic region, embarrassment doesn’t really cover the feeling very well.  Moreover, when the nurse is trying very hard not “to bust a gut” and break out laughing, demoralized comes close to how you feel! I know it is only the hospital, it shouldn’t bother you.  Oh yeah, right I forgot!

Anyway, I digress.  After four hours in surgery and three hours in the recovery room, I get to my room and all I want to do is grab some much needed sleep.  My family leaves my room about 9 pm, I am thinking that now I can get some rest and sleep this long day off.  I am not prescribed any pain medication everything in my mind tells me that with the door closed I can really get some good sleep!

Oh contrare my friend!

From 9 pm Friday night  until 1:20 am Saturday morning the nurses were in my room every 20 minutes taking my blood pressure, temperature, and checking right left groin and pubic region, keeping a close watch on the spreading bruise that I have there!  From 1:20 am until 3 am I was able to sleep uninterrupted, one whole hour and forty minutes!

The calm and quietness of my room ended at 3 am when the phlebotomist comes into my room, flips on the light switch, and announces that she has to draw some blood.  At 3 am they have to draw some of my blood, you really got to be sh#%!ing me? “Why 3 am, couldn’t this wait for a more civilized time, like say 7 or 8 am”, I inquired?  “No doctor’s orders,” was the response!   Dude!!! So out comes the foot long needle and she drew out, what seemed to be, a gallon of my beloved blood!

Now that this ordeal is over, surely I can sleep the rest of the morning?  Yeah right!  As the “Dracula Nurse” was leaving, in came the morning nurse to take my blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and she pulls back the covers to get a better look at the old groin and pubic area to check the status of my bruising again.  Dude !!

It is now about 3:30 am and this old boy is getting very tired of my hospital care!  I hoping that this is the last interruption so that I can at least get a couple of hours sleep before the sun rises.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, I was oh so wrong!  At 5 am the nurse once again enters the room and turns on the high intensity lights for another round of……..blood pressure, pulse, temperature,  additionally she gave me a pneumonia shot, and of course checking out my groin and pubic region for bruising!!

I was starting to feel paranoid. I think that the word was out and all the nursing staff had to cop a view!!  For sure I knew something was up when the nurses started bringing a magnifying glass with them when they entered my room!  Dude!!

Well so much for sleeping at night in the hospital.  There was nonstop interruptions throughout the night in my room! The high intensity lights in my room felt like searchlights each and every time the light switch was turned on!

It was truly the “Night From Hell”!

Stay tuned for checking out and going to my sister’s house in Part 5.

The Elecrto-Physiologist and My Heart, Part 3


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

It was with Lynard Skynard’s “Free Bird” and this last thought that I ended the last article, Part 2:

The last thing that I remember were these words from the stereo system:

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now
‘Cause there’s too many places
I’ve got to see……….

Off to Happy Valley, USA I went……………………

“Mr. Hammack, wake up, wake up, the surgery is over!”

As rum-dumb and as groggy from all the anesthesia as I was, that was even better music to me ears than Lynard Skynard was to me some 4 1/2 hours previously!  The unknown was over.  None of the possible “side affects” seemed to have happened to me!  I can hear, I think that I can somehow slur an answer out.  So maybe no heart attack, looks like no stroke happened, and I am definitely alive!  YIPPEE!

As they rolled me out of that daunting surgery room, one of the surgical nurses told me that we will be rolling by my family and that they would stop briefly so I could say “hi” to them.  Yeah, right, like I could be coherent after being under the influence of  “the good stuff” for more than 4 hours!  However, I do remember stopping briefly at the waiting room, seeing adults that closely resembled my family, muttering brilliant verbiage that probably was totally undecipherable, but nevertheless undeniably brilliant!

Once in the recovery room, I could tell that there was some concern over my lack of recovery.  The recovery room nurse was hovering over my left leg, applying pressure to my groin area, and expressing concern that the bleeding will not stop there!  He was also making calls to the surgery room or the cardiac floor for assistance.  It was slow in coming, in fact I was in the recovery room for over three hours.  The normal recovery time is about an hour.

Needless to say, the stress that my family and friends were feeling was tremendous.  There were starting to be some frayed nerves precipitated from the lack of communication between the recovery room and the family waiting room.  Among my family and friends, there was this overwhelming felling that something was something definitely wrong, because I was so long in the recovery room.

On the other hand, I was horizontal in recovery kind of stuck in a holding pattern, like I was arriving at JFK, ATL, SFO, or ORD (Chicago)!  And on top of it all, I didn’t really didn’t give a dang!  After all, I was still rocking in my head to some goooood Lynard Skynard that led me down the path to Happy Valley, USA!  Surely nothing could be going wrong.  Nevertheless, there was concern in the recovery room over my left groin bleeding.

After more than three hours in the recovery room, the nurses were able to get the bleeding in my left groin stopped, and with that accomplished I got to go to my hospital room.  Now the time is about 8pm Friday evening, 12 hours after I first signed into the hospital!  To say that this has turned into a very long day is a gross understatement to say the least!

As my family and friends assembled one at a time into my room there was noticed a collective sigh of relief that this procedure was now over for them, as well. They could see for themselves that I had made it through a very long, arduous, and intricate surgery, in turn making their Friday a very long and anxious ordeal!

From my standpoint, it was a welcomed relief to be back in my hospital room, seeing my family and friends, knowing that all of the worst was behind me.  However, for those of you who have stays in the hospital for any length of time, arriving back in your room is only the beginning of what is in store for the patient!  You can NEVER rest in the hospital.

Stay tuned for the “Friday night from Hell”, and Part 4!

The Electro-Physiologist, Part 2

When I last left you at the end of “My Date With The Electro-Physiologist, Part 1”, I had thrown out the idea that I was having a “helmet fire” as they were rolling me out of my cubicle and down the L-O-N-G hallway to the elevator.

For those of you who are have a difficult time comprehending the concept of having a “helmet fire”, I will try to help you understand that concept of feeling.  A “helmet fire” has no conscience or internal clock, it can happen at any time, at any place!  But my “helmet fire” was occurring on the gurney, on the L-O-N-G hallway to the elevators.  It was happening as I was leaving my family and friends for, what I perceived, could be the very last time!  The fear of the unknown that lay ahead of me at the end of the gurney ride, the thought that something could happen during the four hour procedure of probing my heart, a heart attack, a stroke, and the worse side effect of this procedure……death, was causing my emotions and my intellectual thoughts to call each other out and begin an “old fashioned, blue collar, bar fight” inside my head!  It was  totally out of control!  That my friends, is just one example of what a “helmet fire” might be or feel like inside your brain!

However, by the time I had gotten into the surgery room, the “helmet fire police” had arrived inside my heard and arrested all those involved in the “helmet fire” and carted them off in the “paddywagon”!   But now the fear of the unknown had taken over and things got real serious.  The surgery nurses, both men, had arrived in the room.  Their first point of business was to gather up all the patches, probes, and the electrical connectors that was going to be used in this highly computerized and electrical exploration expedition into the sanctuary I call my heart.

It took them more than 30 minutes to put the required patches on my chest and back in the appropriate places, place the probes in the designated areas fore and aft, and then attach all the wires that would provide the vital information to the many computer screens that were above the surgery table.  During this “hook up” process  the nurses obviously noticed that I was shaking in my boots, even though the only thing that I had on was that “designer gown” I described in Part 1.

One of them asked me what kind of music that I like.  I replied that my music runs the gamut from Alabama, ZZ Top, Merle Haggard, The Beatles, The Eagles, Lynard Skynard, Brad Paisley, and many points in between!  “My music tastes might be called eclectic”, I added!  He replied that I would most likely enjoy what he was cranking up.  Well he was right, over the speakers came a little southern rock band from Jacksonville, FL that you all may have heard over the years…….Lynard Skynard singing “Sweet Home Alabama” followed up by “What’s Your Name, Little Girl”!

As this long, painstaking pre-surgery procedure was culminating and the team was ready to rock and roll, my doctor strolled in and greeted me with this phrase, “Good morning Captain how are you doing?  We are ready, how about you? ” I replied, obviously in a apprehensive sort of way, that I was indeed ready to get this over.  The anaesthetist had taken up his position next to my right arm, briefed me on what to expect, and set a mask on my face with the consoling words that this will start to relax you now, Captain.  He was right I could feel the soothing affects of the anesthesia, along with Lynard Skynard’s tune “Free Byrd” I was fading.

The last thing that I remember were these words from the stereo system:

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now
‘Cause there’s too many places
I’ve got to see

Off to Happy Valley, USA I went!

Stay tuned there is more to come in Part 3!

My Date With The Electro-Physiologist, Part 1


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

July 9th, that was the day, and for many reasons a day that I will never forget!

What started out to be a typical summer Friday turned into anything but that.  I was told to report to the second floor, outpatient surgery, at 8am for pre-op and processing.

I make sure that I am at the hospital with about 15 minutes to spare so that I can find my designated place to register.  I got through the registration process reasonably quickly.  However, there were a few things that I found quite puzzling.  When I first get to the registration window and tell them who I am, they gave me a slip of paper. I look down at this piece of paper and I notice that I have been designated and relegated to be known as patient N.  That is a little unnerving to know that I have been reduced to just one letter, “N”, until I finish registering.  So there you have it, I am now patient “N”!

Really is there that much concern that my privacy would be compromised or stolen at a hospital?  After all, in just a few hours I am going to “Butt Naked and Spread Eagle” up on surgery table for the whole world to see!!  Additionally, I am going to have TV cameras, work tools, and wires threaded up and into places that have never been open to any one or anything!  Having myself “Butt Naked”up on the surgery table is the kind of privacy I am really much more concerned about, rather than exposing my identity to others around me!  To me that was an exercise in nonsense.

Anyway, off I go now into my little cubicle for the finer part of this pre-op adventure.  To start with, I am instructed to get out of clothing and slip into that fine hospital floral patterned, backless, knee length, and I might add, with ties and snaps, designer gown! Man did I look great in this hospital contraption!

Next in this process is the part where you get the IV  inserted into your arm for the impending surgical process.  Sometimes it can feel like she/he is inserting a telephone pole into your veins.  However my “needle girl” was obviously skilled at searching out and inserting that seemingly footlong IV into my left forearm.  It was almost pain free!

It is approximately 8:45 am and now all the pre-op items have been accomplished!  It appears that I only now I only have about 1:15 to wait for the procedure to actually start.  Which, in my head, I am thinking that in about 30-45 minutes they will be rolling me out of this location and heading me towards my destiny meeting with the Electro-physiologist, the surgery room, and the medical technicians that will be assisting him in this 4 hour, inter-artery invasion into my beloved heart.

Now the clock is ticking.  I am keeping a very close watch on the clock that I can barely see at the nurse’s station through the skinny slit in the curtain dividers.  Ten o’clock  comes and goes, no gurney coming for me. Odd, I am thinking, the procedure was scheduled to begin promptly at 10 am!  Oh well they will be rolling into my small confines shortly, so I just hang out with the family.

It was 11:15 am before the bell rung for me!  It wasn’t a sense of panic that I felt, but there was some sembelence of “this could be more serious than I originally thought” running through my brain.  The NASCAR boys might equate this thought to, “he’s having a helmet fire” right now!!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

More On The Cockpit Fire


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

As an addition to the article that I wrote about my “enlightening experience”,  I have been sent some additional information that might make all the airline crews and passengers say,“HHHMMM“!

This from the Chicago Tribune/ Business:

It seems that the Federal aviation officials have known for years that the B-757/767 window heaters can catch fire.  But they haven’t required the airlines to fix the problem, even after there have been dozens of incidents that have unnerved pilots, and in many cases forced emergency landings.

Pilots have complained about heaters that burned, smoldered or sent electric currents dancing across cockpit windows since at least 2002, according to an Associated Press search of a NASA aviation safety database.

None of the reported incidents was deadly, but they were scary. Sometimes, flames would reappear after flight crews had blasted them with fire extinguishers. In many cases, the window heater would cause an inside ply of windshield to shatter into spidery cracks that obstructed pilots’ view. Sometimes, pilots and instrument panels were sprayed with glass.

Pilots reported having to remove their oxygen masks in smoky cockpits in order to reach circuit breakers or grab fire extinguishers.

The National Transportation Safety Board has prodded the Federal Aviation Administration to make airlines fix the problem, concerned that a major accident could happen if nothing is done. The FAA has yet to mandate the repairs, although it has promised the NTSB since 2004 that it would.

“There is no shortage of information. In fact, there’s no shortage of incidents,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in an interview. “What’s missing is the will to do something about it.”
The FAA did propose a safety fix in March 2008, two months after heavy smoke filled the cockpit of an American Airlines 757 flying from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia. The flight was diverted to Palm Beach, Fla., while terrified passengers were instructed on procedures for a rough ground or ocean landing.

“It was absolutely horrifying. There’s no other way to describe it,” said Rebekah Conrad, 23, who was among two dozen students who held hands, sang hymns and prayed through the ordeal.

More than two years later, the FAA’s safety fix still is not final. The regulator promised to expedite it after a cockpit fire last month forced a United Airlines 757 to make an emergency landing at Washington Dulles International Airport. In that incident, United pilots emptied one fire extinguisher on the flames, and sent a flight attendant for a second extinguisher after the fire reignited. (The United Airlines B-757 was my episode!)

Here is another link to show that there have been numerous incidents that were caused by the same known culprit over the last five years!

The wiring harness into the window heaters have been known for many years to be defective of sorts.  When will the FAA require the airline to fix this problem?  How catastrophic must it be?  Do you feel safe knowing that the FAA is watching out for your safety like this?

Airline Food Could Pose A Threat


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

The FDA finds food safety issues at airline caterers!

The inspections were at U.S. facilities of two of the world’s biggest airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs, Gate Gourmet, and another large caterer, Flying Food Group.

The USA Today reported that the FDA found live cockroaches and dead cockroach carcasses “too numerous to count” inside the facility of the world’s largest airline caterer, LSG Sky Chefs, at Denver, CO.

They also cited a report finding  ants, flies, debris, and employees handling food with their bare hands.  Samples from a kitchen floor tested positive for Listeria, a bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.  It is also extremely dangerous to pregnant women.

LSG Sky Chefs, which annually prepares over 405 million meals to over 300 airlines worldwide, says the conditions at the Denver facility did not meet company standards.  It took immediate actions to correct the condition, says company spokesperson Beth Van Duyne.

The three caterers operate 91 kitchens that provide more meals than all others to U.S. and foreign airlines at U.S. airports. They provide meals for nearly all big airlines, including Delta, American, United, US Airways, and Continental.

The FDA reports say many facilities store food at improper temperatures, use unclean equipment and employ workers who practice poor hygiene. At some, there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control.

“In spite of best efforts by the FDA and industry, the situation with in-flight catered foods is disturbing, getting worse and now poses a real risk of illness and injury to tens of thousands of airline passengers on a daily basis,” says Roy Costa, a consultant and public health sanitarian.

Conditions open the door to food-poisoning outbreaks, says Costa, a former Florida state food inspector who volunteered to review the FDA reports obtained by USA TODAY.

So all you experienced travelers, you should pay heed to that “food” that is put before you on your next airline flight.  You never know what has been lurking in that plate, sleeping on the plate or “conducting business” on that plate!  Likewise, you never really know just what that entree really is!  Could it be “caterer roadkill”, or could your meal be seasoned with other interesting unclean rodent material?

Is this the results of the airlines “cost-cutting measures”?  What are your thoughts?

For me, your Captain, I can only say that for quite some time I have been refusing to eat anything that is from the airline caterers!  I see what the quality of workers are, how they handle their products. 

For me I steer clear, just give me a diet coke, please!

An Enlightening Experience


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

“Speed is life”, the old aviation adage goes.  But on May 16, 2010 I had plenty of speed, about 540 mph, and I had plenty of altitude, 36,000, however, life was not guaranteed!

In order to give you a good feel for what I was about to be confronted with, I will provide some background details on the day that led up to my “enlightening experience”.

I arrived at my hotel room at approximately 7 am Sunday morning, May 16th, after flying the all nighter from LAX to JFK.  I finally got into my comfy hotel bed and tried to catch up on that much needed night time commodity, of which I had to bypass during the night because I was flying-SLEEP! Unfortunately, I could only get approximately 4 1/2 hours of sleep and woke up at about 11:45 am that same Sunday morning.

After having a one person conversation with me about my desire for more sleep,  I nevertheless decided to get up, showered, ordered up a great NYC pizza, turned on the NASCAR race from Dover International Speedway, and watched ol Kylie Busch win the race.  Shortly after the race ended, I packed up my bags, got my uniform on, went downstairs, then my First Officer and I grabbed the van back to JFK for our flight back to LAX.

After going through security I finally maneuvered down through the bowels of our operations at JFK in the British Airways terminal to finally arrive at our JFK flight operations.  It is here that I am able to pull up the paperwork that will give me the vital information about our route of flight, the enroute weather,the departure and arrival airport conditions, and the condition of the airplane that is assigned to me for this flight.

After reading all the paperwork for this flight, I noticed that this plane had diverted to Las Vegas on the previous day, Saturday May 15th, for smoke or fumes in the cockpit.  The aircraft was ferried (flown without passengers) to San Francisco to the maintenance facility and was checked out further.  The mechanics there were unable to find the problem, or so the paperwork stated, and the aircraft was put back into service. Also noted in the paperwork was the inbound crew had, once again, written up smoke or fumes detected in the cockpit upon their arrival at JFK.

Upon my arrival to the gate and airplane, a mechanic was standing in the cockpit.  I engaged him in conversation regarding the write ups of the previous two days on the aircraft relating to the smoke and fumes in the cockpit.  He assured me that there was nothing found in the airplane that would warrant any concern on my part.  I conferred with my First Officer, we discussed our concerns, then decided that we would fly the airplane as planned.  However, my parting remarks to the mechanic was, “at the first hint of smoke, I will put this thing down on the very first piece of concrete that I see, do I make myself clear”!  The mechanic wasn’t too pleased with my parting shot!

Little did I know that the statement would become a reality!

With all the passengers seated, the bags all stowed, the cargo doors all closed and locked, it is time to push back, taxi out, and fly this B-757 to LAX.   It is now SHOWTIME!

As we took off to the west on runway 13R at JFK, at approximately 8:29 pm EDT, the lights of Queens and Howard Beach were in our face.  Shortly after liftoff we made a left turn to fly the departure over Canarsie, then out over NY Harbor heading to Sandy Hook, NJ.  From there the departure takes us just a little north of Philly as we are heading west for LAX.  During the climb  there are numerous turns and level offs to keep the north-south traffic separated from the traffic heading westward.

Momentarily after level off, I instructed my First Officer to turn off the seat belt sign and talk to the passengers.  He gave the “welcome aboard” speech, the pertinent details of the flight, our proposed arrival time, and arrival weather.

Once he finished his PA announcement we started to engage in some conversation.  Before even the first thought was completely expressed, a hissing sound emanating  from just below the left corner of where the front windshield meets the glareshield.  Almost simultaneously with the hissing sound, came smoke boiling out from under that same corner.  Likewise within a nano-second of the hissing and the smoke, fire erupted in that very same left-hand corner of the front windshield with flames running all the way up to the ceiling of the cockpit!  “Holy S!*t” was my first thought!

I immediately gave control of the airplane to my First Officer, told him to call ATC to declare an emergency, and request an immediate decent!  All the while we had put on our smoke goggles and oxygen masks, because the cockpit had started to fill up with that acrid electrical fire smell that burns your eyes, nose, and throat.  The acrid smell is very distinctive and once you have smelled you will never forget what it smells like!

As I whirled around and jumped out of my seat to grab the Halon fire bottle, which is located behind my seat on the back wall of the cockpit, the oxygen hose that is attached to my mask had reached its length limit, snatching both my goggles and mask off my face.  Holly Moses, I thought!  This is extremely bad timing and what a horribly poor design this is!  I am now stuck with fighting this fire, at least momentarily, without the use of my oxygen mask and smoke goggles. THIS REALLY SUCKS!

After I retrieved the first Halon fire bottle, I got my mask and goggles back on and began to fight this cockpit fire.  I pulled the pin, pointed the nozzle at the base of the flames, and squeezed the trigger. It seemed like simultaneously the bottle emptied and the flames extinguished. Thank you God, I thought!  My pulse lessened and I started to breath easier.  However, that feeling was only to be momentary at best!

Then just as suddenly as the flames extinguished, the flames re-lit!  “Oh my God, this may kill me”, I said to myself!  Instantaneously I spun around heading for the cockpit door to request from my Pursor/head flight attendant another Halon fire bottle.  With that move, once again, my oxygen mask and smoke goggles were snatched off my face with the same force as before!  Now my pulse had quickened once again, my blood pressure went through the roof, for I now felt the urgency of life and death!

As I opened the cockpit door I was met by my Pursor with a Halon fire bottle in his hands shoving into mine, he had already figured out that there was an electrical fire in the cockpit, and that I needed all the Halon bottles that he could muster up for my use.  I quickly closed the cockpit door and frantically pulled the pin on this bottle and began to empty the second Halon bottle into the fire.  It was in this time that we removed the power to the window heat by turning off the switches simultaneously while I was fighting the fire with the second fire bottle.  As this bottle emptied, the fire went out once again, hopefully to remain out for the duration of the flight.

Once this fire appeared to be out I climbed back into my seat and got up to speed with the First Officer on the progress of his requests.  I then told ATC that we wanted to land at Washington Dulles ASAP!  We had already started a descent and ATC had given us a vector heading, which was a turn to our right.  That would give us more time to get the aircraft down.  At this point the airplane was descending out of 36,000 feet and Dulles airport was only about 50-55 miles to our left.  The right turn was not the most direct path, however, it was going to give me the needed time to get this airplane down in the very short distance that was available!

Now it was time to assure the passengers that their pilots have the situation under control.  With that I got on the PA system and told the passengers that we have experienced an abnormality in the cockpit and that we have the situation well under control.  Additionally, the flight was now on its way to Washington Dulles for landing.  Furthermore, your flight attendants will have some much needed information, please pay very close attention.

The descent was fairly rapid at about 4,000-5000 feet per minute, with the speed brake fully extended for added drag.  As it turned out, the large sweeping right hand turn was working out just perfectly for loosing altitude and positioning the aircraft to line up on runway 19L at Washington Dulles.  By approximately 10 miles out of final approach the aircraft was stabilized, on course, and on profile for landing.  Everything was now under control! I was feeling like “mission accomplished”!

What else could possibly go wrong?

Finally everything had come together and was looking like a normal approach, fully configured, stabilized, now all that is left is put this on the runway and get it stopped!  At about 500 feet above the ground there was a very loud bang or explosion.  The noise shocked me and the view that I had instantly after the explosion was frightening.  My front windshield had shattered and crazed, I had zero forward visibility!

Immediately I transferred control of the aircraft to the First Officer so that he could make the landing.  Another curve ball was thrown at the crew.  For this last segment of the flight, I wasn’t sure if my windshield was going to implode into the cockpit an essentially fill me up with shattered shards of glass, and possibly cause great bodily harm to me!  Consequently, I was sitting very low in my seat, kinda like “Cheech and Chong” in the movie Up In Smoke, hoping to avoid the windshield, if in fact, it imploded in on me.

Once that aircraft was down to a very slow taxi speed I take back control of the aircraft and taxied it off the runway to the awaiting flotilla of fire trucks, the time was approximately 9:36 pm EDT.

With ground control acting as the liaison between the fire trucks and the flight crew, we coordinated engine shut down, the  firemen checking the exterior of the aircraft, and finally getting the fireman to board the aircraft to further check for the existence of fire inside the aircraft.

Once it was determined that the aircraft was safe the tug was allowed to hook up and pull the aircraft on the the gate.  Once out of the aircraft, after the paperwork was accomplished in the aircraft’s log book, I headed to our flight operations at out Washington Dulles.  Sitting down in a chair already was agents from the FAA!

Now even more  paperwork has just begun!

Following the paperwork came the different investigations regarding the cockpit fire over the next 10 days.

That is still another story to come!

However, I finally got to my hotel room at 1:00 am EDT Monday morning, May 17,2010, totally exhausted both physically and emotionally!

So other than that Captain, how was your flight this evening?

June 13,1918

Mother's Day 001


This week started out with a very huge cornerstone day in the Hammack Family.  On Sunday June 13th my mother, Ola Mae Hammack, celebrated her 92nd birthday!

Her life started out the daughter of John Addison and Myrtle Annie Smith, a dirt poor family in the western Oklahoma town of Sayre.  Even though her father was handicapped from spinal meningitis, the family eked out a meager existence by working the fields in OK and TX in the 20’s and 30’s.  Their life resembled the characters in John Steinbeck’s book, “The Grapes of Wrath”.

In 1934 she married my father, Archie Wilson Hammack.  For the next seven years the young couple continued to follow the crops and work the fields, all the while starting their family.  In those seven years, they had three young sons with the first son, Donald Ray, only living to be 11 months old.

After the start of  WWII the family life got somewhat easier, but was always a struggle for the family.  There were three more children that were added to the collection from 1944-1951.  That 1951 birth date  just  happened to be mine, and signified the end of the new additions!

Life for Mom and Dad was always a struggle, but they did their best to provide the most important things in our lives, stability and love.

My fondest memories of my mother from my early childhood have been resonating through my head this week.  As a very young boy I remember my Mom loading us up in the car and carting us off to church on Sundays.  She would also round us up when Oral Roberts came to town for his revivals.

When she would hang out the wash on the clothes line she would always be signing some of those good old Baptist hymns like, “Amazing Grace”, Bringing the Sheaves, and In The Sweet Bye and Bye”, just to name a few.  To say that my mom had a very rough life would be a gross understatement!  But neither she nor my dad ever complained about the lot in life that they were both delt.

I know that the lives of the five siblings are far better than the lives of our parents, part in because of what they both taught us.  Mom never had things very easy, but I don’t believe that I ever her complain!  She was a survivor and has made it for 92 years, with more to come—-no doubt!

What a life you have had, Mom!

I know that you will never read this, but I want to thank you from the  bottom of my heart for being my Mom!

This is your son the Captain speaking!

Check out this video:

Til The Last Shot’s Fired

This weekend signals the beginning of the summer.  Families from all over the US will be hopping on airplanes, cars, boats, and trains, heading out for a weekend vacation of sorts.

But what is this weekend really all about?  It is called Memorial Day. It is a time set aside to honor all our military veterans, whether they served in war or peace, whether they survived or whether they gave their lives as the ultimate price to pay for freedom.  Without out these men and women we would not be able to do whatever it is that we choose to do this weekend or any other day of the week.

Therefore, let my grateful words thank you for the nights you slept freezing in a tent or sweating in the desert, for the lonely days you spent missing your loved ones, for the hours you spent sick in pain and without someone holding your hand, for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle, for the wounds you have suffered fighting evil, for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries, for the precious occasions you have missed back at home. For all of these sacrifices I thank you on behalf of my family who are so grateful for you. We truly appreciate these sacrifices.

And for those who returned in eternal sleep, may their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation to raise a new generation built on strength and honor, able and willing to follow in their footsteps when duty calls to defend America. May their blood not have been shed in vain. Finally, may we prove worthy of their sacrifice!

So, my friends, take a few minutes this coming weekend and pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Freedom always come with a price, never it is free.  After all it is not about the war, however, it is all about the warrior!

“Say a prayer for peace for for our daughters and our sons.  Set our spirits free.  Let us lay down our guns.  Sweet Mother Mary we’re so tired.  No we can’t come home til the last shot’s fired!”

Check out his video, listen to the words they are very moving!