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97.MAY DAY


(1)

I had just got back from flying a cancer patient to Denver so he
could have a bone marrow transplant and I was sitting back relaxing
after washing my new Bell 429. I lease it to the Colorado Air Search
and Rescue six months out of the year. I was now off duty when I was
about to pop the top on a cold one when I heard a weak voice come
across my scanner. I listen to all the air frequencies and the voice
was on one of our non monitored channels.

"May day, may day," the voice called out.

I was about to give up on it thinking it was just a child playing
with his parents radio when again the voice said, "May day, may day.
Can anyone hear me?"

I grabbed the scanner and went out to the helo and dialed it to the
frequency. I put on my head set and said, "This is Colorado Air
Search and Rescue, and I hear you. What is your emergency?"

The voice came back in broken English saying, "Can barely hear you.
Need help. Father is sick."

I could tell by the background noise that he was in a fixed wing
aircraft. My only problem was looking for this needle in a haystack.
My bird had radar on it so maybe I could get lucky and see him. I
set my beer down and went out and started it up. I contacted my
control tower and got cleared to take off and off I went in search
of the mystery voice.

When I got airborne, I called the tower and had them see if there
were any aircraft in the area. Linda called me back and said she had
a small blip on her screen about 40 miles out. I had yet to see him
on my radar so I had her plot me an intercept course, then I was on
my way.

I was flying almost flat out at 130 MPH. When I got him on my scope,
I tried to raise him on the radio. I called out, "Colorado Air
Search and Rescue calling plane in distress. Can you hear me?"

I could see I was about 25 miles out and we would intercept each
other in about 20 to 25 minutes. I kept trying to raise him and
after about ten minutes, he responded back to me. I finally got a
visual on him then said, "Colorado Air Search and Rescue calling
plane on distress. Do you hear me?"

"Yes," the voice said, "I hear you."

"I have you in sight and I should be coming along side you in about
5 or 6 minutes," I said to him.

"Don't see airplane," he said in broken English.

"I'm not in an airplane," I said to him. "I'm in a helicopter."

"Where," he said. "I can't see you."

"Don't worry," I said. "I can just see you."

It took another fifteen minutes of hard flying but I finally caught
up with him. He turned his head and saw my red and black bird coming
at him. He said, "Is that you?"

I looked up and slowed down saying, "Yep, it's me. What's your name
young man?"

"My name Yuri," he said.

"Yuri," I said talking calm. "My name is Jim. How long have you been
flying?"

"I fly with Papa over 2 years," he said.

Now for the million dollar question; I asked him, "Yuri have you
landed the plane before?"

"Yes Jim," he said. "But Papa was beside me helping."

"Do you know the landing checklist?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "I sometime not remember things. That why Papa
always watch me."

"Alright," I said. "I won't be sitting next to you but I'll be right
beside you out here."

"Where we land plane Jim," Yuri asked.

There was a small municipal airport near our terminal but I wanted
to get Yuri the longest runway I could. I looked over to him and
said, "I'm going to get you into Denver International."

"Alright," he said.

I think having me beside him was keeping him calm. We were about 30
miles out from DIA when I asked him, "Is your Papa moving at all
son?"

"No Jim," Yuri said. "He not moving."

"Can you tell if he's breathing?" I asked hoping he hadn't died in
front of his son.

"I think so," he said. "I feel his stomach go up and down little
bit."

That was something anyway. I flipped over to Denver International's
tower frequency and said, "Denver Control, this is Colorado Air
Search and Rescue and I'm bringing in an air plane declaring an
emergency."

"Understood Air Search and Rescue," they said. "What is the nature
of the emergency?"

"He has both a medical emergency and I am going to have to talk him
down," I said. "We will need EMS."

"Roger, Air Search and Rescue." The tower said. "Have him tune to
119.5 and land on runway 22 right."

"Roger Denver Tower," I stated. "Runway 22 right switch to 119.5"

I went back to Yuri then said, "Change the dial on your radio to
119.5. Do you understand Yuri?"

"Dah Jim," Yuri said.

"We're 20 miles out now Yuri," I said. "Start you landing checklist."

I heard Yuri going over everything the he asked, "How far out Jim?"

I checked my land marks and said, "We're under ten miles now Yuri.
You should see the runway now."

"Dah," he said. "I can see it. It real wide and long."

"Just wanted to give you plenty of room to land buddy," I said. "Ah
pal, did you lower your flaps?"

"Neyeit," Yuri said. "Never remember that."

"Lower your flaps and watch your air speed," I said to him. "The
tower will be talking to you now. You don't need to answer but they
will be guiding you in until you get over the runway. I'll be on you
wing all the way down. You'll be fine."

All traffic had been held then the tower called me and said Yuri was
clear to land and he had the whole runway. Yuri was a skilled pilot
and made a smooth decent. The only thing I noticed was him keeping
it level. The tower backed out and it was just me talking to him
when he got over the tarmac. He eased it down and bounced once, then
stayed on the ground. I flew with him then set down once he stopped
and shut the engine down. The airport crash team was out there and I
saw an ambulance waiting. I landed and shut the helicopter down then
went over to the plane.

Yuri got out and went around to the passenger side of the plane. He
opened the door as the ambulance pulled up and two paramedics got
out along with a driver. I walked over to the boy and said, "You
must be Yuri, I'm Jim Reynolds. You're quite the pilot."

He looked up at me and smiled weakly saying, "Thank you. I worry now
about my Papa."

"Try not to son," I said. "The men working on him are very good.
They will do everything they can for him."

We watched them work on his father then put him on a stretcher and
wheeled him into the back of the ambulance. As they were doing this,
a State Trooper came up and asked, "Was this the emergency?"

I looked at the trooper and we recognized each other. I said, "Yeah.
I just had to calm the boy down so he could land."

The trooper walked around the plane then said, "Good job. Not a
scratch on it. Where were you and your Dad going?"

I looked at Yuri because I never even thought to ask him that. Yuri
looked at me, then back at the trooper, and then said, "We going Las
Vegas. Visit friend."

The trooper then asked, "You don't know anyone here in Denver?"

"I know Jim," he said smiling.

"Who will you stay with while your Dad is in the hospital?" The
trooper asked with a stern face.

"He can stay with me for the time being," I said. "It's late and
Social Services are closed for the day. Tomorrow is a holiday and
they will be closed for the weekend. Maybe by Monday we'll know
something about his father too."

Just as I said that, the ambulance took off for Denver General
Hospital. The trooper too out his pad and said, "What is your name
son and that of your Dad's?"

Yuri looked at me and he seemed to be scared. I wrapped my arm
around his shoulder and nodded my head telling him it was alright to
answer his question. "Yuri," he said. "My name is Yuri Andropov. My
father's name is Pavel."

"Can I see your passport?" The trooper asked.

"No have passport." Yuri said.

"I looked at Yuri and asked, "What do you mean you don't have a
passport? Were you born in this country?"

"Neyeit," Yuri said. "Born Kiev. Mother American. Have this."

Yuri handed the trooper some papers and among them there was his
birth certificate and his birth registration with the American
Consulate. This was totally confusing. The boy was Russian American
and therefore entitled to be here. He obviously didn't fly here from
Russia so we were going to have to sort out where he lived prior to
landing here. I looked at the trooper and said, "Let me have those
papers. I'll sort things out over the weekend. He's not illegal so
INS won't have to be called."

He handed me the papers and said, "Alright Jim. This doesn't make
sense to me right now. Maybe you can find out something from his
father. I'll talk with you later."

I made arrangements for the plane to be moved over General Aviation
until we could get it over to C.A.S.R. Yuri looked at me and
said, "What we do now Jim?"

"Did you have any clothes in the plane?" I asked.

"Dah," Yuri said walking to the plane.

He went inside and got out a large suitcase. I took it from him and
brought it over to the helicopter and put it in the back. I opened
the co-pilot's door and said, "Hop in. You get to be my second seat."

I got him buckled in then I got in and started the engines. I put a
headset on Yuri then mine and got clearance to take off from Denver
Tower. We flew back to C.A.S.R. Aurora and I refueled the bird then
locked it up. I took Yuri's bag and put it ...


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