Sunday, July 19, 2009

Flight 23 Point Hope 2001





Point Hope is a great distance from just about everywhere. The Police department was equipped with short term holding cells. Anyone needing longer then a day behind bars would have to be flown to the Village of Kotzebue which is south of Point Hope by just under 200 miles. When this occurred we would load the prisoner or prisoners onto a private air carrier such as the one above. The Cessna Caravan is a common site in Alaska. I remember a particularly busy weekend in Point Hope, where someone smuggled some booze into the village. Bad news and illegal as the remote villages in the North Slope are dry. A cheap fifth of whisky will fetch $150.00. It is also a common practice to make booze which has its own set of health issues and risks. On the weekend mentioned we dealt with a number of assaults and one bad car accident. I found this to be strange as there is a very small road infrastructure that goes nowhere. The driver, a female was without a doubt intoxicated and traveling at a high rate of speed. The vehicle rolled over several times. She managed to stagger away with bad bumps and bruises. More than the local clinic could handle but not serious enough to send her out on a medivac aircraft. At about the same time this was going on, I was dealing with a drunk guy that was struck across the head with a 2X4 after he had attacked another drunk. It turned out he also had a warrant for his arrest so while the aid crew attended to his small blood gushing wound on his forehead, I was placing him into handcuffs.
The Bering Air Cessna Caravan landed and three passengers boarded through the small door. The plane only held about ten passengers and a pretty good size amount of freight in the belly. There were already three others in the passenger area and they looked very concerned as the big police officer got onboard with two bloody drunks in cuffs. Rightfully so I might add. As the aircraft left the ground and made its first turn, the male drunk reached for the puke bag with cuffed hands and began what would become known as the puke fest of flight 23. Note to self: Small planes do not carry enough puke bags to accommodate more than one drunk per flight! BYOB.
As the male drunk wretched, the female reacted in kind reaching for her own little bag. Let the contest begin. It was like talking to someone who starts to yawn and yeah, you start to yawn and so on and so on. As the horrid smell of vomit filled the small cabin the pilot’s eyes burned a hole through his cool Ray Ban sunglasses and into my soul, wishing bad things on the nice policeman who dared bring these two buffets of madness onto his clean aircraft. The fact that this writer gags when changing diapers made this flight perhaps the worst I have ever been on. I am pretty sure that the other passengers on the plane felt the same way as they tried to cover ears and plug noses while praying for a strong tail wind. They should have been praying for more bags! How long does it take to fly 200 miles in a Cessna. I really couldn’t tell you because I had an out of body experience trying to find a happy place to hide. The best I could come up with was the Chucky Cheese in Rapid City SD, where I used to take my kids to when they were little. Didn’t help a bit as the two drunks began to plead for more bags. The only one remaining was in the tight grip of an elderly native lady near the front of the plane and she wasn’t about to let go. She was also wearing a pair of cool Ray Bans, hmmm, maybe she had a son or daughter that was a pilot. The pilot did the best he could to keep the planes nose up so the horrid liquid which now formed deltas on the floor of the aircraft stayed at the back of the plane with me.
Touch down in Kotzebue brought a new meaning to, “get me off this f*^@#*$ plane” as we all gasped for fresh air. The only ones not feeling better were the two with the cool Ray Bans, the pilot and old native lady, both finding new reasons to dislike drunks and cops.