Above & Beyond: Milk Run
How a milk run from an aircraft carrier nearly killed me.
- By Chris McKenna
- Air & Space magazine, May 2007
(Page 2 of 4)
I flew a shallow approach, careful not to let my rotor wash disrupt his flight deck. As soon as I touched down, my aircrew lowered the ramp and began pushing pallets down the rollers to the forklifts. Minutes after receiving the air boss’ grudging clearance, we were empty and ready to go.
“Knightrider zero six, ready to lift, spot three,” I transmitted.
“Stand by, Knightrider,” he said. “Supply wants you to move a load of milk back to home plate for dispersal. How many gallons can we load, max?”
With our fuel load, we could lift about 7,000 pounds, but I hadn’t a clue as to how many gallons of milk that would be. I looked over at Dave, my copilot. “Any idea what milk weighs?”
Dave shrugged and turned his palms upward in what is known in Navy parlance as an ensign’s salute.
“I need a number, Knightrider,” the air boss growled.
Forklifts began driving off the elevators with pallets of milk. I pulled the calculator out of my helmet bag and typed 7000. Now I just needed to know what to divide it by.
“Knightrider! I need a number—now.”
“Milk must weigh about the same as fuel, right Dave?”
Dave gave me another ensign’s salute.
I knew that jet fuel weighed about 6.5 pounds per gallon. Even though the voice in my head told me to slow down and think this through, I decided that a liquid was a liquid. I plugged 6.5 into my calculator. Just as the Boss started to growl again, I transmitted, “One zero five zero gallons, Boss,” with far more confidence than I actually had. It was meager comfort that I had figured in a 27-gallon cushion, just in case milk was a little heavier than fuel. How much heavier could it be?
“Okay, Knightrider. Here it comes. Be ready to lift as soon as we stuff you.”
In minutes the cabin was crammed with hundreds of plastic jugs that I prayed weighed no more than my hasty calculation.
“Knightrider, cleared for takeoff.”
I pulled the aircraft into a hover and stabilized it for a ground-effect power check.