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Wednesday, November 28, 2012



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*Note:  I wrote and scheduled this post prior to Hurricane Sandy.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.

LEFT BEHIND- the Aftermath
(Part 2 of "Gone with the Hurricane.")*

We return to the island to survey the destruction.  The telltale washboard swells from Hurricane Hugo's wake is still visible in the ocean below...

We buzzed the island.  Debris strewn everywhere.  Nary a rooftop intact.  The entire island, once a vast green jungle, lay brown and defoliated, as if the enemy had dropped napalm.  The only boats not sunk were those washed ashore.  

Boats cluttered the streets of downtown Christiansted.
People emerged from their battered homes and waved to us; we were their first contact from the outside world in two days.

Hugo scored a DIRECT hit on St. Croix...then parked its blender over the island for 8 solid hours...
Rudy circled Christiansted Harbor and gingerly set down in the water, careful not to hit any flotsam from the newly sunk ships.  He taxied up the ramp and out of water.

Seaplane Shuttle employees ran up and cheered; they hadn't known our fate any more than we had theirs.  I shared a tender reunion with Julia, who survived unscathed.
Shuttle employees cheer our arrival, the first sign of civilization they'd seen in 3 days.

Endangered species:The precious Grumman Mallard, now nearly extinct.


The planes we left in St.  Croix had not survived.  They lay scattered across the ramp; twisted pieces of scrap.  At the airport, I found, the other Otter lay on its back, wings clipped at the root, landing gear sticking skyward like the legs of a dead horse.

Cap'n Aux invites Julia aboard.

Hugo claimed the lives of 25 people; no one we knew, thank goodness, was hurt.  But each had a chilling horror story to tell.

Our apartment:  Flooded, destroyed.  But we were lucky.  The only thing left standing in the apartment above us was the shower stall.

John, a Seaplane Shuttle mechanic, hid under a mattress in his bathroom.  With a barometric altimeter, he dutifully recorded the pressure drop while his apartment fell to pieces around him.  At the height of the storm, he noted, the barometric pressure had plummeted over four inches below standard, the equivalent of 4,000’ of altitude, and shattering the record for all previously recorded hurricanes.

FO Chris's former residence
One boat owner, determined to stay with his ship, became a human cannonball as a gust hurtled him into the top of a palm tree.  He crash-landed unharmed, if a bit dazed.

For the next two weeks, chaos reigned.  Looting was rampant.  Gunshots rang through the night.  Gas and food became instant precious commodities.  When driving around the island in “the Flaming Pumpkin,” my bright orange Ford Fiesta “Island car” junker, I carried a machete.

"The flaming pumpkin," my trusty island car, saves our bacon..

That experience made me a true believer in the U.S.  Constitution’s Second Amendment, the Right to Bear Arms.**

After the disaster, most of us moved stateside; leaves blown and scattered in the hurricane wind.  Some stayed behind to rebuild their homes.  With our scant few posessions, Julia evacuated on a U.S.  army C-141 while I stayed behind for two weeks to help close the airline down.

The Seaplane pilot gang, scattered in the hurricane wind. Represented at this table:  future pilots for America West Airlines, USAirways, Delta, United and American Airlines.
For the past year, I had been a highfalutin’ commuter airline captain, living worry free in paradise.  Now, I was pilot pauper, with no poker game in sight to scam a new job (See “The Poker Game that Launched my Career.”)  I jumpseated home to Phoenix with my tail between my legs, once again wondering about my future...

The intrepid crew left behind dig out.
Endangered species:  The precious Grumman Mallard, now nearly extinct.
Confucius say:  He who live in glass house should not reside in hurricane alley.

Hurricane Sale!  Everything must (or already did) go!!!
Clearing an escape path

Today, St.  Croix is largely the resort island it once was.  And that little airline in paradise, gone with the hurricane, has since been replaced by several other intrepid seaplane operators.  The Islands just wouldn’t be the same without one.

As naughty as little Hugo had been, his Mother has seen to it the mess is cleaned up.

My only question:  WHERE THE HELL did that kitchen stove come from?!?!?!?!

*Note:  I wrote this story shortly after experiencing Hugo.  In no way do I want to detract from the many hardships and sufferings experienced by survivors and victims of Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Ivan, etc.  This is merely the story of my experience.
**Sadly, once Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, NC, the plight of the USVI's were completely forgotten by the outside world.  The first political figure to set foot on St. Croix—one week later—was Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Addendum:  Cap'n Aux, Virgin Islands Seaplane Shuttle/TWA Express, went on to become FO Aux, Rocky Mountain Airways/Continental Express.
But that's another blog post...

More Info/links/video:
Wiki on Hugo
—An excellent first-hand recounting of events, by meteorologist and former fellow Seaplane pilot, Dr. Jeff Masters
—Dr. Jeff, Hurricane Hunter!
—Hugo: The Longest Night

Cap'n Aux vs. Hurricane Redux: scheduled to fly into the belly of the Hurricane Sandy beast this year on 10/28/12...
Mercifully, the flight canceled at the last minute!


POSTING  12/5/12 AT 11:00 PHX/18:00z:
Cap'n Aux's next VLOG!:

Cap'n Aux's demented take on a classic Christmas poem.



  1. Breaks my heart to see the Mallards all torn up like that. Granted, there was much more to be concerned about...especially the loss of life. But oh my...those Mallards!

    1. Yes, it was heartbreaking! Worse, we were in Chapter 11. I have a sneaking suspicion the Powers that Be were looking for a little insurance write-off....Ugh!!

  2. Hey Cappy.........Agree.....With hurricane Sandy still fresh.....and the misery..continues for those in the 'North East'.....knowing all too well, the heartbreak..and relief...of life not taken......but "lives"....taken...just the same......!!!! just South of New Orleans......we, too have had our share...So I can every way!!!!!....

    The "Grumman Mallard" is 'Awful' to see the wreckage's..OMG.......Those work horses of the air!!!!!!
    How many do you think are the world.....??......Is that what you meant about them...almost being 'extinct'..??

    and of course, as my blog namesake...MissTWA.....stands for TWA Airlines.....seeing the "TW Express"...Tail ONLY left......I'm going to look that 'tail #"(C-FBRA) up......and read the history.....which of course, it lays there among the other pieces parts.....all of them......"History"......!!!!
    and the Red TW Express small plane.....was that affiliated with TWA Airlines.....Cappy?????

    and as for the 'looting'.......the only rule of law......should be
    "Shoot to Kill"......!!!!!!!!!

    It always the same 'segment'.......of society....that for no reason......are barbarians still!!!!!!
    and any weakness.......after a storm for instance....will Take what is NOT theirs.....with no regard for life.....or an honest days wage!!!!!!!

    Do you still have that 'pilot' hat......your sporting..?????......I Love It!!!!!!
    FO Aux, Rocky Mountain Airways/Continental Express.........has done real "Good" for himself....!!!!
    just tell me you're not driving that pumpkin car anymore......!!!???.......LOL.....

    Now whats this "Santa Drops In"....Vlog......coming..12/5......Is there nothing sacred.......I am getting on the "Red phone" with Santa....tonite....dammit.....Cappy gonna get nothing but 'Coal'.....this his stocking.........and I don't want to be guilty by association.........;)))))))
    Safe Flying Cappy........

    1. Oh, please do tell us the sage of the "French Bra!" And yes, we were a TWA connection outta SJU!

      LOL, the Flaming Pumpkin was my "Island car," a rusty junker held together with duct tape and bailing wire! We even used a wooden dowel to pin one of the engine mounts back a "3rd world scenario" you gotta use ingenuity!

      As for the Santa vid....stay tuned!!

  3. It goes to show we should never mess with mother nature. It is tragic, yet you saw everyone bonded together. To rebuild, save and move forward. We all SURVIVE one way or the other ---> I get to fly with you Captain--->is proof of that!!! Your coffee will have to wait..not done w service yet!! Lol"

    1. Hiya Mug!!
      Sometimes Momma messes with you, and there's nothin' you can do about it! (You can see that in my novel, lol!) But, YES, humans helping humans helps us get thru the worst of it!

      Now, where's that mug o' COFFEE?!?!

  4. Hey Cappy........Did you get Santa's "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval for your video......???!!!!!......and what about the 'elves'...and what about 'Vixen'.....she sure can be a pain in the A**........Sometimes..........
    Looking the vid....

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