Autobiography Of A Maverick

Let me start this review with a story. As a reviewer of books, music, movies and just about anything you can dream up, I have my own rather bizarre code of ethics. I never ever read what others have said prior to me publishing my thoughts. Hell, I don’t even read the back cover of a book until I reach it!

A Simon review is one written starting with a clean slate.

I am a fan of autobiographies, Oh, not the the rich and famous, they make me want to reach for the Tum’s. I like books about real people. Everyone has a story inside them, and every story is different.

I had communicated with Dorcey Wingo a couple of times, even though his name is an unusual one, it was not one that registered in my brain. All I knew was that the book was about his career as a helicopter pilot, and as I love flying I thought I would enjoy the tales of peril that a pilot might have to share.

As I started to read The Rise And Fall Of Captain Methane a part of my memory nagged at me. I had heard the name Dorcey Wingo before, but I could not place it in context.

The chapter titled Twilight Zone revealed why the name Dorcey Wingo was one that I somehow had heard before. While making the movie Twilight Zone, actor Vic Morrow and two children lost their life as a result of a special effects scene that went badly wrong. They were killed by the spinning rotor blades of a helicopter out of control. The pilots name was Dorcey Wingo. Six long years of expensive litigation followed. Dorcey Wingo was exonerated of any blame, but it certainly took its toll on him.

In The Rise And Fall Of Captain Methane we get to take a journey behind the tabloid coverage of the Vic Morrow accident. Do not get me wrong, The Rise And Fall Of Captain Methane is not a cheap exploitation of the Morrow incident, in fact Dorcey spends a scant 40 pages on the subject.

Dorcey Wingo has had a long and industrious career in the Helicopter business, a tour in Vietnam, ‘crop dusting’ the opium and marijuana fields in foreign countries (I’ll give you a clue, he was not dusting with fertilizers!), several stints of being a heli logger and stringing high voltage cables for power companies merely scratch the surface of this pilots career.

In the 1980’s I spent 8 years working in the Canadian Oil Patch, I was the computer geek, and had to spend a great deal of time in the middle of nowhere troubleshooting problems. My mode of transport was Helos and small planes, all piloted by people like Dorcey Wingo. In the trade they were called Bush Pilots, guys who the word ‘No’ was not in their vocabulary.

I have a pretty strong stomach for flying, and that sure helped! They were not ‘wild men’ they just understood their equipment, they would take it to the edge, but they knew where the edge was.

Dorcey Wingo is the poster child for this style of aviation.

I love the no frills approach that Dorcey Wingo has taken in this book, and like all great pilots he tells the stories with a huge dose of humor!

One of my favorite episodes has to be the subject of ‘hook jumping’. This is a practice that is frowned upon by the FAA, DOT, and just about anyone who values their life. The world of Hook Jumping is found in Heli Logging. Some logging operations are in such remote and inhospitable areas that Helicopters are used to move the wood to a pick up point. This is done using a long line dangling from the helicopter that is attached to the bundle of fallen timber by some folks nicknamed Hookers! I am sure that more than one social gathering has been marred by someone asking the innocuous question “so what do you do for a living” and receiving the answer “I’m a hooker”.

I will not spoil the story by explaining what Hook Jumping entails, I will leave that to the reader to discover. But I will say this, it is not something that I want to try!

The Rise And Fall Of Captain Methane is a splendid read, it takes you to a world that few have been to. I am one of those strange people that read and think about every aspect of a book. My mother always told me ‘do not judge a book by its cover’. It took me sometime to understand the cover art of this book, however once I did, I sat and stared at it for several minutes. It is the perfect art work, it says far more than words can.

You can order your copy of The Rise And Fall Of Captain Methane by using the Amazon link above.

Oh, and in the book Dorcey explains how he achieved the nickname of Captain Methane. Once again, it would be unfair to share this information, but it has nothing to do with flying!  It is a rib busting funny story though!

Simon Barrett

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