12 October 2021

I Heard A Good One Today...

Rotor track and balance alongside Petronas family quarters. A beautiful day with multiple greens and several blues.

Yes, I am negligently overdue with a blog post. I have no real alibi save for the bewildering company social media policy which makes the degree of transparency I exercise in this blog, an arbitrary one. However I am certain that only a few wandering spirits linger here and with that consolation, I continue to tread water.

After the nostalgic ferry flight to my favourite city, Kota Kinabalu mid-May, I returned to Kerteh to continue my pursuit of the ever elusive 100th hour promotion prerequisite, under supervision of training captains. I did have one contractual requirement to attend to, one I abhor, called the Offshore Passport medical check. When aviators are subject to a regulatory annual medical check known as the aircrew medical under an Aviation Medical Examiner, why we are further subjected to a secondary medical requirement seems both redundant and questionable to me. None of us will ever operate a crane or torch or metal cutter on an oil rig. Yet, because the oil and gas clients can apply pressure on the helicopter service providers, offshore pilots continue to be held ransom to offshore panel doctors who sometimes prescribe medication contrary to what any Aviation Medical Examiner would ever prescribe to an aircrew. Well, since the Pandora Papers do not cover these insiduous machinations, there is little that is being done to safeguard an offshore pilot's medical wellbeing.

Whilst I digress, I needed to vent.

I dutifully submitted myself to the examination protocol. And to my blood-curdling horror, two mornings after whilst I was happily on my 5-hour road cruise back home for my ten-day off cycle R&R, I received the call from the clinic summoning me back for an audience with the doctor as my blood test results had shown me to be diabetic.

I was at 97 hours to my 100 tally. Again, I digress. But I was, and still am, shattered by that monolithic impediment to what meagre ambitions I held towards captaincy.

The hiatus in my blog posts simply indicates that many events and their ramifications are now troubled waters under the bridge.

Since the initial grim news with an Hb1AC of 10.2, I chased it down to the offshore limit of 7.9 in six weeks. My latest check after an additional ten weeks has it standing at 6.0. The journey and what I did does not require elaboration in keeping with the spirit of this blog as I see it.

Returning from offshore to meet with rain over the airfield. An instrumented approach ensured I was recurrent on my ratings.

Having cleared the OSP with the standard one-year validity, I continued my dash to the finish line and completed my 100 hours at the end of July. The paperwork took less than 48 hours to compile and submit. I wrung my hands for another one month to allow for bureaucratic hysterisis pending approval of my rank.

The news was indeed dismal. I was not to be promoted till the onset of the monsoon due to budgetary constraints. My coursemate, who sat for the First Pilot skill test with me in January, was promoted a fortnight after completing his 100 hours mid June. The melody and lyrics of What A Difference A Day Makes seems a satirical serrated blade thrust into my morale and sense of justice.

Till my promotion materialises. if ever it does, I can only fly offshore when a training captain is available to occupy the left hand seat. That, and engine ground runs with the rare but occasional flight test. My monthly hours have plummeted to an hour and a few minutes for the past two months. I will not be surprised if I attend my next proficiency check with neither additional first pilot hours nor shouldering the rank. Nor would I be surprised at what would lie ahead were there no such thing as the North East monsoon.

And that's when I heard a good one on one September morning on a supervised offshore flight. Another training captain was waiting for his copilot to prepare the navigation log before shooting off to his destination rig, with an ETD simultaneous to mine. My destination, though, was a shorter one, with a divergence of 60 degrees between us. Feigning concerns over in-flight route crossings and conflictions, he began to broadcast unsolicited advice as follows:

"Jeffrey, since our planned take-off time is the same, for traffic separation, you can take-off first. But to make sure we arrive staggered, you must not exceed 80 knots throughout."

I was not in the mood to entertain banter with anyone in my state, so I just nodded without further enquiry. Disappointed that I had not picked up the cues from his priming, he continued:

"If anyone asks you why you deviated from cruise speed and flew 80 knots all the way, you tell them it's because you are waiting for your rank and would be happy if they put the rank on you when you arrive back from offhsore."

It put a smile on my face for all of five minutes. 


16 May 2021

There And Back Again 2

 

Sunrise, sunrise

I couldn't have asked for finer weather on the morning of 9 May 21. We had Sahoor ready for us to take away from the kitchen at 0515H, so that we could have our tummies settled before the long dark through Moria, that stretch of open sea that awaited us. Grab drivers were available by 0645H and two shuttles took care of our needs for social distancing in public transport on this sun-up ride to the airport. Justice, or in this case, Covid19 SOP needs to be seen to be done, right? 


I accompanied LAE Shahir as he attended to the pre flight prep whilst my two copilots loaded their cardio vascular systems with enough nicotine to last the three-hour ride sans smoko breaks on the first jaunt of the day. I gave Senai Tower a call on the phone, requesting start-up clearance on their landline to conserve the aircraft internal battery power for the engine start. Delightfully, start and air traffic clearance for the departure were confirmed over the phone. Business was off to a very promising beginning. Neil, the courageous one to brave the crossing with me, was still puffing on his e cigarette before sensing the rest of us were rearing to go. Internal battery start was a little hot on the turbine temperature, but steadied as rapidly as it rose. Taxy clearance for the Kong Kong 2 departure was obtained, and we rolled to the runway centreline for the kind of take off into a view no money could buy.

The view, the view, the view!

As we tracked on the instrumented departure to Kong Kong and set course to HOSBA, the vista of Johor Baru and the city-state of Singapore unfurled before our eyes. The Traffic Collision Avoidance System showed us what a busy airspace Singapore air traffic controllers were deconflicting. The air traffic control officers were friendly and courteous. On the easterly heading for Kuching, we were offered a cruise level of 5000 or 7000 feet. We gladly accepted 5000 feet so that the engines' power index could be kept within calmer limits at altitude. Transponder codes were puched in and soon we were enjoying the cruise. Singapore's silhouette passed us on the right. I managed to identify Seletar, where I was trained in airfield fire fighting and rescue way back in 1991. Nostalgia and wonderful weather conditions. Days like these make the job seem amply worthwhile. 

A jumbo cuts across our nose

Soon, we lost sight of all land. Now and then a distant island would pass us on the right, rugged, untouched and rather Bali Hai. The weather remained persistently pristine. Far into the horizon were little cumulous fronts floating serenely above the mirrored sea. We would pass through one front, and another would wait ahead, like some game of airborne hurdles. We looked around at each other with just one question on our minds, since everything else was so fine, only one item remained with an unticked box. Neil articulated it: "I hope everone's bladders are still holding out." No sound from the engineer. He didn't have a headset. "I'm good!" came back Sharvind through the intercom from the cabin. To ripple everyone's optimism, I just said, "Well.......we'll see."

Just after TOMAN, Singapore Radar buzzed in "9MWAH, do you have HF?" Ah, the moment of reckoning! I pointed to the SATCOM, and on cue as we had discussed, Neil answered "Negative, Singapore Radar. We have SATPHONE as included in the flight plan."

I'm at a payphone

"In that case, 9MWAH contact Singapore ATC on 65 and thereafter 65431629."

SATCOMs are always a bit of the roll of the dice. However, after a few attempts and bad lines, Neil did manage to get through, and I assured Singapore Radar that all was well. Subsequent position reports were managed through the SATPHONE, all the way to ATETI whence we were instructed to contact Kuching Radar.

Ok, it has been 2 hours 30 already. I need a view change. And a fire hydrant/tyre

Just at that very cloudy handover point, whilst checking in with Kuching Radar, I cheered through the intercom: "Tiara! Tiara!" Sharvind came forward, peering between the front seats through the polyethelyne barrier and called out "Laaaaaannnnd ahoy!"


Then you break cloud and the glorious sight of land greets you

It was only upon sighting land that I knew, my bladder would hold out till touchdown at Kuching! I began feeling rather positive about the remainder of the journey. 25 minutes over land and a few dog-legs later, Kuching airfield came into view. I declared airfield in sight and brought her in for touchdown, taxy and requested refuelling at the General Aviation apron. No sooner the rotors had stopped turning, everyone made a beeline for the gents, and saw to the paperwork after. There was a minor hiccup with the flight plan from Kuching to Miri, but it was quickly resolved with a call to the vigilant Duty Captain at home base. On terra firma, the emptiness of missing second breakfast and the call of elevenses became audible. Nothing that a quick sprint to the McD in the terminal wasn't able to fix!

Within good time we wrapped up post flight and pre flight, the same landline clearance for start-up was obtained and again, off we set for Miri. It was another hot start, but well below transient limits. I was told that Kuching's ATC was cantankerous, but they were in fact, as amiable as I've found them to be during "my RMAF days, what what!" 

Our flight planned route was one I had specifically chosen from Miri via Tanjung Manis and Mukah. Only four heading changes. ATC was accommodating but we had to call abeam Bintulu and Sibu as other lesser aircraft opererators were plying the parallel routes and they needed our position reports for safe air traffic separation. After passing Mukah, we spent much of our time over larger expanses of water. With the coastline far to the right, we were clear of other traffic and the radio chatter fell to a minimum. There was some weather build up over the coast, but cruising along at 1500 feet, "feet wet" kept us in clear skies and horizon, affording us a pleasant VMC view till the sunny touchdown at Miri.

Loading up the waypoints on the FMS

Again, LAE Shahir worked promptly with the engineering boys at Weststar Miri Base on the refueling and turnaround checks. Sharvind, who was to fly the final leg, ie Miri to KK, took advantage of base support's ground power unit to load up the subsequent waypoints for the trip. Meanwhile, Flight Ops Miri had already obtained approved flight plans for our final leg

Miri was not altogether busy that afternoon, so start up and taxy to line up for take off was as uneventful as it was unimpeded. The route to KK was again, one I picked, right from memory of Ops Jaga Kawan when I'd fly the Nuri down to Miri from Labuan and back for the army's troop changeovers and resupplying their needs into Bario and Ba' Kelalan. Sharvind was the left hand seat pilot for this leg whilst Neil was in the cabin enjoying the view. We crossed Batang Baram, passed abeam Anduki and looked down over Tasik Merimbun. Just before leaving Brunei airspace, Neil pointed out his dad's village passing below us at Batu Danau. Looks like everyone gained some good on this trip. Exactly as we had anticipated when we got the news.

If our engineer is happy, evryone is happy

Passing overhead Neil's hometown, Limbang, Labuan began to drag into view. I was a copilot here from 1997 till 2001. I made Nuri captain here and was posted to KL Base as a line pilot from 2001 to 2005 during which I had my missing-after-ejection fighter pilot rescue and my stint in tsunami-ravaged Acheh. Then after paying my dues in MINDEF for three years, I was glad to be posted back here again as Squadron Exo from 2008 till I quit the air force in 2010. No, Adam Levine, you don't get to sing that adulteration of Canon in D minor at the expense of my memories! Not on my watch!

Abeam Kinarut, KK airfield in sight!

It was with some ruefulness that I noted the retrogade path Labuan's oil and gas scene had taken of late. The waters just off the coast of Victoria to Pulau Daat had turned into a vessel and jack up rig graveyard. Hmmmm. Gazing at Labuan with more pleasant recollections, I buzzed Labuan Radar to convey my best regards to No 5 Squadron and set my sights back to the waypoint of Kuala Penyu which pointed towards KK.

Four jack up rigs huddled together in the watery graveyard, reminiscing on better days past

It was nearing 1700H when we finally lined up on finals runway 02 Kota Kinabalu. The long journey was just beginning to gnaw at me, but the sight of KK gave me second wind for the grand finale. We shut down the aircraft and handed her over to the Base Manager KK, with much relief. He on his part, had most hospitably arranged the KK CIQ stamping of our passports with Immigrations at his Flight Ops after which we were swifly whisked to The Promenade Hotel for the night courtesy of his base transport. Yes, as the Covid19 SOP would have it.

A check on the company email while milling at the hotel reception showed us that our flight tickets for our ride back to KLIA and then onward to Kuala Terengganu were uploaded for printing and scheduled for the following morning. I'd like to make a special mention over a Ms Hyzol (pronounced Hazel) of the front office at The Promenade, who did us the great favour of printing said tickets that night itself on our request. God bless!

The job was done. And I had an excellent team making this a success.

15 May 2021

There And Back Again 1

The ferry flight crew before starting-up for departure from Kerteh. LAE Shahir, SFO Sharvind, moi and FO Neil

It was with both excitement and trepidation that I received the news early in the first week of the month that I was to ferry an aircraft from Kerteh all the way to Kota Kinabalu via Senai, Kuching and Miri. Excitement at flying for the first time with copilots, excitement at heading to Kota Kinabalu, the town I grew up in, excitement at the prospect of flying through my old East Malaysian operational playgrounds from my air force days. Trepidation? Over pretty much the same things, so new into the right hand seat. But I had a history to fall back on, and to see how much of that reliance held true.

The ferry flight was initially scheduled for 15 May 21, but with misgivings over the impending Aidil Fitri celebrations mired with a rising Covid19 pandemic infectivity crossing the 3000 persons a day rate, it was decided that flying off a week earlier would be prudent.

Leaving Kerteh

The planned route was from Kerteh to Senai first, on 8 May 21 for a night stop. Then, for a bright and early departure on 9 May 21 from Senai on a direct track through Kong Kong, HOSBA, TOMAN, OBGET, NIMIX, ATETI and MOXUN, thereafter to land at Kuching for refuelling. The next stop would be at Miri, refuel again and finally deliver the aircraft to Kota Kinabalu Base.

Passing by the east coast reporting points of Pekan and Mersing

There was of course the initial mad scramble to get the swab tests done, the prerequisite to obtaining entry into Sarawak and Sabah, getting authorised travel requests,  cross-border police permits and accomodations, all thanks to Covid SOPs. We got them all sorted from 24 hours before till about 20 minutes to scheduled departure. 

We gathered at Flight Ops at 1400H for a preflight brief. While we loitered in the Flight Ops room waiting for the various legalities to filter in, our very concerned Chief Pilot hung around with us so that he could bid us a proper farewell and safe flight. At last, we had our General Declarations, state entry-exit permits, police permits and a To Whom It May Concern letter to facilitate the exisiting documents. My dutiful copilots took custody of the documents for later evidence of legal transit and we ran a final ticking off of our self made checklist before feeling satisfied enough to step down to the flight line office. We were ready to roar at 1435H.

I caught up with our sole Licensed Aircraft Engineer who would be riding on board, and the crew headed out onto the tarmac together. Snapshot by the starting crew, we then clambered in to get the show on the road. Sharvind was to be the first to fly with me. We lined up on the runway for the daily power assurance check, and then started our 2 day sky trip with a take-off and climb to 5000 feet as per flight plan. Weather was very bright and hot, and we were unanimously grateful for a serviceable aircond. After passing abeam Kuantan we descended to 2000 feet for the scenic view, and thus we flew past Pekan, Nenasi, Mersing and all the way dodging minor clouds and terrain gleefully till touchdown at Senai Airport. After shutdown and securing the aircraft for the night, we headed to Perth Hotel, just beyond the airport fences, for preparatory sleep for the long haul awaiting us at sunrise.

Corrine Bailey Rae, there are other reasons for having trouble sleeping. The morrow was going to be the moment for truth for me; my first crossing from the peninsula to East Malaysia, my first time since the command course that I would be flying with copilots as opposed to with training captains as I was still under line supervision, my first dealing with Singapore's stringent air traffic control in an aircraft not carrying HF radio for the crossing, and on a route directly over the sea for three straight hours. Going over all these in my head, sleep only came at 0300H.

This was going to be, not a test of faith, but bladder control.

More in the next post.

28 January 2021

Hey Diddle Diddle

Finals approach, West Desaru MOPU on 15 Jan 2021. First flight of 2021. First flight Right Hand Seat.


I have been away from this blog for 6 months. That's not a good show in a realm where each flight day is always eventful, and yet, I have been swamped by a lethargy which self discipline could not override.  I simply could not muster the spirit to write with any anecdotal conclusivity.

It's not only that Covid19 has inundated the entire planet, but that closer to home, and many aviators will agree, things do not look altogether prospective even with the buzz of a vaccine on the horizon.  This isn't about a lack of gratitude at still holding down a job, as we can all readily acknowledge that unemployment is a parallel epidemic on its own, holding hands with Corona like the dish that ran away with the spoon. It is rather an indication of the climate hovering over Kerteh for the indefinite present. Rumours of downsizing and who's next haunt the hangar while all hands on deck, from boss to janitor, move on from day to day, some prayerfully and some others yet, slanderously.

HAZMAT ready fo a PUI flight
Over the past number of months, a few incidents have occured to break the monotony of skipping from payday to payday. Amongst the more interesting of those was my last carriage of two PUIs from MTC Ledang, an offshore vessel on 9 December. I had gone outbound garbed in a HAZMAT suit et alia, and later at night was celebrating the little adventure over dinner and drinks with my colleague Niel, when the ominous call came from my Chief Pilot telling me that those two boys tested positive for Covid19. That didn't stop either  Niel or I from downing the last drop of soju, but both of us were called by Ministry Of Health representatives later in the unholiest hours of the night to notify us to be prepared to be quarantined. By late morning, Niel was whisked away to a quarantine centre in Marang. The MOH deemed that since I was in full HAZMAT suit, gloves, and remained in the cockpit protected by the cockpit barrier, I did not fall into the definition of "close contact" and could be left unattended to till someone higher up the payscale decided that I needed government branded TLC. I am glad to announce, that nobody loved me.

The rest of the year took a rapid swing like a tail rotor drive failure, to change my Christmas hols. I was unexpectedly assigned together with a colleague, to ground classes and simulator training spanning from 21 Dec 2020 to 3 January 2021. Yes, any course which runs from one year to the next cannot be trivialised. While I rued the lost time with the family initially, and for only nanoseconds, I realised that I had other ghosts to exorcise. Returning to the same classroom where I had been two years back, unreeled the trauma and ensuing phobia of  my initial course.
Hey Captain Alfredo! Who's The Coolest Guy now? Please read https://hobbit1964.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-coolest-guy.html

With a rather different outcome to the course this time, I surmise that we are not be held ransom to our past forever. I have it on good authority that anyone who sets his hand to the plough and then turns to look backward isn't fit for the Kingdom Of Heaven. Just like flying from the right hand seat, sometimes all we need, is a change of perspective. 

07 June 2020

Virulence


Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing?---JRR Tolkien.


Small as it may be, the current virus has tossed the entire world into disarray.

In somewhat viral irony, it became the very Trojan Horse for our political quagmire and the collapse of a democratically elected government. I won't wax political. I'll just say that I find the entire affair rather slutty.

Meanwhile, back at work, as a segment of both, the nation's oil and gas industry as well as the transportation sector via aviation, business continued, but it was rather business as unusual.

It was a bit scary at first, when at the turn of the year, company small talk revolved around pilots having to fly suspected Covid19 carriers. I did wonder what this would entail. Covid19, at January's end, was almost someone else's worry. If we shut our eyes tight enough, we wouldn't get it. We had faced lots of weird viruses and epidemics and yet not everyone was affected by the Nipah virus, the Coxsackie hand-foot-mouth disease of 1977 which seemed to favour young kids, or the SARS of the new millennium. However, the virulence of Covid19 meant that within days of the February 24th collapse of the government, its wildfire had spread far and fast enough to reach the further fringes of offshore helicopter aviation around the world. No matter if we buried our heads in the desert sand, this one would not pass us overhead.

As things would have it, my first Covid19 Person Under Suspicion (PUI) extraction was on March Friday the 13th. The route was to Angsi Alpha, relatively nearby. The myth and fluff of the pandemic had me trepidated for a while, but I had been in these situations countless times and I decided to throw myself into it. The sortie was rather uneventful, and upon landing from the mission, I was to return home straight away and self-quarantine till the PUI's Covid19 test results came forth. After three days of being a complete slob, the group chat text revealed the PUI had tested negatively and I resumed work without hesitation. As the days passed, PUI extractions continued steadily, alternating between increasing frequency and being sporadic, like heaving breaths of the pandemic itself. The company slowly evolved the Covid19 Protocol. Eventually, the wearing of decontamination suits became optional, which set my mind at ease. 

I realise that I was fortunate to be assigned such duties as to carry PUIs safely back to shore where they can be provided the appropriate medical intervention as may have been neccessary. Nothing about that privilege needs elaboration.

We are all well aware that Covid19 is embedded in our communities for the long run. From Leonardo, the current OEM of the AW139 to the company's engineering arm, accruing to the initiating documents from the OEM, plans are under way to install a cockpit-cabin barrier to enhance the current Covid19 aviation social distancing in flight. Our maximum passenger load now stands at six, which is half the seating capacity. This has made life easier, since the seats occupiable are already designated. I no longer have to haggle with the Helideck Crew to restrict any passenger load less than eight pax strong to the first two rows only, keeping the centre of gravity somewhat centred in order to preclude any instance of a tail-down moment upon lift off. Some days, we win some.

Flight scheduling seems to have plunged off a graphical precipice. Upon the end of the monsoon contract during which the sortie board often reached 22 flights per day, we now see the busiest days having only 4 flights. An influx of new pilots without offshore experience into home base Kerteh has further curtailed how often I get to go up in the air. Priorities mean that they get assigned flights more often on the offshore sectors of lenient clients who don't prerequire 50 hours of offshore experience, after which they become eligible to fly for any of the snooty clients we serve. Pilots with ample offshore hours, therefore, literally have to take a backseat for now. I thought clocking 33 hours in April was bad. I clocked 7.15 hours in May.  Some days, we lose a few. I say this even with the neccessary gratitude of being employed.

Yes, I know I am not the only one in the boat. So we keep on rowing through these treacled times. I say a small prayer for my bretheren in the fixed-wing aviation world who bear with the deeper scourges of the virulence of these days. May they glide to a soft landing soon.



15 March 2020

Zero Dark 45


Angsi Alpha at 0045H
Night Standby. That is a rostered MEDEVAC standby duty that many a pilot here would volunteer to be placed on. Over the years from 2014 when I joined the company till this very night, there were about ten MEDEVACs (medical evacuations). Probabilities being on the low, with the Scrooge fisted reluctance on the part of clients which preferred their infected offshore boys hitch a ride on an existing flight under the IDOM (infectious disease, offshore management) rather than declare a dedicated MEDEVAC at a premium, normally meant that a pilot on night standby from 2200H till 0800H the next morning,  has a pseudo off day, not having to come in to work and instead binge watch Netflix with one ear open for an ominous phone call in the wee hours of the morning.

I have never volunteered for night standby. And on the night of 27 February 2020, on the stroke of 2200H, I set my ringtone to loud and began tossing about in bed in anticipation of the customary early morning flight of 0715H following an uneventful night standby. My mind had just wandered off enough to court slumber when the phone rang. Seeing the Flight Operations Officer's caller identification, I went into scramble mode. Apparently some chap on Angsi Alpha had developed an alarmingly rapid pulse rate and warranted a night MEDEVAC to Kuala Terengganu hospital.

The call had come in at 2225H. I jumped into my prepared flying suit and grabbed my headset and flight bag. I jiffied down 5 floors of the apartment and was soon at breakneck speed to the Planners' room at the terminal building, arriving at 2305H. Not bad, considering that the ketum-swigging motorists I encountered on the road refused to be outdone by an Elantra-driving MEDEVAC pilot trying to get airborne ASAP in order to save a life.

My aircraft captain turned up at 2315H (I smirk). The aircraft was fuelled up and the starting crew ready at the terminal at 2330H, and about ten minutes after that, the tower air traffic controller turned up and had fired up the radio comms. We were in business!!

Seeing that the prevailing winds favoured the copilot's approach to Angsi Alpha, after start-up, the controls were handed over to me for the outbound leg. I took the aircraft out to the runway, brought the good girl into a hover and carried out the take-off. Passing 1500 feet, a left hand turn and we were on course to the rig.

I love night flights. The weather enroute was a notch cloudy, and the night time vista is always somewhat calmer, less frenetic than daytime flights. You're not jousting with other helicopters to and from the rigs for airspace, altitudes, traffic separation or getting a word in edgewise on the radio for range calls amidst the flurry of company gossip crowding the company chatter channel.

This being my approach to the rig, I advised the captain that I would opt for an airborne radar approach (ARA). This is where a procedural step down and distance markers to the finals approach would be used with the weather radar returns providing the positive marking of said distances, up to  an abort point if deck visibility were to fall below 1 mile to the helideck. However, seven miles before Angsi, I could see the rig glimmering like a jewel in the distance, and continued visually to complete the night deck landing without incident. It was 0045H at touchdown.

The aircraft captain left me at the controls, rotors running, to use the mens' room below the deck. I stayed in communication with the helideck radio operator and enquired into the status of the patient. The RO asked me how many minutes I could spare till fuel became critically low. I looked at the gauges and said "Ten minutes." Well, we had much more than that, but I hadn't the liberty to use the men's room with my captain below deck who seemingly had no intention of resurfacing even after 30 minutes had passed. I had to reserve bladder capcity, so the earlier we lifted off the earlier I could seek relief. The RO checked in with me on the fuel state at regular intervals and ten minutes was my just as regular answer.

Half an hour had passed. I asked the RO if the captain was anywhere nearby because I wanted to relay the fuel state to him, but the RO did not have him in sight. I guess he was having a coffee. Forty minutes passed. The RO checked in with me again,  and I told him that the critical fuel level would be reached in five to seven minutes idling time. I understood the constraints: heart case patients had to stabilised before being put through the rigours of a flight. The RO bemoaned the fact that this was taking longer because just before being lifted up in the stretcher, the patient began gesticulating that he didn't want to leave and have his friends shoulder his workload. I don't know if it was the medication or comradeship, but it was getting ridiculous.

But, thankfully, on the dot of 7 minutes later, i saw stirrings at the staircase folding gates, and led by the captain, the medical attendant and the stretchered patient made their ambling way to the aircraft. After ensuring that the patient was secure in the aircraft stretcher with the medical attendant reassuringly beside him, the captain then came into the cockpit, assumed control and we lifted off into the night on our merry way to Kuala Terengganu. While he flew this leg, I handled all the communications with the air traffic controller at Kuala Terengganu and coordinated the rendesvous point for the ambulance.  The captain carried out the approach and landing and we taxied our way through unlit taxiways to the flying club apron where stood the awaiting ambulance. After application of brakes and idling the engines, I got off to coordinate the ambulance to a safe distance outside the rotor disc. And this is where the word "expeditious" vapourises into the night air. The ambulance staff cleverly stopped outside the periphery of the running rotors as per my hand signals. But they expected me to direct them as to how to handle the patient. Equally clueless, the medical attendant kept looking at me for instructions on how to off-load the patient. Lads, this is where you step in and perform your functions. Were this a military operation, yes, the aircrew steer the entire mission. But on civvy street, a pilot is just that: an operator of an aircraft. He is not to interfere with or assume control over another specialist's function.

In the end, the medical attendant, after running short of ideas, yanked the oxygen mask off the patient, unbuckled his restraints and made him clamber over the on-board stretcher and hop onto the ambulance's gurney. The ambulance staff were still standing agape as if this MEDEVAC were a spectator sport. Once they were all clear from  the aircraft, I strapped in, called for taxi and take-off clearance, and I set back to Kerteh at 4000 feet for an instrument approach from overhead Kerteh's VOR station to a safe landing at our home airfield.

It was 0300H at touchdown on the tarmac at Kerteh. After submission of the paperwork at flight ops office, I did the unthinkable and drove to the landmark pride and joy of Kerteh, depending on whether or not some comedic boycott is in session: McDonald's. A cup of salted caramel and my first sampling of nasi lemak McDonalds concluded the proceedings of the morning, and I spent the rest of the morning being an unregistered zombie.

And I still never will volunteer for night standby.

09 June 2019

Please Forgive Me, Mr Randy Newman

Engraving by Gustav Dore
You've got a frenemy
You've got a frenemy!
When Zakir Naik is drooling in your bed
And Mazlee is more Mr Neuman instead
Just remember it's all in your head
When you've got a frenemy
O, you've got a frenemy
Courtesy of Google images
You've got a frenemy
You've got a frenemy
East for the east, so you stay on the West
We're not racists, we're simply the best
We'll behead you like we did to the rest
Yeah, we will aramaiti
When we toast to our frenemy!

While eagles and sparrows
Can't be bedfellows
They never fly eye to eye
Remember feathers can only fit pillows
Premier or prince will greet the Reaper guy

With polling years ahead
Don't wish the PM dead
Or curse the plans LGE has made
Just love your frenemy
Yeah, you've got a frenemy!!!!

10 April 2019

A Day Without Fire



And there you have it!

A No 1 Fuel Tank indicating zero. No fuel, no combustion, flame out!

I enjoyed this particular incident because it's not every day that anyone can jokingly claim that they flew back to mainland on an empty tank. Too many fingers would point at you for bad fuel planning, bad airmanship and a host of other skull-impacting insults. 

But you would also see the amber captions which traces the fault to a No 1 Fuel Probe, which is like the fuel sender in the No 1 Fuel Tank. Faulty sender means faulty fuel quantity indication.

With 310 kilograms of fuel in the No 2 tank and a connecting flange sitting above the 228 kilogram level between No 1 and No 2 Fuel Tank, hydraulic laws would mean that the fuel would equalise between tanks. This means that the No 2 tank indication was equal to the fuel in No 1 tank till the fuel drops below 228 kilograms in No 2 tank.

It was an interesting day, having theory being demosntrated in real life, and trusting the whirly bird to get us home.

10 March 2019

Thank The Monkey


That's the guy.

One of many which line the lane to the airport. They sit there at lunch and tea time, waiting for handouts from passers by or to watch the wild boar nuzzle for goodies between the roots and shoots along the very same road.

We know what good parents our Malaysians are when they feed these creatures from their parked cars for an evening of family amusement in ditchwater dull Kerteh, insisting on tossing the food scraps onto the middle of the road where the simians become a road kill hazard when the more humane option would be to toss the food on the grass, right where they are parked, engines running.

I ran over one of these one evening after a long day at work as I was heading back to my apartment. Of course I was remorseful, till five minutes after, when I heard painfully loud groaning noises emanating from my front suspension which I had already changed two days before, closer to home. Further investigations at a my regular mechanic's centre in Kuantan, not Kerteh, revealed that the suspension replacement  was carried out with incorrect suspension mounts. Lesson to self was to stick to one reliable chap instead of the closest at hand. And the epiphany was that if hat little fella hadn't dashed right into my driven path at the last possible moment no matter how I tried to avoid him, I may never have discovered the hidden hazard in my suspension.

Looks like the only morally right thing to do, in spite of remorseful roadkill, is to thank the monkey.

07 April 2018

The Fog's Liftin' , The Sand's Shiftin'

 
 
Passing the Terengganu Crude Oil Terminal en route to Tender 9
Many a time I've wondered whether nurturing this blog is relevant.

I've been made to acknowledge that people no longer bother with reading blogs. There is no time to yield for the purpose. Micro-blogging stole the show for a while and its flavour is now a mere aftertaste.
Outrider
Corporate restrictions become more and more a reflection of the nation's muzzling regime, rendering even one's simple and private pleasures of self-expression painfully constricted.
 
However, to paraphrase Billy Joel, even "if you said goodbye to me tonight, there would still be music left to write".
 
And therefore, here I return after nigh a year of sporadic blog posts and absenteeism.
Post-monsoon surface streaks: looking more like scum than plankton
I have had an alteration of job description.
 
I now hold a secondary post in the base as Base Flight Safety Officer.
 
As a result I have to do an amoeba split between flying and safety management.
 
I have done this before. Back in my RMAF days ( rings of Fowler, doesn't it?), I was either Squadron safety Officer or Base Flight Safety Officer, bang from the start of my flying duties. This time around, the familiarity of taking on a job shunned by everyone else is an ample serving of same old, same old.
 
It's a year now since I took on the appointment. I've reached the borderlines of hypertension and diabetes. My intake of coffee has spiked tremendously in direct correspondence to my blood sugar and cholesterol while sleep apnoea startles me into unwelcomed wakefulness at odd hours of the night.
 
I feel old. Too little butter scraped over too much bread?
Cruising past the ever distinctive Tapis Romeo
However, when I do get to fly, I feel human again.  The self awareness that age is no longer on my side makes each hour I am airborne all the more a treasure to be savoured. Forget what Hollywood has done, having the laity believe that flying is romantic. The grotesque spin-off from this is the ever ubiquitous notion that pilots are sexy. I work with a lot of pilots, and uuurrghhhh, they are NOT!!!!!!!!!! The fact is, some of them are barely sensible, let alone clever.
 
Then when management starts prowling around like ravenous carnivores to ensnare those desperate for career progression to keep their families fed, you discover whole new world of deceit and loathing, mostly towards others and sometimes self, when you catch a glimpse of what you've turned into as you pass an importune mirror.
 
Anyone who is a mere link on the chain of employees cannot lay claim to knowing fraudulence if he's not had to sleep with upper management.
You think translations form Oriental languages are funny? Meet Hai Yang Shi You....later!!
Back to Billy Joel, likewise, shall I continue this labour of love, which is to do what I love: writing. It is not for popularity that I started this, but rather that my mind needs to empty itself periodically and for all I know this hammering away at the keys is what tempered my blood pressure for the many years I have been involved in the mired career of aviation.
Tracking outbound through Lane 4, Kuala Kerteh below.
And as ever, the sights from the cockpit are an unfailing reward.