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