31 October 2011

Even The Lowly

Certificate Of Test: a generous force-fed serving of Humble Pie which recurs on the basis of its unpalatability.

That's how I view my certificate of test. I am apalled at my dystrophic handling of the EC225 today. I wrestled with her, fought, grunted and struggled. But this bucking bronco would not be busted. I know I stayed up till 0200H this morning going through drills and memorising emergencies. I feel as though I have fallen. Indeed I have fallen. Fair it is then to take note that a hard fall accrues not just to the high and mighty, but can be at unsought for times, the staple of the lowly.

Okay, I am really trying to salvage my self worth. But as I recall my examiner's adjectives, the echo of words like mess, horrible and awful keep coming back.

But I passed. In 6 months I will face this same Sea Of Tea.

Hmmm. Okay that's done. I must stop mourning and move on as the pace is not about to let up.

Ahead of me I have a few sorties of Instrument Flying. Already the crew room is filled with the haggling voices of many aircraft captains with as many interpretations of the minima for departure under instrument meteorologocal conditions. The monsoon seems to have stirred a resurgence in the debate over when pilots may say no to a departure under weather conditions that are not altogether felicitous.

Now, the sight of a cumulonimbus can quail me. My one experience as an aircraft captain, of being trapped in bad weather and the subsequent isolation in the cockpit as my copilot petrified himself remains hardwired in my mind like the instant replay of a drowning incident. In other words, I would avoid bad weather at all costs. I love terra firma in comparison to the azure especially when I already know how things look, cockpit view, in thick black precipitation, with the prospect of the mountain crests gouging out your underbelly as you descend below cloud to avoid the thickest storms. Utterly unsettling.

Twice this week I have been in the jump seat, on operational flights to the barges and platforms, consuming about 3 hours each, and I am supposed to pick up 30 jump seat hours before I am considered qualified to progress to line training. The jump seat is a perch between the two pilots. It provides for a voyeuristic means of learning the inflight procedures for offshore flying so that by the time one is due for line training, he/she would have garnered enough knowledge on the procedures as to carry out copilot duties with minimal error and prompting. The reason why it is called a jump seat is because no sooner than one has strapped into it, the very fetal position it demands encourages the occupant to jump out. No, I really don't know the origins of the term. This is my personal rationalisation of an irrational posture to adopt whist in the process of learning and does not reflect the policy or viewpoint of the organisation.

Anyhow, I am getting used to the idea of being over the deep blue sea for hours on end, considering how I hate the water. I have watched without overwhelming fear as the EC225 consistently pulled passenger and crew alike through towering Cbs, emerging on the sunny side with better composure than a 737 doing the same barging through stormclouds. Yes, finally a helicopter that flies itself  right?

Now that has really got to be uber cool.

26 October 2011

Still More Readjustment Blues

The mounds of hay in the compound stand in alternating states of dry and wet in harmony with the fluctuating weather. I keep struggling with this new aircraft that persists in baffling me to bits, like the sophisticated new girlfriend with tantrums encouraging the return to the former familiar girlfriend who would be much easier to navigate around. Yes, even with such a beauty as the EC225, I pine for my Sea King.

There are six weeks that stand between the emptiness that echoes through the house and the shrieks of arguments and insults that I hope will nullify this void I endure daily when the family arrives to end the agreed to exile we have been living for nigh a year now. Nothing changes much when you live apart from the people you can miss when you drop them off at school or when you open a lunch box and see the love that they put in it.

The bougainvillea has bloomed. Monkeys sip water from the roadside puddles and hold their conferences on the rim of garbage dumpsters, courting death at every convention. The village people find the carcasses as easily disposable as a toss straight into the garbage dumpster. A few days ago, I saw a herd of wildboar cross the road in waves of earthen grey just above the shrubline along the road to the airport. Sights such as these tell me that life may still be livable in this sleepy hollow where the moss gathers to watch the grass grow.

I have had my second sortie in the new bird. I will concede that she is beautiful, and lovely to fly. She is after all, not  8 months old yet in the livery of the company. But she takes forever to wind through in the system checks and start ups, making me wonder if this is the manner of courtships of all French ladies. Though having been to France and bits of Europe, Oz, Scandinavia and Blighty, I have no overwhelming fascination or movie star appeal toward the caucasian woman, if you will pardon my French.

Tomorrow is my Certificate Of Test. The moment my examiner asks me as he has said he will, "Are you ready for your C of T?", I do not know how much honesty I can muster in reply. Yes, I should have more faith in myself. Some of the guys ahead of me really should be an inspiration, even if what I know of them isn't...so I guess I am going to be waving back when I come out the other end.

Anyway, life has to go on and it has. After many weeks of having to make do with streetside warongs selling overfried fish, chicken smelling and tasting like the scariest substances you read about from internet spam and the crippling inability to tell nasi goreng kampong from nasi goreng kangkong, I finally found my favourite food tucked away in a tiny stall with no signboard run by a husband and wife team, simply known by word of mouth as 'Sundrams'. I have also befriended a copilot from China who recently teamed up in the company who is as crazy about rice and curry as I am so it's no winning awards for anyone who guesses who snapped this uncomplimentary picture of me straining at the bit to plough through the leaf.

Also, while skirting around Awana Kijal looking for him, I discovered not one but two Chinese 'no serve pork' restaurants less than two hundred metres from the lobby. So, Jin Hao and I alternate twixt Sundrams' and these two for our daily meals. Poor Jin Hao can't drink beer as he wants to obviate spiking his uric acid level, and he does not see himself cycling, but he confesses to loving the swimming pool. Yes. Right. Well, no friendship is porfiq.

Yes, and I did fall in love at a junction for about five minutes. This is the sweetest face I have seen in Kerteh to date, so should you harbour any armorous intent on visiting here for a beach romp, be warned that this is about as good as it gets. The face of a confused cow, staring at me, unable to deduce whether I was a life threatening entity or one worth goring with stubby horns, so we played at the out-staring game for the duration of the snapshot. The low rumble of a 20-valve Levin always tempts other means of transport beside me to show me their dust, so I do not blame her for such posturing at all. I grinned broadly at her before I drove slowly to the house, still seeing her indecisive face and soft dark eyes in my mind as my front gate loomed ahead of me.

But tomorrow I contend with mammoiselle. Sacrebleu!