All I could say on that grey morning of 22 Dec as I walked out to the dispersal was "Hi there gorgeous!!"
It had been more than a month since I last had control of the aircraft, and the ground confinement was beginning to inflict its own kind of cabin fever. Therefore I was grateful indeed to be called in for a flight test, and with that to wedge in my last flight for the year. It's more than most EC225 pilots can ask for of late due to the circumstances.
The requirement was for a flight test, for the HUMS device. 40 minutes of airborne time inclusive of maximum continuous power level flights were needed to get the HUMS analyses running. It had been a while since I had looked upon the face of the east coast from the air. It was a cloudy day, swift carpets flying in laden with rain, normally scattering precipitation over the range and into the Klang valley, but these were the incipients of the monsoon that would send Kuantan into its worst floods in 20 years.
|Through the veil of mists, mother earth shows her face|
There were many other helicopters in the air that morning. Since the company was not flying clients, our rival company across the tarmac had to work four times as hard, and the traffic density reflected this quadrupled effort. I listened to the familiar sounds of departure calls from the pilots and the voice of the air traffic controller providing separation whilst accounting for our aircraft tracking the coastal route to Dungun at 2000 feet. His instruction to us was to remain over the land whilst the rest of the boys headed offshore, simplifying the separation process, and I reassured him that we would keep feet dry.
After establishing our location at Dungun at 2000 feet, I made the position report to the tower controller. Looking at the clock, I quipped to the captain that we had at least 20 minutes in the area to burn for the flight test. We adhered to the flight test profile, alternating between 100 knots and maximum continuous power, punching in the HUMS to record the flight regime conditions accordingly.
On a coastal route with that much time on our hands, I kept an eye on the Distance Measuring Equipment from Kerteh, to make sure we didn't stray out of the zone boundary at which we would come under Kuala Terengganu approach control. As we approached the 25-nautical mile mark, looking down, I saw Penerak for the first time since I joined the company. It was an airstrip, used as a reporting point between controlling authorities for the handing over and taking over control of aircraft. It has been used by various armed forces in joint training especially under the Exercise Bersatu Padu, but from the air it looked pretty disused, somewhat the way the Kuala Penyu airstrip looks.
Eventually our flight time was satisfied and I was given control of the aircraft for the approach to land. I noticed that I was not as tense as usual, even though I bore in mind the nature of this French machine as a less than willing partner than an American aircraft. As I completed the paperwork, I realised that this would be my final logbook entry for 2012. With Christmas on the horizon and predicted dates for the EC225 to be back on line being mid February, that closing thought was pretty much conclusive.
Christmas itself was a novel event. I had foreseen the usual, as we had done last year. A mundane attendance at mass. A sermon to pay no attention to. A drive to Kijal and its non eventful restaurants, with its unexciting menu at hand. But as it turned out, Christmas was to involve more than just the family.
|No chestnuts. Sigh....but there's lamb!!!!|
Mum-in-law was down, and so was Ethan on his Christmas break from the foundation course. Even though in the past, weeks of choir practice and a rousing midnight mass was what lent us the Christmas spirit, this diasporadic Catholic existence in Dungun made me consider that the spirit was to be sought elseways.
Support your barbequeue Chef!! Pour him a Drambuie neat on the rocks!!
|Thrills at the Grille|
Then there was Christmas night itself, when two workmates and one parishioner dropped by armed with a bottle of red each. They stepped into the house and started on the hummus and celery while I fanned the barbie coals to embers before grilling loads of beef and lamb to succulent perfection for a loud and cheery dinner.
|And they brought unto him gold, frankincense and myrrh|
In all this, wouldn't I want to share good cheer with more of my friends? It is a day when frailty and humility was the choice of the supreme power of the universe, to befriend creation's most recalcitrant breed.
Would I not seek to bridge what gaps there may be? Indeed should I not??
Yet it is at this time of the year that the mouthpieces of the executive should seek to injure all and any manifestation of goodwill. We are not to be wished Merry Christmas. It is haram. Such edicts are no more God-ordained than the intent that drove the slaying of babies after Christ's birth in the hope of wiping Him out in the process: that innocent good is a mere pawn in the hands of those who wield power and authority.
I am speaking not against anyone, but speaking up for my friends across the faith divide. I was not deprived in any way, of Christmas wishes from my friends whatever faith they professed.
For this, I thank you. What you do represents the way you believe your Creator to be. And come to think of it, just as was described in the Gospel of Matthew that the infant Jesus survived Herod's infanticide, the good we harbour shall survive the evil that is inflicted upon us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year my friends. May your days ahead be blessed.