28 December 2012

A Full Table

'Twas a good table, 'twas!
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.

Hello there 9M-SPF!!

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.

Gazing towards Dungun and a rain-swept shoreline
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.

Sandbars enfringing the coast
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.

No chestnuts. Sigh....but there's  lamb!!!!
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.

Support your barbequeue Chef!! Pour him a Drambuie neat on the rocks!!
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.
Thrills at the Grille
The visit from Father GT was a sure ripple in the monotony. He brought along a guest whom we had seen in our Dungun shoplot church, and well, we got to know her. We had a home-cooked lunch, and as I looked around the table where we nine were seated, I realised that I shouldn't have so foolishly pre-empted God's ability to turn a day around on its head. Brenda's own table was one that could only be described with words of satiety. Which was all good as Tina, Father GT's guest did invite us for a dinner following Christmas mass at Dungun. Which in turn was good because she and her mother, Mrs Gomes turned out a table so good that one would forget the existence of the various Arabic restaurants along the east coast. The Indian ginger pickles continuously called my name, and toasting after dinner with ginger wine warmed the belly as decently as any hearth could.
And he called for his pipe and he called for his bowl...
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.

15 December 2012

Thin And Fat Again-A Hobbit's Song

The Hobbit is finally out!!

It is no secret that I am a Tolkien fan. The Lord Of The Rings is wrought of a language laden with quotables, but for me the one closest to my heart is this:

Aragorn: Gentlemen! We do not stop 'til nightfall.
Pippin: But what about breakfast?
Aragorn: You've already had it.
Pippin: We've had one, yes. But what about second breakfast?
Aragorn stares at him, then walks off.
Merry: Don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.
Pippin: What about elevensies? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?
Merry: I wouldn't count on it Pip.

For I too, have gained my sillhouette from religious submission to a hobbit's mealtimes. And thence, do I finally find relevance in Adam Levine's lyrics. Perhaps the lipstick bit doesn't mesh perfectly, but for every other rhyme, the resonance is harmonious and most meaningful. There is an ongoing battle with weight, whereby the instruments of war are my Merida and the treadmill. So, in 21-platter salute to all those who struggle against that one last morsel, come on and anthem with me:

"One More Night"

You and I go hard at each other like we're going to war.
You and I go rough, we keep throwing things and slamming the door.
You and I get so damn dysfunctional, we stopped keeping score.
You and I get sick, yeah, I know that we can't do this no more.
Yeah, but baby there you go again, there you go again, making me love you.
Yeah, I stopped using my head, using my head, let it all go.
Got you stuck on my body, on my body, like a tattoo.
And now I'm feeling stupid, feeling stupid, crawling back to you.

So I cross my heart and I hope to die
That I'll only stay with you one more night
And I know I said it a million times
But I'll only stay with you one more night

Try to tell you "NO!!" but my body keeps on telling you "YES!!".
Try to tell you to "stop", but your lipstick got me so out of breath.
I'll be waking up in the morning, probably hating myself.
And I'll be waking up, feeling satisfied but guilty as hell.

Yeah, but baby there you go again, there you go again, making me love you.
Yeah, I stopped using my head, using my head, let it all go.
Got you stuck on my body, on my body, like a tattoo.
And now I'm feeling stupid, feeling stupid, crawling back to you.
So I cross my heart and I hope to die
That I'll only stay with you one more night
And I know I said it a million times
But I'll only stay with you one more night

Yeah, baby, give me one more night
Yeah, baby, give me one more night
Yeah, baby, give me one more night

Yeah, but baby there you go again, there you go again making me love you.
Yeah, I stopped using my head, using my head, let it all go.
Got you stuck on my body, on my body like a tattoo.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
So I cross my heart and I hope to die
That I'll only stay with you one more night
And I know I said it a million times
But I'll only stay with you one more night

So I cross my heart and I hope to die
That I'll only stay with you one more night
And I know I said it a million times
But I'll only stay with you one more night

04 December 2012


Kellie's Castle in profile
I know that many people would say they want a job with no work to do and a decent enough pay packet to have a good time with.
Yeah, perhaps we all want a job that doesn't throw out our backs.
The lift tower
I am at present, rarely at work. I have nothing to do! I do not ask to be this way. It's anyone's guess that I would much rather be up in the air than be stuck on the ground.
Yes, there are times when even work gets to be this way. Utter doldrums, boundless limbo and I hear the clamourings of nonchalant optimism that we will be off the ground soon in a decibular battle against the industry prophets of doom who insist that the end is not yet in sight.

The Peoples' Car, with currently valid road tax!!!
I believe that this hiatus is granted to me for a reason. I know that when I am on the work cycle, days melt into each other in a seamless conglomerate of sectors, month-end summaries, check rides and days off. There is the hunt for a breather to work out the outstanding chores, repairs in waiting and the loyalty to a fitness programme that each day slips further out of enforcement's reach. Since the words of the prophets say that there is no end in sight, I proposed, unchallenged by recognisably violent objections, a road trip to Taiping.
And they were each assigned very hazardous duties
Now, I know that being on the east coast means we stand many hours away from Taiping, a rough figure of 7 hours' drive on the best of days. But it's the one place that seems to have slipped past as a touristy seaside resort or favourite holiday destination, therefore we would be circumnavigating those hordes that soil our beaches after the industrial effluents have. I did grow up partly in Taiping, for the first 3 years of education at least, and I remembered vaguely as it may be, a Zoological garden and a museum. The kind of people who plugged up her hotels the last time I checked on the occupancy rates would be the kind who sought history, as Taiping is a heritage town. So Taiping it was!
The front view of the castle, with Mammoiselle Rue on the bridge
Brenda had for some time, even from the days of our courtship on the saddle of a Suzuki, asked for a visit to Kellie's Castle. It was time to sniff out this location, as my daughters were agog with their mother's thrilling suggestion. As the 1.8 litre Nu engine was fired up on the gloom of Tuesday morning, the relic's destination was acquired on the GPS. 
The view must have been much better in Smith's time
We made Kellie's Castle at about 1400H, and looking at its structure, I felt immediate awe and respect for this man who laboured for the ones he loved amidst much tragedy. The castle was beautiful, set atop a knoll which in its time would have overlooked the lush countryside towards the west and the limestone bluffs of the silver state towards its eastern gaze, with the spine of the Titiwangsa as its backdrop.
The stairs to the upper rooms. Lovely wooden balustrade
As I strode through the corridors and looked upon the lifeless dressing-rooms and dining halls, I mused at what so enrapt Mr Smith so as to make him choose this place as his abode. You would not have set off on such a task as our own Taj Mahal on a whimsy and then take off back to Blighty.
The girls in Helen's room
This would have been a magnificient home. The estate was well-thought, with linen rooms, wine cellars, a rooftop courtyard for parties and underground and underwater tunnels so that the family could get to the Hindu temple Kellie Smith had built across the river in gratitude to the Hindu deity whom he believed blessed him with his long awaited son Anthony.
The Corridor
It is heartbreaking to follow the tragic story of this obviously successful planter's endeavour to build his family home which ended in ruin and abandon till the government takeover to mint its tourist potential. I concur that perhaps it should be seen to its opulent completion, and thereby set the Smith family's souls to eternal rest instead of  sentencing them to ceaselessly wander the corridors till kingdom come.
Down to the dungeon!!!
The next item was to shoot directly for Sentosa Villa. The hours were advancing well past lunchtime, and the sandwiches and grapes we had stuffed our faces with over the past seven hours would not hold indefinitely. We smacked into the middle of Taiping and I felt quite lost. I couldn't orient myself to figure out where the old bus-stop was, and realising that decades had past since I was here, I abandoned all thought of smart-assing my way to the good eateries.
The walkway through the Villa
Instead, we chanced a loop around the town's perplexing streets and spied an empty parking lot which turned out be right where a good kopitiam stood. Here we stopped to the encounter of smalltown-friendly staff and food that did not disappoint the impression given by the blackened interior decor. I am sure the locals would shred my appraisal to bits, but to a visitor, Prima served decent dishes for not too much dosh. With our hunger sated, we returned to the car and resumed faith in the voice navigation of Papago's baffling directions to Sentosa Villa.
I surmise that  Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" has a lineage: the senior Elantra spotted outside Prima
The light in the sky was fading with the last sighings of evening as we finally checked in at Sentosa Villa. The air was laden with the enticing aroma of durians and jackfruits hanging from the trees, with trapeze nets suspended under them to safeguard the unwary. I was grateful that the management had thought of this, as I see a descending durian as more of a spiked anvil in freefall.
Ducks amidst the pandan
I love the place. Reasonably priced and tucked well away from the centre of town, the hotel sat close to the foothill of Maxwell. From the room we could gaze up at the rainclouds cascading down the slopes, here, at the wettest region in the country. Or, we could look  down at the grass pathways and watch the ducks and geese and turkeys quack and honk and gobble in daily business fashion as they waddled to and fro in their quaint surroundings.
Absolutely darling
There stood an air of serenity here, in the Villa. All around the hotel grounds, a stream ran, babbling cheerfully, aerating the still pools where various kinds of fish were being bred. There were walkways to invigorate the guests, uphill, downhill and always lush and green. The poultry walked about with the kind of confidence that comes from knowing nobody would hurt them. The grounds belonged to them as much as they did to the proprietor. The room was gorgeous too, carefully conceived as the place you bathe and set your head down to sleep. No fridge, no in-room broadband, small television, lovely shower and minimalist cabinetry. I am definitely staying here if ever I am in town next.
That is a mighty hunk of beef, but he has such sweet grey eyes
So the agenda over the next day was to make it to the zoo and the Perak Museum. Both destinations were preloaded on the GPS, so finding our way was a no-brainer. I do not personally love zoos. The reason for it was revisited upon me as we sat lazily in the safari train, and later, as we walked for a bit to look at the big cats and the gaur.
Antonio's endowed cousins
I always feel sad for the beasts, not so much just for the captivity, but more for their sad state of health. The ostriches had poor plumage, looking like they had been sitting in boiling water all day, nigh feathered for Rowan Atkinson's Christmas roasting. The camels looked as if they were begging to get shot, their hides all mangy like threadbare carpets, crouched so despiritedly on the ground as to be unable to muster up an insulting spit shot at passers-by. But the big cats were fun to watch, reminding us of Antonio 7 hours drive away, and how he would be contending with mean-spirited monkeys and unspayed (read as territorial) cats swarming his driveway.
And yes, here is Lopez De Squirrel doing the commando descent
As the one who suggested this hare-brained scheme of a roadtrip to Taiping, the girls decided to reward me with an Indian breakfast as the thought of the long drive home on Thursday morning made me ravenous the minute I woke up. And yes, I did in fact feel rewarded because the food at Annapurna was OMG sumptuous. Yes, perhaps the locals would draw my blood for saying that, but Indian food is Indian food for me. I would gobble it down by nosing in a trough if that were the way it presented itsef to me.
Redefining Sugar Loaf Hill
My girls will testify to the truth in that statement.

27 October 2012

Frere Jacques, Dormez Vous?

There is an old air force barroom limmerick, apparently attributed to a Commanding Officer who used to say:

If the weather is not clear
Put the aircraft in the hangar
Report to the bar
And we'll all have a beer

It reminds me of times when following an aircraft incident or mishap, we would be stopped from flying pending investigations and declaration of airworthiness of the aircraft type affected, by the appropriate directorates.
The entire aviation world works in much the same way, be it civil or military, in the interest of flight safety and a zer0-accident rate. Therefore, following the incident of 22 Oct, albeit a safe controlled ditching in compliance with the aircrew checklist (ACL), we are still on a precautionary stop-flight order. In the military we would be milling 'round the crew room, gleaning gossip from our flight commanders and COs, slurping the tricklings of phone calls along with coffee to grain out whatever foggy prediction of the near future as such inconclusive indices would afford.
However, in civil flying, you do not simply show up for work unless called for. Turning up at work is a day's productivity allowance equivalent in money, which is not your entitlement unless your name is on the flying programme. While in this instance, the fleet grounding is no fault of the crew or company, and therefore we are still getting paid, we still can't loiter aimlessly at work. That dampened frequency of hobnobbing with those in the know, plus the looser comradeship, both thwart and dilute the gleaning process.

So, with the current climate of uncertainty, my flying suit has hung motionless over my bedroom door . I do not remember preparing my flying suit and yet not flying in a long time , not since leaving the air force. 
Which leads me to the matter of my oft-revived predicament that ever since the end of Ramadhan, my visits to Sundram's have been no more about scraping up a meal, but about indulgence while my exercise programme has slowly fallen to an indolent once in 5 days when I am on the 1300H muster. As a middle aged retiree with the dietary habits of a hobbit, it follows that this conflict of imperatives had rendered me being in need of an entirely new wardrobe as I slapped on the adipose with all the speed of a Dr David Banner metamorphosis.
Seeing that the aircraft are in the hangar even in the best weather, I have had good opportunity to catch up on cycling. My ears are still open for the contingency call from the ops room for a full ground run, as I cycle, but so far it's been quiet.

I am a cyclist, but not a thoroughbred avid one. Other than for that one time when I cycled 122km from Labuan to Kuala Penyu and back, I have not had the opportunity to do any really long-distance rides. Though I do love cycling, I do not hunt down jungle trails, and the word "technical" to me has to smack of circuitry, not roots and brooks and inclines. My typical ride is out the junction and down the road and back, typically a run of 28km. It serves my purpose for now. Lamenting the loss of a good group such as the one I had in KK is fruitless and a bit depressing, you know, always running back to better times and the notion of what-if-I-hadn't. I would love a 5-day a week, 30 to 40 km at a time kind of harmony with my work schedule. However, the realities of holding down a house, weather and work scheduling impede that love, so that in the end it's about giving that final bit of frustration shoehorned into the last, or perhaps the very first, few minutes of daylight before I have to be somewhere else at somebody else's behest.
Therefore, this hiatus in flying, unfair as it may appear to our competitors across the tarmac who have had to fly more in our stead, has been a welcome break to jump start a long neglected habit. Else by the fifth day, I would be feeling breathless from not cycling.
I expect that I shall do well indeed when my next medical examination comes along, and my physician will be very happy with me.
On the other hand, I am hoping to see in my e-mail, that I am scheduled for a real offshore sector, instead of "as required". It is not good for  the fleet to remain on ground indefinitely, and I have doubts that we could go on the long and expensive route of hardware change in order to get up in the air again. Furthermore, I really want to fly.

So, please, Frere Jacues, please wake up soon, and break the news that the grounding is lifted.

25 October 2012

You're Grounded!!

We don't have it on our media.
But three days ago, a Super Puma EC225 ditched into the North Sea during an offshore operational flight. The above pic was taken from the UK's Daily Telegraph site.
As we are operating an aircraft of the same type, our own fleet has been grounded pending investigations and findings over the incident.
Well, for a non-swimmer bordering on hydrophobic such as I am, the above picture is most reassuring. I now know that the bloody beast floats!

A Shortcut To Mushrooms

Mushroom Cumulonimbus

When mushrooms clouds dominate the skyscape, you know the monsoon has arrived.
Clouds may look like marshmallow mountains, but they are an interesting  biological entity in their own right. From the ground they look pretty, and seem to be the soft-shelled Renaissance sculptures, edible images of our favourite trifles, or Megatron trucks.
Clouds though, are like living beings. They start small, cute. They grow. Evaporation and condensation raise the mists in vertcial winds called updrafts. Updrafts contribute to their growth. Internally the water droplets collide to form larger droplets. Above the freezing altitude levels, they morph into ice crystals, and the transition from supercooled water droplets into ice crystals make for larger crystals, all buoyed upon the stength of the updrafts as a function of what forces the air upward. So plunging into these marshmallows should not be equated to driving headlong into the thick mists along the KL-Kuantan East Coast Expressway.
The Rainy Shores

It has been a coquettish play this week, between wet grey mornings and irridiscent sunrises. Having the weather widget is no reliable index of foretelling the type of morning I face.
Brilliant Morning

Some of the early morning departures have been simply picturesque. A red sun rises, smoggy grey clouds being beaten away by his indefatigueable cheer. You could turn you head to look northward and see the coastline curl away in quaint Vespuccian perspective from Kerteh to Kuala Terengganu, were limits not imposed by Paka's contributions to the suspensions in the air just above the earth.
A Frontal Line

But as you venture away from terra firma, you can almost see inscribed upon the sky, like ripples upon a lake with the shoreline as the epycentre, cloud formations and frontal developments. And of course, mushroom clouds.
I do not know if it's just symptomatic of the weather, but one mushroom cloud I spotted was originating from the smoke plume of a rig's flare boom.

Posh Bali's plumage as seen from 8 miles away
I have not seen such a sight in bonny Semenanjung. The last time I saw such a phenomenon was when I was doing Bambi Bucket operations in Sabah, about the year 1999. Back then we were fighting the forest fires of both Sabah and Sarawak, taking the span of about 5 months and many detachments all over the state. I was still a beligerent copilot then, and on completion of my detachment at the Sabah Forestry HQ at Telupid, en route Labuan, we came across a peculiar sight between Keningau and Tenom, where a patch of burning forest liberated a column of smoke that sublimated into a cloud. I suppose that this is possible, should a particuarly strong thermal convection within the fire thrust the condensation nuclei made of ash and dust high enough, fast enough in a vertical updraft to allow its water vapour to become cloud
Posh Bali up close and Purrsonal alongside Trident 9
I wonder if similiar conditions existed over Posh Bali, a jack-up rig near Trident 9, to cause this visual curiosity . But the question is, yeah, the incipient monsoon freights moisture-laden air to our coasts for the rain spell, making cloud formation easier due to vapour saturation, but why only over Posh Bali does this manifestation occur? Why not the other rigs as well? I noticed it over the past few days, so it can't be the sudden convergence of all factors conducive to the formation of cloud from a flame everyday???
Coming Out Of The Dark
Back to the daily grind, as  you pick up passengers and off-load them and return to the mainland, the rings of cloud you had noticed earlier have now ballooned into a storm waiting to protect the coastline form your intrusions. Sometimes, dog-legging around the build-up seems like an exercise in futility as you turn the corner of one stormcloud only to be faced with the black-walled mushroom of another standing defiantly in your diversionary flight path. However, as passenger comfort is a priority, dog-legging is done when the weather radar indicates it as a profitable manouvre, and if pushing straight ahead is more prudent, taking back the speed several notches helps prevent the porpoising of the aircraft through the dark turbulence of a rainstorm.
But flying in the monsoon is rarely slamming into dark clouds from take-off, cruising in a quaking chopper and landing on the rig in a near-blinding storm. Rarely, only because I have been at this one year. However, even my training captain will concur, that the nastiest monsoon weather lies about 50 nautical miles from the coast. Before and beyond that, the weather is normally docile. Yes, the prevailing winds are carrying the rains to the mainland, and so yes, we will have coastal and overland rains. But you get the picture, that the severity of floods here is a function of the rainfall and relief, and not so much that it's a case of Noah revisited.
Mirrormare and a barge on tow
Therefore, if  you make it through the rain, you can come back home to the sight of a shimmering coast and fair-weather clouds reflected on a calm sea greeting you for turning up instead of turning away, as if turning away from shore was even an option. Such greetings are a welcome sight on any given day, more so days as bleak as these, lifting the mood as you seek the end of your work sector.
Long Finals Runway 34 and somewhere down there is home
It's a homecoming, I guess.

10 October 2012

Windvanes And Weathercocks

Fair Weather Fiends
From the start of this day's 0700H muster, I had a good feeling about today. The weather has improved by leaps and bounds, and the haze has finally given way to the easterly winds. They have not veered to a fullblown ( pardon the pun ) North Easterly wind, which would signal the reign of the like named monsoon, but certainly finding all radio operators at the rigs annunciating a North Westerly wind of 3-5 knots, is reassurance that the extended gloatings of aircraft captains over having dominion of the rig approaches will phase off till the resumption of the South Westerly monsoon in the first quarter of the next year.

Panoramic shot of the Seligi oilfields

Obviously with such crystalline visibility, looking around became rather enjoyable compared to months and months of gazing at rigs floating in the murk of haze and mist. We were on a long-haul today on the East Piatu-Belumut Alpha combination which invariably meant that we would be shutting down at East Piatu and the doing a rig start up on internal battery to Belumut Alpha.
Tangga Barat Alpha and a cavorting logistics boat
 En route I looked down at Dulang oilfield, the sea a specific brilliant blue, with the Tangga Barat Alpha rig accompanied by a logistics boat kicking up quite a plume of froth in its wake as it curved anticlockwise around the rig.
On deck East Piatu, the shutdown was carried out quickly as the captain was in need of a trip to the gents and to raise his blood nicotine level. He left the technical team to do the refuelling and caught me wandering along the maze of staircases wrapped around the platform. He suggested I join him down at the galley and I gladly agreed, feeling my own blood caffeine levels at an insane low.
The galley was a handsomely stocked, replete with a drinks refrigerator, coffee,tea, cereal, creamer and Milo. The dining area was furnished with a 60-inch plasma television and HTIB ( home theatre in a box ) with astro. Just adjacent to the dining tables was the briefing enclosure, also equipped with a plasma televison and HTIB. As the captain and I surveyed the food stock in the galley, newbies herded into the briefing enclosure for the safety video show.
I reached for the coffee jug sitting on the hot platter and poured myself a generous mug. As the brew tinkled into the mug, the comforting aroma made me feel at home in the galley, and I savoured each sip to the last drop. By which time, the captain went to the smoking room for a last drag and we were due for a battery start for Belumut Alpha.
Floating Storage Offshore Bunga Kertas
En route Belumut at 2500 feet, the pristine weather held steady. The flight path brought us to FSO Bunga Kertas sitting approximately at the half-way point. The brilliant blue sky, the 3-5 knot winds teasing the sea into tiny ripples, and her distinctively erect flare boom made her a sight to behold on this sunny day.
Landing at Belumut Alpha was, just as with East Piatu, a copilot's approach into the prevailing wind that convinced me that the winds had shifted. I realise that I should be brushing up on instrument approaches, for along with the windshift comes the monsoon, with its own set of operational restrictions due to its attendant weather manifestations, complicating recovery from offshore to our mother airfield.
Regular evening thunderstorms reflect the shift in weather
I welcome a change in weather.
A change, any change, hints of hope that maybe other doldrum-laden portions of my life may change and cause freshness to alter my personal landscape.