This is what would play in my head when I was a general aviation pilot in Kota Kinabalu. Each day as I drove that short jaunt to the company to check my task for the day, a shiver would go down my spine.
It's the thrill that made me feel completely alive by skirting on the fringes of possible death. Okay, so that is romanticising it, but any pilot would understand what I mean.
Here at the end of the working day, there is fodder for conversation over a pint, your senior team mate giving you tips on how the local winds can wreak havoc at a particular saddle, reducing your main rotor thrust, sinking you and your passengers et alia if you know not how to ride the wave through the channel of the valley to the other side where calm prevails. Sleep comes as you tuck under the covers, whispering gently in your ear, "Enough. Enough now." Then a new day, mist over the peak of South East Asia, and more new fun till the sun goes down.
However, the second leg of the trip from Kemabong to Sipitang saw me trapped in pretty nasty weather in the valleys when three seconds of confusion between an erroneous portable GPS display while banking and scanning the limited horizon for recognisable features got the better of me. The downpour and all ridges and valleys choked with cloud saw me circling over and over and finally giving up, landing in a football field to sit out the weather. The curious locals who passed by provided forecasts that were far from encouraging. Three times when the rain abated, I attempted a lift-off but was beat back by a barricaded way ahead by nasty black cloud. Perhaps my passengers were chagrined at not being able to follow the Premier's proceedings, but a first-hand view at what bad weather looks like from the cockpit tamed their potential for complaint. It took to the end of the day for the weather to finally lift sufficiently to allow the non-instrumented Bell to hobble its way home to KK. I trust my face bore the hallmarks of a weather-beaten pilot.
I recall one trip to the Tip Of Borneo, to Simpangan Mengayau for a Brit millionaire who wanted to scout out a piece of land there that he intended to turn into yet another cash cow for his milking. He was waiting with his wife on the jetty at Bunga Raya Resort, on the Western cove of Pulau Gaya. The start of that task was already with trepidation as from start up to landing at the jetty, the aircraft seemed to be overconsuming fuel. A full tank of 95 gallons should have taken us on a round trip comfortably, and overconsuming with no refueling options en route was the start of the thrill on my captaincy. And dealing with millionaires poses its own strain on diplomacy, as some of them can be such petulant brats.
However, the good millionaire Gupta turned out to be a cool chap who accomodated me returning to KK for a quick top-up into the tanks prior seting course to Simpangan Mengayau. There, he met with another Deutsche Caucasian to chinwag over his millions as they downed bottles of Moet while I waited with his tourist guide in the public car park, allowing grown men to first pick up their jaws off the pavement, then mill 'round the Bell with the fascination only seen in toddlers for their Kodak moments. After an hour, watching this loses its novelty, and wandering uphill to the gazebo where the Deutscheman was rummaging in his basket for more Moet, I was suddenly lifted out of my mortal ranks when in the course of smalltalk, it became known that I was a Sea King pilot. Then Gupta confessed with ill-concealed pride his 14 hours as a sunshine pilot in waiting and asked for a more exciting trip back to Bunga Raya.
So, beginning with lift-off, I plunged the Bell over the hill and gunned for the coast such that my passengers were gawking at fir-lined beaches sweeping by their shoulders, parched paddy bunds and buffalo wallows scrolling swiftly past their feet and cars peppering their way back to KK's adorable coastline. Through my Randolphs, I could see Gupta turning his head backward to grin broadly at his wife. I wonder and wager his thoughts were of how his millions could make a pilot give them what few other couples could witness for amorous thrills on a business trip. Yet, even on such as these, it can be quite exciting just keeping the customers satisfied.