27 February 2012

It's All In The Approach

Yes, this is what the cockpit view is like when I am about to reach a rig or platform a hundred plus miles away from Kerteh. No, it's not me in the picture and I doubt I will ever be in such a position as to snap one like this. It's a gambar sekadar perhiasan of the Puma cockpit lifted from Eurocopter's albums just so you have an idea that one minute we are looking at a platform that for all appearances seems smaller than wang sekupang, and just as you pass below 200 feet above mean sea level (yes, the sea definitely looks mean), there is a rapid change of perspective and the deck and the superstructure suddenly conspire to skewer your cockpit.

Over the past number of weeks, I have been frustrated with my progress. My instrument phase is on ice, so I am still a sunshine pilot no matter what instrument approaches I have been doing when coming home from the rigs.

The offshore flying world is interesting. It's rather like airline flying, save that a helicopter is involved as so far no fixed-wing aircraft has proven an ability to land on a 70-foot diameter platform. As with all other aircraft, the critical stages are take-off and landing. In the helicopter world, we call them departures and approaches. And similar to our better-known brethren in the airlines, any pilot will tell you that approaches are a tinge more complicated than departures.

I have been flogging myself over my approaches. Yes, I know the textbook description of aiming at the forward edge of the platform and then I will be in the dead centre as I get closer towards it. As I began flying offshore in the monsoon, I didn't give any of this a second thought. I had more problems keeping my heading steady the closer I got to the deck because I was born with two left feet. The strong monsoon winds assisted my approaches, correcting for my descent angle without me having to be as precise as those who have ten thousand hours flying offshore. Now, as the skies are sunnier, the winds at the rigs have fallen to single-digit figures. My seniors openly admit that an approach in strong winds is always easier than one in calm winds. One nil-wind day, I began with a correctly steep approach but as I decelerated at the half-way through point, I recognised that I was overshooting the deck. I had to execute a go-around and ever since then, my approaches have left me feeling....inadequate.Yeah, I am gonna nail the approach next time, I would say every time I landed, with the aircraft captain saying, "Hmmmm. You're a bit short.", and I knew he wasn't referring to my hobbit stature. Then the flight home to Kerteh would be in dull silence as I went over and over the approach in my mind, wishing I were a better pilot. Damn!!!

What is it that misery seeks again?


The surreptitiously gained knowledge that others are not faring any better than you is the reassuring and assuaging balm that you, mortified as you may be at your approaches, are not the only one in your shoes and thereby, not as bad as you may have presumed yourself to be. I had speculated that maybe it was because I haven't acclimatised to this aircraft's peculiar behaviour yet. I had correctly guessed that the ex Puma pilots would be so much more at home in the EC225 because they were flying a predecessor before the offshore clients insisted on the EC225 in the new contract.

It's always a backdoor boost to your self esteem when you find out a whole lot of other ex-Sikorsky/Bell helicopter suck at steep Puma-type approaches too. I have since learned that I am just one amongst many non-Puma-experienced pilots who keep flying the EC as if it was a Sikorsky or Bell, ending up making shallow approaches. Even those who kept up appearances of hotshot swagger actually sucked.

So for now, I will unclench them asscheeks and just enjoy the ride.

12 February 2012

Some Days You Don't Want To

The Hill showing potential IMC
There are days when you don't want to go out cycling. You know you love it; you know that just three consecutive days more of 36km rides will ease up 2 milimetres on the belt. But some days, you just don't want to. When the clouds have frosted the sunlight, and the coast sweeps in a nippy breeze, all of creation says it's time for hot coffee and lazing on the patio bench.
Front Row Seats To The James Taylor Show
After you have perused the skyscape and concluded that you can risk the weather at the behest of that Freddy Mercury's I Want To Ride It When I Like!! looping incessantly in your left ear, you trudge back into the hall to seek out your bicycle only to be subdued by James Taylor's Her Town Too coming warmly over the Rogers telling you to give it up for a lengthy listening session. Yea, some days you don't want to...but you know that you must.

Which brings me to this dreadful turn in the second month every annum. Saint Valentine's Day and its attendant Anti-Valentines Day. Sigh....only in Malaysia.....

If the old martyr knew the asinine clamourings in this country with trite religious, political and non-governmental entities plus some individuals too, exhorting Moslems in particular and Malaysians in general to not celebrate St Valentine's Day, surely he would spin in his grave. I am more riled than the saint...for these exhortations were posted on my facebook for bloody 'ell's sake. Yeah, fine that you warn your flock to stay apart from the rest of us goats, but must you justify it by saying Saint valentine's Day is about immorality? In your loss of control over your own, why sully someone else's day of rememberance and reverance? Keep up this line of logic and we really have more reason and occasion not to meet than to meet and be Malaysian.

First of all, this is Saint Valentine's Day. Amidst the obscurity, it is still Catholic in origin, with its universal values being adopted by all, regardless of creed. On that token, allow me to appeal that you render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God, what is God's. Live, and let live.

In essence, Saint Valentine was a priest who performed the rites of marriage and administered the sacrament of matrimony in secret for those who sought to marry against the decree of a tyrannical emperor, to his own peril. Reflecting on society's failed marriages, divorce rates and the overall breakdown of the nuclear family, in commemorating his selflessness to those who were in love, we may be well served when reminded to go the distance for those whom we say we love even and especially when it hurts us.

The proponents of the Anti-Valentines Day message have not understood the spirit of Saint Valentine's Day any better than they fathomed Seksualiti Merdeka and I have scant trust that this vitriol has its source in semantics. If such were the viral strain of thought that enflames the nation, surely celebrating Halloween and prom night too should be likewise castigated, but nothing has been said about those, right? Phew!! Speak of choking out the gnat but swallowing the camel!!

This divisivity can only be borne in the comfort of never having to trust another human being regardless of race or religion. When your face is in the bush and your arse is covered by your mates who are both your race and not, and the enemy who will shoot you dead is also from your race and not, the epidermial imperative is completely lost.

When men, of your creed and not, trust you to pluck them out of God-forsaken spots in the jungle in your vessel, chased ever lower into the earth by weather that would swallow you up in a flash, you learn that all life, all men and women are sacred. When you take risks to evacuate a woman in the throes of labour from her indigenous village far from any trail and medical assistance, or the wheelchair bound man who has to be carried across the river before he can be placed in your stretcher, the question as to which God he or she believes in doesn't even occur. You are then doing his God's work, answering his prayers to The One and The Same.

You cannot choose how you will die, nor with whom, but you can choose the manner in which you live, and the manifestation of the faith you profess. The car you drive can be crumpled into a sheet on the grille of an oncoming bus, and there you go, believer and non-believer alike in a tangled mass of roadkill. When it is all done, how do you justify to whom amongst the dead shall salvation and eternal life be given? Whom will be left to eternal damnation, whom to the bosom of Abraham? Seriously????
That's Me In The Corner!! That's Me In The Spot-Light!! Losing My Religion!!!!
Therefore in consolation and lengthy conclusion, behold my friend, Mr Effa Rojie who was spotted in the tupperware within which my wife and daughter are trying to germinate some greens for our meal-time consumption. He was no casual visitor. He keeps his bum warmed in the sod, and he has been there for days. I have faith that he has a much better mental disposition than the twits (have I spelled that wrongly??) foaming at the mouth over Saint Valentine's Day. The obvious reason is that this amphibian friend of mine can be seen. He isn't beneath a tempurung, which is infinitely more than I can say for those buggers.

Really, some days I don't want to say anything against the noise of idiocy. But I know that I must, even if it is only and quietly to myself. It worked for Galileo when he had to recant.

And with regard to the politicians, all I can say is Bah!!!!! Humbug!!!!!