06 May 2012

Penta Gramme

A Far Green Country
The past 5 days have been multifaceted.

The start of the week showed great weather. From take-off and heading outbound to the new rigs I really believe I could see all the way out to Kelantan. I do not recognise many of the east coast islands save for Pulau Tenggol, as it sits on the 20-mile range mark from Kerteh, and Pulau Kapas abeam of Marang, but each time I look at Pulau Kapas, I think of a friend of mine who encouraged me to become an offshore pilot. Yes, it's the Pirate King of Kapas Island, Captain Sharif Abbas.

The air force's Bersama Lima air defense exercise had hemmed us in a bit over the the past days. They had occupied our operational airspace from 5000 feet and up, which meant that we had to cram into the lower airspace registers till they had done convincing themselves that they were protecting this country from an external threat. Being fighter jocks, it would take 6 days for them to to feel sure that they served a purpose in bonny Malaysia.

The convention is that the operators fly outbound at odd heights, say 3000 or 5000 feet and even heights inbound. This was in compliance with the rules of seperation, and was pretty convenient for our mental air picture, and also when faced with air conditioning failure, we could fly high enough to draw in cool air at altitude!! Missing out the cool air at 5000 feet was well...rhubarb rhubarb!!

Smoke On The Water
On the final day of the exercise, as we were rejoining from Lawit Alpha, an oil rig almost dead on the northerly cardinal heading from Kerteh, we heard air traffic chattering with some Tudung Selar formation or something. Ahhh...fighter jocks in helicopter territory!!

We descended under air traffic instructions, and were advised that our reciprocal traffic was a 3-ship formation of  Sukhoi-30s, with some serpentine callsign, just past Dungun en route to Gong Kedak, their home base. At 1000 feet, I began to keep my eyes peeled for them. Then I heard my captain snap."Visual!!" I looked in the direction he was staring and there they were in maritime grey, at about 500 feet above ground level.

Barges On Tow
"Kerteh, I have the 3 Sukhois visual and on my TCAS."  he called out. There was no response from the fighter formation. There was no see-and-be-seen acknowledgement or sighting and passing radio call. Or they didn't spot us I reckon. It's bad enough being spotted by other military aircraft, but to lose stealth to civilians is just heart rending. But then, both my captain and I carry air force hours under our belts.

Today we had thunderstorms from take off to landing at Kerteh. It was an opportunity to clock instrumented hours.

Haze too, has turned the aquamarine seascape into a sullen featureless colloid, making familiar ships like FSO Angsi and her family of rigs a miserable vista in the choking grey shroud.

A Jack-Up Rig Being Towed Out
There are barges dragging our wealth to unrevealed harbours. Then there are the jack-up rigs being towed out to new oil fields...and jack-up rigs being towed back to port. Fishing boats, tankers, luxury liners and various seafarers scrape their bridal train wakes as they plough this hive of activity, going quietly about their business as we fly forth and back keeping the business of digging for black gold uninterrupted.

It's the end of my five-day cycle. I will start my five-day rest cycle not by resting, but by pursuing an impossible dream.

Let's see how that goes.


  1. sounds interesting and exciting.. I love how the pictures are taken.


  2. Hi Angie!!! You've been incognito for a spell.

    The pictures are the product of a humble 3.2 meg cellphone camera. I will be looking at other options because there are some sights that the spartan 3.2 cannot even vaguely depict.

    I apologise for the quality of the pictures, and when clicked on they expand to the resolution of an oil painting.

    Hopefully soon, I will do better in bringing my world to you.