04 April 2013

LIMA 2013

Yes, admittedly it isn't Farnborough or the Paris Air Show anymore than LTDL is a kinship to Le Tour de France.
But every LIMA has just got to be good for the mackciks and pakciks of Langkawi. The cab fare hikes, the B and Bs filling up, the brisk business at the hotels and accomodations, surely mean more to the locals than how contentiously the Eurofighter Thyphoon compares to Dassault Aviation's Rafale. All around the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre, at the grass strip next to the roads leading there and adjacent the airports, all manner of hawkers were plying their trade.
Our ride, the EC225
And as for me, the standing lament that Brenda has never had a helicopter ride was finally addressed.
Brenda in offshore configuration
The initial sales pitch was that Eurocopter Malaysia wanted an EC225 to be parked on the display apron to comprise their livery which was represented virtually in all arms of the government of the country, ie the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Royal Malaysian Police (though not represented at LIMA by their Ecureuil) and yes, our own offshore helicopter services. We were to fly 9MSTI there from the Eurocopter hangar co-located at the Eurocopter Malaysia simulator centre, over to Langkawi where LIMA was in festive swing and when all was done, to ferry her back to the Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology at Dengkil.
Rue and her dimples
The company was allowing us to bring our families along. I was in the throes of ecstatic agony of a massage when I got the call, and yet I jumped at the chance and conveyed my acquisence to my chief pilot amidst undisguised albeit stifled groans of relief.
Ellen in foreground whilst I am on pre-start checks in the background
This was to be my first ever IFR ferry flight, and I set off to do my homework and prep for the flight. Sunday saw us on a drive to Nilai to glance in on Ethan. He seemed none the worse for the wear of his recent transpirations of university life, and he was very kind-spirited about not being able to come along for the ride. I figured that what he had going on in his college was far more interesting than the opportunity for a helicopter ride and five days in the Langkawi sun.

Approaching Penang, with the faint strand of the bridge visible in the haze
Monday was start-up and off to Langkawi as per flight plan. As I was referring to an airways chart, I seem to have tossed my General Aviation sense out the window as when I looked down between the crevasses of cloud, I could not positively identify the roads and the paddy fields I was looking down on. By dead reckoning I was somewhere overhead Sekinchan, but no way was I able to pin-point it down to a town. Lumut looked vaguely familiar, and yes, things became more positive as we flew over Penang and then Langkawi. Yeah, no need for a pilot to tell you that it's the Penang Bridge beneath us.

Coffee and a view at 303
Eurocopter had inserted a leaflet into the copilot's document holder telling us we were to be put up at the Meritus. When we were at the baking hot dispersal of the Eurocopter hangar in Subang, the name Meritus sounded more like clergy to the uncultured Matisas. But Brenda had wifi access where she was waiting over at Skypark, and she happily reported that "it looked good" on her internet research. However, after landing at the Langkawi International airport's crowded apron and checking in at the Meritus, we discovered that the Meritus was where Eurocopter executives were housed for the occasion, which was opulently indulgent. Yes, and we were booked into the VIP room too!!!

Me girls soaking up the sun
The girls, ie Brenda, Ellen and Rowena had to be abandoned to their devices, as I elected to be with the tech boys who were handling all manner of visitors clambering into the cabin and cockpit for their facebook moments.

Ellen doing her thing

The sun beat down mercilessly upon the tarmac. The dispersal is never a kind area for airshows, as there is no hint of cover anywhere. This always is a contradiction in requirements, as taking cover beneath a gazebo or tent means your sky view is restricted, while on the other hand, you actually need clear skies with a decently high cloud base for aerobatic manouvres, thereby you can't ask for a terribly overcast day or strong cooling winds which would screw up the airshow. So in the end, it's a no-win situation for those who have to work at the static displays.

No questions, just pictures!!!
I will say this though: that amidst the agony of being under the sun and sweating so much as to fill a sty, there were some sweet moments where I bumped into many, many old friends of mine who still serve in the air force. It is always nice to meet Maj "David", who once was my aircraft captain, now a legal officer for the force. He had a long waiting time for his flight, so I spent almost the entire day strolling from booth to booth with him in MIEC, seeking refuge in the air conditioning between periods of time entertaining facebookers milling around the EC225 on the dispersal. There were the Smokey Bandits Mig-29 jocks who shook my hand for what they called a good write-up in You Are Not Family.The air force boys never let me feel that I had left. They accosted me into their operations centre and put a Coke into my hands, had me seated down where I could cool off and forced an air force goodie bag onto me. Sorry, that was inadvertant. What I meant was, this is the kind of hospitality you can never buy. As Maj "David" said, yeah, we are still family. My batchmates were striding around, looking important, all Leftenant Colonels now. Some were liason officers for foreign military delegates. Some were on conferences, some were escorting the ex PM who rivalled Solomon for sitting on the throne for so long. All in all, it was unofficially a reunion of sorts for me.


The searing heat got to me at each day's end. I could only make it back to the room, to collapse in the relieving air-conditioning. Then it was to shower the construction-worker grade pong off me and walk down the street to Chenang for dinner. It was on the third day in the sun that I finally decided to make good my privileges as a Eurocopter pilot and hang around at their gazebo whenever I could, to rehydrate on bottles of chilled Perrier and Pellegrino. This helped to keep the heatsroke at bay till I finally found my refuge at the room in Meritus after closing shop with the aircraft. As the conversations went well with the Eurocopter staff, they even popped open some red for me as an accompaniment to the beef that was served for lunch. Yes, very agreeable indeed!

My First Love

But as all good things must come to an end, Friday evening was the wrap-up day for us. I had the aircraft towed to the 'hot area', the rectangular tarmac at the southern end of the dispersal, for an immediate lift-off anticipated the next morning. All the other helicopters were parked on the hot area. Yes, including my 'first girlfriend', the S61A-4 Sikorsky Sea King Nuri. I know her nooks and crannies, her blisters and bumps, where the crimson hydraulic seep out, the fuel drain points and all her fuselage skin with intimacy saved for a fond favourite. I walked in a circle around her, my hand tracing the path of where my eyes would fall during a pre-flight check, which I have done in many unusual spots in country and out, over the eighteen years of flying her. I miss her still.

Overhead Ipoh Turf Club at 7000 feet

Saturday morning saw no relief to the heat. We dragged our luggage past the gates and loaded up the 225, while the tech boys charged up the batteries and hydraulics using the ground power unit. After a climb-out to 7000 feet, the flight back was uneventful as always when it comes to IFR airways routes. Major landmarks were discernible through the haze and the backscattered sunlight. We tracked through Butterworth, Ipoh and down to Subang.

Our waterfront

A five hour drive later saw us pulling up in the darkness up the familiar driveway in Jalan Chabang Kerteh. I am often surprised at myself for saying this, but it did feel good to be home again.

But without a doubt, we will sorely miss the beachfront outside room 303 at the Meritus.


  1. With the possibility of having my ass burned to a crisp in the sweltering heat, I would've loved to be there. My kids have been raving about LIMA but I've not had the opportunity to take them there yet. Anyway Sir, you have a beautiful family and they must be really proud of you. You are a great pilot. Know that.

  2. Dear Miss Placid Thoughts

    Thank you for your visit.

    I also thank you for the kind endorsement you have given me. Hope your kids make it to LIMA one day and collect loads of aircraft pins!!!

  3. Glad to see your kinship survives into retirement and your wife and kids getting a feel of your office.

  4. Thanks sir, for visiting.
    Yes, it was interesting to see how many of them from all services, the maritimers, air force, navy and fire and rescue pilots, defence related industrial captains, remembered me from the operational days. Including some I have never flown with. Reunions do that: they provide continuity.
    Maybe there is some truth to the adage that old soldiers never die, but just fade away.

  5. Hello Hobbit!
    It's great to see the family smiling ear to ear...I remembered every second of my 'Joy Flights' as a little kiddo from Simpang. Who would forget such experiences when your dad was crewing! Oh....love the shadows on your Nuri pic. I don't know if you were subtly sending a message across? Someone not so famous once said "...where shadows fall, light is always nearby." (i don't read..I only watch movies!)

  6. Dear Mad Doc
    I don't read much either, as I find it easier to quote movie lines, just as it was in I Am Sam. Hopefully I am not suffering from the same medical condition, or else I shall have to seek employment in a coffee shop soon.
    Yes, it is cool that you managed a few sorties under your dad's wing. Tragically, it's a premise in decay, as our commanding officers see less and less reason to write out a single paragraph to justify air experience for the families who support the men who maintain the bird and those who fly them in the nation's service.
    Yeah, the Nuri is such a dame isn't she?
    Sempang holds a special place in my heart, as it was my first operational base after commissioning from the infantry-toned Royal Military College. This jewel too, stands under threat of hostile corporate takeover. I hope that it can be saved my some means of intervening grace.