|Dawn, and a red sun rises|
The sole Super Puma L2 has been fighting valiantly to put up a good show, after being placed in the hangar for 3 weeks due to lack of spares. It was with some excitement then that I read the text from Sifu that he had spotted the L2 in the air. We would be up to fly again whilst waiting for the grocery list of modifications to be carried out on the EC225, and by our raw but throroughly informed estimates, it would be about a month yet that I would be seated in the baffling L2's cockpit.
It takes a while, to get into the swing of things once again in the offshore schedule sense of the word. The sporadic flying, mostly done in the general aviation style, barely preserved my faith in my profession. Conversion training on the other hand is not an indicator of being able to keep up with a brand new way of doing in the L2 what you always have in the EC225, just because its older and houses more user-unfriendly navigational aids and gadgetry compared to the glitzy 225.
I am back to the once familiar but long unpracticed odd schedule of reporting for duty well before take-off time with meals taken on the opportunity basis as allowed for between peparatory paperwork and the arrival of the passenger manifest, after which it is a scramble to complete the paperwork and shoot off to start the aircraft. In this month, I cannot leave it to crew-cooperation, as most of the pilots are observing the holy month's austerities. Only if I am teamed with Sifu do we work the documentation out then race off for a meal before the manifest puts us on the launching pad.
The haze is here on its second cycle. There have been captains who have rubbed salt in my non-active-flying wounds by saying I am the common denominator to halting the flying schedule just by turning up for work, either by drawing the haze in or by causing the L2 to go bust. I suppose they all need some form of humour to relieve the arduous wait for the EC225 to return to full active service, but blaming the unavailability of the L2 on the one person who is already the most junior in the company for any prospects of advancement and in desparate need of the flying hours to do so, is humour not merely twisted, but very, very dark.
As the prevailing winds are once more south-westerly, and most of the rigs have the platforms canted south, it's the aircraft captains who are having all the fun of doing the approaches. I am keeping my fingers crossed that when the winds change to hail the north-easterly and its accompanying monsoon, the EC225 will be strongly in the air once again. My radio calls have oxidised, much to the amusement of our slick competitors across the tarmac who are quick to make public comment over the company frequency on my errors in radio calls. My only recourse is to be cynically grateful in response. As I know well that they were my squadron mates in the air force once who sought to sytmie my progress should I surpass them, alluding to their come-uppance would falaciously feed their vapid self-worth and quell the radio chatter. But indeed, it is really like riding a bicycle, and all the cycle of activities come back glandularly after several sorties.
Being in the saddle of the L2 is different. I am back to square one of not passing half the quizzes shot at me by Sifu. The short jaunt home is once more a road too far to a loss of consolation over thinking that I was making it work after all. Yes, I have heard another transitory pilot like me return from flying, wishing everyone with utmost humility and I wondered what possessed him as I kept my nose in my pre-flight paperwork. Then it came out. He lamented, in unburdeing release from internal pain, "Confuuuuuussee betul lah aku!!!!" That's the plaintive cry of a victim of crosss-training, and cross-trained before fully settling in one aircraft, resulting in the neither here nor there feeling.
But we all gotta do what we all gottta do.
I will pull the plough till this field is thoroughly furrowed, and I too will emit that same plaintive call.