The weeks have begun to roll into a borderless mass. I forget where the preceding month ends and where the one I am in begins. It appears to me that time has passed like flipping pages consisting of flight routes and sector details, local instructions and operations meetings and days off that get consumed in the periodic punctuations of attending mass at church.
The mornings have grown darker. The sun has been veiled in thick clouds that descend to ground, an alarm buzzer that wakes me up to the patter of rain on the driveway and mornings wet from the afternoon before. Cycling is a rare and thereby celebratory event. This hobbit's breakfasts, second breakfasts, elevenses et al have placed upon him a growing girth that would make proud the stoutest grizzly in preparation for a very enduring winter. It is certain that the monsoon has arrived, albeit not it full fury. The certainty that the monsoon has begun its reign, pun inadvertent, is that the captains execute approaches less than half as frequently as copilots, and surely as anything else they like this development less than half as well as they should, seeing that they can gloat about their classic approaches a mere quarter of the time.
This year the monsoon foretold its arrival with frontal rains replete with lightning plunging in bright but noiseless bolts into the darkened sea. I wouldn't know if it was really noiseless or that we can't expect to hear anything above the double jeopardy of the aircraft noise and good insular headsets that carry the noise of radio chatter eclipsing every other sonic nuance in a flight time. Whichever way it went, the sight of lightning is most discomforting as nobody wants one of those on his tail as it heralds the loss of all directional devices such as compasses and radio magnetic indicators, and in the poor visibility which comes with bad weather, not knowing where we are headed.
Along with the gradual change in weather, the management has done the routine thing by organising the "monsoon brief" which outlines the manner in which we are to conduct our flight operations during this rather testy time. Ticking off currency checklists on precision approaches and special visual arrivals in order to be sure that we can make it home in inclement weather, and if not, select an alternative place to set down, has become the season's in-thing.
It has been three continuous days of departing in bad weather and returning in the same. For now, the nasties sit in the 15-30 mile band offshore, but as I have been witness to, will gradually menace the areas closer to the rigs once they tire of taunting us too close to recovery. But we deal with this year in and year out. The business of drawing black gold out of mother earth is relentless. And right here where we dwell, all the more important it is to drill unabated to buffer our errors in governance.
The offshore theatre has been colourful of late. With the interplay of frontal rains and the sun's track across the meridian, we have often ended up being chased by rainbows. I can't place a smiley here in blogger, right? Last year at this time we were not flying much, with the EC225 being grounded. Today we contend with not just our competitor, but with guest operators from the Middle East. They were signed up on a contract to fill in where our competitors across the tarmac couldn't in our technical absence. All this makes for a crowded indeed offshore airspace. For instance, it is becoming increasingly common to loiter a mile off from a rig while waiting for our competitors or guest alike to complete their drop-off/pick-up at the rigs of our destination. More mobile rigs and jack-ups have invaded the sea, crowding up the oil rig clusters encircling Kerteh's oil and gas epicentre. I suppose this is why there is always a shortage of helicopter pilots in the oil and gas industry; not just because it's a frenetic industry, but that the drilling points and the operations support barges keep increasing and adding to their existing numbers.
And with that, I believe, I am settled into this job at last.