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Posted on September 9, 2010
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“Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual ” is an ongoing project I started, through gritted teeth, and many a midnight session, after the personal impact of the tragic deaths of some of my friends in tuna boat helicopter crashes. Some were rank novices. Some were very, very experienced. One in particular, I myself introduced to the game. Wish I hadn’t. I also know what it’s like to be on a long, lonely, disorganized search, looking, looking, desperately, for a missing aircraft. And wondering, wondering, if the survivors could perhaps see me, but I couldn’t see them. It’s a small target, heads, bobbing about above the immense Pacific Ocean. It’s strange, almost eerie, how that changes your whole attitude. You land back late from such a fruitless twilight search, exhausted, and feeling strangely guilty.
Way too many people have been killed or seriously injured over the decades, all over the world. By now it’s not just dozens. The figure is measured in hundreds. From Guam, to Samoa, to Ponopeh, to Mexico, to Panama, to South America. These tuna helicopter crashes tend to be covered up and ignored by many, including sadly indifferent so-called ‘regulatory authorities’, and one wonders if we are simply meant to forget about them. Despite repeated requests (including from me) the tunaboat helicopter operators WILL NOT release information on accidents, or participate in a joint safety and accident prevention program. Indeed, new pilots have been told by one operator not to read “Moggy’s Tuna Manual ” – period!
It’s tempting, as many do… to suggest:
* it’s bad for business. That the tuna helicopter industry depends on a constant supply of fresh faced pilots, eager and willing, often desperate for work and/or turbine time, and willing to perhaps accept dubious working, living, and equipment conditions that more experienced pilots simply will not. In this respect, I am totally adamantly, vociferously opposed to the practice where by operators remove and sell up-to-date C20B engines, and replace them (at a fraction of the cost) with much older design, often dubious origin, “military surplus “, under powered, unreliable, old style C10 / C18 legacy motors. The job is dangerous enough without cheap skating on equipment, and hence pilots’ lives. There have been a series of truly spectacular blow ups of these engines, and here is a photo of one such disintegration. Notice that there is not exactly much left of the far (left) engine door! There have been way too many of these events! It might be one thing for somebody to be operating a C10/C18 over land (even then…) but to send pilots off into really remote areas, mid Ocean, with often little or nothing in terms of Coastguard Search and Rescue capability, with less than the best equipment, that comes across as kind of callous, don’t you think? Oh, the worship of the Greedy Buck! Anybody so inclined to disagree, is cordially invited to say so, and I will be happy to post any reasoned rebuttal. That promise applies to the entire manual, by the way.
* However… in fairness, what percentage of accidents are simply ‘pilot error’? Just plain pilots goofing up. 30%? 50%? 90%? 95%???
It’s hard to admit it, when you stuff your tail rotor into a wave, whilst ‘herding’. It’s easier to claim that old swan song: “I had a tail-rotah-failyuh “… and blame it on poor maintenance. Was it? Or was it just you, dropping the ball?
Flying the Tuna Fields is an adventure you will never forget. It’s beautiful out there. The “Blip on the Radar ” series deals more with the emotional, cultural, and psychological aspects of being a “Tunahead ” Helicopter Pilot.
Where a story illustrates perhaps an element of “Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual “, I have included it in the manual, but such a story is also listed under the “Blip on the Radar ” heading.
“The Tuna Hunter ” is a title of my second novel. I have yet to finish the darn thing. One day…. Below you will also find links to a few of the chapters, where it deals with descriptions of what it’s like to be a tuna pilot.
I also hope my feeble descriptions of the sheer beauty of the Pacific Ocean sea life will perhaps stimulate some ecological and environmental thinking. Now more than ever, we stand at a critical point in many of our world’s Ocean waters. Tuna fish are too beautiful, too precious, to be ruthlessly hunted into extermination. The spectacle of, for instance, Bluefin Tuna, seriously endangered, being callously served up in so-called high class Tokyo restaurants for obscene, cynical profits, makes my blood boil. That’s like elevating ‘ecological vandalism’ to an Art Form. For Shame.
Sensible quotas, often debated, frequently lip-serviced, are essential.
I have been asked if I would print up ‘hard copies’, available for people to buy. I appreciate the implied compliment. There aren’t any, yet, but one day, heck, that might happen. Meanwhile, it’s just a mixture of idealism, and a dogged determination that some of my long dead fellow pilots shall not be forgotten. I think they at least would applaud my clumsy efforts.
I hope you enjoy my scribblings, and my ‘musing meanderings’ down memory lane.
As the drunk said to the actress: ( “Holy Crap! What a ride… “)
Francis Meyrick (a.k.a. “Moggy “)
“But if I had never had any help, never had any advice, never had mentors…
I would be stone dead by now.
I have waltzed -innocently- into many situations where…
a small amber caution light…
…flickered on inside my retarded brain. Where a little voice said to me:
“Hang on! Jimmy was telling me about this! This is where I have gotta watch it! Hold on here now! “
And it is only in hindsight I fully realize how important those informal bar flying sessions actually were. “
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on June 20, 2014, 9:26 am