Francis Meyrick

A Blip on the Radar (Part 24E) “What did you do THAT for…? “

Posted on November 15, 2010

A Blip on the Radar

(Part 24E) “What did you do THAT for…??”

I had let it go as long as I possibly dared. Longer.
I had given this Commercial Pilot every opportunity to recover. To get with the action. Hell, to blessed well get involved, even.
But no… Too busy waving The Royal Wave at his buddies. Too busy doing his Grand Fly By.
Too busy showing off
I could hear the blade slap. I could feel the buffeting. I could sense what was about to happen. All the warning signals were there, all the harbingers of Truth, all the Reminders of the immutable Laws of Nature and Gravity… everything was lining up, trying to flash that little amber caution light in a good pilot’s mind…
Remember the introduction?

“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. “

I sighed, and moved the cyclic positively forwards, and at the same time eased down on the collective.

“I have control!”

You could almost hear as well as feel a sigh of relief from our poor little helicopter, as the airspeed built up, and clean air rushed up into our disc. Now she was flying again, the airspeed was picking up, and we were rapidly moving away from the danger point.
“What did you do THAT for..??!”
His intense annoyance was obvious. I looked across at him. He was really ticked off. It seemed I had messed up his perfect Royal Fly By, and embarrassed him in front of his buddies. I studied him carefully for a second.
“Why do you think I did that?”, I asked, gently.
“I have no idea!”, he retorted sarcastically. He meant it.
Ignoring the jibe, I tried a different tack.
“What do you think was going on back there?”
Silence. I looked at him. He was still clearly annoyed. I thought back to the hours and hours of aerodynamic theory I had put him through. Despite his reluctance.
Clearly, there was some mail I had tried to send that had simply not arrived.
I reached a decision.
“Okay, let’s go back and land, and then we’ll talk about it…”

* * * * * *

It took me a surprising time before, with the aid of drawings, I could explain to him (once again) that a Bell 47 helicopter cannot hover at just any old altitude he feels like. That HOGE is not just a fine theory. Not just some technical mumbo-jumbo that doesn’t really matter. Some part of aerodynamic theory that you learn to pass a test, and then you can bye-bye forget about it.
I eventually convinced him that the combination of a high power setting, a tailwind, and no airspeed at an altitude of two hundred feet above the sea was not a good idea. After a while, I think he maybe even understood that it was bad idea. A truly lousy ‘bad idea’. A deadly… bad idea.
My confidence in him was now at a truly low, low point. I wrote up a lot more notes that night.
A week or two later, we were landing back in Guam, at our company’s base. And within a few minutes I found myself sitting down opposite the desk of my Boss. I knew what was coming, and I was prepared.
He greeted me with a big smile. We got along well, and I liked him a lot. He was a good, highly experienced pilot, and a very approachable human being. We chit-chatted for a while.
Eventually. “Well, Moggy, how about (…)? Can we send him off on his own? The Fairwell 707 is coming in soon, and I was thinking of sending him out on that. Is he ready?”
I sighed inwardly, and arranged my notes. His smile disappeared.
“Well, Boss, it’s like this…”
And I started laboriously going through my notes, item by item. He asked several sensible questions, and his look became more and more concerned. I was half way down the first page, when I came to the incident I have described above. The attempt to hover with a tailwind and zero airspeed at two hundred feet.
He was clearly shocked.
“Ok, hold it, Mogster. Are you telling me he was slowly losing ALL his airspeed, WITH a TAILWIND, at two hundred feet and he was looking OUTSIDE the whole time?”
“Yes, Boss, that is what I am telling you.”
“He didn’t notice the buffeting, the blade slap, anything?”
“No, Boss.”
“And then when you took over control at three seconds to midnight, he got mad at you?? “
“Yes, Boss.”
There was a pause while he digested the information. Then he leaned back, his expression serious.
“What you’re telling me is that he has absolutely NO CLUE what’s going on… Damn, he’s going to kill himself…
That’s crazy!”
I said nothing.
“Okay, how many more notes have you got?”
“I’ve got two pages worth, Boss. We’re right now half way down the first page.”
“Holy Sh#@!!. Okay, FORGET IT. He’s not flying for us. Ever. I don’t even need to hear the rest of your notes. That’s it, right there. That just does it for me. FINISH!”
Verdict rendered. And for some reason, I felt a surge of pure relief…

The decision of course was not popular, and our young friend was soon mouthing off all over Guam that I had stabbed him in the back.
We had a regular watering hole there, and one subsequent night I got a real cold shoulder from several Tuna Heads. I was kind of hurt, but tried hard not to show it. I was quietly sighing into my pint at the bar, feeling lonely and lousy, when a hand clapped on my shoulder. I glanced around, and there was an old buddy of mine. Aussie dude. Good guy.
“Can I join you?”
“Sure, if you don’t mind sitting with the unclean…” I was feeling sorry for myself.
He had a drink, thoughtfully.
Eventually. “Moggy, I want you to realize something. You may never get much thanks for what you did, but I’ve seen that fellow fly. Or try to fly. And I can tell you one thing for sure…”
He paused.
“And what might that be?”, I asked, irritably.
“You saved our young friend’s life…”, he said, softly.
His hand clapped on my shoulder, and he was gone.

And after all these years, for some reason, I remember that bar scene well.
I’m on my own, with a beer, propped up at the bar, sipping quietly, reflecting. Pondering. Worrying. Fretting…
Try as I might, I could not free myself from a nagging doubt that I could have done better, should have done better.
And that mindset is maybe carried through in this manual. This megga Moggy scribble…
These funky bubbles
I know guys actually read this Bovine Silliness (B.S.) of mine, and I have emails from all over the world testifying to that effect.
Something about flying helicopters joins us all together. Like a motorcyclist waving to a total stranger on another bike, we rotor jockeys salute each other, even if it’s through the disembodied medium of cyberspace.
Flying helicopters is wonderful. It’s a magnificent experience. Flying out over the Pacific Ocean, chasing Nature, hunting the beautiful Yellowfin and the Skipjack…
Heck, it’s more fun than a barrel full of tipsy monkeys.
But there is some technical and behavioral stuff a safe pilot absolutely MUST know. MUST understand. MUST appreciate. MUST respect.
MUST study…
Tuna helicopter flying, no matter what those who make an obscene profit out of your labors will mockingly tell you, is serious kimcha.
Serious um-noggin’ kabootcha whatyadoin’, Dumb Ass?
It’s not one big joke.
They may tell you that “only the idiots get killed” (how heartless is that?) but the truth is that the unwary, the poorly prepared, the innocents… are highly vulnerable, especially in those first three to six “anchovy” months.
One of my buddies was killed on his first ever take-off from a tuna boat.
I know of one poor young pilot, sitting in a wheelchair as we speak. A recent victim of the Tuna Fields.
If you want to survive, to enjoy your helicopter flying, then you need to have lots of fun, balanced with a well developed, well maintained, ever ready amber caution light, that you pay prompt attention to anytime it alerts you to something… maybe sneaking up on you.
Or that big joke (ha-ha-ha) might just… hurt or kill you.
It’s all about doing outrageous stuff, having hilarious adventures, meeting really nutty people, and eventually getting old, really old, and hiding the whiskey bottle under the blanket in the wheelchair, whilst the nurse scolds you for those blue jokes about her fat, ugly butt you are sharing with the other nursing home residents.
It’s all about drinking the cup dry, getting your ticket’s worth, riding the bus of Life, being kind to all living things, being gentle with your helicopter, and surviving all that hysterical madness that humanity will chuck at you, to quietly reflect on it in your old age.
It’s also about achieving peace and gentleness in your heart, even when you are surrounded by chaos, bitterness, envy and hate.

Gawd, and to think I could have been a librarian… Laughing

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on May 6, 2015, 3:53 pm

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