Francis Meyrick

Reading MTM?…Shhhhh! Keep it quiet at the bar!

Posted on February 22, 2014

“I’m the King of the Castle! Heh-heh-heh!”

Reading MTM? Shhhh… Keep it quiet at the bar!

“Ha-Ha! We are funny creatures, you and I, are we not?”, spoke the old Penguin pleasantly. But the Dromedary was not amused. “What do you mean, you stupid, fat Penguin? I am a most perfect creature! I have four legs and I can run like the wind. It is only you who is funny.” “Oh!”, spoke the Penguin. “Would you like to share my umbrella?” He produced a neatly folded home-made umbrella, somewhat amateurish in construction, but with the letters MTM cheerfully emblazoned on it. But the Dromedary replied: “How would I fit under that stupid thing! Anyway, it’s not even raining!” And with that, the Dromedary strode haughtily away. The old Penguin, amused, but too polite to argue, cautiously checked his umbrella, well aware of the looming storm clouds, gathering strength on the distant horizon.

I am a most perfect creature


Amid a thousand clouds and streams
There’s an idle man somewhere
Roaming the mountains during the day
Sleeping below the cliffs at night
Watching springs and autumns pass
Free of cares and earthly burdens
Happy clinging to nothing
Silent like a river in fall.

(Han Shan, 8th century Chinese hermit)

Moggy’s Tuna Manual (MTM), as has been noted elsewhere, was written in answer to a lot of the old timers lamenting the lack of any training or safety documentation for aspiring tuna helicopter pilots. These old timers also would frequently express amazement that the same old -well known?- pilot traps would catch pilots again and again. Trying to take off with the right rear tie-down still attached. Often fatal. Dipping the tail rotor into a wave during low level “herding”, by flaring too hard, and losing control/crashing. Crashing on short finals, with a cross wind, by flying way too slow, running out of left pedal, by pulling way too much power. Over and over again, the same accidents, often with fatal consequences. Performing a hesitant take-off, wobbling unsteadily, and allowing the moving ship to sail right under and into you (drifting backwards). Flying a hot-shot landing approach, flaring hard, and hitting the tail rotor off the edge of the deck. Over the years, Tuna Helicopter flying -deservedly- has built up a truly horrible reputation for an alarmingly high accident rate. Which is consistently covered up by some profit-hungry employers, anxious to keep the constant flow of new blood coming in. And ignored by regulatory authorities. International waters. What you gonna do?
Throughout the many, middle of the night writing sessions, my only motive was to provide YOU with the chance to think things through beforehand. To arrive at those situations with a brain, pre-wired to recognize danger. A mind that flashes up a little amber caution light, that starts flashing. “Hold on here now, Moggy was going on about that… steady on here…!”
I have lost many, many friends in Aviation. It is them I see, when I write for you.
I sought and seek no financial reward, and, if you knew my simple outlook on life a little, you would understand that I regard praise or scorn with a certain amount of patient, borderline Taoist amusement and indifference. All things pass. Men too. We are small, limited, finite creatures. What matters is not the individual man, soon to be lost, when his Time inevitably comes, in the steadfast manner of just another “Ocean crossing wave” finally running out, unseen, on some quiet, sandy beach. Lapping at the feet of the lost pilgrim, who stares out -looking but not seeing -over the Eternal Waters. What matters is the attempted passing on of traditions, of a simple, but deep respect for Man and Nature, and the Art of Helicopter Flying, and of Tolerance and Compassion. What matters for me is not that you remember my name, but that you are thoughtful in your flying. I don’t seek thanks or recognition, or money or fame. These things are vanity, meaningless. But I do, unashamedly, seek to tell you about the excitement I have felt in my flying, and the fascination that has gripped me pondering different skies, in widely different parts of this tiny “blue dot”. I have flown and flown my little heart out, and I still, to this day, see flying as a truly awesome privilege. I love the smell of Jet A in the morning.

If you read MTM, I caution you to keep it quiet at the bar.


Especially if you ever go Tuna Flying. And here’s the reason for that. Flying -everywhere- has the quiet thinkers, the pilots who reflect on what they are about to do and experience. Pilots who read accidents reports. Pilots who are hungry for knowledge. Pilots who recognize danger. Pilots who, when they make a small mistake, sit down and reflect on it. Who realize the progression of small errors lead abruptly to “big whoopses”. In short, these are thinking pilots. On the other hand…

If you read any of my “Blip on the Radar” scribbles, you will probably build up a picture, of many a bar room sessions during my five years in the Tuna Fields. That’s correct, and my preferred place in the bar was a quiet corner, and a good conversation. When this was not possible, due to the exceedingly loud volume, I would happily and woozily park myself in the same corner, and listen and watch. You learn a lot about the man when he has had a few beers and is talking. Do you ever. When pilots are talking… Against the thinkers, the reflective pilots, I unhesitatingly identify the Loud Talkers. They quickly take over a bar. Everybody’s talking. You wonder if anybody is listening. It’s a cacophony of people raising their voices above the ambient din, everybody laughing, everybody telling tall stories, and everybody convinced they are the heart and soul of the party. Some of these pilots are, undoubtedly, legends in their own lunch time. Their flying abilities are, in their minds, vastly superior to ordinary mortals. They do some amazing things, that I personally would not be proud of, but they are…

Thus there was the character who had never finished school, so he was exceedingly proud of the fact that he paid a buddy to sit both his Australian CAA Private and Commercial written exams. How he had beaten the system was a huge source of pride to him it seemed. He told us all about it often enough, at the top of his voice. Everybody laughed, and thought it was funny. I didn’t. I made the mistake of asking him one day if he thought that was wise. I asked him if he worried about making a mistake one day with passengers on board, in which lack of knowledge was factor. He became irritated with me. I was supposed to admire his exploit, cheer him on, and laugh like the others. He became annoyed. He told me had picked up everything he needed to know as he’d gone along, and if I liked, I could ask him a question, any question! I would have been wise to let it go at that. Innocently, not wishing to cause him embarrassment, I asked: “Well, let’s see, explain to me what relevance the adiabatic lapse rate might have to pre-flight planning?” He stared. Then he got red. After that, I discovered I had -most unintentionally- made an implacable enemy. And a vocal Internet critic of MTM. Years later, you should have seen the horrified expression on his face, when he walked into a crew room in Angola, a recent new-hire, and found me already comfortably sitting there. He quit pretty soon after that. He is an S-76 Captain for a major oil company today…

Another character was really proud of the fact that he had persuaded a well known Tuna Helicopter employer, still famously in business today, to send him out as a pilot-mechanic on a Bell 47. Despite his complete lack of an A&P License or A&P training. He very much wanted the extra dosh, and the employer was (as they often are) short of mechanics willing to go to sea. All went well, and he was enjoying the extra money. Until he lost a cylinder. Oh, bother. Well, nothing else for it. He tore it all apart, put it all back together, and discovered that although he was now running on all cylinders, he was also gushing out oil. In his words: “Well, I didn’t know what to do, so I just went flying anyway.” (loud laughter in the bar). I was the only one who wasn’t. Looking at me, he commented, by way of explanation, “Well I had plenty of oil on board.” (more laughter) Of course, a few days later, he found the missing part lying on the deck, re-installed that, and that solved the leak! (more loud laughter) (What a guy!). I didn’t laugh (because I thought it was damn silly), (plus I spent 13 months at A&P school) and, unfortunately, I soon discovered I had made another enemy. Oh, well…

I think when you “don’t” publicly go along with certain widely practiced beliefs and behavior, and when you do not laugh at certain “at risk” statements, stories and attitudes, you very quickly become a threat. You earn enmity that you did not seek. Pity, but that is human nature. The same applied to hiring prostitutes in the various island ports. I didn’t agree with it, and I didn’t indulge in it. I think in a distressingly poor country, where people live on maybe $100 to $150 a YEAR, when you come in to port with a couple of hundred bucks in your wallet, you are rich beyond belief. What a temptation for poverty stricken locals! Not just for the women. For money hungry husbands, brothers, fathers? In a society where women have few rights? To me, you can warp a society, and do great harm. My attitude on that was noticed, and some of the guys went so far as to arrange a prostitute for me. I was invited out for a meal. When I turned up, there were five men and five local girls. Four of the men slept that night with a local girl, and one finished his meal, and quietly went back to his ship. Again, I earned enmity I did not seek. A year or so later, I got beautifully set up in a strip club in Guam (see that story here), and I think there was a great deal of pay-back at work there for some of the delighted onlookers. Oh, well…

I could go on and on. And on. Maybe you get the picture. Reading MTM? Shhhh…! Keep it quiet at the bar! You’ll discover a lot of people have read it, and I have hundreds of thank-you emails. But there is no need for you to get yourself in trouble. If you encounter the Loud Talkers at the bar, the un-burstable helicopter conquering legends in their own lunch times, then adhere to this politically correct line, and you’ll enjoy a quiet life:

1) We don’t need no stinkin’ Tuna Manual, and we DO NOT have any safety issues in the Tuna Fields.
Of course not. We already ken it all.

2) Moggy is an idiot and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Indubitably. If you see him, smack him.

Of course not. Does anybody?

4) Moggy was always doing stupid stuff, and has crashed loads of helicopters.
Yup. What-ever.

I wish you a safe, and thoughtful flying career.
Always remember that “little amber caution light in your mind”.

Ain’t people funny?

Bright skies!


Last edited by Francis Meyrick on February 23, 2014, 11:25 am

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