Francis Meyrick

Of Helicopters and Humans (21) “People who fly in glass helicopters, shouldn’t fly low “

Posted on March 11, 2014

Of Helicopters and Humans

Part 21: “People who fly in glass helicopters, shouldn’t fly low “

This bird of the immortals born for the wind
With turquoise lapels and robe of green
Regards my feathers as peculiar
as I twitter away thinking I can sing

(Wei Ying-Wu, Chinese poet, AD 773)

A foggy morning in the Gulf. No flying just now. Coffee, (t)witticisms, banter and bullsh…
The boys are all huddled en masse, like obedient little puppies, around the Gogglebox, laughing hysterically at some TV comedy. Funny enough, but entirely predictable. Same old gags. Boy meets girl. In the shower. And then…? Oops! (Oh well, to each his own). The advertisements come on (volume automatically kicks up) and, meekly, like brain washed automatons, they watch the advertisements as well. On cue. Funny.

I’m trying vainly to place my stamp of defiant individuality on my brief little Existence, sailing elliptically around the Sun, by refusing to watch. My intellectual level (in the mud) strives (again, vainly) to reach higher. How many hours a day on average does an American spend watching the Box? Some survey said SIX hours?? (No wonder you guys haven’t figured out that the Earth revolves around the Sun). I, the Irish rebel, am surfing the InterGlob. It ticks me off that fifty powerful, arrogant (and greedy) men in America decide what three hundred million other Americans are going to watch. And believe. The Thought Police. The Morality Men. THEY decide what’s good for YOU? And that’s okay? Weird. How about the sheer power you ‘low information guys’ meekly surrender to that shadowy, back room, cigar smoking, elitist clique? Spooky. How about a B-O-O-K ?? (Shut up, Francis. Well, just saying…!)

Unfortunately… I have long since discovered that the Internet browsers (some? All?) are ALSO being manipulated. It’s all about the money. The dosh. The filthy lucre. You pay, your website (regardless of content) (could be six lines of irrelevant shite about the sex drive of Chrysanthemums) shoots up the search rankings. You don’t, you stay invisible. When I do a search, I’m amazed to find “chopper stories” is # 1 on Google, out of 14.2 million results. And I never paid a red cent. But entirely IN-visible on Yahoo and Bing. Strange. From the very beginning, I could type in the new domain names ( and on Google, and go straight to the website. After all this time, over 1 million hits, (who are you weird people?) I STILL can’t do that on Yahoo and Bing. But of course, I never paid. I’m a Pariah. My little dyslexic, Anarchistic blog deserves what it gets. Nothing. Thank you, Yahoo and Bing. You keep me humble. The delusions of Grandeur and Revolution are scary. Keep me in the dark. I’m comfortable there.

I’m in a funky forum now. Discussion groups. There’s a guy here who has left rude remarks about MTM and me. Kind of denigrating. I gather he is a former tuna helicopter jockey, and he knows (and says) I’m an idiot. So? Half the world knows that. I happily admit to it. What’s your point? I read his posts, and I see he is now a “corporate helicopter pilot”. That sounds important. He implies he is a shot hot. ‘Scuse me. I mean, a “hot shot”. At least, he dispenses pearls of wisdom about rotary flying. And other people’s accidents and mishaps. I sense a judgmental, haughty streak. I wonder if I can get his autograph? This guy is good. He can’t ever have screwed up. Not when you talk and write like that. Very much the exalted One. Looking down on the world of us ugly, unwashed masses below. The Untouchables.

Hmm… Something tells me I must know this guy. Maybe I WILL be able to collect his autograph. I mull his first name over. I do some quick searches. Finally, his Facebook photo.


I sit back in astonishment, as memories come flooding back. Well, I’ll be… whooped hard with liquorice candy.

I go off and grab a coffee. The power of the Interglob. Yep… it’s him. I sit back, and dream back, what, eighteen years? No, about twenty, I think. Boy, that’s a long time for him to be carrying a grudge, but he’s been dragging that Monkey stubbornly along.

What happened, way back then? Well, we’d been flying Tuna Helicopters and fishing like crazy. There was an ongoing safety initiative amongst some of us (resulting eventually in Moggy’s Tuna Manual, short MTM). It was always the same, same, same, same stuff. For instance, Tie-down accidents. To this DAY, people STILL try and take off with one tie-down still attached. And not just off tuna boats. The results are very, very often fatal. I have a whole chapter dedicated to it in MTM. Scary stuff. Another really, really popular pastime was sticking your tail rotor into a wave whilst herding (chasing fish into the net, or trying to keep them there). It was almost always the result of the same faulty technique. Way too fast, way too low, way too cocky, HAUL back on the stick to slow down or stop, and a complete mechanical failure -between the ears- to realize just how LOW that tail rotor goes. People do it in non-tuna helicopter environments as well. Constantly. Pilots have seen their careers radically affected by dragging their tail rotors (literally) through the “fences” on offshore Oil Platforms. Pilots do it when practicing auto rotations. Flare too hard, drift too low. It’s amazing how low that tail rotor will go. You haven’t lived if you haven’t watched it happen to somebody. Helplessly watching, you “suck air through teeth” as you see that stinger drift lower… and lower… and…
I need to go and write up a true, self incriminating story about a student and me, practicing autos. I’ll call it “How far back over CAN you go? “.

In the Tuna Fields, it was (and is) a constant cause of accidents. And it’s hard to confess. It’s not easy to hold your hand up, and say: “Yeah, fukkit, I did it.” Very often, pilots claimed a “tail rotor failure”, which has become almost a Swansong. I had a “tail-rotah-fail-yah”. Yeah, right. Yes, you did. AFTER you came hot-rodding in like a tipsy Banshee, and AFTER you stuck the damn thing in the WAVE. (Fence. Hedge. Wall. Tree. Tarmac. Grass…)

Well… We had been talking about “scrubbing”. I describe it in MTM. It’s just a different technique. You kick the tail out hard, horizontally, scrubbing your speed off in a hurry, without dipping your tail at all. Some of us used it quite a bit, and it certainly served the purpose of focusing attention on the dangling tail rotor issue. But our above mentioned hero of the immaculate conception… mocked this. Several of us had warned him that he was pushing it awfully hard. Mind that tail rotor, brother… He had dismissed us all. He basically implied he knew what he was doing, and would we please mind our own business. He was also not a fan, or a contributor, to our nascent drafts of MTM. His privilege. No sweat.

Word goes around the Tuna Fields pretty fast (triple light speed) when somebody splashes in. I’d heard somebody had gone down (and got out) but I didn’t know who. My ship sailed into port, and, as it happened, the accident ship was also berthed there, with a very bedraggled, wet and extremely bent looking Hughes 500 dumped sadly (by crane) on the helideck. As happens in the Tuna Fields, we all met in the local watering hole. Our friend, chastened, mad as hell, was there. From what I heard, he had already tried the “tail-rotah-fail-yah” line, and had been roundly laughed at. The last person he wanted to see was ME. I didn’t get much of a welcome, put it that way. I said a polite “hello”, and I got that sense (maybe his bloodshot, brooding eyes) that he was braced for a “WE TOLD YOU SO”. Wisely (for once) I said nothing. His anger at the world was palpable. I probably felt sorry for him. I’m surprised though that he would bother to carry that grudge for almost two decades though. Dude… chill.

I read his posts again. I’m amused. It doesn’t take much. He’s wittering on about different failures, with an air of the Grand Guru. The Great Lord Pooh-ba. Boy, I hope I never come across like that. Smack me hard if I do.

The devil on my left shoulder, the funny, cocky dude in the Black Bomber jacket, is whispering. “I know just the right comment here…”, he offers.
I fantasize about it.

“As you would have learned from that time you meshed your tail rotor with a passing Pacific Ocean wave, and had a nice chance to practice your underwater escape technique, a tail rotor failure is not always what it seems. Some are indeed mechanical. But others are only mechanical in the second instant. The prime causal factor not being mechanical, but the result of sticking your Hughes 500 tail rotor into the water as a result of a hard, low flare. THEN… you had a tail rotor failure…”

It would be payback. Satisfying. But not nice.
The Boring Dude in shiny White, with his stupid harp, and the absurd skirt-toga thing, standing on my right shoulder, HE is talking now. I already know what Boring Heart is going to say. He’s going to moralize, and witter on, and be sickeningly nice.
I sigh. It was a grand fantasy. But, this time, I’ll have to side with the Boring Dude.
It’s not right to lower yourself to the same mind set. After all, am I perfect? Bullet proof? Without rotary sin? May I cast stones? Hell, I wish… Far from it. I think of the ancient Chinese proverb, I heard a long time ago, that I just made up:

People who live in glass helicopters, shouldn’t throw stones.
Nah. Not quite right.
People who fly in glass helicopters, shouldn’t throw bones.
Nah. Too convoluted.
People who fly in glass helicopters, shouldn’t fly low.
Better? Maybe.

I chuckle to myself, and, as you can do in the great arena of the InterGlob, I exit the page without commenting.

And then, greatly amused,

I softly browse away…

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on March 11, 2014, 11:43 am

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