Helicopter Field Trip
Posted on March 22, 2017
Field Trip – Visiting a Field on a Trip to Do good in Papua New Guinea.
One day I was just meandering maybe scribbling up in the pilot house, on the helideck, when I received a visit from Jeffrey. Jeffrey 'The beast' is a PNG man on our boat that performs the most dangerous job on the boat. He is the assistance Skiff man. He is the individual that connects the net cables from the Skiff boat to the main boat. These cables can hold 100s of tons of force and pressure. So naturally great care and attention must be taken or a person can easily be cut in half.
Jeffrey's name is always repeated by the Fish Masters' as a sign of respect for his work ethic. Most workers get called by their job titles such as: 'skiff man,' or 'Chief Mate,' etc. etc.. But, every once in a while, a person's actual name will be used by the Koreans as a sign of respect. Everyone knows Jeffrey 'the Beast.'
So I was casual sitting in my adopted office on the boat and Jeffrey comes in. I invited him for a seat. He explains in detail his oldest son's dream to become a pilot. Maxwell, his son, a fifteen year old PNG boy that is two grades in school ahead of others his age, as proudly explained by his father.
Well I gladly told Jeffrey if his son wanted to go into a helicopter I could gladly accommodate in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I had thought of the time when I was 11 and my father had arranged with an EMS pilot to take me in an Astar around Lubbock, TX. It was quite the experience in my remembrance. I figured, in a way, it was my turn to pay it forward. Especially for my friend 'the beast.'
Now after 9 months away from Madang, PNG. We were set to arrive, and the plan for the intro flight was set for Maxwell's Graduation date, conveniently the day after we arrived. However, there was the Napoleon Syndrome emanating from the RD Company management (fishing company) that would have prevented the whole occurrence. To explain, previously 9 months before during the first visit my mechanic and I noticed two helipads at the Madang Resort. This seemed to be a miracle event considering the process involved to leave the Pilipino Prison camp/ RD Company Canary was arduous and time consuming. This short flight would involve a 5 minute flight and cross into the path of the runway of the Madang Regional Airport. So I contacted the airport tower on 118.1 and gained permission from the very nice ATC person. I then gained permission from the Madang Resort to land at their fine establishment. So then as a proper precaution I notified Tropic and RD company to go and land. I then received a page long email stated some absurd reasons I cannot go there. “Basically the Napoleon figure -Sir Raffety- in RD office just wanted to -Control- just because he could. ” So being proper and honest is NOT the way to go when dealing with Philippine management. Later finding out from other pilots, it is more logical and easier to just be 'hush hush. ”
So now, a preliminary plan was set, knowing the details of the prison camp they kept us at. This time I asked the Fishmaster to land at the Staff House as a normal occurrence to get to the shuttle faster by landing at the employee living quarters. The Fishmaster got instantly angry and said. “NO NO go to TOWN in HELIKPOTURR. ” I then had to calm him down and explain, reluctantly he let us go. We landed at the Staff House and the PNG security, a nice man, that we had befriended came up and said, he had to check to make sure the helicopter was landing there. So at this point I knew we needed to be political and make some friends if we wanted to land at Alexishafen (Jeffrey's Village) for his son's very special day.
Alexishafen was on the other side of the Harbour, about 3 miles away from our boat position and around an embankment inland, which would disguise the helicopter if we landed.
The thing is, Jeffrey and other PNG employees that are on the boats are moist likely related because their tribes or villages own the land where RD Canary is located. So all of the workers are their brotha's, Cousin's, etc. etc.. So the confidentiality of such a flight was easy to obtain because Jeffry was a 'connected' man. So we were set to land at the Staff House, pic up Jeffrey, and proceed accordingly to a soccer field in Alexishafen. The security guard 'his cousin' simply responded to the call and said yes, yes the helicopter is at the staff house. So we then set off from there.
To avoid being seem we flew slightly above tree top level and followed the main road. “Jeffrey will we get in trouble? ” “MIKES these are my peoples, see they are waving. ” Flying at 50-60 ft people were running out of their huts and waving. We then searched the bay and Jeffrey was a bit confused where the soccer field was, being the dense jungle and his first time seeing his village from the air! We spotted the Soccer field, flew over the power lines conveniently surrounding the field and landed. Immediately 100 little kids started running towards the helicopter -blades turning.- I screamed at Jeffrey to get out and hold them ALL back until the blades stop!!! He did a good job.
When we had settled, and the helicopter blades came to a full stop the hoard of happy children approached and we took a magnificent picture of all the happy little people!
I then met Jeffrey's family and his two sons, very polite young men and incredibly shy. They took me to the ceremony area where they had just had graduation. A was a very pleasant village that was founded officially as a missionary after the WWII plagued a lot of ruin many years ago. Jeffrey took me to see the remnants of an old Sherman Tank.
He then took me to the graveyard and WWII memorial. A somber place with a calm and serene energy. It was interesting to see, both the German, Japanese, and Allied Soldiers were all honored in the memorial. A devastating war that plagued this region, like many of the South Pacific.
It was then time to depart and give Maxwell a belated birthday present. We started the helicopter with the onslaught of the entire village watching us. I then gave a short flight. I always check to see the comfort level of passengers and notably the smile on this young man's face was incredible.
We flew back to the ship and none was the wiser of the events that had partaken this wonderful afternoon. Well some knew, in fact almost all of the PNG workers at the RD fishing facility knew. I now had a silent smile and some sort of respect from all of the locale population. All of the workers never asked for permission slips from me to leave. If I needed a company vehicle to use… The result was “ok Mr. Mike ” then the wait would be ASAP instead of hours. Also in a strange sense, I felt more safe and protected in that area than ever before. It was gratified in a sense, that the people appreciated the courtesy, and I appreciated the smile and joy brought to the young man wishing to become a pilot.
ON THE BOAT.
Later on the boat as we departed Madang. Jeffrey came to me and thanked me again and said his wife and mother had cried. The last thing I stated I could try to help his son, there is a flight school in Texas that I have introduced the Chinese to. If something comes of the introductions I might be able to help with some SPONSORED flight time.
I hope this leads to a Happy ending for Maxwell, IF he studies…. Hopefully to be continued in good will, may God provide.
Last edited by mrocksma on March 22, 2017, 2:38 am