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Old 3rd Nov 2018, 04:40
  #9 (permalink)  
Old Farang
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Bangkok
Posts: 117
Back in 1975 I was fleet engineer for an offshore supply boat company. The job involved being sent around SE Asia to various areas where we had rig supply boats operating to sort out problems.

We had one ship based in Brunei working for BSP. Shell had staff based in what was then called Saigon. (Ho Chi Minh) With the imminent fall of the city they were desperate to extract their staff, and in the general confusion could not guarantee available commercial flights. So a big floating barge was organised and the supply boat put on standby to tow it to Vietnam. Thinking that I had enough time to complete whatever it was I was there for I went to sleep on board. Woke up the following morning to find the tug underway and out at sea towing the barge!

The operation was designed to provide an offshore landing pad and refuelling point for one of the S61 helicopters from Brunei to be used as a shuttle to extract remaining staff from Saigon. For the life of me I cannot recall if the S61 was carried on the deck of the barge or not, but I think it may have been flown over. We defiantly had many drums of fuel on board the barge.

We stood off Saigon for several days if I recall correctly, much to the chagrin of the brass nearby in the US 7th fleet, that kept up endless harassment on the radio!
Shell manage to extract all of their staff via commercial flights, so the S61 was ordered to return to Brunei. I managed to convince the Captain that I needed to return to Brunei also, so he agreed to take me with them. For sure all of those pilots are long gone from BSP, so what happened next should not incriminate anybody.

It is around 750 nautical miles from where we were back to Brunei, with nothing of any use in between. So they loaded a couple of drums of fuel on board, removed the belly fuel tank covers from inside the cabin, and away we went! It is amazing the small things that stick in peoples minds, and apart from still having a vivid picture in my mind of the engineer decanting the fuel into the tanks, the other thing is one of the pilots yelling out to the other one; "you had better pull up a bit or you might hit the periscope of some submarine"! We arrived back in Brunei without incident, and I also recall the Captain saying; "we have one of the Australians with us". Do not recall that being any problem, but I doubt that it would happen today.

So Ned, that is my most memorable experience. I will just add that I went on to both own and commercially fly helicopters a few years later. Cheers
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