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8th Nov 2013, 16:58
Neither of these Gazelles wereactually Bristow owned I Think.Both were with Vought Helicopters,the US agent as demo aircraft to begin with..1566 was built in 1978 and sold to Govmt of Trinidad and Tobago two years later with Bristow supporting training and maintenance .It is feasible it was leased though?

8th Nov 2013, 17:35
Hi guys, sorry for took me so long to join you on this interesting theme :)

Re N9000A/HB-XMU stretched or not... it was born as standard SA.341G but upgraded to SA.342J during 1982 and probably "stretched" during the process as well.

For both N9000A & N9003A I have: regd 4/78 to UCB Leasing Corporation; leased to Sabine Offshore Service Inc. (operated by Bristow Offshore Helicopters, Inc.)

I also have these Gazelle regs as once operated by Bristow: N3593B, N18842, N47315, N69506 & N9002Z ... but need confirmation of these data!

8th Nov 2013, 19:11
Zis: I have now come across this ..

The Gulf of Mexico operations were started in 1979 with Bristow's acquisition of Texas-based Offshore Helicopters Inc. Renamed Bristow Offshore Helicopters Inc. (BOHI), the operation closed down within two years, however.

History of Bristow Helicopters Ltd. – FundingUniverse (http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/bristow-helicopters-ltd-history/)

Never heard of Offshore Helicopters Inc. before. It would be interesting to learn something more about them.

I don't suppose Bob Suggs took kindly to Alan's presence in the Gulf in the late 70's!

9th Nov 2013, 08:27
Depending on whether or not this post is transferred to Nostalgia, we shall on this page have a record of the three aircraft, spanning four decades, which have served on Brecqhou Island.

The current Barclaycraft (atop), the first Barlclaycraft (G-BVNH above) and Leonard Matchan's Gazelle (below):

SA341G Westland Gazelle G-BBHU as seen at Jersey Airport in 1983 (Photo: Anton Heumann)

The ensign carried on BBHU's tail was a device designed by Leonard Matchan which is essentially the flag of Sark Island with Matchan's Coat of Arms appended to one of the quarters (below).

The personal ensign (or standard) used by Leonard Matchan and which became a defacto 'Brecqhou Island flag' during his tenure of the isle

There is a contemporary flag available, following Matchan's example, where his Arms have been replaced by those of the Barclay brothers.

Approximate periods that the cited aircraft have served the isle:

G-BBHU from 1974-1985

G-BVNH from 1994-1998

G-BYDF from 1998 to date

9th Nov 2013, 09:47
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-PGQLGBS73r0/Un4Qi-m9DsI/AAAAAAAAPHg/YAB0XrwVvSg/w905-h569-no/Earl+Mountbatten+Royal+Hospital+School+Holbrook%252C+Suffolk m+1960.jpg.png
Earl Mountbatten visiting the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk in 1960

Is anyone able to identify the 'box' (for want of a better phrase) mounted below the engine bay doors just for'ard and above the front landing gear?

I'm assuming that 'Lord Louis' was delivered courtesy of a Queen's Flight Whirlwind.

9th Nov 2013, 11:04
In 1977 (possibly 78) AMH asked GS and I to attend the British Helicopter Championships with our B47G5A. The presenter of prizes was to be Prince Charles who had been delivered to the Epsom Racecourse (the avenue for the championships) by Royal Flt Wessex.

The RAF entry was a WW10 from CFS which was parked just across the way from us. Whilst PC was inspecting the WW and it's crew I decided that there would be 'action this day'.

As was my duty I snuck up on the blind side of the WW10 and carefully placed a Fly NAVY sticker on the roundel. Unfortunately I was filmed by the BBC who included it in their evening news - I've been running ever since.


PS. SAV - I think that lump is an oil cooler.

9th Nov 2013, 17:05
As was my duty I snuck up on the blind side of the WW10 and carefully placed a Fly NAVY sticker on the roundel. Unfortunately I was filmed by the BBC who included it in their evening news - I've been running ever since.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/--GK7RD1iu98/Um6kafGkYMI/AAAAAAAAO7g/F984voBxet4/w71-h94-no/Mini+Muttley.png (http://mobcup.co/ringtones/377490/muttley-laugh)

Baston: Thanks for the clarification on Westland's ingenious snow-and-water-scoop-cum-air-intake!

A slightly clearer shot from the Cobham Hall at the FAA museum with my twin grandsons - at least one of whom wishes to be a pilot and at 14 both are flying.

Quite right too! As the Colonel used to tell me .. "I don't care whatever else you want to do with you life .. but you will start out by being a helicopter pilot." After which he would look at me in anticipation of some sort of challenge to this "law" of 'flying first' and which of course I never offered!

Managed to get this Queen's Flight Whirlwind image from a fellow collector today, taken a couple of years after Mountbatten's visit to the Royal Hospital School (I imagine you and Geoffer's probably both went to RHS in any case ;)) and by which time it seems the flight may have up-graded to a Mk 8 (if indeed this is the significance of the HHC8 designation?).

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nUwrCKxS0f4/Un5tME32UOI/AAAAAAAAPH0/q8l9Jw75--o/w799-h527-no/Queen%2527s+Flight+Westland+Whirlwind+HCC.8+XN127+%25281963% 2529.png
Queen's Flight Westland Whirlwind HCC.8 XN127 in 1963, no location given (Photo: Marcus Carruthers Collection)

9th Nov 2013, 19:42
Ciao Bastiano!

I am also unfamiliar with this designation but .. I did notice this reference a couple of pages back:

Mk HCC12 Queens Flight version of Mk10

So, this might be a Crab designation for the former Queen's Flight craft?

Heli1 to the rescue!

Delta Fox Driver
9th Nov 2013, 19:53
SAVOIA - I do recall Steve Borrowdale Jr. telling me that the Gazelle was replaced around 1985 by an AS350B G-BMAV and was maintained by McAlpine out of Hayes.

Inspection of G-INFO supports this, as G-BMAV and G-BBHU were owned consecutively by Solaria Investments, which I believe was one of Leonard Matchan's organisations.

When Leonard died the aircraft I think G-BMAV was sold via RCR and Heli Trans to PLM Dollar Group Ltd in Inverness then Ireland

Coincidentally, G-BMAV's previous owner after selling G-BMAV to Leonard bought an AS355F1 G-OMAV and that became G-NEXT which I flew for a while upon leaving Bristow.

If someone can post a picture of G-BMAV then I think we may have the whole picture.

Be careful, it may not end there.

Mark Harrisson and I had heard that an Auster had operated on Brecqhou and before full development of the gardens and grounds, Mark and I used to pace out where we think this could have occurred. With a stall speed of 28mph it would not be difficult. I can vouch for the wind on Brecqhou.

How do I know it was 28mph stall ? Well Mark and I used to fly the Bristow Auster G-APOA together, when we were working in the hangars waiting to start helicopter flying - so we really are closet plank pilots.

Although Mark is rather fond of AutoGyros now.

What a small world this business is !;)

9th Nov 2013, 21:13
Savoia and bastOn,

A short input from a long-retired Crab, who just might be acceptable to bastOn since I was on 705 for 3 yrs '63 to '66, remembering many happy Sundays out on (in?) Seahawk's whaler from Falmouth to many different pubs up many local creeks, skippered by the bearded Dave T - who IIRC hung on too long to the skids of a Hiller when the little old lady took off on one Air Day and was well bruised.

Anyway, to the point - yes that HCC8 was indeed the RAF's VVIP version of the RN Mk7. There were just the 2 on The Queen's Flight.

All RAF Whirlwinds, and Wessex, always had an even Mark number - RN always odd numbered. Our Whirlwind Mk4, which I was lucky enough to operate in Malaya (before your Borneo days bastOn) was same airframe as the RN Mk3, but we had a smooth 9-cyl P & W Wasp instead of that thumping 7-cyl Wright Cyclone. There were also 2 HCC12s (VVIP version of the Gnome turbine-engined Mk10) which replaced the 8s on TQF, until one crashed after main shaft failure in Dec '67. They in turn were replaced by 2 Wessex HCC4s (ok you're way ahead of me now, they were the VVIP version of the RAF Wessex 2s), and these did sterling and very safe service for nearly 20 years.


Nigel Osborn
9th Nov 2013, 21:33
Must be another David!!:ok:

9th Nov 2013, 22:09
Yeah. The left-handed ones were born to choppers.

9th Nov 2013, 22:43
skippered by the bearded Dave T - who IIRC hung on too long to the skids of a Hiller when the little old lady took off on one Air Day and was well bruised.

Last saw Dave T about 5 years ago, believe he still lives in Aberdeen.

deltahot - good pseudonym - you feature in my logbook on one or two occasions in '64 when I was a 705 stude - probably when BB got fed up with me and wanted a break!

9th Nov 2013, 23:27
Glad you survived that experience then C15. I remember Bill B very well and many others. So many studes went through 705 in those 3 years that I knew more RN heli pilots than RAF for many years after re-joining the Crabs. Others seconded to 705 in my time and good friends were a couple of Aussies from the RAN - there was a Lt Roly W-W who I believe went back to become quite senior in the RAN, and PAT V who I'm fairly sure was killed in that b....y Vietnam.

9th Nov 2013, 23:48
Yes, Pat was killed in Vietnam. This article will be of interest: Biography - Patrick John Vickers - Australian Dictionary of Biography (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vickers-patrick-john-11924)

Nigel Osborn
10th Nov 2013, 04:01
Pat was the first OZ pilot killed in Vietnam when a stray shot entered the Huey & hit him in the head & the co-pilot flew it back to base. His sister wrote a book about him recently.

Bill B! What happened to him, went to his wedding in Canturbury & met the girl who became my wife!!

10th Nov 2013, 08:57
Thanks for that C16 and Nigel O. This nostalgia business is getting very emotional ... what an amazing site this is. Bill B gave me my very first flight on 705 in June '63 - just 10 mins famil in the little Hiller 12E.

Couple of random memories: Predannack grew lovely mushrooms ... hovering practice was popular ... Left 3...2 ...1... steady...down10. Open door, lean out, pick m'room. Up 10... forward 10 ....

My most disliked sortie was the height climb. Stagger up to 10000ft, always on a nice day, none of that IMC stuff. Unnatural environment even if you could see from Lands End to Portsmouth. Stagger about nibbling at retreating blade stall for 2 minutes then get back down again. Had the Mk3 on one of those ... just passing 8000ft or thereabouts on the way up when the Cyclone gave a bloody great bang and a twitch - frightened the life out of me but still running fine so went back to Culdrose sharpish. No fault found! Took it up again - same deal, less fright. Turned out to be loose carb buftterfly only apparent when above full throttle height, which only happened once per course.

Here's another. Hiller - Practice engine failure in the hover. Wise laid back instructor now - hand under lever for split second just in case stude drops it instantly, then elbow above lever in case he heaves it up in next instant. Wrong ... elbow now above and THEN he drops it. Real heavy t/d, everything flexed so much that both floors flew open, v noisy but no damage except pride.

Canterbury was a long way from Culdrose for a wedding ....

10th Nov 2013, 11:00
VFR: Good to see you!

DFD: I failed to mention in my initial response my great admiration for your 'breed'. I have always held a great fascination for rotary-wing engineering and have several times wished that I had gained greater exposure to the practice. I believe that possessing an understanding of both disciplines can be of enormous benefit in numerous applications both operationally and from a management perspective. So, to you and to the other 'Bristowers' who made the transition (and to all dual-qualified pilots/engineers) my sincere congratulations.

Many thanks for the additional information on 'Brecqhou's blitterblats', fantastic!

Did you know that Leonard Matchan also owned a B206?

Yes .. a Beagle 206 Basset registered G-AVAM. ;)

Here's BMAV when she was with Heli-Trans:

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-PJxRvQdaItQ/Un9tec0dvyI/AAAAAAAAPIs/LVWkvpQ186c/w791-h529-no/AS350B+G-BMAV+Cametringane+Hotel+Castletown+Berehaven+31+Mar+98+%2528 Bram+Risseeuw%2529.png
Heli-Trans AS350B G-BMAV as seen at the Cametringane Hotel in Castletown Bearhaven on 31st March 1998 (Photo: Bram Risseeuw)

I'm not sure if this is how she looked under Matchan's stewardship, what I can say is that most of the Ecureuil's delivered from Aerospatiale in the year of BMAV's arrival in the UK (1979) looked like this:

Lord Glendyne's AS350B Ecureuil G-BGIM as seen at Cranfield on 5th September 1981 (Photo: Alan Mosiezny)

10th Nov 2013, 12:30
I always thought Bill B's wife Val was gorgeous! Last I heard of him was many many years ago when I think he was Naval Attache in somewhere like Oman.

I did the Whirlwind height climb to 10000ft with Bill and at the end of the auto on the way down I managed to miss the field he had chosen....:D

My third solo on the Hiller. Facing 705 offices. Thumbs up, pressed the tit, ground crew disappear as do the Squadron buildings - now looking at the bomb dump having done a 180 - funny smell of burnt clutch linings - Bill not best pleased with me.....requests that I don't start with full throttle in future.:=

10th Nov 2013, 14:53
Ladies and Hillers (C16's post above) .. Hmm, makes me think ..

Do you remember on page 111 (http://www.pprune.org/rotorheads/419023-rotary-nostalgia-thread-111.html) Viscount Exmouth's Hiller 12C (the one Oldlae recalled from Redhill)? Well, it just so happens that one of Dave Ed's recent (and more beautiful) photos captured this craft on its Trinidadian sojourn:

Bristow Hiller UH-12C VP-TCE as seen in Trinidad c. 1961 (Photo: John Odlin via Dave Ed)

Once returned to Blighty this craft resumed its original registration of G-APDV.

10th Nov 2013, 15:36
Tearing my eyes away from that gorgeous Hiller(!), the two HCC Mk 8s (XN126&127)were a crab response to Prince Phillip flying the Navy Whirlwinds ....they couldn't have that ....and were relatively short lived,both being converted to stock Mk10s once the HCCMk 12s were delivered.One of the latter was lost in a fatal crash between Benson and Yeovil when the main rotor shaft failed due to corrosion.The survivor is in the Helicopter Museum

10th Nov 2013, 15:40
And another tale. The reason I've been told that the early RAF Whirlwinds had the Pratt Wasp was because the postwar government couldn't afford to buy and import new engines so used existing stocks intended for the Harvard.

11th Nov 2013, 10:57
Grazie Heli1 :ok:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ZM7X92ZSTq0/UoCTowk67aI/AAAAAAAAPRY/HOhOI0jbPhM/w734-h554-no/USAF+R4+Hoverfly+R4+performs+the+first+helicopter+evacuation +of+WW2+in+a+combat+zone+on++25+April+1944%252C+in+the+highl ands+of+Northern+Burma.jpg
US Army YR-4B photographed after performing what is believed to be the first helicopter evacuation of WW2 and which took place on 22-23 April 1944 in the highlands of Northern Burma

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-eIVL4z-YAqg/UWguysgYryI/AAAAAAAAM2M/vBfneJNhiJI/w42-h55-no/Armistice+Poppy.png (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day)


11th Nov 2013, 14:40

I am nervous abut questioning your great knowledge - but is that US ARMY painted under the side triangular window...............?


11th Nov 2013, 16:00
Baston: I am inclined (in the absence of contrary evidence) to agree that this is probably a US Army craft and have amended the tag accordingly. Thank you. :ok:

I have also just read the following:

On 22–23 April 1944, US Army Lieutenant Carter Harman of the 1st Air Commando Group conducted the first combat rescue by helicopter using a YR-4B in the China-Burma-India theater. Despite the high altitude, humidity, and capacity for only a single passenger, Harman rescued a downed liaison aircraft pilot and his three British soldier passengers; two at a time.

On 22–23 January 1945, another rescue by the R-4 involved several legs for refueling and navigating through passes between mountains nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) tall, to reach a weather station located at an elevation of 4,700 feet (1,400 m). The higher than normal altitude required a downhill run of 20 ft (6.1 m) to get airborne.

While the R-4 was being used for rescues in Burma and China, it was also being used to ferry parts between floating Aviation Repair Units in the South Pacific. On 23 May 1944, six ships set sail with two R-4s on board each vessel. The ships had been configured as floating repair depots for damaged Army Air Forces aircraft in the South Pacific. When the helicopters were not being used to fly the parts from one location to another, they were enlisted for medical evacuation and other mercy missions.

In Royal Air Force service, the R-4 was called the Hoverfly. The Helicopter Training School, formed January 1945, at RAF Andover, was the first British military unit to be equipped with the helicopter. Many of the RAF Hoverfly's were transferred to the Royal Navy for training and one was used in 1945/46 by Fairey Aviation to develop rotor systems for their Gyrodyne helicopter.

I submitted an enquiry to the USAF archives on this very photo (originally tagged as a USAF example) earlier in the year but have yet to receive any response.

11th Nov 2013, 16:20
Flight 23rd May 1946

The caption accompanying the photo reads:

"Hoverfly is the appropriate name given by the RAF to the Sikorsky R-4 helicopter, several of which are used by the Helicopter School at Andover. In this picture Mr FH Dixon of Fairey's is seen trying his hand at this somewhat difficult branch of flying."

11th Nov 2013, 16:45
Two good photo's, page 96 set of plates in Mr. Bristows book show R4


11th Nov 2013, 17:29
Savoia....What was the query on the Burma rescue? It's quite well documented and I recall meeting Carter and discussing it with him too before adding his signed statement on the mission to the Wall of Fame at the Helicopter Museum.......much much much later in his life he married Jean Ross Howard who founded the Whirly Girls .

Incidentally have just heard from the son of another early R4 pilot,Jeep Cable,who died in the Airhorse crash with fellow test pilot Alan Marsh. He sent me a picture taken at AFEE Beaulieu of a dog sat in an early rescue basket,apparently knocked up to try and rescue someone from the English Channel,probably circa 1945. The effort failed apparently because the victim was too weak to clamber into the basket but must have been a very early British helicopter rescue attempt.

Finally FH Dixon was killed flying the Fairey Gyrodyne......brave people those early test pilots.

11th Nov 2013, 19:44
Heli1: The notes I had for this photo indicated that it was a USAF airframe, perhaps loaned or detached to the US Army. Prompted by Baston's highlighting of the wording on the nose, I conceded that the craft was almost certainly US Army and quickly found related information. Earlier in the year I had contacted the USAF archives in connection with this image but no response was forthcoming.

It would have been a wonderful thing to meet Carter Harman. As the narrative suggests .. flying the R4 in such an environment must have been quite a trick!

11th Nov 2013, 19:57
The USAF did not exist until 1947.
The Army Air Force was a component of the US Army till that time.
So USAF was wrong, possibly USAAF is more correct, or is there a third way?
The three letters AAF seem to appear in amongst the stencils on the nose.

13th Nov 2013, 07:28
Eric: Thanks. I am sure these factors contributed to the initial 'confusion'.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-2lqZOlOgJhQ/UoM1saJuxhI/AAAAAAAAPXE/rN_fiunZEME/w958-h377-no/Sikorsky+R-4B+Hoverfly+I+RAF+Hendon+21+Jul+1951+%2528David+Whitworth%25 29.jpg
Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly 1 at RAF Hendon on 21st July 1951 (Photo: David Whitworth)

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Dsn6izleCeA/UoM2QJfz0qI/AAAAAAAAPXY/UZ3a-_wss-w/w839-h559-no/KK995+Sikorsky+Hoverfly+R1+RAF+Abingdon+15th+June+1968+%2528 Caz+Caswell%2529.png
Sikorsky Hoverfly 1 KK995 at RAF Abingdon on 15th June 1968 (Photo: Caz Caswell)

20th Nov 2013, 07:28
Australian Minister for Defence, Athol Gordon Townley, aboard a Westland Wessex at Battersea Heliport in 1961

The notes with this photo state that the Minister was flown to Portland Docks by Westland's Chief Test Pilot.

Nigel Osborn
20th Nov 2013, 11:40
I think the Westland Chief pilot in 61 might have been Slim Sears who I believe flew Spitfires during WW2. I met Slim at the 64 Farnborough air show & he kindly took myself & a girl out to dinner that week!:ok:

20th Nov 2013, 13:37
I think the Westland Chief pilot in 61 might have been Slim Sears who I believe flew Spitfires during WW2. I met Slim at the 64 Farnborough air show & he kindly took myself & a girl out to dinner that week!:ok:

Ciao Nigelo !!

Your memory faileth you not ..

Flight, 7th September 1961

Another town which has close links with its local aircraft company is Yeovil, 40 miles south of Bristol in the neighbouring county of Somerset. Westland Aircraft, which before and during the Second World War made fixed-wing aeroplanes of unorthodox and adventurous design, now concentrate entirely on helicopters and in this regard have commercial links with Bristol; for what used to be the helicopter division of Bristol Aircraft, at Weston-super-Mare, is now the Bristol Division of Westland. There was similar hiving-off from Fairey Aviation in the formation of the Westland Group, giving a Fairey Division at Hayes. The Saunders-Roe division is at Eastleigh, Southampton, and Cowes in the Isle of Wight.

As a result of this integration of all helicopter interests in the United Kingdom, Westland now have a most impressive list of test pilots. Heading it is W. H. ("Slim") Sear, group chief test pilot, with headquarters at Yeovil. At White Waltham, where the Fairey division carries out test flying, is W. R. Gellatly, deputy group chief test pilot; deputy chief test pilot at the division is J. O. Matthews. In the Saunders-Roe division there are two centres of activity, at Eastleigh where Ken Reid is chief test pilot, and at Cowes where a similar position is held by Peter Lamb. Then at Weston-super-Mare, the Bristol division, "Sox" Hosegood is chief test pilot and P. R. Wilson his deputy.

Each of these Westland centres has its team of able and experienced rotating-wing pilots. At Yeovil are John Fay, chief instructor to the Westland helicopter training unit, Leo De Vigne (whose present responsibility is the Gnome Whirlwind), Derek Colvin, Ron Crayton and Jack Fraser. At Waltham is J. G. P. Morton, who in addition to the Rotodyne still does a lot of Gannet flying; at Weston-super-Mare, D. F. Farquharson and R. Smith (as in my late godfather); at the Saunders-Roe division, J. J. M. Jeffery and H. Phillips.

A couple of illustrations from the same article:

Test flying a Westland Whirlwind south of Yeovil airfield near the war memorial on Ham Hill

A Westland Wessex at Yeovil having a compass swing near the control tower and test pilots' offices

Nigelo .. I would say, looking at the photo, that there is indeed every chance that it was 'Slim' at the controls with the Aussie Defence Minister:

W.H. 'Slim' Sear

W.H. 'Slim' Sear mounting a Westland Wessex

Savoia: The picture of the Hoverfly at Abingdon above does not ring true for a Sikorsky helicopter as there is no pool of hydraulic and other fluids under it..........:O

The ground crew (which had literally moments before manoeuvered the craft into position) can be seen beneath the Hoverfly's tail rotor heaving on a rope pulling another aircraft into place! ;)

20th Nov 2013, 16:11
That close up of Slim was taken with the Westminster prototype ,which used Sikorsky S-60 dynamics married to twin turbine engines.could have been a good machine if Westland had stuck with it. Instead the technology went back to the US,leading to the S-64.
Is Slim still around? I know most of those listed in the Flight article are no longer with us ,although have recently been in touch with John Morton and Sox Hosegood ,and I think John Fay is still alive.

20th Nov 2013, 16:29
That close up of Slim was taken with the Westminster prototype, which used Sikorsky S-60 dynamics married to twin turbine engines. Could have been a good machine if Westland had stuck with it. Instead the technology went back to the US, leading to the S-64.

Is Slim still around? I know most of those listed in the Flight article are no longer with us, although have recently been in touch with John Morton and Sox Hosegood, and I think John Fay is still alive.

Ha ha .. was wondering what on earth it was, that explains it! The Colonel also believed the Westminster had considerable potential but, there we are, t'was not to be.

In a similar vein (and which I have mentioned before) the much-troubled WG30 could (in my humble view) have been a success had they addressed its shortcomings swiftly and comprehensively.

ps: Please let Morton and Hosegood know that their exploits are still remembered! :ok:

pps: In fact on the H&N forum (http://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/525654-bristol-belvedere-research.html) I read that Alex Crawford is to write a new book about the development of the Belvedere.

Dennis Kenyon
20th Nov 2013, 16:53
Fondly remembered Sav ... cos IF the WG30 had been fitted with the later engines, my aviation career might have changed somewhat.

I attended Yeovil for an invited interview ... the idea being that as an aircraft sales person who had developed a reputation in the industry (trifle unfounded) for selling helicopters I would join the great company. They even put me up for a night at the local 'Three Choughs' hotel. However, I wrecked my chances of a job when I explained the type didn't have any kind of future with the old Gem 40s fitted. Of course the interview board shot me down well & truly, so I stayed with the Enstrom! Few regrets tho' mate! Dennis K.

21st Nov 2013, 07:55
The mention of Leo reminded me when he came out to the Bristow operation at Abu Dhabi to fly the Whirlwinds. In the course of several chats, I looked after the Whirlwinds there, he mentioned that if a Whirlwind was required to lift a heavy load we should adjust the RRPM to 220 (the lower limit) instead of the max 222 at which we normally set it.

Saint Jack
21st Nov 2013, 10:07
I too can remember Leo De Vigne. I believe our paths crossed at Kharg Island during the period when Peter Boor was Chief Pilot. Leo was giving some Whirlwind familiarization to one of the many American pilots that Bristow had recruited at that time. I don't think Leo was getting through to one particular individual as, from a slight distance, I heard Leo in a slightly raised voice say "I know what it says in the Flight Manual, I wrote it"

Nigel Osborn
21st Nov 2013, 12:00

I went to the Westlands tent/counter to say hello to Slim. I happened to have 2 girls with me & introduced them to Slim who promptly invited the 3 of us to join him for dinner!!:ok:

Those short exhaust pipes were soon changed for the longer ones as the exhaust went straight into the passenger cabin if the door was open; not nice!

Cornish Jack
21st Nov 2013, 14:44
The thing that caught my eye in the Slim Sears photo is the throat mic. Only came across these when being pre-briefed for S&R. The mics were ex Tank driver's and were not (at that time) available through Stores. The instruction was to go to Soho ( honest, Guv!) and find one of the Government Surplus radio and electrical shops, purchase said mic (for 7/6) and take it into Safety Equipment on arrival at Valley, to have the correct plug fitted. The output for intercom and radio was such as to improve diction and enunciation considerably - otherwise no-one could understand you!

21st Nov 2013, 15:29
Throat mikes were still in use by Bristow well into the late 70's perhaps early 80's.

21st Nov 2013, 19:49
Ciao Denissimo!

Ah yes I can see it now. The Maestro putting the WG30 through its paces (say, at Farnborough) in a series of deftly handled glissades, pirouettes and wingovers; followed by an arresting nose-high quickstop leading to the disembarkation of a trio of 'Denissimo's Angels' clad in form-fitting jumpsuits holding silver salvers above their heads as the Maestro re-enacts Charles Kaman's hovering landing (see below).

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-iz13fyv5lws/UOrNCv_m4OI/AAAAAAAALUo/J0b6YXsF4kM/s517/K190+helicopter+attempting+a+3-point+landing+on+heads+of+Mrs.+Charles+H.+Kaman+Ann+Griffin+ %28R%29%2C+and+another+girl%2C+who+are+all+holding+plywood+s quares+%281948%29.jpg
Charles Kaman test flies the K190 prototype and achieves a hovering touchdown onto three plywood squares held in place by Mrs Robbie Kaman (left) Ann Griffin (right), and one other in 1948

Of course Alan Bristow would come up to you afterwards saying "That's all very well, but how many people can you fly out to a rig eighty miles offshore with all their gear and with what sort of fuel and power reserves?"

Ahh .. what could have been !!


More WG30 here (http://www.pprune.org/rotorheads/65254-westland-30-threads-merged-4.html#post6642272).

John Eacott
21st Nov 2013, 20:18
Throat mikes were still in use by Bristow well into the late 70's perhaps early 80's.

And the RN late into the 70's.

The number of times my boom mike was removed by SE during helmet servicing 'because all other rotary pilots used throat mikes' became boring. But I tried to get a throat mike for the cameraman to use 25 years later when it seemed a good option to not hearing a thing because of wind noise when filming, funny how priorities change eh?

22nd Nov 2013, 08:21

Maersk Air Bell 212 OY-HMB as seen at Esbjerg Airport in Denmark on 6th June 1980 (Photo: Erik Frikke)

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-lod9SQu4Jvg/Uo8frsfOejI/AAAAAAAAPgA/kFkZtVO_Zog/w955-h584-no/Maersk+B212+OY-HMC+Esbjerg+Denmark+6+Jun+80+%2528Erik+Frikke%2529+lost+on+2 +Jan+84.jpg
Maersk Air Bell 212 OY-HMC as seen at Esbjerg Airport in Denmark on 6th June 1980 (Photo: Erik Frikke)

Maersk Air Bell 212 OY-HMC (cockpit) as seen at Esbjerg Airport on 6th June 1980 (Photo: Erik Frikke)

OY-HMC went into service with Maersk Air in 1978 but, tragically, was involved in an accident between the Gorm-Feltet platform and Esbjerg on 2nd January 1984 with the loss of all on board.

Idle Cut Off
25th Nov 2013, 13:12
Greetings Deltahot, I remember you well from my days as a student.

Pat V was my instructor and although a hard taskmaster he instilled in me disciplines that lasted all through my career. As a 19 year old student there wasn't a sight more unsettling than to see Pat, in his lightweight green Australian flying suit and big "stomping" boots, striding towards the silent Whirlwind as I sat there surrounded by a litter of spent cartridges.

I was greatly saddened to hear of his death in Vietnam.

I shared your dislike of the height climb or "Moonshot", always shown on the flying programme as D18 with an arrow pointing upward.

When I returned as a QHI in 1968 I had all my "idiot cards" from CFS describing the various dual exercises, except of course for D18. So I copied all the salient points from the Instructors Manual.

I set off with my first ever student on D18 and during the climb managed to cover all the points: Temperature lapse rate, full throttle height, diminishing effect of controls, reducing volume on the throat mic etc. On reaching 10,000 ft any rate of climb we had remaining was probably more to do with the curvature of the earth rather than aircraft performance and Vmin and Vmax seemed to have coincided at about 40 knots.

Havings completed most of the exercises I came to the last two. Retreating Blade Stall and Vortex Ring State. I briefed Bloggs, took a deep breath and gently increased speed to 60 knots, initiated a right turn and pulled a little collective. The Whirlie immediately snapped left and I had to lower the collective immediately to recover a level attitude. I now had Blogg's full attention.

Trying to appear unshaken I gave Bloggs control and told him to set up a descent to a field we could see 10,000 feet below. As the sight picture inevitably steepened I told him to reduce airspeed to recover a normal "picture" The rate of descent started to increase rapidly so I told him to increase power. The dear old Whirlie started to roll, pitch and yaw and would not respond to cyclic input. I took control, lowered the lever and shut the throttle to contain the Rrpm. After a few seconds the pitch attitude responded to the cyclic and we regained airspeed and control. We were now at about 6700 ft.

"That's Vortex Ring" I said. Blogg's eyes like saucers.

With me desperately trying to appear unshaken, Bloggs flew us back to Culdrose where I left him to complete the shutdown while I stormed into the Instructors station. The Senior Pilot, Ted M-W was on duty.

Me: That D18 is bl***y dangerous.
Him: What's the problem?
Me: Retreating Blade Stall and Vortex Ring.
Him: You didn't demonstrate it did you?
Me: I did exactly what it said in the Instructors Manual.

He reached for a handbook from the shelf, opened it at the relevant page, placed it in front of me and jabbed his finger at the appropriate paragraph.

After all the other air exercises it said,

"DISCUSS Retreating Blade Stall and Vortex Ring."

25th Nov 2013, 16:58
I was trained on the Whirlwind 10 (I hated those throat mikes). We also went to 10,000 feet for that "demo". We wore parachutes. The reason was that if the aircraft went on fire at that nose-bleed height, we might burn to a crisp before completing an autorotation to earth.

As a good (i.e. usually scared) student I pre-read the parachute abandonment drills in the FRCs, which required the pilot to apply the control frictions, fully open the cockpit window, unstrap and sit on the window sill. Then to roll out of the aircraft backwards and at the same time kicking the cyclic to the left.

All quite exciting!

Even more exciting was the note below which went along the lines of:

"WARNING!" Objects jettisoned from the aircraft in autorotation may go up through the main rotor disc".

Er - that might be me, then.... :uhoh:

John Eacott
25th Nov 2013, 19:35
D18 was the one time that we wore a parachute in a helicopter. M'larky Jim took 45 minutes for D18 with a blissfully ignorant Midshipman taking little or no notice of the pearls of wisdom being imparted as the view was far more interesting. To think I'd regularly fly my BK at 9-10,000ft 30+ years later and even cruise my 206L at 10,000ft between Melbourne and Sydney to avoid a refuel at Canberra!

ICO, we didn't fly together but I have a few of your compatriots listed in the 12E before I settled into being M'larky's last stude before he moved on. The one that he wanted to see through to wings, as all his previous studes were chop cases that he was given as an A1. A minor detail he didn't mention until 4-5 years later in casual conversation of a pint, but was traumatising to young bloke fresh from Linton who had been advised by the previous course "don't get M'larky, he chops all his studes" :eek:

29th Nov 2013, 15:37

SA341G Westland Gazelle G-BBSI as seen at Battersea Heliport in April 1977 (Photo: Brian Bickers)

This aircraft, at the time of the photo, was owned by McAlpines and, prior to that, Westland Helicopters.

Sadly, this craft was written off just days after this photo was taken:


30th Nov 2013, 16:23
Excellent finding Sav :ok:

1st Dec 2013, 14:35

I see a picture of Heli Union UK G-ALWC Alouette II in this thread. In fact, there is the source of that picture : Zenfolio | Pierre GILLARD | United Kingdom - Heli-Union (U.K.) Ltd | 004878 (http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/heliunionuk/h2f7b32a5#h2f7b32a5)

Copyright strip has been removed ... This is not really fair as I spent hours in cleaning old pictures. You may use pictures from my website, but please leave the photo credit ! :mad:


1st Dec 2013, 15:47
Those Gazelles looked so modern in their day compared to the completion, not sure about how stats might compare but wins on looks for me!

1st Dec 2013, 16:14
I see a picture of Heli Union UK G-ALWC Alouette II in this thread. In fact, there is the source of that picture : Zenfolio | Pierre GILLARD | United Kingdom - Heli-Union (U.K.) Ltd | 004878 (http://apicdn.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&key=1e857e7500cdd32403f752206c297a3d&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pprune.org%2Frotorheads%2F419023-rotary-nostalgia-thread-117.html&out=http%3A%2F%2Fpierregillard.zenfolio.com%2Fheliunionuk%2F h2f7b32a5%23h2f7b32a5&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pprune.org%2Frotorheads-23%2F)



3rd Dec 2013, 01:53
Some Chinese oldies :

http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/img/s1/v21/p251454179-3.jpg (http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/chinaaviationmuseumhelicopters)

Other pictures taken at Datangshan here (http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/chinaaviationmuseum).

There is also a single Alouette III on display inside the cavern :

http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/img/s1/v20/p699458856-3.jpg (http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/datangshanaviationmuseum)

At the Civil Aviation University of China in Tianjin :

http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/img/s3/v26/p28486088-3.jpg (http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/cauchelicopters)

And at the Shenyang Aerospace University :

http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/img/s3/v24/p724522131-3.jpg (http://pierregillard.zenfolio.com/shenyangaerospaceuniversity)

Click on the pictures for more ... :ok:


3rd Dec 2013, 10:44
Just to add some information to the photos posted by Pierre ..

The top photo is the Chinese-produced Harbin Z-6 which was a turbine 'interpretation' [read reverse engineered] of the Mi-4. Less than 20 examples were built (though reliable information is scarce) as Harbin were unable to achieve any improvement in performance over their Z-5 (see below) which was a Chinese produced version of the Mi-4.

The second photo, as indicated, is an Alouette III and which was part of a small number delivered by Aérospatiale in the 1970's. Licensed production in China was discussed but never pursued.

The third photo is the Harbin Z-5 which, as mentioned, was a Chinese-built version of the Mi4 (aka "The Russian Chickasaw"). In 1979 Harbin fitted one of their Z-5's with a Pratt & Whitney TwinPac but, sadly for P&W, the development went no further.

The bottom photo is the ubiquitous Mi-8.

5th Dec 2013, 07:19
Re G-BBSI image: Any idea which logo is on it's tail fin?

5th Dec 2013, 07:42
Buongiorno Zis!

I've enlarged the photo to get a closer look but the image remains a little blurred however .. it appears to me to be the emblem of the Air Squadron.

Can't say much about the Squadron other than Ken McAlpine was a member (and which is probably why it was painted on BBSI) and also that my late-godfather was friends with some of their members including Tony Everard and Johnny Moss.

5th Dec 2013, 12:51
You're right
http://s22.postimg.org/6311ix1i5/logo.jpg (http://postimg.org/image/6311ix1i5/)
Air Squadron (http://www.airsquadron.org/)


7th Dec 2013, 07:14

I have no details for this image other than it is supposedly taken during the 1987 British Helicopter Championships.

If anyone has any information, such as a location and those pictured, I would be much obliged.

7th Dec 2013, 07:43
Blenheim, Oxford perhaps? - VFR

7th Dec 2013, 16:13
Grazie mille VFR! :ok:


https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-XaLJUEClEpQ/UqNAw3pQlAI/AAAAAAAAP4w/lkhmM_x80OA/w958-h486-no/A%25C3%25A9rospatiale+SA342J+C-FEMF+departing+Vancouver+Int+Apt+March+87+%2528Mike+Head%252 9.png
Aérospatiale (Sud Aviation) SA342J Gazelle C-FEMF belonging to Caterpillar dealer 'Finning Tractor' departs Vancouver International Airport in March 1987 (Photo: Mike Head)

Toronto Heli-Shuttle

Air Canada AS350B Astar C-GDUF in 1986 (Photo: Air Canada Archives)

In 1986 Air Canada operated this 'Astar' as part of a shuttle service to downtown Toronto. Does anyone recall this operation or know any of the details relating to it?


7th Dec 2013, 19:18
Fantastico Carholme, grazie mille !! :ok: :D

Carholme many thanks. I was having no joy unearthing details surrounding this operation.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-LG44BRjx3cc/UqN_k4sn0YI/AAAAAAAAP5Y/BwsGwgjthCw/w883-h584-no/Ranger+Helicopters+AS350B+C-GBBX+Toronto+Cherry+Beach+Heliport+1986+%2528Mike+Ody+Collec tion%2529.jpg
Ranger Helicopters Aérospatiale AS350B C-GBBX at the downtown Cherry Beach Heliport in Toronto in 1986 (Photo: The Mike Ody Collection)

From the photo notes: From August 1986 to June 1987 Air Canada leased three AS350 Astar's from Ranger Helicopters to operate a connector service between Toronto International Airport and Cherry Beach Heliport near Downtown Toronto.

And which brings me onto the next hurdle .. can anyone provide a little background information on Ranger Helicopters, where they were based and how long they operated for?

Plus .. if anyone has any memories of the Air Canada shuttle, please do chip-in! :ok:

7th Dec 2013, 19:24
Sav, Regarding your photo of the Gazelle from 1987, the two pilots (L & R, rear) are Jim McCartney and Jules Allen. The crewman at second left on the front row is Howie Jones.

I served on 1AFT Gazelle Sqn at RAF Shawbury with Jim and Jules a couple of years previous to the photo but they are wearing CFS(H) upper arm badges so they must have moved across dispersal by then.

I'm also wondering if it might be Bob Holden wearing the blue uniform.

7th Dec 2013, 22:28
Location....1987 Championships were at Castle Ashby?

7th Dec 2013, 22:52
Heli1, I searched for an image of Castle Ashby. I'd say you're spot on - it's a perfect match!

8th Dec 2013, 11:52
Grazie ShyTorque/Heli1!

Prior to posting the 'Ashby' Gazelle I visited the British Helicopter Team site whereupon a 'Championship Archive' page was proffered. I immediately though "Ah .. problem solved" but their 'archive' only extended as far as 2005. :sad:

But, based on recent input from ShyTorque and Heli1 we can now add the following information:

Gazelle attending the 1987 British Helicopter Championships at Castle Ashby. Identifed crew are: Jim McCartney (standing), Jules Allen (extreme right) and Howie Jones (front row, second from the left), Jerry English (to the right of Howie Jones). Blue uniform (in front of trophy) perhaps Bob Holden?

A further Gazelle image from Castle Ashby, this one a year earlier attending the World Helicopter Championships:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-q4AGMpGjHhk/UqRnxreSYRI/AAAAAAAAP6I/uRT3wmiFDv0/w855-h555-no/RAF+SA341D+HT3+Gazelle+ZB628+WHC+Castle+Ashby+26+Jun+86+%252 8DonHewins%2529.jpg
RAF SA341D HT3 Gazelle ZB628 attending the World Helicopter Championships at Castle Ashby on 26th June 1986 (Photo: Don Hewins)

ZB628 was of course to become the swimming Gazelle (http://www.pprune.org/rotorheads/419023-rotary-nostalgia-thread-70.html#post7078463).


8th Dec 2013, 15:55
Sav,think that`s Jerry English in the middle in the Gaz.pic.

8th Dec 2013, 16:45
Was sent there once at the end of my commitment to my school CCF it was meant to be a great week of range firing, on land! Then the Falkends got invaded HMS as it was at the time went on red alert, 12 young guys were sent home having been awarded Cadet of the year and the chance of a weeks range firing, got one day in!

That aside waiting for the coach home I saw so much preparation prior to heading out. Apart from the numerous helicopters was the Vulcan there?

8th Dec 2013, 19:53
Sycamore, I concur.

NMHFM, Sorry but that one's definitely RAF, not Navy! ;)

ZB628 was a CFS(H) airframe. The last time I flew it was my very last flight on type. Night currency check, 11th November 1991.

9th Dec 2013, 08:45
Carholme: Thank you. Your notes are much appreciated for, as you rightly say, information on Ranger Helicopters is scarce. Gary Vincent (who contributed the JetRanger photo below) informs me that he read that by the time Ranger sold-out to Canadian they had 62 helicopters and one fixed-wing and that they may have been associated with Maple Leaf Helicopters? Again .. Grazie! :ok:

Sycamore: Grazie mille! :ok: Have added Jerry's name to the photo notes.

A little more from Canada:

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-XinjQKR9_4I/UqWMYsV9ePI/AAAAAAAAP7Y/xU_PBb8zSy8/w915-h584-no/Timberland+SA341G+C-GOCA+Courtenay+Airpark+BC+6+Jul+04+%2528Jason+Pineau%2529.jp g
Timberland Helicopters Aérospatiale (Sud Aviation) SA341G C-GOCA as seen at Courtenay Airpark in British Columbia on 6th July 2004 (Photo: Jason Pineau)

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-YjSQXo4BMy8/UqWNQkaY-6I/AAAAAAAAP7w/67CPBqSMb9I/w881-h584-no/Century+Helicopters+B206B+C-GIWU+Vancouver+%2528Delta%2529+North+Heliport%252C+BC%252C+C anada%252C+Jun+81+%2528Gary+Vincent%2529.jpg
Century Helicopters Bell 206B JetRanger II C-GIWU as seen at a private helipad on the edge of a potato field situated along 64th Street in Delta, British Columbia (just south of Vancouver), in June 1981 (Photo: Gary Vincent)

Gary Vincent (who contributed the photo above) has sent me an intriguing photo .. of a type I have never before seen .. and which I shall be posting in the next couple of days.


9th Dec 2013, 09:44
Btw, C-GOCA now Spotters.Aero - Ôîòî ñàìîëåòà (ID:7704) Untitled Aerospatiale SA 341G Gazelle UR-ACCA (http://spotters.net.ua/file/?id=7704) :)

9th Dec 2013, 17:14
Having received a message from Gary Vincent re: Ranger Helicopters and their possible association with Maple Leaf Helicopters (and which information I added in my comments to Carholme in my previous post) one discovers that Maple Leaf Helicopters (not sure if this is the original company) are in fact disposing of a Gazelle .. not sure of it is theirs or one of their customers:

SA341G Gazelle C-GONG s/n 1363 presently being tendered for sale by Maple Leaf

C-GONG's interior

C-GONG in flight

Maple Leaf Helicopters (http://mapleleafhelicopters.com/aerospatiale.html)

10th Dec 2013, 04:43
I'm not a pilot or involved in the rotary community by any means, just an enthusiast and aviation history buff who has been enjoying this thread immensely. So I thought I'd contribute in some small way. My dad is a professional photographer and was hired by Bell Helicopter for a project in Iran in the late 70's. He was involved with photographing the rotor assemblies in-flight and while I don't have access to the technical photos he took, I do have a few of his more candid shots so I thought I'd share. These were Bell 214A/Cs, bought by Iran before the fall of the Shah.



That's my pops on the right, eh :)


You can see the camera setup for photographing the rotor hub here, being checked by one of my dad's more colorful co-workers!


10th Dec 2013, 08:50
I love Speedy's last picture of the camels fleeing from the helicopter.

Below is a similar picture of fleeing animals taken in the Tsavo game reserve in the 60s. Flying with the left hand, camera in the right and mind the trees! I expect that lots of us have photos of wild animals taken from the cockpit............? Let's see them then. :O

10th Dec 2013, 09:11
Bongiorno Bastiano!

Please could you post a larger copy of that photo .. one has trouble seeing it (even with reading glasses).

10th Dec 2013, 09:24
Savoia - on my screen it is way too big - where am I going wrong? D

Senior Pilot
10th Dec 2013, 09:47
on my screen it is way too big - where am I going wrong? D

Looking at your post, there was no image attached!

Obviously one of those jungly moments....

10th Dec 2013, 10:02
As I was saying before the Pinger interrupted................

I loved Speedys picture of the camels in flight chased by the helicopter and thought there may be more of a similar ilk.

Below is a picture of hephalumps in the Tsavo game reserve in Kenya in the 60s. Fly with left hand, camera and most of you out of the window, mind the trees and click. We used to have a competition on board when people got there slides back for the most boring shot of wild animals - this one did not win!

There must be more of this sort of thing out there so let's see them.:O

PS: The camera was a Kodak Retinette - a great and robust thing.


10th Dec 2013, 16:05
Speedy: Welcome aboard. Great to see your dad's photos! :ok: I have a couple of Iranian 214's in my collection so I shall endeavour to dig them out and post them. Camel mustering with a 214 .. brilliant!

Bastiano: Not taken with my own hand I regret .. although I have spent many-an-hour above the game reserves in both Kenya and Tanzania but .. sadly .. with no camera available and long before the age of mobile phones!

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-aVrrG3tac3Q/UqdFIu5LjZI/AAAAAAAAQGI/bVNJndugvX4/w789-h553-no/herding+Lelwel+%2528Jackson%2527s%2529+hartebeest+relocation +to+Solio+Ranch+Laikipia+District+2009.png
A Hughes 500 herds Lelwel (Jackson's) hartebeest for relocation to Solio Ranch Laikipia District, Kenya in 2009 (Photo: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy)

Zebras photographed from a Hughes 300 at Etosha National Park in Namibia in 2011 (Photo: Hannes Lochner)

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-IZWS4cD0kU4/UqdF4VWGYdI/AAAAAAAAQGo/QWeaz7v9DUs/w908-h556-no/Game+coutning+Tswalu+pilot+Nicky+Oppenheimer+%2528Tswalu+Gam e+Reserve%2529.png#
An AW139 engaged in game countning within the Tswalu Game Reserve in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa in 2013. Nicky Oppenheimer flying P2 in this shot. (Photo: Tswalu Game Reserve)

11th Dec 2013, 09:39
In follow-up to Speedy's post:

More 214 ..

The original development of the Model 214 was announced by Bell in 1970 under the name "Huey Plus". The first prototype was based on a Bell 205 airframe equipped with a Lycoming T53-L-702 engine producing 1,900shp.

The first 214A demonstration prototype followed and was evaluated in Iran during field exercises with the Iranian Armed Forces. The trial was judged successful and an order for 287 214A helicopters followed. The intention was that these aircraft would be constructed by Bell in their Dallas, Fort Worth facility and that a further 50 214A's and 350 Bell 214ST helicopters would then be built in Iran. In the event 296 214A models and 39 214C models were delivered before the Iranian Revolution ended the plans for Iranian production.

Similar in size and appearance to the Bell 205 and Bell 212, the Bell 214 used a single, more powerful Lycoming LTC4B-8 engine 2,930shp/2,185kW and upgraded rotor system giving it a formidable lifting capacity and good performance at high temperatures and high altitudes. It can be identified by its single large exhaust port, wide chord rotor blades and a rotorhub without stabiliser bars.

Bell offered a civilian variant of this aircraft known as the 214B "BigLifter". It received certification in 1976 and was produced until 1981. Powered by a 2,930 shp/2,183kW Lycoming T5508D turboshaft, it has the same rotor drive and transmission system as the 214A. The transmission was rated at 2,050shp/1,528kW for take-off, with a maximum continuous power rating of 1,850shp/1,379kW. The BigLifter featured an advanced rotor hub with elastomeric bearings; an automatic flight control system with stability augmentation; and up-graded (for that time) avionics.

The first production Model 214A (c/n 27004) was taken in charge by the Iran Imperial Army Aviation (IIAA) on 26 April, 1975. Three days later, on 29 April, this aircraft, with Maj. Gen. Manouchehr Khosrowdad (Commander of the IIAA) and Clem Bailey (Bell's Assistant Chief Production Test Pilot) at the controls, established five new world records in the FAI Class E-1e.

The helicopter reached a maximum altitude of 9070m/29,757ft and sustained a horizontal altitude of 9010m/29,560ft for 30 seconds.

It also climbed to 3000m/9,842ft in 1min 58sec; to 6000m/19,685ft in 5min 13.2sec and to 9000m/29,527ft in 15min 05sec.

Some of the more than 300 214's delivered to the Imperial Army Aviation unit of Iran. Chooks also present (Photo: Meghdad Madadi)

Iranian Army 214's coming in to land

Iranian Army Bell 214A 6-4865 landing at Zahedan Airport on 9th June 2009 (Photo A. Mahgoli)

500 Fan
11th Dec 2013, 11:26
Those are some impressive and rare photos you have managed to find, Sav. That ramp full to the brim with 214s and Chinooks is a sight to behold.

500 Fan.

11th Dec 2013, 12:16
That photo does not do the actual situation justice.

At Isfahan, the 214's were lined up in long lines side by side....hundreds of them.

The Iranians had a crew or two that spent their full day each day...pulling one after another out into the clear...running it up....and then putting it back into the stack.

They had far more aircraft than they did qualified Flight and Ground Crews to Man them.

Bell Helicopters had Fort Rucker East....all the IP's wore their sand colored Military Style Flight Suits, Ray Bans, flew empty aircraft all day, and bragged of their flying at night in the Kohrush Hotel Bar. Bristow crews came into the Bar looking less than spic and span, having been up in the mountains living at at higher elevations than the Bell guys flew. Was many a good fuss heard in that Bar....until most of us got banned from the place for being "Bristow".

11th Dec 2013, 14:45
I'm certain you are right SAS!

A fellow photo collector told me that there are images (presumably aerial) in which 200+ 214's are depicted!

Nearly 5,000fpm roc in the 'A' model. Must have been enjoyable to fly.

At Isfahan, the 214's were lined up in long lines side by side....hundreds of them.

A sampling of 214's lined-up at Isfahan

11th Dec 2013, 14:53
Was going to ask if they ever had enough crew/ back up for such a huge fleet, additionally are they still flying today?

11th Dec 2013, 15:25
Was going to ask if they ever had enough crew/ back up for such a huge fleet,

Newly recruited Iranian helicopter pilots during their initial training ;)

At present they are confined to performing ground runs as a result of an instructor shortage! ;)

additionally are they still flying today?

Affirm. :ok: With such a large fleet they can't afford not to!

We're talking about Iran and SAS is on-board .. but he hasn't mentioned Chooks once .. so .. this is for you SAS!

CH-47 Chinook of the Iranian Army Aviation unit

11th Dec 2013, 23:49
Nearly 5,000fpm roc in the 'A' model. Must have been enjoyable to fly.

They sure can climb. The 214B and 214ST have a limitation on the rate of climb which is 2000 fpm, above that roc if the engine quits, the blades will be stopped by the time you start descending again and enter autorotation. The 214ST has also a max limit on the rate of decent, 1500 fpm.


12th Dec 2013, 00:18
The Chinook.....Queen of the Skies!:ok:

15th Dec 2013, 17:10
Air Hanson Bell 206B JetRanger II G-BBFB as seen at Blackbushe in September 1980 (Photo: Brian Bickers)

More BBFB in this (http://www.pprune.org/rotorheads/419023-rotary-nostalgia-thread-39.html#post6625964) post.

18th Dec 2013, 17:25
It pleases me to introduce a new photographer to Nostalgia .. Tony Maris.

Tony served with the Fleet Air Arm from 1962-1971 where one of his assignments was aerial photography (mainly from helicopters). He also has a number of photos of helicopters and which he has kindly agreed to share with us.

Westland Wessex XS875 recovers a casualty from HMS Dark Gladiator (Photo: Tony Maris)

Westland Wasp XT434 overflying HMS Aurora (Photo: Tony Maris)

Our photographer .. Tony (Antonio!)

19th Dec 2013, 10:28
Wessex XS875 ended its flying days on the SAR Flight on Ark Royal in September 1974 when it suffered an engine surge on take off, crashed on the port waist catapult bridle arrest ramp and fell into the sea when the tail broke off.

Wasp XT434 had a happier life and is still extant as G-CGGK.

Source: Lee Howard's book "Fleet Air Arm Helicopters Since 1943"

John Eacott
19th Dec 2013, 10:38
Wessex XS875 ended its flying days on the SAR Flight on Ark Royal in September 1974 when it suffered an engine surge on take off, crashed on the port waist catapult bridle arrest ramp and fell into the sea when the tail broke off.

Slight error there: it certainly crashed on the waist cat, but didn't fall into the sea:


Note the undamaged blades, and the inflated flot bag!

19th Dec 2013, 10:59
Ah, I stand corrected - re-reading Lee's book I misinterpreted what I saw. The direct quote is "crashed on port waist catapult bridle arrest ramp, tail broke off and fell into the sea".

20th Dec 2013, 09:37
I wonder how many others received this telegram back in 1976. I should explain that back in the summer of '76 Helikopter Service of Norway was desperate for pilots and hearing about the discontent that was manifest amongst the workforce in Aberdeen they began a recruiting initiative that saw a few move across later that year then a veritable flood of Bristow strikers found their way across the North Sea the following year. Anyone else get one of these?


20th Dec 2013, 13:42
I wish I had......History would be much different than it is!

22nd Dec 2013, 12:27
Here's a scan of a creased postcard from the mid 1970's showing a KLM S61, S58T and a Bo105 at Schipol East:

http://i1123.photobucket.com/albums/l543/CharlieOneSix/KLM-postcard_zps55e36c56.jpg (http://s1123.photobucket.com/user/CharlieOneSix/media/KLM-postcard_zps55e36c56.jpg.html)

John Eacott
25th Dec 2013, 09:55
Here's an interesting one; just up the Junglie's alley.

I took a photo back about 1973 on Bulwark of a crab Harrier, and in the shot was a Steyr Puch Hafflinger which the junglies use as a tug for their Wessex V plus other odd things. There is an enthusiast chappy who is interested in all things to do with the RN Hafflingers and he has a website here (http://tdc.haflinger-4wd.com/types/royalnavy.php).

The request is for any photos or anecdotes relating to these things:


25th Dec 2013, 11:18
Here is a photo on Atlantic Conveyor 2 days before she was sunk.

All sizes | Onboard Atlantic Conveyor | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/11222891145/sizes/z/in/photostream/)


Hope this works.

Nigel Osborn
28th Dec 2013, 11:40
Ppruner bastOn was on board, said the sea was very cold!! 848 lost most/all their Wessex. A very sad occasion.

28th Dec 2013, 16:16
As you say, a very sad occasion. I was fortunate to cross deck the day before she sank. I gather that after, with all the claims for lost possessions, Atlantic Conveyor was so heavy she should have sunk before. I am just grateful I continued on Norland.

28th Dec 2013, 16:26
848 lost most/all their Wessex. A very sad occasion.

Chinooks, too. Shame they refused to let them fly off earlier, as the crews suggested.

28th Dec 2013, 17:02
Chinooks, too. Shame they refused to let them fly off earlier, as the crews suggested.

Quite right Shy, 4 Chinooks instead of the one would have made a huge difference.

28th Dec 2013, 19:43

Not seen those pics before. Very poignant. You say she sank on 24th, then I must apologise because I was on Norland for the landings on 21st so my photo must have been taken on the 19th.

28th Dec 2013, 20:57

OK I was on Fearless then as Norland had gone off to meet QE2 and I went ashore that day.

10th Jan 2014, 11:56
I see the mods have done another complete purge of all posts relating to Savoia. Interesting. I'm not sure what you call that, but it isn't moderating. This will also disappear soon, I'm sure.

10th Jan 2014, 12:11
I see the mods have done another complete purge of all posts relating to Savoia. Interesting. I'm not sure what you call that, but it isn't moderating. This will also disappear soon, I'm sure.

I imagine that it's called 'keeping a thread on topic'. In this case, 'Rotary Nostalgia', not 'Free the Savoia One'.

10th Jan 2014, 17:38
When the threads founder and primary contributor gets ousted it is very much 'on topic', this site is not here for occasional browsers, it is here for a small catchment of individuals who's comments and opinions should be seen by all.

This thread has proved it's not here for a small catchment of individuals, please clarify that comment?

Bast0n, hope you are well? Guess we we have to wait for this thread to be purged again by the mods!

Happy New Year to all

Senior Pilot
10th Jan 2014, 19:34
As Bravo73 has pointed out, moderation is about maintaining a thread topic and this is not a thread about misguided perceptions of one poster being picked on. Since Savoia has made it plain that he does not intend to return I will make a one off post to clear up a great many misconceptions that he has created. We are aware that there are claims made by Savoia that he has been unfairly treated and that a small number of Rotorheads have accepted those claims without knowing the depths of the hurt caused by breaching the PPRuNe terms.

To out another PPRuNe member is normally an instant and permanent ban. Savoia was only given a week off for outing Speechless Two and the Savoia username is still active. He has chosen not to use it despite a personal email welcoming him back after Christmas. He is still able to post and refute any of these facts:

Speechless Two was harassed by Savoia to the extent that he felt stalked and closed his email account to prevent being contacted.

Speechless Two did not (as claimed) out himself.

Speechless Two has closed his account here and requested that his posts be deleted as a result of Savoia's unwanted attention and outing.

As a result of Speechless Two's concerns I advised Savoia that emails/PM's to other members that could be construed as stalking would not be tolerated. We have an obligation to protect all of you from unwanted approaches when brought to our attention.

Savoia has numerous other usernames: none of these alternative usernames have been banned, however all except two are restricted from posting in Rotorheads. We just don't need the moderating issues that this creates.

This thread has deleted posts both critical and supportive of the moderation required to keep it on topic: the element that believe it is discriminatory should be aware of that.

This is the only post on this subject. Any further posts not on topic will be deleted.

11th Jan 2014, 01:40
Really! Why not let sleeping dogs ly! and as I asked let the dust settle? Every time you guys cleanse this thread it seems to erupt again? I see Bast0n post has been removed? I guess a ban as welll?

11th Jan 2014, 11:52
Removed again!

14th Jan 2014, 06:06
I never knew that KLM had S-58Ts or BO 105s. Who did their S-58 Twin Pac conversions?

They were acquired by KLM as S58T's and ( the last 2 + spares / tooling ) sold to AIRFAST / Indonesia some time during the mid '80's.

29th Jan 2014, 12:47
I was wondering whether this would be better on AH&N (or in the Rotorheads flight manuals thread), but I thought some Rotorheads might like to see these ...

Google has digitized some old US Army operator's manuals held in library collections.

You can download a PDF by clicking the drop-down next to the cog shaped icon (on the right). Google eBooks terms of service apply - they appear on the front page of the downloaded PDF.

OH-6A Operators Manual: Helicopter, Observation OH-6A. - Google Books (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=wHw-AAAAYAAJ&dq=oh-6a%20manual&pg=PP5#v=onepage&q=oh-6a%20manual&f=false)

CH-54B Operators' Manual: Army Model CH-54B Helicopter - Google Books (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=LnE-AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=ch-54+manual&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UwHpUt2fAaS27QbbqIDICw&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=ch-54%20manual&f=false)
What a mighty beast!

UH-1H UH-1H/V Helicopter: Operator's Manual - Google Books (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hHg-AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=ah-1+operators+manual&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fAHpUsnCApOw7AaV1IHIDA&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false)

I found a few others e.g. AH-1S, AH-64A, as well as maintenance manuals.

29th Jan 2014, 18:53
Airfast Australia which grew from its origin as HUPL (Helicopter Utilities Pty Ltd) from whom a few posters here used to work used to do the S58 twinpac conversions in Sydney at their Mascot base. I remember some excitement from some of their staff proclaiming the fact around late 1971 I think it was.

When Airfast Australia went into receivership around mid to late 1975, I assume that was when Airfast Indonesia was split off and set up as its own company. Perhaps the Indonesian outfit inherited quite some tooling then, although I am only postulating. Their journey into receivership was not accompanied with acrimony as they so often are.. I am hazy on dates as I worked for Killen then but not as a direct Airfast employee, in fact he sponsored me my first Helicopter license in early 1974 (private and at that time only $AU2300 worth) so from my point of view he did me a fantastic turn.
At its peak Airfast operated 104 helicopters and some 32 F/W, Even though some of Mr. Killens investments had turned sour its demise was principally brought about by the advent of the Whitlam Labor Govt which in turn immediately precipitated a mass walkout by exploration companies in Australia. Some 57 of airfast helicopters were without work in a time frame of about 48 hours.

29th Jan 2014, 20:20
Bryce Killen gave others a leg up in that way. At Kieta there was Don Hutton who did his CPL H with Buck Ryan (I think) then before going off to Bougainville to do CRA support work did a stint as manager at Eagle Farm of Westernair Navigation that Airfast/HUPL had bought from Barry Kerr.

Don was given free training in return for managerial input.

Don had flown Daks for the RNZAF on the Berlin Airlift. He was
a live-wire with a fund of brilliant anecdotes. Native of Hamilton NZ if I remember rightly. Tried to track him down a few years ago. No go.

TET . .. . . . Arthur Dunn in the Mascot hangar used to give me a copy of the pink sheets that listed where every aircraft in the fleet was. Not that I ever worked there. Just used to take a short cut through the hangar regularly, so got to know Arthur and Frank and a few others. Found Bryce aloof. As though his mind was always off on another planet or scheme. A very dapper chappy tho'.

Nigel Osborn
29th Jan 2014, 22:33
I flew for HUPL from 1968 to 1970 & then part time to 1974. It was a great company to work for & unlike some, they paid me every cent owed plus a bonus for being a good boy!

I think it was Don who was killed when he flew a 206 into the sea off Hayman or Heron Island when some idiots fired off some emergency flares at night. Don & the hotel manager both went to investigate & unfortunately were killed. If it wasn't Don, it was Dave, memory problems!

I believe Bryce put too many money into his cattle station & didn't have enough left over for HUPL. Both the ops in Indonesia & Fiji were sold off; I believe Don may have worked in Fiji for a while.

31st Jan 2014, 21:55


Apologies to change mood, but just silly stuff
since it's Friday - ?

Shamelessly lifted from the HiddenGlasgow forum, a
clip from a promotion about Cumbernauld New Town
from over 30 years back;

At 00:47 G-BAYA Bell 206 PLM arrives in shot.
Crew attire !

Scotland on Screen - Cumbernauld Hit (clip 1) (http://tinyurl.com/p9atrau)


PPRuNe Towers
31st Jan 2014, 23:36
Worth watching to see a legendary fantasy figure for hormone tormented lads back in the day :D:ok:

25th Mar 2014, 16:03

Do you think PLM stood for "please lick mine"

Dennis Kenyon
2nd Apr 2014, 14:26
The topic is 'Nostalgia' .... once described as the 'finest thread ever on PP' so just to bring it back to the front row of the grid and a few questions.

Is the D of W still flying rotary?

Ditto his pilot Ken?

Is the renamed G-TALY still flying?

DK here is verging on old age with retirement bearing down like a Damacles' Sword. How are the other COFs on here coping with the Anno Domini thingy? I'm watching too much TV! DRK

Dennis Kenyon
2nd Apr 2014, 14:36
Oh and for Eons and X thousand hours, I've been crowing I've never had an engine failure. One of your lot pointed the bone last week when a cylinder let go ... big ... but oh so kindly on the Haverford airfield approach. 'Twas Enstrom 1104. Someone up there loves me! DK

John Eacott
2nd Apr 2014, 17:34
DK here is verging on old age with retirement bearing down like a Damacles' Sword. How are the other COFs on here coping with the Anno Domini thingy? I'm watching too much TV! DRK

TV? Dennis, go out and get a motorbike. It isn't the complete substitute for being airborne but it does relieve the tension instead of watching SWMBO doing the gardening ;)

Never enough flying for a true RH, but watch TV as an option? Never!

Sorry to hear that you've finally had an engine failure: why do I get the impression that it would have been a bit of a non-event?

2nd Apr 2014, 18:07
For DK,

Looked up TALY and is still flying as DATR, having just changed from JLEE on 14/03/14 .


Dennis Kenyon
2nd Apr 2014, 18:57
Now, why did I think someone would suggest that John ... its been almost sixty years since I first rode a Speed Twin and then a Tiger 100. Not sure I could stay upright any more so perhaps I should just watch the I of M TT guys on TV! And thanks for the TALY update. Regards to all. DRK.

John Eacott
18th Apr 2014, 10:05
British Pathe have uploaded thousands of early films to YouTube, including The History of the Helicopter (http://britishpathe.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-history-of-the-helicopter-early-helicopter-footage/) along with many others in their account: (https://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe/search?query=helicopters)


This one has memories: Dad was OiC of the Met helicopter trial :cool:


Plenty more to whet your appetite ;)


156mph, and a retractable too:


18th Apr 2014, 15:12
Hi folks,

I'm looking for some information and hoping someone on here could help me out. I know very little about helicopters; I'm an instrument tech that works offshore so I just sit in the back. I'm a keen scale modeller and I'm currently trying to recreate helicopters that have flown in the North Sea for rig worker transport.

At present I'm building a 1/72 scale MBB BO-105 operated by North Scottish circa 1976 - 77. The reg is G-BDYZ (I think there's some photos of her earlier on in this thread). These were used a bit before my time (I'm use to super puma L1 & L2, 225's & S-92's) - from what I'm aware these were used as shuttle aircraft during the early 'hook-up' days and would take 4 pax plus the pilot. My main question and sorry if this is a daft one, but as one passenger would be in the front, would one of the cyclics be removed?
Further to this; any information about the Bölkows operated by North Scottish / Management Aviation would be much appreciated (notes about the interior, seats, boot, colours etc)

Sorry for the long winded question. Thanks in advance for any information.

Thanks and Regards

Nigel Osborn
19th Apr 2014, 04:20
I spent over a year flying the 105 for North Scottish, an excellent company. They were mainly used for inter shuttle work as the workers did 12 hour shifts, so we would swap them at 0600 & 1800 or noon/midnight. We also did some medevacs & flights from Longside or Aberdeen as well as some important staff changes. Fuel load allowing we carried 4 pax, I think the left hand controls were removed, can't remember now!

John Eacott
19th Apr 2014, 07:05

On the Brent Field we had North Scottish Bo105 in their white colour scheme, which was used as a 'taxi' against the BEAS 212 'bus'.

I only passengered in a 105 once, but it was certainly very cramped in the back, and there were no duals in the front. ISTR that there was a liferaft stowed behind the pilot's seat which precluded the use of the right rear seat, limiting the pax to three. This may have been a local requirement, however.

19th Apr 2014, 07:58
It's a legal requirement for duals to be removed if a passenger is carried in a crew seat for a PT flight.

Better not have duals in in case your model gets ramp checked..... ;)

19th Apr 2014, 08:57
Cheers guys :ok: excellent stuff.

When you say no duals in the front does that mean the front 'passenger seat' tail rotor pedals and pitch control lever were also removed or just the cyclic?

Interesting point about the liferaft John. I wondered about this and was just going to role up a ball of milliput, paint it orange a stow it under the rear bench seats, but I'll maybe look a bit further into this. This one will be in the white scheme but I'm hoping to complete a couple more in time (G-BAMF in management aviation colours. G-BAFD in Bond colours, I think this may have been used for lighthouse ops rather offshore oil & gas transport / shuttle. Oh, and maybe another north scottish Bölkow but I the luminous red, almost orange, colour) plenty to keep me busy :ugh:

You mention the 212, I'm hoping to build a couple of these too. In particular G-BALZ in early bristows livery. Some info on the interior of the 212's would be handy :). There are loads of photos available but trying to determine what the seating type and seating arrangement were has proven difficult. When in operation in the UK North Sea would the 212 (specifically G-BALZ) have canvas bench seating with 4 facing aft, another 4 facing front and 2 either side, just next to the doors, facing out wards. Or similar seating arrangement but with more substantial and comfier looking seats with head rests?

BEAS are another operator I was looking into but was quite interested in the alouette II operated by them but for the forestry spreading in the late 60's early 70's. again, plenty to keep me occupied...

Thanks and regards

John Eacott
19th Apr 2014, 10:31
You mention the 212, I'm hoping to build a couple of these too. In particular G-BALZ in early bristows livery. Some info on the interior of the 212's would be handy :). There are loads of photos available but trying to determine what the seating type and seating arrangement were has proven difficult. When in operation in the UK North Sea would the 212 (specifically G-BALZ) have canvas bench seating with 4 facing aft, another 4 facing front and 2 either side, just next to the doors, facing out wards. Or similar seating arrangement but with more substantial and comfier looking seats with head rests?

BEAS are another operator I was looking into but was quite interested in the alouette II operated by them but for the forestry spreading in the late 60's early 70's. again, plenty to keep me occupied...

Thanks and regards

BALZ was operated in the Brent Field by BEAS, so the North Sea scheme would be the Bristow one for 1977 with B.E.A.S. on the tailboom instead of Bristow.

Normal fit for the 4 BEAS 212s were the normal 4 aft facing/5 fwd facing bench seats in the normal Bell grey with a 20usg tank in the port well with two cushion seats, and either another 20usg tank in the starboard well with seats, or a 90usg tank with (obviously) no seats. Initially we had a life raft jammed under the fwd bench seats, but later this was acknowledged to be virtually useless so a Heath Robinson fix had it lashed with a seat belt to the starboard door ahead of the sliding door. In this configuration the liferaft (they all had a yellow cover) was sitting on end and visible through the small window that you can see in the middle of the photo.

Sometimes we had two 90 gallon tanks and only 9 pax seats, but very rarely. This photo of BALZ has the 90usg in the stbd well and the modified tailboom paint job:


19th Apr 2014, 12:35
When you say no duals in the front does that mean the front 'passenger seat' tail rotor pedals and pitch control lever were also removed or just the cyclic?

The rules require that the whole lot should be removed, however the design of some aircraft means this is impossible. I don't know about this specific aircraft type.

19th Apr 2014, 14:32
The only parts of the Bolkow 105 dual controls which were not removable (easily) were the yaw pedals. They were however disconnected from the control run under the floor so were totally ineffective.

As JE says, there was a liferaft strapped behind the pilot's seat but it did not preclude the use of any of the rear seats. Someone just had to sit with their legs either side of it if all three rear seats were occupied. Oh Happy Days flying to the likes of the Capalonga which used to roll like bxxggxry and had a deck crew who always managed to pull one of the rear doors off its runners !


Milktrip, check your PMs


19th Apr 2014, 18:37
If you think that was bad, try a landing on Sevenstones, Channel, or Dowsing light vessels.. :eek:
The Bolkow was probably the only aircraft at the time that could have pulled it off :ok:

John Eacott
19th Apr 2014, 22:22

Thanks for the details on the Bo105 back seat: do you also recall the story of the extra pax in the back off the Capalonga, night, and the photo on finals? ;)

I had a quick head check one night when about to lift with (supposedly) 9 pax for the Capalonga, and saw an extra 2 standing in the 'aisle'. How they got past the deck crew I've no idea :hmm:

We were always so impressed that the Capalonga was 0.1 degree below our B212 pitch and roll limits when landing on her: I could cheerfully strangle whoever gave them our limits. I saw 20 degrees of roll while sitting on the deck once, and isn't there another story of a 105 sliding on the deck and having to get airborne with the cargo doors open?

John Eacott
20th Apr 2014, 07:59
An interesting article about the Capalonga from the Shell Times (http://www.tdgriggs.co.uk/Freelance/Shell%20-%20Viva%20Capalongai.pdf) with a picture of a North Scottish 105 on page three, and a neat photo on approach to the deck on the last page!

Capalonga became the 'Brent fire engine' some time after I was there: it was a diving support vessel only in the mid/late 70s.

20th Apr 2014, 10:49
Spinning! I used to enjoy spinning, so much so that I would use it as a technique to lose height. My last ever, before I went on to rotary, was in a Chipmunk.

Honington, 1964. Our Valiants were being towed away to be scrapped and to keep us in flying practice whilst they sorted out somewhere to send the aircrew the Squadron was issued with a Chipmunk and I was O/C. There was a surprising reticence to take up this facility by the other pilots so I, virtually, had it to myself.

This was an opputunity to get our ground crew airborne as there had been no chance on the Valiant unless you were the aircraft's crew chief. So I was now running a Squadron AEF. I would take one up for about twenty minutes, they would change over in the back and off we would go again. I would let them have the feel of the controls and if they felt like it show them some aeros, progressivly, staring with an airleron roll to loops etc.

I had this one in the back who was as bright as a sparrow. Loads of enthusiasm. Roll, loops, stall turns, every one a winner. I then demonstrated a spin.

Close the throttle, control stick back and on the stall full left rudder. Give it three tuens to develop and then recover. Full right rudder and the stick forward precisely on the Direction Indicator on the instrument panel.

Nothing happened. It kept spinning.

It was now getting quite serious because we were about 3,500 ft and the altimeter was in overdrive. I applied full Pro-spin control to ensure it was in an upright spin as a guard against the unlikely fact that it had gone inverted. Then I again applied full anti-spin.

Three turns later it grudgingly came out. We levelled at 1,200 ft.

My passanger was still full of beans and he was saddened when I told him his time was up (I didn't tell him how close to fact that statement was) and we landed back at Honington.

It was time for a refuel so I shut it down, climbed onto the wing to assist my passengert. He was struggling to get out of the cockpit; not surpisingly because he must have weighed about twenty stones. I hadn't seen him being loaded on as it was a running change and I was negotiating something with ATC at the time.

We were almost certainly at or beyond the aft CofG limit which it why the aircraft behaved the way it did. In my defence we were not informed of any limit on rear passenger weight when I was checked out.

My next spin was in a Puma, but thats another story.

20th Apr 2014, 12:50
Big thank you again guys; I'm sure I'll be back for more info :) nice to read the stories too.

Hugh I've replied to you PM :ok:

Thanks a lot for the info on G-BALZ. Never had the pleasure of visiting the Brents but I could see them on a clear day / night when on the Dunbar. Quite keen to make a start on this kit now.

Cheers again

20th Apr 2014, 21:58
Like John Eacott I seem to remember that the problem with the Capalonga was not landing on her but staying on her. Did she not roll to one side then hesitate before slowly rolling back to the other extremity and doing the same thing? If I recall correctly it was easy to land when the roll reached the mid point but staying on the deck was sometimes something else!

John Eacott
23rd Apr 2014, 08:52

Here's another photo I took which may help your project :ok:http://www.eacott.com.au/gallery/d/3414-1/NS+B-105+02.jpg

24th Apr 2014, 15:32
with the Meteor T7. All I can say about that is that it was an alarming experience

Ours were only permitted to spin when dual. Never solo, student or staff.

The theory was that the weight of two pilots assisted the recovery. One of our Flt Sgt QFIs, that's going back a bit, emphasised the point by pointing at one of our T7s on the line and declaring that there wasn't a problem spinning it when it was an F4. It must have been something to do with the long canopy and still retaining the same fin and rudder assembly.

Our Vampies wer getting a bit tired in 1961 and some of them were a bit warped which was not surprising considering that the wings had to be pushed around by two thin booms. There would be various Red Line Entrys in the book.

'No solo spins.'
'No Solo aerobatics.'
'No spinning.'

Fortunately at the end of 1961 they found a Refurbished Vampire mine so most of our aircraft were replaced. Most of them went to Swinderby when our FTS moved except a couple whose final act was as the backdrop to my Passing Out parade from which they were towed to the dump and scrapped.

Dogs and squaddies love flying. When you have a dog handler come aboard he can't hold the dog back. The best place for a dog is between the pilots so he can see everything that's going on. The most ferocious war dog is like butter when he is there. Initial air experience for sqaddies was a case of throwing it about as much as possible and the next crowd, having seen what had been going on would be shouting for even more.

This attitude came to an end, tragically, at Catterick a few years ago.

25th Apr 2014, 10:51
Thanks John :ok:
During my endless google searches, that was the photo that inspired me to try and build G-BDYZ; I've now accumulated a great amount of info so thanks very much guys.

Regards the 212's John. Thanks again as I started googling things like the 'treasure finder' and found some interesting photos (some appear in here i think) so really keen to make a start on this in the future.


9th May 2014, 15:33
But not at Shawbury, but at RAF High Ercall,

High Ercall was a relief landing ground for Tern Hill whilst it was 6 FTS.
I know, I did my first solo there on 28th November 1960.

The buildings and blister hanger seemed pretty deserted then but it was rumoured that as an MU it used to be the Spitfire Disposal Unit. They were cleaned out of useful things and the airframes were used as infill for some breakwater on the Mersey.

Irt would have finished any flying there when 6 FTS moved to Acklington and CFS(H) took overr in 1961.

Not only civilian pilots flew out of Shawbury. Naughty RAF pilots did to. A friend of mine got himself into somewhat embarassing mire in 1963/64 and was sent over ther until the Air Ministry decided what to do with him.

2nd Jun 2014, 09:56
Very early in the seventies, Aerospatial, as it was called then, wanted to present the AS330 (Puma) onto the civil market. For this the main gearbox had to have a certified TBO well in excess of the 800 hrs. which was the military time expired point. The result was that the French Army offered four Pumas and the Royal Air Force two. The aircraft on our squadron was XW 203 that was just coming up to a gearbox change. This gearbox would continue to fly under very close supervision and the plot was that this aircraft would fly 100 hrs. a month. (shock, horror) The rest of the aircraft would then have to meet the normal flying task.

This wasn't that easy owing to a lot of pilots being detached and especially when the weather socked in. Quite often it would be invisible as it hovered relentlessly in thick fog.

We soon found a use for this freebe taxi.

As mentioned before this was an ideal opportunity to restock freezers, fridges and the wine cellar. Machrahanish for kippers and other goodies and even a foray to Orkney to collect some choice lamb. We had an 'arrangement' with Manston customs where we could be assured of a rapid rotors-running customs clearance when we had a load of German wine from Gutersloh.

It was used for the things as well. Aberdeen still had the UAS and there pan would be occupied by this Puma whilst the pilots discussed their career prospects with the chief pilots of the helicopter operators. One of our groundcrew hailed from some island to the west of Scotland. To save him days of travelling when going on leave a time when the tide was out (Aunty Betty owns all the beach between the high and low water mark) we would drop him off a short walk from his home and subsequently pick him up again. One of the more unusual jobs was moving someone's goods and chattles from Odiham to his new posting.

All good things have to come to an end. XW 203, in a sudden burst of enthusiasm, attempted to carry out a slow roll all by itself just after take off in a field. It didn't manage it, the crew survived with only minor burns, but in the end an undercarriage leg was all that was sticking out of the ashes.

Another aircraft was substituted but this was under a draconian monitoring programme so it wasn't allowed to go very far.

The project must have worked. When I started flying civil 330s the gearbox TBO was 1800 hrs. and with modern monitoring techniques they are way past that.

12th Jun 2014, 21:39
For those interested in such things ex-met Enstrom G-BDKD is flying again after 5 years off!

Life in the old dog yet!


14th Jun 2014, 17:24

You entertained us with you stories about your trusty Bond Three-wheeler.
Sculling around China I was in Chongqing for a few days and the three-wheelers there are still going strong as the Chang An. This one was private but a lot of them were used as taxis.

http://i229.photobucket.com/albums/ee224/fareastdriver/P_20140612_153141_zps2137fda6.jpg (http://s229.photobucket.com/user/fareastdriver/media/P_20140612_153141_zps2137fda6.jpg.html)

The sound footprint suggested that it had a motorcycle engine in the back but as Chongqing is very hilly it can obviously cope with four up.

Where there is a need there is a way

22nd Jun 2014, 13:53
A I mentioned years ago in this thread when we were discussing the Beam Approach I, and many others, flew them at our FTS at Tern Hill with Provost T1 trainers in 1961/62.
They probably shut it down when CFS (Helicopters) took over in early 1962. It was difficult enough to keep a Sycamore or Whirlwind upright during instrument flying, let alone trying to do a self interpreted approach.

23rd Jun 2014, 19:25
During the Confrontation in Borneo in the sixties the HF frequency we used to pass our departure and arrival messages at Kampongs and clearings was jammed with traffic in Viet Nam.
One day a pilot took advantage of a quiet moment to pass a departure message. An American voice came up.
"Getta offa this frequency, don't you know there's a war on?"
To which our hero replied.
"Of course I do, we've got one here too, but we're winning ours."

Robin Jeffery
26th Jun 2014, 22:03
J J M Jeffery, one of the countries first empire test pilots and the first pilot to bring the sakoursky helicopter to Britian, is alive and well and recounting his stories

18th Jul 2014, 08:09
The Ghurkhas were heavily involved during the Indonesian Confrontation. I was once based at a Ghurkha Battalion HQ in the middle of Sabah where dinner was served on the regimental crockery and Tiger beer was consumed in silver goblets.

There was one annual ceremony that I heard about. It would involve the RSM beheading a young bull with one stroke of a five foot kukri and woe betide the regiment if he was not successful.

This required a bull which were in short supply in the sticks so a helicopter was requested. A Navy Wessex was tasked and owing to the obvious dangers of putting it inside it was heavily sedated, strapped into a harness and underslung.

Apparently, it woke up half way there and, seeing the world pass by 1,000 ft. under his hooves, got quite upset. This resulted in his disturbing his aerodynamic qualities markedly resulting in quite violent swinging and twisting.

No; they didn't bin him and send him off to an instant hamburger factory. They hung on to him, a dozen or so Ghurkhas held him down at the other end and that evening he went to the pastures in the skies.

20th Jul 2014, 17:57
Despite having flown in the tropics for some considerable time I have never knowingly had reptiles in the aircraft. In Australia we picked up some really big mudcrabs that had been stunned by heavy naval gunfire and they woke up half back which kept the rear crew on their toes. As far as the cockpit goes I had this one in Borneo. I have posted this before, twice over five years, so some may be familiar with it.

Borneo mid sixties. Operating with a Whirlwind HC1 (S55 with a jet engine to you Americans) on the border with Indonesia. I was flying solo, no crewman, shuttling Ghurkhas rotating from an FOB called Pensiangan to our main base at Sepulot. Loading was simple: Hold up four fingers when you land and four Ghurkhas run in with their kit. One thumps your leg when they are ready and off you go. They tend to collect things so they would carry other packs apart from their army kit so allowing 220lbs each for a Ghurkha base transfer was about right.

I picked up the last stick, only three of them. They had a lot of stuff but weight wasn’t a problem so off I went. I had just settled in the cruise when this gibbon climbed up through the left hand footwell. He climbed onto the seat and looked at me. Not liking what he saw he turned and started to launch out through the port window. Just as he was going out he looked down and realised that he was a thousand feet above the trees so he grabbed the cyclic and pulled himself back in again. Now both of us were looking UP at the trees.

He was now terrified so he jumped for comfort to the nearest human, i.e.me. In a flash he was wrapped round my shoulders and head and trying to strangle me. I got him off and as I pushed him back to the other side two sets of brown hands poked through the floor to recover him. One hand got hold of a leg but little gibbon wasn’t interested. There are lots of things to grab hold of if you don’t want to go out through the floor. Cyclics, collectives, speed select levers, HP cocks and he was having a go at most of them.

There was nothing I could do. I had clamped the collective so I had a hand free to fend off his attentions to the switches and cocks on the centre console. He wasn’t interested in going down and his keeper couldn’t get him down. The only thing I could do was put it on the ground and sort it out then.

There was a clearing with a sandy river bank ahead that I had used before so I set up the descent. As be passed through two hundred the gibbon started to take an interest in the scenery and fortunately the blokes downstairs did too so things calmed down a bit.

It was quite peaceful until we touched down and then the gibbon shook himself free and bolted through the port window. There was a screech as he passed the jet pipe but then he disappeared on all fours into the trees at ten o’clock. Two nanoseconds later a Ghurkha rocketed after him with his Armalite and disappeared into the same trees. I was now stuck. I couldn’t shut down as in Borneo a river can go from zero to twenty feet of water in five minutes and I didn’t have enough fuel to wait very long. After a minute or so I managed to get the attention of one of the other passengers and got him to climb up the side of the aircraft so I could shout at him.

He didn’t speak English so I pointed in the last known position of his mate and held out my hands in a query fashion. He gave me a thumbs up, spun a finger and pointed upwards. I repeated his sign language and he nodded and gave another thumbs up. With that he climbed back into the cabin and thumped my leg to show that they were ready. Not a lot I could do so I took off and flew to Sepulot.

We were living in the Ghurkha officer’s basher so I collared OC HQ Coy and told him what had happened. I described where I had left him but he wasn’t concerned. “He’ll be back tomorrow,” and he was. Complete with gibbon..

21st Jul 2014, 08:04
What did your Gurkha want it for

They were kept as pets. The Ibans, who had lived there since whenever, treat monkeys as a food source. It tastes like a mixture of pork and chicken because I had to dine with a headman once as it was preferable to my head being shrunk. The used either blowpipes or shotguns, both equally accurate, to shoot them down from the trees. When they killed a mother they would keep the infant until it was big enough to eat. If the Gurkhas saw one they would buy it off them and look after it.

When the Gurkhas returned to Nepal the monkeys they had would end up at Jesselton, now Kinabalu. Zoo, where they would eventually be returned to the wild. (Probably to be shot again).

Going back to the old Smith & Wesson; I was issued with one in Borneo, probably the same one as yours. With it came the tatty cardboard box with twelve (1947) rounds. I had been in the Rhodesian Army so I was a dab hand with a shooter but we were getting a new batch of pilots who had gone straight through training without seeing a gun. There wasn't a range at our home base so we were allowed to fire six rounds just before we came back from a forward area.

A fuel drum at fifty yards was the target and none of us could hit it, including me. My last round I fired into the air into wind and I could see the shell going. Something had to be done for my personal safety so I decided to use a ploy I had heard about. Using 9mm. ammunition in a .38 revolver.

To overcome the fact that 9mm. used rimless cartridges against the rimmed variety on the .38 the trick was to run a few turns of thin helicopter blade tape in the recess so it would hold it in the chamber when the hammer hit it. Blade tape was easy, 9mm. ammo not so.

I was taking some Intel people from Pensiangan to a border longhouse called Kabu, sit there for an hour or two and then fly them back. During this period I ask the Intel chap of what the chances of getting some 9mm. was. No problem, he would fix it. When I dropped them off I waited until a Gurkha came along and with a thump deposited a box of 1,000 rounds in the back.

I now had too much but the crewmen were issued with Sterling sub-machine guns that used 9mm. so I was handing out 50 round boxes like Santa Claus. They all had to unload their RAF ammo if they wanted to shoot because if they handed back magazines with shiny rounds in the armourers would know that they had fired the stuff that they had purloined off Montgomery. I then taped up fifty rounds and next day we went down to the fuel drum.

The bullets are about the same size though the 9 mm. case is a looser fit in the chamber. They needed a bit of a push to compress the tape so that the rear face was flush. Just one round; up with the gun, both hands, and fire.

BANG-Berdoing, Fantastic!

A bigger kick because there was more powder but the gun didn't throw at all. I opened the chamber and because it had no rim for the extractor I poked it out with a screwdriver. The chamber looked fine, and a look down the barrel confirmed that was fine too. My crewman then returned from behind a tree.

I loaded up six and off I went; Bang-Berdoing X 6.

Nobody else was interested in doing it for their pistols; something to do with Elfin Safly. I carried the same pistol around for a further six months and must have sent a couple of hundred rounds though it with no problem. It was a bit of a bind wrapping them and then poking them out but in the end I could hit the drum at a hundred yards which is about the maximum range you are ever going to get in the jungle so I felt a lot more secure.

21st Jul 2014, 20:15
One of our pilots shot himself in the foot. He fired the first round and not seeing any effect fired the second. This pushed the first round out of the muzzle and it dropped onto his foot.

17th Sep 2014, 18:24
The flying brevet, when awarded, was provisional for six months. We had a pilot come out to the Far East straight out of the OCU. His record of flying training were full of reviews and minimum passes. We ignored those, and all but a few on the squadron was unaware of the facts. We thought that with a complete change in surroundings and people that he could make a go of it.


He couldn't assimilate anything about the technical and climatic aspects of flying in the Far East as well as anything about the task in hand. We persevered, as best we could, but came the day when he had to do his official categorisation. It was a disaster and so bad that even failing it wasn't considered.

He was an immediate E cat and after a review he ended up in the Education Branch minus his wings.

Not his fault, he should never have been there in the first place, and he admitted it.

19th Sep 2014, 09:21
The Vickers Valiant was an all electric aircraft. Undercarriage, flaps, airbrakes(?) and bomb doors. Even the flying controls were operated by electro-hydraulic units descended from the Frazer Nash gun turret. No problem with locking the bomb doors as one crew found out after a few days on the wazz in the USA on a Lone Ranger.

The battery had gone flat.

You couldn't charge the battery until the battery contactor was made which required battery power and they were in the bomb bay and you couldn't open the bomb bay until you had electrical power.

Eventually after a lot of crawling around underneath the AEO's position the AEO manage to connect a set of borrowed jump leads from a fire truck to the contactor's terminals. This enable the external power to connect to the aircraft and then they could open the doors.

The reason the battery had gone flat was the old chestnut common to cars. They had left the bomb bay lights on when they closed them up for the night.

21st Sep 2014, 14:36
For using the curvature of the Earth to assist a take off you can't beat the old TU 154. They've all gone now but in the Nineties there were a lot flying the routes in China. The only time I flew in one, apart from the almost Victorian décor, was half the overhead locker fronts were missing; something I was used to as it was the same on YAK 40s, no spares.

At Wenzhou our patch was close to the single runway turning area. A 154's undercarriage mainwheels were three wheels in tandem and the screeching and howling from the tyres as they turned it coupled with the visible twisting of the undercarriage bogies was some thing to be experienced.

Noise abatement? forget it; Clean Air Act? forget it; there would be a cloud of decibels and smoke trundling down the runway and when you thought disaster was certain the wings would claw sufficient lift to get it off the ground. Immediate altitude was obtained by raising the undercarriage and the whole show would then disappear behind the trees to reappear in the distant horizon leaving behind a trail of asphyxiated pigs.

They finished at the end of the last century. The last major accident was when one had an autopilot rectification and was released to service without a functional check. The rudder and ailerons actuators had been cross coupled so the aircraft rolled into the ground immediately after take off taking a hundred or so with it. Murphy's Law was widespread in Soviet designed aircraft and after that Chinese aviation went over to Western products. I believe China North West was the last to use them and at Tianjin airport I could see half-a-dozen ex Aeroflot examples that were being used as Xmas trees.

Lots of rumours about Chinese aviation in the eighties and nineties; none of them true. If an aircraft crashed and there were no foreigners on board they just bulldozed over the hole. If an air trafficker caused an accident they would take him round to the back of the tower and shoot him.

At the turn of the century CAAC read the Riot Act to all the Chinese airlines and things improved beyond recognition. Now Chinese Aviation is amongst the safest in the world and I am proud that I was part of that transformation.

23rd Sep 2014, 19:33
The mighty V force would have a trip carrying a 10,000lb inert bomb to simulate the instant sunshine of the time. This consisted of a big tin tube filled with concrete.

On this occasion there was a load thump in the back of the aircraft and the bomb aimer, checking his bombing equipment, realised that the inert had released itself and was sitting the bomb bay doors.

Not wishing to dig a big hole in the UK they were instructed to proceed to Wainfleet range and release it by opening the doors. The barge that was to be the target was identified on the NBS radar and in they came.

The bomb aimer had no idea of the ballistic characteristics of an inert; it was not something they published at the time, so he selected a bomb type 0, i.e. a perfect bomb.

He had the cross hairs on the target and with two minutes to go the bombing computer opened the doors.

They never did find out where it landed.

24th Sep 2014, 10:09
My father flew on a Chinese airliner in the early 1980s. There were two more passengers than seats, which wasn't a problem as they found a couple of deck chairs for them to sit in.

Trip from Shanghai to Wuhan in 1998. Those days if you were flying from Shanghai in the morning you had to book into a hotel by the airport the night before because you couldn't get from the centre of Shanghai in time. Two heavies accompanied me to the check-in and they bulldozed me through the crowd to the front. No seat selection, I got a boarding number, 11, similar to some present low cost airlines.

The boarding of the 727-100 was straightforward enough and I found myself a seat by a window underneath the fin attachment points. I worked on the basis that if we didn't hit something too hard the deceleration rate plus the fifty or so cushions in front of me would make it survivable. Both the seat belt and the ashtray were in place and the lights for them, in Spanish, worked.

We got airborne and as we settled in the cruise the overhead CRTs pivoted down from the ceiling and the flight's entertainment came on.

It was Karaoke.

You could hear the music through the headphones but also the person singing it. Removing the headphones meant that you could only hear the singing which was even worse. I was scrabbling around trying to find some ear defenders, it would have been grossly impolite to stick one's fingers in your ears, but with no success.

I cowered into the corner and resigned myself to the torture. Eventually it all went quiet apart from the air hostess wandering up and down calling 'She yi?'

She yi, I thought, that's eleven in Chinese so I held up my boarding ticket. She then came over and thrust the microphone into my face. I shook my head, "Mayo," (No nothing) I said and immediately about six Chinese jumped on me trying to get hold of my ticket.

At that time Wuhan airport was a joint military/civil airport in the middle of town. Kai Tak was quite spectacular dodging the concrete on the final turn to the runway but Wuhan had it in Spades. Both wingtips were clipping the balconies and at the last moment they retreated to be replaced by the threshold lined with twin engine Xian Y7s in various states of disrepair. The runway was built from large square concrete pourings with tar inlays at the joints and was incredibly noisy and bumpy. I thought for a moment the vibration had shaken the overheads open but it was the passengers starting to retrieve their baggage before the engines' reversing petals had closed.

After disembarking I was escorted the rear of the aircraft where they were unloading the baggage so that I could identify mine. I watched as the baggage was tossed out of the door onto the ground ten feet below and when I saw mine poised I shouted and it was gently lowered down.

I went Wuhan a couple of years later when the Yangtze flooded for the last time. To see rows of PLA soldiers in three ranks, chest deep in water, arms locked together, acting as a human dam to stem the flow of the floodwater through a breach in the dykes so that the sandbags being thrown in could get a grip has left an impression on me for ever.

25th Sep 2014, 19:22
My father was trained in Pensacola with the US Navy. He was fairly old, thirty, but he was an ex-brat. The fact that he was married and had two children was also unusual. My mothers only comment about his time in the States was that he was two left feet on the dance floor before he went but was like Fred Astair when he came back.

He did a lot of his flying on seaplanes. Possibly he was being streamed for Sunderlands in Coastal. He ended up in Coastal but on Met Halifaxs.

29th Sep 2014, 15:15
I had an event with Ray Hanna in May 1978. I was tasked, actually I was running the flying programme and so I put myself on, to do a photographic sortie of JU 52 arriving at Biggin Hill. There is no point in having power if you don't abuse it.

The JU52 was a CASA 252 which, with a collection of Merlin powered He111s and 109s, had been bought off the Spanish Air Force. The plot was to have a film of the Tante Ju and a Spitfire in formation. I went to Biggin, met Ray, had a look over his Spitfire and we waited for news of the Junkers which was en-route from Spain.

Nobody knew where it was. It had been reported over Ashford so we decided that I, having stacks of fuel would launch and look for it. So my Puma HC1 helicopter became the last RAF aircraft to attempt to intercept a WW II Luftwaffe aircraft.

I picked it up after about fifteen minutes, head on with that peculiar undercarriage dangling underneath. The Spitfire was scrambled and I slotted echelon port to the 52. The camera crew the started to get to work and then Ray and his Spitfire formatted the other side. Not without difficulty because the Junkers was only doing about 110 knots and I don't know how a Spitfire handles in formation, flapless, at that speed.

The JU 52 was shaking like a corrugated iron roof in a gale. His port No1 engine was apparently getting bit hot so No2 in the middle was working overtime to keep the show going. However we got our pictures and then we left the Junkers behind and there was a session with just the Spifire tucked in. He found it a lot easier at 145 knots.

It was my last operational day flying in the RAF. A few days later I flew a Puma to my children's school in Kempshott and after that it was the North Sea.

I think that the Junkers (CASA) ended up in the SAA museum at Zwartcop.

5th Oct 2014, 08:50
The G limits on a Spitfire were probably +6 to -3 in normal operation. That seemed to be the range for most aircraft immediately post war. Both the Meteor and the Vampire had G meters with the needles set at that. They could go further, +8 personally, but without a G suit prolonged G of +5 or above would induce greying.

IIRC the Vampire, which had a more aerodynamic wing than the Meteor, would G stall at about 220knots with 6 G applied. I forget what the speed was at 8.

5th Oct 2014, 12:49
I’ll put this post in to keep it running until Danny catches his breath as he asked me for some more stories from China.

Tanggu, China, end of 1996. I am running a single aircraft operation supporting an exploration rig operated by an American company in Bo Hai Bay. That is the circular bit of water between China and Korea. I am using a British registered AS332L and I have a Chinese FO and three British engineers. Our helipad is in the middle of the Navy section of Tanggu dockyard. Also on site is a sister company Chinese Harbin Z-9 (licence built Aerospatial Dauphin) servicing a Chinese operated rig. They have six pilots, a raft of engineers plus the heliport supporting staff.

Tanguu is the port where Very Large Colliers transport coal from China to feed Japanese industry. The railway does not go to the docks themselves as the Imperial Canal gets in the way so on the roads between the railway and docks there is a constant stream of lorries transporting coal. Occasionally one would see a convoy of Peoples Liberation Army’s truck on the streets doing the same thing, identifiable by their colour and also the white background number plates that denote a military vehicle.

They are doing this for money. The Army were wet leasing their trucks to balance the military budget. All over China high end apartment complexes and blocks have 24 hour security guards; these are also PLA soldiers hired out. Once a month I would lean over my balcony rail and watch a PLA drill sergeant put them though their monthly drill session. So it was with our transport. We had the use of a Hyundai Sonata plus driver which belonged to the Chinese Navy; again with the white number plates.

Normally I would be driven to work wearing casual shirt and slacks with my anorak over the top. One day I was going to meet a company rep so I put on my UK uniform, black with the four gold rings on the sleeves. When we arrived at the dockyard gate the rating that opened saw me and held the gate open and saluted me as I went past. That afternoon no only did the gateman give me a salute so did two other outside the guardroom door.

The next day I felt that it would be a shame just to be an anorak again so I put my uniform on. This time they turned out the guard! I then flew my trip and on my return my engineers mentioned that there had been some Navy people talking to the heliport staff. I was pretty sure it was about me so I wondered what the penalties were in China for impersonatning a naval officer. I needn’t have worried. When I was driven out there were no salutes; no turning out of the guard; just a surly slamming of the gates behind us. I

5th Oct 2014, 13:07

I think that is true. I can remember reading somewhere that he could pull a lot more than others. I feel sorry for his aircraft though.

When I brought my Vampire back with +8 on the clock it went in for an overstress check. On the Vampire there were struts called jury struts that bridged between the main spar and fuselage. Should the wings bend too much these would indicate it. Mine were all right, that is why I was a pilot for so long.

After I had graduated the FTS was replaced by the multi engine FTS using the Vickers Varsity. Solo qualified pilots would have a junior course student as a co-pilot. One day in the bar one of these junior pilots let slip the news that he had been in a Varsity that had been barrel rolled by a senior student.
Investigations immediately started and the aircraft and date was established. An inspection of the aircraft revealed rippling along the top surface of both wings. Despite this the aircraft had been serviced and flown for nearly a month.

There were no such things as jury struts on Varsities, why? so it had to be towed to the breakers. CRM was unknown then so the co-pilot got off Scot free, I don't know what happened to the captain.

7th Oct 2014, 15:53
Hands up all those who have been on a Chinese Air Base……………No, I thought not.

There was a requirement by an oil company to survey a exploration rig. It was located the other side of Bo Hai and we could not carry enough fuel to go there and back with the necessary diversion fuel. We could have flown to the rig and then carried on to Dalian but it would have taken a long time. Our sister company organisers came up with Shanghaiguan, a Chinese Air Force base on the northern coast.

Shanghaiguan is where ‘The Dragon Drinks From the Sea’, or where the Great Wall ends on the coast. When the peasants revolted and in 1644 overran Beijing the Ming Emperor Chongzen committed suicide by hanging himself. His general Wu Sangui open the gates at Shanghaiguan and let in the Manchu army. Emperor Shunzhi of the Manchu then became the first Emperor of the Q’ing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China.

We launched up the coast to the base. They had an ILS but my FO explained that it was only switched on in bad weather. We landed, taxied past rows of Nanchang Q-5s and were then marshalled onto a spot.

I will not go too deep describing what I saw for three reasons:
1. I was their guest and it would be inappropriate to disclose anything that may have been confidential.
2. At the turn of the century there was a massive overhaul of the PLA’s T&Cs to recruit and retain the calibre of personnel required for an increasingly technical and sophisticated service.
3. I have a long term multi-entry Chinese visa and I want to keep it.

We had a small crowd around us and one of them had gone to college with my FO. This meant that he, and the other pilots, spoke English as well as he did. The fuel bowser was old, our company had scrapped the same type, 6 cyl side valve motor, a couple of years before, but it was immaculate and they did a water check of the fuel before me. I had all the pilots in the cockpit, Flight Directors, GPS, twin channel autopilot and weather radar was unknown to them. I did not ask to have a look at a Q-5. I knew that they would have to refuse and I wanted to save them the embarrassment of doing so. We then went to their mess for some refreshment.

The station surroundings were plain enough. As normal, with my previous experience of Chinese bases, no hangers. Some aircraft appeared to be used continually with others parked with full wing and fuselage covers.

The officer’s mess was a bit Spartan. It seemed to consist of little more than an ante room and a dining hall, the accommodation being huts out at the back. As usual with any conversation with Chinese the question would come round to how much I was paid so I told them. The ripple of jaws hitting the floor was something to behold. It was established that the equivalent of a Fg. Off. was paid about 350 yuan a month. As a comparison I paid my housekeeper 200 yuan to come it five mornings a week. 350 yuan at that time was just over £23. However, poorly paid or not all of them were saying how proud they were to be in the Air Force and serve the people.

We said our goodbyes and departed. Immediately after takeoff I flew over the coastal fortress which was the end of the Wall. The wall itself had been quarried, leaving a continuous earthen mound and in the distance you could see the ruined towers climbing up the hills.

The rig was a disaster. Chinese owned and operated it had had zero maintenance since they had bought it. None of the fire extinguishers or the refuelling kit worked and down below the plastic floor coverings in the corridors had worn through to the steel decking. I was quite glad when they had finished and we flew back to Tanggu.

A week or so after that we came to the end of the contract. I used what remained of my cash float to hire a couple of taxis and take my engineers to see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. After a night out at Beijing Hard Rock we returned and the next day started preparing to fly the aircraft right across China back to Shenzhen.

8th Oct 2014, 19:06
Whilst we were living it up in Beijing First Officer Wang, with a senior pilot from China Ocean Helicopter Corp, our sister company, was in Tanjian airport planning our return. The plot was that we would fly to Zhangxiaoji to refuel, continue on to Shanghai, refuel again and then carry on to Wenzhou were COHC had another operation. There we would night stop. The next morning, Wang would remain and First Officer Jing would fly with me to Shenzhen.

It was January, 6th Jan 1997 to be precise and Northern China was in the middle of winter. The temperature overnight would drop to minus 15 and in the morning it would rocket up to about plus 2. My engineers were coming with me so after the goodbyes we punched orft daun sauf.

There is no such thing as general air traffic in China. A minimum of twelve hours notice is required and one always flies airways under IFR. We climbed just south of Tianjin and we joined the airway at our allocated height of 2,500 metres, approx, 8,200 ft, which was the minimum flight level going south. The temperature at that height was about -5 but as the Siberian High was established there was no cloud up to that level. The scenery was miserable; miles and miles of paddy as far as one could see, all in orderly rectangular pattern.

After a couple hours or so the cloudbase dropped and we started to run into streaks of status. The reaction of the centre windscreen, unheated, was instantaneous and it immediately fogged out with ice. This was followed by the mirror supports and the door hinges building up wedges of the stuff. Poor old Wang was having kittens. He, with his fellow students, had been listening with horror to their Chinese Navy instructor reeling off the horrors and the certain death that icing would bring to helicopters. Which I thought was strange, as they were taught on Russian designed helicopters that were built for blundering through the tundra. I wasn’t worried, this was peanuts compared to the North Sea and the aircraft, still in North Sea fit, had all the gizmos; ice detectors, mirrors to check the intake chip baskets, etc etc. To make him feel better I splashed some water onto my flying glove, stuck it out of my window where the water immediately froze. I then brought it in and flicked my fingers to show how easily the ice came off. Relieved he came back from the cockpit roof and carried on with his navigating and I surreptitiously shoved my hand between my backside and the seat cushion to try to get some feeling back in my fingers.

We then had our clearance to descend towards Zhangxiouji. This was a small military airfield in the middle of absolutely nowhere. As we taxied in Wang was discussing something with ATC and merely said there was a problem. As we shut down everybody was staring at us with open mouths. We had flown with a COHC callsign and the last thing they had expected was a British registered aircraft with a Western captain. The ‘problem’ was fairly serious. Wang had filed, and it had been accepted for the days flying, but Zhangxiouji had not received the onward flight plan.

I left my engineers to sort out the refuel and I stood, ankle deep in air traffic’s dog-ends in the tower. Wang was on the blower trying to sort something out and I had a look around. Apart from the ATC staff there seemed little evidence of any military activity. At the end of the building there were two rows of H-5 (il26) bombers in an advanced state of disrepair and behind them were a clutch of Shenyang J-5s (Mig 17) in a similar condition. It indicated that it may have been a training base once upon a time but they had moved on. On the near horizon was what I took to be the local town. Bleak, grey, with few buildings above two floors. I thought that if we had to night stop here we would be lucky to find 0.5 star hotel, if at all.

Wang struck lucky! Shanghai would not accept us because of the twelve hour rule but Changzhou would. We might not be able to get any further but at least it was civilised. Without further ado, because there were no catering facilities and we were dying of starvation, we got airborne.

Changzhou was a mixed military and civil airport. Something I found out as I taxied past a row of H-5 (Tu-16) bombers. The aircraft were immaculate, as was the ground equipment; even the wheel nuts had been painted. I turned on to the hardstanding and there was one of the prettiest terminal buildings I had ever seen. It was built like a Chinese pavilion with flying ridges and in front was a moat with bridges to the gates. We decided to have lunch whilst the going was good and after a ridiculously cheap repast in a beautiful restaurant we went up to the tower to see what the state of play was.

Shanghai wasn’t playing ball and because they controlled the airway halfway to Xiamin we could not cross that either to get to Wenzhou. We spent the afternoon trying various combinations to get to Wenzhou but they were all blocked by the 12 hour rule. At about five I decided that we were going to have to night stop and just after the engineers had gone out to put the blade socks on we got a call from ATC saying we were clear to go.

Shanghai had just got our original flight plan from Tianjin. We couldn’t go to Shanghai, we didn’t need to, but they did give us clearance to fly IFR through their Area. By the time we had ascertained that Wenzhou would be open at our ETA it was dark when we took off and this time with the mountains the minimum level was 3,000 metres, just over 9,800 ft. There was a long discussion with Shanghai control. He thought a 332 was an Airbus and he was trying to push us up to 7,000 metres. When he was corrected he could not believe that a helicopter was flying at that height, IFR and at night.

I thought about it to myself as well. In the RAF the maximum height without oxygen was 10,000 ft and on the QNH we were above that. Also we weren’t supposed to fly above 4,000 ft at night.

We were having to change our squawk quite often, more for identification than any other reason. Our track was taking us across the westerly routes from Shanghai and pointing directly at Taiwan. Apart from that it was uneventful until we were handed over to Wenzhou.

They wouldn’t answer. Wang then got on to the HF and started talking to the company ops in Shenzhen. They phoned the operation in Wenzhou and they confirmed that the airfield was all lit up. I pressed on and joined the procedure for the ILS and to my relief the ILS kicked in. At about five miles the runway lights started appearing from the gloom and still with no contact with the airfield I landed and turned off to the company hardstanding. After a few minutes all the airfield lights went out. I subsequently found out that all the air traffickers had gone home leaving a minion to turn out the lights after we had landed.

Two of the COHC engineers had British licences so they would look after the aircraft whilst I and my engineers checked into the airport hotel. It was farewell to Wang as he would stay in the company hotel down the road. It was too late for the hotel restaurant so we went to the ‘Garages’ by the airport entrance.

The Garages were a row of open fronted shop units now used as chop houses. The menu was simple. There was a table with all the raw materials they had laid out and you went from one to the other pointing out what you wanted cooking. Simple wooden tables and chairs were the furnishings and outside the single door at the back was the midden. That was where you treated the rats to a warm shower. The last time I had been there about a year previously we were entertained by a mother rat chasing her brood across the floor and carrying them back to her nest under the freezer. The food was, as before, brilliant and we retired for the night.

I have already posted, possibly on this thread, the next day’s flight down to Shenzhen. I can’t find it, off hand, but if anybody know where it is it would save me having to compose it again.

9th Oct 2014, 20:35
I have found the post from about a year ago. It was an abbreviated version so this time you are going to suffer the whole hog.

I had flown from Wenzhou to Shenzhen before. Down the airway to Xiamin for lunch and onwards via Shantou, where we would leave the airways and proceed directly to out heliport. The Chinese engineers had done the after flight and had valeted the aircraft. I had decided that wearing my best uniform with all the gold rings would create the best impression at airports so I travelled in that. Jing and I, my engineers plus a Chinese engineer who was returning to Shenzhen then took off in this gleaming jewel of an aircraft.

The airways south of Wenzhou are quite severe as you are passing Taiwan. Defections were always the risk; an Air China captain had taken his 737 there about the same time and it was absolutely imperative to fly along the centre line. Any deviation to the east would raise a warning and any further divergence would make you the centre of attraction of the PLAAF. The Chinese airliners, at that time not equipped with satnav, would ensure that they were flying along the western side of the airways always secure in the knowledge that their male air stewards were armed.

There is a ridge of mountains down the East coast of China cut by rivers draining the hinterland. The flat areas were put over to paddy but once the ground started rising the ripples of terracing would show. The airway did not go direct to Xiamin owing to proximity of Taiwan and also the Nationalist held island just offshore so you passed abeam, turned towards the airfield and entered the procedure.

Xiamin used to be known by Europeans as Amoy. It is where Hakka is spoken and where the Chinese in Singapore hail from. It was one the first four Special economic Zones it had prospered to an outstanding degree. Now it is regarded as one of the best cities to live in China. The airport was magnificent, even more so now, and after confirming our onward flight plan we retired for lunch.

Because we were carrying a Chinese engineer it was now an official CHOC flight. This meant that Jing had a big wad of cash to cover expenses en-route, especially lunch. Comments like, ‘that’s no good, it’s not expensive enough’ were banded about. We didn’t go overboard but I did enjoy my lobster. After lunch we gathered together and went to the aircraft. We called up Xiamin Ground for start clearance; it was refused, there is a delay.

We tried again in ten minutes with the same answer. Not having a ground power unit plugged in Jing and I left everybody in the aircraft and went up seven flights to the air traffic control room. It was explained to us that the PLAAF had called a no notice exercise and all the airspace over Shantou below 5,000 meters was closed.

It wasn’t new. I had been stuck offshore for hours because my return airspace had been shut off by some exercise or other. However, they had always finished at 17.00 hrs because it was time for dinner. On that basis I expected to leave at that time so I went back with some more of Jing’s money and dispatched then to the terminal restaurant.

It was tactful to stay in the tower and the staff took the opportunity to practise their conversational and procedural English on me. There were quite a lot of them. They were controlling arrivals, departures plus the airways traffic from Wehzou to Shantou. They seemed to work in staggered thirty minutes shifts, retiring to the back of the room for a chat and a drink. Occasionally there would be a rapid changeover of seats when an aircraft came on frequency requiring an English speaking controller. Like all offices, workplaces and sometimes cockpits in China at the time visibility was fairly restricted in cigarette smoke.

We kept badgering away trying to get a clearance but the PLA were having none of it. It was now getting late and the spectre of yet another possible night stop was appearing. Our gallant band had returned optimistically to the aircraft and we went down to appraise then of the situation. The Chinese engineer was more concerned as he was returning to Shenzhen because his father was ill. There was a long conversation between him and Jing ending with Jing handing him a wad of money.

I thought nothing more of it and we went back up to the tower. It was now past 18.00 hrs and still no sign of the airspace being opened. In fact ATC were sure that it was going to be closed all night. I was just about to call it a day when our Chinese engineer came in with a slab of Coke and a carton of Marlborough. Jing took them off him and started handing them around the room. Five minutes later the one I assumed was SATCO came in with an enroute chart with a track pencilled in direct from Xiamin to a Shenzhen approach procedure entry point. This was apparently a ‘special route’ that had been cleared for us to use. Jing worked out the times, we put in the flight plan and twenty minutes later we launched into the night.

I have no idea what the scenery was like. It was dark and there were not a lot of lights. The dinners that COHC had treated the staff of Shenzhen ATC paid off. We undertook two or three scheduled arrivals followed by an ILS to the runway with a go around to 200 metres, then visual to the heliport.

Fortunately the heliport was situated between the Shenzhen to Guangzhou expressway and the Shenzhen Nantou eight lane connecting road. It made the unlit runway easier to find, assisted by Epsom who had a big illuminated sign on the roof their factory near the eastern end of the runway. The aircraft landing lights picked up the rest and we taxied in as the night shift came out of the hanger. It had been assumed that we were night stopping at Xiamin so everybody had gone home.

The offices were open and a look at the accommodation roster indicated that I was allocated 6-4 Hai Fei, an apartment we rented. The engineers had found our driver and we all bundled in to return to Shekou. We normally lived two to an apartment so I expected my sharer to be there. He wasn’t, so I couldn’t get in. I knocked up next door and a Chinese family answered. I explained with sign language as best as I could that I did not have a key and would they look after my bags whilst I found it. They seem to agree I and I left them there confident that I hadn’t asked them to help themselves to the contents.

We always had a standbye pilot so I went to his apartment and he didn’t have the keys but he did know I had the place to myself. There were only a couple of people left who would have the keys so I had to find them. There were not a lot of places to go to at that time of night in Shekou apart from the ‘dark side’. There then followed the spectacle of an airline pilot in full regalia going from girly bar to girly bar looking for somebody who had his keys and I had lots of offers.

I found my chief pilot in one of the lower temperature establishments and he had a set of keys for me. Back to the apartment building, next door gave me my kit back and I had finally arrived.

First Officer, now Captain Wang is the Chief Pilot at the Shanghai Search and Rescue Operation. First Officer, now Captain Jing is a Senior Pilot and Training Captain at Shenzhen.

Both of them are worth their weight in gold.

14th Oct 2014, 12:38
As I mentioned in a previous post I witnessed the transformation of Chinese aviation from an organisation that Hong Kong CAA advised us not to fly on to one of the worlds leaders in air safety. They have done this by studying and incorporating western standards of operation and, as in my case, using western personnel to supervise and train to that standard.

My experience on fixed wing was limited as a passenger. I have already mentioned the Shanghai Wuhan flight. On another with a Yak 42 I opened the overheads to put my bag in and you could see the frames and stringers. When I exited the door at my destination I looked along the fuselage and you could see the lumps sticking out where hard cases had been thrown in. On one occasion departing Luzhou before the terminal was built the hardstanding was by the end of the runway. The cabin attendant had given her passenger brief and was proceeding up the aisle checking seat belts when the captain opened the taps for takeoff whilst he was in the turn for line up so she ended up on my lap. I thought the safest thing for her was for me to hold on to her. She struggled for a second but came to my way of thinking, (partially) and stayed there until we were established in the climb. Nowadays that couldn’t happened as on my travels around China this year the service has been excellent. Sometimes the passengers aren’t the best behaved in the world but for millions such an experience is still new.

So it was with our pilots. When I first arrived the Chinese pilots were experienced ex military pilots. My operation was effectively run by a British company (Bristow) to North Sea standards because the oil companies were mainly American and they demanded that assurance. (There’s gotta be white eyes up front) There soon reached a stage where the better English speaking pilots were entitled to command the aircraft and at that time they were all British registered. The company then brought them to the UK where they went though the entire procedure to obtain CAA ALTP(H)s. This would be hard going for anybody but especially so for someone to whom English is not their first language. This was accepted by the relevant oil companies with good grace and then the Chinese company bought their own aircraft. They were the same type, but different instruments, because at the time all Chinese aircraft had dials in metres and kilometres. To maintain flexibility that meant the British pilots had to get endorsements by the Chinese CAA (CAAC). This lasted for over a decade until CAAC decided to go with the rest of world and insist on a Chinese licence after six months. Fortunately the examinations were in English.

The ex-military first officers without a working knowledge of English were not so fortunate and they continued as second dicky. It also meant that you had to have an interpreter on board. At that time all ATC was in Chinese so you asked the interpreter to ask your co-pilot for a clearance. There would then be a prolonged conversation with air traffic and eventually you may get the clearance you requested. I had one of the captains with me and we were discussing an island that had an old military block and a helipad, long disused. He said the when he was in the Navy he used to fly there. It was established that whilst he was in the Navy he achieved about 1,000 hrs over fifteen years, and most of that is what he called training. In the PLA a pilot is under training until he gets command and that includes years as a co-pilot.

We had a new batch of first officers in 1995. They were trainee Navy pilots just past their graduation stage. We needed them because of the requirement to speak English, now becoming a CAAC requirement. With them I was fireproof because I was in my late fifties and age is still one of the major triggers for respect in China. I had trained with Chinese of the RMAF way back when and I had also spent three years in Singapore so I was familiar with the Chinese way of thinking and doing things. There is also the problem of Face. They are not happy when they are told they are doing something wrong without realising it. I found that the best way of correcting them when we were proceeding to certain disaster was to suggest a course of action in such a way that they would think it was their idea. I could let it go quite a long way because at that time I had over 10,000 hrs offshore and 7,000 hrs on that particular type.

They were, however, taught to fly by numbers and what we had to instil into them was co-operation and initiative. When they were released to the Chinese captains they soon found out the difference between the captains who had British licences and North Sea experience compared with the old dogs. However they were retiring and eventually we were left with just the Bristow trained ones.

As time went by I arrived at sixty and retired from the operation. I flew contract in Aberdeen and whilst I was there some of our new co-pilots came for the British licences and NS experience. In 2004 I went back for a social visit and discovered that CAAC would respect a British licence up to the age of sixty five. Coincidentally one of the Bristow pilots had had a argument in a bar, clocked the bar owner and decided that the healthiest thing to do was to leave the country. They were now one pilot short. About a week later I was back in Hong Kong renewing my medical and then I was back on line.

Six months later I was sixty five, my public transport qualification ceased so the same problem came up again. We had an Australian training captain who suggested I go to Australia and get an OZ licence because they last for life. We checked with CAAC and they stated that they would respect an Australian licence so on this I went to Perth After lots of ducking and weaving I got an Australian licence, came back to China and got a Chinese endorsement. Having an OZ licence meant that when it was slack in China I could fly for Bristow (Aus) and that I did. Having extensive military experience I could fly for them in the Solomon Islands on their RAMSI contract. I could also fly for them on the oil support in Karratha.

Over the time from 1998-2006 I was flying contract for Bristow. When I was flying a in China over sixty five I was not allowed to fly a British registered aircraft so I was restricted to the now majority Chinese aircraft. This gave rise to the situation that I was being paid by a major British helicopter company but I was not permitted to fly their aircraft. The situation changed in 2006 when the CAAC demanded that all pilots should get a Chinese licence. This I did and shortly after that Bristow pulled out of China.

There were four of us working in China at the time and COHC offered us contracts we could not refuse to continue with them. I flew with them as commander for a further eighteen months and my last flight on 9th Nov 2008 was three weeks short of the 48th anniversary of my first solo on the 29th Nov 1960 at High Ercall, a place Danny knows of.

The foreign pilots fell off and retired as time went by, the last leaving in March this year. I have been back to see them, the last time this year. They now have three times the work ands three times the aircraft than before. Their new pilots are now trained at the Bristow College in the United States, the Chinese military need their now very highly trained expensive personnel for themselves.

19th Oct 2014, 14:42
There is another thread going on about flying training in the sixties but if the Mods let me I will put it in Danny's empire to keep it going.

I was working for the Bulawayo Chronicle when I saw an advert in the Salisbury Herald for Royal Air Force pilots. I had always wanted to join but I left school in England just as Duncan Sandys had chopped it up. My father had just left the Royal Air Force and had gone to live in Rhodesia so I decided to follow them. I wrote off and then I hitchhiked up to Salisbury for the interview with the RAF Air Attaché. I was turned down as a pilot because of something called ocular divergence with my eyes but I was offered a navigator position. My father, a long time Air Force pilot advised me that if one was to be killed in an aeroplane then one just may as well be flying it. On this I wrote to them and said that I would try and get my eyes sorted and try again.

This I did. I used a card that was supposed to stop my eyes crossing an after a month I was OK. I then told Salisbury and I went up for another interview.

I signed the dotted line for a Direct Commission Scheme 'B' in April 1960 out there and was then flown to Nairobi courtesy of a Central African Airways Dakota. Soon after take off there was a mad rush as the cabin attendant carried luggage from the back of the aircraft to the front. On arrival at Nairobi I was met and then driven to Eastleigh and put up in the transit block for three days. Finally I was put aboard a British Commonwealth?? Britannia and flown to Gatwick.

Eastleigh had given me a railway warrant to Cirencester and eventually I arrived at South Cerney. I presented myself to the guardroom to be informed that everybody was away on Easter Grant seeing that it was Good Friday. They did not have transit accommodation for officer cadets so eventually I was given a railway warrant back to London where I would shack up with my grandparents.

I arrived at about 10.p.m. and I couldn't knock them up. Being in their eighties they had switched off their deaf aids when they went to bed. Another two mile hike and fortunately my aunt was up and I stayed there.

Tuesday came and back to Cirencester but this time there was a bus waiting for us at the station, a 32-seat flat-fronted Bedford one, which was only ever made for the British armed forces. I got in with the rest and as we negotiated the narrow streets of Cirencester I had a look at what were to be my companions for the next few months. Seventeen and a half was the minimum age, this allowed six months to enable them to get their basic training in before they reached the legal age to be killed. Most of them seemed to be about that age apart from a couple of older men who were NCOs who had been selected for commissioning. Some of them knew each other from the Aptitude and Selection Centre at Biggin Hill and they were comparing notes on who had passed and who had failed. I was lucky. When I joined the Air Force in Salisbury I was assessed by the Rhodesian Air Force and they didn’t go into crossing crocodile infested rivers with two oil drums and four planks. All I did apart from the basic intelligence test was to go through a book of instrument panel pictures and write down what the aircraft was doing. My father had given me loads of flying experience in my youth; I could synchronise four Hercules on a Halifax before I could ride a bike, so this was fairly straightforward. One youth was quieter than the rest. Apparently his elder brother had focussed his whole life on being a pilot in the air force. When his brother applied he had applied too just for the hell of it. His mad-keen brother failed and he had passed.

We left the town itself and I recognised the road to South Cerney. The same snowdrop was at the guardroom window; he was probably welded to the floor. The bus swept passed Station Headquarters and stopped outside No 1 Barrack Block. A sign outside solved one mystery, I was on No 154 Course. The door opened and everybody started to file into the building. This was different! When I did my Rhodesian national service we had to line up and get shouted at for at least five minutes before we could go inside anywhere. The two NCOs and I were last in. The barrack block was standard 1937 Expansion period. Two floors with one large barrack room either side with the washroom and toilets on the landing halfway up the stairs. This allowed half a floor, which was plenty, underneath for the central heating boilers. The ground floor room on the left was used as the admin centre. Sitting behind two desks were a couple of flight lieutenants and prowling behind them was a squadron leader with whom I took an instant dislike. It took about two minutes to establish that we were being called in alphabetical order so I had a long wait.

More to follow if anybody is interested.

20th Oct 2014, 18:42
Surprisingly there were still four others waiting when I was called. The flight lieutenant who called me was an Australian or New Zealander, as I could tell by his accent. This did not surprise me. A lot of my childhood had been in married quarters so I knew the RAF had a very high proportion of foreign and Commonwealth aircrew. My file was thinner than the others were, there was no blow by blow accounts of how dodged crocodiles in mine. It just had a brief summary from the RRhAF and my army discharge paper.
He went through them twice. “What education have you got?”
“Six O levels,” I answered, which was true. I had taken my O levels in two different terms and I had the certificates for the first three but the others had never caught up with me, so I could only prove that I had three.
“What was your Rhodesian service like?”
“Six months basic training plus four reserve call-ups; one of them was the Nyasaland Emergency.”
He looked at me closely. “Was your father in the Air Force at Heany?”

This was the initial time that I went to Rhodesia in 1950. The Empire Air Training Scheme was in full swing then and a large proportion of pilots were trained in Rhodesia and Canada to relieve the overcrowding in the UK. My father had been posted out there and we went with him. The days of the old Union Castle liners taking two weeks to sail from Southampton have now, sadly, passed but as a result of that three years later when my father subsequently retired in 1957 he went out there again. I followed him shortly after, which is why I ended up doing my Rhodesian national service.
“Yes,” I said, “4 FTS.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I must be getting old, I remember you as a little kid.”
He looked down again. “I don’t have to tell you that you will still be liable for British National Service if you fail this course because you coming from the Commonwealth you will not. Being Rhodesian Army you won’t be crying for your mummy either. Follow the signs to stores and draw you kit, there is a corporal there who will tell you what you need.”

It was a very efficient system in stores. I was one of the last, but there was no queue. There was a long desk with half-a-dozen airmen behind.
“Shirt size?”
“Fifteen and a half.”
Crump, two woolly airman shirts and two officers pattern shirts with separate collars.
“Shoe size?”
Thud, one pair of boots and one pair of airman shoes. The ones handing out underclothes and socks used the called sizes as a guide and thumped them down beside them. A pile of standard items, tie, towels and a button stick. One thrust a beret towards me, I tried it on and it fitted. The other hand produced a cloth officer badge and a white felt disk. “You’ll have to sew that on”.
I went into the next room. That was where the contract tailor was. He ran a tape round my chest and down my leg.
“Thirty six long.”
Out came an officer pattern No1 uniform and a standard blue serge battledress. I took off my jacket and trousers and put on the No 1. The jacket was fine but the trousers were deliberately too long anyway. Three steps onto a platform and the tailor marked off the bottom of the legs. I tried on the No2 battledress. They were made to size so it fitted all around but By Christ it itched. Serge was the material used for all working clothes for all three services and it was chronic stuff. Rough on the inside and outside it used to rub red marks into your thighs, never kept it’s shape and when it got wet it would stretch and take days to dry. A greatcoat was handed out; it fitted over the battledress. A white webbing belt. I looked at the brasses, they were brand new.
“Have you got one with old brasses on?” I didn’t want to spend a week buffing new brasses down.
“Yes, you’re lucky.” He passed over another one. I flicked it inside out and looked at the end hooks. They had been cleaned all right but whoever had had it before hadn’t polished the holes. Never mind it could be worse. A white canvas band was handed to me. I looked at it puzzled.
“That’s to go around your SD hat when you get it.”
I was then informed my No1 uniform would be ready in a week and I was to take my kit back to the block.

Our room was on the ground floor opposite that previous meeting place. There was no allocation of beds and of the few that were left I found one half-way down the right. The sheets and blankets were already folded on it and beside it were a chest of drawers and a two-foot wide wardrobe. This was luxury. In my army block a bed and a narrow locker was all that you got. Any other kit was stored in another room. I dropped my case on the bed and looked around to try and see what the score was. No.153 Course lived upstairs and a handful of them who knew some of the new arrivals were chatting as they unpacked their possessions. It became apparent that everything you had went into your own furniture. Not only that but once you had made your bed it stayed made until you changed the sheet, there was no folding it into a bedpack in the morning. I unloaded everything I had and shoved the case under the bed. I looked at the floor. Gratefully I saw that it hadn’t been bulled in living memory.

to be continued............

21st Oct 2014, 17:47
The sound of activity at the door. In walked the two flight lieutenants, the squadron leader and behind them was the station commander. I, the two NCOs and the members of No153 course stood to attention. There followed a hesitant shambling to their feet as the others followed suit. The CO had an artificial leg and used a stick to get around. Four rows of ribbons on his tunic showed why.
“Welcome to RAF South Cerney,” he boomed. “I am Group Captain Fennel and I run this station. Just a word to introduce myself and wish you all the best of luck in your careers.”

With that he turned and departed, a man of few words. The Squadron Leader took over. He then gave a run down on what the rules were, when we were moving to the new cadet’s mess and the necessity of wearing a hat when we went into Cirencester. I was amazed, we were working a five and a half-day week and apart from this week we could go into town in the evening. That Friday the service tailors from London would come down and we would be given £10 to buy a proper SD cap, shoes and brown leather gloves. All officers had to be saluted and as The Central Flying School’s helicopter unit was also on the station that included them as well. This applied to me anyway as an officer cadet because I was a substantive AC2 but I had seen a few uniforms put away with pilot officer’s rings on them so those with instant University Air Squadron commissions weren’t going to get away with it either. The Squadron Leader continued that we were to be ready, in uniform, for the indoctrination period at 0830 hrs. It was now teatime so we all walked in a big crowd to the airmen’s mess where the corporal’s dining room was reserved for cadets. This was very different; I had always been marched around to meals. The food was standard RAF fare, chips with everything.

The evening was spent tidying up my service kit, I had brought some Brasso with me so I polished up the brasses on the belt, and as it had a plastic finish it did not need blancoing. I thought about boning the pimply finish on the shoes smooth but that was unnecessary, as they were not going to be used for posh parades. Some of my companions were trembling in anticipation, this being what they had dreamed about for years. The visitors from upstairs seemed to indicate that it was a pretty soft life. There was not a lot of running about, the drill was pretty straightforward and most of the time seemed to be spent on making sure that everybody’s brain worked in sympathy with their educational qualifications.

I had been used to sleeping in a barrack block so the odd disturbances during the night didn’t stir me at all. Lashings of bacon, eggs and chips started the day off though some were a bit late as they were still learning how to put a uniform on. At 0829.59 precisely a flight sergeant walked in.

“Good morning gentlemen,” he barked. “Will you form three ranks outside?” This was the first time a seargeant had ever called me a gentleman, usually quite the opposite. We formed up outside. He called out the name of the elder of the NCOs followed by his fellow and me.
“Flight Sergeant Morris, you will march this lot about whenever they move. The other two will be the right markers until they get some idea of what’s going on.”
We took up our positions. The flight was brought to attention and as I did so I brought my knee up to the horizontal as I had been taught in the army.
Flight Sergeant Thomas glared down at me.
“We don’t do that in the RAF.”
Just my luck, I had just set a precedent for my entire Air Force training. I was always the first to be bullocked on every course I went on.

South Cerney had the standard three curved hanger layout with CFS using the western one. It was one of the few airfields remaining with no runways, just a perimeter track around the outside, which is why it was ideal for helicopters. We marched, in a fashion, to the centre hanger where our course classroom was. We filed in and were introduced to the instructors on the course, most of them were Education Branch and their job was to bring us up to speed on the three Rs. Further documentation followed. Photographs were taken for 1250s, (ID card), next of kin etc.etc. We then went into the hanger for a session of drill to try and get some sort of rhythm to our marching. I soon learned to march the air force way; it was a damn sight more relaxing than the army was. Then an old fashioned tea break with the NAAFI wagon.

The rest of the week passed much in this way with two drill sessions a day between the academics. Not all the course were going to be pilots, half were going to be navigators or air electronics officers so sometimes they were split off to mess about with wriggly amps and suchlike. We pilots then had lessons on aerodynamics and it is amazing how people who had set their heart on hurling about the sky for so long had such an appalling ignorance about what keeps an aeroplane in the air. Friday lunchtime came and we all lined up to collect our money to buy our hats, gloves and shoes.

The tailors had already unloaded their vans into the admin room in the barrack block. Gieves, Moss Bros. and R. E. City were the three firms. Hawkes was an Army and Navy specialist. Shoeboxes identified the Poulsen shoe man and surrounded by piles of hatboxes was the Bates rep. These were the hats that everybody wanted. Oversize crowns enabled them to be wrapped in a wet towel so that the material flopped over the headband almost to the ears, very much like a Luftwaffe cap except the cloth was softer. They were a pound more expensive than the tailor’s versions so by the time I had my Bates hat, Moss Bros. gloves and Poulsen shoes I had disposed of twelve pounds. The tailors were of course, trying to sign everybody up for budget accounts so they would be trapped with them for the rest of their service life but I had been warned by my father to avoid this. Some of the cadets were getting measured up for No.1 uniforms at their own expense, an action I considered very optimistic because if you failed the course you became an instant airman and officers uniforms are no use then. Three went the whole hog and ordered them with red linings, then a Fighter Command prerogative. Within five years two of them were buried with what was left of the remains of their owners.

Saturday morning came and on Saturdays there was a parade and a barrack block inspection. The block wasn’t too bad, there was a rumour that we would be confined to camp if it was manky but the three NCOs and I managed to get them to clean the right places and being the junior course we were responsible for the washroom. My old sergeant major would have failed it at one hundred yards! The precaution of getting old brasses for my belt paid off as all the others with new ones toiled ceaselessly to bring up any sort of shine. We all paraded and were inspected. The usual comments about haircuts and whose uniform are you wearing then we all went inside for the block inspection and my experience of knowing the right places to clean saved us as he ran his fingers along clean pelmets and so on. So that was that, we were free until 0900hrs Monday morning.

21st Oct 2014, 20:20
When I was describing my return from Tianjin to Shenzhen I mentioned that we night stopped at a company operation at Wenzhou. I had been there about a year before when it was a joint Bristow/COHC operation.

Wenzhou is a oddity in Eastern China. In is effectively cut off topographically from the rest of China. There are various dialects in different parts of China but the majority are understandable except for Wenzhouese which is a total mystery to anybody that does not come from there. The area was heavily influenced by Jesuit missionaries and they have left their mark in the genes of the population. Before I went there I was told that it was famous for the beauty of its women and daily I would see some absolute stunners.

Because of its isolation it missed the rampages of the Cultural Revolution. This was noticeable by the number of active churches; seven spires or towers could be seen from the ATC cupola. Less than a mile from the airport entrance there was a newly completed two storey high church awaiting consecration. The agriculture was different. There was none of the groups of black houses and miles of paddy of the rest of China. The area was split into smallholdings and the family crypt, long disappeared anywhere else, still resided at the corner of a field.

I arrived there just before Christmas 1995. On arrival we found that the outgoing Pilot in Charge who had departed to return to the UK for Xmas had disabled the international dialling facility on the company telephone. This meant that we would be unable to phone home on Christmas Day. (He was ex-Army) However we phoned Shenzhen and we arranged with others to pass the Wenzhou telephone number to our UK relatives.

The operation was at the very beginning of oil exploration off Wenzhou and the rig involved was Chinese owned but run by expats. As with most overseas operations where western food and delicacies were unobtainable there was a standard arrangement with the offshore installations. We kept them supplied with blue movies and they kept us supplied with goodies. The high point of this arrangement was that they called for an admin run Christmas morning and waiting for us was a fully prepared Xmas dinner for everybody on the operation for us to take back.

There was a request for a photographic flight on the 8th January. It was to be flown for Wenzhou TV and was to cover the opening of Wenzhou railway station. I was going to fly it for three reasons.

I. I had flown photographic sorties extensively in Northern Ireland, both optical and IR. I had flown and done the aerial filming for the documentary ’Belize The Forgotten Frontier,’ and had been the airborne camera for the BBC at the Jubilee Air Show, plus others.
II. It seemed like it was going to be a good jolly.
III. I was in charge.

We arranged to meet the camera crew in the morning to go over the afternoon’s recording for the evening news. The director and the operator both had excellent English so it was a case of where and when. There was going to be a cavalcade of all the city bigwigs from the city hall to the railway station. Then with a crescendo of massed bands and probably three tons of fireworks the station would be declared open. They crew not have any long range lens with them so to get decent shots of the procession it would be necessary to be fairly low. This meant that I had to go to ATC.

The entire airport had had a bit of a get together on New Years Eve so we had chatted to the air traffic staff. What we were doing was totally new for them so we offered to take them with us on an offshore flight so that they understood what was going on. This would make it easier for us if we had what they would consider a strange flight request. They took up this offer and we had flown three of them by this time. On this basis they owed me a favour.

As I have mentioned before AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL IS PARAMOUNT in China. This can be used for your own advantage as there is no such thing as General VFR or minimum heights. You fly where and how high you are told. I explained to them that I was flying an important photographic flight for the local TV Company that was highlighting the advances of Wenzhou city. To present this in the best possible way I would need to fly at low level to achieve the best shots. They asked me how low. Twenty metres? OK.

There was no question of anybody complaining about low flying helicopters in China. In Northern Ireland a favourite joke was that if anyone complained about a low flying helicopter the next morning the SAS would turn up and roll the house looking for a reason why they didn’t want low flying helicopters around. In China at that time it wouldn’t be a joke.

The station was due to be opened at 15.00 hrs. We were going to use B7953, a Chinese registered aircraft as it was a local celebration. To get their best shots the camera crew were going to need the full co-operation of the pilots. This was ensured the Chinese way be taking me and my FO out to lunch; and an excellent lunch it was.

I knew where the road to the station was. The entrance had the usual hoardings with stacks of flags and pictures of cheering people. We took off at 14.30 and ten minutes later we were there. I needed to recce the left hand side of the road as the camera was pointing out of the starboard door. This was to check for TV aerials, power lines etc. The road was new and each side was thick with children and adults all frantically waving to us as we passed them at about one hundred yards and fifty feet. After two kilometres the railway station came into sight, bedecked with flags and banners and as I passed over it something struck me as wrong.

There wasn’t a railway.

Where’s the railway? I asked and the director said that it hadn’t arrived yet. They still had to complete about twenty kilometres of tunnelling through the hills. The station was going to be opened today because that was on the schedule. The railway can wait.

I backtracked on the other side of the road and I noticed that the new road was about a metre higher than the old road. This could seen by everybody standing on the old pavements and looking along the road surface. There was a reason for this. When the old houses were demolished the area they occupied would be one metre below the road. This was ideal for services as they could be laid on level ground. First (ground) floors on modern houses and apartments are one metre above the ground so by digging the site by another metre you had three metres from footings to floor. This would take no time at all and then the pile drivers would move in. The previous inhabitants had a choice between getting a new apartment closer to town or waiting until the apartments in their local area were completed. It meant that buildings could go up at an incredible speed and goes some way to explaining why Chinese cities seem to be redeveloped overnight.

We orbited the entrance to the road and there was no sign of the cavalcade. After twenty minutes I was getting fed up.. There seemed to be nobody in charge at this end so I flew up to the station. By the side of the road there were a couple of police 4X4s next to a dried paddy. I landed on and asked the director to ask the police where everybody was. This he did and came back with the information that the whole show had been delayed an hour. He then suggested that we fly to Wenzhou and get some library pictures. We got airborne and I spoke to air traffic and not wishing to push my luck too far I asked for clearance to operate over Wenzhou at fifty metres and this was granted.

I had only been to Wenzhou city once before and I hadn’t seen much of it. Most of the buildings were fifty to a hundred years old apart from massive swathes were being cut through to them to form the new boulevards that were going to be the new shopping malls. The producer was delighted. He had never thought that he was going to get aerial pictures of the city showing the old and the new.

My FO was keeping his eyes open for any activity on the road out of town and he saw the cavalcade on its way. We caught up with it as they turned into the railway station road and took long shots of the whole procession from 100/20 metres. When they reached the station I turned away and returned to the airfield. There was no point in staying and drowning out the speeches. On return the TV people thanked us for our efforts and that was it. They had bought us lunch, got the cooperation; job done.

We never saw them again.

27th Oct 2014, 19:23
I spent the weekend in London and I arrived back at about six p.m. Sunday evening. The place was like a morgue. Everybody was sitting around looking miserable. It transpired that on the Saturday morning whilst we were having our block inspection 153 course had received the results of their Intermediate Test. The consequences of this were that three had been sent home awaiting instructions to report to RAF Cardington for their basic airman training to complete their national service. One, a navigator who had demonstrated his total inability to read maps and charts, but was OK in everything else, had been offered an alternative career in the Engineering Branch so he was off to RAF Halton. Two of them who were going to become airmen were the hail and hearty ones telling everybody how easy it was.
The party was over.

Monday morning we paraded out side and waiting to meet us was an incredibly fit looking corporal. The two NCOs and I inwardly groaned because we knew it was a Physical Training Branch corporal.
“Good morning gentlemen, will you temporarily dismiss and reform in your gym kit.” We broke, changed and five minutes later we were out again slightly shivering in the cold morning air. I hope this isn’t going to be too hard, I thought, otherwise I am going to throw up my breakfast. No marching this time, we trotted down to the gymnasium and once inside were introduced to the latest weapon of mass destruction, circuit training.

Around the floor and along the walls was spread every conceivable form of old fashion wooden exercise architecture very much in the form of a show-jumping ring. The PTI demonstrated all the things we had to do going through, going through the whole gambit of press-ups, chin-ups, crutches and vaulting plus a few more equally crippling sequences. We were going to have it easy to start off with. We would go around in turn and go through the entire sequence only having to do five of the nastier ones.
“Next week,” he gloated, “you will go in sequence so as the first finishes his five press-ups the next one follows, and if anybody is caught up by the person behind he starts all over again.”

I was still fit, our monthly weekend sessions in the Rhodesian reserves had made sure of that but the NCOs were older and a bit softer. The direct entry cadets made it pretty obvious that the severest test of strength on their part was swinging a cricket bat and our ex University Acting Pilot Officers were a disaster, three years of soft university life showed us that. I didn’t push it too hard, I could still feel yesterday’s beer sloshing inside me but I worked up a bit of a sweat. Not so the others, some were having trouble gripping the bar, let alone trying to do a chin up. One hour later a host of panting, wheezing, scarlet-faced people wearily trotted shambolicly back to the block.

We went into our accommodation, picked up our towels and dived into the shower room. On went the taps and a cascade of freezing water descended on us. We frantically turned the hot taps to try to correct it but that was when we found that the coal-fired boiler was shut down on Monday mornings for decoking. The scarlet had turned to blue by now so we dried ourselves down and got back into uniform. A chorus of nose blowing was interrupted by WO Thomas walking in.
“We now know how fit you are, by the time we have finished with you you won’t believe what you will be able to do.”

We marched to the classrooms straight into the tea break and then continued with the daily routine. I was having my own troubles. Logical English writing I could understand and do. I had worked for a bank in Rhodesia and they had encouraged me to sit the Institute of Bankers exams and I had obtained a credit in English so I knew the score. What I couldn’t grasp was the layout of service letters and when to use Formal Official, Semi Official and the stupid endings like ‘I remain Sir, your obedient servant’. I took an instant dislike to administration, something which effected my career for the next eighteen years and still effects me in later life with things like tax returns etc. My protests that I had joined the air force to belt around in aeroplanes and not spend time scribbling in an office fell on deaf ears and after three weeks I was formally warned that I was going to have to improve if I was to continue training.

My saviour was another student. We had sorted out our problems that had started on the train. He had a gift for military writing and not only that he could explain how to do it with a collection of phrases that covered just about everything. What he could not grasp were aerodynamics, which is where I came in because it was an open book for me. The result is that we used to spend an hour together in the evenings and sort each other out. My standard improved so much that when we had to write an example of some letter or other the instructor would watch me intently to make sure I wasn’t copying somebody else’s work. In two weeks Jenkins and I would be off review for our respective subjects. He was more grateful than I was; the spectre of National Service was waiting for him.

My progress was interrupted the next week. We were having a session of softball on the sports field. I was awaiting my turn and was taking to somebody when my lights went out. I spent some minutes unconscious and when I woke up I was surrounded by worried cadets and they had already called up the ambulance. What had happened was that the batsman had missed the ball and let go of the bat which had then found the back of my head. I was still groggy when I arrived at sick quarters and the SMO immediately had me shifted off to RAF Hospital Wroughton for a check up. When I arrived I was wheeled in to have my bonce Xrayed. There was nothing serious but they decided that I should stay in for observation until I could see straight and recover from a God Almighty headache.

To be continued

28th Oct 2014, 19:21
I was going to be in dock for some time. I was severely concussed by the softball bat and they were worried whether my brain was going to deteriorate any further. I was put in the officer’s ward and I had three companions. I cannot remember what they suffered from but only one had any conversation and I couldn’t see a lot wrong with him. There was no communication from South Cerney or anybody on my course, not even an apology, so I was existing in what I was standing up in when I was walloped. Fortunately, being of a suspicious mind I had kept my wallet in the shorts so at least I had some money. All the rest was provided by the hospital.

My eyesight was the problem. I was having diocular divergence again and I wasn’t telling them that I had had it before. Amazingly, they brought out similar bits of cardboard to those that I had in Bulawayo and knowing how to use them I was showing an immediate improvement. This conned them into thinking that it was only temporary so after a fortnight I had a medical and once again I was A1G1Z1. The nursing sisters were having a party that weekend so the hospital very kindly allowed me to stay for the weekend and discharged me on the Monday.

Not having any kit to wear I was taken back to South Cerney in a car. Complete with dressing gown I was dropped outside the barrack block. When I went in I saw that all the beds had been stripped. Not too worried I got dressed and marched along to our classrooms; they were empty. I continued to the admin office and there holding the fort was the admin sergeant. He informed me that everybody had gone off to the Welsh hills to run around in the mud and things like that. He didn’t know what to do with me so I was sent of to SHQ to find the Station Adjutant. I was given two choices; stick around for the rest of the week finding something to do or take what he called ‘sick leave’ somewhere. My answer was fairly immediate and I was soon gripping a railway warrant and packing.

A couple of weeks later there was a buzz that National Service was being closed up for ever. There was a rumour that should one fail the course there was no requirement to complete the two years. Then it was confirmed. Suspension from the course either voluntary or otherwise would carry no liability for National Service. Within a week three had left followed by two or three others in the subsequent weeks. I could see their point. Being aircrew, especially a pilot, for five years would be preferable to being a squaddie in the jungle for two years so when the option to avoid both came up they took it.

I and a couple of others did not make the course for various reasons, my enforced absence was one of mine. One went out on his ear and the other was recoursed with me. We two had been friends ever since,. I was his best man and we last saw each other this year.

30th Oct 2014, 20:49
When we had first arrived at Cerney the form was that we would spend eight weeks in the block and then, having proved we could use a knife and fork, move into the Officers’ Mess. The plot had now changed owing to the refurbishment of a group of buildings that were to be known as the Cadets’/No.2 Officers’ Mess. Four weeks in the block then four weeks there and then into No.! Officers’ Mess. All of my fellow students, apart from my fellow recoursee, departed to the said Mess leaving we two to await the new course. For a weekend, if we had been there, we would have had the whole building to ourselves. What it did mean was the only one of the barrack block rooms would be used in the future so we stayed put downstairs. On the Monday we introduced ourselves to our new directing staff. The boss was a lot better than the old one and for both of us we regained our confidence.

The new course arrived on a bus and then it looked as if we two had been recoursed to make up the numbers. There were less than a dozen of them. We sat through the preamble with them and in the evening it came apparent that several recruits that they were expecting had pulled out, undoubtedly because of the end of National Service. The next morning the barrack room was rearranged to suit the occupancy so we had stacks of room each.

I had some spare time in the next couple of weeks because I was not wanted for things that I had done already. Central Flying School (Helicopters) occupied one of the hangers and they were quite cooperative if a cadet wanted a ride. To this end I found myself in the back of a Sycamore for an instructor’s instructional sortie. It was noisy, because you had an Alvis Leonides at apparently continuous full song just behind you. The two pilots were talking about some incomprehensible flying characteristics and then one of them turned around to warn me that they were going to stop the engine.

Either the bottom of the aircraft dropped out or the blades fell of but we suddenly started hurtling towards the ground. The two heros up front were quite blasé about it, it obviously happened all the time. They hadn’t stopped the engine because I could hear it quietly idling away behind me but it allowed us to hear the whoosh of the rotor blades as we went down. As we got lower there was a sudden farting sound behind me as the engine stopped! There was now silence as we plummeted towards the ground and then with certain disaster inevitable a pilot hauled the nose up, the blades flapped even faster, followed by a levelling and a massive sink towards the grass. At the last moment before impact the pilot hauled on a lever in the centre that arrested its descent and we rolled gently forward on the turf. There were then hands flashing around the cockpit and the sound of the starter motor and the engine bursting into life restored some form of normality. I hadn’t a clue of what was going on even when they explained that it was a practice Engine Off Landing. Not that I was worried. I had joined the Air Force to go camel hunting in a Hunter, not flutter around in helicopters.

A picture of a picture
http://i229.photobucket.com/albums/ee224/fareastdriver/IMGP0395_zps88727c56.jpg (http://s229.photobucket.com/user/fareastdriver/media/IMGP0395_zps88727c56.jpg.html)

This picture I got back after my mother died.

I went through the course as before with no trouble and then we came to the ‘Off to the Welsh hills’ bit. Surprise No.1. No hitch hiking to the campsite. It had been decided that servicemen hitching hiking as a matter of policy was verboten so we would be taken by coach. Not all the way; the last ten miles would be an escape & evasion exercise to make sure we got wet and muddy; then we would be in tents. There then came the decision as to who was going to run the camp. Guess who was the only one who had any experience in running around the sticks and living under canvas; so I was now Camp Commandant. All sympathy felt for me for getting lumbered with this job evaporated when it was disclosed that I would be going direct to the campsite with the truck to do the initial site planning. Missing the exercise didn’t worry me. I had done my bit running around in the dark chasing or being chased. The bewitching hour came, I sat in the truck, the rest in a bus and off to Brecon we went.

17th Nov 2014, 08:46
The worst thing I had in China during a thunderstorm was a large bird flying IMC in IFR controlled airspace. It hit the radar radome with a big bang, crushed the dome and jammed the scanner. My radar stopped working so I couldn't weave between the red bits on the radar and the red bits on the windscreen.

That's when I turned around and fled.

18th Nov 2014, 08:18
Big grimaces and sucking of teeth when the Puma HC1 came out. Just behind a fragile centre windscreen were the engine shut off levers. They were positioned precisely where if a large bird hit the Perspex at high speed and went through it would push them both back. There were lots of augments bandied about but in the end all was left alone. As far as I recall it never happened though I may be wrong.

The original Puma Mk1 also had open intakes. This meant that any objects that bounced off the windscreen went into the engines. Fortunately the Turmo 3C engine was of an agricultural design originally built to power railway trains. The first stage compressor, a 100mm. deep titanium chunk, would happily convert sparrows and suchlike into jet fuel.

Later models and also I believe the Puma Mk2 have the elongated shut off levers that are angled so that they cannot be operated by a stray bird. The engines intakes were eventually protected by particle separators, snow dams or chip baskets.

11th Jan 2015, 19:12
http://i229.photobucket.com/albums/ee224/fareastdriver/KaiTak-old_zps3d96e1b7.jpg (http://s229.photobucket.com/user/fareastdriver/media/KaiTak-old_zps3d96e1b7.jpg.html)

I was detached up to Kai Tak in 1969 from 110 Sqn, Seletar and the airfield, as such, was completely different. The new runway pushing out to Kowloon bay and the old east/west runway was part of the civil ramp with the outline of a 747 painted on it for planning purposes. At the top of Lion Rock north of the airfield was the radar unit and one of the controllers, having finished his shift on a claggy day, was getting into his car when a Japan Airlines 707 went through the car park.

On the western end of the New Territories was a miltary exercise area and one day the Royal Navy launched an assault from a carrier. Unfortunately they miscounted the headlands and deposited an entire Marine Commando in the Peoples Republic of China. Luckily the mistake was realised in good time and they were recovered before Hong Kong was invaded in retaliation.

I was there, in Shenzhen, during the handover in 1997. In fact the PLA helicopter units that moved into Sek Kong took off from my operating base. There were more than 50,000 PLA troops stationed along the Shenzhen coast to dissuade any Chinese nationals that may have thought that they had a right to go into Hong Kong. The situation did not materialise but they were ready for it.

At that period hotels were incredibly cheap because there were no tourists. They must have thought that the PLA were going to bayonet people in the streets. In fact, nothing changed apart from the fact the young ladies from Oz, NZ, and the UK weren't allowed to work in Hong Kong so we lost all of our best barmaids.

12th Jan 2015, 19:23
Your story about the engine oil pressure gauges reminds me of a characteristic the Puma HC1 helicopter sometimes had in the early days.

The engine fire detectors were a series of bi-metallic switches that would close when the engine bay temperature reached a certain level. Helicopters do not have the luxury of a constant flow of air though the engine bay so sometimes it gets very hot. In a downwind the situation can arise where the recirculating air can cause the temperature to rise sufficiently to illuminate the fire warning light even though there is not a fire and so it was with this aircraft.

I had a VIP on board; a staff officer of Air Rank who had come to see how we operated in Northern Ireland. He seemed incredibly keen as he had done all his weapon training and arrived looking like Rambo. It seemed a shame to put him on a milk run so I strapped him into my jump seat between we two pilots and we punched off down south to Armagh.

We were going to do a changeover shuttle between Bessbrook and Crossmaglen. The latter was right in the middle of the Republican area of Ulster and was a hotbed for the IRA. We took off from Bessbrook with a compliment of squaddies and I explained to him that we had a two hundred foot ceiling in this area because of SAM 7s and small arms. I also pointed out that we were weaving around the topography and forestry for the same reason. All this at 145 knots.

The Army post in Crossmaglen was in the police station on the north-eastern corner of the Shinty ground. The prevailing, south westerly wind was blowing and as it was unwise to approach over the town itself it meant a downwind approach and landing across the Shinty field. The Puma had no trouble with this so I flared off the speed and plonked it onto the landing pad. The crewman opened the doors and we started a high speed passenger changeover.

That’s when both fire lights came on.

The reaction of my co-pilot and myself was similar, a resigned grunt, but our Air Officer went ballistic. He was punched me on the shoulder and frantically pointing at the fire lights. I tried to reassure him but he was having nothing of it. He had obviously been in an environment where if the light isn’t put out in ten seconds you eject. Eventually I had to remind him that I was the captain, I knew what was going on with my aircraft and would he please shut up.

Or words to that effect.

It worked either because he understood my reasoning or he wasn’t expecting to be addressed that way by a Flight Lieutenant. I was fireproof; I had said ‘Sir’ twice.

The doors were then closed and the crewman cleared us to go. In the hover, half turn into wind and take off across the Shinty field. Halfway across the field both engine fire warning lights, as expected, faded out.

He was very good about it. He apologised for trying to tell me what to do and accepted wholeheartedly the correction that I had given him. I was quite happy. He had learned more about how we operated than any series of lectures of briefings could teach him.

19th Jan 2015, 12:46
Patrick Orchard and I had a great time during the eighties with a pretty wide range of aircraft for a 2-man show. Unfortunately I lost most of my photos and only have a few, but I'd be very happy to hear from anyone with information or photos or 'what happened next'

John Pinkerton

19th Jan 2015, 13:38


21st Jan 2015, 10:36
What was wrong with the links? They opened ok.
One photo was 206 G-AWLL and the second a photo of Sean Connery with a 206.

21st Jan 2015, 17:03
jpinx I think you need to use a different image host :(

photobucket or ImageShack

22nd Jan 2015, 01:40
I was trying to post them from the laptop, but there seems to be a block on that. I'll try again later.

Fwiw Eric - that's a squirrel ;)

22nd Jan 2015, 02:36
Here's a couple more..
G-HOOK lifting live seals and G-BAFD on an exploration rig



We started out from the failed Gleneagle Helicopters that Tommy Dickson had funded, but never got enough work at a surviveable price. Alec Smith joined Tommy Dickson and the resurrected company was formed. Unfortunately there still wasn't enough work and they decided to sell the company to Patrick Orchard and myself, as we were the only 2 pilots/managers/dogs-bodys left :)

We started out with a one month lease on the last remaining 2 Jetrangers G_AWOL and G-AWLL. They were owned by Dickson motors and Kinross Plant (Alec Smith) but they were desperate to cash in, so we leased G-AZZB from AirHanson. When we got the training contract with ATS Perth, we had to expand quickly and got a Bell47 through Bill Bailey G-**VM and a 206A G-**YW which was soon converted to a 206B. We occasionally pulled in G-HOOK from Graham Taylor, and a 206L from a guy in the midlands whose name escapes me.

Burnthills were running the helicopter bus route Glasgow_FortWilliam (and other routes) based on government funding, but that soon dried up so we bought Burnthills Helicopters complete with G-WOSP and G-BAKT. That gave us a base in Glasgow for a while, but the charter market could not support an operation there without some other income, so we withdrew to Edinburgh where we were doing well. G-BAKT was sold off, G-AZZB was written off in a fiery crash (no injuries) and we acquired the Bolkow G-BAFD from British Caledonian. There was never any intention to do anything for the oil industry -- notoriously penny-pinching and late payers ;) 'FD was used for fisheries patrols and similar - right up to when I was invalided out of the flying game.

Fortunately for us there was interest in the company and it was sold off -- me signing the papers from my hospital bed :( Pat continued flying for the new owners, I went to recuperate in the Adriatic. I lost touch with everyone when I went travelling -- living and working (non-flying) in Peru, New Zealand, etc I'd like to know what happened to the guys -- Paul Harbottle in particular was a mainstay, along with Eric Patrick, and Joanne MacIntyre who ran the office.

Gleneagle Helicopters Services (Scotland) Limited was a very special time for all those involved. Thank you.

Nigel Osborn
22nd Jan 2015, 08:25
I did some casual flying in 1977 or so in a Bell 47 for Gleneagles Helicopters. I found them to be a great bunch & paid me every cent owed.

I also spent some time in YZ on North Sea flying.

Ah memories!:ok:

22nd Jan 2015, 12:02
I knew that!!!!

I spoke to Paul Harbottle recently, he spends his time bending spanners on Bell 47's.
Something of a niche job in the UK these days. I Haven't spoken to Eric Patrick for many years, I believe he was working for Black Isle helicopters at one point but that must have been almost 25 years ago.
I remember BAFD well and also when you had the sad remains of AZOM in the "Fire Station".
I also seem to have a vague memory of you coming down to Bourn to survey BAFD after it had been paint stripped and abandoned!!!!!

22nd Jan 2015, 12:28
We occasionally pulled in G-HOOK from Graham Taylor,

There's a name from the distant past. In my school years I lived very near to Graham and his father, Dan, who used to fly together. As teenagers a whole bunch of us used their garden shed in the orchard as a den. I recall Dan drove an Aston Martin DB5, very cool, seeing as James Bond 007 drove one too.

22nd Jan 2015, 12:35
Glad to hear Paul is still going strong. :) Bell-47's are iconic and I am sure he has no shortage of customers - he knows that machine inside out.

Yes - indeed we took both Bolkows to make one work. I don't remember the details -- things were maniacally busy in those days. It was an engineering marathon, but the guys did very well to make BAFD work for the last couple of years before I was invalided out of flying and sold the company. I believe Bond bought it back after the new owners took over.

G-BAKT went to Kwik-Fit I seem to remember. YW was involved in that terrible fatal mid-air collision, and I don't know what happened to WOSP.

I've not used this forum to try to keep in touch before but I'd be very happy to hear from any of the guys who are still around. :)

22nd Jan 2015, 13:00
G-BAKT doing pleasure flights in the Strathclyde Park Hamilton in 1985
Gleneagles had just purchased Burnthills


22nd Jan 2015, 13:03
G-WOSP is still flying in Sweden SE-JIP i think,
and here is WOSP in Maxwell House livery


22nd Jan 2015, 13:07
and one from further back 1980


22nd Jan 2015, 13:13
At one point BAFD was working for the Sussex police out of Shoreham. Paul asked me to drop in on it from time to time as it was a long way from home. The pilots were complaining about a tail gearbox oil leak that the operating company leasing the aircraft from Gleneagle had failed to fix although they had changed the seals more than once.

Several leaky ground runs left me slightly baffled but highly suspicious. Removal of the whole gearbox and tail rotor assembly revealed a large crack down the forward face of the gearbox
which clearly was not long for this world.

During this process I received an irate phone call from the operator demanding to know what the hell I thought I was doing carrying out maintenance during the day.
My comments are best left out of print.

Graham Taylor I also remember. He gave me a lift home in G-HOOK one weekend. Chickened out of landing on the adjoining school playingfield next to my house but dropped me off on the hill half a mile away!!!! We lived about 15 miles south of Grahams base. Actually I wonder if that flight was in Grahams previous aircraft G-BEJY, long time ago now almost 35 years. Grahams engineer was Mike Janes who although long retired is still going strong. Left me message on the answerphone last sunday.

22nd Jan 2015, 15:58
Wow, blast from the past...
I worked freelance for John and Pat back in the late 80's (87 I think) when I was doing 1 week on/off with Bond on the 40's field in the 365N.
What a great bunch, always ponied up on time and some of the west coast scenery was to die for. Glad to hear JP is still alive and well :ok:

22nd Jan 2015, 16:13
Now theres a name from the past, Mike Janes, he was my Chief Engineer at Twyford Moors 73/74.


22nd Jan 2015, 16:23
Then do you remember a pilto called Alec Parker, ex-paratrooper and if so, is he still about?
With fraternal greetings,

22nd Jan 2015, 16:56

Sent you a PM.

22nd Jan 2015, 19:06
I met Alec flying a J/R in 1976-ish, he brought it up to Blackpool for maintenance. As I recall his employer was a truck company on the East Lancs road (?). Can't for the life of me recall the name, but remember seeing one of the trucks say 2 months ago and the (old) brain made the connection. :ooh:

And delighted to hear Mike is still around, we had some good times around the mid 90s, myself at Manns, him at Veritair. Yes he did indeed retire and it's be VERY good to see him at some point. Thanks for the memory jogging! - VFR

22nd Jan 2015, 21:00
Memory is dim now re the 70's but might Alec Parker have been working for Suttons Seeds in the early/mid 70's?. Also vfr440's mention of maintenance at Blackpool at that time prompts me to ask if anyone knows what happened to Bob King and Matt Casey who had a maintenance outfit there?

23rd Jan 2015, 02:45
Marcus was one of our favourite free-lancers. ;) Always on his game and thoroughly charming and professional. The customers loved him - and so did the girls in the office !! :)

On another note -- does anyone remember David George's brief foray into commercial helicoptering -- around 1973 I think. Guided by Peter Boitel-Gill we set off to conquer the world with some Hiller 12E's ferried back from a disposal sale in Belgium. Nick (the Greek) was chief engineer. We were based at Sywell and I had the honour of giving Ash his first shot at flying rotary-wings. His prior experience included just about every type of aircraft in the RAF as he had been a ferry pilot in the second war. He used to fly an old Moth around Sywell on quiet days. I believe he was about 80 years old then and as ATC he still struck terror into the hearts of visiting pilots.
Other names associated with Sloane Helicopters were Mike Horrell, Peter Nutting, and a link with Gordon Neal of G & SG Neal in Holbeach.
P.S. Nick-the-Greek was Chris Neoclaus. Light-bulb moment last night :)

23rd Jan 2015, 11:20
Bob King was working for Bond at Strubby. He retired to live on a barge on the French canals.
I haven't seen or heard of him for more than ten years.

I have a feeling that Matt died some time back but not sure about that.

At least one of the engineers from the old Sloane days Roy Huntingford is still with us, long retired.

Peter Nutting died many years ago.

23rd Jan 2015, 11:44
Roy was a great guy -- he took care of the 12E at Management Aviation back in about 1972. That was a fun place to be in those days with Dave Bond larger than life and frequently blowing his top. "Curly" Truslove was ops manager but spent a fair amount of time keeping the lid on things. Wayne Janisch worked there at the same time as me - we went through the Avigation college course together just before to get the civilian licence. He was from South Dakota if memory serves. I believe he went back there to sell insurance. The Bonds launched North Scottish Helicopters towards the end of my time there and the first Bolkow 105 showed up then too. Mike and Jeff Bond were the only ones who flew it at first. The rest of us were doing electic line patrol and forestry spreading.

P.S. Just remembered Roy's bionic knees !! :) He was mad about bikes and had baled out a few times I gather... ;)

23rd Jan 2015, 17:48
I believe Roy still rides as does Mike Janes, they should both know better at their age.
Curly is reported as still being around. Roy and Curly were both still working the Hillers for Bond as was I to the bitter end in 1986. The last two were sold off to John Holborn, Holborn Helicopters at Ropsley near Grantham.

24th Jan 2015, 02:07
David George sold the 12E operations of Sloane Helicopters to Central Helicopters. I was in Argyll spreading phosphates on the forests at the time and I remember getting some instructions to change the name on the van. For whatever reason I only got around to doing one side and it was a point of great jocularity with the locals that we were 2-faced :)

I free-lanced for Central or a short time - Jim Koty was a field engineer they sent up. Then I went to work for BEAS for a season's crop spraying in Lincs followed by more forestry. Phil Slattery was the field engineer for a while and he introduced me to StarWars when it first came out - so that pins the year to 1977. Geoff Kitto was over from Nelson NZ doubling his crop-spraying seasons around that time. Gordon Neals outfit were a pleasure to work with. Bob Towsland(?) was the rep for the local area and did a fine job. I even got to like the "Boston Stamp Collection" managed by Pat It was quite a challenge to get into some of those tiny fields and squirt the roses. I read somewhere that G-BDRY was wrecked. That had been the aircraft they had kept for my use. What happened in the end? Where did John Neal go? They had some great footage on home movies of Dave Bond spraying with a hang-stick Hiller 12A and Paul Midgley in a Djinn.

24th Jan 2015, 08:12
Ah,.... now then, Phil Slattery is at Cumbernauld with PDG. Had a long natter to him in the hangar last October, he's well but no Hillers or Lamas, all on 355s now.
And Paul Midgley (Midgers) in a Djinn - I didn't know he was that skilled :hmm:. Would he be the Midgers who flew a J/R for Streeters in the early 80s, then transferred to Manns as their Ops Manager (I think)?

As TRC will remember we had this contract with an A109 down in the Basque country (Bayonne?) on 2 week rotations. PDG, Midgers + beer and wine and tremendous seafood :D

Thanks for the memory-trigger!! - VFR

24th Jan 2015, 20:20
G-BDRY was written off in November 1984. Neals were still operating a pair of Hillers in 1987 G-BLDM and G-HILR from Holbeach, both sold in 1991. I think that the advent of low pressure ground vehicles plus the legislation finished off their Air Force!!!
Neals was an ag chemical company that operated it's own aircraft so I think they just continued with ground ops. Nice to hears Phil Slattery is still on the go.

I met Geoff Kitto when he was buying a spray rig for a Hughes 500.,

27th Jan 2015, 10:07
PDG is the successor to PLM from Inverness isn't it? John Poland and Dave Clem ruled the roost in the far north for quite a few years as PLM. I believe there was some re-arrangement of the company and John Poland left. I spoke to Dave Clem briefly some years ago -- after he came back from Chile. Eric Patrick was working for them too. Peter Walker used to fly for both PLM and us at Gleneagle. Great guy and a great loss.

Black Isle Helicopters was a small outfit run by the MacCallum brothers. I met them a few times - lovely guys and lots of fun.

Chris Winters had an Enstrom that Pat taught him to fly. He was living somewhere out near Glenrothes. We also ended up looking after a Piper 180 which I refreshed my FW licence on and used a few times.

I don't know how long Pat was flying after we sold Gleneagle Helicopters. I lost touch and the next thing I heard was that he had died, but I never found out what happened. I lost contact with the 2 office managers who kept tabs on everyone .. Joanne and Linda. I believe Linda went down to the Midlands and married a helicopter engineer there, and Joanne was living with her husband Johnnie MacIntyre and family over near Burntisland. He was working on the rigs. Any leads? ;)

Alan Cameron was a frequent and welcome coffee-scrounger in the office in Edinburgh while he was flying the various Barrett machines. A very proficient pilot and capable guy all-round. When we had the ICI pipeline contract Pat often ended up in Liverpool overnight and if there were issues with the machine it was Matt Casey's team that we called on.

Having stopped flying and lost contact with that world for so many years (25) means my memories are patchy, but it comes back the more I write. Apologies in advance for any errors - and thanks for the jogs :)

27th Jan 2015, 22:59
As a young cadet at Dartmouth we visited RNAS Culdrose one day and I had my first ever flight in a helicopter and guess who was at the controls - yes JP.

I later met his cousin (?) Pat Poland who was SNO Engadine in the mid 70's. I also had the pleasure of meeting John's mother (?) Lady Poland when I was the Sea Cadet Liaison for Padstow SCC. (She was the patron). Seems his Dad (RIP) was a famous Admiral during the war although I don't know much about him.

Our paths crossed once or twice but he was generally lost up in the wilds of Scotland whilst I pottered around with AMH and Air Hanson.

I worked with Peter Walker at AH and as you say a great guy and a great loss. As were Colin Bates and 'Spotty'. Cripes !! Also John 'Ackers' bit the dust, Nigel Thornton and Tim Ridgeway. An Awful chapter in the SW London scene.

That said I have many happy memories, they were interesting times.

G. :ok:

28th Jan 2015, 09:10
.......... An Awful chapter in the SW London scene.

Not forgetting Peter Faulks and Tommy Sopwith's first wife lost in that AMH Bell 47 accident in 1975. I was passing through Alan Mann's on that awful day just after the news came through.

JP is now retired to Pembrokeshire and the last I heard about three years ago he was flying tugs at a gliding school.

Dennis Kenyon
28th Jan 2015, 19:37
I just have to drop in at the mention of the Alec Parker name as I have a neat tale to tell ... (hope he gets to read this)

It would have been circa 1974 or possibly 75 when I first met dear Alec ... who at that time was working for Sutton Seeds. He was instrumental in buying one of the early Enstrom 28A models, G-BBHD, a blue machine I seem to recall! I think I did his type conversion at Shoreham. A truly lovely big hearted guy for sure.

But here is the ditty. Apparently he used to lift-off for duty most mornings which involved flying over an office block. On several occasions he spotted a girl leaning out of the office window waving. Naturally he waved back. After a few occasions, he gets back from a sortie one day to find a hand written letter on his desk. It was an invitation to meet on a blind date and was signed ... 'From the one who waves.'

Alex was a single man at the time so promptly dropped in to the offices to enquire about said lady being the 'The one who waves.'

And yes, they did meet and carried on the friendship ... and in no time were married. Isn't that story one for the woman's magazines! So ladies ... don't wave at helicopters. As they say - you may just get what you wish for!

Alec, if you are out there, please drop me a line. Dennis Kenyon.

28th Jan 2015, 21:31

It was in Bilbao.

displaced islander
29th Jan 2015, 15:05
jpinx (http://www.pprune.org/members/408532-jpinx) do you remember this Yankee Whisky, i think


2nd Feb 2015, 09:17
Not sure about that photo....

2nd Feb 2015, 09:23
is that CJG at the controls?

displaced islander
2nd Feb 2015, 15:21
Outside Raasay House, John ! But before the epic, night sea crossing during a westerly gale (now a legend) and post the buttered daffodil tasting.

2nd Feb 2015, 23:40
Good grief !!! .. I thought that had been mercifully forgotten.! The memory brings back the flavour! :{ RJMcD Has a lot to answer for! :ouch:

3rd Feb 2015, 18:47
Ok, so I had done my LPC with Pat Orchard and it had gone well... Some weeks later JP said he wanted to fly with me as a sort of line check, so we launched somewhere over Edinburgh and he asked me to simulate a photo sortie by hovering at 2000 feet... No problem 😛
Then he said "let's go backwards at 20-30 knots". I didn't really feel in my comfort zone doing this but he was the boss so.... And then he chopped the throttle 😱
I thought "mother ****er" but he was determined it was to be recovered all the way to the ground... I think it was over a golf course we used to land at while doing the "eye in the sky" for radio Forth.....
Well, I made it and I think the circle of trust was established on that morning..
John, I wish you all the very best :ok:

5th Feb 2015, 02:04
Pat Orchard (known as Rick in his military days) was a brilliantly smooth and capable pilot and instructor. We had lots of fun doing "mutual training" flights for annual checks, etc. As a member of the Panel of Examiners, he rose to the top of his profession. I am forever indebted to him for putting up with my more hard-nosed attitudes, but we worked very well as a team. A gentleman in every way, he didn't like to push people too far out of their comfort zone -- that tended to be my job ;)

10th Feb 2015, 19:26
When I was based in Shenzhen I had to fly one of those approaches once a month to keep my rating in date. Bring a training trip we could only do it at the crack of dawn and the procedural circuit was incredibly long and high. It was a real pain in the neck and the scenario around the checkerboard was wasted.

However medivacs at night gave one a fantastic view of Hong Kong with all the lights on. Should we pick up a Chinese National from a platform we were routed low level directly across Victoria Harbour, then between Lantou and the New Territories to the Pearl River and onwards to Guangzhou. They built a bridge across to Chep Lap Kok but it didn't seem to make any difference to our transit height.

Departing from Shenzhen and crossing Hong Kong outbound you could tell when you crossed the border between China and Hong Kong. The Neons changed from all red to another series of colours.

Flying Bull
15th Feb 2015, 09:57
found an old photograph from my time in GB, when I had the pleasure to visit the airshows with the Sharks (I towed the caravan :})
in higher resolution:

20th Feb 2015, 14:44
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6407014335/in/photostream/

20th Feb 2015, 17:25
FLYING BULL - please resize your massive photo


Flying Bull
22nd Feb 2015, 18:23
Hi Fantome,

sorry - put a smaler one in...

14th Mar 2015, 14:27
Now that is going back a bit we must have met as I was at Bourn the day the first 105 arrived .all the names on the thread I remember from Roy to peter Nutting .Wayne may now be back in USA but worked in London for some years
in finance met him with Phil in Aberdeen early 90s
Peter Walker

21st Mar 2015, 12:34
Wayne working finance fits with what I heard (insurance). I seem to remember he was from South Dakota. He and I went through Avigation in Ealing at the same time in '72 - along with another american called Skip who went to work somewhere else.

Indeed we must have met around the first of the Bolkow days, but my visits to Bourn were infrequent and brief. We were viewed as wasting time if we weren't out there working. ;) Curly used to tell me not to let Dave Bond see me loitering in the hangar waiting for whatever or there'd be an explosion. :)

I've recently tracked down my ex-office manageress and she has a load of photos of Gleneagle operations in the 1980's, so I'll be getting them scanned and be able post a few here sometime.

Nigel Osborn
21st Mar 2015, 13:02
I had great fun flying the 105 out of Longside for North Scottish in1977. Also did a little casual flying for Gleneagle Helicopters, a good small company with nice staff.

26th Apr 2015, 21:30
As I found out whilst flying for a very good, even exceptional stipend, in the Far East, it's not what you know, it's who you know.

13th May 2015, 21:10
The Scapa maps took me back a bit. In the early seventies we took a couple of Pumas up to Ness Battery. This was a barracks used by an Artillery unit guarding the westerly approach to Scapa Flow. It's new use was as an exercise centre for the Army but the dining room still had all the murals painted on the walls by the wartime occupants. Ther main theme seemed to be small cottages with rose archs over the front door; something not to be found in the Orkneys.

The guns had gone but the magazines, empty, were much as they had been during the war. Double walls of concrete and even the blast shutters, designed to stop a hit on the gun position effecting the ammunition, were still working.

There is a photograph of a Puma, not me, perched on the top of the Old Man of Hoy. I had a look at it but I didn't let there be too much weight on the wheels in case this million year old structure plummetted into the sea. I would not have been very popular.

On the Island of Hoy there was several abandoned buildings somewhere near the centre. They were connected with the main fleet fuel store and it was in the process of being emptied. The fuel oil was kept in an underground complex and I had a wander down the tunnel for a couple of hundred yards then I was chased out for not having a safety helmet.

It is common for Her Majesty's aerial conveyances to visit parts of the UK where exceptional standards of food can be purchased. Machranhanish for kippers, Rathlan Island for lobsters, Channel Islands for duty free but we found one in Hoy for lamb.

The Orkneys produce more lamb than they can eat so once a year a ferry full of livestock trucks all baa baaing away departs for Aberdeen. We were fortunate in meeting a farmer who had some that had missed the boat, as it were, and were available at a very advantageous rate. A few phone calls back to Odiham and we had a group of buyers. Several lambs fell over and a butcher packed them into the requisite number of freezer packs and we punched oft daun sauf.

It was a long way back to Odiham and we had a planned night stop at Leuchers. A bottle of Orkney malt persuaded the NCO i/c airmans mess to put them in their refrigeraters overnight and they were in excellent condition and ready for the freezer at Odiham.

Any sort of mess function, officers or sergeants, would require copious amounts of Deutsche Sekt. We had a CAAP (Components Accelerated Ageing Programme) aircraft that you could take anywhere as long as you burnt off the hours. Gutersloh NAAFI was the obvious choice and certain arrangements may have taken place with them in the portcullis hats.

You cannot do it now. I was on a visit to my old squadron recently and every minute of flying has to be accounted for.

John Eacott
19th May 2015, 22:32
Nigel will probably remember this one, when men were men and Midshipmen were scared ;)


24/5/1961. Dragonfly HR.3 WG722/548.
Emergency landing on hillside at Pemboa Helston, after transmission failure. Rolled down hill and crashed through bedroom window of farmhouse at the bottom of the hill.

20th May 2015, 10:07
...and the following year it was this Wessex 1 that continued the trend of rolling down Cornish hillsides. XM868 at Maenporth, Falmouth, after the engine failed during a night navex on 13/2/62. Following an EOL on sloping ground it rolled backwards into a hedge and the starboard undercarriage collapsed.

John Eacott
20th May 2015, 10:22
A year apart for similar accidents is one thing, but a Dragonfly and a Wessex :eek:

20th May 2015, 20:06
Dragonfly WG719 rolled down a hill a decade earlier...in Malta.

Nigel Osborn
20th May 2015, 22:06
Not me chief!:ok:

P6 Driver
21st May 2015, 12:33
Images removed

21st May 2015, 19:09
Ahh the Bulldog!
It was 1973 and I'm pretty sure that we were the first course on it, after they had replaced the Chipmunks at Church Fenton.
Panic in the tower when a fellow newbie who is halfway round his first solo navex (a wonderful guy with a broad west country accent) calls to say "I think I've got mud on my windscreen"
ATCOs all freeze and look at each other, trying desperately to find the right response to that until...
"I don't suppose that could be oil could it?"
"Oh yes, could be" :D
Sigh of relief in the tower "return to base"
Happy days.

P6 Driver
23rd May 2015, 14:47
Images removed

5th Jun 2015, 09:05
Seeing that things are getting a bit slack on this thread I will continue with my experiences in China. I mentioned Wenzhou on my post describing my trip from Tanguu to Shenzhen. I had been there before; flying to the first of that area’s exploration rigs.

There is a ridge of mountains inland from the coast of Eastern China that acts as a barrier to the flat lands of the Yangzte flood plain. This, over the centuries, has resulted in a population that is different from the rest of China. The have different languages, i.e. Hakka and Min, they have also been heavily influenced by western traders and missionaries. We were, for the first time since the Communist takeover of the country, the only foreigners there. We had, as normal, interpreters to sort out various problems with the locals but this led to difficulties as they could not understand the local language. Luckily there were sufficient who had learned Mandarin to be able to operate normally.

Wenzhou, over the past two hundred years or so had been heavily influenced by Jesuit missionaries. This was apparent by the number of churches; as from the Air Traffic cupola seven spires could be seen. Not all operating as during the Cultural Revolution Christianity was virtually wiped out and churches became police stations or similar.. However, there was, just a few miles from the airfield, a brand new cathedral sized church nearing completion which illustrated the new tolerance that had taken place. Years of lonely Jesuit missionaries had also impinged on the population. There were more redheads in Wenzhou than the rest of China put together. The area was famous throughout China for the beauty of its women and believe me, there were some real stunners.

The Chinese company had organised their part of the airfield. A temporary two storey office block with a passenger departure lounge and beside it was a blister hanger with associated engineering accommodation. This with a concrete taxi track from the main apron took a couple of weeks to put up. There was a brand new hotel behind the brand new terminal building and we were virtually the first guests. The standard was about UK 3* but there were a few shortcomings in the construction. There was a leak in the water system somewhere so the corridor carpets squelched a bit and the wallpaper had been applied before the plaster had cured so it was peeling up from the floor. It was supposed to be to international standard, the menus were in English and Chinese, but it was dreadfully expensive. No English tea or toast, unknown in that part of the world. We were paid a monthly allowance for food and suchlike and back in Shenzhen in our company apartments this was sufficient but not for hotel living. Just outside the airport were what were known as the garages; open fronted chop houses where all the raw materials were on display and you selected your choice and they cooked it for you there and then. Papst beer was only 4 yuan (30p at that time) a 485ml bottle so living became very affordable. They were very basic; no toilet, the midden out at the back was where you gave the rats a warm shower and as I have mentioned before the entertainment was watching a mother rat chasing and recovering her brood back to her nest under the freezer.

It did not take us long to have an international incident. The rig that we were going to service was being towed from Singapore through the Taiwan Straight, the sea between Taiwan and China. We had a request to put the survey party on boards who were going to position it on its drilling site. No problem; we got the lat/long, time, course and speed and the GPS forecast the position on arrival. The helicopter launched (I wasn’t flying it) and everybody was happy. Approaching the rig Taiwan Air Defence radar picked it up and launched their QRA. When their F15s punched into the stratosphere the Chinese Air Defence launched their Shenyang J8s so whilst our hero was changing over on the helideck the two sides were stalking each other from the respective borders of their ADIZs. There was a bit of a stink when they got back but I think ATC were in it deeper than we were. A day or so later the rig was in position and we could get started……………………………………….

5th Jun 2015, 17:51
The rig was about 140 Nautical miles out. There was nothing en route so it was a straight line out from one of the airfield’s beacons. The beginning would track you over the small islands that were scatted off the coast. These were like little mountains with the land coming out of the sea at 45 degrees. It was then terraced all the way to the top and the inhabitants would live in clusters of boats in little harbours at the bottom. The GPS would keep you on the straight and narrow so there was little problem finding the rig. Despite that it was nice seeing it come up on the radar where it was supposed to be. We were well clear of Taiwan but for the last thirty or so miles I would duck down to 100 ft so as to be out of range of any radar, especially the US Navy.

The rig was the Nan Hai 5. Nan-South, Hai-Sea. It was an ex Pacesetter rig that was owned by a Chinese company. The Chinese had little experience in offshore drilling then so it was run by a mixture of American and British contractors. It was only fourteen years old so it had all the latest drilling kit, topdrives etc, incorporated. There had been a fair amount of seismic work done and the indications were very optimistic. The rig was supplied with hardware and victualling from Wenzhou. They had built a harbour capable of handling six supply boats in three months but their Western food still had to come from Hong Kong. We couldn’t get any in Wenzhou so this is where a long tradition between helicopter pilots and rig crews came in.

We supplied them with blue movies and they supplied us with goodies.

Getting blue movies was easy. In Shenzhen there was a stall that sold pirated VCDs that included everything from the latest blockbusters to the best that the Californian grunters and groaners could manage. You couldn’t miss the stall; it was outside the police station. A message went down, the necessary were purchased, converted to VHS because that was all the rig had and we could run a programme change ever five days. In return we got freshly baked bread, real bu’’er, jam and stacks of choccies of all sorts. The ultimate was on Christmas day where they laid on a trip in the morning and it came back with a full roast turkey dinner for all the Brits on the site.

There were two helicopters involved; one British registered and one Chinese. They flew with a national crew on alternate days; the other crew and aircraft on stand-bye for SAR, there being nothing else. In fact about half way out was the main shipping route between Japan, Korea and Singapore so there was a multitude of massive container ships crossing your route. The ships were so big that it was difficult to count how many containers they had on the superstructure in the time available to count them. Should you have a problem and ditch in the shipping lane the first worry was getting run over by one of them. Should they see you then they would probably just pass your position to a maritime authority. They would require several miles to stop and there was an awful lot of money tied up in the containers. However, we would still be able to launch the stand-bye and be there with a winch before they could turn it round and steam back.

Our dispersal was just off the main apron and when the Chinese aircraft was en route our British one would stand outside ready to go. The company logo and the G- registration would attract instant interest from the fixed wing airliner crews passing through. Many a time my eyes would flutter as the slender scarlet shapes of Shanghai Airlines stewardesses were coming over for a look see. Sometimes there would be some problem on the airway with the Air Force so everybody was grounded for a couple of hours. We would then have the whole lot, Air China, China Southern, Shenzhen Airlines, to name a few. It was hell, believe me, it was hell.

We only did about three trips a week so we weren’t rushed off our feet. Our free time was more interesting for us than for our Chinese pilots and engineers. Foreigners were a rarity so when you sat at a table in a teahouse people would practise their English on you. I would regularly have about seven schoolchildren with their books going through their lessons with me to get the pronunciation correct. You couldn’t do that in the UK, you would have to be vetted first. The Chinese crews had a language problem. As I mentioned before they couldn’t understand the locals so they ended up in their, separate hotel, playing non-stop Mah Jong………………………………..

7th Jun 2015, 09:24
Going downtown was easy, you caught a trishaw. This was a three wheeler bicycle with a settee between the rear wheels. As long as you driver didn’t break wind you were OK. We would catch one just outside the airport and it was about 2 yuan to Longwan, a small town between the airport and Wenzhou proper. He would drop us off at the bridge leading into the town and in this area were a few stalls telling bits and pieces. I had an interpreter with me for the first time and I noticed an old man in a stall that was shaped like a sentry box. Just room for him with the bottom closed and a small shelf in front of him. It what was on the shelf that stopped me. I had seen it before when I visited the Singapore CID when I was stationed in Singapore……

It was cut ball of raw opium.

I asked my interpreter to confirm it. He only replied that it was bad stuff. I went over to the box; the interpreter was having nothing to do with it; you can get a sudden headache being caught with opium. I knew that before the Revolution in 1949 opium use was widespread; they had a war named after it. Come 1949 it was banned but I also knew that because so many people were addicted to it, including a few very senior members of the politburo, a licence could be obtained to continue buying and using it. What I had stumbled on was the last of the old dope peddlers serving at that time a rapidly diminishing band of customers.. He was an old boy with the biggest smile I had seen on a Chinese man; so opium must be good for you. As I approached him he waved both palms of his hands to indicate that I could not buy any. I wasn’t interested so tactfully I turned away and proceeded towards the town. As an posrscrpt he wasn’t there three months later so he must have joined his customers in that big opium den in the sky.

The town centre was absolute bedlam. These were the days when all Chinese drove with one hand on the horn. The vehicles were small buses that followed a route but stopped anywhere to pick up and let down. Moving out onto the road again was merely a signal and a long blast on the horn, followed by a orchestral sounding of horns by all the others trying to stop him coming out. The were no modern shops, they had only just started in Wenzhou itself, so they looked exactly like they did a hundred years before. You could, however, get just about anything you wanted. Wenzhou wasn’t known as the counterfeit capital of China for nothing. There was a Philishave there which was, apart from the weight, identical to my own. What gave it away was a normal plug and wire to the 220 volt motor in the shaver as opposed to the transformer plug and 9 volt of the Philishave. You would find out the difference if you did a wet shave.

The task I had that day was to find a toaster. This was for the bread that we were being supplied with by the rig. I didn’t hold out much hope, it was bad enough trying to get one in Shenzhen, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The interpreter wasn’t a lot of use; he didn’t know what a toaster was either so I had to draw pictures to show them how it worked. I went from electrical shop to electrical shop and was getting nowhere and then we came a second hand goods shop with old extractors, water heaters etc. I went through my spiel again with the same blank looks but on this occasion they called to the back of the shop and out came granddad.

He was like something out of a Chinese Opera without any makeup. He was old, incredibly old with a thin moustache and beard that drooped down to his waist. Behind him was a fully waxed pigtail that was just as long. He wore a full length black silk embroidered gown and it was topped off with a small silk bonnet. I couldn’t see his feet but it sounded as if he was walking with clogs or wooden sandals. I put my hands together and bowed to him as a sign of respect for his age and tried to explain as before. He thought for some time and then gave directions to his minions. They disappeared into the back, out again for more directions, in, out, in again and then they found it.

It was in a tatty brown box without any manufacturers name on it. I lifted it out and it weighed as if it had been made out of armour plate. It looked the part; two slots for bread with the elements inside and a variable control knob on the outside. It had an American flat pin plug which was normal for China but I didn’t try it out as it was full of dust and it would probably cause more harm than good. 10 yuan (70p) was all that they wanted so without further ado I bought it and returned to my hotel.

The next day I presented out engineers with the toaster. They took one look, took it outside and blew it out with a nitrogen bottle. There were no instructions so we set the dial to one quarter point and with careful use of a hacksaw, no breadknife, we cut two slices to fit. We didn’t do a dry run first; if we had we would have noticed the intensity of the elements. We dropped in the bread, gravity did it all so it wasn’t necessary to push down the handles and we plugged it in. Some thing was happening and in a short time came the aroma of toasting bread. The time reached zero, a buzzer sounded and we started collecting together the butter and jam. Our backs were turned for only a few seconds but that was enough for it to start turning it into charcoal biscuits. A panic stricken unplug before the Chinese called the fire brigade and we went to plan B.

This involved a strip down and circuit analysis. The first problem was finding a flat bladed screwdriver the correct size to unscrew the bottom. All the tools we have were cross head or small flats for instruments. Once that was done the detective work started:

There were no springs on the handles; they were there just to lift the bread out.
The timer had a push in/out function that switched it on/off and the rotating timer just rang a buzzer but did not switch it off.
The size of the wiring indicated that it was rated for 110 volts.
How it got to Wenzhou we had no idea. It was probably a 1940s American model but being Wenzhou it may well have been a counterfeit copy that wasn’t exported.

Once we had established this we did a dry run. This is when we noticed that the elements were almost incandescent. However, our greeny (aircraft electrics) stated that they would probably last until a replacement arrived. We phoned back to Shenzhen, declared TOS (Toaster Out of Service) and they promised that the next person going into Hong Kong would buy another and it would be dispatched tout suite………………………………………..

9th Jun 2015, 19:11
I have been fortunate to have travelled over a large part of China. Many places I have been to have never seen a Westerner before. One gets used to young children hiding behind their mothers skirts because I am a ‘gweilo’, a white ghost that comes into naughty children’s bedrooms at night. Over the twenty odd years that I have been there, I have seen 500,000,000 people lifted from abject poverty to having something in life worth living. That still leaves another half a billion who are waiting.

Just over the fence was a farmer and his whole life revolved around about half an acre. At one end was a big shed where he lived with his family, one wife and one statuary child. His little acre was solid with vegetables in every stage of growth and every morning he would spend two or three hours with two large watering cans feeding the crops with diluted night soil. He had already been up before daylight so that he could cut that days produce to take to the farmers market in Longwan. On the way he would stop by a man with a hosepipe who would, for a few fen, douse his crops with water so that they weighed more when they arrived. He never stopped sowing and planting all day apart from meals and this was in winter. His collective daily produce would probably realise about 20-25 yuan, six days a week. Assuming everything went well he would have an income of about 7,000yuan; at that time £470 a year. Before the reforms in 1978 he would only have had what the Collective would have given him.

There was an MD80 in China Northern colours with a Hainan Airlines crew that would fly Hainan-Guangzhou-Shanghai and then to Wenzhou for a night stop. The next day it would reverse the route. There seemed to be three crews that did this roster continuously and two of the pilots we got quite friendly with.

At this time China’s licensing system was not in accordance with IATA. A Chinese national licence was in Chinese only as were most of their let down plates. This restricted the holder to Chinese airspace and he could not fly overseas until he had a foreign going licence similar to an internationally accepted ATPL To pass this he had to pass an English exam and an international navigation paper. This meant that he had to be familiar and be able to fly procedures according to Jeppersons. This was difficult because it was almost impossible for them to get hold of a set of Jeps.

But we had them.

We came to a mutually satisfactory arrangement. They would practice procedural English whilst studying and being prompted by us with our Jeppersons. In return they would buy the beer. The bar used to close at nine and one evening at that time we were in full learning mode. The problem was solved by the captain sending his steward out to the aircraft and he returned with a slab of Princess Lager from the aircraft’s galley. We didn’t have early takeoffs as we had to wait for our pax to fly in but they did. I don’t know what their company’s regs with regard to bottle to throttle was but it was way less than ours. As time went by the Chinese aviation system came closer to ICAO standards. Towards the end of my flying days they stopped pilots flying with an endorsement for their foreign licence and we were required to get a Chinese ATPL(H) and I was over sixty-five at that time. In answer to our query CAAC said that if I passed the exams and the medical I would get a licence. This I did and at sixty-seven I may well have been the oldest commercial pilot in China.

The time came when the NH 5 had finished it task and was going down south. It was being replaced by an all Chinese rig so they did not need white eyes up front. We would return to Shenzhen leaving the Chinese machine to carry on. SAR? no problem.

Before we left there had to be a company dinner. You do not mess about with company dinners in China. You find the best restaurant and order the best food, lots of it. The Chinese captains organised it in a fabulous place in Wenzhou. You have to be careful dining as a guest. Every one of your hosts, all fifteen of them are honour bound to challenge you to ‘Gambie’; basically to throw down a drink as fast as possible. Fortunately the Chinese beer was a licence brewed Papst which most Brits can drink continuously so one after the other challenging you was easy enough.

There were the usual speeches to which we replied on how good the co-operation had been-it had. Then one of the co-pilots gave a speech addressed to me. To get it into perspective I was a fairly heavy smoker in China. (When in China----). There were no rules about smoking in the cockpit so I would continue to get through my 40/day at 50p/packet. The co-pilot described how everybody liked to fly with me because they could always find their way back to base. They just followed the dog ends in the sea. They then presented me with a fiery dragon table lighter which is still one of my favourite possessions.

The next day I flew to Xiamin, lunch, then routed via Shantou and along the coast to Shenzhen. The next time I routed that way was slightly different but I have already described that.

I will be giving this a rest now as I shall be travelling some.


P6 Driver
7th Jul 2015, 21:55
Images removed

13th Jul 2015, 16:44
There was coming a time when my career in China was coming to a close because of my age. I was going to retire at the designated point from the company but as they were strapped for pilots with experience in China I continued flying with them as a contract pilot. My official job specification was as a ‘Casual Pilot’.

After all those years I’d been rumbled.

I was there on an ‘as required’ basis and I kept going all through the year but in February I was not required for a few months. However, the Australian arm of the company did, so I flew out to Darwin on the same contract basis. There was only one exploration rig to service some 265 n.m. out. The onshore diversion was in Indonesia; a small airstrip where you flew around in a circle until some minion came out and unlocked the shed where there were some barrels of JP1. This was the reason why you also carried a portable fuel pump. One wasn’t rushed off their feet; I did three trips in ten days, and there wasn’t any standby requirement. The operation had satellite tracking of the aircraft so it’s position was always known and one could leave the rest to the considerable Australian naval forces in that part of the world.

The Northern Territory and Western Australia were heavily involved during the War and there were still plenty of traces lying around which would keep one occupied during the time off. This was suddenly amplified when the aircraft had undemanded floatation equipment inflation on approach to the rig with the other crew. On return it required a new float bottle and these were unavailable in the Southern Hemisphere owing to lack of demand. Owing to the delay the rig operator moved their rig offshore Western Australia and the operation moved States with it. I didn’t take it to its new base, that was going to be a detachment from Darwin as a new aircraft was coming out from Aberdeen. That meant that until it arrived or I went down to the new base at Kununarra I had nothing to do, a car plus fuel at my disposal, and I was getting paid for it!

Darwin suffered, for Australia, heavy bombing by the Japanese. There were still some of the old fortifications and a trip down the tunnel near the docks was a must. The Stuart Highway, the north/south road that spears through the Territory to South Australia had the remains of airstrips beside it and on many there were displays with a short history and sometimes old photographs of the aircraft that operated from there. One day I took a trip down so a place by the Adelaide River where one could go on a boat trip and observe ‘Jumping Crocodiles. This is where the commentator drones on about the untameable crocs dating from the time of the dinosaurs and you look over you shoulder and there is the ruler straight wake of the local performing crocodile coming for lunch.

Fast forward a few years. Back in Zimbabwe after an absence from Rhodesia of a few years. Similar boat, similar drone; this time it's a Zambezi crocodile creating the self same dead straight wake for his lunch.

The dinosaurs must have done it too; jumping out of the water to snatch a pigs head off a piece of string.

Coming back I decided to try the old Stuart Highway. This was the old winding road that had a few surprises, like trees lying so low across the road that the leaves brush the roof. I breasted a hill and there was a police Ute (Utility/pickup) parked across the road with two cops fast asleep in it. They woke up and pulled out a breathalyser; it was a random breath check???? I blew into the machine and asked them if they had had any trade. No, they said, they weren’t even expecting me. The check point was probably where the dart at landed.

Shortly afterwards I came across a fairly large airstrip. There were the remains of a tarmac runway with dispersals in the trees and even an old sandbagged machine gun position. A notice board had pictures that showed it to be a B26 base that flew empty to Darwin, loaded up with ordinance and then unloaded it on the Japanese. I had no idea of the take-off performance of the B26 but I would have thought that with the space available departing virtually empty would have been a good idea. The site spread across the Highway and the remains of a traffic control shed where the chief who supervised the mingling of taxiing aircraft and loaded lorries plied his trade.

A couple of days later I was detailed to proceed to Kununarra.

14th Jul 2015, 11:54
It seems strange that a compulsory retirement age of 60 (presumably introduced on medical grounds)

58 was the magic number because that't when the company pension scheme kicked in. The RAF was 55 as was British Airways. In those days the company, as could the RAF, tell you to shove off if they did not require you any more. Should they require you then you had to be outside the pension scheme so that it would stay afloat as your entitlement with pay and seniority would start to hurt.

Back to Oz.

I wasn’t flying, I was driving. The aircraft had flown there with the pilots and some engineers whilst a couple of engineers had driven a company Ute there to act as transport. They needed some more so I was taking one of the two company cars to ease the transport situation. I was quite a long way; down the Stuart Highway to Katherine and then west to Western Australia. It had to be done in daylight, as is all bush travelling in Australia because of errant kangaroos and feral cattle. Big trucks and buses have Roo Bars on the front which is similar to a cowcatcher on a train.

The first problem was the car. The rear axle was on the bump stops and opening the boot explained why. They had loaded it with a full set of maintenance manuals and the space was solid with paperwork. Loads of moaning from me that Poms don’t drive cars in that state so they removed half of it and got the car back on to even keel. I had a passenger, an engineer who had never driven in the bush before and looked slightly apprehensive. With my years of blundering through the Rhodesian bush I had no fears at all.

We set off down the Stuart Highway; with a 120 kph limit (75 mph) one could get going but you had to be careful of the road trains. These were large trucks with three or four equally large trailers behind them limited to 100 kph. Because they were so long you had to be sure that there was plenty of clear road ahead to get past them safely. Some of them would have what is known as a dog; a trailer that will not follow in a straight line but whips from side to side. They were normally the rear trailer but occasionally one in the middle used to influence the one behind. It just made the whole unit that much wider especially when they were coming the other way. A cup of coffee in Katherine at a café where there was a stick again the wall that showed the height of the water, about 60 cm, the last time the Katherine River flooded.

We then punched off to Western Australia along the A1. The road was practically deserted. It was fully fenced both sides in a futile attempt to keep Coos and Roos off the road. The Roos could jump over it but the Coos couldn’t so the carcasses of the cattle that got onto the wrong side from the water trough were rotting in the sun. Just before we reached the border with Western Australia I saw a geological sight that I have never seen before or since.

It was an escarpment; not very long, about ten miles or so. What was so fascinating was that at the western end it was a pristine cliff. As your eyes travelled eastwards it slowly deteriorated until at the eastern end it had crumbled into a pile of rubble. It was a complete exhibition of natural erosion in one sweep.

We then came to the State border. Those of you that have travelled to Australia will know the arrivals are very fussy about what you can bring into Australia. That traditional black pudding that your relatives yearn for goes straight into the bin; the same with Chinese delicacies. The individual states are the same as I found out when I pulled up at the border office.

“Have you got an esky?” he demanded.
I put on my best Pom accent. “What’s an esky?”
“One of those.” He pointed to a fenced compound about the size of a tennis court that was five feet high with discarded cooler boxes.
I hadn’t, so I wasn’t led away in chains for trying to massacre the entire greenery in WA with traces of lettuce in an esky.

We then arrived in Kununarra. The hotel, at that time run by an international chain was almost the first place we found. We checked in, had dinner plus a few beers with the blokes and I was briefed for the next morning.

We weren’t supposed to be at Kununarra; we should have been at a place called Troughton Island. This was a small island of the coast that hosted a small airfield built during the war. The island had zero inhabitants and was only used for offshore support. A month or so previously a cyclone had come along and had demolished everything in toto so it was now unusable. There was another wartime airfield nearby on the mainland called Truscott but this was already occupied by the other Oz helicopter company for their offshore contract. We then had a different procedure to get out people out to the rig and back.

Our passengers would be loaded into a Beech Kingair at Darwin. When they got airborne we would fire up our 332 at Kununarra and fly to Truscott. We would arrive first and then shut down to await them. The Kingair would arrive in a cloud of dust until it reached the tarmac at the far end which enabled the brakes to work. This was essential because the airfield had been virtually abandoned at the end of the war and there were all sorts of equipment and unexploded ordinance lying around. We would be there and back in an hour and leave them to the mercies of the Kingair whilst we punched off back to Kununarra and the bar. The only drawback in this procedure was that there was a time difference between NT and WA. This meant that we had to launch in the dark.

As with most airfields in Australia the airfield was unmanned. There is a radio procedure that is mandatory in Australia so that pilots know where other pilots are so takeoff including departure heading, joining from which direction, downwind and landing calls are made. At night there is another complication; it is dark but they have an answer for this; an airfield frequency that controls the airfield lighting. By selecting the frequency and in this case keying four long dashes the entire airfield lights up for fifteen minutes. That is plenty of time to taxi to the runway and take off, even for a fully loaded passenger aircraft; who do. It’s fascinating when you first do it but then it is old hat.

Kununarra started of life as a work camp for the Ord River project. This was an irrigation scheme for a massive agricultural project in the Kimberly area. The main dam was constructed in 1962 and Lake Argyle, the result, is the largest inland body of water in Australia. All has not gone as well as expected for various reasons but it has opened up tourism, especially for saltwater crocodile enthusiasts. I had a look at the dam and then I went up a hill to take some pictures of the township. I went down to the main road and whilst walking back I witnessed one of the more unfortunate parts of Australian life.

There was a clearing in the woods near the road and in it was a big circle of local Aboriginals. In the middle was a five foot high pile of VB (Victoria Bitter) cases and it was obvious that they were intent on demolishing the whole lot. The reason was that is was ‘pay day’, the day that they collected their benefits. One could sympathise with them. They had no tradition of the so-called work ethic because it did not exist before Captain Cook arrived. They could get by now as they had done for centuries without money so why start now when the government gives you stacks of beer tickets.

I had only been there about four days and then there was a panic to get me back to Darwin. The aircraft that was coming from Aberdeen in an Antonov was still on the British register and so they needed a CAA licensed pilot, ie me, there to be able to fly the reassembly checks. With my feet hardly touching the ground I was bunged into the back of a F27 and then I was off back to Darwin..

14th Jul 2015, 20:08
There was only the three of us at Darwin. The chief pilot, on his two weeks rotation; the chief engineer, who lived permanently on site; and me. We had two vehicles left. The chief pilot preferred utes, the engineer had his own so I had the brand new Toyota Cecilia with a Shell fuel carnet.

The aircraft we were waiting for was still at Aberdeen. They had fitted long range sponson tanks onto it and they were having trouble getting them to work. I had flown the Puma J, the predecessor to the Super Puma nearly twenty years before and I knew that the tanks would not commence feeding unless there was at least 150 lbs of fuel in them; then they would feed until empty. The CP and the CE had been on Pumas as well. ‘Surely they know that’ ‘everybody know that’ ‘we’ve always had to do that’. And still the telexes came.

I was having a great time. I was living in a two bedroom serviced apartment on a complex with a swimming pool and barbeque area just a stones throw from the city centre. I went to every museum available and saw more kangaroos, wallabies, koalas crocodiles and dingoes than you could shake a stick at. At the end of the day I would grill a thick fillet steak and demolish a bottle of Aussie wine. (or two)

We then got the message that the aircraft had missed the Antonov. That had left the UK with stacks of other peoples stuff and it couldn’t wait. I couldn’t go back to Kununarra because its roster had been written for the Australian staff and that was sacrosanct. They then asked me to stay on until it arrived.

I would have been on contract pay, (£187/day), location allowance of about A$50/day doing nothing for the foreseeable future. It was a benefit scrounger’s dream. There was only one spectre on the horizon; the taxman.

I was on a business visa that entitled me to work in Australia for an overseas company. Even though I worked in Australia I was paid by the UK parent company. I did not know how long this arrangement was supposed to last and not having a tax advisor on the doorstep I did not want to stick out my neck too far. I was also getting bored. I had had a long period of either slack or no flying for the month or so and I was running out of things to do. I had been everywhere, got the T shirts, I knew how fast the Cecelia could go on dirt roads, forwards or backwards. Most importantly it was coming up to the typhoon season in China and I wanted to be there when needed.

I suggested that they get the aircraft registered in Australia during the delay. The light bulbs flashing up were blinding. ‘Why didn’t we think of that’, they chorused. They put it to Perth and the next day I was told that I was no longer needed. I reminded them that I was on a seven day notice period so I put in my invoice including the next week. The next day I was back in China.

The operation in China had a bed for me and as soon as I arrived somebody went sick so I volunteered to fly because I was still being paid by the parent company. The company was very grateful for me helping them out but the impression on the Chinese executives on the operation was life changing.

16th Jul 2015, 14:02
It was then time to go back to the UK for a bit. Not too long as the taxman would beckon. Luckily I was stepping from one year to the other plus a bit of time on the Costa so It wasn’t until the end of April that I started putting my bids in. Total lack of interest from my UK company after all that I had done for them but the Chinese company was very impressed by the fact that I had flown a trip voluntarily when I returned from Australia. With that came the nudge that they may employ me directly.

I had my feet pressed against the seat in front all they way to Hong Kong in the 747 trying to make it go faster. When I arrived it wasn’t a case of signing a form and strapping on an aeroplane; it doesn’t happen like that in China. I didn’t get a pay rise but I got security of employment for six months and they looked after my Chinese income tax. As my old company was not forthcoming then I was fairly fortunate to get that.

I was paid in US$, cash. This meant that I had to open a US$ account in HK and once a month I would have a bag full of money to take over there. The Chinese tax system has several different bands and what happens is the company calculate how much tax you are due for that month. They then take your payslip around to the tax office and pay your tax. The taxmen then stamp it and you will get the net amount. There is no annual tax summary, you are taxed monthly. After that I would end up in the pay office whilst the accountant doled out about two years of his pay. Somewhere along the line I was paying the equivalent of Pension and National Insurance but I don’t think that is now worth claiming.

The routine was exactly the same as before, the only difference was that I had my own apartment. I was hoping, as their employee, to go to some of the more outlandish operations but it was too difficult to do the type conversions as they were all in Chinese. It was also thought that the co-pilots would not be able to survive another company dinner with me around.

At the end of the six months I was approaching my 60th birthday. ICAO rules at that time barred anybody over sixty from flying internationally so my UK licence was no good in China or anywhere else apart from the UK. I then retired for the third time. RAF; Company; Flying; and went back to the UK with a massive tax return that proved to the whole world, if you could understand it, that I had paid my taxes and wasn’t liable for any more. I then settled down for a life of leisure in a new house.

Six months later Aberdeen were waving money in front of my face.

Just a co-pilot. Do the planning, sit there, no responsibility compared with before. Five days a week when I wanted too. Time off when I felt like it. Not only that I was being paid per day more than the captain. You couldn’t make it up. I made hay whilst the sum shone for eighteen months and then I retired again predominately because somebody in authority decided I was earning two much. (Contract pay plus two pensions)

I did Europe, Egypt, Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa and the Victoria Falls. The USA swept beneath my feet again with visits to Florida and California. In all this travelling I had a yearning to go back to see how China was getting on and a year later I did.

“You should have been here last week, you would have got a job.”

This was the cry as I entered the bar. Apparently one of the British captains had clocked a bar owner over the bill and had then done a runner. An elderly member then informed me that as the ICAO age had gone up to 65 the Chinese would endorse a British licence to that age. There was somebody coming out to replace the errant captain so I dismissed the notion. I was also leaving the next day so there was no time to investigate.

I mulled over it on the aircraft coming back and when I got back I sent an email to the chief pilot asking what the chances were in the cold light of dawn. Immediate reply, I was on. There was going to be a problem renewing my medical; both the AMEs that I knew, at that age you always go to a doctor you know, were away on holiday. Then the UK head office came in on the loop and they organised my flight to Hong Kong and China organised the hotel and CAA medical the morning after arrival at our normal AME. This all went to plan and the above phrase now reads.

“You be here next week and you will have a job.”

17th Jul 2015, 15:04
On my previous stint in China I was there in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese. I was effected by the run-up in both China and Hong Kong and come the final night sat there flicking between Shenzhen and Hong Kong TV getting both sides of the action.

Our operation was in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. This area was about the same size as the area between the Thames and the northern half of the M25. It was fenced, as it had always been since shortly after its inception to prevent a tidal wave of peasants trying to get new life. In recent years it had relaxed a bit, there were plenty of other opportunities in China by then, and the checks of the permits allowing people to stay was only random. That changed, totally, about two months before the handover. Shenzhen was now surrounded by steel.

The reason was that the Chinese government was afraid of a host of Chinese nationals demanding entry into what they considered was Chinese. The Special Administrative Region that Hong Kong was going to be meant nothing to them because all their lives Hong Kong was a land of milk and honey. Some, more nationalistic than others, were quite excited about it. They would go on about the return of Hong Kong, Macau and a few continued about Singapore. The latter obviously believed that if the population was predominately Chinese it belonged to China.

Apart from that most people didn’t seem to care.

Hong Kong was having a bad time during the run up. Hotels were virtually empty. Napier road was deserted. The tour boats for the harbour of the tours of Lantau were all tied up. Should you want to hangout there for the weekend you could walk up to the desk of any hotel and demand a 60% discount; and you got it. As one commentator addressed it; ‘You would think that the PLA was going to come along and bayonet everybody in the streets.’

A week before handover the ATC restrictions came in. We had to change our route and describe a wide arc at least ten miles from the border. Then a unit of PLA helicopters arrived. They parked their aircraft well away from us and disappeared into a distant shed. Flying over Shenzhen you could see lorry parks with dozens of PLA trucks parked within; whatever happened in Hong Kong they were not going to be short of firepower.

The ceremony itself was a bit of bore. One advantage of having two diametrically opposed TV stations is that you can flick from one to the other to get the different reactions. The Royal Marines were a bit of a let down. I would have thought that they would have been in full No 1 uniforms but they weren’t; they were dressed in shorts and berets and looked a real shambles compared with the ceremonial guard of the PLA.

After midnight the gates open and convoys of lorries with all the soldiers being told to wave to the locals meandered there way to the Prince of Wales barracks and other places. All the British bigwigs, Prince Charles; Blair, his first jolly since getting elected; Patten and others boarded the Britannia which sailed off on her last long voyage.

The next morning we watched the PLA take off en route to their new base at Sek Kong.

I never saw any evidence of PLA forces in the subsequent years when I visited the SAR. They used to stay in their barracks and from what I heard from HK ATC the helicopters did likewise. The biggest problem was that British, Australian and New Zealand backpackers couldn't get jobs as barmaids any more so you were served by some miserable bloke. It took about three or four months for Hong Kong to get back into its stride, and it did, and it will continue to do so.

19th Jul 2015, 11:04
After 17,500 hrs of flying, of which 16,500hrs were on helicopters, 12,500hrs were on Pumas and Super Pumas. During that time on the latter types I cannot remember a moment of concern.

You don't know what you missed.

20th Jul 2015, 09:43
We moved a short distance, found Bear Tor and retrieved our kit.

Only a short distance? For the Marines that was spot on.

Returning to Shekou in China where I lived.

The Navy decided to do an assault on a miltary range in the New Territories in Hong Kong. They launched from their carrier and flew up the Pearl River to their target. Unfortunately they miscounted the islands, missed their LZ and deposited a Marine Commando in the Peoples Republic of China. Luckily in the middle of the Shenzen Bay there was a Hong Kong border boat that witnessed it. He notifyed Hong Kong and they notified the carrier. At that point the lead crew were informed of their error and returned to pick up their charges.

They got away with it apparantly. The Embassy in Beijing was on tenderhooks for weeks but nothing came of it.

21st Jul 2015, 21:20
To stop this thread coming off the front page.

The Saga of the Dodgy Registration.

In 1998 came the Far East crash. Stock prices were collapsing and even major international companies were having financial troubles. Imagine a group of Samsung financial directors shuffling on their knees to tell the president he cannot have his super deluxe helicopter to take him to work every morning. The company is in such dire straights that it can only afford a small one. Not too small, about the size of his limousine, and so an Aerospatiale 332L1 came on the market.

There weren’t a lot of takers for a full VIP executive helicopter for the same reasons that Samsung were selling it. However, our Chinese company bought at an absolutely giveaway, rock bottom bargain price somewhere around 50% of what it cost two years earlier. They flew it to Shenzhen and we had a look at this beautiful jewel, its form only spoiled by the air conditioner mounted on the port side.

One lowered an airstair door to enter the front cabin. Radiant beech panelling lined the walls with four sumptuous swivelling armchairs spaced evenly around. There was a drinks cabinet at hand and a telephone to address the driver with. The rear cabin had airstairs under the boom was merely set out with six club class armchairs but had, as the front did, a carpet you had to wade through. There was also a door so that the president’s needs, during the seven or eight minutes between establishing in the cruise and starting the landing profile, could be attended to.

It all had to come out. Off came the air-conditioner; out came the armchairs and seats. They had to leave the panelling as it hid the frames and stringers but the partition disappeared. Seats? We had some seats in storage there, not a full set, just fourteen, so in they went. Then it went onto the contract it was bought for, an offshore based shuttle. It was seven days out and then the aircraft would come back for maintenance and crew change. The first two weeks were done by Chinese crews but then came the requirement for a British captain. As I was on contract to the Chinese company I was fingered.

There was one problem. It was still on the South Korean register. Not having a Korean validation on my licence I politely declined; or words to that effect. On this I was backed up by the chief pilot and all the other Brits. What arrangements the Chinese crews had for flying it I didn’t know but that was their problem. This impasse lasted about three days and then the Chinese played the master stroke. They got a temporary Chinese registration for the aircraft.

I had flown aircraft with temporary registration before. I had picked up a S76 that had been shipped over from the States to Southampton. It had a temporary registration stuck on the side made up with bodge tape and it was virtually indecipherable at first glance. The weather wasn’t brilliant and I had flown it to the UK base fairly low level across the south of England. I knew the area because of my time at Odiham so as the area being used to military traffic I reasoned that that plus an unrecognisable registration which had probably peeled off would keep me fairly safe from moaners. Thus I flew along blissfully unaware that the previous US registration was emblazoned in big letters and numbers on the underside of the aircraft.

In China the allocation of aircraft identities is on a different logic than the UK. Whilst in the UK they are predominately in alphabetical order in China it is by company further divided into types. What happens is that a company is given a block of numbers which are further broken down into types. Our company had B7951 onwards for its 332s. They bought 7951&2 in the mid eighties and 7953 came along over ten years later. The temporary registration that this aircraft had bore no relation whatsoever to any recognised form of Chinese allocation.

I decided to go along with it for three reasons. The first was that I wanted to fly it. The reports on were superb. The flight from Seoul to Shenzhen was ten per cent of its total hours and it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom in the cruise. The second was covered by Chinese aviation law as I was directly employed by a Chinese company. Most of flying discipline in China is delegated to the company so if you are guilty of an infringement you are fined by the company. As they had told me to fly it it would be difficult to discipline me for flying it illegally. The third was that I had a copy of a policy that said I was worth US$1,000,000 dead.

To be continued………………………..

22nd Jul 2015, 06:23
Mrs FED stayed at home in the UK. However, I always shipped her out to have a look at the places where I worked at; ie China three or four times. Whilst I was at Darwin in my last episode she was watching the jumping crocodiles with me.

Leave arrangements were somtimes complicated. We decided to do Central USA to see Las Vegas and some relatives. Mrs FED flew from London to San Francisco and I flew by Grab a Granny Airlines from Hong Kong and we met at the airport to catch the connecting flight to Vegas. (GaG Airlines; our American SLFs will know that one) A few days in Vegas, rented a Buick and drove through the Rockies to Dillon where my niece was. Then through the Eisenhower tunnel almost to Denver; south almost to Albuquerque then along the by the old Route 66. There we saw the Rio Grande, Meteor Crater and the Hoover dam before returnig to Vegas. Mrs FED went back to the UK and I flew back to Hong Kong and China.

More on that later.

22nd Jul 2015, 08:50
I arrived at 06.00 hrs for the 07.00 take off. My co-pilot did all the planning and then I went to the line office to sign out the aircraft. B-7955 was emblazoned on the tech log. Over the weekend? I should coco. But you couldn’t argue against it, it was all there in writing. I queried as to why it was suddenly registered. They (the CAAC registration authority) forgot to tell us. They had approved it two weeks ago. What about the temporary registration? Different department, we will tell them later. The aircraft was a honey. Smooth, precise and a joy to fly. When we arrived offshore we found that the deck crews had no trouble with airstair doors and the deck times were the same as normal.

We were based on the Nan Hai Fa Xian, an FPSO; (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading) ship which was a converted tanker. It was registered in Panama and had an Italian officered crew. I had a cabin on B deck just along from the officers lounge.
Meals were cooked separately from the Chinese crew and we could choose virtually what we liked. The schedule was tight. A morning shuttle at 07.00 hrs, that lasted about two hours. A midday change over for about an hour and then the evening shuttle at 19.00 which went on for another two hours. The engineers had it worse then us. The had to strap it down after the last landing, do the post and pre flights and untie it before the next morning’s tasking.

There are two ways off getting oil onshore. Where possible pipelines buried just under the sea bed is preferred and nearly all North Sea products come this way. Where that is not possible then an FPSO is used. Pipeline from any number, in this case six, platforms meet at a subsea loading buoy. The FPSO has a well in the deck just aft of the bow that goes straight through the hull. It positions itself ever the buoy and the buoy is then raised to fit inside the well on the ship. Everything is connected up and all the production from the platforms arrives on the ship. There it is processed to make it transportable by tanker.

About every six or seven days the Fa Xian would offload to a tanker. A specialist marine captain known as the mooring master would be flown out from Shekou. He and his crew would then be winched on to the tanker, supervise the mooring to the Fa Xian and stay on the bridge during the transfer process, sometimes ten or twelve hours. When the tanked had released and was on the way to wherever we would winch him and his team off the tanker and take them home. On this picture the tanker is moored to the Fa Xian. The tug pulling the stern does it all the time to keep the tanker in tension so that they do not drift together. The other tug is taking the export pipe to the tanker.


There wasn’t a lot to do when not flying. The TVs were all set for the Chinese crew and the Italians seemed to hibernate in their cabins. There was, however, a massive bonus. In the galley them was a soft ice cream machine with an unlimited supply of paper cups and plastic spoons. Every time we landed on to refuel I would leave the co-pilot to it and wizz down to the galley and bring up an armful of ice cream. The Chinese aren’t fond of ice cream so I would have the whole lot to myself. There wasn’t any alcohol but I had a suspicion that the Italians had a hidden supply of wine.

The problem with FPSOs and the Fa Xian in particular is that they are always pointing into the wind as they weathercock around the buoy. In fresh breezes and above this means that you get all the turbulence from the superstructure and in the Fa Xians case the twin funnels. In certain cases you would just drop at the twenty foot level and you would wait until the rotors ground cushion effect stopped you slamming into the deck. You could, as the 332 is stressed for 5m/sec (900ft/min) landings, accept quite a thump and believe me sometimes you did.

The week soon passed and then I was back in Shekou wrapping myself around a pint of draught Tiger.

B-7955 only did a couple of more weeks in the offshore contract. Then it went into the hanger and a team from the factory tore it apart and rebuilt it as an offshore aircraft with plug doors, nineteen seats and soft lining. I don't know what happened to the original kit; probably part exchanged to go in another one.

23rd Jul 2015, 21:34
Whilst I had been away those four years there had been some changes. Where previously the aircraft had been predominately British registered with a couple of Chinese ones the position was now reversed. They had bought several aircraft including two brand new ones. We now had variety on the outside and also in the inside. The first two they had bought, 7951 and 2, had metric instruments, so the altimeters were in metres and the airspeed in kilometres/hour. Metric height was easy, the Chinese, as do the Russians and French, use metric flight levels and it was quite pleasant with your ASI reading 250 instead of 135. I had only known system pressures and temperatures in Pumas to be metric but one was in lbs/sqin and horrifically high numbers they were too.

The days of pumping 2,500lbs of fuel in it and going anywhere had gone. There were several new platforms, some extensions of the old fields but others further out. They had already surveyed an area close to the 200 mile territorial limit and the disputes were starting into who owned which island or sandbar in the South China Sea.

China had the advantage of having 3,000 years of recorded history so some admiral would have landed on some island, slammed the Emperor’s standard in the ground and claimed it for China; at the same time he would have wrote it down. He may well have been chased of by the natives the next day but they didn’t, or couldn’t, write it down so China had the only record as to who possessed it at that time. I know from my contacts there that there are zillions of barrels of oil and cubic feet of gas in that sea. They just need the political settlements to start producing it.

I was only going to be able to work there for six months before the dreaded 65 point came up. The company did not have any spare pilots to send to China, that’s why I was there. They had filled some positions with pilots from their Australian operation. One of these was a training captain and also a Australian CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) examiner. Talking about my impending doom he suggested I get an Australian licence because they did not have an age limit for public transport. He pointed out that Qantas pilots who have to stop flying 747s around the world because of the ICAO limit end up flying 737s between Sydney and Melbourne so that they can pay their alimony and children’s university fees.

I thought that there might be a limit on the age that you could apply for a licence but apparently there wasn’t. Retirees had started flying and progressed up to commercial flying with no problem. The only limit was that after your 80th birthday your medical had to be done in Canberra. I thought about it but it wasn’t highly optimistic.

I had my fourth retirement party in the roof garden of Macawley’s, an Irish bar in Shekou. It was the day before Chinese New Year and already the barrage of enormous fireworks had started. There weren’t any speeches; you couldn’t hear yourself think so it was with a heavy heart that I got on the ferry to Chek Lap Kok and the 747 back to the UK.

I had been back about a month and there was this nagging thought about getting an Australian licence. On an impulse I flew back to China to do a bit of research. We established that there were no bars to getting an Oz ATPL(H) as long as I passed the exams. CPL Law, ATPL Law and IREX, the instrument written test. The other problem was China. Would they accept an over sixty five, remembering ICAO, and endorse his licence. The question was put to CAAC and they came back with an affirmative.

There was a smoking trail of shoe leather to the ferry as I went to Hong Kong International, climbed into a Cathy 747 and punched off to Perth.

24th Jul 2015, 20:01
I was going to Perth because that was where the Company’s Australian arm was. I knew some of them from Darwin and also from Aberdeen. During the 80s Aberdeen had been chronically short of pilots so had recruited a number of Australians. They had no experience of offshore work but were brought to the UK, given the necessary training and licences, and flew as co-pilots. They were quite highly paid, as all people who work the wrong side of our world are. They were one of the reasons why as a contract pilot I was not embarrassed by earning more than the staff. At that time on the North Sea I would have an Australian co-pilot with less than twenty hours twin engine and offshore experience earning more than I was.

The company was physically in an excellent position as they were in the same building and floor as the Western Australia office of CASA. The company could not help me with training as they always recruited licensed pilots. A copy of the Air Law burnt onto a disc was the best they could do. The CASA reps were fantastic; helpful, informative and full of encouragement. There was one ex North Sea pilot who whom I knew that had been through this rigmarole and he imparted some excellent advice; that was to get professional tuition for the IREX exam. This I did, expensive, about A$1,200, but worth every cent. The exams are done in real time so a full set of upper and lower en route charts plus the let-down plates for every Australian airfield cost me another A$400. I sorted had a nice room in a hotel run by Taiwanese and had a rented car outside. Twenty eight days I had planned for, I was hoping it wasn’t going to take any longer.

The IREX lessons took about a week and there were a couple of days mugging up on CPL law which I had to take first. Then came the little problem of the exams.

They were all done on a computer using multiple choice answers. That wasn’t the problem; the problem was finding a computer to sit in front of. There were exam centres in the major cities. Perth’s was near Jandakot, a large flying club type airfield which had multiple flying schools, a lot of them training Chinese airline cadets en masse and that was the problem, they had a large number sitting various exams so it was booked up solid. I desperately searched the country and there were two slots in Adelaide. I flashed up Virgin Blue and booked a return to Adelaide and then booked my CPL Air Law slot in Adelaide.

On arrival I rented another car, I now had two. They gave me a big street map and I went to find the examination location. It was a vacant shop in a new shopping centre in a new housing estate. It took me an hour to find it because the area wasn’t, as yet, mapped properly. Then to find a hotel nearby with broadband so I could get some last minute swotting. I now had two hotel rooms as well.

When I arrived at the centre in the morning it was thick with Chinese airline cadets doing their exams. I didn’t have time to talk to them as I was being briefed by my invigilator. The system was easy if you were familiar with a computer so I went through the questions fairly rapidly. An attractive Chinese girl next to me wasn’t having so much luck. It is difficult enough in the first place if you are new at it but even more when the exam in not in your native language. I had this compelling urge to prompt her but I knew that if I did I would certainly be chucked out. When I was satisfied I called the man over, he ran my answers though the programme and up it came with PASS. I had got over the first hurdle.

In the hotel foyer I got on the internet to search next week for slots; there were none, nowhere. I had to book my IREX and ATPL Air Law a fortnight ahead just to make sure. That being done I returned the car and flew back to Perth.

To be continued.