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The Rotary Nostalgia Thread

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The Rotary Nostalgia Thread

Old 21st May 2015, 13:33
  #2481 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: England
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Last edited by P6 Driver; 22nd Jul 2015 at 10:37.
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Old 21st May 2015, 20:09
  #2482 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 118
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"
Sigh of relief in the tower "return to base"
Happy days.
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Old 23rd May 2015, 15:47
  #2483 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2007
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Old 5th Jun 2015, 10:05
  #2484 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 4,625
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……………………………………….
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Old 5th Jun 2015, 18:51
  #2485 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
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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………………………………..
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Old 7th Jun 2015, 10:24
  #2486 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 4,625
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………………………………………..
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Old 9th Jun 2015, 20:11
  #2487 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 4,625
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.

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Old 7th Jul 2015, 22:55
  #2488 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2007
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Last edited by P6 Driver; 22nd Jul 2015 at 10:37.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 17:44
  #2489 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
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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.
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Old 14th Jul 2015, 12:54
  #2490 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 4,625
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..
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Old 14th Jul 2015, 21:08
  #2491 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
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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.
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Old 16th Jul 2015, 15:02
  #2492 (permalink)  
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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.”

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 6th Aug 2015 at 19:31.
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Old 17th Jul 2015, 16:04
  #2493 (permalink)  
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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.
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Old 19th Jul 2015, 12:04
  #2494 (permalink)  
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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.
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Old 20th Jul 2015, 10:43
  #2495 (permalink)  
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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.
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Old 21st Jul 2015, 22:20
  #2496 (permalink)  
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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………………………..
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Old 22nd Jul 2015, 07:23
  #2497 (permalink)  
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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.
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Old 22nd Jul 2015, 09:50
  #2498 (permalink)  
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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.
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Old 23rd Jul 2015, 22:34
  #2499 (permalink)  
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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.
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Old 24th Jul 2015, 21:01
  #2500 (permalink)  
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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.
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