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Originally written by TC 1979

horizontal rule

"Cooky"

 

Island life as an expatriate is not always easy, however the great memories of working with the locals more than make up for the less than rosy side. I loved living in Fiji in the mid seventies and Ian was a great boss, giving me tropical experiences and opportunities that I never dreamt of.

The Soloy Hiller 12E4 was an ideally suited economical workhorse for all the various tasks it was called upon to accomplish. Shifting drill rigs on the mainland was handled with equal ease as long offshore trips to other Islands. 

 

Smoking around helicopters has always been one of those risk factors I will not tolerate – and everyone knows it.

The re-supply trip into the mining camp looked as if it would be an enjoyable trip into the beautiful hinterland.

With the cabin stuffed full with food supplies behind me and in the RH seat area, the machine was not particular overloaded as the Alison C20 turbine hummed along while the pleasant little old wizened up, toothless Fijian replacement camp cook squashed into the left hand seat behind me beamed and babbled while enjoying his first flight in a helicopter.

The mine was in a ravine with the landing pad simply a ledge jutting out from a cliff about half way down one side I could just about put nearly the front half of the skids on the ledge, while the remaining 60% of the machine was balanced in mid air hanging over a vertical drop of about 300 ft to the creek below. The lack of room meant that I never actually landed the machine, rather it was a matter of reducing the main rotor pitch slightly so that the front of the skids had some weight on the ground. Reducing the pitch further would eventually have made the machine tip backwards into the ravine.

I also had to be watchful and careful as the wind would occasionally push up the ravine and hit underneath the large surface area of the twin horizontal stabilisers at the rear of the tail boom. This caused the machine to tilt forward and the rotor blades came close (inches away) to the cliff face. Those of you have done it know that this was was enjoyable flying.

On this occasion there was no wind, only the rotor down wash to sweep across the ledge as I came into touch down.

It was standard drill, due the lack of room, for two blokes at the mine (whose job it was to unload the machine while I held it steady) to come to the front of the machine as the skids touched down so that they weren’t under the rotor blade tips -should they sail down and scone someone on the head due an updraft pushing on the tail.

I reckon that the big Fijian bloke smoking a cigarette must have broken the scales at 200 Kg – it’s a wonder the landing pad didn’t break away from the hill. He also knew from the dark look on my face that I was mad as hell at him for breaking the rules by smoking and he also knew I could do nothing about it at that particular moment.

Trouble suddenly rose when the cook behind me wanted to let everyone know that he had arrived in the big bird. He stood up, opened the LH door, jutted his head and shoulders outside and put one foot and most of his 65 Kg weight just behind my hand on the collective pitch lever as he used it to steady himself while waving frantically to his mates with one hand.

I struggled a loosing battle to hold the collective up against the dreadful down pressure caused by cooky's weight and then we started to tip backwards ever so slowly into the ravine.

The more I turned and yelled at him to shift his bloody foot, the more the cook waved to his mates and didn’t have a clue what was going on.

I remember the artistic side of my brain thinking that it looked like we were going to have an interesting and unusual view of the world after I ran out of control and the machine fell backwards and upside down into the ravine, when suddenly, the dreadful tipping stopped.

Looking up and out – I saw that the big guy on the pad must have thought I was yelling at him instead of the cook as he had cupped his cigarette in his hands to keep it out of the rotor down-wash and then sat on the helicopter's RH front skid cross tube with his back to me in an act of defiance.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I eventually belted the cook off the collective lever with my elbow and head (another good reason to wear my flight helmet) and was able to restore normality.

To this day – I don’t mind if people smoke – as long as they are stubborn, weigh at least 200kg and are Fijians.

The Hiller 12E4T new - pre delivery to Fiji. We normally flew it with both doors removed.

True Story

TC 

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