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Originally written by TC 2003
(This story is located at Google Earth: "East Coast Helicopters Caloundra Airport 1987" lat=-26.7991284674, lon=153.109200431
and "Gatton helipad 1987" lat=-27.5556472152, lon=152.2686975)
Tadj had just joined the company and wasn’t a bad sort of bloke for a chief engineer – always telling jokes and a great practical joker. He was fun to be around when things were going well.
Bazza's company had grown at Caloundra and now operated over 17 helicopters.
As Chief Pilot, Chief Instructor and a licensed Heli Maintenance engineer, I checked out the new pilots giving them a thorough run thru of systems as well as checking their attitude and flight skills.
It must have been in 87 that I had the task of checking out a new Ag pilot who was heading over to spray the intense small crops (lettuce, broccoli, that sort of stuff) in Gatton.
Gatton is about 100 Kms west of Brisbane and is the south east Queensland food bowl in a wide valley.
Populated by German farmers (I should have mentioned cabbage in the previous paragraph) about 120 years ago, the small plots range from 5 to 20 acres - each one surrounded by power lines and just about each one has a line going to a water pump shed in the middle of the field.
It was like flying inside a gigantic but deadly piano.
Such an environment meant having some aids to assist, such as the smoker we fitted to each machine so that we could see if any wind had sprung up which might cause the spray to drift onto another crop. The smoker was an electric pump which sprayed a light vegetable oil into the hot exhaust where it immediately burnt and formed a bright white smoke trail behind the machine.
My favourite trick, at the end of Ops for the day, was to climb up to be about 2K AGL above our home base helipad, put the machine into Auto and wind the airspeed right back. As it got to Zero, in went mobs of left pedal and a bunch of left cyclic. Down went the nose vertically towards the ground and on went the smoker. It used to scare the pants off the locals to see the helicopter spiraling rapidly earthwards with a big smoke trail behind it.
Back on the coast at our main Caloundra base - I was checking the new bloke out in a Soloy Hiller 12E3. This particular machine had a C20B in it and had started emitting smoke on shut down for the last 5 or so flight hours – a good sign that the hot end carbon seal was on the way out.
This day, Tadj was in his office and too busy to see me as he had the local CAA inspector guy in and was lauding loudly at how good everything was now around the place, thanks to his engineering prowess.
As the morning wore on and we did another three flight hours, the turbine in the Hiller started smoking more and more. I checked the filter – no metal but little carbon specks.
Up I went to Tadj’s office and politely asked him to come and have a look at the machine so we could make a decision about continuing on with the flying. The CAA guy was still there and Tadj wanted to make a good impression.
“There’s nothing wrong with the engine, they all smoke a bit” he said.
“But Tadj”, I said – “this one is getting bad”.
Tadj wouldn’t be told in front of the CAA guy – telling me that “you pilots wouldn’t know what you are talking about”. So I left him to entertain his CAA mate.
We had a break, did some paperwork and at 1500 decided to go up for another couple of hours. At about 1600 we were coming in low and flat, practicing jammed cyclic and pedal landings, when I saw Tadj out the front of the flight school holding court to a bunch of student pilots. He was probably telling them big whopper war stories and how much I didn’t know about Allison turbines and how much he did. Maybe he wasn’t far wrong.
I figured that we had a big day and it was time for us to have a beer and have some fun with my mate Tadj.
We taxied in and landed close in front of the flight school with the tail rotor pointing at the school – Plenty of room and safe.
I hopped out of the machine and stood by the RH door as the Pilot did the engine cool down.
Tadj was still laughing, waving his hands around, sucking on a coldie 4X beer and waffling on with the students. I figured that he was still telling them how much I didn’t know.
As the pilot shut down the turbine, I gave him the secret sign and he flicked on the smoker – something Tadj didn’t know was fitted to that particular machine.
I couldn’t see the tail boom, the flight school (inside and out) or the students for bright white smoke – but what I remained totally focused on - was Tadj.
What a sight for sore eyes - he dropped his beer in shock and terror and suddenly his little pins started pumping as he raced his little rotund frame around to where I was at the front of the machine
He was screaming out in a voice that fortunately (smile – smile) could be heard by all (including the students) above the winding down turbine.
“Don’t start it up again, don’t do anything, don’t go flying, its about to blow!”
His face was ashen - and then it turned bright red with comprehension when he saw me pointing at the smoker switch with one pinkie and the smoker unit with another, all the while looking at him with a “I gotcha” look.
Gee I felt good.
PS: revenge is sweet. About a week later – one of the apprentices came out of the hanger, gave me a piece of paper and said "could I come up to Tadj’s office and call the number right away as someone urgently needed me and wanted to speak to me."
You should have seen the big grin on Tadj’s face when the number answered: “Alice Springs old Folks home – may I help you”
PPS: And now for all the world to see 15 years later - "The Chief".
Can you see the look in his eyes as he catches the Tc camera in action and wonders when I will bring this picture to light to have the last laugh about the Alice Springs phone call?
Yep - we were supposed to keep his secret pie eating habit quiet - but even restricted war docs and files are made public after a longtime.
LG (Life's Good)!
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