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Originally written by TC 2008

143° (This story is located in New Zealand's South Island)2'2.77"E

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 "Yabba Yabba"

 

A lot happened in Queenstown in the early seventies.

Sir Tim’s new base was modern, well equipped and inhabited by some interesting characters. The other local operators also had their aviation icons such as ace tail dragger pilot Tex who patiently spent some time with me instilling some of his invaluable mountain flying and “wheeler” landing tips in ZK-BYJ the company C180.

The stalwarts around the place were Rex and Noel – absolutely the best and most professional aircraft maintenance engineers you could ever have the privilege of knowing. Aussie Bob, as chief, reined supreme and introduced me to the good life of Italian wine, good food, parties and Roberta Flack – I missed the eventual heart attack, he didn’t.

It was the pristine climate that caused Ed the Walrus to nearly meet his demise. The alpine weather meant that day after day had picture perfect blue skies, allowing the high altitude bush to dry out and increase the probability of wild bush and grass fires raging over the mountain slopes.

Ed was out on the big concrete helipad, resplendid in his white overalls in the midday sun, working on a Hiller.

“Yabba yabba yabba” he went with that English accent, talking his head off to most people who didn’t have time to listen as he vainly trying to look busy while continually curling and twirling his huge whiskery silvery white handlebar moustache. “Yabba yabba yabba” – no wonder his overalls never got dirty.

Bondy was a quiet young pilot who had been through a lot in life and had a sense of humour. He was enjoying the new experience of flying the big Hiller 12E and was at the base to get some training on bush fire control utilising a big orange fiberglass water bucket slung from the electric operated cargo hook underneath the machine.

The Tait radio maintenance guy was checking the HF radios in the machines and had just been doing a quick tune on the equipment in Bondy’s machine. The cyclic stick was a military version with all sorts of buttons and knobs all over it. There was a two position pull switch on the front for intercom and radio; a red button on the top RH for the cargo hook release, a toggle switch for the landing light; a Chinese hat looking switch in the middle on top for the two dual action electric cyclic trim motors and another switch or two for anything else such as the electric valve on the bottom of the bucket to release the water onto a fire. Man it looked cool.

Radio fixed, Bondy flew off to the lake, about a mile away, to practice dipping the bucket into water and then spreading the water over an imaginary fire in the willow trees surrounding a river fed from the lake.

Life went on at the heli-pad – “Yabba, yabba, yabba” went the walrus to anyone within range.

It was the yabbering that saved Ed the Walrus’s life. Instead of standing on the left side of the machine to change the spark plugs he decided to stand back and “yabba, yabba, yabba” to the Tait radio man who was sitting in the pilot's seat politely listening while trying to test the radio.

“VHF Test 1,2,3,4. Bondy how do you read”

“Read you 5” Bondy replied from the lake.

“Ok, I’ll try the HF now – change to frequency xxxx”

“Roger” replied Bondy – “I’m coming back to the field because the bucket valve has stuck so call me when you are ready for the test”

We were in the Chief’s office when we heard the Hiller returning and involuntarily looked out the window when the HF speaker in the room burst into life.

“HF test 1,2,3,4. Bondy how do you read”

We couldn’t see the Hiller from inside as it was flying overhead the hanger at about 200 ft. What was interesting was to see the look on Ed the Walrus’s face and the elongation of his eyes as he heard the whistling noise and looked up. The old fox had had us fooled all along – he was really a fast mover and must have also been an Olympic standard high diving specialist in disguise.

All we saw was the look – then the swan dive under the Hiller, followed almost immediately by an orange bucket plummeting from the sky and smashing to pieces right were Ed was supposed to be working. Although the nickname came from his moustache, we could see that he must have been a descendant of those princely animals as he was a sight to see splashing around in the 50 gallons of cold lake water that poured from the bucket and enveloped him.

“Oops, wrong button” Bondy’s quiet voice anxiously came wafting through the speaker.

 

 

1973 - Sir Tim's Queenstown base - Noel in the foreground, Chief Bob in the back RH side


True Story

TC (Tony

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