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Caloundra Queensland Australia 1992

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"Culture Shock"



It must be difficult for pilots from different cultures to learn the characteristics and eccentricities of another country.


I felt for the Japanese military pilot who wanted to fly in Australia.

He had great difficulty navigating by sight only in hilly country and used to go way off track to remain clear of towns and highhills instead of just climbing up over them.

He was forever getting lost.

I suppose that anyone who was previously a navy aviator and had never flown much over land would tend to have that problem, as there weren't too many whales or aircraft carriers in them there hills.

At least I got to see some of the countryside and he came good eventually.


Nobu was a likeable lad from Japan, always wearing white sandshoes with Mickey Mouse emblems and blue dungarees with braces as he mixed with the jeans, boots, big hats and rodeo belts of the would be student mustering pilots.

He was different on our public roads for reasons we could never work out.


Being always helpful, polite and highly intelligent didn’t fit in as being someone who also unfortunately managed to wreck a number of company and bicycles by using his feet to rub on the front tyre to make it stop.

How he managed to repeatedly damage his foot by catching it in the front wheel followed by the subsequent locking up of the front wheel, bending the spokes and rim before catapulting him over the handle bars, escapes us.

We couldn’t do it if we tried – he sure was talented in this type of manoeuvre and ....... we never had to repair the bike brakes.


He managed to do even more damage down at M T's hanger in Caboolture after he passed his Commercial Helicopter Pilot licence.

His, until then, unknown and unrecognised high level athletic skills and prowess became apparent to everyone when the boys organised the surprise “pregnant” (pillow up her jumper) stripper to treat Nobu on his birthday.

When she first came roaring into the hanger pointing to her midriff and shouting out words to the effect “where’s that flaming Nobu who caused this – he’s going to pay or marry me” etc – the look on his virgin face was said to have more expression of shock than the male dog seeing the vet come with some huge, sharp snippers.

The 30 or so “boys” who had “accidentally” for some unknown reason come to the wrong hanger for some helicopter parts – were amazed at his skill in jumping up and hiding on the mezzanine floor above the administration office.

They clapped and cheered at this remarkable lad.

The coup de grace was his class act of impersonating a computer when he fell through the office roof on top of a young lady below.

The BBQ and lots of 4X beer afterwards settled his nerves and we all enjoyed his birthday celebration - something he will never forget..... and neither will we.


Australia is an ancient continent.

It’s difficult enough for the locals to properly pronounce some of the indigenous place names in our local area without the difficulty of having English as a second language.

Nobu was a great student pilot – diligent and hardworking – he progressed well and then it came time for his solo navigation flights.

Pronouncing Caloundra and Noosa came out OK, but the main control zone up the road – Maroochydore and a town to the west – Nambour - locked up his tongue while he was trying valiantly to pronounce them.


He practiced his call signs over and over until he felt it was all OK.

He flew the route with Sandy as instructor and it went well.

So off Nobu went on his first solo NAV through the control zone.



Evidently his tongue went well, right up until the stressful point where he had to tell the airspace controller that he was at Nambour at 1,500 ft inbound for over flying Maroochydore airport and then wanting to track for Caloundra via Mooloolaba beach and needed permission to enter the control zone.


The transcript from the control tower went like this (imagine a very patient controller who almost loses it due frustration, as lots of passenger jets were stacking up due the air waves being saturated with Nobu’s very lengthy radio transmission as he tried to communicate with occasional  tongue lock up!):

“Helicopter Foxtrot Hotel Delta, this is Maroochy Tower. That was the best, most detailed and longest radio call I have ever heard. BUT……………Where the Bloody Hell Are YOU!!!!!).


Nobu made it back to Caloundra, so they must have come to some agreement on location names. He did well.


His father sent a postcard a year or so later thanking us for helping Nobu and later we heard that he progressed well to Captain offshore maritime helicopters.  Well done Nobu, you worked hard - you deserved to achieve your dreams - we are proud of you.


True story



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