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Originally written by TC 2007

(This story is located at Google Earth: " 17°31'32.67"S and 139°29'42.01"E)

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"The Big Bang"


The trip from VRD in the Northern Territory to Maggieville station up in the Gulf country of Queensland was long and cramped.

Muz, me, Jim P as the happy go lucky smiley pilot, survival gear, toolboxes, our personal gear for a few days in the bush, full fuel tanks and a heavy complete Lycoming TVO435 helicopter engine were probably the reasons why the Cherokee six flew in a nose up attitude at 95 Kts using a mob of power until we burnt a couple of hours fuel off. Or maybe the centre of gravity was out because big Muz ate a huge breakfast and we made him sit in the back because of the gurgles, rumbles and other indescribable noises he made.

M T had just set up his Gulf Helicopters Company by purchasing a mob of machines and work from JW’s Helimuster operation. Quite a character, MT became a legend for his exploits in his grey G5A helicopter and the World knew of him through the Playboy magazine interview and photos of him in his prized crocodile skin boots. I think he was wearing more than his boots in the photos but can’t guarantee it! A survivor, MT later was a bit crook for a while after he took a helicopter main Rotor transmission on the back of his helmet when a rotor blade hit a tree and the helicopter violently disintegrated around him. He still wears those boots every day!

The AugustaBell 47 G3B1 was built under licence in Italy for the Italian Defence force and, except for a thicker and slightly different shaped Perspex bubble with a small hole for an outside temperature gauge high up in front of the pilot, was basically similar to the other USA machines we flew at the time. That hole was to be my nemesis.

MT loaded up his machine with big Muz inside while the toolboxes and all our gear were piled onto his external cargo racks. It looked like a Peruvian bus. We had just spent a couple of days in the open scrub up north from Esscott station changing the blown engine in one of his AB47 G3B1machines. No lifting rigs, no nothing except using another helicopter to hover and lift out and precisely replace all the vital components. Its rotor wash also kept us cool, blew away the mozzies and midges and was our only way out of the swamp.

I had already previously ground run and hovered the newly engined 3B1, so gave MT the thumbs up (the VHF wasn’t working) and away we went heading for Esscott.  MT knew the area well and I was supposed to follow him on his left side so he could keep an eye on me.

10 minutes out at about 250 Ft AGL and I noticed that the engine oil temp was creeping into the high range and the oil pressure was heading south, but still in the green. As the main rotor transmission received its lubrication from the pre-heated engine oil, I flicked the dual temp gauge switch to indicate the transmission temp – it was nudging the red line. “Bugga” I thought, “there’s no where to land so I’ll knock the engine power back a bit and cruise at 41 kts  - the 3B1’s most efficient low power speed.”

Just then MT decided to dive down to his right into the winding tidal creek we had been following and skim the water – probably to give Muz a fun ride. They didn’t know that I had a problem with my machine and that I was looking and hoping to find a place to land real soon. Rather than increase the engine power, I decided to convert my altitude to airspeed to catch up with MT and indicate I had an urgent need to land once I got along side of him.

I didn’t make it.

Down to about 50 Ft above the Mangrove trees at 70 kts on the left bank of the creek, about 50 yards back from MT at his 7 o’clock, I noticed the oil temp gauge flick up another ten degrees past the redline.  I lent down to tap the oil pressure gauge to check it was indicating a reliable reading and also change the oil temp to show me what temp the engine was running at as my options were now narrowing second by second.

I remember a big bang and something impacting hard on the side of my face and helmet. Things went a bit grey for what seemed like forever and even when I started to come to and react to the ground coming up, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

I was lucky and put down on a dusty little cattle camp beside the mangroves. I still couldn’t see too good thru my left eye but the red hazy view thru the dust and blood was interesting. The Perspex bubble had broken into huge flapping shards ending about 6 inches from my face. My helmet was damaged and I had some small cuts on my face and neck. Thank my lucky stars I was looking down when the event occurred.

Flummoxed, I wondered what had happened until I heard a noise coming from in front of me down by the Tail Rotor control pedals.

With a loud quack and before I could groggily release my full seat belt harness and grab it, the duck which MT had scared out of the creek and then impacted right on the weak point of the bubble – the hole for the outside air temp gauge - scrambled to its feet (from were it has bounced off me and then got hurled down into the bottom of the chin bubble in front of the tail rotor pedals) and flew out of the hole where the bubble has been.

I felt that MT knew or had a premonition of what happened and that he had a fright when he turned to see where I had got to and saw the dust coming up, however I’m sure that to this day JW still doesn’t believe both of us that I was out for a duck.



Here's Muz in another place, at another time, changing a blown 3B1 engine in the scrub. Look carefully - the brakes on tractor weren't working so Muz had the guy at the other end using the digger shovel as a brake and stabilisor by jamming it into the ground whenever Muz called out to him -  What a Guy!!

True Story 


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