As Chief Pilot,
Chief flight Instructor and the Ag
pilot training instructor as
well as being a licensed Heli
Maintenance engineer, I checked out
the new pilots giving them a
thorough run thru of systems as well
as noting their attitude and
It must have
been in 87 after I returned from a
stint at Heli-Muster in the NT 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 | Southern Queensland
Gatton is about
100 Kms west of Brisbane and is the
south east Queensland
food bowl in a wide valley.
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
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.
trick, at the end of spraying
the crops for the
day, was to climb up to be about 2K AGL
above our home base helipad, put
the machine into autorotation (a
high rate of descent) and wined the
airspeed right back by quickly
slowing the helicopter down.
As it got to
Zero airspeed, in went mobs of left
rudder pedal and
a bunch of left cyclic.
the nose vertically towards the
ground and on went the smoker.
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.
Walk around a Hiller turbine
converted Heli - YouTube
machine had a 420 SHP Alison C20B
turbine engine installed and had
started emitting smoke on shut down
for the last 5 or so flight hours –
a good sign that the Turbine hot end carbon
seal was on the way out.
figured that "The Chief" needed
to be advised that the smoke was
getting worse so he could order
parts before the leak
deteriorated any further.
was in his office and said he was too busy to
see me as he had the local federal CAA
inspector guy in and was lauding
loudly at how good everything was
now around the place, thanks to his
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.
nothing wrong with the engine, they
all smoke a bit” he said.
“But Tadj”, I
said – “this one is getting bad”.
be told in front of the CAA guy –
telling me that “you pilots wouldn’t
know what you are talking about”.
must have forgotten that I not
only was a pilot but also an
engineer who had been flying and
maintaining this type of
helicopter for over ten years.
I left him to entertain his CAA
We had a break
did some paperwork and at 1500
decided to go up for another couple
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. -
the CAA guy must have gone home.
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
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
slowly and noisily and landed close in front of the
flight school with the tail rotor
pointing at the school – after
checking there was plenty of
room and the landing area was safe.
I hopped out of
the machine and stood by the RH door
as the other Pilot did the engine
cool down at idle speed (about 3
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 behind my back and he flicked on
the Ag smoker – something Tadj didn’t
know was fitted to that particular
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
What a happy 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
screaming out in a voice that
fortunately (smile – smile) could be
heard by all (including the
students) above the now silent
turbine winding down.
“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
PS: revenge is
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 help
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
And now for all the world to see
years later - "The Chief".
see the look in his eyes as he
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)!