The Roaming [Drone] Pilot

In 2016 when I returned to the USA from flying HEMS in Kuwait I found myself in the middle of a hiring downturn in the helicopter industry. Fueled in part by necessity (gotta pay them bills, yo) and part practicality I founded my own drone company called Aerial Resources Group, LLC. The goal being to serve as a consultant for companies looking to integrate sUAS into existing operations. Well here we are nearly 2 years later and I’m writing this post from a remote mining camp in Guyana.

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Moyie Mud-Bogs (Video)

Happy Mudders Day!

Living in North Idaho comes with many perks, we have rolling mountains and sprawling wilderness areas that will keep even the most intrepid outdoorsmen sated when it comes to an appetite for adventure. World class fishing in our lakes, rivers, and streams attract traveler from around the world – and a relatively low populations density can make it feel like you’ve got a piece of paradise carved out all for yourself.

The rest of the country doesn’t seem to get that impression of North Idaho though, our state’s wildly successful marketing of potato crops creating mental imagery of rolling farmland from border to border. Then there are those that seem to think we’re a bit “country” or a little bit “redneck”…well this weekend in Moyie Springs, we certainly lived up to that label a bit, if only for a few days.  Continue reading “Moyie Mud-Bogs (Video)”

The National WWII Museum – New Orleans, LA

I’ve finally wrapped up my training and am flying home for a much needed 2-3 weeks of rest and relaxation before the real work begins. I booked the first flight home that made sense (time + route + stops + cost) out of New Orleans for late in the afternoon, and prepared. When I had driven down to Venice, LA for a few mentor training flights and then some actual contract work-over flying I had to go through New Orleans, and when I did I drove past the National WWII Museum.

With that still fresh in my memory, and my now booked flight not until late in the afternoon I planned on heading up to New Orleans early enough so as to arrive when the doors opened at the museum. To say that this is one of the most impressive and immersive WWII Museums I’ve ever been in would be an understatement – and having half a day simply was not nearly enough time to make my way through the entire museum as throughly as I would have liked. One this is certain, with more trips to New Orleans in my future, I’ll be returning to this museum. Follow the link for more information from their site.

The National World War II Museum.

Back in the USA!

It came as much as a surprise to me as it is to you I’m sure, perhaps even more-so; but I am now back in the United States and my time with Life Flight in Kuwait flying HEMS has come to a close. As of July of 2016 I’m no longer flying HEMS and am back stateside. Just a quick update, more to follow as I continue to roam.

If you haven’t yet followed me on instagram check out @theroamingpilot

 

HAI’s HELI-EXPO 2015 (part 1)

Last year I tried to keep summaries for each day of HeliExpo and post them up here, that would end up proving to be a really tough task. It was my first HeliExpo and I made the naive mistake of thinking that I would have anything that resembled free time during the week. My days started before 7am at press breakfasts and meetings and then spilled over into the convention hall floor for interviews, booth announcements, and photography. The action of the day would only melt away and intensify into the after parties, banquet halls full of catered food (often the same menu) and open bars. I can’t recall a day that ended before 3am THE NEXT DAY.
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Just Another Tuna Pilot Guide (Download)

Ok this one is for those of you thinking of heading out to the tuna fishing world. I took a few days and put together a short (60 page) guide based on my experiences in the fishing grounds as a tuna pilot. There is a port guide at the end of this that IS NOT complete, as I only made it to a few ports. Link is attached, download and share.

If you are a tuna pilot and want to contribute to the port guide let me know and send me a write up!

Just Another Tuna Pilot Guide

Poaching Tuna (Jan 30)

No, I don’t mean in the kitchen. The last few days the Captain has taken to doing an early morning flight, just before the sun comes up over the horizon, not that it has done us any good so far. The tuna schools don’t seem to break the surface until the sun is well up in the sky and the surface temperature of the water has started to come up. Well today we had a few more things to look at while flying. Four other tuna fishing boats were nearby, so we went to have a look.

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The Kitchen is NOW OPEN (Jan 21)

The Kitchen is Now Open

Apparently even in the middle of the ocean and thousands of miles away from the nearest port there isn’t much job security. Today I had a passenger to transfer from our boat to another boat, the ships cook. Well, former cook.

Last week I could hear the Captain going on in his stateroom, yelling about something, and I couldn’t understand a word of it. Later when I was chatting with the Yansa and Sumansa they told me that he had been yelling at the Cook. I couldn’t believe it, the cook is a nice older guy about 56 years old, polite, friendly, even taught me some Korean. As for the food – I’ve been happy, we get a little bit of everything, Japanese style, Indonesian style, American style, and of course Korean style.

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Skunked, also…Economics of the High Seas (Jan 16)

I transferred to this boat, the Shilla Jupiter, on the 6th. It had already been at sea for a week at that point and when I came aboard I eventually got around to asking the fisheries observer how much tuna we had onboard already – the answer was that in the week they’d been sailing they had caught almost 100 tons of tuna, but a little less than 100 tons. That night for dinner they performed a ceremony to ask the god of the sea to fill their nets. He must not have liked the sacrifices.

Now it’s been two weeks since I came aboard and we’ve caught around 200 tons of tuna, in small batches, and seen no schools at all. Every flight we’ve come up empty handed except for finding a payow on one. That was fun, we were flying and searching for the payow – the Yansa (2nd officer) was searching through powerful binoculars out the right side of the helicopter. I was every now and then searching out the left side of the helicopter between instrument scans. On one of these occasions I spotted the raft (payow) over my left shoulder, I keyed the mic and said as much over the intercom, and banked left to get to the payow.

I set myself up for a nice descending pattern down to the payow, that would allow me to keep it in sight the entire way down to it. Once we got over the water the Yansa climbed out onto the pontoon with the gps buoy in hand. I maneuvered the helicopter over the payow, concentrating intently on steady smooth movements – very aware that 150 pounds had just shifted away from the CG centerline of the helicopter and was hanging onto a pontoon. As we got closer Yansa directed me with hand signals left and forward a little more. The rotorwash splashed up the ocean surface, slightly behind and left of the helicopter telling me that I was still in a headwind. Once the buoy was out and the Yansa climbed back into his seat I slowly moved away from the payow a bit to make sure the rope wasn’t lashed over my pontoon float and then climbed out and away into the wind.

That was it, that was the one moment of excitement in all the flying that has been done out here this trip so far. Large circles over empty patches of water, with only a few birds or whales in it, punctuate each flight before we land – shaking our heads with the disappointment of not having found anything. It’s easier for me, I’ve only been out here two weeks however the crew, the crew, they’ve been out here almost a month with less than 300 tons of fish to show for it, and this boat has larger holds than my last one, 1100 tons worth.

The Captain, with each day, has grown more reclusive from the crew. He takes his meals in his stateroom and rarely ventures off of the upper deck. The cook still sets a place for the Captain at the table, but the officers and I have grown used to the notion that he isn’t coming down to join us. Once the cook sends a tray up to the Captains room the (typically better prepared) food set out in front of his spot is fair game. We take servings of fruit, and spring rolls, and other sides from the platters that will otherwise go unconsumed. His kimchi is often fresher and better seasoned too it seems like, maybe it’s just psychological – taking from the dishes reserved for the Captain makes the food taste that much sweeter. I don’t know.

Today however he finally reached wits end, two payow had checked out with no fish near them. The flights around them showed nothing to indicate there was a payow school feeding nearby somewhere. He began to yell and scream at his officers whom he had assembled in his quarters. I didn’t understand a word of it but my room is just down the hall and the berating carried well through the wood panel lines corridor. The observer, who stays across the hall from me, stopped over to chat.

“The Captain is very angry” the observer said.

I just smiled at the comment and asked “what gave you that impression”. We both laughed, but the yelling continued. We gathered that he was mad about not finding any fish, it seemed he wasn’t going to shoulder that failure on his own shoulder, and was lofting the weight of it onto the men that manned the observation tower and sonar/radar. If I were a Korean pilot and part of the crew I may have also been in that room. Thank god I’m not. I don’t like getting yelled at, and I’m not in the Army anymore.

Speaking of the Army, I found something interesting out last night over an exchange of hard drives, movies, and Soju. It would seem that every young man in Korea has a two year obligation to service in the Army. Conscription like that is a notion I support for our country as well – it would solve a lot of the social problems in youth these days if they had to serve for a few years. Anyways, moving away from that social commentary, these Korean youth have an option though, if they don’t want to serve in the Army they can serve in the fishing fleet as “Sumansa” (3rd officer) or “Yansa” (2nd officer) for a commitment of 3 years. So it’s either two years in the Army making nothing, or 3 years as an officer on a fishing boat making money hand over fist. The Sumansa on this boat hates it here, he told me, but didn’t want to serve in the Army. They are all of course swayed by the money too – but it sounds like none of the junior officers really truly wanted to be fishermen. Interesting.

You would think – back to the story – that the Captain would do the sensible thing and tuck tail back west. He’d made the decision to come this far east based on bad intel from another Captain. The whole fishing fleet went west to the Solomons and PNG following the tuna, we went east speculating on the chance to hit it big on a late push of Yellowfin in the migration. We gambled, we lost, lets call it a day and go join the fleet. For awhile it looked like that is what we were doing, our bow was cutting west and we were on our way. When all of a sudden the Captain ordered us South, and then back East again. His gut telling him that we were going to miss something big if we didn’t stay.

So we’re south of the last area we were in, and pushing back East, 3 weeks in and less than 300 tons on board with 800 tons left to go. I think this will be a long voyage. I did get a good chance to observe the economic principal of “Supply and Demand” demonstrated out here. You see, they’d been at sea so long that anyone with Soju or Whiskey had capital in the form of the booze. The other day we stopped at a bunker ship and refueled the Shilla Jupiter, and the ship also brought on 28 cases of Soju and a dozen cases of beer. Suddenly all that bargaining power crumbled into nothing. Let that be lesson to you in life and finances alike – if you have a commodity of value, don’t waste it until its value has gone up, but once it has – don’t sit on it either, because eventually it will not be worth anything.