This is one I’ve been meaning to write since I started flying off-shore. It’s a topic I get questions about from time to time, and one that is worth mentioning. What is the weather like in the Gulf? How do you plan, fly, and work with it? Now that may seem like a ridiculous question to some of the old dogs of aviation, those long in the tooth greying, bitter old bastards that have heli-bellies and retirement on the horizon – but for the younger up and coming generation of pilots these are the things that they are thinking about, asking about and interested in. So I’ll take a stab at it.
Even though I haven’t been writing for the past year and a half (give or take) I still get messages on this site, instagram, and on Facebook. It’s been a long time since I managed any helicopter pilot groups on FB so that last one is a bit of a mystery to me. Let’s roll with it. Lately, since starting in the Gulf the most common request I get is to write about what it is like to fly here, someone asked me to make a youtube video (not gonna happen for a few reasons), and now that I’m back writing again I figured this would be a good place to start.
Back in the start of March I had to fly back to the United States. I’d been invited to sit on a mentorship panel for up and coming helicopter pilots at HAI’s Heli-Expo 2016, and to participate in the Mil2Civ (Military to Civilian) mentorship and transition workshops that were being held in Louisville, Kentucky.
I remember when the Airbus A380 first rolled off the line and I thought to myself – I can’t wait to fly on one of those! And then the pictures of the business and first class areas started to make the rounds on the internet and I swore that I’d be flying business class on Emirates one day – soon. Well, this was the perfect opportunity. Continue reading “Flying with Class…Business Class”
My leave in the United States seemed to end far quicker than it began and I quickly found myself boarding British Airways for a flight back to my real job – being a helicopter pilot. If I could be paid to just travel and write this blog, and I mean…that would be nice.
Anyways, I had a 10 hour layover in London before my connecting flight back to the Middle East, and there was no way I was going to sit on my hands in the BA terminal (it’s a nice terminal – in case anyone from BA is reading and wants to sponsor the blog); not when there was a beautiful, thriving, vibrant London just a quick shot down the tube waiting to be discovered!
That was meant to be a bit sarcastic given the usual grey, damp, backdrop to London that the rest of the world just assumes is the weather 100% of the time, however while I was there it was blue skies and only a little bit of rain. Continue reading “London in…maybe 7 hours”
Hello! I know it has been a very long time since my last post and I apologize for that. Let’s just say that all this silence over the last few months was triggered by an epic soap-opera level of drama that served as eye-opening for me as to the true nature of the aviation industry.
I digress! The Roaming Pilot is back online. If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice some pretty significant changes, mostly in that I won’t be writing about pilot stuff very much. However, you’re going to be very pleased to read on because I am now going to be “Roaming” even more! I’ve taken a job with a great company in a great location doing a great mission. It’s launched me, what I feel, is years ahead of my career track if I had pursued traditional paths.
For instance, I had the opportunity this past weekend to visit Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai has been on my bucket list of places to visit since they unveiled the Burj Khalifa and also because of two other influence. Click to read on –
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.
Continue reading “HAI’s HELI-EXPO 2015 (part 1)”
Today was an interesting day, for me at least. At some point last night we wound up meeting up with 3 other ships from Don Wong tuna company for a little bit a fleet fishing activities. 2 other helicopters from Tropic were out there too. It’s a novelty item for me since for the last week and a half it has been just us and the ocean, but I guess this sort of thing is common place, the fishing grounds are only so big and these guys are all kind of working together for the same company. They are also competing with each other for the money that comes from filling the holds with tuna.
I also got to see the second type of setting that we do, and that is the kind where we don’t set on a “payow” but instead we find, track and then set around a school of tuna. Considerably more challenging it looks like, and a lot of it comes down to the captain and his experience. There is a lot of watching, waiting for the tuna to come up to the surface to feed. When they do they form what is called a “foamer” where the water gets really frothy and white as they splash against the surface. The bigger the foamer, the bigger the school – common sense. Or so I thought, because we were tracking one that looked particularly like a large school but the captain would not set, he kept waiting and turning the boat and looking for another one.
Today I was told to be ready for pickup from my hotel by 7am. I was downstairs, checked out and sitting waiting patiently like a good on time soldier in the army. 15 minutes early. That was a mistake. For two reasons, one – I’m on Fiji and nothing here runs on anything other than Island Time, and two – the communication between the company, the boat, and the port agent up until now has not been exactly stellar. By the time 8am rolled around I had begun to realize this and asked the front desk if I could take my breakfast (which was included with the room) in the lobby. They were happy to bring me a plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, and toast. And one glass of delicious island juice. I have no idea what kind of juice it was, but it was sweet. I can rule out mango since I know the taste of mango like nobodies business (thank you Davao!).
Then 9am rolled by. Ok, I’m starting to worry at this point. What kind of time am I going to have getting to the boat, on the boat and settled before we weigh anchor and set sail on our voyage. Yesterday I was told that we were leaving at 10am. It was getting close. I think my regular check ins with the company were starting to drive poor Karen crazy. She kept echoing “just wait, just wait” to me, as if I was gonna take off and go on a pirate gold seeking adventure or something. At this point I didn’t know anything other than sitting and waiting. I was getting really good at it too.
Be prepared to be patient when you get out here. They make it sound like everything is a hurry up and go no culture, but in listening to all these tales from other tuna pilots I seemed to forget that we are on Island time over here. Things are very much done at the pace of “when it happens it happens.” I’m sure the boats are different, and working. But for now, I checked into my hotel last night and was told that an agent would pick me up this morning and take me to the boat.
Today I started on the way to the South Pacific to take on an adventure of a job. What some might call the true last bastion of the “wild west” for helicopters, I was hired recently by Tropic Helicopters to fly on one of the Tuna Boats that was out fishing the region. They say that this is the adventure. They weren’t kidding. I’ve spent the last two weeks putting in my notice, packing out of my apartment, moving out of my office and packing and repacking my bags for the trip. One year, that’s the length of my contract – so I’m bringing a lot of gear with me. It’s probably too much, it almost always is, but I’d rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.
An adventure. It started before I had hardly left my home. My original plan was to fly from Spokane to Portland, and then from Portland to Los Angeles and on to Brisbane. From there the idea was to fly into Honiara in the Solomon Islands and go over to the company base, do some training on the MD 500 I was going to be flying and wait for my boat to show up.
That plan changed. As my plane landed in Portland, my first stop, the familiar buzz of my phone going off in my pocket exploded. Message after message came in – naturally I was curious. HR wanted to know where I was, was I with my luggage, what kind of time did I have in Portland and again in LA, where my bags checked all the way to Honiara or just Brisbane – and they needed to know now.
It would seem they needed me somewhere else. Instead of going to Honiara like originally planned, they wanted me to divert and go directly to Fiji, where I would meet my Korean fishing boat, and climb aboard. Her name, the ‘Caribe’.
Of course I had questions. What about my training, what about my schedule, how many pilots would be on this boat, what was the plan going forward. It would seem I was to meet a senior pilot in Fiji and he would train me – on the boat – during the sail from Fiji back to Honiara. Where he was done with his contract. Well, isn’t that fun.
I’m writing this passage from Portland International, waiting for an email with my new tickets and for my plane to board. Still bound for Brisbane, over-nighting in Fiji, then getting onto my Korean boat. No better way to learn how to land on a moving ship in pitching seas than to do it for real the first time right? The Adventure Begins.