Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

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Re: Hanging Around Deer Valley (KDVT)

Postby Splitpin » Thu Apr 08, 2021 6:46 pm

Good on you mate ...take care. Remember I have a room if you're passing this way.
Keep us updated with your work ...lots of pics :thumbup:
Fly safe young fella.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Mon Aug 02, 2021 8:53 pm

Expecting the Unexpected

I was in Nelson Helicopters the other day.. or was it Helicopters Nelson?... No idea what they call themselves now. Anyway, the person on the front desk is doing their license and asked me what the most difficult thing about flying in PNG was. I'm always at a bit of a loss as to how to answer this. The first thing that comes to mind initially is the weather but that is easy enough to manage once you know what's going on. The next thing is the geography but again, once you know what's going on, it's not too bad. The best answer that question I think is the unpredictable nature of... everything.

I had been in PNG for a little more than a year I guess and most of that time had been spent in New Britain and New Ireland (ie: the flatlands and islands). I was in Lae this time which if you don't know, is hemmed in by the Finnistare Range to the North and more or less the Owen Stanly range to the South. BIG country. I was the only pilot at the base apart from the boss when the news started to break that there was some 'local action' in Tari. It transpired that there was an ongoing tribal war that had just turned really bloody when one village went and ransacked the other, killing a large number of women and children. Tari is probably half way to Indonesia so it's fairly far out there and as a result, the media needed to get up there and that would be my tasking for the day. Back then, only the 105 was available to me not being rated in the BK117 at that stage and I knew that it was going to be a long haul up there. Three pax and bags later, we departed West climbing up to 10,000ft to get above everything. Talking to Moresby, Goroka and Madang on the radio the whole way up, things were quiet as I adjusted myself in the seat for the 230th time. Into Mt Hagan for fuel was about the most exciting thing up until then. Hagan is at a shade over 5000ft to start with so getting out with a skin full of fuel plus the payload was a little tight. We carried onto Tari without incident and I had received a text message from the boss of where to park when I got to Tari.
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Enroute to Tari

Arriving an hour after leaving Hagan, I shut down, disgorged the passengers to go and cover the emerging story and started looking for fuel. We usually buy drums off of MAF (Mission Air Fellowship) up there and I managed to procure a couple to get me back to Hagan. This is where things started to unravel. People who I'd never seen before started to arrive at the helicopter wanting to be taken into the bush for a hydro project that is still going on to this day. I didn't quite know what they were on about and they kept saying that they were friends with the MP... a certain Tui billboard springs to mind... After finally getting hold of the boss and told to stand by for word, I continued to proceed on the assumption that I'd be heading to Lae again. Turns out, that the MP had indeed sent them and given the nature of things in PNG, word hadn't made it to our operations desk. The boss, always wanting to cultivate good relationships with the politicians said that I should probably do what they wanted.
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Sitting around watching MAF work while waiting for instructions

So here I was, now nearly a full tank of fuel, seven fat passengers and a heap of gear, at over 5000ft and I had to go bush... This was going to be entertaining. I elected to take three to start with just until I'd burned off a little bit of fuel and off we went. The first spot that the chap in the front started waving frantically at was about the size of a postage stamp... 'Yeah, fat chance champ' I found something much bigger with fewer things to hit nearby and set them down there and back to Tari for another load. True to form, the seven passengers had now accumulated some hangers on and there was a total of 10... SNAFU. After ferrying the guys into the bush, it was getting late and I thought that if I was going back to Lae, I better get a curry on, the weather was starting to turn. Things then unraveled a little more.

The Chinese project engineers (also friends with the MP... how about that) wanted to go into their project the next day. Well sh*t, I don't have any toiletries, change of clothes, deodorant... nothing. I parked the helicopter in the camp that was going to be my home for the night as they tried to find somewhere to house me. I was shown a room in a portacom with a bed that had no mattress and was pretty much left to my own devices. Dinner was remarkably similar to what I'd been getting fed on the tuna boats which was enough to make me laugh at least. Settling down for the night and trying to get comfortable on solid timber, I was horrified to discover that I had a roommate in the form of some sort of Cicada that was big enough to make me duck as it flew over. This damn thing sounded like a Hughes 500 flying toward me and was so heavy that it would fly into the wall and knock itself out for about 10 minutes before resuming it's racetrack pattern around the room. After a frantic pursuit, I cornered the critter and took a swing with a stray bit of timber and I saw it fall to the ground. I managed to get a few hours sleep at least.
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'Home'
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My 'Roommate'

The next day dawned cold and calm and the remaining drop offs and pickups proceeded without too much in the way of headaches. The situation in Tari was deteriorating however and the boss called saying that he was bringing the Minister for Police and his entourage. He wanted me to wait until he got there before taking off for home. Great, another day in Tari... Watching MAF and Helifix come and go for most of the day, I heard the rhythmic beat of a Bell 430 coming announcing the arrival of das boss. A quick conference on the ground, another fuel stop with MAF and I, to use my exact words, got the fu*k out of this fu*king place.
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Parked at the camp

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BO105 and Bell 430 together at Tari

I was alone in the helicopter for the first time in two days with just the crackle of the HF radio and the occasional position report from ANG Fokkers flown by Australian pilots who had clearly been in country too long. Closing in on Hagan and one last report to Madang on the HF before Hagan when my ears were attacked by the high pitch squeal of HF interference and then nothing. The HF radio had given up the ghost altogether. Trying to hold back the laughter I attempted to get Hagan on the VHF with no avail. 'Never mind' I thought while having a good laugh 'I'll get them when I clear the next ridge' Typical PNG operation.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby Charl » Tue Aug 03, 2021 2:28 pm

A good read, Nick.
Good pics too - I always aspired to making screenshots look like that.
Not the bug, though, not the bug.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby K5054NZ » Wed Aug 04, 2021 1:31 pm

Jee-zus, dude! You better write a book some day.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Sat Aug 14, 2021 7:19 pm

Semi-Controlled Arrival

Some years ago, back when Jesus was Bob Hoover's co-pilot, the tuna industry was a very different beast to what it is today. A number of old timers told us 'whipper snappers' tales of the really epic runs ashore into ports that we just didn't visit anymore... Palau, Wake, Truk etc. Back at a time when men were men flying Bell 47s and there wasn't such a thing as GPS. There were stories of the Asian fishermen jumping out of the helicopter when they thought the pilot was crazy, about 'tuna bombs' Sodium or Potassium (I forget which) chunks being carried in the helicopter and then getting wet leading to the rapid disassembly of the aircraft and other supposedly true tales. The stories that popped up the most though were the ones where the weather or sea state... or both, conspired against the protagonist and he somehow got home.

The weather in the Western Pacific is unpredictably stable. Almost on queue, afternoon storms spring up and you find yourself flying around some really terrific thunder heads. However the sea state is less easy to predict. You can have two identical days where there is no wind at all and yet the sea state can be completely different. The boats that we operated off in the Western Pacific were typically 1200t, a hair over 60m long with a beam of around 12m. Not huge, but by no means small either. The ships are built for one thing and one thing only, catching tuna. The designers don't really give a s**t about little things like how it rides in the water or how much it lists when it's taking the catch onboard. The CG of a tuna purse seiner is very high because of the lookout, sometimes called the 'copa' and all of the fishing gear hanging from the back. In a storm, things get interesting. I remember on my first trip on a small Korean boat (don't get me started on the Koreans) we skirted the edge of a big cyclone. I don't get seasick at all but holy hell, the boat felt like it was coming apart. I'm sure that you've all seen footage of the destroyers in the North Atlantic during the war? That's what it was like...

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Fast forward to late 2014. I was nearing the end of my first tuna contract. I had lucked out, brand new boat, good engineer and an excellent helicopter. They say that the Kawasaki built Hughes 500s are second only to the Bredanardi NH500s which is what I had. I got along really well with everyone on the boat and life was really quite peachy. This particular day, I was sent out on a general searching flight. If nothing was on the radar, it was a 50nm leg square. We never really ended up more than 50nm from the boat. Still five hours to get to us if we were in the water but anyway. The weather was pretty good but the seas had started to change for no real reason that I could work out. When I took off from the boat, there had been no swell and no wind but starting on the last leg back to the boat... you know, the only solid surface in a 200nm square, I noticed that a swell had started. No problem really, that information just got stored in the back of my mind along with 'what the hell was the name of that guy from that movie last night?'

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A frantic tapping on my shoulder from the chap next to me alerted me to the fact that he had found a raft. Raft, in the tuna fishing world, refers to an FAD (Fish Attracting Device) anything in the water that allows micro organisms to grow, which attracts small fish, which attracts bigger fish etc. We'd found one that had been out there for some time judging by the look of it. The spotter jumped out onto the float and attached our GPS buoy so that the boat could home in on it. While all of this was going on, I was still trying to fly the aircraft as close as I could to make his life easier. It was then that I noticed the swell properly. I was actually having to flying the aircraft over the waves to keep the same height for old mate to attach the buoy. Not really an issue but I knew that we were going to have to wash the machine when I got back.

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Once the buoy was attached and the boat had confirmed that they could see it on their map, we started back. We'd been gone for nearly two hours and that is getting to the limit of the old 500. The boat was heading in our direction at full speed which of course shortened the flight time back much to my relief. I dropped the aircraft down to a low level as we got close to the boat and I noticed that the sea was certainly rolling. Flying down the port side of the ship, I ripped it around the stern and lined up on the pad. The key to landing on a moving ship is to keep it moving, treating the boat as you would any other pad. There are some strange air currents flowing over the deck when the ship is underway and you don't want to be stopping where you're getting all of these air masses meeting. As I was coming up to the starboard side of the ship, movement out to the right caught my eye. The bow thruster was out of the water with the swell.... I continued toward the deck ... THE BOW THRUSTER IS OUT OF THE WATER!!!! Too late, I was already over the deck as it came up to meet me FAST. As the gap between the skids and the steel decreased, the air currents changed and I started to need more left pedal which upset the whole balance. BAM!!! It nearly bounced back into the air but I had already lowered the collective.. 'stay down you bi**h!'

The engineer raced over and strapped the aircraft down and I realised that I was holding my breath and I have no idea how long I'd been holding it for. Nobody but me thought anything of my arrival, I guess everybody had seen worse. By some strange miracle, the aircraft was in the middle of the pad and straight on the marks.. more ar*e than class.

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This certainly wasn't the only time that this happened in the four contracts that I flew on the boats but this was certainly the most memorable. Funnily enough, as I'm sure other pilots will attest to, sometimes in a very dynamic environment like that, you have days where it just doesn't work that well and then other days, you are 'Winkle' Brown and you can do no wrong. I guess that's what makes this stuff interesting.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby Charl » Sun Aug 15, 2021 9:53 am

Those stories can so easily have a totally different outcome, eh?
I'm tickled by the shot of the helo on deck... from the next-door ship?
I thought they went in singles.
How many ships per aircraft?
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Sun Aug 15, 2021 3:30 pm

Well yes but in this instance, the worst that would've happened really is blowing out a damper or two with a REALLY hard landing. Pride is the thing that's more at stake here.

That photo is a screen capture off a friend's movie he shot out there. Depending on who's running the boat, you can end up fishing with all of the same people for weeks on end. It's quite good to catch up with your friends. The Koreans tend to use one helicopter to help their friends boats but the Taiwanese don't do it as much. A lot of the big Taiwanese companies have an aircraft on every boat.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Sun Sep 05, 2021 8:19 pm

Not so much a story here but an interesting side note.
My old man started taking colour slides in 1968 and finished in around 2003. That's 35 years of aviation history recorded on glorious Kodachrome. He also took black and white and the colour negative film before going wholly digital in around 2007. While Kodachrome is easy to store and keeps well, it's difficult to display and so he undertook a project to digitize his collection last year. In terms of the slides, this means scanning them four at a time.. a long project. We started with the helicopters as it is a sizable chunk and probably the most interesting from a historic point of view and this will one day be part of a huge collection that can be used as a resource for aviation history buffs. One of the really interesting aspects of this for me is that it brings back childhood memories of places and helicopters. I thought that I'll put up a few of the more interesting ones here.

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HNZ Alouette IIIs at Christchurch in 1970

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Alpine Hughes 500s at Mussel Point in 1977. Tim Wallis on the right.

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Hiller 12s lined up for sale at Christchurch in 1974

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A gaggle of Hughes 300s at Makarora 1979

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'Race For The Yankee Zephyr' Hughes 300 at Queenstown in 1981

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Jeff Sly working in the Shotover River 1985. That's me in the foreground..

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HNZ ramp Nelson 1975

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Looking bewildered at West Melton while a 300 is serviced, 1985.

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Glorious Queenstown before development in 1986. This is how I remember it as a child.

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A mad keen future helicopter pilot at age four. Stubbies and Jesus boots for the win. Omaka 1988.

As you can see, there's some really interesting stuff there. Far more than I can post up here. It's proving to be a good nostalgia trip.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby aerofoto » Mon Sep 06, 2021 7:56 am

and Jesus boots


I like that :D

They were pretty much stock standard NZ scholastic uniform issue during the 60's and into the 70's.

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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby Charl » Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:48 am

They do deserve keeping - wonder what the long term storage medium might be, and where?
My inherited historic albums have gone from Kodachrome and Super8 to VHS to CD, where they are stuck for now.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:50 am

aerofoto wrote:
They were pretty much stock standard NZ scholastic uniform issue during the 60's and into the 70's.


AND the 80s it would seem :lol:
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby deaneb » Mon Sep 06, 2021 8:02 pm

Those are really cool shots. thanks for sharing. Look forward to seeing any more as they get sorted.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:30 pm

Charl wrote:They do deserve keeping - wonder what the long term storage medium might be, and where?
My inherited historic albums have gone from Kodachrome and Super8 to VHS to CD, where they are stuck for now.


They're stored in their boxes for now and I'm planning on keeping the originals that way but it is a bind as there are so many. The digitised ones will be on an SSD for safety but it's not practical to scan all of them at sufficiently high resolution for some publications so it's important to keep the originals. I might end up with a small storage unit until I settle down somewhere
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby aerofoto » Tue Sep 07, 2021 7:19 am

They're stored in their boxes for now


Try'n keep'em in an as "temperature controlled environment" as you can possibly maintain .... dehumidifiers help.

If you're in the AKL region (although this could well apply to NZ generally) then "humidity" can be absolute murder on slides and old film stock generally.

Stuff like that's either too "historic" or "precious" (or both) to lose or be corrupted by the ravages of time.

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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Tue Sep 07, 2021 10:19 am

Parents are living in Nelson and it's pretty dry here. The slides have survived 15 years in Wellington without too many issues. Colour and B+W negatives have also been remarkably well preserved.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Wed Sep 08, 2021 8:39 pm

Further from the last, I decided that since we were pulling boxes out and to scan one or two NZ machines, it made more sense to just scan the whole box. Ended up uncovering a real treasure trove of pictures. I'll not be posting any more as it isn't really what this forum is about.

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Probably the earliest picture in the whole collection. Antarctic Week 1964 Lyttleton.

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The time that HMS London visited NZ. Wigram 1969.

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S55T, not sure what turbine is actually in there. Delta, British Columbia, 1977

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Non descript S51 in the carpark at Chino California 1979

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Royal Navy Lynx display. Yeovilton 1977.

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Wessex mass display. Yeovilton 1977.

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Scout at Biggen Hill 1979

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Bristow Helicopters Wessex at Great Yarmouth 1977

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Little bit of nostalgia for the ex Navy types here. Nelson 1992.
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby K5054NZ » Sun Sep 12, 2021 2:25 pm

I'm so glad you're sharing some of these Nick, some fantastic shots here!
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Tue Sep 14, 2021 7:04 pm

The idea in the end is to have a fairly comprehensive collection of NZ helicopters initially and later, aircraft in general. I'm going to have a copy and the old man is going to have a copy on SSDs. Hopefully this will be a pretty good resource for books and the like in the future when the people who have taken these photos have passed. I'm planning to do all of the Fletchers soon too... ;)
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby deaneb » Tue Sep 14, 2021 7:35 pm

Ooooh Fletchers :groupwave:
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Re: Chopper Nut - featured March 2019

Postby chopper_nut » Wed Sep 15, 2021 2:32 pm

There are 16 boxes of Fletcher slides.... 16... When I asked the old man, he just shrugged and said 'there were a lot of them'
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