Monday, October 20, 2014

The Flying Pongos - Part 3

Continuation from here...

There were about 200 helicopters at Ft Wolters to cater for the training and they were parked about 2 or 3 km from our classrooms, hence we have to take the shuttle bus to get there. To go there was a problem but to find the helicopter was also a headache because there were rows and rows of helicopter parked in an apron of a few km big.

The bus driver, being an experienced man and had served at Ft Wolters for a long could always be relied upon to find our helicopter.

Although, I found the flying tough initially, I managed to get through the program and graduated to the flying tactical phase at Ft Rucker. 

 UH 1D Huey Iroquis
At Ft Rucker, all of us were accommodated in the Bachelor’s Officers Quarters (BOQ). Some of the rooms were simple with the bed, tables, chairs and sofa together in one room. I had the pleasure of being given a bigger room with the bedroom and the living room separate. My room also had the kitchenette attached.  So, most of the cooking was done in my room. All the rooms were equipped with a refrigerator and with the bathrooms attached.

This accommodation was very comfortable and was given to us free of charge.

 In front of my BOQ – note the flight uniform, we all flew in the OG green fatique

Ft Rucker flying was different from the previous one. We trained on the Iroquois UH 1A  – D series, the same type helicopter that were used in Vietnam. Most of the flying was done tactically. During the tactical deployment phase, we had to sleep in the field in make shift huts near our helicopters.  

This was to simulate the conditions in Vietnam. If we were attacked even at night, we have to start up the helicopter and fly off to another airfield just like what they did in Vietnam. 

In the cockpit of the UH ID Iroquis

Most of the flying here were done in formation.  The simulated troop lift, medical evacuation, load carrying under-slung were done in formation of 6 helicopters simulating a flight. Sometimes this could be frightening as we were all student pilots and had very few hours on the Huey. We even flew formation at night, though a bit of a loose formation.

During my stay at Ft Rucker and Ft Wolters, there were a lot of crashes, sometimes fatal. The airspace was always busy with helicopters here and there and if we do not follow laid down procedures, accidents were bound to happen. Just imagine a hundred helicopters flying in a restricted airspace by student pilots, anything can happen, so we have to be on special alert all the time. We have to look out for the other helicopters and avoid them if they come too near to us. Sometimes the other pilots become too engrossed in doing their exercises and were not aware of the others in the area.

 Deep sea fishing at Panama City, the two guys behind me are officers from the Royal Thai Air Force

  Only one fish ?
From left Capt Hanafi, 2LT James Thompson, self and 2 LT Steven during the Visit to the 6 Flags of Texas.

To be continued.....

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Flying "Pongos" - Part 2

Continuation from here.....

Preflight the OH 23D heli before flight

The real heli - OH 23 D Raven, the heli that we flew on our initial training phase.OH 23D Raven, notice that the heli was without doors.

The Raven OH 23D, was a basic bare aircraft. All of them were very old as they were of the Korean War vintage. Most were without doors. In winter, if we were schedule to fly early in the morning, we used to go to our allocated helicopter as early as possible; and if we see that it is without doors, we used to steal the doors from the next nearby helicopter.

Before flight on OH 23D

What we do was to go to the next nearest helicopter that has doors; jettisoned them and fix them to our helicopter. Sometimes this could be very embarrassing and comical because the owner of the nearby helicopter can claim back his doors, and if we could not find any other replacement, than we have to fly without the doors and suffer the cold winter morning

The opposite happened during the summer time. The weather in Texas can be very hot and we used to jettison the doors of our helicopter so that we could get some fresh cool air in because our aircraft has no air condition.

The instrument phase of this initial flying was done on the Hughes TH 13T. Again this aircraft were of the Korean War vintage also and some of them can be rickety and noisy.

We had to fly 40 hours on this helicopter and at the end of this phase we have to take an exam. Only when we passed this exam, can we graduate and proceed to the tactical phase at Ft Rucker, Alabama.

Preparing to fly the TH 13 T Hughes helicopter, I flew my instrument phase on this 

To be continued.... 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Flying "Pongos"

Readers....Malaysian government signed a contract with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for the procurement of 10 Nuris in 1967. The first batch of 3 Nuris arrived at Port Swettenham in January 1968. During this period, the RMAF was expanding by leaps and bounds. New flying assets were either procured or given FOC. As a result, the Flying Training School, RMAF Alor Setar, was unable to churn out enough pilots to man those wonderful flying machines.

One of the ways to overcome this manpower shortage was to invite army officers to join the air force as helicopter pilots. The successful candidates were sent to Uncle Sam for training. Throughout the period 1967-1969, 7 army officers answered the challenge and were sent to Fort Walters and later to Fort Rucker. Capt Fauzi Hussain was one of them (retired Maj Gen Dato' - Deputy Air Force Chief).

I'm very fortunate that Dato' Fauzi was willing to share his experiences during his flying training days.

 Fauzi Hussain – heli flying trg in the US

During the year of 1965 and 1966, the Government conducted very intensive ground operations against the Communists Terrorists along the Thai-Malaysian border.

Because of this, the RMAF was hard pressed to support the Army units in carrying out their ground operations as there was not enough aircraft /helicopters and pilots.   To cater for this shortfall, government ordered a squadron of new S 61 Nuri helicopters (18 aircrafts) from the US. As for the pilot, the RMAF decided to recruit them from the teeth arm of the army (infantry, arty, engineers, Rangers) to be sent to the USA for helicopter training.

Many officers from the army volunteered.  The criteria for selection was that the officers must be of Captain rank, have passed their Lt to Captain promotion examination and medically fit. They have to undergo the air aptitude test and medical examination. Those who passed were sent to United States Army Helicopter Training School, Ft Wolters, Texas for basic helicopter training. This first phase of training lasted for 5 months.

 After passing my medical and aptitude test conducted by the RMAF, on 1st Jan 1967, I went to the US Army Aviation Flying Training School in Fort Wolters for my basic training and Ft Rucker for my tactical flying phase.
In front of our BOQ – Jan 1967

 When I went for the helicopters training I was already a Captain with 4 years seniority in the rank, I was only made a squadron leader on 21st Sept 1970; after been a captain for more than 7 years. I was forgotten by the army because I was serving with the air force and I was not planned for promotion by the air force because I was from the army. 

 Malaysian trainee pilots from left Fg Offr Peter Wong, Capt Mahmood Zain, Fg Offr Steven Ngiau TK, Capt Fauzi, Capt Hanafi, Capt Ahmad Azizah 

I was in the third batch to be sent for the training. Before me were Capt Mahmood Zain (died in a helicopter accident at Bintulu, Sarawak) and Capt Ahmad Azizah Zain, both from the Royal Malay Regiment. The 2nd batch consisted of RMAF officers, Flying Officer Steven Ngiau and Flying Officer Peter Wong. These two officers were already qualified pilots on fixed wing and were sent to be US to be converted to helicopter flying.

 My batch consisted of Captain Hanafi Mahmood and me.

With Capt Hanafi 

On a mock up of OH 23 D 

Flying discipline was strict during this time.  In the 1960s, the Vietnam War was at its height and a lot of casualties were suffered by the US ground troops especially the infantry (the grunts), the helicopters and their pilots.

Every month about 200 pilots passed out from this school to go to the advance tactical flying phase at Ft Rucker, Alabama.

To be continued....

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sesi "Temuduga"

6-9 September 2014...Saya berada di Muzium TUDM, KL, kerana menghadiri sesi "temuduga terbuka". Bukan nak mencari kerja tetapi untuk menceritakan  pengalaman semasa menjadi dreba the old but faithful iron birds...Nuri. Saya bersyukur kerana ada pihak yang sudi nak buat filem dokumentari tentang Nuri. Jadi, saya pun terbang le ke KL. Sesi tersebut boleh dikatakan satu perjumpaan rakan2 lama.

Nuri mula berada dalam inventori TUDM pada 1968. Pada sesi tersebut, terdapat otai2 pelopor No 7 dan No 10 Skn turut hadir.  Antara mereka ialah ialah Peter Yuen, Dato' Fauzi, Dato' Nawi, Oon L.H., Raja Mohamed, Peter Wong, Abdullah Basirun, & Thesigen.

Antara yang saya sempat jumpa ialah...

Berdiri dari kiri: Mej Musa, NIBS, Fitri, Mej Peter Wong
Duduk dari kiri: Lt Kol Roslan TUDM (Pengarah Muzium), Lt Kol Mior Zubir

Dari kiri: PW1 Thesigen, Musa, Peter Wong, Brig Jen Dato' Goh S.T, Roslan, Fitri, NIBS 

Dari kiri: Musa, PW1 Salehuddin (pencipta "Saleh Stretcher"), NIBS, PW1 Mohsain

Lt Kol Khairudin, Kol Amin, Salehuddin, NIBS, Kol Zainal Piee

Duduk dari kiri: Lt Kol Peter Yuen, Roslan, NIBS
Berdiri: Lt Kol Ismail Yahya

Duduk dari kiri: Musa, NIBS, Lt Jen Dato' Nawi, Redza
Berdiri dari kiri: Mej Sukumaran TUDM, Lt Kol Basri (RAJD)

Dari kiri: Musa, ????, Mej Jen Dato' Fauzi, NIBS, Sukumaran, Mohsain 

Saya terpaksa balik ke Jitra pada 9/9/14 kerana 2 buah sekolah telah mengundang hero veteran ini pada 10 dan 11 Sep 14. Jadi tak sempat nak jumpa mereka berikut:

Dari kiri: Mohsain, PW1 Abdullah Basiron

Dari kiri: Mej Oon Lye Hock, Lt Kol Mahayudin (Jutera No 10 Skn)

Dari kiri: Kapt Raja Mohamed, Kapt Nasrun, PW1 Patrick Lee

Sepertimana yang sudah dijangka, pelbagai cerita yang saya tak pernah dengar mula timbul pada hari itu. Allah betul2 mempermudahkan saya melaksanakan kajian saya, syukur alhamdulillah.

Kepada  kesemua mereka yang hadir semasa sesi tersebut....Terima kasih kerana dapat meluangkan masa. 

Kepada Redz Production....Terima kasih kerana menghargai pengorbanan kami semua.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sate Nuri

Readers...My last posting was on the broken main rotor blade (click here). Now I was told of an incident of  broken tail rotor blades by a very experienced captain, Capt Wong Yoon Fatt of MHS.

Tail rotor malfunction on S 61 A 4 Nuri Helicopter

Many of my friend asked if I have ever experienced a real emergency while flying. The answer is a YES. I have todate about 18,000 plus hours on helicopters and another thousand on light fixed wing so the law of averages catches up once a while. One very serious emergency happened to me 29 years ago when I was serving in 7 Squadron, RMAF Kuching. The date was 9 Oct 1980 and I was a new "C" category captain on the Sikorsky S 61 A4 (Nuri) helicopter in the Royal Malaysian Air Force. Looking back at my log book I had just accumulated 1000 hrs at that time. On that eventful day, I was tasked to do a training flight with a co pilot. This is the time when we polish up our flying skills and in those days every pilot has to do 3 hours of training flight per month.
The sortie was a running change with my squadron commander. Running change means the aircraft has been started and flown and I just hop in to take the aircraft to continue my flight. When the squadron commander handed me the aircraft he told me the aircraft had some vibrations and I will have to enter the defect in the tech log after my sortie. So away I went to the training area in Santubong , North of Kuching airport. One of the exercises that we practice is an know just in case both the engines flame out together. I selected an area and did a practice autorotation aiming for that cleared patch. By 500 ft above ground level, I initiated power to recover from the autorotation. Suddenly, there was a "cracking" sound and the whole aircraft and the controls vibrated violently. Pedals vibrations were severe and there was limited control and instruments could not be read. I lowered the collective level and re entered into autorotaion and this time to land. Things happened very fast but suddenly everything seem to come in slow motion. Flashes of family and boyhood seems to come and go. Several MAYDAY calls were made and it was acknowledged by an MAS aircraft.

What seemed like a nice carpet of grass at 1000 ft now looks like a swamp and worst of all there were a lot of abandoned poles sticking upright. These poles were for the pepper farm and it is solid hard wood. Using all the skill that I had been taught in the Air Force, I managed to avoid the poles (otherwise it will be a satay helicopter!). Of course, my co pilot Lt M (u) Kamal (at that time) and Sgt Sharom played an important part in the successful forced landing.

After securing the helicopter we found the tail rotor blades had self destructed leaving only the spar. In those days, the tail was made of several rib pockets but after my incident (maybe a few more in the world) the blades were changed to honeycomb structures type .
The man in this picture is the first person to come over to the aircraft after I force landed. He gave us some hot Chinese tea which was very much appreciated. I revisited him a few days later and took this photo. Within an hour another Nuri helicopter came to our rescue and we were flown back to the base. In order for me to maintain my confidence, they made me do another flight the next day..a good idea.

The department of Flight Safety recognised that I had done a very good job and awarded me the Green Endorsement. This is the highest award for display of airmanship and skill in avoiding major disaster. I had been truely very lucky. However, throughout the later years I had several engine failures (seven in multi engine helicopters) and many more emergencies when I was flying microlights. I will write about it in this blog later. What all these emergencies had done to me is to make me a more matured and conservative pilot and not to take things for granted. In flying, there may be no second chance and as pilots we must take our chosen profession seriously.

Capt Wong Yoon Fatt

Visit Capt Wong's blog at and
Dear Friends....If you could spare a few minutes of your precious time, why not pen down your experiences and email them to me. It is high time  to let the rakyat know the contributions towards nation building via thee irons birds for posterity. And, if I have enough materials, I might seriously think of publishing another book, insyaAllah.

Capt Wong...Thank you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Terrifying Vibration

A request for a story fulfilled....
MAIN ROTOR BLADE BROKE OFF IN FLIGHT INCIDENT On 16th January 1991 Near Bukit Gambir: By Capt Tien Sen An

On the 16th January 1991, I took over Nuri helicopter M23-12 from Capt Ravinder who did a VIP flight in the morning. My task was a comm flight to Singapore.  We took off from Sempang (RMAF KL) after lunch with 12 POB for Singapore. At the same time I was doing a Standard Checked on Capt Saadan, who was a D Cat captain who did a conversion from Alloutte captain to Nuri Captain and my crewman was Sjn Gobi Raja. I was on the Left seat.

Initially, en-route weather was good and we cruised at 3000’. After Seremban, weather started to come in, cloud started to build up. We had to descend to 2000’ to maintain VMC. As we passed a beam of Malacca, weather got worse; we slowly had to descend further to about 1000’ or below to maintain VMC.

As we passed a beam of Muar over Bukit Gambir, suddenly there was a very loud “bang”, as if the aircraft was being shot at and the aircraft immediately went into very severe vibrations, I reduced speed and lowered the collective quickly to autorotate. Aircraft vibrations were so severed, all the caution and advisory lights came on and off, it was like Christmas tree and then all the controls became very hard. Aircraft started to roll to the left, the retreating side and diving down. I told Capt Saadan to follow me  through on the controls as we tried to level the aircraft.

As we were going down, we only saw the ground. We saw the trunk road, a school field and rubber estate. As the vibrations were so severed and the controls were hard over, I decided to go for rubber estate for the landing as it can cushion the impact. Just before we crashed land the aircraft, suddenly we saw a row of houses in the rubber estate in front of us, we quickly pulled the cyclic to the right and aft as hard as we can to flare the aircraft to avoid those houses and reduce the rate of descend to cushion the landing. The aircraft responded and ………we saw the sky. We just continued to pull on all the controls very hard before we crashed to cushion the landing. 

While going down, there was a fast flash back of my life in my mind until the aircraft crashed and the flash back stopped. (Later I checked with Capt Saadan and Sjn Gobi Raja, they also experienced the same thing). As we crashed through the rubber trees, I covered my face with my hands and closed my eyes for the impact. Aircraft came to a sudden stopped; I opened my eyes and saw the windscreen cracked and can’t belief that I am still alive. And I looked at Capt Saadan, he also was alive. I quickly pulled both the speed levers back to shut off and shout for evacuation. As I looked back to the cabin, I only saw Maj Azmi, our Officer mess PMC /OC admin of KL Base still trying to climb the steps on the front passenger door to get out. All the other passengers had evacuated. I jumped out from my seat, and then pushed Maj Azmi out off the aircraft and shout at Capt Saadan to get out, but he was still jumping up and down on his seat as he forgot to unbuckle his seat belt. I shouted at him “buka seat belt”, he did as told, and then he evacuated from the aircraft. 

After evacuated the aircraft, I briefly checked around the wreckage and did a roll call for all on board and checked whether anyone was injured. It was a great surprised that none of the passengers was injured except my crewman Sjn Gobi Rajah, his palm has a cut because he was thrown forward to my seat, left seat; which has a weapon rack installed for crew’s weapons storage during the impact. He was thrown forward because he was on a monkey harness. He walked around to ensure everyone was strapped in before the impact (He did a very good job to ensure every passenger were strap in. A few of the passengers who were aircrew help him out as well to ensure all were strapped in), and I had a back pained.

After the roll called and checking on injury, I walked round the crashed aircraft again which was leaning against a tree to check on the damages in more details. I found the tail section was broken; four Main Rotor Blades broken and left with the root ends only with some part of the blade sleeve and another blade still intact at the rotor hub, but the rotor hub already opened up. The blade was without part of blade tip section. Both engines cracked and oil was leaking out. Left undercarriage collapsed as the aircraft landed on the left side. One small tree stump pock through from the bottom of the left side and hit the bottom of the left seat (Luckily it was an armoured chair, if not my back side “kena sula”). Whole aircraft was badly damaged.

After assessing the situation, I and my crew sat down for discussion for the next plan of actions. During the discussion, I said, “all of us survived”; all started to smile. I told them my next action plan. (During the discussion, I took a stick of cigarette from Sjn Gobi which he offered me and started to smoke, my first cigarette in 5 years as I had stopped smoking for 5 years). 

I went to the nearest house, a Chinese rubber tapper’s house to ask whether they have any house phone which I can make calls to 10 Squadron. The house owner was very helpful, told me to use the phone and offer us drinks as well.

I called up 10 Squadron Ops room. WO Mohana answered the called and I told him “I just survived a crashed, all on board are safe, and we need the SAR aircraft”. I think he was shocked and disbelieved, he asked me whether I am joking. I told him no, I am not joking. He then asked again, “how was the aircraft?” I told him, “it’s a complete write off.’ Then I passed him the coordinates, contact number of the Chinese small holder and told him to inform POTU.

Not too long after I made the phone call, a Police Range Rover came by (I think the kampong people must have informed the polis station about the crash) and asked what happened? I told the policemen we just crashed and I need to go to the police station to make a report, and also make a report to POTU as well.

After making the police report, we came back to the crashed side and waited for the rescue team or the SAR aircraft. About this time, some reporters and the kampong people had arrived at the crashed side and I have to stop them from taking pictures of the crashed aircraft.

About an hour plus after the crashed, the first SAR aircraft to arrive was from TUDM Kluang led by its Commandant, Lt Col (U) Goh Seng Toh, and the second SAR aircraft was from 10 Squadron led by Lt Col (U) Affendi Mustapha, which arrived about half an hour later.

I handed over the crashed aircraft to Lt Col (U) Affendi, CO of 10 Squadron. Later, all of us were airlifted back to KL base and send to IAM for medical checked up.  

Capt Tien Sen An PTU....Thank you.

Sunday, August 31, 2014




Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Tugu-Negara-Malaysia-03.jpg