Last month, July 2009, the media reported that a nuri with the DPM on board, made an unscheduled 'emergency' landing at one town in Sabah due to bad weather. To me, the nuri captain made a wise decision; inconveniences caused should be the least to worry about. This incident brought back my memory on 30 September, 1982 - Harimau 558 Juliet 1 - a VVIP task . It involved 2 nuri -Juliet 2 as a standby aircraft. The flight was to fly the VVIP from Kota Kinabalu (KK) to Kota Belud before proceeding to Kundasang for night stop.
Kota Belud, other than famous for its 'Tamu' ,i.e. something like Sunday market, it is the shooting range for the Army. The presence of the VVIP was to watch 'fire-power' demonstration organised by the Army. The flight to Kota Belud was uneventful and landed safely; Juliet 2 parked about 50 metres behind my nuri.
Actual picture on landing at Kota Belud - a perfect weather
We, the aircrew, waited in our nuri while waiting for the VVIP. After a while, the area was suddenly totally covered by mist. If that was not bad enough, the VVIP made an 'unscheduled' appearance in the aircraft. We were taken offguard as we were enjoying our scrabble game. When he saw me, his comment was '.... he's a good pilot and lets go'. You see, I used to fly him when I was in No 10 Sqn. The generals and my Boss, the Base Commander, just looked at me. I think they were wondering what I was going to tell the VVIP.
Well, I started the nuri and pulled the 'collective' for vertical take-off. Juliet 2 could not see my nuri and asked whether I was taking off. The response - affirmative. Through experience, I knew that most of the time the mist covered from ground level to about 1,000 ft. And, I was right. The sky was clear and Mount Kinabalu stood majestically. I told Juliet 2 of this condition, and he , too, took off. Well, we headed for Mount Kinabalu and you could not miss Kundasang.
As I was approaching Kundasang, the area was covered by clouds. I tell you...it was just unbelievable! I tried to follow the road but unsuccessfull and had to make a steep turn. Then I climbed with the hope of approaching from Ranau; again I could not see the road. All I needed was a 'hole' and after a while, I found it. If I didn't find the hole, my decision was to fly back to KK; I could see KK clearly from Kundasang. Landed safely at the LP near the hotel, see picture.
the nuri '....see you tonight'. Well, I was invited for dinner that night. My CO? '.....don't do that again'. Juliet 2 landed safely about 10 minutes later. Frankly, I knew my own limits and, except for the steep turn, the flight was routine. But not for the CO.
About 10 years later.......
I was a GS (Guiding Staff - a teacher lah!) at Institut Teknologi Udara (ITU), TUDM Kinrara. Well, the same VVIP was visiting the ITU. As the most senior major, I was given the honour to look after the Visitors Book where the VVIP was to sign it. The signing was done in the Commandant's office. The senior RMAF officers present were the Chief himself and the general responsible for training. I was the only lowest ranking officer in the room.
There I was sitting quietly at the corner of the room but was facing him. He looked at me and asked.... 'Haven't I seen you before?'. To this, my answer was 'Yes, Tuanku'. Then.......he dropped the bombshell! He turned to the Chief and said 'Remember about the flight I told you ? He was the pilot'. Oh.....oh....problem....problem....! That flight must be the most unforgettable flight for him! Fortunately, after that, he was asking about my well being and we chit-chated. Phew.......what a relief!
Well, nuri pilots.....you must know your limitations. And learn to say NO if need be. Let us share our experiences so that others might benefit from reading them.