small numbers of military forces from the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Brunei has established a fishing zone that overlaps a southern reef but has not made any formal claim.(Wikipedia)". I am sorry I cannot point out our Terumbu Layang-Layang/Station Lima on the map. Whatever it is, Malaysia is so close to PRC, Taiwan and Vietnam, not to mention our neighbours Brunei and the Philippines.
File picture of 'Mischief Reef' occupied by PRC soldiers taken on 1 April 1995 (Utusan Malaysia 23 September 2009)
Why this geography lesson? Well, readers, remember my article ' 5 Squadron - My First And Last Command'? My main worries when serving as OC No 5 Sqn were the flight to Terumbu Layang-Layang/Station Lima and the unpredictable weather. In the case of the bad weather, what the pilots could do when encountering it, was to land at any clearing. Or if on the flight to TLL they could always make a u-turn to Labuan. I used to do that - aborted the sortie. Flight safety comes first.....!
So, why the worry to TLL? The WIND...! Thunderstorm ecountered en route you could see and take precauntionary actions, but what about the invisible wind - its speed and direction? As I said in the article, I was drifted by almost 20* from the original heading from Labuan to TLL. I could end up at Amboyna Cay or Mischief Reef. Imagine the newspapers' headlines the next day...."NURI's UNAUTHORISED LANDING IN ......." One Air Force major created an international furore and PM had to bail me out.....!
Fortunately for me, my worry was reduced since most of my aircrew were TLL veterans. In fact, a few of them were involved when the monument and the 'shelter' for the PASKAL were first constructed there. They were stationed aboard 'KD RAJA JEROM'. They flew there well before I was posted to Labuan.
However, people come and go. TLL veterans got posted out and new ones posted in. Moreover, the Panglima at Kuching wanted the aircrew of No 7 Sqn, Kuching, to experience flying to TLL too. And it was my job to familiarise these aircrew.
I expressed my worry to the Base Commander and made a suggestion for these familiarisation flights. He brought this suggestion to the attention of the Panglima. My suggestion was.......Whenever there was a tasking to TLL, request RMN to position a ship at about 50 nm from TLL. You see, the distance from Labuan to TLL was about 160 nm. Labuan radar coverage then was about 60 nm only, thus leaving the nuri about 100 nm on its own. This 'blank' coverage would be taken over by the ship's radar. In other words, the nuri would be under radar surveillance throughout the flight.
In the event when no ship was available, then a Caribou from No 8 Sqn could 'shepherd' the nuri. In fact, I had the opportunity to have a maritime C130 aircraft to shepherd me to TLL during one of its routine patrol. It flew in formation with me .......nuri with 110 knots and C130 with its nose-up attitude at slightly more than nuri's speed (C103 airspeed is more than 350 knots). What an awesome sight! Real pity I didn't bring my camera.
Panglima agreed to the suggestion and it was successfully implemented. Readers, for your information, all air requests in Sabah and Sarawak must be channelled through the Panglima. His staff would liaise with other agencies,eg, RMN, for any request.
After a few sorties, I had full confidence to let my aircrew and No 7 Sqn aircrew fly to TLL. And, I could sleep peacefully......!