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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tragedi 26 April 1976...Raining Avtur

Readers...Remember the story about a Nuri which was shot in Gubir ops area but still managed to land safely...raining 'avtur' along its flight path? It happened on 19 April 1976...8 days before the tragic incident with the late Sgt Leong Yee Heang as the AQM who  later perished! During those critical period, No 10 Sqn was short of aircrew...captains, co-pilots and AQMs.

I'm very happy indeed when the co-pilot himself obliged my request for him to relate his adventures. Why not spare a few minutes of your precious time to read his unedited e-mail...

"...This incident was exactly a week before the great tragedy. We were tasked for a formation of 4 x Nuris to insert troops to an area said to be a big CT camp which was heavily booby-trapped all around, which made it impossible for the troops to assault from the ground without suffering huge casualties. So decision was made for the troops to abseil directly onto the camp which was situated on a long ridge. I cant really remember all the crew that was involved, I was a rookie then, just got my CAT hardly a month before that and I was the first of my batch of about 7 or 8 copilots having graduated from HeliFTS to be catted and sent for the mission. In fact I did a tasking before that (immediately after my CAT) to KEMUBU for the resup for the PFF with Lt Murad. I remember that they were churning out copilots like a factory - Trg officer Capt Lim AP will take us for check rides and once ready Capt Woo and the other examinerrs will take us for the CAT ride (the brand new Copilots fresh out of HeliFTS were yours truly, Nasrun, Zahardin, Syed Busri, Hadi, Yahya and Ghaffar, while Hashim Hamzah and Bakar Said went direct to BW for the Alouette conversion). The people from EXam Unit (EU) were Capt Woo, Capt Lee ST and a few others which I cannot remember now. In fact Hadi stayed out of the first Gubir ops till the end since all the examiners were required to fly for the Gubir ops and they didn't have time to CAt him. He was only catted when we came back from the Gubir Ops. I'm not so sure of the other CoPilots involeved. They could be Nor Ibrahim, Arwah Azam, Yeow, Senin, Sikh Azhar and Mat Sulong- I stand to be corrected there. The Capts were Goh Seng Toh (OC), Sulaiman Yakob (Trg Offr), Meor Zubir, Murad, Shariff, Azmi, Amin, LIm AP and some others.

Right , back to the tasking. Capt Meor was leading the formation of 4 x Nuris and No 2 was Murad/Rosli/Leong, No3 could be Shariff and No 4 was Amin. The other Copilots could be Sikh Azhar, Mat Sulong, NIBS, Yeow or Azam. Well, since the CT camp was well fortified and defended, The Tebuans and F5Es were used to bombard with 500 and 1000 pounders with directions from Alouette spotter aircraft.. After that the Alouette gunships were used to straffe the target before the Nuris were cleared to approach onto the ridge to abseil the commandoes for the assault on the CT camp. The first aircraft to approach was of course No 1 piloted by Capt Meor but as his approach was a bit steep he chose to overshoot and radioed for No 2 to come in. So with Lt Murad on the controls No 2 approached the ridge and as we were coming to the hover and the crewman (I think there were 2 of them other than the late Sgt Leong there was also Sgt Lum) was opening the cargo door, all hell started to break loose! Bullets from below us were whizzing everwhere hitting the aircraft and I still remember that as it pierced thro the floor board we could smell the sulphur (gun powder like smell). In that instance, Murad looked at me and I looked at him and concurrently Sgt Leong was shouting on the intercomm "Tuan, Tuan we've been shot, pull up, pull up! Murad instantly yanked the collective lever up to fly away from the arc of fire of the CTs, whilst yours truly (trying to be a hero!) grabbed hold of the SMC carbine from on top of the NAv bag by my side and pushed in the magazine and started popping my head out from the left crew window trying catch glimpses of the enemy who were shooting at us with the intention to fight back! But what I could see was only the foliage of the jungle trees and glimpses of the CT camp roofing (macam khemah orang kenduri kahwin aje!) Other than that I didnt see any CT or whatsoever!

At the time Murad yanked the collective, I realised the speed levers were not being attended to maintain 103 % Nr, but too late the instrument panel lites were flashing like a christmas tree and right to this day I do not know who pushed the levers forward, wether it was me or Murad using the buttons or what do you callit on the collective lever to maintain the Nr and prevent the rotors from drooping! Well the aircraft stabilised and all the lites went off and we were heading back to the Gubir Tactical HQs, and you can imagine the excited chatters on the radio as we were flying back. I took a peek behind and i could see the pax seated on the first seat behind me was dripping blood on the floor board, and one of his fingers was just hanging by the flesh. On checking with the crewman, the Capt and I found out that there were 3 casualties on the aircraft, one was the pax seated behind me, the second had a bullet grazing his calf muscles and the third guy had a bullet in his rear. Otherwise everybody were ok and of course the 3 casualty survived (I sure do wish to meet them one day to reminisce on the incident) Sgt Leong discovered that his nite-stop kit (bag) which was placed under the troop seat had a bullet hole in it and on opening the bag discovered a bullet lodged in his towel (maybe that was an indication that his time will be up one week from that day-( God Bless you ol'd friend)

As we were approaching the LP at Gubir Tac HQs, the Brigade Air Support Officer (BASO), Sqn Ldr Leong Pok Siong was marshalling us frantically with soldiers and officers crowding around trhe LP (guess everybody knew that the aircraft had got shot!) and as soon as the Landing gears touched the ground, he was frantically signalling to us to shut off the engine . Little did we realised that when we were approaching to land the punctured fuel tanks were leaking fuel like rain! I cannot remember how much fuel was in the tank, but if I'm not mistaken that in less than half an hour the fuel tanks were dry. Although the Nuri fuel tanks were supposed to be self-sealing, with too many holes it could'nt possibly do its job! As we got down the aircraft, we started counting the bullet holes and long as I remember the count was 49 holes and I entered that in my Log Book! But if Shariff Uban say it's 139 holes it shud be dramatically more interesting, we survived 139 bullets shot into our aircraft belly! One interesting fact as far as I'm concerned is that there was one bullet hole below the CoPilot's seat and as the shot was inclined from the front the bullet came out behind the Co Pilot seat and hit the finger of the pax on the first seat by the crew door. If the shooter was directly beneath the aircraft, the bullet would have hit my BUM! Syukur Alhamdullillah that did not happen.

After the incident the RMAF put into place procedures and and measures for the survivability of the Nuri and crew against hostile enemy actions. For on the aircraft was bullet proofed in certain places like the crew seat, fuel bladder among others. And procedures like putting speed levers forward to give 106% NR in the approach was put in the SOP. I observed that throughout the ordeal my Captain, Lt Murad was so cool as ice, he never panicked, didn't scold the CoPilot for not attending to the speed levers when he yanked the collective to fly away when shot. I SALUTE you Murad and you're great! And as for SGt Leong, he's a cool guy too, and later in my career as a helicopter pilot in the RMAF, serving as a Flt Comdr, Sqn Comdr and Base Comdr, life in the Sqn is very different from the days when we were firghting the CTs. In the 90s, you fly into LPs without a worry in the world, whereas those days in the 70s and 80s we were worried to be shot at, but still somebody has to do the job, yes we the helicopter pilots were the ones to do it, for King and country. I salute you the helicopter pilots of that aprticular time!

Salam,

xxxxx

Note: That's my best recollection of the incident, hope to be of help to your writings. Keep it up Sir, if there's nobody amongst us is willing to write a book on our experiences and exploits, what you're doing is good enough, maybe we can compile all your writings and other contributions on the blog comments to capture our experiences for others to know of our contribution for King and country!

Dear xxxxx...Thank you for enlightening us on the incident. I need to make a correction though. I missed this adventure since I was undergoing Nuri's Captain Conversion Course with the late Capt (U)Thiagarajah, Lt (U) Kamaruddin Mydin and Lt (U) Midzor. Thus, we were not operational during this critical period. 

11 comments:

Abah said...

Tuan,

I translate it for you

Must maintain the best condition for Yo, I wish you happy

Capt's Longhouse said...

to all the jolly co-pilots !,

,,,belated thanks here from Capt Shariff UBAN hahaha !..indeed we capts were shitting in our pants but we kept our legs together hehehe.
,,,in fact, i found it fun and funny flying with all of you great guys. There were too many bloody incidents that crossed my mind but indeed, we just smile through it cos it was so routine plus not to frighten anybody about it. hihihi.
,,,even our poor wifes were not fully aware of most of it until our sqn buddies were flown back to be buried! They were at home taking care or making babies.
,,,to all the Nuri & Alouette pilots, syabas and jangan lupa ajak kenduri kawin anak nanti !
,,,and may God Almighty bless all their souls pada yang sudah kembali.
,,,do drop in to see me at pulau kapas if you are free ?. hehehe.

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Dear Abah,

Thank you for translating it. I've to delete it since I don't understand it unless there're readers like you to translate it.

Dear Sharif,

Same, same!! You too must invite us when your children get married. He...He...he

muhammad arshad raji said...

Dear Nor,

It is really exciting that you could recall ever bit of your experience, right through the names of your colleague, date, time and the rest. I would like to suggest that you write a book, and I can help you get someone to help you in this. What say you Nor?

Capt's Longhouse said...

dato,

,,,the good part is that we aircrew keeps a log on all of our flight duties. Some of it are captured in pictures too and indeed if you can find someone to help redraft our frightening flight experiences, bet it could end up as a best seller too.
,,,making some movies out of it, is also a possibility. We need the Army boys to relate their actual experience with we chopper boys too during those operations against the CTs plus other duties which we performed by the thousands.
,,,m'cam Mej. Nor ?. It would keep you busy hahaha and we can write it together on the island with all the pretty ladies. hehehe

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Dear Dato',

What Capt Sharif said is true. My flying log book is one of my precious memorabilias..I really treasure it very much. The thought of writing is there, however, the main contraints are finance and marketing. And, of course, to get the authority to declassify the BOI and INTSUM reports.

By the way, do you know the Sikh captain of 6th Bde, IO I think, who was ambushed near Gubir Camp around 9-14 Apr 1975? Was there a Capt Hardev Singh then? We had breakfast at 6th Bde mess, Sg Petani, and later the convoy was ambushed by the cts. He was killed. I was the one who assisted the AQM of the 2nd Nuri to pull his body when he was winched into the chopper.

Dear Sharif,

Seriously, this tragedy should be recorded, lest it might forgotten forever. It's sad indeed that MINDEF is not interested at all unlike PDRM. Last night, I watched Astro Prima's program 'Suatu Ketika' entitled "Laskar Senoi". It is about Senoi Praaq and their heroic deeds.

I'm trying to contact the producer, FM Production,to suggest to them about documenting this episode. I read in the Star recently, they're making a documentary film on...Botak Chin!

ArshadRaji said...

Dear Nor,

Yes, I know Hardev. But I was already posted out when he came in. I will speak to someone who could assist you in documenting your experience, and will let you know. I still believe that Mindef can take on your story, but they are too busy for retirees like us. Regards

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Dear Dato',

Thank you for confirming the identity of the officer. Very sad indeed..my first and last breakfast with him at the mess.

Anonymous said...

Dear NIBS,
OOps, my apologies Sir, I thot you're one of us (CoPilot), infact I thot you're our OC Co Pilot!(for general info: there's no such thing as OC CoPilot, just being made up by us, the inconspicuos lot in the sqn!) or THen the OC must be ARwah Senin or Yeow CC! I missed one of the captains' name, ie Lt Ismail Gayong, my apologies there Mael, you know la, we've aged also! To Pak Uban, the feeling is/was mutual, we enjoyed flying and learning from you guys, though there were certain capts that we didn't want to fly with, some of them were strict and a strickler for details. But there was a particular Capt who was scarred shit to let the CoPilots handle the ac, even to approach an LP as big as a football field, he had to take over controls!! and we were allowed only to fly straight and level!! The CoPilots wudn't have learned much if we had more of that particular Capt!! Luckily we had a lot of Murads and Shariff Ubans around, making flying for rookies like us fun, interesting and above all good learning experience, making us better pilots in the later years where we were able to share with our own rookies under us! To Dato' (Pak Chad), I salute you too sir, you're a great man and a bloody good commander (and soldier!) I had the opportunity to serve under you (albeit a short while) in Cambodia. I was in Kg Chhnang for a while and when I was 'posted' to Batambang you're about to leave Cambodia.The warring parties were very comfortable with you and it seemed they didn't listen to anyone but you! Salute to you Dato', you had a hand in bringing peace to Cambodia.

ExCoPilot

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Deae ExCoPilot,

I wonder who was the captain that didn't trust the co-pilots? I enjoyed my co-pilot days and forever willing to go for detachment.

Dr. Muiz Murad said...

Dear Sir,

Just had the pleasure of reading this entry although it was written back in 2010. Capt Murad in this entry is my father and I was born a few months after this incident. All of us siblings are extremely proud of our father and I am glad to have read this entry. Thank you.

Best Regards,

Nurul Muiz Bin Murad