Sunday, July 18, 2010

Recovery Of A Nuri At Maligan - Phase 1

Readers...I managed to trace the whereabouts of Lt Col Khoo Goh Keat TUDM (R), the former SEngO of RMAF Labuan. He was responsible for the recovery of a Nuri from No 7 Squadron, RMAF Kuching, that collapsed on its side at Maligan. Please read my article on this incident here. Recently, Lt Col Khoo flew to Labuan with his family. According to him, a manual complete with photgraphs which he wrote on this recovery, should be available at the Base's Technical Library. If he could get the permission to visit the library, he would scan the photographs in the manual for me. Well, being a resourceful person, I called the Base Commander and he agreed to allow Khoo to have a look at the library.

But what a pity...According to Khoo, the manual was no longer 'traceable'. This is  how RMAF values the priceless contributions of those veterans! Below is Khoo's unedited story...

Recovery of Sikorsky S61A Helicopter (Nuri) At Maligan Village, Sabah in Year 1983

I was pleasantly shocked one day in June 2010 when Maj(R ) Nor Ibrahim contacted me and asked me to share my experiences in this book with a write-up on what really happened behind the scene of what he saw when he flew into the hill-top open space at Maligan village in year 1983 as part of the support for the Aircraft Crash Recovery Team of  RMAF Base Labuan. He was curious and marveled at what he saw that morning --- almost overnight a gigantic rectangular metal arch had been erected over the open space  and the crashed ‘Nuri helicopter’ was now positioned below the cross-beam/gantry of the rectangular metal arch which had a lifting device / hoist hung from it over the helicopter.  The ‘Maligan Metal Arch’ had some semblance of the concrete arch on the Federal Highway that demarcates Kuala Lumpur from Petaling Jaya, or the famous Marble Arch in London --- except that the ‘Maligan Metal Arch’ was smaller in size. I suppose Maj(R) Nor Ibrahim was curious as to how the pile of metal ‘I’–beam plus several aerial masts which he flew them as underslung load by his own helicopter from the RMAF Base on Labuan island to the remote Maligan village (in the interior of Sabah) was erected almost overnight into a gigantic metal arch! That was about 27 years ago!
What I had experienced I then wrote a historical/procedural book while still in RMAF Labuan so as to share the experiences with the future generations of the RMAF. Since I do not have the book with me now, I hope to share with readers whatever I can still remember concerning the interesting experiences of engineering innovations in a remote hill-top area in Sabah. What Maj(R) Nor Ibrahim saw of the ‘Maligan Metal Arch’ was actually Phase 2 of the efforts to recover the Nuri helicopter --- and that was carried out by the small group of Engineering personnel from RMAF Base Labuan with manpower help from the friendly Murut people of Maligan village.
Actually, Phase 1 of the recovery efforts was already carried out by the Aircraft Crash & Salvage Team of Airod (at that time, Airod was still part of the RMAF). I was the Senior Engineering Officer (S.EngO) of RMAF Base Labuan.  The crashed Nuri helicopter was from RMAF Base Kuching doing a mission in the Maligan valley area when it encountered the accident during landing because the landing area had been softened by rain. Since RMAF Base Labuan was the nearest RMAF Base, I was directed to temporarily take over command of the Airod (RMAF) Aircraft Crash & Salvage Team during their stay at Maligan to carry out Phase 1 of the recovery efforts --- i.e. to first upright the crashed helicopter. I shall therefore now describe the Phase 1 efforts.

Phase 1 of Recovering The Crashed Helicopter – To Upright The Helicopter

As soon as the RMAF Aircraft Investigation Team had completed their investigation and gathering evidences of the accident site and the damages on the helicopter, the crashed helicopter was handed over to the Airod (RMAF) Aircraft Crash & Salvage Team which arrived with two (2) special air-bags which were designed to lift the belly of crashed aircraft by pumping air into the airbags like pumping-up balloons.  Amongst the Airod (RMAF) team were Capt (Air) Lim, Warrant Officer Yusoff and Sgt Karim. At that time I did not know that one day Sgt Karim would become Warrant Officer Karim working as a colleague in the Department of Air Force (DOAF), Ministry of  Defense (MINDEF), and later to become part of my core project team  which contributed to the starting-up of SME Aerospace Sdn Bhd to manufacture armament pylons for the Hawk trainer aircraft and in the upstream manufacturing of structural parts and assemblies for the MD3 Trainer aircraft which has been used to train new pilots for the RMAF.
However, just as the 2 air bags were pumped up and grew in size and slowly up-righting the helicopter, one air bag burst along its seems. We were than left with only one air bag. That meant that we had less air-bag power to upright the helicopter. The loss of one air bag forced us to think of alternatives.
One solution was to substitute the loss by manpower to pull the crashed helicopter. There were not many adult men amongst the Murut villagers, I decided to ask manpower help from them. They replied that they would make a ‘win’ --- and the Airod (RMAF) men were wondering what the Muruts meant by ‘win’. Then the Muruts said the ‘win’ was used to make a big bridge over the river some distance away. From that, I deduced that in the past, they must have participated using an improvised wooden ‘winch’ to pull the cables for a bridge from one river bank to the other when constructing the bridge.
That night, we held a candle-light dinner/meeting in one of the wooden huts (also our sleeping area) over what to do the next day. I convinced the Airod (RMAF) team that when the Muruts mentioned ‘win’ it was likely to mean an improvised winch made from tree branches. We finalized our plan for the next morning and slept early.
The next morning, I told the Muruts to go ahead to construct what they pronounced as a ‘win’.  They were very fast in their work. As the construction progressed, it turned out that it was a ‘winch made from branches of trees’. To enhance the wooden winches (2 sets), I also asked them to construct 2 sets of ‘goal posts’ to enable 2 ropes to pull the ‘fallen’ helicopter at an angle upwards. 2 more restraining ropes were positioned on the fallen side of the helicopter to stabilize the up-righting movement in the correct direction.
To be more effective, I also asked the Murut villages to make a 30 degree wooden ramp from cut branches of trees, with the 30 degree slope facing the fallen side of the helicopter at the heaviest part of the helicopter (i.e. the Main Rotor Head and Main Gerabox area). A piece of plywood was put on top of the wooden ramp to provide a base for the remaining air bag. Mattresses were also put in between the helicopter side and the air-bag in order to protect the air-bag from blowing up by any sharp edge.
To control the up-righting movement in the correct direction, only one single command were to come from me so as to ensure no conflicting instructions because different forces were at work: the build- up of pressure from the remaining one airbag, and the pulling forces from the 2 sets of wooden winches.  It was good teamwork between the RMAF personnel and the Muruts. As a result, the helicopter was up-righted  successfully.
Both the RMAF personnel and the Murut villages were smiling and happy to see the good results of working together. We celebrated the success by having some of our men playing football with them that evening and we also gave away some of our rations to the poor villagers. That night, we held the 2nd candle-light dinner/meeting with a conclusion that it would take some time for Airod (RMAF) to design, approve, and build a portable gantry in order to commence Phase 2 of the recovery efforts (i.e. to remove the heavy Main Rotor Head and Main Gearbox of the helicopter, and to fit replacement serviceable ones) --- especially so with Hari Raya close by.
With that conclusion, and considering that the Airod (RMAF) team was told only to upright the helicopter, it meant that with the successful ending of Phase 1, I had to say goodbye to the Airod (RMAF) Aircraft Crash & Salvage Team; many of whom were looking forward to celebrate Hari Raya in Peninsula Malaysia rather than doing nothing from then on in the remote Maligan village. As they depart for Kuala Lumpur thru RMAF Base Labuan, I began to worry as to how long Airod (RMAF), being not an operational RMAF Base, will they be able to finally produce a mobile gantry that had never been made in the RMAF before.  I doubted that Airod (RMAF) would have the same feeling as a RMAF operational base to ensure that damaged aircraft be repaired quickly so as to support missions / operations. Therefore, I decided to think of other options as a back-up plan --- perhaps some temporary innovations --- just in case there are other viable options instead of just waiting for a newly-made  portable gantry from Airod (RMAF) when a specific delivery date could not be  promised yet. 

To be continued... 


mangchikla said...

Just to confirm , Lt Col Khoo seateed 2nd from left? gambo kecik bebenor, mata teman bukanntyer elok benor :D

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

Saudara mangchikla,

Bukan. Itu Kapt (U) Teoh (Kol). Lt Kol tiada dalam gambar.

Anonymous said...

Salam Tuan.. saya generasi LLP Tech TUDM yg baru bersara.. memang tidak dapat dinafikan cerita orang2 lama memang menarik dan apa yg diajar dulu lebih berkesan dan melahirkan j/teknik yang berkaliber dan banyak inisiatif yg boleh disumbang kepada TUDM.. Now a day that Contractorisation take place and all now just thinking 'apa yang aku dapat' neither officer or other rank.. that's what happening now... maaf tuan nak bgtau, masa pakai uniform dulu memang la kekadang melihat apa yang tak sepatutnya berlaku.. Kontraktor lebih berkuasa dimana seseorang boleh dipostingkan kalau tak mengikut kehendak mereka.. sekarang dah simpan elok2 uniform, baru rasa free untuk berceloteh.. apapun 'let the next gneration air force done their job'. OK Sir.. Selamat maju jaya dan saya sokong sepenuhnya hasrat tuan untuk menerbitkan buku berkenaan.

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

Saudara Anonymous,

Terima kasih & selamat bersara. Memang benar juruteknik di era saya sungguh berinovasi. Kalau nak kongsi pengalaman, sila emel kepada saya supaya kita boleh kongsi bersama.

Anonymous said...

Salam Tuan, saya X PW U I Mohd Nor Azmi bin Othman adalah saudara anonymous di atas. Just asking.. tuan mungkin mengenali ayah saya iaitu Othman bin Abdullah(60015)eX Q 3 Meriam atau lebih dikenali dgn nama Man King Kong.. for your info Sir there's a lot of old photo from my father collection..105 mm cannon dari detashment Kuching dan Taiping.. Insyaallah nanti saya uploadkan utk tatapan tuan..