Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Typical Working Day in Dili , Timor Leste

It is still dark and the local time at Dili, Timor Leste is 0530 hrs. I always wake up a couple of minutes before the alarm goes off. I have 20 minutes to cook some Quaker oats , shower and get dressed up to go to the office. Today is a scheduled flight day and the helicopter departs Dili with a load of passengers that comes in by a chartered Metro turbo prop aircraft from Darwin. By 0600 hrs we would have arrived Dili Airport. Yes....I am flying an aircraft belonging to SSFC of Vietnam that is on contract to us. We have two Vietnamese pilots and two Vietnamese engineers in addition to our crew. On each flight there will be one Vietnamese pilot and one Malaysian pilots so this is a real "international" flight. The first thing I have to do is to check the weather via Internet and get the flight planning including flight plans done.By 0620 it gets bright. The helicopter would have been towed out of the hangar for pre flight checks by the engineers and pilots.Passengers from the fixed wing aircraft arriving from Darwin normally comes in by 0645 hrs. Their bags are checked and there will be a drug and alcohol test for the passengers going to the rig.If there are no delays we would have the passengers boarded and the aircraft started for its 195 nm journey to the Ocean Shield which is a semi sub vessel employed for the deep sea exploration.Dili airport is located at the foot of the mountains. within 10 nm from the airport the mountain rises to about 5000 ft so after departure from the airport we have to climb like a home sick angel to our cruising altitude out which is 7000 ft. In the mornings normally the weather is not too bad but there are always clouds covering the mountains.On a clear day this is what we get to see after leaving the airport. The flight to the rig normally takes one hour and thirty minutes.This is the semi sub that I have to bring the passengers to. From a distance the heli deck looks like a small postage stamp. With modern aircraft and electronic navigation systems, it is not too difficult to locate the rig. The crew change takes about ten minutes on the heli deck. A quick turn round of the aircraft is done and when all the home bound passengers are on board we take off for the journey home. Once we have establish the cruise, there is time for some snacks. Ocean Shield normally serves us a healthy sandwiches and a cold drink. the sandwich is Australian sized and it takes me more than 10 minutes to eat it!The return journey will normally be uneventful until the last thirty miles. This is where the clouds building up at the mountain range greets our arrival with some "rock and roll"! However most of the time by the time we are overhead Dili airport it will be clear as Dili is located just at the coast.This is Capt Quan one of the Vietnamese pilots flying with us.Once we have landed, the engineers busied themselves with the post flight maintenance. Every component is meticulously inspected for any sign of wear and tear.Oil levels are checked and the aircraft is equipped with a Health and Usage Monitoring system. all the flight datas are downloaded to check if the pilots had exceeded any limitations and to scan for any unhealthy component trends.The aircraft is then towed back to our hangar.There are only three scheduled flights a week but there could be nonscheduled flights. During the cyclone evacuation there were three flights in a day! The aircraft and pilots are always ready for any medivac flights. So, what do I do on non flying days? Plenty.....I have to run safety meetings and clear off any outstanding safety issue, do my regular paper work, liaise with the client, keep my headquarter people informed on my outfit....phew it is hard work!BUT I am blessed with very motivated people under me so it makes my work as Chief Pilot easy. The local Timorese staff are hard working and the Vietnamese pilots and engineers are a joy to work with.
Like soldiers who are constantly training for war, I like to get my crew well trained in the technical aspects of the helicopter. Refresher training by engineers on aircraft systems are conducted to enhance our knowledge to the highest level.Most evenings I like to run up a 1000 ft hill at the back of the Timor Lodge. It is quite a long run/walk/climb and we can get a good view of Dili town from here.

Capt Binh, one of the Vietnamese pilots normally comes along for the run. He is a very fit man.

Life in Dili is not about working only. we do have organised company dinner every month at a local restaurant.The families are invited as well so this is a good chance for me to know them better. Good food is usually served.

SO you can see that I am having a great life with great people around me and a great place to work!

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