Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?

I recently visited again a blog written by one of our active Nuri Helicopter pilots and one of his recent postings really hit home concerning the situation with the safety of our Nuri's and the delayed, and hopefully not aborted, long overdue replacement with the EC-725 SAR. And talking about the SAR requirements, read here why such specifications for the Nuri replacement is necessary and not a luxury, an insight coming from a real pilot and not some pseudo pilots who write to the press claiming they are ex-airforcemen but what they write betrays otherwise.


Posted by Jeffrey Matisa

I know people shudder when I say I am a Nuri pilot, especially when their full fathom of aviation experience and knowledge is from Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia. Some respond with, "Oh, the flying coffin?" When someone not form the fraternity starts a tirade on this lady, I bristle. You cannot, based on what our maligned press feeds you, make an attempt to come across as informed and knowldgeable on an aircraft that has saved lives many times over those whose she has taken through no fault of her very own. Do you actually intend to sermonise the clergy? Would you who live in danger no greater than the ones of your own making in the foundries of your luxury sports cars, make attempt to preach to us whose lives are on the line in using hardware sinless but for her age in the execution of duty? ......

........I was having lunch in the navy wardroom in KD Sri Semporna last January as guests of the Commanding Officer when an ex-commander turned naval contractor asked me about the airworthiness of the Nuri, almost kindly and concerned was he. He contrasted this against the Nuri mishaps he had heard of over his own 30 years in service. I maintained as I do with all who ask, that it is not airworthiness that comes to question with the Nuri.

A pilot has all the authority to snag an aircraft less than serviceable for a task if he examines it and finds it so. But with an operational and meteorological environment far changed from that which the Nuri found herself first flying in, greater demands are placed upon an airframe that was designed in the infancy of helicopter history, to operate from sea-going decks rather than where altitude performances would infringe when trying to climb above inclement weather, just for instance. These diversifications and others strain the initial design brief of both the aircraft and the aircrew who must now take on the workload at the point where his aircraft is rendered a mere platform for task execution without integral equipment to absorb the said workload. Eventually breakpoint will be reached and aircrew failure will ensue as human performances and reserves are overwhelmed. An aircraft sporting today's current hardware is better designed to surmount the limitations encountered by older aircraft, delaying the point of human failure, making for better mission accomplishment and flight safety.

When the RMAF asked for the EC-725 helicopter to be bought so that the Nuri could be phased out, we asked for the full Combat Search and Rescue variant for this very purpose. So that we could be equipped to do what we do. To save lives in the face of hostility. To save lives, period. We were in fact on the brink of getting the EC-725 when it fell victim to politicking and blogger sabre-rattling, and hence the fleet replacement programme is now shelved due to the "uncertain global economic climate".

This of course, is absolute hogwash. Wherever the mischief was sniffed, that was not the area where the remedy, no matter its suitability, was applied. Instead, we who work are punished with the indefinite delay of what we need to do our job safely within the demands of today's "uncertain" climate, be it the economics, environment or security which concerns and affects us. If we were anything like England where members of the executive and royal families served in the air force helicopter flying squadrons instead of being served by it, I wonder what this stirring of phantoms would have produced for us by way of the Nuri replacement programme. Thus do we fly the Nuri, without the luxury of choice but with pride of service currently unrivalled in this neighbourhood.

So now you know, replacing the Nuri's is really a pressing requirement and not someone's idea to get rich quick. Even if there is an element of profiteering despite the purchase procedures being cleared by the PAC, that can be dealt with separately and should no longer be an obstacle to confirm the order. Our aircrews' lives are more precious than squabbling and politicising an issue that not only affects their lives, but also the life that they may be trying to save on mercy missions. So even though the controversy and subsequent suspension of the purchase may have quieten down the issue now, let not this purchase languish further in some dark vault of public consciousness, coming only to the forefront again when the next Nuri crashes. When that happens, the blame should no longer be put to the airforce or the government, it falls squarely on those who for their political benefits forces our airmen to fly aircraft that are no longer suitable to carry the tasks they are asked to perform. We are only needlessly penalising the blameless when we further delay equipping our brave men with the equipment they really need.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Matisa said...

Wow.
Thanks for understanding!!