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What did we get HER on? Part 1

Posted 9 years 87 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick

Many years ago, a time period measured in more than a decade in fact, Ancient History, I was flying EMS Air Ambulance elsewhere, somewhere, on this Pale Blue Dot, and for a different employer than my present one.  It was, as I look back on it, an almost surreal experience.  Absurdity, tinged with amusement. The memories to this day make me feel a trifle weary. A need to shake the head, sadly.  I don’t get it. I know I’m not terribly bright, and I guess my tiny spirit must just hum (or bumble along, the best it can) on an entirely different level.  Better? Worse? That’s for others to assess.  I think… I mean well.   I KNOW… it seems to get me into endless trouble. As you will see.

But first, a tiny digression. In one of my previous incarnations, (I think it was the one after I ran a raucous whore house), I got sent back to try again. This time, (oh dear!), I’m trying to learn ‘Wisdom’, as a trainee Buddhist monk. There were all sorts of disasters unfortunately, including a fly that insisted on disturbing all our empty thoughts. That fracas is described elsewhere.    Well, I remember this Wise Master (with a whisk made from a goat tail, he kept whacking me with) lecturing us with very difficult concepts, that were way too much for me. I know there was much deep meaning there, but I was far more interested in the fly, and where it landed. Anyway, vaguely, through the fog of my decidedly vacant mind (they were always on about emptying the mind anyway), I do remember he said:

“There are no two things in the Universe”.

I looked around the room, at the flower pots, the incense bowls, the Buddha statue, the goat whisk that Old Grumpy was waving dangerously at me, and I counted lots more than two objects just in the prayer hall. Oh, and that didn’t include the pesky fly, what had just landed on the senile old monk’s chin. Who was asleep. With his mouth open. Dribbling. But for some reason, the idea did stay with me. The idea that we are all inter connected somehow. That would happens to one, affects us all. It seemed to make sense. It was at that moment, that the fly inched closer…  but that’s another story.  

Anyway, fast forward, and I’m still not very bright, and getting myself into trouble, but I’m an EMS Helicopter jockey now, and I’m in a corner of the crew room, with two nurses sitting on the sofa by themselves, coldly ignoring me. (which they did all the time, anyway). At least there were no goat whisks lying around, so I didn’t have to worry about that.  

Now, the base was... umm…  not a happy base. It had what they technically call in the trade, a R-E-P-U-T-A-T-I-O-N. Uh-huh.  I had first starting figuring that one out, when, after basic training at their Head Shed, a very important man (to humble pilots, anyway) had called me aside.  Meekly, I had stepped aside, and there had followed something which struck me as a decidedly odd sort of dialogue.

Next-to-God:     Francis, I just want a word with you.

Simple One:  Sure!

Next-to-God:   Francis, err…. You strike me as an old style Helicopter Captain…

His voice trailed off, and he gave me that sort of slightly pitying look.  The sort of weary look you might give a barely house trained puppy, perhaps. I felt the need to help him along.

Simple One:  Oh! Is that a good thing or a bad thing…?

Next-to-God:   Well, it depends. There’s just something you have to realize.

Simple One:  What’s that?

Next-to-God:   Well, you must understand that if it ever comes to a dispute between a pilot and a nurse, the pilot ALWAYS loses…

Simple One:   What? Regardless of the issue?

Next-to-God:   Regardless of the issue.

Simple One: Oh!

In this way, I was dispatched from Basic Training into the field, with this sage advice ringing in my ears. However, in my usual gormless way, well intentioned but blundering, I felt I would give it my best shot, and maybe, just maybe, it would all work out just fine and dandy. No worries, Mate. Carry on, Capucino. Full speed ahead, Brother Dread.  It’ll be okay. Uh-huh.

Well, I got to arrive at my new duty station. This involved the requirement for some kind soul to exit the lofty eyrie of the Crew Room, to get me though security. My uniform apparently did nothing to allay the suspicions of the Gate Keeper. For all he knew, I was a dedicated Terrorist, here under the slinky pretense of being just a moronic Chopper Jockey, whilst actually smuggling a high explosive vest underneath my innocent façade. Out comes… a pilot. Cool. I smiled my usual big smile, and held out my hand, and looked forward to that peculiar brotherly exchange of fraternal conjoining, that only the Brotherhood of Professional Helicopter Pilots can ever aspire to. Oh, and barely house trained puppies, of course. Well…

No kidding, first meeting, he had never, ever clapped eyes on me before, and he spent a full fifteen minutes, eyes blazing, voice shaking with anger, telling me what he thought of the nurses. It wasn’t… too good. None of the Mother Theresa image, put it that way. Hardly much Florence Nightingale either. Basically, not to sugar coat it, an evil nest of vipers, a posse of blood sucking vultures, a…. you maybe get the picture. He told me he was leaving, I was his replacement, and good luck with that lot. Oh, and for added comfort, just so you know, you are the fifth pilot in under a year.

Cool. Thank you. Nice to meet you. Thanks for the… ahh… the heads up. I’m sure.

I walked along, wondering what kind of really nice places I might have been going to instead. But the need for a paycheck being what it is, I dutifully reported to the Lead Pilot, and shook hands, and then I was dutifully introduced to Mother Theresa and Florence Nightingale.

You know when you offer your hand, and, with a slight frown, this limp tentacle is briefly placed in yours? With a purse of the lips? A sort of implied  “I have to do this, it’s required decorum, but, really, I’m wasting my time. I’m not going to like you, anyway.”  The temperature in the room was chilly, put it that way.  Well, I kept a pleasant smile plastered on my face, a trifle sickly perhaps, but gamely trying to make it work.


I guess I SHOULD have drawn an early conclusion from the name tag on my uniform shirt.

“Jeremy”.   If I had been smart, I would have drawn a conclusion from that. But no, a clue completely overlooked by Francis.  “Um, that’s not my name!” 

Lead Pilot:  “Oh, don’t worry about it, yours are on order, they will be here in a week or so, these are just to keep you going…”

Simple One: “Oh! Okay…”

Months passed.  I’m still “Jeremy”. It gets tiring explaining to everybody in the hospital that your name isn’t “Jeremy”, it’s “Francis”, and the only reason it says “Jeremy” where it should say “Francis” is because MY uniform shirts are on order, but haven’t arrived yet.  After a while, I just gave up.

“Morning, Jeremy!”

“Morning, Darling!”

It seemed simpler that way.  Now a cynic might ask where in hell’s name my uniforms with my proper name were? All I can say that in five months, they never did show up. My guess is (honestly) with the high pilot turnover, they were not going to waste money on providing a lowly Chopper Jockey with his own uniform shirt, until he had proved himself. I mean, fancy wasting $50 for nothing? I could see their logic, entirely. Left aside was how that makes the new employee FEEL.   Now you might also assume, might you not, that “Jeremy” was the outgoing pilot, right? The happy chappy who had met me at the gate, and given me the poetic ‘Nest of vipers’  rundown? Nope. Poor old dearly departed “Jeremy” was like the FOURTH previous pilot…! Um. That tell you something?

“Morning, Jeremy!”

“Morning, Darling!”


The problems started coming at me pretty quickly. I dealt with them as best I could. I really tried. I will highlight just a few of those issues, and I can only assure the reader that this sorry list is and was by no means, what you might term “exhaustive”. I mean, it was “exhausting”, but not “exhaustive”. If that makes sense.Maybe.

Consider a well meaning chap, pretty high time pilot, knows the area really well. Wants it all to work. He has a mortgage, mouths to feed, and he has a vested interest in making this work. I’ll say that again, because it is important: he really, really, wants this to work.


1)  “You can call me ANY TIME.”

The Lead Pilot was heavily into Golf. That was his obsession. Religion.  I’m sure he was coming out of the womb, yelling: “FORE!”   Whilst he maintained that he was always available by telephone (“Call me ANY TIME you have a question”), in truth, he never answered the phone. Never. Too busy teeing off, or lining up that putt. I don’t know. But you were on your own. Make your own decisions, new guy. Once you had made the best decision you could, inevitably:

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“I tried. No answer!”

“Well, that’s strange. You can call me ANY TIME.”


And so on, and so forth.  Thou are guilty for not calling.  Worm.

2)  “We’re GROUNDED”   (the Leather Strap episode)

Some times, I really, really wanted to get through to him. Really. I mean, really.

Here’s one such time. Two medics come in. Their first morning on duty. Within five minutes of showing up on the base, all grumpy, and within a minute of walking out to the helicopter.

“We’re grounded!”

I was surprised. I had already pre-flighted. She was fine. Good to go. Plus, I like to fly. Silly, I know, but I really, really, like to fly.

“Whatever is wrong?” I asked, innocently.  They told me that a strap securing some medical equipment was slack, allowing the equipment to move slightly. I asked them to point out the offending item. This they did, in bad grace.

I studied the problem. There was, indeed, some slack. The issue had not been a problem for the previous Med Crew, who had flown with it, with never a mention, but this new crew were not having it.  Okay… I could see the leather strap had no more adjustment in it. It needed another hole punched in the strap, so it could be pulled tighter. That was all. Simple fix. But. Problem.

At the interview, I had mentioned that I was an A+P Mechanic, and that if the opportunity arose to advance my knowledge, I would be glad of any opportunity to help. The Chief Pilot and the Deputy Chief Pilot, otherwise known as God, and Next-to-God, had bade me understand that I was appointed as a Pilot, not as a Mechanic, and that as such I would not perform any maintenance. Sure, I had said, I understand that, I know I won’t be on the 135 roster of Mechanics, it’s just that IF I can help a mechanic, I’m offering, I will be happy to go the extra mile. If it helps. I’m just offering.

“No, that’s unlikely.”

“Okay, no worries.”

(Case closed)


And here I was, staring at this stupid strap. A thirty second fix. Well, caution told me to call Maintenance first.  So I did. The mechanics were based permanently at another location,  some 147 miles away. I spoke to the Lead Mechanic. When I told him the problem, he simply blew up. He was furious. It was a long drive, and he had plenty going on there. His opinion of the Med crew was unprintable.

Enter: Mister Gormless. You know, well meaning. I.Q. measured in negative digits. So I offered to help. I told him I lived ten minutes away. If he okayed it, I could go home, grab a punch, make another hole in the strap, and we would be back in the air within thirty seconds. He was enthusiastic.

“But”, I said, innocently. “I don’t want to get into trouble. They told me at the interview that I was not allowed to work on the helicopter. They kind of stressed that. So I know it’s just a little thing, but I really don’t want to get into trouble…”

He reassured me grandly. “Oh, don’t worry! I authorize that! That’s such a simple adjustment, that’s not an issue! If you do that, you’ll save me a two-and-half hour drive there and back, and we have a lot going on here. We’re in the middle of a big component change out job here. No, you go right ahead, and I can assure you that (the company) will be very grateful to you…!”

He pronounced the last bit solemnly, so that sounded alright, but after I put the phone down, I tried (AGAIN) to call the lead Pilot for his blessing. No reply. As per usual.

In due course… extra hole punched, strap fixed, one Air Ambulance Helicopter back in service. Case closed. Or…? Well….

I got written up! Seriously. By the Med Crew! For performing maintenance on the helicopter…

I copped it big time. The lead Pilot was mad at me. The Area Manager (who I had never met, and was fated never to meet) was mad.  Head office was mad. Everybody was mad.

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“I tried. No answer!”

“Well, that’s strange. You can call me ANY TIME.”


And so on, and so forth.  Thou are guilty for not calling.  You worm.

Head Office was outspokenly mad at me. I got the Chief Pilot on the phone, telling me off in no uncertain terms. He reminded me of the Interview, and their comments then. Why didn’t I check with the Lead Pilot??  Heck, I TRIED. NO REPLY. I also told him I had spoken with the Lead Mechanic, and that I had expressed my concerns to him, and what he had said. The Chief Pilot, frostily, told me he would “look into that side”. Grrrreat.   I thought, after the chewing out, that that was the end of it, but it wasn’t, as we shall see below.

First though, some other fun stuff…

(to be continued in Part TWO)



A Little About Moggy  - Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick (www.chopperstories.com) admits to not being terribly bright, but he did first grace the skies (more or less) totally on his own some forty-five years ago. He is rumored to have solemnly intoned these memorable words on the downwind leg.

“Holy Crap! NOW what have I done…?”

He is working dutifully on his eighty-sixth incarnation (he does, admittedly, get sent back a lot – for another try) , and he describes himself as a ‘chopper jockey’. He says it’s basically a case of a nut, hanging under a nut. (BIG nut, though).  Compared to trying to attain Wisdom (he was a Buddhist monk once) (before he got demoted to galley hand), he reckons it beats working for a living.  It ranks right up there with being a happy penguin, and spending all day sliding down icy slopes.

Moggy loves spinning a good yarn, and his greatest reward is simply your enjoyment. His many friends caution you he does tend to tell his bar stories with verve and gusto, and much arm waving, so you are advised to move your pints and other drinks safely out of his way. Peace. Got a pickle sandwich?