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Those Magnificent Daleks

Posted 7 years 206 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick


You remember the Daleks?


In the heli choppy industry, (and others) you will occasionally hear dark mutterings from the lowly rank-and-file on the subject of certain fellow pilots, supervisors, bosses, who exhibit one particular trait. And, indeed, they usually possess this trait in abundance. To what, you may wonder, do we refer?

1)  Perfection.

Some people simply never screw up. They are wise beyond their peers, staggeringly knowledgeable, and uniquely qualified by dint of their magnificence, to sit in judgment on you and me. Us lowly worms, cast by Fate into “the gutters of New Orleans”,   (where a certain large company owner claimed to find most of his pilots) are often required by virtue of rank to do obeisance to these Sky Gods, and –occasionally- I think we are expected to tremble a bit before them as well.

Now I’m not saying these guys are bad pilots. Current or former. Very often, they are/were pretty damn good. Nor am I suggesting they don’t know their stuff. On the contrary, following some of these geniuses in the various Helicopter Internet forums, (chief of which, of course, I must mention “Vertical Reference” and “Justhelibangers.com”) it’s often clear that they didn’t just kiss the Holy Book of Federal Aviation Commands. They swallowed the bloody thing. Digested it. They ooze it from every pore. They often remind me of an indignant Moses charging down the mountain. Smashing stone tablets. Sweeping into the crew room, holding forth, or simply hammering away at some poor unfortunate keyboard, they roast, flail, and brow beat any forum member who dares to not instantly fully grasp the subtleties of page two hundred and twenty three, paragraph twenty three Charlie, sub bullet point TWO.  I often envision these pilots in positions of authority, running what they think of as a really tight ship.

2)  Self propagation

Once in charge, they tend to promote their type of personality. In this way, in next to no time, “the Daleks are coming” metamorphoses through “The Dalek just got promoted” into “The Daleks are running the show”.

3)  Absence of self questioning

Daleks simply KNOW they are beautiful. Perfect. You will never meet a true Dalek who sufers from self doubt or anxiety. It’s simply not wired into the perfect creature.  Wheras many of us question ourselves, our judgment, our lives, or our beliefs, a True Dalek will quickly put you straight. All you have to do is ask, and he/she/it will authoritatively, hand on indignant hip, minutely tell you the meaning of Life. Woe betide you, if you profess Agnosticism in any aspect of Aviation. You WILL be a true Believer, in everything they proclaim to be true. Because they know, dammit.


As you may gather, I belong to the motley dissidents. The lower caste. Not infrequently threatened with banishment to the Gulag, or howled at in various forums, (or is it fora?) I delight in poking fun at the Emperor’s missing clothes. You remember the old fable about the beautiful garment, that could –allegedly- NOT be seen by those who were incompetent or stupid?  It led to one old, wrinkly king, strutting about in his royal purple underwear. Still… convinced of his own perfection.  If I was living in Iran, I would get lashed and imprisoned for drawing irreverent cartoons of the Mullahs. In Saudi Arabia they would probably behead me. In San Francisco, for punishment, some ugly bruiser would probably try and kiss me. Good thing I hang my cowboy hat in the great and beautiful state of Texas.  Put it another way: I wonder about things. I have this low I.Q. “awe” for Life and the Universe.  A sense of marveling at stuff I can’t possibly understand. Ever.

I believe that too many Daleks can easily kill off a vital ingredient to any successful company.  I’ll call that X-factor  ingredient “felix culpa”, from the Latin words “happy” and “Guilt”, and I’ll explain below what I mean by it. But first, let me say that without this X-factor ingredient, a company will suffer. It is as necessary as knowledge of the regulations, good training, good maintenance, discipline, and professionalism.

Many years ago, I was in a chin-wagging session with a Head of a Training Department. The company concerned, at that time, was hemorrhaging pilots at breakneck speed. It was costing them tens of thousands to train ‘em, and they were losing them faster than they could train new ones. In our discussion, as often happened, the causes of turnover were being debated. I remember I suggested there was an issue with a missing ingredient, and I was asked by said Head what I meant. What missing ingredient? “Fun”, I answered.


The look on his face seemed to imply he was having difficulty even pronouncing the word. As if it was so foreign, so inapplicable, so totally irrelevant to the issues at hand, that it had fallen into disrepair due to lack of use.  Indeed, even forced to speak the cursed word seemed to inject a bad taste in his mouth.

Fun. Ewwww…..



Many years ago, I was flying helicopters overseas. I was traversing the Dark Continent, different countries, and half the time my mouth was sagged open in astonishment. Very unhygienic. It was hard to credit all the off-the-wall wild stuff happening around me. A bit of a culture shock. I often felt as if I had accidentally arrived on another planet, and that I was tearing grooves where none belonged. That I was a stranger there, a fish out of water, with quaint, outdated, wholly inapplicable FAA sanctioned principles upon which my tiny existence was precariously founded.



Yep, you took a wrong turn, and you are now on Mars

From control towers falling over (for link see Note 1)  to ancient old Boeing 727’s trying to play skittles with errant helicopters,(see: “African Near-Miss),  (Link #2 below) I was continually occupied pushing my wondering eyes back into my head. They were hanging out that far.  (Those damn sticks, you know).   


We had in our company a perfect creature. Several actually, as I recall.  That was probably a really good thing, because the rest of us were a motley crew, and we rested our grimy laurels FAR from the altar of acknowledged perfection. We kind of mucked through, and tried not to screw up when everybody was watching. One day, I had landed on a big old jack up rig, to pick up some honorable customers, and I was busy preparing for take-off. Working my way down the numbers, pulling out the checklist, and briefing the animals. I heard a call from another helicopter, and that was a two pilot bus, with our industry icon barreling towards the same jack up.  He called in the blind, announcing his triumphant entry, and I, lowly worm, meekly replied with where I was and what my intentions were. To wit: take off. From the same jackup rig you are heading to. Sir.  He acknowledged my call, and I gave his arrival little further thought. In my simplicity, I assumed he would orbit high and clear, until such time as I, the ragged unwashed one, had departed and cleared his royal way. I seem to remember I even told him which way I would be turning out.  It was a big old rig, and I was perched, in full view of the world I would have said, in the middle of the deck, some 280 feet above the calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In due course, I took off, (F,D, & H), and barely had I cleared the deck edge, climbing through 300 feet perhaps, (fat, dumb & happy) when a furious, incandescent, white hot, livid voice tore through my calm cockpit.



(I remember my eyes out on sticks, head darting all over the place, calm cockpit kaput, hilfe-Gott-scheisze-what-the-HELL….)

And there came Captain Horatio Hornblower, around the jackup, at 250 feet!  I had indeed taken off over the top of him. That part of the equation was proven. Speechless, I listened to his enduring sputtering indignation, and about all I could manage was a meek “Well, I’m sorry, I’m sure….”.

Now the frequency, as frequencies often are, was alive with listeners, including several of my buddies. The silence (after his tirade was over) was deafening. I kept my cool, flew back to base, and, in due course, all my buddies vented their feelings to me.  The consensus (imagine) was that NOBODY could fathom what in heck and Begorrah’s name he was doing, flying AROUND THE JACKUP AT 250 feet, (below the level of the helideck), when he KNEW there was a helicopter sitting ON THAT DECK PREPARING for take-off! NOBODY could figure that one out. I couldn’t either. You would have expected him to orbit at a thousand feet, or fifteen hundred, or hold clear, but about the LAST PLACE anybody would have expected him was COMING AROUND THE MOUNTAIN AT 250 FEET…!

Everybody said I should tackle him about it. I said, honestly, I didn’t think it would do any good. I subsequently raised the issue, politely, in my usual soft spoken style, and received… a lecture. No surprise.  I let it go. Chalk it up to experience. Beware Captain Dalek. Coming around the mountain.


If “felix culpa” as a philosophical value reigned everywhere, (which it does not), we pilots could “look at our errors”, examine our possible “guilt”, in a “happy” environment, in order to make things better, and safer. It would be possible to look at “issues and events” calmly and reasonably. As opposed to a punitive, judgmental, defensive environment, where “instant personal attack” is automatically the only game in town. And the hair trigger assumption that the other guy “is an idiot”…

I therefore rest my case.

Some people simply never screw up. They are wise beyond their peers, staggeringly knowledgeable, and uniquely qualified by dint of their magnificence, to sit in judgment on you and me. Us lowly worms, cast by Fate into “the gutters of New Orleans”,   (where a certain large company owner claimed to find most of his pilots) are often required by virtue of rank to do obeisance to these Sky Gods, and –occasionally- I think we are expected to tremble a bit before them as well…

Fly on, ragged ones! Smile sweetly, you lower caste!  Daleks forever!


Francis Meyrick

Note: Link 1 (Control Tower falling over)   http://www.justhelicopters.com/Blog/tabid/554/Article/84539/Hey-Francis-All-that-stuff-you-used-to-TEACH-Err-Do-YOU-know-it-1.aspx


Note: Link 2 (Boeing 727’s playing skittles with helicopters)  http://www.writersharbor.org/work_view.php?work=802.com

Note:  Felix Culpa  (noun)

•    1. the sin of Adam viewed as fortunate, because it brought about the blessedness of the Redemption

•    2. an apparent error or disaster with happy consequences

Example:  he sees failure ‘readily acknowledged’ as an opportunity to learn and move forward


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?