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Flying Adventures in Hong Kong – Part 2

Another month has gone by and it’s time for anecdote number two from my early flying days.
Last month I told you how, in Hong Kong in 1967, we helped build Snake, the triple layered barbed wire fence laid out along the ridge line overlooking the border with China. It was all done in a rush to protect the colony from the thousands of refugees fleeing Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. But there was another reason to hurry – a typhoon was forecast, and the job had to be completed before that arrived.
We flew the coils of wire and other supplies up from the base to the ridge line where the Gurkhas were working. But these chaps had to eat, so it wasn’t only wire but also food and water to keep them going through the day. Such was the pace of work, that the pilots remained in the aircraft with the rotors turning while loading took place. When you’re in this situation, you are technically flying the machine, so cannot leave the controls.
I was sitting there watching the lads at the base loading me up with the Gurkhas’ baht, or meal, some of which was prepared and some for cooking on site. There were all shapes and sizes of containers, including “hay boxes”, insulated chests to keep the food hot.
Finding no suitable stowage for a large plastic bag of curry powder, one loader found a secure place below my feet. I knew it was safe, we often put our own stuff down there out of the way.
We were flying without doors for increased visibility and for the cooling air flow. I mentioned a typhoon. It wasn’t there at that stage, but the wind was getting up, and the flying was bumpy with the helicopter being pushed about by air currents around the hills.
Something sharp must have been below my feet with the bag of curry powder, because either it split or the bag had not been closed properly. The wind was buffeting the helicopter and, without the doors, was blowing into and around the cabin. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what happens when a gust of wind meets finely ground spices. It went everywhere. Up my nose, in my mouth. It stuck to the sweat on my face and stung my eyelids. I pulled my helmet visor down, but it was too late, and all it did was trap the dust against my face. My lungs were on fire, my eyes were burning and streaming, and I was coughing (taking in deep breaths of curry with every gasp). Somehow I managed to complete that sortie, but I had to stop and wash before doing any more. Honestly, I don’t know why police use tear gas – curry powder is twice as effective.
It’s funny now, but trying to fly a helicopter to a hill top in a strong wind while blinded by cumin and chillies and doubled over in coughing fits, wasn’t so amusing. I believe the vacuum cleaner clogged when they cleaned the cockpit. My love of curry has not been dented though, in fact it’s been enhanced by the experience.
Beer never tasted better than after that flight.
Next month, I’ll reveal how my passenger numbers went up in mid flight.
Publication news is that Thirty-Four, my latest novel, is currently being revised after some suggestions by an editor. My designer has produced a couple of striking cover images, which we’ve discussed and he’s presently working on some modifications to those. I think the cover is going to be great and I hope to show a sample next month and get some feedback from you.
Until then, keep well. And in the future too.

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