A mule crew replaces three helicopters

I don’t envy anyone on this 1985 ESSO/GSI contract in southeast Turkey who had to work with flying aluminum scrap, and pilots who appeared to be inexperienced. Scroll about a third of the way down the link page for details about the helicopter operation – or lack of one. Even now I’m embarrassed to read about this flying circus and how it turned into a nightmare.


Viking helicopters supplied three machines. They were Lamas, which are good for high altitude work. Two of the machines were shipped from the Sudan. Viking’s two machines were clapped out pieces of junk. The HF radios didn’t work and they were constantly in the shop.

There was a lot of playing and not a very professional manner among the Viking guys. The chief pilot was a Canadian who came up from Sudan. He was a hot dog. While practicing using the long line, he banged the 55 gallon drum full of jet fuel into the ground a couple of times on the first day. Just as I began to think it was just one of those things that could happen to anybody, he hit a power line while sightseeing down a river.

Replaced by a mule crew

Here’s what happened after the pilot of the second aircraft forgot about a power cable that he had been working under all morning and was subsequently killed when he flew into it:

It wasn’t long until ESSO grounded the remaining helicopter, and converted the operation from a helicopter crew to a mule crew.

Replaced by a mule crew. How appropriate. And how embarrassing. What’s truly unfortunate is that it took so long for the contractor to replace the Viking operation with a smarter ass. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall when someone had to explain how that happened, but I’d bet no one was told the true story.

I can’t imagine having ESSO as a customer and allowing what happened to even begin to go on. It would appear that no one on the international side of things had any idea about how to conduct a brewery piss-up – let alone an international flight operation – from hiring to staffing to managing.

Oh well, it’s all over now but for the memories – both good and bad.

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