Some years ago a couple of friends of mine where doing fieldwork in southern Chile. They chartered a small plane to fly them around so they could errect a series of seismic monitoring stations. One of field sites was in a fjord. The pilot flew them in and they set about building the concrete plinth for the station and mounting the gear. By the time they had finished the cloud had come in and the pilot told them there was no way he could take off in the narrow fjord, so they headed to the bar to pass the time.
Two days later they were still marooned by the weather and starting to worry. They had built in some slack but that was now all used up and they still had a lot of work to do. The pilot, who spoke no English was not especially forth coming with the weather report, despite there best efforts to try and persuade him to find out.
After another failed attempt to communicate with him, he disappeared for ten minutes and then returned saying “Vamanos ahora” , We will go now. They were skeptical but keen to go and fortified by three days of drinking and boredom they jumped into the plane, and threw in their bags as the pilot fired up the engine and turned the plane around to point down the cloud filled valley.
The were still wondering what the hell was going on as the little plane accelerated down the gravel strip and rose into the cloud. Then the heard the pilot, talking to himself under his breath…
Uno, dos , tres, quarto, dareche (right)” and the plane lunged right. They could see nothing in the cloud but the threat of the huge granite cliffs was ever present and threatening
“Uno, dos arybe (up)” as they climbed steeply and got small glimpses of hard grey rock alarming close. It was soon painfully apparent that the pilot believed there constant questioning and frustration was instruction for him “to do something”. So he had talked to the local pilots and got “directions” out of the fjord, which comprised of a series of instructions, fly 4 seconds and then hard right; 10 seconds and left etc etc. Which he had then committed to memory.
Our heroes were justifiably terrified but by the time they understood what was happening it was too late to stop it and, being smart they realized that there best chance of survival was to let the pilot execute his memorized sequence. Turning back was not an option.
After what seemed like a lifetime the little plane climbed out of the fjord, through the cloud and into the clear sky. Seismic stations were erected and our heroes got to add another stupid story to their repertoire.
This weeks Wednesday movies deal with dodgy take off and landing – who ever said flying was safe never fly with these guys…
The World’s craziest airport
I actually had the privilege of flying with this guy when we were filming a few years ago – we did not do any Arches but he was a real character
This one is a bit long but it is worth watching to the end because just when you think its over it gets more interesting
Inspiration for telling this story and the movies from Ian