Monday, December 17, 2007

Bingo Fuel and Stinging Slinging.

Work has taken a shift in direction. We are moving the bulk of the drilling to a new different property to the south of camp. A property I had not seen until a week ago. When Pete Jordan and me flew out there to both check on the drill and get me familiar with the property. The plan was simple, take a chopper down to the property check out the drill and or shut it down and then fly back to camp end of day. Pack a lunch and long underwear.

This should have bee a quick and simple day, but light is a limited commodity. At the latitude of 63,1/4 degrees north in December the earliest time we can fly is around 9:30 am and the latest we can fly is around 3:50pm.
Adding to this compressed timetable were the other demands on the helicopter. It had to fly in some supplies from town. Fuel for the drill, two barrels full, weighing enough to make the bird burn through extra fuel on the short flight from town. With the bird having to make a trip into town to get the fuel drums there was a lot of time-spent waiting. After it delivered the fuel the chopper landed in the swamp, not the helipad we had marked out, it turned out we had a different pilot form the

The three of us get on to the chopper staying low on the approach to avoid unwanted decapitations; they can really ruin your day. We took from off the swamp and about 5 to 10 minuets into the flight Pete is talking to the Pilot and some slightly important information is put forth. There was not enough fuel for the bird to make the round trip.
The chopper had about 45 to 50 minuets of fuel and we had about an hour and fifteen minuets of day light left. From where we were flying from it is about a 20-minuet flight to camp and greater then half an hour to get back to Yellow Knife.

Camp does keep some Jet-B on hand to refuel choppers with but because the pilot had just hauled in fuel for the drill he had left his fuel pump in town to save weight. Our fuel drums do have hand pumps but this would have taken too much time to fill it up, using up too much of the remaining day. Which could have forced him to say in camp to avoid flying after dark. So to save the chopper from as they say, bingo fuel, we turned around and headed south to Yellow Knife.
The cool thing of landing in town was being in a chopper as the Pilot parallel parked the bird. To do this we came in a few feet of the ground and the flew side ways in to the space between a Hughes 500 in front of us and second Bell 206 behind us.

The one time I am in town during a work rotation it’s a Sunday. To add to the fun all three of us have left our wallets and any and all forms of money at camp and personally I had nothing to read. Our lack of funds was fixed as was our accommodations, one through a preexisting arrangement the other through a favour, not in that order.
The evening was dull, but it was an early end for the working day, that coupled with larger softer hotel bed and a good dinner was worth the trip into town. It was something of a tease as normally I only see Yellow Knife as I am leaving work. Though we did get some looks leaving Boston Pizza, as we were a scruffy lot.

The next day was started with sleeping in and ended with the being cold and fearing that we would have to spend a second night in town. In between we returned to the drill site in a helicopter without working heat and frosted up windows. This really boosts your confidence in modern engineering. Once I toured the property moving to say warm and huddled in the drill when it was not too busy.

Things started to go bad when the chopper was hauling in a second set of fuel drums. Two or three times it circled and hovered but failed to kill its forward momentum enough to keep the drums form swinging at the end of their long line forcing it to abandon its attempts to deliver the fuel. After its last failed attempt at delivering the fuel to the drill's location at the time, It attempted to drop the barrels at the site where the drill would move to next, this was more open. This proved to be some of the least inspired flying I have seen lately.
Once again the bird came in low and fast when it should have come in high, hovered and then come down slow. This hover and drop approach would kill the forward momentum of the drums at the end of the long line preventing them from swinging. The drums started to swing side to side under the helicopter and as the pilot compensated and perhaps over compensated the swinging increased and became a circular motion like some over sized up side down mace. It was worrying seeing the chopper buck in response to its miss-behaving load. When the pilot at last made his call he brought the bird down with the drums still moving under him, they kicked up cloud of dusty snow, I had a brief worry that they seals on the things could fail and we would have a royal mess on our hands.

This excitement was followed with a long wait in the cold and the approaching dark. On paper the plan was for the bird to head into town refuel and take us back to camp, it did not work out that way and as the sun was setting we were still waiting for our ride. Several calls of decreasing politeness and of increasing frequency were made to the helicopter hanger as darkness approached.

When It came, the sun was most of the way down, it was delayed it turned out, but we had a faster bird with a full tank of gas getting back to camp at last was not going to be a problem. We did make it back to camp and not much else has happened since. Okay a few days after that adventure I got to be the guild on a second trip to that property, I flew in the front of the bird looking down at the ground through the transparent floor of the cockpit. This time I had my wallet. But nothing much happened that trip, we flow to the southern end of a lake where we will be setting up a drill in the new year and did some fancy flying to get a close look, on this day we were back before lunch and I did not have to leave my seat.

1 comment:

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Great story!
Put some of the adventure back in the Geologists' life.
Glad I was not there.