Let me take you through a normal sortie in case of a helicopter pilot flying in India. I’m talking about the flight I did this morning. The route is between Cochin International Airport(VOCI) to Kavaratti via Androth . Let me tell you, Kavaratti and Androth are two islands of Lakshwadweep which is off the south western coast of India. To be more precise,Kavaratti is on a radial of 278 degrees and distance of 225 nm from VOCI and Androth is on a radial of 286 degrees and distance of 165 nm from VOCI. So now you know the route and where we are going. Departure time this morning was 1100. So hop on and enjoy the flight.
We reached the airport close to one hour before flight to carry out preflight briefing, preflight medical checks, assessment of weather reports, acceptance of aircraft etc. After all the preflight processes are complete we proceeded to the aircraft passing through the security screening. I met a friend on the way to gate no 30, who was going to board the morning Indigo flight to Mumbai, to whom I proudly flaunted my uniform. It’s always nice to see familiar faces at the airport, especially when you are in uniform. We reached gate no 30 by 1045, where our passengers and an air conditioned bus was waiting. Ohh I forgot, In helicopters there are no washrooms, so preflight washroom break is also a procedure that I follow. Hopped onto the bus, while I gazed at aircraft’s taking off, taxiing while we were enroute to our helicopter parked on stand 9. On reaching the helicopter, we greeted the engineers and other staff who were waiting for us and carried out the external and internal checks of the helicopter.
Startup and taxi
Pilot: Cochin ground, VT XAX, good morning.
ATC: VT XAX, Cochin ground, good morning.
Pilot: Cochin ground, VT XAX requesting start for Kavaratti via Androth. Altitude 4500 ft, POB 06 through security, stand niner.
ATC: VT XAX, Startup approved, QNH 1012 Runway 09
We carried out prestart checks, pressed the starter on the fuel flow control level to start the engines. The engines started powering up, rotors started slowly turning, indications on the gauge started going live. The smell of fuel and grease filled the air. The engines were now started up and rotors turned at optimum rpm.
After all the checks are complete. We requested for taxi
Pilot: Cochin ground, VT XAX request taxi
ATC: VT XAX, taxi via J1, C, C2, holding point 09.
Pilot: taxi via J1, C, C2, holding point 09.
ATC: VT XAX, confirm ready to copy departure instructions?.
ATC: VT XAX, cleared destination Kavaratti via Androth ,altitude 6500, on departure runway 09, turn left, proceed 5 miles north of CIA, initially maintain 1000 ft further with radar, Squawk 6566.
Pilot: VT XAX, cleared destination Kavaratti via Androth ,altitude 6500, on departure runway 09, turn left, proceed 5 miles north of CIA, initially maintain 1000 ft further with radar, Squawk 6566.
ATC: Readback correct, Contact Cochin tower on 118.8
Pilot: Changing over, good day.
Pilot: Cochin tower, VT XAX on a handover, good morning .
ATC: VT XAX, namaskar, Lineup and wait runway 09.
Pilot: Line up and wait runway 09.
We lined up on the runway, carried out post lineup checks, rechecked serviceability of our instruments, and finally carried out pre takeoff checks.
ATC: VT XAX, cleared for takeoff, runway 09, winds 130/ 09 knots
Pilot: Cleared for takeoff, runway 09, VT XAX.
We took off. On a lighter note, even now after having done thousands of takeoffs, every takeoff still excites me. On takeoff runway 09, we turned left and proceeded 5 nm to the north and climbed to 4500ft while enjoying the views gods own country had to offer.
Pilot: Cochin tower, VT XAX reporting 5 nm to the north, 1000 ft, request direct to Androth.
ATC: VT XAX, proceed direct to Androth, contact approach on 119.75.
Pilot: Changing over, Thankyou.
Pilot: Cochin approach, VT XAX on a handover, good morning .
ATC: VT XAX, good morning, Climb to 4500 ft.
Pilot: climb to 4500 ft.
As we climbed, we saw the beautiful coast of Cochin and accepted our fate to not see land for the next 200 miles. In the mean while we contacted Chennai HF, which is our route frequency to pass on our position, estimates and endurance.
Pilot: VT XAX, reporting 20 nm out maintaining 4500 ft, two way with Chennai HF, estimating Androth at 0700 and Kavaratti at 0745.
ATC: Roger copied, continue with Chennai, have a great day.
Pilot: Good day, Jai Hind.
As we cruised away at 4500 ft and 140 kts, we carried out cockpit checks every 15-20 minutes of flying time, occasionally looked down to spot huge ships. Ships are quite important when it comes to long distance over sea flights, especially in case of helicopters. In case of dual engine failure over sea, at least if we ditch somewhere near these ships there’s a better chance of survival
We landed at Androth and finally in Kavaratti, within the given estimated timings that we had passed on to Cochin and Chennai. After reaching the crew room, carried out the post flight paper work and a quick debrief, had a customary cup of tea and in 5 minutes, came the next emergency call for flying.