As the saying goes, 'If you can't change them, you join them'. Well, that was exactly what I did. After a lot of throwing tantrums at my husband, I decided that I had to change. I put myself in full gear and became an active BAKAT member. It was not so bad after all. Besides my working colleagues, I now had many BAKAT friends. Along with friends, came the numerous activities.
One of these which I enjoyed most was dancing. During my husband's tour in Kuantan, our dancing group became very popular. Our specialty was the tarian 'Ulek Mayang'. We were requested to perform the dance on many occasions. As a reward, well, you guessed it , we were given rides on the various aircraft. Of course, it was not a joyride, so to speak, but when our dancing troupe had to travel, we were given the best aircrafts available then. We travelled to KL from Kuantan in the HS 125, VVIP executive jet, then. We travelled to Bali in a VVIP aircraft then, the F28. We also had the opportunity to fly in the Hercules, the Maritime version. The pilot of the Maritime allowed us to enter the cockpit during flight. It was awesome.
That's me, in front, doing the 'Ulek Mayang'When my husband was posted to Labuan, we flew in the Hercules. This was not my first flying experience in this aircraft having flown in the Maritime before but it was very different indeed. I felt like an evacuee being rescued from a war-torn nation. The seats were all like hammocks to me and we were all seated alongside the body of the aircraft. In other words, our sides were facing the cockpit and we faced the passengers along the other side of the aircraft. Now, can you imagine what it was like when the aircraft was taking off. Wow, we all swayed towards the tail end of the aircraft. There was no way you could prevent yourself from falling over to the passenger next to you. Of course. we all swayed the other way when the aircraft was coming to a land. Throughout the three-hour flight, we can only communicate using the sign language because the aircraft was not sound proof. Then, to top it all up, one of the air-crew would climb onto the hammock seats with a torch light in one hand peering into.............heaven knows what!
Before I forget, prior to boarding the aircraft, my husband warned me to ease myself. I dicovered to my horror, there was only a makeshift toilet in the aircraft and we had to manouvre our way up the narrow aisle to reach it. By the time we reached it , our bladders would have given way!Phew! it was indeed a relief when the aircraft landed. When I stepped out of the aircraft, I felt like a drunkard, temporarily deaf from the droning of the engines.
I also had the chance to fly in the nuri piloted by my husband. The flight was from Labuan to Pontianak, Indonesia. Of course, the passengers were BAKAT Udara Labuan members. It was pretty scary because the flight was rather choppy due to heavy rain. All of us were very quiet and we kept praying that we landed safely. We could see the very thick jungle below us and I remember we held each others hands firmly for moral ssupport. The only lady passenger who was very calm was YM Tengku Marina. She was the wife of the highest ranking officer in the aircraft and I suppose, she had to remain cool in order to prevent us from panicking. Well, Kak Engku, if you are reading this, I admire your courage. We landed safely alright and I remember asking my husband whether we were in any danger during the flight. His answer was ' What danger! It was a smooth flight'. Smooth indeed.
Before boarding the nuri for Pontianak
I also had the chance to fly in the Caribou, again with BAKAT members. The flight was from Kuching to Labuan. To us, BAKAT members, to fly in a Caribou was not something we looked forward to. Somehow, we had the perception that it was an old aircraft and therefore not very safe to fly in. But we had no choice. You must remember that at this time I was no longer with my often sought after Kuantan dancing troupe. We were just ordinary Labuan BAKAT members so we did not get to travel in VIP arcrafts. Every time we were given the opportunity to travel we jumped at it without thinking about the mode of transport. As always, all of us were laden with the fruits of our shopping spree. I remember the pilot of the Caribou telling us that the aircraft was overweight due to our extra shopping baggage. I was not sure whether he was joking or not. We knew all the pilots and copilots quite well because we were all neighbours in the same camp. I remember approaching the pilot and asking him whether we were really overweight. I know it was unethical but I could not help myself. I had to be sure. His answer was ' No problem. If it's too heavy we'll just throw some out from mid air' . I knew then, that we were not overweight and told all my friends so. However, our anxiety did not end there. A few minutes after taking off, my friend, Nancy, who was sitting next to me pointed out what was happenning outside the window. We knew that moments after take-off, the landing gear would be retracted. But now, suddenly, the landing gear was out again. She looked at me and I at her. Now I was wondering whether we were really overweight! Then, it was retracted again. The process went on several times. We landed safely at Labuan. I refrained from asking the pilot why the landing gear went in and out several times. The thought that we were all safe and sound was all that matters.
I also had the chance to fly in the Allouette. It is a small 5-seater helicopter. The flight was from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu. It was a short flight of about 30 minutes only but the experience was exhilarating. Why? To me, it was like a flying carpet! I could see all round, left, right, up and down. The Allouette has a very wide hemispherical windscreen which allows unrestricted vision in all directions. Though the flight was very short, it was worth it. After all, not every body gets to be Alladdin on a flying carpet!