April 16th, 2010

Of Icelandic Volcanoes

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

Fling has been in the news this week, or rather lack of  flying, due this time, not to snow, but to some volcano in Iceland.

That includes police helicopters which aren’t flying either. I lost track of the amounts of time someone asked if the helicopter was free, perhaps the others who work in the control room never leave the place & don’t see any news, or maybe they just have the memory of a goldfish.

When I first came I to the control room, as a PC, I was offered the chance to have a couple of attachments. The first one was with the traffic department. I didn’t actually need it as I’d spent some time on traffic some years previously, but I took it as a free day away from the control room. Nothing happened & we spent the day driving up &  down the major roads in the county.

The attachment I did enjoy was with the air support unit. Apparently, it’s good to know how they work when you have to deploy them so they let controllers out to play sometimes.

I turned at the airbase at the start of the shift to be met by the crew of the helicopter. The choppers are flown by civilian contracters many of whom are ex military. They are crewed by two police officers.

Being a reasonably tall & of, er, athletic build, the crew had some difficulty fitting me out with a suitable jump suit. Eventually one was found which didn’t require wearing my testicles round my neck & I was good to go.

Except we didn’t, not for a couple of hours. We just sat around waiting for a call. I had the resist the temptation to call one of my colleagues Ginger & refrain from saying “it’s too quiet, I dont like it“. Fortunately, I didn’t have a moustache to twiddle nor a black Labrador to stroke as I gazed off into the distant cumulus.

I’d had an introduction to the rear seat of the aircraft & a safety briefing & had been fitted with a flight helmet.

As we took off I watched the hanger getting smaller &  smaller. I realised that the last time I actually flew was on my honeymoon in 1893. I was reminded of a section of one of my dad’s BillyConnelly recordings. I think it was the ‘jobbie weecha’ sketch; all about what happens when the toilet flushes on an aeroplane. Anyway, one guy turns to the other says “its amazing, they people look just like ants“, whereupon the guy on the seat next to him says “they are ants, we havent taken off yet“.

Anyway, off we flew to a report of offenders trying to break in somewhere.

I was amazed how different things look from the air. Although I knew the town quite well it looked totally different from up above, there were mundane buildings I knew from ground level which looked quite amazing & surprisingly different from on high.

We ended up hovering over a school. It was playtime & it seemed the whole school was out in the playground waving at us.

We never located the burglars who were probably 10 miles away by now, so we headed back to the airbase.

We got off the ground three more times. Sadly there were no pursuits, we didn’t find a vulnerable missing person just minutes from perishing in the cold, nor were we instrumental in the arrest of a group of serial burglars. I knew my experience of flying in the force chopper wasn’t destined to be captured in the glorious technicolor of Sky Cops or Chopper Coppers, but I did have a great experience.

I’m now saving up for my own helicopter, so far I’ve got £7.63.

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