Getting out here is usually by one of two means. Boat rides or helicopters. Helicopters are majorly used for those of us who are drilling deep sea except the location is really close to shore.
“Where exactly are you guys?” some ask – to which I reply, “Middle of nowhere.”
All we know is that we are out at sea. Google map doesn’t really pinpoint where exactly on the water body you are. Although the guys who work at the bridge – which is the control center of the ship, where the captain and Dynamic Positioning Officers (DPO) work – using their maps, satellites and other navigation equipment, know exactly where we are. If you have seen movies where a ship was pirated, this control centre is the place where the pirates aim to get access to.
Helicopter rides aren’t the most comfortable means of transportation, especially if it will last a long time. Forget those movies that make it look sexy enough to win Miss Nigeria. It’s not. Unlike airplane rides that are relatively quiet, choppers can vibrate and be noisy for Africa and Asia. It is sometimes so deafening that it is compulsory we all wear hearing protection to avoid stories that touch.
And oh! Because the majority of the flying is over water, we also wear life Jackets and – wait for it –there is a briefing done every time we’re about to go on or off, teaching us what to do if there’s an emergency landing. There’s a position to stay in if the pilots announce that there will be an emergency landing.
The video details what to do, what not to do, how to approach the chopper on embarking, from the sides as shown by the helicopter landing officer, and not from the front or back where the blades are. It reminds you not to turn on your phone, because if your signal interferes with that of the chopper’s electronics, OYO is your case. The video reiterates that you not inflate your life jacket in the chopper when it lands in water (read “crashes”). In fact, you’re supposed to wait until the helicopter has rolled over, staying mindful of the fact of the spinning blades.
Of course, all of this is said by the laidback but serious voice of the narrator, as if he is imparting knowledge on the dangers of swallowing fufu morsels that are cut too large for the oesophagus. I remember the first time I watched the video on my first time out to the rig years back. A son of man stared motherfuckerly at what was being said, and on looking around, I noticed it was only my eyes that registered any hint of “what is going on here!”
Helicopters don’t take off as smoothly as airplanes either. They lift into the air, come down, gather more momentum and lift again, slowly gaining altitude before eventually settling into a comfortable vibrating and forward motion.
We are flying over water and people are sleeping easy. This I found incredulous during my first time; during that time, Lord knows I kept reciting to myself everything I heard in that video.
People often say, “Nawa o! Aren’t you people afraid of helicopter crashes?”
Well, we are. But if you look at the numbers, there are actually less helicopter crashes than car accidents. So na all of us suppose fear, because something must kill a man and it can be anything. Although I must say that as time goes by, the fear diminishes as with any other activity, dangerous or not, that has been done severally.
For everyone who has to go offshore via a helicopter, a course must be done – Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET). It prepares you for every emergency that may be encountered while on a chopper going offshore or onto the rig itself. During the training (I kid you not), you’re put in a makeshift helicopter, submerged with your seatbelt in a deep pool – or in a real river, if you use a training center that has stopped fearing God. The copter is rotated so you guys are upside down, and you’re meant to escape by pushing at the windows and making it to the surface (without dying). For a non-swimmer, most times you ingest more water than is required in a day, and the instructors will not issue you a certificate of participation until you succeed. Of course, there are rescue divers on standby, but who dem epp? Not me, because I ingested the pool like it was the water of life.
Even though I sometimes tend to pander to the school of thought that believes it is necessary for everyone who goes out there to be able to swim, I also hold that in times of emergency, the BOSIET course as well as the ability to collect oneself and not make rash decisions when confronted with the possibility of death, is usually the difference between survivors and those who don’t survive. That and God’s grace – or luck, if that’s what you believe in.
Another thing that boosts chances of survival in a crash is the time it takes for emergency rescue services to respond. Because, even if you be Michael Phelps and survive the crash and nobody comes for you, you have become the star actor of Life of Pi Part 2.
There are tons more to talk about when it comes to helicopter rides, but I’ll stop here. I cannot possibly cover everything, but this should hopefully shed a little light on what happens in that helicopter that keeps making noise “tututututututu” over your house.
My name is Uncle Stephen.
And this is my Diary.