Saturday, September 06, 2008

Gulf of Mexico: Remobilization Interrupted

The last two days have been very busy flying-wise. We flew seven hours yesterday, transporting folks out to inspect mobile drilling rigs evacuated in the face of Hurricane Gustav.

The last flight of the day involved two helicopters flying to the same rig, taking two groups of people out to decide whether the rig had suffered too much damage to house crews again. The rig had a huge helideck; it was easily large enough to park three of our twelve-passenger Sikorsky S-76 helicopters. Here's a shot of the second helicopter on the deck.

My employer, PHI, has an extensive flight-following network out in the Gulf of Mexico. It involves a series of radio repeaters connected to our communications center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Our Sikorsky S-76's and nineteen-passenger Sikorsky S-92's also have a system called "Outerlink" aboard which sends flight plans by satellite link, and can also send and receive text messages. That's comforting after a hurricane, when our radio flight following network is often put out of commission in a portion of the Gulf.

After two bust-ass days, I didn't get in the air today. The remobilization seems to be slowing markedly with news that Hurricane Ike will probably enter the Gulf of Mexico. It's looking likely that we'll soon be evacuating all those folks out of the Gulf that we've transported offshore in the last couple of days. Also, there's the very real possibility that we could again be forced to evacuate our bases, relocating the aircraft east and/or west out of harms way.

Mother nature, as usual, rules.


Debby said...

As I read this, I was wondering why you'd be remobilizing at this point, with Ike heading straight at you. What weather we've been having.

Is that the type of helicopter you fly? OOOooooh. Pretty.

quid said...

I'm so sorry this may be all for naught.


Pam said...

It's been a rough season thus far. It's hard to believe the projected track of Ike!

I see that bad boy is up to a cat 4 again.

I've really been enjoying your photo journals lately! Does let me peek over your shoulder, so-to-speak.

Stay safe!

Kelly said...

Okay... time for some possibly "dumb" questions. Do you always use the same helicopter during your 14 days on? If so, I assumme there is someone else who uses it the other two weeks.

Is there always at least one person per helicopter at the base in order to get them all moved to safe ground after all the people have been evacuated?

I think we're all sitting on pins and needles waiting to see where Ike's headed!

Hal Johnson said...

Kelly, many of our pilots are "on a contract." They're employed by PHI, but they fly for one particular oil company, and usually in the same aircraft. The pilot(s) assigned opposite of him or her will fly it when he or she goes on break. Others are in the "pool;" they roam around to where they're needed, replacing pilots on sick leave or vacation, or doing ad hoc flights. The pilots on a contract usually fly the same aircraft, whereas the pool pilots may fly a few different aircraft in one hitch.

I'm on a contract now, but I volunteered to stay past my normal hitch for the evacuation(s) and remobilization(s), so for this week, I'm in the pilot pool. I've flown three different aircraft since Friday, but they've all been S-76's like the one in the photo on this blog piece.

There will normally be at least one pilot per aircraft at a base. Anything holding ten passengers or more must, by regulation, be crewed by two pilots when carrying passengers for hire. However, those aircraft can be flown by only one pilot when not operating for hire, such as during an evacuation of a Gulf Coast base.

Thanks for the questions. I feel important!