St Kilda

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fareastdriver
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St Kilda

#1 Post by fareastdriver » Tue Aug 03, 2021 7:02 pm

I went to St Kilda once.

It was a Bristow task out of Aberdeen. A Norwegian trawler had got a stray fishing net tangled up in its propeller and it had struggled into the bay at St Kilda. I was detailed to fly to Stornoway to pick up the divers and thence to St Kilda; wait and reverse the trip and the Army at St Kilda were expecting me.

There was a strong westerly wind going over the top of Scotland so it was quite turbulent. When I arrived in Stornoway I looked up our company's SAR unit to get the low down on St Kilda. This was Bristow in the eighties and the ex Navy crew at Stornoway weren't going to tell a crab anything otherwise I would have found out that what I was going to do was virtually impossible.

We loaded the aircraft with fuel divers and kit and off to St Kilda. The weather was low cloud with a strong westerly wind. The cloudbase dropped so that I was down to 300 ft as we approached St Kilda. I had an Landing Site guide and the approach was virtually straight in and the first thing we saw behind the helipad was this enormous escarpment sweeping up to the precipice on the western side. At 200 ft. the turbulence was chronic and the windsock was swinging at full stretch between every direction so I threw it away. Turning back downwind took full power to maintain speed. My Australian co-pilot beside me thanked me for turning back.

We flew back to Stornoway. landed and had a confab with my senior pilot back at Aberdeen. We now, though he didn't say so, had commercial pressures inasmuch as the contract was to put them on St Kilda and if I didn't then the company would have to bear the cost of the flight. Back to the SAR unit and they suggested the pad by the lighthouse or a ridge to the south of the bay.

Off we went again. When we got there we couldn't see the lighthouse so I looked at the ridge. There was a track leading to a trig point that looked pretty firm so I air taxied in light turbulence and had a look. My co-pilot had to open his door and look down to check that the port wheel was on it but it settled, I shook it around a bit and it stayed there so I shut it down.

We strapped the blades down whilst the divers unloaded in a landy that had driven up. They disappeared and after we had built a wall of chocks from the boulders lying around we descended by foot. Not for long because it was so slippery we were on our backsides most of the way. Down at the bottom was a small Army unit with a very snooty high class artillery captain in charge. We had tea and biccys and then had a look around.

To be continued

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Re: St Kilda

#2 Post by Pontius Navigator » Tue Aug 03, 2021 7:23 pm

I was once asked to organise a photograph of Village Bay. In Pongo speak it was to be from a man with a camera 5 feet up and 5 feet out, or words to that effect.

The tasks were pinned up on a board in my office and crews wanting a little diversion would pop in and select one.

The crew collected a 35mm camera and duly dodging cloud took the snap. I wondered why the images were upside down in relation to others.

It was because the camera operator had to hold the camera upside down to clear his oxygen mask. The crew had gone on to oxygen and at 25,000 feet opened the window for a clear shot. I think the technical details passed the Brigadier by.

As an aside, another task shooting down into a valley had the crew skimming a ridge at 200 feet.

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Re: St Kilda

#3 Post by fareastdriver » Tue Aug 03, 2021 7:39 pm

The Army bit consisted of a few huts where they lived and worked with a radar thingi that tracked missiles launched from the mainland. The remains of the settlement, abandoned in 1930, was still there but getting decrepit. There were a couple that had been rebuilt with modern roofs as museums and accommodation for people that study places like that but the originals were dismal and dingy with sod roofs. There were still some of the unique breed of sheep there but I believe that they were evacuated later. The slopes; everywhere was a slope; was dotted with little stone boxes that were used for storing fish,

After an hour or so the boat chugged back to shore with the divers and the trawler fired up. We said our farewells, got a lift up the hill and had a look at our helicopter. It was still there though the rotor brake had slipped and the blade restraints where wrapped around everything. Pumped up the hydraulics, got everybody on board to hold it down and came to starting it.

On the Super Puma one can start one engine with the rotor brake engaged. This is so that you can release it in windy conditions with minimum time for the blades to fly with little control. I cheated a bit. After the engine was stared I eased the engine up until the rotor brake started to slip, released it and slammed the throttle fully forward art the same time applying full right pedal to forestall the torque swing. Everything worked out fine so we started the second engine and prepared for take off.

It wasn't going to be easy. I was just below the cloudbase and I could not take off and turn right because I would be turning downwind and there would be no way that the aircraft could accelerate against the massive tailwind that it would experience so it was a case of bite the bullet and take off straight ahead IMC. This was accomplished with very little turbulence and we turned for Stornoway. We dropped off our divers, refuelled and literally wizzed over to Aberdeen in the tailwind.

I cannot think of any reason why I would want to go back there again.

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Re: St Kilda

#4 Post by CharlieOneSix » Wed Aug 04, 2021 8:26 am

FED - your St Kilda experiences mimic mine! What a place! I've been there many times over the years and all bar one have been laced with unwanted excitement. In the 70's we had the Army contract using the Bolkow 105. Experience had shown us that with the wind coming over that massive escarpment we did not attempt a landing on the bay helipad if it was over 30 kts. On one day it was right on limits and with a Brigadier and a couple of others onboard I approached the helipad an an angle from the bay. About 20 yards short of the pad I was on full power and going down so there wasn't any option other than to accept the landing. This was followed by a crawl for the last few yards to the pad. The Brigadier was not amused and reported me! However the Company supported me.

Another occasion was when we were tasked to land by the radar head at the top of the escarpment. In my time I've enjoyed my gliding experiences but I never though I would ever ridge soar in a helicopter! Once again it was in a Bo105 and with the collective full down we sat there in the hover unable to land.

My final time there was in a Bristow Bell 214ST in the 90's. It was a beautiful day and we flew from Aberdeen with the artist David Shepherd onboard. He was a guest of the Army and we spent most of the day there. A fascinating experience wandering among the islanders' former huts with one of them turned into a museum. My copilot and I went for a walk to pass the time but it was shortlived as the experience of being attacked by Artic Terns was not a pleasant one!

Here's a photo of the 214ST on the bay pad on that day. You could be fooled into thinking we were in the Caribbean. How different from a winter trip to St Kilda!
JD-St-Kilda.jpg
Spotlight on St Kilda
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Re: St Kilda

#5 Post by fareastdriver » Wed Aug 04, 2021 10:53 am

I didn't take a photograph of my 332 perched on the road in case it would be used in evidence against me. What amazed me was that a schoolmistress volunteered to live there and run the school. I believe that it was her missives back to the mainland than initiated the evacuation.

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Re: St Kilda

#6 Post by talmacapt » Sat Aug 07, 2021 2:44 pm

About 2years ago, I took the day trip boat to St Kilda from Skye.

Journey takes about 4hours, may be a bit longer on the way back as they do a tour of the other islands, in the group, on the return to see the birds on the cliffs.

It was a very warm calm sea day but the trips are often weather cancelled.

It has not changed much from the descriptions given but an attempt has been made to smarten the place up to attract visitors, I think the army has moved out.

One of the houses is a museum and the school, one room restored, has a shop selling souvenirs.

The artillery gun is still there, you can look up it's history.

A thoroughly pleasant day out which I recommend to all.

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Re: St Kilda

#7 Post by talmacapt » Sat Aug 07, 2021 2:46 pm

I tried to edit out the last bit but haven't worked out how to do it, sorreee!!

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Re: St Kilda

#8 Post by Boac » Sat Aug 07, 2021 2:54 pm

Greetings, talma and welcome to our refuge.

To edit, select the left-hand icon top right of your post (it looks like a stubby pencil). That drops your post into an edit box.

PS The 'edit' function does not last for ever.

Next icon along (again 'short-lived' allows delete)

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Re: St Kilda

#9 Post by talmacapt » Sat Aug 07, 2021 3:02 pm

talmacapt wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 2:44 pm
About 2years ago, I took the day trip boat to St Kilda from Skye.

Journey takes about 4hours, may be a bit longer on the way back as they do a tour of the other islands, in the group, on the return to see the birds on the cliffs.

It was a very warm calm sea day but the trips are often weather cancelled.

It has not changed much from the descriptions given but an attempt has been made to smarten the place up to attract visitors, I think the army has moved out.

One of the houses is a museum and the school, one room restored, has a shop selling souvenirs.

The artillery gun is still there, you can look up it's history.

A thoroughly pleasant day out which I recommend to all.

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Re: St Kilda

#10 Post by talmacapt » Sat Aug 07, 2021 3:03 pm

Ah, managed to edit it but sadly you've got it twice.

Will try to do better in the future!!

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Re: St Kilda

#11 Post by talmacapt » Sat Aug 07, 2021 3:04 pm

Sorted it!!

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Re: St Kilda

#12 Post by Boac » Sat Aug 07, 2021 3:30 pm

View this as a line check................. =))

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Re: St Kilda

#13 Post by Alisoncc » Sun Aug 08, 2021 1:28 am

And you failed. :(
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Re: St Kilda

#14 Post by prospector » Sun Aug 08, 2021 1:43 am

:-ss But, the next one can be taken any time soon.

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Re: St Kilda

#15 Post by Boac » Sun Aug 08, 2021 8:24 am

Tisk tisk, Alison - you know people cannot 'fail' in this soft society. They just don't reach the required standard? :))

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Re: St Kilda

#16 Post by Pontius Navigator » Sun Aug 08, 2021 1:37 pm

Boac wrote:
Sun Aug 08, 2021 8:24 am
Tisk tisk, Alison - you know people cannot 'fail' in this soft society. They just don't reach the required standard? :))
Surely not, you readjust things so everyone gets a grade. The bottom grade is Z which is awarded to those that can't write their name. To date no grade Z has been awarded as they were unable to identify the person.

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