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October 30th 2004 

This story really began on this day. About a month ago now, after I had settled on the date of 31st of October for the kid’s party, I heard about a week later I was to have my flight test on the very same day, 31st of October. I first thought that this would be a bit of a problem in respect of not being able to concentrate on the party while being concerned with my test. Then again I thought to myself it would be a very hard examiner who would fail me if he knew that I had been the one responsible for the party for the Thai children. So I had quite happily settled into the idea.

Captain Phisut giving his first humorous briefing on the kids arrival at the CMT airfield.

 With young master Ou in the foreground looking out on to the airstrip.

They where soon lined up in order of size for there flight.

The 30th started in a normal way I had got up a bit earlier than usual, at just after 3am, mainly because the previous night I had been in bed  early by about 8:30pm. Having drunk my first giant mug of coffee I settled down to see that Mr. Bin-Laden was after all still alive as I was watching him on BBC World news. I had considered him dead, probably at the bottom of a cave that had been blanket-bombed in Afghanistan. Yes I had heard the messages that had been supposedly sent by him in the weeks and months since but them not being in the form of a video that would prove he was still alive I considered them just a rouse by Al Quieda. That done, I was into my e-mails and by 7am I had finished and very much wondering what to do with myself for the rest of the day. I had planned to have my practice flight later in the day, the last one before my test the following day but that was not to be till around 3 or 4pm, in the afternoon. The TV was on blurting out some Thai soap opera or other making it difficulty to concentrate on the revision of my POH, Pilot Operators Handbook. So I took myself off to the local airfield now very much deserted having been closed after the death of my friend, Josh, back in May this year. There I was, POH in hand, in an empty hanger sipping at yet another coffee, when Zenny the airport dog - pregnant yet again - paid me a visit but for sure I was very much undisturbed and able to give the task in hand my full attention. I had just about finished reading through it again for about the sixth or seventh time when one of Josh’s old friends turned up on his small motor bike. A German man in his seventy’s who visited the airfield on many occasions. He was sad because he had just called at Josh’s home thinking that it was strange for his truck to be outside his house at that time of day. Naturally he had been greeted by Joy, Josh’s widow, who had given him the sad new of Josh’s death. The German had left Thailand for the European summer just before Josh’s death so it was new sad news for him.

Captain Phisut on the far left overseeing the children's safety.

Satisfied that I had done more than enough work to be able to answer any relevant question that might be put to me about my aircraft I left for home. A little concerned that I would be tired later in the day and, much more to the point, later the next day, I decided to go back to bed for a nap before making the run to Chonburi airfield.  I had just about drifted off when I heard the ‘phone. Noi came to shake me telling me that Booner was on the ‘phone. What had gone wrong now I immediately thought. I was right, my test date had been brought forward to today. Typical Thai I thought, but nevertheless quite happy that the ordeal would be over 24 hours in advance. I had visited Josh’s grave in St Nicholas church yard the previous day and asked him to give me a hand with the test so as I had to pass the church because I had to get some cash from the ATM on the way I updated him on the way past. Not that I really believe in such things but whatever, it can’t hurt and I had to pass that way, I can just see him sitting there saying TIT: This is Thailand.

Khun Suporn CEO of CMT overlooking the whole proceeding in the foreground with the yellow shirt.

So money in pocket I was on my way for the test. When I arrived, the place was looking quite busy.  I said hello to everybody I knew there and was very soon ushered into the air-con office not to my liking because I cannot smoke in there. To my great surprise and relief the young Thai examiner - well young my standard anyway  - asked if I would mind if he smoked. Mind; not in the least I said, as I produced my fags also. He showed me all his qualifications and credentials and we were off into the questions. To my great relief I was able to answer all of his questions straight off, except one which I explained was not relevant to my aircraft and he accepted that. I had passed the first part with as I thought flying colour’s and there was only the flying test to do. Back out in the open air the Captain, Captain Phisut, a recently retired 747 Captain from Thai Airways informed me that he was to be my flight examiner. So as Captain Pesute is the main man at the club I thought I had it made. Could I have been more wrong? Doubtful. It was my turn to fly, pre-flight done while being watched by the young Thai examiner, so not only did it have to be tougher but it had to be seen to be tougher. We were off into the bright blue Thai sky. Could I do anything right?  No, not at all.  It was worse than when I had taken my first driving test 35 years ago.

Captain Oaks ( the jet jockey) keeping them all amused while the younger ones are either lined up for a flight or in the air already.

I bounced it, I lost height when I should have been level, I gained height when I should have been level. Then, after landing on what should have been a touch and go the accelerator cable snapped but not only did it snap it stuck open. We were heading for an early bath, there being a very nice small lake at the far end of the runway 05. Cut the ignition’s was my thought because the brakes under this power were totally incapable of even slowing us down let alone stopping us and so I did and even before the Captain had thought of it. So we careered to an aircraft parking space, with two bent landing struts and a broken throttle cable. The Captain said that I must have been nervous because he had seen me fly much better and I think he was very grateful for my quick thinking avoiding an early bath so he passed me but, for sure, based on my performance that day, I should have failed. If it had failed in this way while flying I would have had to bring her in like a WW1 Sopwith Camel they had no throttle control either so they were landed by repeatedly cutting the ignition to slow the flight speed. Watch out for the skies.

Getting ready for the first flight of the day.

By 7:30am on the 31st I had the first part of my story for this month in place. The main news on BBC World this morning featured the American election and there was a very good point made on a discussion program before the main news by an American lady who said that her daughter was in the UK and that people in Europe were very concerned about this election because it was quite possibly the first election ever that should be a world election. This being because what happens across the big pond on the 2nd of November will more than likely affect the whole world, not just American citizens. Yes this has probably been the case for most of the 20th century but now there is a real fear that whoever ends up winning this election may indeed make the wrong decision at some point in the near future.  

However with much more pleasant thoughts in mind, it’s the kid’s party and I will probably brew another giant mug of coffee and enjoy that with some croissants and butter before going down to Foodland to pick up the four big cakes I have ordered for the kids’ dessert.

All tucking into a jolly good meal after the flights

The morning of the 31st of October 2004 

I have just given Georgina a ring on her mobile at just after 8am to make sure that all the arrangements are in place and all is good for the kids turning up at CMT at around noon and they did. After the news and my e-mails while watching the sun come up through the palm trees in my front garden on get another perfect Thai morning, my first job was to go and get the cakes from Foodland. OK it was early but I hate to be late and Foodland never closes so off I went. The young girl who was attending to my order asked if I was having a party so I told her what was going on.  Then off to CMT at Chonburi the roads were quite free of traffic which makes a very pleasant change, so no bother there. When I arrived all the pilots, the Captain and staff where in place just waiting for the arrival of the kids. The ladies doing the cooking where beavering away and a very splendid job they did too. My friend Booner soon to be an Airbus Captain for Thai Airways had made a test flight in my aircraft after my demolition derby type flying the day before and all was good there. Mr. Wisoot the head of the maintenance there had obviously been toiling away, I will need to take a further few bottles of Scotch Whisky with me on my next visit. In all the time I have been flying I had never made a landing that damaged the aircraft in any way but on my test I bent two of the landing struts. Well that’s the way it goes sometimes I guess.  

The kids arrived right on the dot of noon and where soon settled down in the seats by the Captain and given a short humorous briefing about their flights. Then Captain Oaks who has been described to me as one of the jet jockeys flying fighter aircraft for the Thai military gave another briefing about the aircraft there. All the kids listened intently to all that was said. I just wish I could have understood just one word. Soon after that they were lined up smallest first for the order of flight. All was done with great precision and efficiency everybody had their flight with extreme care being taken for the kid’s safety. Even one of the two Thai nuns went for a flight and was very impressed with the different view she received of the beautiful Thai countryside.

Commander Booner retired looking just a little overwhelmed with the singing.

After the marvelous Thai lunch we were all treated to a few songs from the kids which everybody enjoyed. They were in a semi circle in front of half a dozen large brown boxes while singing their songs. Now I know they were very inquisitive about the contents of the boxes and so was I. After the singing was finished all was revealed. They were full of very large white elephants - in some cases larger than the kids themselves - and they all had their very own one, along with a white envelope containing 200 baht. This was a very generous gift given by the owner of the CMT Company who produces agricultural equipment. Now Bt.200 (about US$5) may not seem a lot but to these children it was like winning the lottery, quite possibly the largest amount of cash they have ever seen in one place at any time.

Captain Phisut presiding over the present giving, all supplied by the Khun Suporn the CEO of CMT  Agricultural Equipment.

We all then stood around for photos in front of the aircraft Mr. Wisoot making sure that he was not seen by standing directly behind me. I think he must be as shy of the camera as myself or perhaps hiding from the tax-man. Then it was time for the journey back, cake to be devoured later. I know they will have enjoyed it on the return to the orphanage I also have two cases of crisps that were overlooked, to drop off there some time this coming week.

Something new of there very own in a lot of cases bigger than themselves.

They had just left when my friend, Mr. Isaac, in U-P69 was heard on the radio coming into land and so he did. That rounded off the day for me, being able to have a conversation in English.

Yet another perfect day over in the Land of Smiles. I returned home wondering just what I will do next. Perhaps a sponsored Endurance flight around Thailand in a Rotax 503 powered Quicksilver in aid of the orphanage; well, we will see. My next task is to make sure my very good friend, Mr. Ad, lives up to his promise of a Christmas party for the kids at Doc Krai in Mr. John’s hotel. The big question there is who will play Father Christmas.

You can just see Khun Wisoot hiding behind me from the tax man.

Fr, Siranon form the center on the far right unfortunately Fr, Giovanni could not be there on the day as he was in Italy at an HIV/AIDS conference.

On there way home after a lovely day.

Top that Mr Ad.

I will be there just to make sure you do.

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