My wildest helicopter ride

“I need to get down to the coast.”

Dave Binney had arrived at Barapinang camp, my current home, with a drum of fuel. “I’m going back down there now. Hop in!”

Dave was about to show me exactly what mountain helicopter work could be like. He picked the little chopper off the helipad and headed straight for the stand of huge tropical hardwood trees towering above us across the clearing.

As we got closer to the trees, the wind coming up the valley caught us. The main rotor began making a chop-chop-chop sound. I sank into the seat, heavy with my weight as the wind blew the helicopter straight up and over the tops of the great trees.

Dave turned the helicopter toward another ridge, again with hardwood trees towering above us. Again, chop-chop-chop and I felt the weight of the helicopter being blown upward. Dave was literally climbing a stairway of ridges using the wind updrafts to carry us higher and higher.

Finally, Dave headed the helicopter straight toward the vertical cliff of solid rock below Kupei Antap, the highest pass of the mountain range. Facing this rock I felt the greatest lift of all, as the wind rocketed us upward. As if shot out of a cannon, we were blown skyward, above the ridge and hundreds of feet above the mountains.

Dave reduced the engine power. I felt a sinking feeling as the helicopter dropped rapidly down, following a steep creek gorge down the far side of the Crown Prince range toward Kobuan camp.

Floating landward just above Kobuan bay, Dave touched down lightly onto the helipad at Kobuan base.

Solid ground sure did feel good.

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3 Responses to My wildest helicopter ride

  1. Jonathan Binnie says:

    Hi there,

    I really enjoyed reading this, as I’m Dave Binnie’s son! I live in the UK and fly helicopters now, but not quite like this!

    Sadly, my father died in Bougainville when I was only two and a half, so it’s great to read anything about him. I don’t suppose you have any pictures of him do you? Or of the area of operations he worked in? Anything would be of interest.

    Thanks,

    Jonathan Binnie

  2. Catriona Parkinson (nee Binnie) says:

    … and I’m Dave Binnie’s daughter, Catriona, Jonathan’s sister. I was born in January 1969 in Lae, two months after the accident. I was 3 weeks old when the three of us returned to Edinburgh.

    It is an enormous pleasure to read your blog, thank you!

  3. Catriona, thanks for your comment. I just received a comment from your brother as well. We can converse further by separate email.

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