Having traversed both Kupei Antap and the trail over the top from Barapinang to the ocean, I thought that it would be a good idea to set a magnetic base at Kupei Antap. By taking a reading up there and another soon after at a location near Kobuan camp, I could reduce all the magnetic readings to a common base.
I asked a helicopter pilot (not Dave Binney) to give me a ride to Kupei Antap. Workers had set a second helipad on the northeast side of the pass because of the severe turbulence at the pad on top of the pass (see earlier posts titled ‘Kupei Antap – one strange place’ and ‘My wildest helicopter ride’).
The pilot approached the pass from high on the northeast side and dropped down toward the helipad.
Suddenly he turned the helicopter around, aiming it down the gorge, away from the helipad. We moved rapidly downward, following the gorge until we were less than a hundred feet above the creek. Then he climbed the helicopter upward, away from the pass. After climbing above the pass, he turned back toward the pad for another try at landing.
Gradually he moved toward the helipad. The gorge and creek were several hundred feet directly below us.
He slowly, cautiously moved the helicopter closer to the helipad.
We were about two hundred feet from the helipad and about fifty feet above it when the pilot said, “I can’t make it.”
Again he turned the helicopter around sharply and headed down the gorge.
As we flew back toward Kobuan camp the pilot said, “I had the collective (lift control) on maximum and couldn’t stop the settling,”
He was telling me that at the first failed landing attempt the wind forced him down toward the creek. We were very close to crashing because of the strong downdraft. Only his expertise at mountain flying saved us.
Yet he had tried again. He finally gave up when he again had the full collective on and couldn’t move the helicopter any closer to landing. The closer to the helipad we got, the worse the downdraft became.
Never mind the magnetic base. I was just glad to be alive and heading back to safety.