Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret)
Syed Ibrahim  

    

Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret) Syed Ibrahim

(The RSAF pilots) were accommodated in a house, nearby a huge open space, in the outskirts of Bandar Seri Begawan. Morale and spirits of the helicopter pilots were always high. They had the knack of making friends easily.  Not surprisingly, we found their rapport with the ground troops to be always on a high note. They got on very well too with the young subalterns of the First Battalion, Royal Brunei Malay Regiment (RBMR) at their mess. The pilots were a positive bunch of young officers, making the best of their time in Brunei.

As the bantering with the crew was simmering down and tailing off, I found myself asking them in a matter of fact and casual manner. ”Any choppers flying to Temburong, this morning?”

“Yes, Sir’ there is one admin run this morning“, I heard a spontaneous reply coming from behind me.  As I turned around to see who it was, I saw the familiar face of a young pilot who had attended one of my jungle survival training courses in Tutong in 1976.

“OK, what time are you taking off,” I asked.

“Anytime, when you are ready, Sir,” came the reply.

“Very sorry; can you give me 15 minutes for me to rush back to my friend’s house to get my additional uniform?” I asked the pilot. “No problem, Sir.” he replied.

“OK then… see you in 15 minutes; bye.” I said and ran from the room.

I jumped into a taxi and urged the driver to drive as fast as he could. In less than seven minutes I was at the front gate of my friend’s house at Jalan Aman. On a normal day, the trip would have taken me 10 to 12 minutes. I told the driver to wait and dashed for the front door.

Within two minutes, my taxi was racing back. This time the trip took us about eight minutes. Quickly, I got off the taxi and dashed for the door.
“I am back!” I announced loudly and clearly, whilst trying to catch my breath.

“Hurray! Hurray!  The loud cheers were followed by thunderous claps round the room. “You made it. You made it man!” shouted the pilots, as they punched their clenched fists into the air. Little did I realize that the pilots had been having a side bet among themselves to see if I could make it back in 15 minutes.

“Where is the pilot who is making that admin flight to Temburong?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s up there, Sir, conducting his air test”, said one of the pilots. (‘Air test’ was the term used by pilots to check air worthiness of the aircraft before any flight operation.)

Suddenly, we heard loud voices shouting.

“THE CHOPPER IS DOWN! THE CHOPPER IS DOWN!”

 



Read the full story and 24 other stories in the book ‘Old Soldiers Don’t Fade Away, They tell Stories’ published by the SAF Veterans League (SAFVL).

Available at $10 special discounted price at the SAFVL Secretariat, SAFRA Toa Payoh, Level 3 (next to the bowling alley) during normal office hours 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Do call ahead at Tel: 6355 4507.
.