16 Oct 2017

Load Must Go

Before 71 war, and for a few years afterwards in 43 Sqn at Jorhat, flying Daks, when I was a ‘Pitot Tube' & afterwards a Godzilla 'Fying Officer’, none had ever heard about the strange secretive group called ‘Directorate of Flight Safety’ in Air HQ.  They were like Free Masons, recognised only by code words and by hand grips, when they caught 'nones' throat and said the pass word, ‘Goch Ya’, to send the 'nones' to  the firing squad.  

The clarion call in Jorhat was, ‘The Load Must Go, and  fall on the DZ’. The  load to be dropped was decided by some unknown person, or thing, called 'Raso' which at that time none knew was the Rear Airfield Supply Organization. The nones only knew that it was the mighty  Raso  who decided what, or how much, was to be carried, to where daily, day in and day out, all days of the month. Every squadron had a monthly impossible target set by Raso on how many tons of 'thingamado' were to be dropped in a month. If someone didn’t drop it on a particular day as Raso dictated, for whatever reason, others had to go and do double time to do it or die, ‘the load must go and fall on the DZ’, was an inviolable order given by this secretive thing, Raso .

Raso were a union of mysterious men in the twilight zone, much like Dte of FS in Air HQ. The load for the Dak could be anything. Usually Aatta, Maida, Sugar, Rice, etc in 55 kg  double sewn jute bags, Kerosene or Rum in Jerry cans, live goats and chicken in wooden cases attached with parachutes.  Yes, there were also coins in a boxes, Dalda Tins, all attached with parachutes. The jute bags, piled one on top of the other, 6 at a time, were kicked out of the open door of the Dak  and generally fell on the Dropping Zone (DZ). Rum and Coin boxes were jury rigged with parachutes that had its vocal chords cut, or detached,  never failed to not open, smashing itself into the ground silently in inaccessible valleys. There was no effort to check why the parachutes didn’t open. The load was usually loaded when the air crew lined up for their traditional piss under the wing, and hence had no clue of what was the load, they simply signed the manifest. It wasn’t our reason to ask ‘how, why, when, where or what’, but simply to  drop the load where Raso told us to ‘go do it and die’, mostly in deep interiors of NEFA or in Naga Land. 49 Sqn did the same things in other parts of North East, all the way south to Chura-Chandpur, where there were very pretty girls. 

Though we had only 10  Daks in 43 Sqn, we had around 150 odd pilots, even those guys who refused to go back after 71 wartime mobilization, because of temporary duty allowance and free rations, specially rum at 1 ½ Rs / batli (coke at Rs 3/batli) and salary of a Pitot Tube Rs 315 / pm. Of these, only 15% pilots believed in the motto, ‘load must go & drop on the DZ’. These were the ‘Us’ kind, the DCO kind (Duty Carried Out). The rest were ‘Them’, the DPCO kind (duty partially carried out) or DNCO kind (duty not carried out). We had an authorisation book to keep track of 'Us & Them'. 

Obviously the flying programme, which was an A3 size cardboard covered with talc sheet, scribbled with China Graph pencil,  was tampered with daily by one of us rascals, to ensure that only ‘Us’ flew and ‘Them’ stayed happily on ground.  So the 15% were the kind, who with utter disregard to personal safety, or that of the crew or that of the meagre supply of irreplaceable WW-II Daks, went and did it just to write DCO in the authorisation book. That was our raison d'etre. None wrote citations for medals for the ‘Us’ type of nones, though lots of citations for medals were written by the ‘Them’, mostly by themselves. 

Because of the  DCO mentality, we went through bad weather, extreme turbulence, single engines, over load or bad loading with no ‘bill of lading’, bad navigation that got the Dak lost inside one way valleys, a horde of reasons that led to increasing fatal accidents. Around 1974/75, the fatal accidents rose to alarming levels and one day the Free Masons descended down from the sky over Jorhat, grabbing our juggler and saying the pass word, ‘Goch Ya’. 

The result was that I was made a Flt Safety Officer (besides o i/c piggery), both were never seen or heard species in the wild life of the Eastern AF. I had no  clue  of what is to be done, either to the pigs or to make flying  safe, unless the ‘Us' turned to 'Them', the DNCO/DPCO kind,  and sacrificed our bounden duty to DCO and die. 

Among the many things I was asked to do as newly minted Flight Safety Officer, to prevent accidents, I was also asked to draw cartoons and invent catchy slogans, and paste them everywhere, to augment Flight Safety.  My first cartoon had a Dak sitting on its belly with a caption, ‘Fly Safe’. I was asked to tear it down immediately and put a more tearjerker story board. So the next cartoon I drew was a coffin, with a caption, ‘Claim Free Airfare Home’. 

I was removed as Flt Safety Offr forthwith and never had  to cross the floor from ‘Us to Them’ for the rest of my career in IAF. Quite frankly, I still don’t know  anything about flying safe, it was a dangerous profession, for which we got 6 tins of condensed milk and 4 cartons of Amul Chocolate every month. They made me very popular with all the girls in Jorhat and Dibrugarh, and helped acquire the most sought-after chutzpah, even without  wearing a wing or regalia on my overalls !!.

I wish I  could do  it all over again !!!

Cheers
CYCLIC

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