Look online for information about helicopter operations in the tuna industry and it won’t be long before you see mention of Moggy’s Tuna Manual. Author of the manual Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick is our guest in this episode of the Rotary Wing Show.
Francis is Irish born and had a number of years helicopter flying experience including a stint in the North Sea before venturing out to the tuna fields in the Pacific. His first day on the job saw him get a quick check out in a Bell 47 before being told to fly out and find his boat that had already steamed out of port. The rest of the job he learnt as he went with some close calls along the way.
Tuna fishing is big business and a good net full of tuna can pay back weeks of helicopter hire cost in one go. A ship’s helicopter is used to scout for signs of tuna schools over a much larger area than would be possible otherwise. They are used for herding the fish during the netting operation and for general hash and trash flights.
Frequently the pilot may be the only english speaking person onboard the ship and the operations are remote from support and facilities. That small helideck on top of the bridge could well be the only dry landing spot with in fuel endurance and to make things even more exciting it might have moved a considerable way since you last saw it at takeoff.
There are lots of traps waiting for the unwary green pilot on their first trip out. For instance Francis spend a lot of time in the ‘Manual’ about tiedowns and as he puts it, ‘trying to external load a tuna trawler with an MD500 and a rear right tiedown strap’ and the predictable results on the attitude of the helicopter.
Before you ring [helicopter operator] read every word of “Moggy’s Tuna Boat Manual”.
It should be compulsory reading for aspiring Tuna Boat pilots — apart from saving your life one day, the wisdom and experience it contains is presented in a very readable fashion.
For sheer entertainment (some of the stories are hilarious) grab a cold one and enjoy “Blip on the Radar”.
Moggy you have saved lives with “Manual”, and enriched lives with “Blip”.
– Hunter8 , 2012, bladeslapper.com
Once you get past some of these things then tuna boat flying just might be some of the most interesting that you get to do. Life onboard and steaming around Pacific with a mix of nationalities is also sure to give you bar stories for years to come.
Francis went on to be Chief Pilot for Tropic Helicopters and in this episode he shares this thoughts on the industry and ways that you can be more prepared.
In this week’s episode:
01:30 Moggy Intro
02:20 Tuna boat flying is a thing
03:45 Prior flying experience – Puma’s in the North Sea, Instructing, A&P Mechanic license
05:00 First landing on a tuna boat
07:10 How do they pay for a helicopter to help with fishing
09:20 Herding fish with a helicopter
10:30 Conditions onboard the vessels
12:00 Operating areas and main companies
14:20 Licences required, maps / charts
15:00 Navigation at sea and keeping track of a moving boat
19:40 Zero accidents goal is possible – caution caution, don’t let people push you
21:15 A tuna boat helideck setup
24:10 Weather conditions and aircraft exposure
25:25 Underwater breathing bottle carried on you
27:20 Flying clothing and dress code
29:10 Key people onboard and getting on with the crew
34:10 Observer’s role
37:20 Dealing with pressure
41:10 Culture and asking for co-operation
43:30 Radio buoys and logs, autorotating over water
51:10 Caution the advice ‘just learn on the job’
53:30 What makes a good log?
55:20 How to prepare for a tuna boat trip
1:01:50 Episode Sponsors trainmorepilots.com
Links from this week’s episode:
Moggy’s Tuna Manual
Blip on the Radar
Tuna Pilots group on Facebook
Tuna Spotter Helicopter Pilot Facebook Group
Daniel Lucentini Instagram
‘Just another Tuna Pilot Guide’ – Nick Henderson
Matilda & The Fox II – a youtube clip of tuna boat flying
Got a question for Francis that we didn’t cover in the episode or have you read Moggy’s Tuna Manual and want to leave some feedback? Continue the conversation in the comments below.