Helicopter flight above Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka, all that green and no apple trees

We were suitably picked up by a driver named “Amigo”, sporting aviator mirror sunglasses, in a silver-colored Hummer (as labeled on the hood, yet with a Honda logo at the steering wheel) and brought to the military airport in Colombo.

We were greeted by a welcome committee ready with a wheelchair, in which Lieutenant Dan probably sat already. Fortunately, they let me use my own.

We were the only tourists at the entire airport. The security chief himself took care of us right away. Our tour guide did honor to his name when he was suddenly back in the security area before us, because the security chief happened to be an old classmate of his.

Meanwhile the four bored immigration attendants were waiting in their turquoise blue saris for the end of their work day.

A golf cart pulled up equipped with mountings for flags, so strictly speaking a diplomat’s car. I started to feel like celebrity ;-) After some negotiation I was allowed to make the 100 meters to the launch site in my chair. For that I was accompanied by one of the turquoise wrapped ladies as a personal umbrella holder and also by two of my very own security guards. In my entourage puttered the golf cart with the three other passengers, one more sari-lady and even more security. Did I have a sign “Follow Me” on my vest?!

Arriving at the helicopter we were greeted by the pilot while another three men came from the hangar. I guess, I was the highlight of the day, perhaps even month, and everybody wanted to be there when the crazy white wheelchair man boarded the helicopter.

Approx. twelve men stood around me and waited for a command, how to best get me up and in there (seat height was about 1.40 m). The well proven safety grip did not work in this case.

As a result my old dream of a palanquin wheelchair was almost met, when four men lifted my wheelchair up to entrance height, from where I could with the help of my slide board comfortably slide on to the seat. This way my slide board literally turned in to a flight board ;-) The ground troops were thrilled! For a short while I felt like sitting on a throne, since everybody else was still down on the ground. I was tempted to wave to my people like the Queen, but then rather decided on a shy thumbs-up. What an uplifting feeling! It is indeed very special for someone who sits in a wheelchair, to suddenly be the tallest person around ;-)

We were flying towards the middle of the island to Kandy, and the pilot managed nicely to stay ahead of the looming monsoon rains.

The view of the island was, particularly of the highlands, comparable with the landscapes that one knows from films like Platoon and Forrest Gump. Everything is green, tea plantations and more palm trees than I have ever seen in 1 1/2 hours (and no apple trees – no apple trees, just pineapples!)

Shortly before landing, the pilot radioed that he needed more time to get ground clearance, since he had a wheelchair on board. To us this seemed a little exaggerated, because there was certainly not any more traffic than at the airport Kassel-Calden at rush-hour, (one plane the day). But everything must have its order ;-)

Back on the ground we already saw two men, who pushed my wheelchair from the hangar. One of them examined my sliding board from all sides in sheer fascination. I suspect he started that evening to work the jigsaw ; -) He must have been quite disappointed when it wasn’t used again for the transfer back from the helicopter…

Instead, the classical safety grip/throwing technique came to use, so that after the roundtrip the departure happened by a wheelchair spot landing. The Pilot was obviously impressed, because he said: “I know my game”.

On the way back the same welcome committee was awaiting us including umbrella holder, security guards and golf cart. The weather god was also gracious and only changed his mind after I was safe in my wheelchair again. Then the sky opened and the monsoon season greeted us. My personal umbrella holder kept walking next to me, unmoved by the fact that she got drenched, but she probably was used to this kind of downpour – her only comment was “It’s just rain”.

I would have liked to show you more evidence, but since we are talking about a military airport and members of the military, we held back a little on the photo shooting. A checkup of the accessibility of the local military jail was not part of the itinerary…

To read the complede “Sri Lanka- serial” , click here.

Translator BW

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One Response to “Helicopter flight above Sri Lanka”

  1. Faraday76 says:

    Sehr schöner Bericht über den Helikopterflug. Ein Helikopter Rundflug über Sir Lanka würde ich auch gerne mal absolvieren. Muss wirklich beeindruckend sein. Habe schonmal ein Helikopterrundflug über den Alpen gehabt, das war schon atemberaubend.

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