After leaving the RAF, in 1981 Richard joined Bristow Helicopters in Aberdeen, re-training to fly the US-built Sikorsky S61 – the workhorse of the North Sea – an aircraft he was to fly as pilot and co-pilot, for the next 18 years.
Much of his work involved routine ferry trips to and from the North Sea oil platforms, although changeable and often dangerous weather conditions ensured few dull moments for a pilot. There were also times of high drama, the most significant being the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988.
Amongst Richard’s other recollections are a number of eventful search and rescue operations whilst working for the Coastguard in the Shetlands and Outer Hebrides, a three-month working trip to the Falkland Islands in 1986 which afforded the opportunity to see where his cousin Hew Pike had commanded ‘3 Para’ during the Falklands War, and a voluntary trip to the Balkans, flying a United Nations S61, delivering humanitarian aid to the citizens of Kosovo.
All this and more is recalled in an easy-going and amiable style, which gives a fascinating insight into the working life of a commercial helicopter pilot, flying the waves of the North Sea and beyond…