Host: El Questro Station
Written by Salerno Family – Owners, El Questro Station.
A Salerno Pastoral Stockman tells of a harrowing narrow escape four thousand feet in the air with six thousand wild cattle to find and muster.
Cockburn Ranges – pickup for an aerial cattle check.
I’m in for supplies; I’m out again very shortly.
The pilot and I were up in the chopper. Four thousand feet in the air scouring the rugged Kimberley landscape for rogue, wild cattle.
Suddenly smoke started to pour out of the instrument panel.
The pilot and I saw it at the same time. I looked over at him – what is this? In my ear phones I heard him quietly swear a few words.
He calmly talked to me, “We are going to have to land this thing before it takes us down”.
I heard him call for help as he tried to look for a safe place down there to land.
“Gonna have to put her down – the instrument panel is full of smoke”.
He was calling our boss, on the ground. The Boss responds, “Read you. Good luck I have a visual on you – will get to you as soon as possible.”
Now the pilot and I both focused our attention, he on manouvering the chopper down and I tried to help to find a clearing where the chopper could land.
Tall grass, large trees, big rocks, small saplings.This is not the perfect area to land a chopper! Where are those small clearings? None in sight yet.
The pilot skilfully navigates descending slowly to earth. I hear him swear again. The smoke has changed colours now, but that was not our main concern.
The pilot manoeuvres closer to earth. The tree tops are right there. The branches are being blown violently around as the pilot tries to squeeze into a small gap getting closer to the ground. Now the grass was being blown around like a rough wave in the ocean.
Suddenly there was a light thud. The pilot had landed somehow between the trees; in the tall grass and among some very large rocks.
This wasn’t over yet. Immediately the pilot started to attend to the origin of the smoke.
Quickly all instruments were turned to OFF. For some reason the smoke started to abate.
Now another problem. The radio was silent. We could not transmit.
“Dead in the water” as they say. This time with the earphones off I heard the pilot swear again. Much louder this time. I knew why.
Suddenly there was a voice in the wilderness. What the hell?
We looked around – it was the Boss. Where did he come from? Now we remembered the pilot had radioed him when we first spotted the smoke. He had ridden his quad bike as far as he could then he started to run towards where he had seen the chopper go down. It took only hours to find the cause of the smoke. Soon enough the problem was diagnosed and solved. In the air again. Six thousand wild cattle to find and muster.
Hawkeye rounding up calves.