I came to 'Blip on the Radar' not as a pilot, but as an avid armchair traveller.
Francis Meyrick comes over as a caring, spiritual soul, who finds himself in the highly macho world of ocean tuna fishing. For him, it is all about the flying, and you sense that he is most happy with life when airborne.
The tough and dangerous world of tuna fishing seems a strange place for someone of a poetic and philosophical turn of mind, like him. How many tuna helicopter pilots would put their own safety at risk by throwing on their scuba diving gear and attempting to rescue drowning dolphins? This is done within a huge fishing net containing hundreds of tons of fish, and all a thousand miles offshore, while the ship is laboriously still hauling on the net.
But Meyrick has resourcefulness and not a little luck on his side. He is a survivor, despite the many perilous scrapes he gets into. Like his other book, 'Moggy's Tuna Manual', 'Blip on the Radar' contains vivid examples of how it can all go so very wrong so very quickly with helicopters. But, unlike 'Moggy's Tuna Manual', here we are taken more into the human side of the tuna fishing story.
When speaking of the risks of flying in the tuna fisheries, he says by way of offering advice, "Helicopter Flying is a thinking Man's game." If only to see why he says that, anyone considering flying a chopper would be well advised to read this book, along with 'Moggy's Tuna Manual'. And yet, even this very thinking man has had his own fair share of close encounters, truthfully narrated here, warts and all.
As a certified helicopter mechanic and pilot, Meyrick's concern for his helicopter’s survival, let alone for his own neck, shines through. He demonstrates such mechanical empathy for his aircraft that it is almost as if his chopper is a part of himself.
There is laughter here too. As when he innocently uses a high pressure fire-hose to flush a loo, with interesting results. Meyrick can laugh at himself. And he honestly reveals how his own naivety, or occasional lack of awareness of culture detail, sometimes gets him into trouble.
The tone of the book varies impressively, from the adrenaline inducing chapter 'Near Miss' to his 'The Pilot Who Hated Me' - the latter being told with particular sensitivity and compassion. In this way, we get the full spectrum of Meyrick's ability as a writer.
Poetic at times. Certainly thoughtful. With touches of philosophy. But never preachy.
This is a thinking person's read.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)