14th, a helicopter from the Thai Air Force appeared in the air over a village
in western Thailand. The helicopter appeared to be circling an area not far
from the village, and some curious villagers started walking in that direction
to see what was going on. The villagers eventually found the helicopter on the
ground, in a meadow, and apparently undamaged. The crew was nowhere to be seen.
In less than an hour, however, the pilot appeared out of the jungle, carrying a
bag. He explained that his mother had asked him to get some wild mushrooms, and
he went looking for a likely spot to pick them. He climbed into his helicopter
and took off. The villagers returned and told their friends, who told their
friends, and in a few days the news had reached the commander of the air force.
The pilot was suspended, pending an investigation of this misuse of air force
Mushroom hunting isn't the
only thing military aircraft are misused for. What the Thai pilot did was not
unusual. What was strange was that he did not lie to the villagers about why he
had landed. It's rather common for military pilots to use their aircraft for
personal use. Most pilots realize that this sort of thing is dangerous, at
least to their careers. But with a little care and planning, and creative
lying, one can get away with it. Transport pilots, particularly in reserve
units, have the greatest opportunities for this sort of thing. These pilots
often fly training missions that take them from one base to another. By
befriending the people who schedule the training flights, you can arrange to
take a training flight that gets you to somewhere you want to be, for a little
recreation, or other personal business. Periodically, one of these trips will
be exposed, and a news item will result. In some countries, where the corruption
is more intense, aircraft will be used for smuggling, or as a private
transportation business. The bribes are a reasonable cost of doing business,
because the government is picking up all the other expenses.
Combat pilots tend to be
jealous of this sort of thing, because their training flights almost always
begin and end at the same base. So the transport pilots are often inclined to
offer the fighter and bomber pilots free transportation, just prevent anyone
from talking out of turn. You get by with a little help from your friends.