I will never forget the first time I flew in the Nuri. It was no fancy flight but a mercy flight. Both my parents were involved in a road accident at Bukit Berapit on their way back from KL to Taiping. My father was at the wheel when an oncoming car smashed head-on into them. My father suffered only minor cuts and bruises and was given an outpatient treatment at the Taiping hospital but my mother had to be admitted for severe abdominal pains.
I had finished school for the day and was at home and my husband was flying when the accident occured at about 3p.m. There was no phone at home. All attempts at getting one installed at the quarters were met with all sorts of excuses that left us exasperated. Cell phones were still unheard of. So, my father in all his grogginess and unsteadiness, left a message to be relayed to my husband when he landed.
I got news of the accident only after my husband got home late in the evening and we did not waste a second in rushing back home. I was relieved to see my father walking towards us with a big swollen bump on his forehead when we arrived but my mother was in a bad shape. Her lower lip was torn and unsewn yet at the time of our arrival but she put up a brave front for us despite the excruciating abdominal pain she was experiencing.
My mother’s siblings, all nine of them plus their family began arriving the next day from all over the country, mostly from Alor Setar, my mother’s hometown. On seeing her condition, they requested that she be taken to Alor Setar’s hospital where they could take turns to look after her. They felt that I would not be able to cope alone.
She could be transported to Alor Setar in an ambulance but it would be a long and arduous journey for her. (The North-South Highway had not started construction yet). That was when my husband stepped in to try and solve the problem. When he told me that he was trying to get her flown in the Nuri to Alor Setar, I knew it would not be as simple as he made it sound. Even if he could get the clearance for my mother, there was no way the whole entourage comprising of an aunt, a cousin, my father and I would be allowed to hop in as well.
The next thing I knew my mother and all her four escorts and my husband were on board the Nuri heading for Alor Setar. Although I had seen the aircraft many times at close range, I never had the opportunity to step inside it. I was quite taken aback by what greeted me the moment I stepped inside. It was so bare and crude, minus all the trappings of a passenger airline. Of course, I was not expecting the cool comforts of a commercial aircraft but I was also not prepared for the stark simplicity the interior had to offer, let alone the loud noise and the heavy vibrations of the swinging rotor blades.
It was while crouching humbly beside my mum on the floor of the aircraft that I started thinking about the hundreds of soldiers being ferried in a similar manner BUT, unlike my mum, they had no loved ones to hover and fret over them. Visions of them lying alone and helpless on the floor, grimacing in pain and wondering what life would be like without arms or legs or eyes flitted across my mind and brought immediate tears to my eyes. It touched a chord deep within me. There were no more complaints everytime my husband got home late from flying that moment onwards.
We landed safely at the Alor Setar Golf Club after an hour’s flight and my mother was whisked off immediately to the hospital. She spent two weeks at the hospital before the doctors pronounced her fit to be discharged.