Editor’s note: On 23 Aug 2009, a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Nuri that was en route from Sungai Besi Airbase to Kuala Lumpur International Airport on a routine flight crashed in an oil palm plantation in Sepang.
There were no survivors, and military authorities have insisted that recovered remains were “too damaged for identification”. Since that last missive, attempts by journalists to find out more about the crash’s investigation have been unfruitful.
“Sob! Goodbye, Zedeck!”
(All pics by CMSeter / sxc.hu) Zedeck Siew, an employee at The Nut Graph, was part of the doomed helicopter flight. He had been researching possible connections between Nuri accidents and meteorological phenomena for his True Story satirical column. The unfinished draft of his story is reproduced below:
ON 16 Aug 2009, national news agency Bernama reported that a helicopter — carrying Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin back from an Umno division meeting in Kudat — had to make a surprise landing. The article said:
“While admitting that this was the first time he ever experienced the suspense of an emergency landing, Muhyiddin said: ‘I think the pilot had made the right decision (emergency landing) because the weather was really bad.’” Phew!
However, the drama did not end with Malaysians being told that their beloved deputy premier was safe and sound. The helicopter was a Nuri in the service of the RMAF.
Wasn’t the commandeering of public property (the military chopper) for private purposes (opening Umno party soirees) a gross example of graft? Parti Keadilan Rakyat assemblyperson Sim Tze Tzin swiftly lodged a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
While ethics and politics are the obvious issues, a separate question is why these Nuris keep making unscheduled appointments with the ground.
Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuris are civilian versions of the SH-3 Sea King, an anti-submarine warfare platform, and serve in a search-and-rescue capacity for the RMAF. The design is reputed to be one of the safest in rotary-wing aviation.
Ironically, search-and-rescue operations are frequently called for Nuris themselves. A 2007 Bernama report tallied the total of Nuri mishaps up to that year: 18 crashes since the helicopter entered Malaysian service in 1968.
Most of the crashes are attributed to bad weather. For example, the 14 Nov 1989 crash — the most costly in terms of human lives, with 21 individuals dead — was officially attributed to severe thunderstorms on the Kelantan-Perak border.
An RMAF colonel quoted on the incident, Datuk Jamal Husam, also speculated that “geomagnetic storms had been interfering with the craft’s navigation systems”. The year of 1989 had been a year of such storms.
That wasn’t the only incident that implicated celestial phenomena — though the connections are proving to be more outlandish.
Moving discs in the sky
A report in The Sabah Meteor about a 30 March 2004 emergency landing near Labuan (the three pilots involved survived) quotes several Labuan residents as observing “moving discs” in the sky the same day.
An unidentified RMAF official denied the sightings as connected with the helicopter mishap, explaining them as “experimental weather balloons”, commissioned by the armed forces as research into “psycho-mystic, non-empirical” methods of climate control.
A 9 Sept 2006 investigative piece by national paper Harian Raya, titled Teknologi anti-graviti misteri?, alleged that the RMAF was conducting research into unusual propulsion methods, possibly having extraterrestrial origins.
One is inclined to dismiss this as tabloid quackery — Malaysian aviation research is far from robust. However, the Harian article does mention Nuris as specific assistants in such experimentation.
The crashes of 11 July, 1991, 19 March 1997, and 15 Aug 2004 all happened within a few hours of “UFO sightings” by the public. Forensic investigation into the 2004 crash, which killed three, found bone fragments that belonged to a fourth “person”.
DNA extracted from those fragments were confirmed to be “human, but with unusual nucleotide formations”, according to leaked coroner’s report. Experts would later dismiss the “mystery [person]” by saying that samples had been contaminated.
It is significant that mysterious DNA has surfaced since then — particularly in the tragedy of political aide Teoh Beng Hock‘s death. Samples taken from Teoh‘s torn belt reveal the DNA of two other individuals, aside from Teoh’s own.
A more outlandish rumour is that the letter, received by counsel Gobind Singh Deo on 18 Aug, alleges that the mystery DNA comes from “non-humans” — hence the investigation’s difficulty at determining their source.
As we all know, Teoh’s vertiginous fate was similar to those unfortunate RMAF personnel, just without the helicopter intermediary. Of course, government officials have refused to comment on a possible connection between Nuri crashes, Teoh’s death, and floating little green [persons].
However, when posed the question in Parliament recently, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Abu Samah Rashidi said: “We are still working on that.” He did not elaborate, and subsequently refused to answer any other queries.
Abu Samah later issued a statement reiterating the need for Nuris to be replaced by more modern craft, as they had “controls susceptible to bad weather such as heavy rain.”
Yet theories remain theories. When I ask him about otherworldly phenomena, Malaysian Aviation Hobbyist Society (MAHS) president Ahmad Fairuz reveals that they are more common than usual.
“These so-called ‘UFO sightings’ happen more often than you might think,” Fairuz said. “Rarely a month goes by without some pilot somewhere seeing something he [or she] can’t explain.”
Fairuz believes that unexplained craft were involved in most of the Nuri crashes. “You get heavy rain, turbulence, lightning. Maybe you see something you can’t explain. Any pilot is liable to get distracted from the real issue at hand: flying well.”
Zedeck Siew was a journalist for The Nut Graph. He tried to stay away from conspiracy theories, but they proved too hard to resist.
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