You own an airline. You’re mates with the head of one of the world’s largest armed forces. You’re immensely wealthy. How hard can it be to get a helicopter to rescue you from a snow-clad peak in northern Burma?
Harder than you’d think. Two Burmese military helicopters reportedly tried and failed to extract tycoon Tay Za (right), a close business crony of Gen. Than Shwe and the owner of Air Bagan, and five others from Ice Mountain in Kachin State, where his helicopter was forced to land in bad weather on Monday. The first helicopter, dispatched by the Burmese army and thought to be Russia-made Mi-6, threatened to trigger an avalanche with its giant five-bladed main rotor and had to be withdrawn.
With apparently no aircraft of his own to save him, Tay Za’s company Htoo Trading urgently hired helicopters from India, Cambodia and Thailand. Thailand, in the form of an intrepid Thai company called Advance Aviation, got there first.
Advance Aviation (“Where Sky And Safety Meet”) dispatched not a Soviet-era behemoth, but a nippy EC-130 helicopter, usually hired out for about $2,000 a hour. “We had no idea whether we’d succeed,” says Noppaporn Nasylvanta, who runs sales and marketing for the company, “but we wanted to try.” The EC-130 arrived in northern Burma on Wednesday evening. Tay Za and his party spent another night on Ice Mountain before the EC-130 lifted them to safety in three sorties around noon today.
The first sortie took away the injured. Tay Za, who was on the second flight, is reportedly in “good health“—news that will no doubt disappoint many of those who envy his immense fortune.