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Thursday, November 1, 2007

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Respect for the Pilot

I have the utmost respect for the Vietnam War-era pilot. His ability to get the job done in the face of the worst conditions imaginable is legendary. But is this "mission at any cost" attitude compatible with the needs of emergency medical services (EMS)? Looking at reports from the accidents in the past few decades would seem to indicate that it is not.

In my few years of EMS flying, I have found the skills required to be well within my training and experience as a post-Vietnam pilot. The job can be challenging, but no more challenging than flying in the military. Whether it be the Balkans, South American jungles, the boonies of Fort Polk, La., the tundra of Alaska, or the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, I think today’s military pilot stacks up well against anyone. Based on my experience in the many theaters of operation I flew in, I find it difficult to believe that any other military pilot, with the requisite flight time, would not have more than enough remote-area experience.

If today’s military pilot lacks anything, it is unaided night-flying time. No EMS pilot should be flying "Nighthawk" anyway, and with adequate lighting, this deficiency can be overcome. The key is to take the time to get the best view of the night landing zone from all sides before landing.

Bottom line, as Vietnam-era pilots move on, EMS will be in good hands.

Ron Humphreys Retired Army EMS Commercial PilotFayetteville, N.C.

Respect Due to Wes

I enjoyed Dave Jensen’s piece in your 40th anniversary retrospective and appreciate the difficulty of mentioning all of the great pioneers and stalwarts of the industry in a short article like this ("The Industry’s Heyday," August 2007, page 46). However — and I know you meant no slight — leaving Wes Lematta’s name out of the article was a big mistake.

No one has done as much for the heavy-lift commercial market over the years as has Wes. When the rest of the commercial industry was building up fleets of single-engine small and medium helicopters, Wes was thinking big and projecting a vision that would make the likes of today’s heavy-lift companies possible. When others were thinking about helicopters as people movers, Wes was looking at them as workhorses to help erect infrastructure.

I think most in the industry would consider Wes in the same vein as Bob Suggs and Carl Brady, and all who know Wes would also point out that — in a tough market dominated by strong and, some would say, difficult personalities — Wes sticks out as a gentleman of integrity and compassion. Considering all of the mergers and takeovers of the last few years, it is a credit to him and his values that Columbia Helicopters continues as the same entity it was when he started it 50 years ago. I just wish that, at this point in his life, he would be recognized for the greatness he has brought to our industry.

On one more note, in the highlights of major milestones since 1967, the mention of Erickson Air-Crane as being the first operator to harvest timber with the Sikorsky Aircraft S-64 is technically correct, but it should be noted that the effort was a collaboration between Jack Erickson, whose mill was taking the timber, and Wes Lematta and Columbia, who proposed using a helicopter ("40 Years: Flying Rotorcraft," page 41). Because of delays with the S-64 delivery, Columbia used its S-61 to start the project. That was the second logging project Columbia had used the S-61 on. Both Erickson and Columbia claim to be the first company to use helicopters for logging, but historically Columbia’s S-61 predated the S-64 use.

I appreciate all Rotor & Wing and Dave Jensen have done for the industry over the years.

Jon Lazzaretti Senior Marketing Representative Columbia Helicopters Portland, Ore.

Igor’s First Flight?

As a member of the board of directors of the National Helicopter Museum in Stratford, Conn., I was excited and pleased to see your item on the historic registry of the site of Igor Sikorsky’s first tethered flight ("Site of First Sikorsky Helicopter Flight Placed on State Register of Historic Places," September 2007, page 20). I was, however, somewhat distressed to see the error in the first tethered flight date. It was Sept. 14, 1939, not 1938.

As an amateur historian of the Stratford Army Engine Plant, which had the previous names of Bridgeport Lycoming, Avco Lycoming, Textron Lycoming, and Allied Signal Engines, I recently located the spot where this first tethered flight occurred.

Your magazine is an excellent source for those of us deeply involved in the world of rotary-winged aircraft. Keep up the good work.

Ken Collinge Consultant, FAA DER, Gas Turbine Engines Trumbull, Conn.

Name That Bird

Regarding your interest in readers’ suggestions for a name for the US101 that will be the new VH-71 transport for the U.S. president, I suggest GU-11, technical for "Sea Gull."

Jeff Green San Diego, Calif.

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R&W’s Question of the Month

In your opinion, are the objectives of the International Helicopter Safety Team ones that smaller helicopter operators should embrace?

Let us know, and look for your and others’ responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information at the bottom of the page.

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