Monday, May 1, 2006
R&W's Question of the Month:
Is "Lean Manufacturing" something that can benefit smaller helicopter manufacturing and supply shops or strictly the domain of big corporations?
Let us know, and look for your and others' responses in a future issue. You'll find the contact information in the box at the bottom of the page.
Here's Why VH-71
I was tickled by Scott Walworth's call for the VH-71 to be named the VH-101 to keep it in line with its foreign designation ("Why VH-71?, March 2006, page 8).
Mr. Walworth would be hard-pressed to find a U.S. military aircraft, past and present, that was designated similar to its commercial or foreign derivative. The only one I can remember coming close is the military C-9A Skytrain 2, which was based on the Douglas DC-9 airliner.
As for the VH-71's nickname, my $0.02 is that it should start with "Sea," as in all U.S. Navy and Marine helicopters--with the exception of the Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk. The purchase of aircraft designed in Europe for the U.S. president departs from enough traditions on its own--we should avoid breaking any more when it comes to choosing its nickname.
Lt. Todd "Stalker" Vorenkamp, U.S. Navy Reserve
Search and Rescue
NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.
Former Boeing CH-46D Sea Knight (Boeing Vertol 107) Pilot
Former Sikorsky UH-3H Sea King (Sikorsky S-61) Pilot
Current Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk (Sikorsky S-70) Pilot
More Helos & Pilots
In response to John Brandt's humorous observations, I must add one more ("Helicopters and Pilots," March 2006, page 8). It is much less well-known than Harry Reasoner's column, but carries a much less ominous tone:
"Although flying a helicopter may seem very difficult, the truth is that if you can drive a car, you can, with just a few minutes of instruction, take the controls of one of these amazing machines. Of course, you would immediately crash and die. Because the truth is that helicopters are nothing at all like cars. Cars work because of basic scientific principles that everybody understands, such as internal combustion and parallel parking, whereas scientists still have no idea what holds helicopters up. `Whatever it is, it could stop at any moment,' is their current feeling."
These are the observations of Dave Barry, Pulitzer prize-winning syndicated columnist for The Miami Herald, following a helicopter flight with a member of the Whirly Girls. I believe the original column was published in 1993.
For my money, Dave speaks for us all. After more than 21 years of committing rotary-wing aviation, you can talk to me all day long about gyroscopic precession and the bizarre aerodynamics of fling-wing aerospace vehicles. But as far as I can tell it's still magic that gains us entry into the sky. I also must agree with Mr. Brandt that there is no better "job" in the world.
Lt. Col. Matt Lyons, U.S. Air Force
4,500-hr. M/HH-60G Pave Hawk
and UH-1N Huey Pilot
"The Views Expressed . . ."
I enjoyed the well-written article by Lt. Col. Steve Colby ("Why It's So Hard to Hit the Target," March 2006, page 57). I'm not writing to comment on it but the blurb that caught my eye at the end: "The views expressed are the author's and not an official U.S. Air Force position. USAF Air Warfare Center public affairs approved this article for release."
This bothered me enough to comment on it. Although such statements might be understandable (and often required) when attached to controversial or sensitive editorial pieces, Colonel Colby's article was merely an analysis/explanation of the external factors acting on bullets fired from moving helicopters. Essentially, at least from this dumb jarhead's perspective, it said that "a lot of things affect bullets when they leave the guns on your helicopter, and crew chiefs and aircrews should train as much as possible to help increase their proficiency and firing accuracy." Good points, but the information was so benign and uncontroversial that I have to wonder why the public affairs office (PAO) even had to screen it--let along put their stamp of approval at the bottom. Is the Air Force afraid that the public might read this article and then think their "official position" is that the Magnus effect and tangential throw actually affect projectiles? Does the Air Force espouse a different position?
If PAO screening of his article wasn't required, but Colonel Colby had it completed essentially to "cover his six," as is possible, then I understand, but also believe this is an unfortunate sign of the times, of a climate of fear we should all strive to dismantle.
My concern is that, even as the military's Information Operations have become critical during this time of global war, public affairs and "getting our message out" remain enduring challenges. In a civilian publication such as Rotor & Wing, it seems to me that putting such a generic statement at the bottom of a non-political, aerodynamics-friendly article makes the military appear to the general public as extremely robotic and even lacking common sense; it further fuels existing stereotypes of those of us in the service as mindless, brainwashed right-wing conservative yes-men who can't blink without permission. Can we not trust an O-5 in the Air Force, in command of a weapons squadron no less, to have enough judgment and perspective to realize what is or is not appropriate for the public eye?
P.S. These views are those of the author and do not constitute an official USMC position...
Lt. Col. Glen Butler, U.S. Marine Corps
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Sqdn. 169 (HMLA-169)
Camp Taqaddum, Al Anbar, Iraq)