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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

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R&W's Question of the Month:

Does your flight operation require a flight-risk evaluation or assessment before launching?

Are such procedures effective and worthwhile?

Let us know, and look for your and other responses in a future issue. You'll find our contact information in the box at the bottom of page 8.

CORRECTION

In the Table of Contents of our February issue, the description for the story "Raising the Safety Bar" incorrectly said Shell Aviation had developed a plan to do that. The plan was developed by Shell Aircraft. We apologize for the error.

Performance Charts

I enjoyed Shawn Coyle's explanation of performance charts ("Civil Performance Charts: What Use?," August 2005, page 62). I am a military helicopter pilot and have had little experience with civil aviation. The article was geared more towards the civilian crowd, but I learned something also.

Performance planning is a vital part of preflight. The "zero fuel weight" calculations have become ever more popular and quite useful, especially when you arrive at a site to pick up cargo or pax and things have changed--as they almost always do! The load has morphed and changed from what was briefed. The zero fuel weight is invaluable. Do a couple of quick calculations out of the back of your checklist, make adjustments to the load or burn fuel and off you go.

Any way, Shawn knows all this. Good article.

Jon Corey
Fort Benning, Ga.

Turbine Autorotations

I would like to contribute a few personal insights to the debate on turbine aircraft autorotations.

In general, my Army pilot training did provide me with a "fire response" instinct to enter an autorotation. My subsequent two civilian engine failures left my rotor rpm slightly below the green arc (upon entry at 100 ft. agl and perhaps 30 kt.), leaving me no option other than to bottom my collective and flare to harvest the maximum amount of kinetic energy in preparation for a zero-ground-run touchdown--perpendicular to the (energy-absorbing) skids and in line with the rotor's lift.

My Portland, Ore. USDA snow-survey customer, Stan Fox, can confirm that we touched down smoothly in about 5 sec., skidding only 6 ft. (with no further damage to the Hughes 500C).

Later, near Pace, Fla., the H-43 I was logging with suffered an engine failure while I was departing a jammed deck at about 150 ft. and nose low at perhaps 30 kt. again! Because of the aircraft's low blade loading, I was able to stagger 90 deg. to the left and at least 300 ft. and drop vertically to a soft touchdown with 15-ft. rotor clearance from 50-ft. tall trees on two sides (no further damage).

I credit these successful outcomes to my recognition that the only relevant practice autorotations are in my "current" aircraft" vertically from a hover (beginning from 5 ft. skid height so as to touch down smoothly with 80 percent remaining on my rotor tachometer for directional control). Obviously, I am not ready to increase my entry by an additional 2 ft. skid height if my technique, timing and sight picture are off. This demonstrated to me that the higher that I initiate, the more I have to reduce my collective to touch down in the same amount of time, with the same amount of kinetic energy in reserve. However, the rate of descent does increase until the 3-ft.-high initial pitch pull.

I have demonstrated this "calibrating" procedure to every new transition pilot so that he can bring his skills up to a level of competence in a minimum amount of flight time.

Dwight Reber
12,000 hr. Mountain Flying
Boise, Idaho

Name That Bird (Cont'd)

My suggestion for the name of the U.S. Marine Corps' VH-71 presidential transport helicopter would be the US101 Freedom. The presidential aircraft would be called "Freedom One."

Thanks, and good luck with the program. Great magazine--keep up the good work.

Mike Suddes
Plainville, Mass.

Call it Bald Eagle. The original White Top.

Robb Lake
VH-71 Integrated Test Team
NAS Patuxent River, Md.

I propose Olive Branch. The fleet will be painted in time-honored olive-drab green. The olive branch is the symbol for world peace.

If for some reason the aircraft has to be named after a bird, then I propose, "White Dove".

Phillip R Liles
Commercial Instructor Helicopter
Snyder, Okla.

One suggestion: "Pterano."

The word refers to the Pteranodons, the largest flying animal ever. Flying reptiles related to dinosaurs, they glided along rather than flapping their wings and lived in the late Cretaceous period (65-145 million years ago) in what are now England and the United States.

Dr. Santiago Duarte
Legal Contracts Advisor
& Helicopter Enthusiast
Quito, Ecuador

Just a few thoughts here at the end of the day:

Swift-Swan
Swan
Whipp-poor-will
Flightmaster
Swift
Falcon
Regal Rooster
Pigeon ("Don't make me **** on you!")
Menacing Moth
Flying Airdale
Freedom-Fly
Frisbee
Sea Sparrow
Bullfrog ("hops from place to place")
Sea-Flee
Sunstreak
Rotating Raven
Spinmaster
Hi-Hopes 1
BigBird 1
Let's-Go 1
Get `er Done 1

William Pashe, Jr.
F119 Flight Test & Field Support
Pratt & Whitney Military Engines
East Hartford, Conn.

Why VH-71?

I am not that concerned what name the military calls the US101. It's the numbering that bothers me.

Why do the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps insist on giving the US101 the number 71? Why not use VH-101?

As you state in your article, the winner of the VXX competition already has a pedigree ("VXX...By Any Other Name?", July 2005, page 12). The rest of the world calls the aircraft the EH101. The American 101 will not be built in Europe, so we should drop the E, but the aircraft is most definitely a 101.

This is very similar to the situation with the UH-60/S-70. To anyone who is not intimately familiar with the aircraft, one has to explain--even to U.S. military personnel--that the S-70 is the civilian version of the UH-60 Black Hawk.

Why not keep things simple, or will the new helicopter in the U.S. inventory forever be referred to as the "VH-71...the American version of the EH-101"?

Scott Walworth
Anaheim, Calif.

Border Patrolling

Regarding Sgt. Ernie Stephens' Law Enforcement column on the operations and safety record of U.S. Border Patrol pilots ("Border Patrolling," February, page 70): Good work, sergeant!

Thank you. God Bless.

Charles Nicholson
ATP, CFII ASMEL
Aviation Safety Counselor
Senior Aviation Medical Examiner
Concord, N.C.

Hurricane Katrina

I am interested in sourcing as much information regarding the use of helicopters and boats in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as I can find.

I am particularly interested in how many helicopters were available for use and how many were turned away or ensnarled in red tape for several days.

I would also like to know the date on which the emergency use of helicopters began to taper off.

I would appreciate if any aviators, locals or officials who were operating in New Orleans at the time could e-mail me with any relevant information or their personal accounts of the events as they unfolded.

E.S.D. Macdonald
Commercial Helicopter Charter Service Owner & Operator
Commercial Pilot (ret'd)
Cape Town, South Africa
sprtaxis@mweb.co.za

Helicopters and Pilots

I have no idea who wrote most of these, but they're funny.

Helicopter flight--a bunch of spare parts flying in close formation. (Of course, the newer pilots that have no experience in maintaining rpm and manifold pressure manually won't have an inkling of an idea of what some of this is about. Their loss.)

Anything that screws its way into the sky flies according to unnatural principles.

You never want to sneak up behind an old, high-time helicopter pilot and clap your hands. He will instantly dive for cover and most likely whimper . . . then get up and smack the s*** out of you.

In anything that's moving--a train, an airplane, a car or a boat--you can always tell a helicopter pilot. He (or she) never smiles, is always listening to the machine and always hears something that doesn't sound right. Helicopter pilots fly in a mode of intensity, actually more like "spring loaded", while waiting for pieces of their ship to fall off.

Flying a helicopter at any altitude over 500 ft. is considered reckless and should be avoided. Flying a helicopter at any altitude or condition that precludes a landing in less than 20 sec. is considered outright foolhardy.

Remember, in a helicopter you have about 1 sec. to lower the collective in an engine failure before the craft becomes unrecoverable. Once you've failed this maneuver, the machine flies about as well as a 20-case Coke machine. Even a perfectly executed autorotation only gives you a glide ratio slightly better than that of a brick.

When your wings are leading, lagging, flapping, precessing and moving faster than your fuselage, there's something unnatural going on. Is this the way men were meant to fly?

While hovering, if you start to sink a bit, you pull up on the collective while twisting the throttle, push with your left foot (more torque) and move the stick left (more translating tendency) to hold your spot. If you now need to stop rising, you do the opposite in that order. Sometimes in wind you do this many times each second. Don't you think that's a strange way to fly?

You never want to feel a sinking feeling in your gut (low g pushover) while flying a two-bladed, underslung, teetering rotor system. You are about to do a snap-roll to the right and crash.

If everything is working fine on your helicopter, consider yourself temporarily lucky. Something is about to break.

Harry Reasoner once wrote of helicopter pilots: "The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by an incompetent pilot, it will fly.

"A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying, immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter.

"This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding, introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened, it is about to."

Having said all this, I must admit that flying in a helicopter is one of the most satisfying and exhilarating experiences I have ever enjoyed: skimming over the tops of trees at 100 kt. is something we should all be able to do at least once.

And remember the fighter pilot's prayer: "Lord, I pray for the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion and the balls of a combat helicopter pilot."

Many years later, I know that it was sometimes anything but fun, but now it IS something to brag about for those of us who survived the experience.

John Brandt
U.S. Army Pilot (ret'd)
(Helicopter wings in 1953)
Etowah, N.C.

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