Saturday, April 1, 2006
R&W's Question of the Month:
Specific fuel consumption has long been ignored in helicopter turbine-engine operations. Do you feel a greater need for SFC improvements now? If so, why?
Let us know, and look for your and others' responses in a future issue. You'll find our contact information at the bottom of page 7.
Through an editing error, the account by Ken Pyatt in our Helicopters & Heroes special report placed Lafayatte, La. 100 mi. east of New Orleans ("Flight Service? Approach Control? No Reply.," March 2006, page 44). It is west of there. The article correctly notes that Lafayatte wasn't hit by Hurricane Katrina, a statement completely untrue for anything 100 mi. east of New Orleans. We apologize for the error.--The Editor
Naming the VH-71 (Cont'd)
Despite the use--in rumors, press reports and even some official press releases and briefing materials--of the name "Kestrel" for the VH-71, the Pentagon has yet to settle on an official name for the next-generation U.S. presidential helicopter. So Rotor & Wing readers offer aid to U.S. Marine Corps and Naval Air Systems Command officials searching for that name with their own suggestions.
Call it the Sea Chief, and send me my ticket for a free lunch! Erne sounds awful. Sea President is naff. Navy One to counter Air Force One is putting down the senior service. (Erne is the now obsolete, but once common, name for the Sea Eagle. Ask any crossword buff or ornithologist.)
Gulf Helicopters Co.
EMS Part 91 vs. Part 135
I am writing in response to your article about the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board seeking stricter rules for emergency medical service operations ("NTSB Seeks Stricter Rules for EMS Ops," March 2006, page 10).
No one can dispute the fact that we have been crashing far too many helicopters in EMS operations and I applaud the NTSB, the FAA, and the operators for their safety initiatives. I would like to make a comment about the proposal to require all portions of an EMS flight to operate under FAR Part 135 rather than Part 91.
The statistic cited in your article states that 35 of the 55 accidents in the study, or 64 percent, were during flight conducted under Part 91. According to the way the NTSB records accident statistics, any time the helicopter is without a patient it is listed as a Part 91 positioning flight. On any given EMS mission at least one of two legs is without a patient. In many cases, at least two of three legs do not have a patient. That would mean that somewhere between 50 and 66 percent of the flight time during an EMS mission would be under Part 91. Also, 100 percent of the landings at scene landing zones are also flown under Part 91.
Although the number is still too high, the Part 91 accident rate does not seem to be extremely out of line with those operations flown under Part 135. I am not opposed to requiring the entire EMS mission to be conducted under Part 135. Most prudent operators and pilots already adhere to Part 135's more restrictive weather and altitude requirements for the entire flight. But I think it should be for the right reasons. One can make statistics fit any argument, so they need to be looked at carefully.
Dave Fails, ATP
ARCH Air Medical Service
Air Methods Corp.
As a dedicated helicopter pilot, safety remains the most important part of the flight and decision making for me, just like for others. Your February issue reports on the collaborative efforts of some operators and manufacturers to minimize the helicopter accident rate, duplicating safety gains made for airline travel ("Cash In or Step Up?," February 2006, page 4). No doubt, if mankind is determined, a hurdle does not remain a hurdle for long. We, all of us, appreciate every possible effort and program to enhance flight safety.
Morever, the year 2005 was a lucrative one for the industry. I am sure that the annual increment of industry figures--except accident rates--makes everyone in it happier. Although helicopters are reliable and rugged machines, accidents sometime overshadow their success and role in the modern economy. They are simply a neccessity for life. Because of their outstanding ability to fly at 0 kt., they have been used more publicly than any other flying machine. Therefore, there are always eyes watching choppers. Should an accident happen, negative comments follow instantly.
Efforts like the International Helicopter Safety Symposium really work and have an immense importance in assuring public that we are doing something.
I have some requests for R&W. Please arrange a section devoted to safety, similar to the one you do every other month for helicopter training, to keep informing us about helicoptery flight safety. Make sure your coverage of safety includes the pilot's point of view. From what I have seen from any kind of helicopter-related magazine, the coverage tends to be mainly from the operators' or manufacturers' point of view. I don't mean to imply that they cover up something. I just wish that this pool of information included the perspective of pilots.
Nobody can deny that, in aviation, experience is the most valuable asset. Sharing flight safety experiences is invaluable.
Fixed- and Rotary-Wing Army Pilot