Thursday, December 1, 2005
Our article on U.S. Army development of the Brownout Situational Awareness Upgrade stated that a new, integrated digital automatic flight control system is being tested on the CH-47D ("Helping Aircrews Survive Brownout," October 2005, page 52). That system is being tested on the CH-47F.
Links in the Chain
As mentioned in Douglas W. Nelms' article, the view that accidents tend to result from a chain of events is a very common one ("We Know What. But Why?," September 2005, page T6).
For most safety consultants and flight safety organizations, the weakest links in the chain are the human ones. So some questions might be asked: Is there any chance for a pilot to choose his position in that chain? If the pilot is the last link in the chain (even if he or she is the most powerful one), can he protect himself, his crew and passengers from a fatal crash?
For example, think of an EMS pilot. He is told to take off urgently and get a patient to the hospital. Although he is well prepared, time is limited because the mission here is to save a human life. Weather forecast reports broken clouds at 500 ft. agl and visibility less than 1 mi. The landing area has wires and tall trees, its slope is not within limits and there is a strong cross wind. In addition, ground personnel are not qualified to direct the pilot.
Assume you are the pilot. You feel a heavy burden. Your workload is too much to overcome. Your stress level is peaked by the circumstances.
This may be the worst scenario, but I know of real-life incidents similar to it. Who can say that the pilot is the weakest link in the chain in this situation? Moreover, you can't talk about a chain here. As you see, uncertainty prevails.
As always, the critical part of a flight is decision-making. Decisions that you make instantly can save your life. Being a pilot means making decisions. From pre-flight checks to shutting down the engine and checking your aircraft, we always decide to do something related to flight.
In addition to decision-making, we have to recognize that cockpit resource management, crew coordination, the man-machine interface and training contribute as much as a pilot's abilities.
Finally, the rules of aviation are written in blood. As pilots, we must never let "Ifs" go through our minds. We must be well trained and try to be one step ahead of the conditions we are involved in.
I'd like to offer my deep respect to the pilots who have lost their lives to save others and those who put their lives on the edge every day for this sacred mission.
Fixed- and Rotary-Wing Army Aviator
In reference to Sgt. Ernie Stephens most recent article ("Taking Fire," October 2005, page 59), the maneuvers mentioned are exactly right.
Once you realize you are taking fire, the correct action is to change heading and altitude immediately by more than 90 deg. and 500 ft. I learned this while flying the Light Observation Helicopter, the venerable OH-6 (Hughes 500A, now the MD-500), in Vietnam as part of an air cavalry troop's aerial scout platoon. A week didn't go by without taking some type of fire and the unscheduled landings weren't all that often. I have more than 10,000 hr. in helicopters and I owe my continued abilities to the philosophy of "Change heading and altitude immediately."
My company, Flying M Air, is a Part 135 operator based in Arizona with a new R44 Raven 2. When I saw what was happening in New Orleans, I tried desperately to volunteer my services and my aircraft for assistance. Although I could not do rescue or long-line work, the helicopter could be used as an observation platform, to transfer medical and rescue workers, or to deliver supplies to stranded victims waiting for help. The WLBT-TV R44 featured in Rotorcraft Report performed the same kinds of services (Hurricane Katrina coverage, October 2005, pp. 8-10).
One organization told me that, due to liability issues, I had to be a member of Civil Air Patrol (CAP). I immediately got in touch with my local chapter. I was told that CAP has no helicopter program and cannot work with helicopters. It appears that they welcome fixed-wing, glider, and even balloon pilots, but not rotorcraft pilots. How idiotic is that for an organization that is supposed to be of assistance in emergencies?
With information I received from the Helicopter Assn. International, I attempted to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I submitted the information they wanted via fax as requested, including a summary of how my aircraft could help and a certificate of insurance. I never received a response.
In reading your coverage of Katrina, I realized that I wasn't the only one frustrated by failed attempts to volunteer. Clearly local, state, and federal governments need to get privately owned helicopters involved in emergency planning. There are four privately owned four-place helicopters in my little town alone. Imagine how we could help in an emergency! Governments need to build a database of potential volunteers and have a volunteer coordinator who will contact them when needed. But most of all, the government needs to act quickly in an emergency and not turn down good help when it's offered.
Flying M Air, LLC
VH-71: Jupiter's Eagle
Another name that might be considered for the US101 presidential transport is "Aquila," the eagle of Jupiter, the supreme ruler of the Roman gods. As an ancient symbol of power, Aquila was also used as the standard of Roman legions. Each Roman legion was given a silver eagle standard called "Aquila," which was protected above all. Its loss to the enemy resulted in that legion being disbanded.
Dr. A. M. G?i
President and CEO