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Friday, August 1, 2008

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CSAR With a CH-47?

As a former Vietnam War pilot who flew Hughes OH-6 Cayuses with C Troop, 2nd Sqdn, 17th Cavalry of the 101st Airborne Div and got shot down nine times, I can speak from the downed pilot’s point of view on being rescued in a combat environment ("VH-71 Delays" April 2008, page 7).

Boeing’s CH-47 is not the answer at all to the U.S. Air Force’s requirement for a new combat search and rescue helicopter. It has too much noise, size and downwash associated with it. When you are on the ground sweating the details, noise counts big time. What needs to be done is a simple test. Set up a landing zone and have all the competitors approach it as they would in a combat situation. Measure the noise and downwash.

Col. Clyde Romero Jr. USAF (retired) Marietta, Ga.

Settling With Power

I read with interest Ray Prouty’s recent article, especially since my name was mentioned in the first line ("Settling With Power, Redefined" June 2008, page 48). I do agree, but I’m not sure the article accomplished the goal.

I feel I am a fairly technical person, and I had to read the article twice to fully grasp what was presented. I would like to give my "simplistic explanation" of settling with power. I think of it as "aerodynamic resonance." Many are familiar with ground resonance if they have flown strut-equipped helicopters (or seen a video of one destroying itself) and most others are aware of the concept of "resonant frequency" (a frequency that feeds into itself). Well, to me, settling with power is most easily understood as aerodynamic resonance.

The aircraft is in a situation in which the induced flow (inflow) is about equal to the downwash (lift) generated, causing aerodynamic resonance. In settling with power, increasing the downwash (pitch/lift) does no good because the downwash only increases proportionally with the induced flow (inflow) and thus the "self-feeding" (resonant frequency) has not been changed. To many, aerodynamics is and always will be beyond their scope of interest (simply too theoretical). And that’s okay. In many aspects, the "why" is irrelevant to doing the job. But, in some cases, understanding in some manner may save your life.

I must admit that settling with power has not been one of my big concerns. In 22 years of flying Bell Helicopter products, and 16+ years of instructing, I have never encountered settling with power. I don’t know if that’s the way I was taught to fly, the techniques I’ve developed through the years or the helicopters I’ve flown, but it just hasn’t been an issue. But I do understand it, and I do teach it to others at advanced levels. That’s just to say I won’t ignore it or minimize it just because I’ve never experienced it myself. I’ve never had an engine quit in a single engine helicopter either — yet. Both could kill you if you are not aware.

CW4 Steven Kersting, U.S. Army Harrisburg, Pa.

Patrols Vs. Snipers

In regards to Giovanni de Briganti’s recent article, I feel compelled to sound off ("Heli-Snipers Prove Effective," June 2008, page 54).

What touched me off were his flippant and absurd statements in the last three paragraphs of his column. Having recently returned from a 15-month tour in Iraq where I piloted Boeing AH-64Ds over Baghdad, I can say with some authority that, contrary to Mr. Briganti’s assumptions of failed tactics, armed helicopter patrols have been devastatingly effective against those planting improvised explosive devices (IED). His comments are a slap in the face of hundreds of attack and scout pilots fighting around the globe. You don’t hear about the successes, since we don’t want to give the enemy any information about our tactics.

The stand-off capability of today’s modern helicopters with thermal sights and long-range optics have permitted engagements well beyond the ability of even the best sniper. Finding the bad guys is akin to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. If shooting insurgents planting IEDs were our only problem in countering this deadly threat, then we would have solved the IED problem years ago. Just the presence of Apaches or Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warriors overhead was usually more than sufficient to stop enemy activity.

Employing snipers from helicopters is not a new tactic. Two Delta Force snipers — Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Specialist First Class Randy Shugart — were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in 1993 in Somalia, when they attempted to secure and defend a downed Sikorsky Aircraft MH-60. They had been operating as airborne snipers circling above the crash site in another MH-60, but determined they could not provide sufficient defense from their airborne perch. They gave their lives in defense of their fellow soldiers. The U.S. Coast Guard has been using airborne snipers since the 1990s as part of the HITRON units in their attempts to stop drug smugglers in "go-fast" boats. Using high-powered rifles, these marksmen employ deliberate firepower to disable the engines of these modified racing boats. Other law enforcement agencies have been using airborne snipers for well more than a decade and it has become a standard task during the annual U.S. Army Best Sniper Competition. While not exactly snipers, my scout brothers who fly OH58Ds into combat use their M4 carbines to great effect when they engage the enemy. "M4 out the door" has been quickly adopted as another engagement technique and is taught in aeroscout gunnery training at Fort Rucker, Ala. Airborne snipers are a tool in any tactical commander’s toolbox that allows for flexible response.

But Basra is not Baghdad and the coast of Somalia is not the skies of Afghanistan. In no way do I want to impugn the professionalism or capability of our British friends, but there is a reason why U.S. Army AH-64Ds are patrolling over Basra.

This is at least the second time Mr. Briganti has showed his ignorance to those of us in the fight and displayed a certain tone towards a segment of the helicopter industry. Maybe he should just go back to enjoying the protective blanket of security provided by his betters rather than take childish and uninformed swipes as an armchair general. Rotor & Wing is a better publication than that.

CW4 Matthew A. Silverman, U.S. Army Fort Rucker, Ala.

Our Brother’s Keeper

While some in the industry may feel it’s not their obligation to help students who got stiffed by Silver State Helicopters, that attitude doesn’t help the industry either ("Our Brothers’ Keepers" June 2008, page 4).

The same thing could’ve been said about the residents of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and yet the citizens of this United States stepped up to the plate and helped those in need. So why can’t the rotorcraft industry, which relies on qualified pilots and mechanics, step up to the plate and help this small group? Would it hurt their bottom line that much to lay out a few thousand dollars to help these unfortunate students? It’s a shame that, in a time of need such as this, no one has provided an iota of support to them. Way to go rotorcraft industry! Way to go!

Miguel Valentin Saylorsburg, Pa.

Pilots or Mechanics?

In response to your question, the supply of technicians rather than pilots is more critical than ever before ("Question of the Month" May 2008, page 7).

I back this observation up with firsthand experience that began in 1981 as an airframe and powerplant student at Northrop Institute of Technology in Inglewood, Calif. I learned technical skills and pride that, even today at the age of 46, makes any auto mechanic’s work look like crap.

There is no career ladder for A&Ps other than a change into a more stable field of employment (if you can find a "stable" career field). Pay is a joke, especially when there are no loans to cover all the tools you’ll be purchasing and grinding down to get the job done.

I can recall how much overtime was owed me by operators who made constant "payroll errors" in hope I’d just forget about it and leave (or they closed their doors). This indicated the lack of ethics used by employers, who told FAA inspectors that the mechanic in question is a disgruntled employee (and the FAA then walks away saying it’s your problem to be swept under the rug). Let us not forget the high cost of factory ratings I’ve been told to get, but not how am I going to pay for them or get the time off from work to go.

Tool borrowers and thieves are the bane of the trade. Nothing is more shocking than to be guiding a helicopter onto the pad when I see something sticking out of its belly. Lo and behold, it’s my tool that was borrowed the night before and left in the aircraft that just finished flying all day! I’ve come to work and found my rollaway was jimmied and sheet metal tools had disappeared. After talking to the boss about this, nothing happened to the guilty parties.

All of this mess has only the owners and operators to blame for taking solace in the excuse of the high operating costs. Too bad, I say! Aerospace and aviation are extremely expensive fields to work in and they know that up front. The problem is they make sure their salary is secured while the most important people on the payroll get the least pay and shoulder the most responsibility. The president of one company I worked for drove his Porsche and the chief pilot drove his Ferrari and parked it in the hangar, while I had to ride a motorcycle.

I’ve been interested in aviation since I was a child and always hoped to one day own and fly my own aircraft. Unfortunately the cost of ownership, lack of parking space in many airports and today’s outrageous cost of fuel and insurance keep many individuals like myself on the ground permanently. But the most frustrating thing I did experience was the flight instructor who was too afraid to let the students land the helicopter, thus stunting my own and others flight training. Since that experience, I have flown once with another instructor and learned that I can land a helicopter safely. That was back in 1990.

Paul A. Bass Phoenix, Ariz.

Our Mistake

You made a most terrible mistake in saying that Alliance Airport was north of Dallas ("From the Factories," June 2008, page 44). You receive an F in Geography.

Alliance Airport, owned by the City of Fort Worth, Texas, is north of Fort Worth. Amon Carter was an historic individual and mayor of the city of Fort Worth in the 1940s. When required to travel to Dallas for a meeting that passed through the lunch hour, he would take his lunch with him. He said he was not about to leave any money in Dallas. Many of us still feel that way about Dallas.

Joe Gray Fort Worth, Texas

Simple May Be Better

Years back, the art department at Reader’s Digest got a hold of the magazine and things changed: color where it wasn’t before, large letters instead of the same font all the way through. You were directed in some ways where to look, and what to look at. That magazine had done just fine for longer than I’ve been around.

The National Rifle Assn’s American Rifleman recently started adding color triangles to the top and bottom of the pages and enlarging the opening text on certain sections so you have less of the article and more headline.

Putting colored squares at the corner of R&W’s pages, whether top or bottom, takes away from looking at and reading that page ("New and Improved," January 2008, page 3). Your eye is picking up all these colored cues instead of letting you concentrate on the material. Those little header boxes on the pages telling you, "Commercial," "Military," "Products," etc. are not going to make me speed ahead to find that box color so I can read that feature. They’re distracting.

I can only speak for myself, but I read/skim/look at your magazine from front to back. Then the next time back to front. Then I might be start in the middle! That way gives me a few chances to view ads and re-catch an article I might have missed.

My point is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I’ve been reading R&W since 1981; it’s only gotten better. I am all for keeping up with the times, but I just think sometimes simple is good. Bigger pictures of the writers, color lines at the bottom of the page, larger headers for intros, etc. are different, but I’m not sure if it’s needed.

Excuse the long-winded note. Bottom line — great magazine and I am still reading it, and learning from it.

J. P. Vario Chatham, Mass.

Do you have comments on the rotorcraft industry or recent articles and viewpoints we’ve published? Send them to Editor, Rotor & Wing, 4 Choke Cherry Road, Second Floor, Rockville, Md. 20850, USA, fax us at 1-301-354-1809 or e-mail us at rotorandwing@accessintel.com. Please include a city and state or province with your name and ratings. We reserve the right to edit all submitted material.

R&W’s Question of the Month

Is the use of health and usage monitoring systems in all helicopters inevitable?

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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