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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

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Student View--Me, Too!

I have just read the first installment of Simon Roper's "Student View" chronicles. I was particularly interested because it is almost exactly the same thing that I have done. I graduated with a bachelor of science degree in computer science and electronics and started working immediately for IBM in the United Kingdom. Around 13 years later, in April 2003, I found myself out of work in Spain, 37 years old, and with a rather healthy settlement from an IT company that could no longer afford to employ me. Helicopters had always fascinated me, too, but it was a combination of the challenge and the idea that I could do something I enjoyed, while at the same time possibly helping other people, that decided me.

I got in touch with several companies here in Spain and, in the end, went with one in Madrid near where I live. The asking price was 60,000 euros, which was much more than I had anticipated, but I decided to go ahead anyway. I started in September 2003 and after a long and torturous route and many problems (not least of which being the fact that I did it all in Spanish), I passed the final practical exams in May this year. Of course, I didn't receive my license until August (the administration here is a joke), and there are still problems with it due to the changeover from Spanish regulations to JAR; I am missing the R22 rating I should have and it is not a JAR license, which it should be. But I am now a qualified commercial helicopter pilot with IFR rating, AS350 (Ecureil) and R22 ratings (also 12 hr. in a HU500, but no rating).

Now I just need to find a job!

I look forward to reading the rest of Simon's articles. Good luck with the course and best wishes to him.

Nick Higham
Madrid, Spain

Are You a Test Pilot?

I have several comments with respect to Johan Nurmi's column on advanced autorotations (From the Left Seat, July 2005, page T11). Some key "ground truths" if you will, were never discussed and I believe the article, if read by more inexperienced pilots and instructors, does a disservice by spreading "gouge" rather than "actionable information."

Keep in mind I'm not a trained test pilot so my approach to this is to fly an aircraft within the parameters established by the OEM. Once a pilot is out of parameters, he or she becomes a test pilot, and frankly very few of us have the training to handle this--hours and hours of operational experience do not bestow test pilot experience upon an aviator. There are four points I'd like to highlight.

1. Much of what was written apparently references small or light helicopters. If you were going to present tips for a specific model, you should have specifically stated so for each tip. Clearly, some tips may work for specific models but not for others. Relevant data such as what kind of rotor system--semi-rigid, fully articulated, teetering hinge, etc.--are all critical pieces of information a pilot needs to know prior to making aggressive control inputs. There was no discussion of the impact of aggressive flight control inputs and how you may encounter mast bumping, etc.

2. There was no discussion of height/velocity curves and what that means or what info you can glean from this kind of chart. Is the pilot routinely conducting a major portion of the operation outside the area where the chart tells you that you can make a safe autorotation? What are the parameters and conditions under which you can make that autorotation? What were the conditions of the testing that came up with that chart? The reality of the discussion, I believe, is more simple than discussing "three energy fields." More relevant is understanding that an autorotation is a drill in energy management between potential and kinetic. At the end of your E-Ticket ride, you want as much kinetic as you can in your rotor system to cushion the landing!

3. The discussion of techniques involving quick stops, backward and possibly sideward flight in autorotations bears some risk to all aviators. I have found these techniques espoused among several low-time pilots and CFIs instructing in small helicopters and it is troubling. I question several of these techniques as they do not consider sideward and rearward airspeed limits, which are usually established based on flight controllability limits under both power applied and no power applied. Also, the author made no mention of potential negative aerodynamic effects of the horizontal tail surface most helicopters have. All you need to do is ask some of the old military instructors what happens in a TH-55 or a UH-1H when you try to go backwards at any appreciable airspeed. I know more than one instructor pilot being very surprised when the tail surface "flew" the tail down and the nose up further--not the kind of excitement I want in my normal day.

4. If you attend a factory school, they teach the maneuvers in accordance with information and procedures contained in the rotorcraft flight manual. And, oh-yes, here's another factor to consider (and don't be surprised, fellow aviators, the lawyers are probably all over this as well): what is the risk to a CFI that conducts training of these "Hey, watch this" style of autorotations and subsequently one of his or her students balls one up during a real event? Here's hoping you have Denny Krane as your mouthpiece (supposedly humorous reference to William Shatner's portrayal of a lawyer on TV).

In closing, I'd recommend all pilots thoroughly review the regimes in which they operate and know the equipment and limits. If you routinely fly outside of some established parameters (such as long-line, logging, bucket work, SAR-Hoist, etc.), I'd suggest you get with a qualified representative of the OEM that can come up with validated information and procedures to mitigate the risk.

Currently, I am an HH-60G USAF replacement training unit instructor/evaluator pilot type rated in the S-61R and S-70A commercial helicopters and instrument rated. I also fly civilian OH-58A+ and EC-120B helicopters. I have 5,000-plus hr., 2,000 hr. of them military instructor/evaluator time. I am slowly working on the civilian CFI/CFII and ATP ratings.

Lt. Col. Eric B. Greenblatt, U.S. Air Force
CV-22 Program Manager
58th Special Operations Wing
Kirtland AFB, N.M.

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