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Friday, September 1, 2006

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Takeoff Profiles
As a Rotor & Wing reader, I’m used to grabbing good flight tips on these pages (I’m always learning). But as a helicopter test pilot, I should give you my contribution on the issue of the takeoff profile (“A Good Profile,” June 2006, page T6). A takeoff profile is not more than a path one must follow during takeoff. As with any other path, you can pass through it by different ways—I mean, fast or slowly.

Sure, you can take off with power fixed at the power required to hover. It’s a FAR requirement to establish the hover reference height. This way, the applicant shows an FAA examiner that he or she is able as a pilot to perform a takeoff at marginal conditions, hovering at all the power available. However, if you have power available, use it.

If one takes off using just hover power, the elapsed time to reach a more comfortable combination of airspeed and height beyond the knee of the height/velocity diagram will be longer.

It’s important to have in mind that flight low and slow, like my mom used to ask me, is dangerous. (She is not a pilot.) Performing an autorotation after a power loss during a takeoff procedure when the airspeed is 30–40 kt is kind of complicated. So, you must reduce the flying time under this condition as much as possible.

Using the total power available to execute a takeoff may not be always operationally feasible, due to such items as helicopter attitude constraints. In such situations, hover power required plus some power increment may be the maximum recommended for use. But, again, using just hover power will increase the time under critical conditions.

Staying out of the H/V diagram’s shaded area, you will be in a safe condition, but a power loss at low airspeed and low altitude is still critical.

Therefore, I recommend a takeoff profile different from that given by Tim Tucker. In my viewpoint, the safest profile is the hover-and-level-acceleration technique. This technique starts from a stabilized hover at the reference height. The rotorcraft is accelerated to the climb-out airspeed using the predetermined takeoff power and kept out of the H/V diagram’s shaded area. At the desired climb-out airspeed, the rotorcraft is rotated and the climb out is accomplished at the scheduled airspeed. Power adjustments may be accomplished to maintain the targeted power, except where procedure requires high workload outside the cockpit.

Lt. Col. Nilton Cícero Alves
Commander, Brazilian Air Force Test Pilot School
Helicopter Experimental Test Pilot
São José dos Campos, Brazil

Where Are Those Jobs?
I read with interest the bleak outlook of the rotor aviation industry for helicopter pilots and I see the standards for rotor-wing time is very high.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that a pilot must have a solid background in rotary flying skills. But I look at my own background, and the military in general, and feel that helicopter pilots will be even more difficult to come by with the number of hours required by regulations and company standards. Currently, with budgetary constraints and aircraft under flight-hour management, pilot flight time is being reduced significantly compared to just a few short years ago. Although some U.S. Army and Marine Corps helicopter pilots may see a bit of a boom in their hours supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the opposite is true for those units not directing supporting our ground-maneuver elements.

For those pilots unable to fly in support of current operations, and with little flight time to split between us, the simulator becomes the needed Band-Aid to maintain our skills. What most military pilots lack in hours, a majority make up in experience and qualifications—night-vision qualified (and, in some cases, instructors), IFR-rated with just as many hours under instrument as visual meteorological conditions, as well as experience landing in confined areas and medevac missions. A case in point: military helicopter pilots flew valiantly during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Many of those military pilots in command (PICs) had fewer than 1,000 hr. total time (rotary- and fixed-wing), flying side by side with civilian counterparts with massed hours. A second case in point: U.S. Navy pilots were flying off the decks of ships from the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group during the post-Indian Ocean tsunami relief. Although those pilots had never operated in Indonesia, they figured out what needed to be done and executed one of the largest humanitarian operations in history.

For most of the pilots in the group, the total flight hours ranged from 800 to 2,500 hr. (the higher end being our more senior officers). As far as experience, you haven’t lived until you’ve had to troubleshoot a mechanically failing aircraft in a remote landing zone far from the comfort of your base of operations.

I raise this issue to draw attention to the lack of hours with many helicopter pilots leaving the military with aspirations of continuing the dream in the civilian sector. I ask that you don’t look at the hours but, more to the point, look at the experience and qualifications the pilot brings to your organization!

Lt. Ron Martin, U.S. Navy
Helicopter Maritime Strike Sqdn. 41 (HSM-41)
Combined Forces Command–Afghanistan
CJ5 Strategic Policy


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