Thursday, March 1, 2007
We incorrectly reported that Aerolite was doing the completion of an EC145 for MedLink Air in La Crosse, Wisc. ("More Safety and Power, Less Fuel and Noise," September 2006, page 40). In fact, Helicopter Specialities, Inc., a completion and maintenance facility in Janesville, Wisc., near Chicago, is completing that aircraft, which is to fly for Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse. MedLink Air tells us Helicopter Specialities is doing so with a combination of Aerolite products and its own products. We apologize for the error. — The Editor
Chinooks for CSAR?
Regarding the U.S. Air Force’s choice of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook as its next-generation combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopter, the Chinook is a proven, capable aircraft. It can hover out of ground effect at 15,000 ft with a nominal mission payload. That’s awesome. It’s also as big as a Greyhound bus. It won’t fit inside some smaller fire bases, on most rooftop helipads, on the back of a single-spot frigate, or in transient parking at many civil airports.
Did the CSAR program managers consider outfitting combat rescue units with both Chinooks and the current Pave Hawks? Eight HH-60s plus four HH-47s equal 12 "primary aircraft inventory" squadrons. It might give unit commanders a much-needed flexibility as they attempt to support all taskings, in every imaginable environment.
Helinet Aviation Services
Pilot, 129th Rescue Sqdn., California Air National Guard
Van Nuys, Calif.
The USAF has chosen the wrong aircraft by a mile! I have flown both the CH-47 and the AgustaWestland EH101 operationally and both aircraft bring their own virtues. The CH-47 is the best at moving your house or 40-plus troops, but it is nowhere near as fast, quiet, reliable, economic, or bad-weather capable as an EH101. Given the likely task of a CSAR mission, the CH-47 is patently not the aircraft of choice.
The other major and mission-significant advantage of the EH101 is its capability to deploy in a C-17 and get flying within 1 hr of the transport’s touchdown with no risk of unserviceability. Once the U.S. Marine Corps are flying their US101s as the VH-71 presidential helicopter, the Air Force will be crying in their beers!
I think the Chinook will make the Air Force a great CSAR aircraft. I am a retired U.S. Master Army Aviator rated in the Chinook. It was my Vietnam aircraft. The Chinook performed all missions we asked it to — internal and external loads, troop lifts, combat emergency operations, aeromedical, day and night in instrument conditions, aided and unaided night missions.
Some missions were not flown "by the book," but it performed those missions as well. The Chinook is a real man’s aircraft, easy to maintain and fly.
I am also rated in the CH-54. The Chinook out-performs the CH-54. The Chinook can perform multiple missions with ease. Ask the Army’s Delta Force. I am sure Air Force crewmembers will feel the same way I do about the new Chinook – a great machine for today’s CSAR mission.
CW5 Larry Burbank, U.S. Army (retired)
A Few Steps More
I would like to comment on your recent article ("A Few Steps More," September 2006, page 30).
I admit there are many systems (health and usage monitoring, enhanced ground-proximity warning, traffic-alert/collision-avoidance, powerline-detection, etc.) that have made great contributions to flight safety, especially for single-pilot operations (in which the pilot has a heavy burden and liability on his or her shoulders). However, I must point out that flight safety should be considered as a human-led issue, not a technology-led one.
Relying on your systems is essential, as is having enough training with your systems to ensure a good interface and coordination with them.
Since a human still (and fortunately) moves the cyclic and pulls the collective, we should never forget that "to err is human." I am sure that a well-trained pilot who has a sound understanding of flight safety would use the systems mentioned above effectively.
The bottom line is you could build a super airframe, a super powerplant, super avionics and systems, but not a super pilot (except those from the planet Krypton).
I am adamant in my belief that training the pilot to improve his or her skills, decision-making and understanding of flight safety is the most important priority for this industry.
I am optimistic about the efforts to make the helicopter accident rate a downward trend. Losing a friend in a crash is the most terrible and unforgettable experience of my life. Rotor & Wing continues to give good information about flight safety. I really thank everybody who contributes to cutting down the chronic helicopter accident rate.
Fixed- and Rotary-Wing Army Aviator
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R&W’s Question of the Month
Do you sense a permanent change in the helicopter industry that will make downturns less frequent and severe?
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.