Monday, September 24, 2012

Safety is no accident

We took the South African licensed 206 back to Maun two days ago. It will finish out the last 16.4 hours remaining before the hundred hour inspection on a elephant collaring and tracking project in Eastern Botswana. Then it heads back to SA cuz our company isn't renewing the lease on that machine and just when I was getting used to its idiosyncrasies.

Both 206's that our company owns have after-market tail rotor blades. The Jetranger is famous for LTE or loss of tail rotor effectiveness. The US Army discovered the phenomenon with their Jetrangers back in the late fifties or early sixties and literally wrote the book on LTE. ('Wrote the book' sidenote for the heli-geeks:My Kiwi-Russian mentor received his ground instruction from Wagtendonk himself.)

The South African machine has what Bell calls "High altitude," blades on the tail. They're basically just bigger but they do make a difference, though it's still easy to run out of pedal. When that happens, the tail rotor can't overcome the torque created by the main rotor and the heli spins out of control and if you live, you get to update your c.v.

The aftermarket pedals make a tremendous difference, which is good. They do take some getting used to, which is bad. The first time I raised the collective on A2-HAS, I would've hit the fuel drum with the tail if Vasya hadn't tapped the right pedal. I had too much left pedal in anticipation of the torque and those cute little blades with swept leading edges grabbed a bigger bite than I needed.

After the scenic flight, Vasya took me to a little clearing so I could do some hover work and get used to the different blades. A couple of pirouettes (moving the helicopter in a straight east to west line while spinning slow controlled circles at hover height) and I started to get the hang of it.

Instructors: If you really want to prepare your commercial students (and yourselves) for real-world helicopter work, start every lesson with a scenario that challenges your student's flight planning and decision-making ability. People try to overload ships. One's ability to confidently look at a pile of cargo, do some math, and say, "Either we do this in two trips or we don't do it," will keep him alive. Do lots of downwind takeoffs and landings, sometimes it's the only way in or out of a spot. Make them get into confined spaces with half an orbit, unless it's a government contract, no one's gonna pay for a pilot to do six or eight cirles at more than a grand an hour. Spend some time in the shaded areas of the H/V diagram. Autorotations are super fun but engine failures don't occur at the percentages we train for them. Train for what's gonna get pilots in trouble.

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