Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Critical wind, LTE, and me

Winter's over here in Southern Africa. And apparently, we don't bother with Spring, just crank the heat and get down to it. Twenty or more species of birds returned on Sunday with more following every day. Now when the wind blows, it's refreshing in the way a hair dryer on low is refreshing while standing in full sun wearing overalls and a ski mask.

It is nice to have some wind again to fly in. The breeze cranks from the south until about halfway into my first scenic flight of the day when it switches and comes from the north, usually while I'm turning over a crocodile.

North winds make landing at the Xaxaba pad interesting, especially with a full load and DA over 6000ft. I came in on approach day before yesterday with a 20kt wind from two o'clock and did a go-around before I ran out of pedal. I had to go to 800 TOT and Gregory Hines the pedals to pull off the tailwind landing.

I thought about loss of tail rotor effectiveness(LTE) while doing my post-flight. The term was literally invented for the helicopter I fly. The U.S. Army did extensive tests and created the first literature on the subject. I still have lots to learn and because I went right into "real" helicopter work as opposed to instructing, I don't have a support group to discuss theory with over a cup of coffee while waiting for the next student to show up.

But this wasn't LTE, cuz the wind was right quartering headwind, not left. It had to be Critical Wind Azimuth. The Bell pilot operating handbook talks about the critical wind azimuth occurring at high altitude, be aware of slow turns to the right, out of ground effect hovering, etc. I can tell you that it's not just an issue in thin air or while hovering.

Those trained in American helicopters are taught to fear wind from the left and directly behind via the LTE diagram. Here's the thing, if you lay a critical wind azimuth diagram over an LTE chart, there is almost no good wind direction. Maybe a better way to think about it is wind speed relative to the power of your tail rotor. If the wind is cranking, take it on the chin or up the poop-shoot.

I didn't have time to over think why I was losing control of my tail, the cool thing is that no matter which issue you're dealing with, recovery is the same. Lower the collective push into forward flight and give it another go.

On another note, I saw a vervet monkey kill a page 47(you were right, Bridget, it was a crested barbet). Who knew they ate birds?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Billy Shakespeare, Sarah Palin, and me

I came to Africa with an above average American understanding of the Dark Continent. What makes me above average? My parents traveled Southern Africa a couple of times, I lived with a woman that tried to save a little piece Niger, and mom told me so. I knew about the kid with the flies on his nose that Sally Struthers wouldn't give a sandwich, the photo journalist that killed himself less than a year after winning a Pulitzer for a pic of a vulture, that Robben Island wasn't where cowgirls got the blues and I've asked an African-American working at Borders bookstore in Seattle to help me find a book called, "Nigger, the strange career of a troublesome word."

Once I made the decision to move to Botswana, I did little more than look at a map to refresh my memory. I didn't want to color my thinking before I arrived and settled in. But now I've been here a while and have read several books(from the history of elephant hunting to detective novels) and re-watched a movie about a coke bottle falling to earth.

So now I have a problem, I can't quite find the right word. Any writer knows that there are limits to what a language can do, that's why ski bums and eskimos have so many words for snow. Cream ain't corn and that's all there is to it.

For every German you show me that's jovial, I'll show you a thousand Brazilians late for dinner. Zulus don't steal because they're evil, they do it because one can't become a man by purchasing cows from his neighbor. Boys are better than girls at just as many things as girls are better at than boys.

The word "Racist" first appeared in 1936, referencing Nazi Germany. It has negative connotations and is horribly limiting. It doesn't revel in the differences between cultures, the reason to travel. We explore peoples, foods, and languages to find out how what a group holds dear makes them special. You are unique just like everyone else.

Korean Airlines crashed the shit out of several perfectly good airplanes before someone made them speak only English in the cockpit. There are good and bad things about peoples everywhere that need to be recognized, appreciated, celebrated. A discernist does that.