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Location:Texas, USA Naturalized US Citizen of Irish extract -   Fixed Wing and Helo trucker.Interests: "The Absurdity of Man". I am a proud supporter of Blarney, Nonsense, and Hooey. I enjoy being a chopper jockey, and trying to figure the world, people and belief systems out. I'm just not very good at it, so it keeps me real busy. I scribble, blog, run this website, mess with rental houses, ride motorbikes, and read as much as I can. I went solo 44 years ago, and I like to say I'm gonna get me a real job one day. When I grow up. ("but not just yet, Lord, not just yet") For my aviation scribbles see www.chopperstories.com.... enjoy! I wish you Peace in your Life. May you always walk with the sun on your face, and a breeze ruffling your hair. And may you cherish a quiet wonder for our awesome Universe. Life isn't always good. But it is always fascinating. Never quit.
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A Blip on the Radar (Part 24D) "I'm good. I don't need your help."
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A Blip on the Radar (Part 24D) "I'm good. I don't need your help."
A Blip on the Radar (Part 24 D)

Part 24 D:   "I'm good. I don't need your help.  Can't you see that, numb nuts??"





     As we readied ourselves for another Tuna Boat take-off, I watched my... (student?)(candidate?)(ward?) carefully. My hands were very close to the controls.  I knew, in my heart, that I didn't trust him. I wanted to, but bitter experience had placed me on guard. More and more, I found the thought of his flying alone off another Tuna Boat utterly frightening. I knew I had an uphill battle on my hands. My Boss was totally determined to have this fine fellow summarily checked out, and dispatched asap to the next available open slot on a Tuna Boat. That could come any day. Our pilot turnover was high. People burned out, or got into arguments with crew and captains.
The average stay out in the Tuna Fields was measured in months, not years. Frequently, it just didn't work out.

He wound the throttle up to full RPM. The machine quivered in excitement, as if it sensed imminent Freedom from the steel deck. She wanted to fly…
But did I? With him?
Now it was time to ease up the collective. Just 'ease'.  The machine was becoming light. She was almost flying…
Steady… steady…
All he needed now was to maintain a position over the same spot on the helideck, and continue to ease up on the collective lever.
But it wasn't to be…
The machine started to slither backwards, and instantly, as I had seen him do so many times before, he snatched in more collective. It would have been a LOT more collective, and it would have resulted in a lot more yaw, but for the fact that steadying hands came on the controls.
My hands…
I sighed inwardly. The Law of Primacy was in evidence again. What you learn first, especially bad habits, allowed by an indifferent instructor, can be the very devil to correct.  I've seen it many, many times, in a host of different manifestations.  A helicopter pilot MUST, at the critical moment, when he is really light on the skids, about to lift off, be shown by a good instructor how to correct for an unexpected drift sideways or backwards.
DO NOT… snatch at the controls. DO NOT…  continue the take off and 'fight it'.  
Dude, just ease down a fraction on the collective lever. Re-attach the bird to the deck.  Re-position the controls slightly, and try again.
It sounds simple, because it is. But a pilot who has NOT been shown this from the very beginning, will often develop a mindset which says:  "FIGHT IT".  The result is a tense take off. And the very fact that he is anticipating a "fight" makes him tense up, which in itself is more likely to cause… a sideways or backward drift.  The relaxed student, on the other hand, who has been shown this little trick from the outset, applies it instinctively. He ends up being a far better pilot, much more relaxed, and inclined to not be nearly so tense…

My hands… but what would have happened if I had not been there? What would this chap get himself into if he was allowed to sail on his own boat?  

We continued the take-off.  It was wooden affair. If only he would relax on the controls….
A good hour later, we had flown a series of ragged approaches and landings.  They were not very good.  Poorly coordinated. Lumpy. Frequently out of balance.  And the conditions we were flying in were borderline ideal.  He should have been doing well. The ship was moored, and the wind was just a minor breeze. But I sensed great satisfaction on his part.   And he was impatient with me. He had a tendency to want to 'high hover' in, using a lot of power. Instead of keeping the approach going smoothly, in a shallow descent. With a more moderate power setting. He was becoming strangely arrogant, the more he felt that HE was beginning to master it, and I, bloody fellow, was merely holding him back… When I did get him to fly a steeper approach, with a more pronounced descent angle, he was likely to build up a horrendous sink rate. Then, upon realizing his error, he would be inclined to haul back on the cyclic, and thus pitch the nose up, and the tail down. Now he was setting himself up for a tail rotor strike…
But of course, that was all my fault. If only I would "let him fly the helicopter".  Translated, what that really meant was:

"I'm good. I don't need your help.  Can't you see that, numb nuts??"

More and more, I knew I was going to have to resolutely confront my Boss about this Tuna Field candidate.
And it was to this end that I was making copious written notes…
Lunch time was coming up, and I suggested we break off the practice landings, and just fly around for ten minutes, before breaking for tsuh-wann.
He nodded, and commenced a lazy orbit. This took him past some nearby Tuna boats. Below I could see some of his mates come up to the helideck, and start waving.
A big smile spread over his face.
Soon he was setting us up for a "fly by".  Silently, without a word, I watched.  He was totally pre-occupied with his audience. He was waving like a Royal. Slower and slower we went. Now we were down to two hundred feet. The speed was bleeding steadily off. Fifty knots. Forty knots. Thirty… But he hadn't looked inside for a while now. He was half hanging out the bubble. We were flying doors off, and his arm waved gaily at his best muckers below.
Still slower. I knew there was an onshore breeze of eight to ten knots. We were heading towards the shore. He was setting us up for a down wind, low, slow fly by.  Alarm bells were going off in my mind.
But not in his…
I watched silently, and thought back to another student of mine. Arthur.  My friend of the "over backwards autorotation". Who I had let go as far as I had dared. Until I honestly thought I had better get involved, or he would kill us both… Another story.  I'll tell it, some day.
Twenty knots…
And still he hung out the open door, waving. A truly magnificent smile on his face. I wondered if that was how he had greeted the native villagers up in the mountains. The great Chief in the Sky, coming in his chariot, waving gloriously at the unwashed masses huddled below…
Fifteen knots…
We were experiencing the first bumps as we started losing translational lift. Surely he would look inside now…
The alarm bells in my mind were now jumbo sized claxons, with red lights flashing everywhere.
More bumps… a little jolt. A shake. A quiver. The poor little helicopter was trying to talk to its Master.
Hey Boss, I'm beginning to struggle here…
No reaction. He was totally transfixed by the figures on the helideck below. He had not looked inside since the air speed dipped below fifty knots.
Twelve knots…
The helicopter was shaking now. Surely, surely, he would realize something was amiss. I was itching to grab the controls, but aware that I should give him every opportunity to learn from this.
Ten knots…
Now it was getting to be dangerous. We had a breeze from our six o'clock, and he was holding two hundred feet. The aircraft was trading speed off to maintain height. But he didn't know…
Eight knots… seven… five….
The airspeed was bleeding off to zero. I was silently coiled like a spring.  The machine was now clearly sending signals that something was horribly wrong. She was shaking her head, trembling, struggling…
And STILL he waved the Royal Wave out the door.
Unbelievable. No clue. Absolutely no clue…
We were now seconds away from losing all airspeed. What was going to happen now was a "partial unknown".
For sure, the machine was so far above HOGE capabilities, that there was "no way, Jose" that we could maintain a hover. But the result would be interesting. No machine quietly and gently sinks downwards when it can't hover anymore.  It would be nice if that were to be the case.  If we knew that a helicopter merely maintains its heading, and gently sinks, when it loses HOGE capability. If that were the case, then many hundreds of deceased helicopter pilots (and their passengers) would be alive today. A pilot could then afford to ignore HOGE considerations, knowing that all he had to do was recover from the gentle, steady descent. It would be nice…
The truth is that loss of airspeed above HOGE can transform a hitherto gentle beast of burden into a raging, demented, wildly gyrating Chamber of Death. There is no Rule Book anymore. Nobody can tell you exactly what is going to happen.  But we can give you an approximation…  I stared at the airspeed indicator, now trembling towards zero, and thought back...

Memories of the past. Faces from the past. Accident reports from the past…

There was my Commercial License student who told me how he had crashed in the Swiss Alps, at an altitude of twelve thousand feet. In a Robinson R-22.  With his Swiss instructor.  There was still a haunting fear in his eyes, as he relived his story. He told me how they had been glorying in the mind blowing beauty of the mountains, and taking pictures. The little Robinson had been purring along quite happily, docile and obedient. Never a worry. Somehow, they had allowed themselves to become distracted. Somehow they had not realized they were flying downwind.  Trying to get that perfect angle for the shot, they had unintentionally entered the Forbidden Zone. Trying to hover way (way!) above HOGE capability. With a tailwind.  Ooh-la-la….
It had happened in an instant. Normality had exploded. Mind numbing terror had spun the machine around like a top. They had swopped ends multiple times, in a crazy, headlong, death defying, dizzying descent. He told me how he had been frozen in terror, unable to move a muscle, or spark a neuron. His brain was stalled. His mind mushed. He had seen the glacier coming up at them at a crazy angle, through the side window. The instructor had been fighting on the controls. Screaming in sudden terror. They had impacted heavily into the snow, which had miraculously cushioned the crash. With the helicopter lying on its side, the machine had beaten itself noisily to death…
He showed me the photos of the crash site. They were lucky. Very, very lucky to be alive. He knew it. He told me quietly that his instructor had stopped flying from that day on. Never again…

And there was the unspeakable Law Enforcement tragedy. A newly minted Commercial Helicopter Pilot, young, inexperienced, caught up in the flurry and excitement of his very first Law Enforcement "mission". Two fatals.  Slowing down. Slowing down. At night. Trying to hover… ?
Pre-occupied with aiming a spotlight at a house. In a little Enstrom…    Ooh-la-la…
And there was my bold buddy… in his little Hughes 300…. Taking photos over a lake….
Meeting Death when he least expected it. Along with his passenger. Same cause. Same, innocent, young pilot mistake.
Ooh-la-la…
Not good. Preventable. But easily done. Easily….

I stared at the airspeed indicator, now trembling towards zero…
The machine was already fish tailing gently, ready to swop ends and dive-spin-pirouette crazily for the hungry waves below.
And still he waved at his buddies below… and smiled…

and smiled…
                 

Francis Meyrick
     (c)

(to be continued)


Last edited by Francis Meyrick on May 6, 2015, 3:48 pm
We little humans, hurtling through the Universe on our tiny, pale blue dot, will find few answers to Life's great mysteries. But we should at least find many of the questions. To write is to ask. To seek. To grope. With humility, and humor. Peace.
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