I recently read a very good blog posting on-line by Dan Foulds. The link is here: http://helicopterems.blogspot.com/2015/12/hoisted-on-my-own-petard.html?m=1
The gist of Dan’s blog was about flying defensively rather than taking it for granted that everything will be just fine between point A and point B. Most don’t fly thinking, “What if the motor quits?” It’s very similar to how many people drive down the roads as if nothing can happen or will happen. Maybe it's just me who drives a little defensively… maybe it’s simply too many traumas I’ve been to and cared for in my career that has made me who I am.
I can tell you with absolute certainty and personal experience from the back seat of a helicopter that engines do fail catastrophically. I can tell you my pilot flew differently after that crash. And that he was a great pilot to fly with before that night. It’s just different after an experience like that.
I think back to when I first started flying. I flew with a relief pilot who started higher than usual for very long and painfully slow short finals. In a BK, that’s a lot of shaking going on. I wondered why, but maybe in my naivete I didn’t think to ask why. Then I found out why. He once had an engine failure on short final. He was simply improving his margin for a successful outcome should it happen again. He flew defensively. It was also during those early days of flying that I learned why pilots do Category A takeoffs. This was reinforced at nearly every LZ class we taught. Inevitably, some firefighter or LEO would ask about why we wanted them to hold the LZ secure after we lifted and were clear of the scene. Every pilot and crew member answered it consistently with the same explanation
So back to the other day and the two drastically different takeoffs I witnessed. The first helicopter lifted, gained that 15-20 feet of altitude to simply clear obvious obstacles, and then did that drop-the-nose-down-while-flying-forward takeoff. A minute passed and the second helicopter lifted, turned slightly into the wind and then did a beautiful Cat A takeoff.
I wondered what the pilot and crew in each helicopter were thinking. I hope the second crew took notice of the different takeoff next to them. I hope they discussed it post-flight. I find myself wondering if the first crew ever knew that what their pilot did was different or is it their normal takeoff? A normal takeoff from a safe helipad?? I wonder if the first crew was ever taught about takeoffs and landings. I wonder if they think engines will never quit. I hope they will speak up and ask.
|Photo credit: Megan Hamilton|
Megan Hamilton – Co-founder of the Survivors Network
To learn more about "Category A" takeoffs - and landings - click here.