Thursday, November 12, 2009

Professional Development....

Darth Tater writes;

The first step toward respect for our profession is not union organization. You're not satisfied being a professional pilot so you want to be more like a teamster? If being a professional pilot doesn't get you a table at the Ritz, what's a union card going to do for you? The path to success is through exertion, not extortion. Compulsory unionization would kill our industry.

I reply;

Darth, I get the idea that you and I disagree on union-organizing of pilots employed by companies. Thats fine by me. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if yours is different than mine, that doesn't make me smarter or dumber than you. We simply see things differently.

In this regard though, I am not referring to labor-union organization. Here is what I wrote:

I submit that the first steps toward a respected profession as helicopter pilots will be organization followed by legitimate barriers to entry into the profession; such as higher educational and experience levels.

Again, I see similarities between where our profession is today and where medicine was a hundred or so years ago. They had "medical schools" popping up everywhere willy-nilly. Some were two year, some three, some four. Curriculums varied widely. Competing philosophies fought for a place such as Naturopathy and Osteopathy (They squashed the Nats and swallowed the Osteos). It was chaos and no one was making any money. More importantly to society though - the profession wasn't living up to it's potential.

Physicians organized. State Medical Societies begot the American Medical Association, and the AMA et.al. got government to change and enforce the rules.

We could do this. I am not a member of the PHPA, yet, but that may be the avenue forward.

First we have to join forces through a professional association, then we have to decide on standards, then we have to get those standards enforced. This for the good of the profession - not the good of my wallet. It probably won't happen any time soon; as the obstacles are many.

When efforts were underway to organize physicians, it was discovered that there were three segments in the population.

First, there were those who had lucrative careers and didn't see any need for change. They didn't care to improve other's lots, and create competition for themselves.
Second, there were those who were quacks, and didn't want to elevate the work above what they could understand.
Finally, there was the third group who pushed for higher standards and were willing to work harder to live up to them.

It's like that with us. I believe our standards are set too low. I believe the wrong people are setting the standards, and I believe that the people who lose - in the long run - are the people we serve.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Helicopter EMS Pilots Could Make Big Money

If we would respect our profession

Author: rotorflex Date: 11/11/2009 1:32:06 PM Show Orig. Msg (this window) Or In New Window
It would respect us back.

In OAH's post, he correlates medicine to aviation. It wasn't so long ago that medicine was held in pretty low esteem by the average person. The medical profession pulled itself up by it's bootstraps; and while they seem to be self-destructing now, physicians have had a great run.

Does it not strike anyone as ironic that the supposed experts on air medical transport are physicians? Their purview should cover patient care -period. Somehow they now weigh in on all aspects of a profession they know little about.

Airline pilots enjoyed a similar prestige for a few decades, but they were not able to enjoy the benefits of a "legitmate complexity" (Paul Starr's words), and could not create barriers to entry for their profession the way that physicians could. So now you can be an airline pilot with 200 hours and make $16,0000 a year. And for that you pay and strive for a long time. The conditions that lead to poor morale and poor performance within the ranks of airline pilots aren't created by them, but they take the blame for every misstep.

The physician"s "time in the sun" is coming to an end. Have you noticed the direct-to-consumer drug ads (which were not allowed by medical groups for many years) now advise you to consult "your prescriber" about said drugs; no longer do they say "your physician". Inroads are being made into the medical profession, and someday you may see a health care "professional" at your local Wal-Mart who makes $16,000 a year and gives you prescriptions for what ails you.

Flying a helicopter is a complex activity, requiring significant preparation, education, and practice. We have only ourselves to blame for the fact that we enjoy so little wealth and prestige for what we do.

It has been said that the first steps toward nationhood are a common language followed by a common currency. I submit that the first steps toward a respected profession as helicopter pilots will be organization followed by legitimate barriers to entry into the profession; such as higher educational and experience levels.

To borrow a phrase from the medical profession; "no one should come between a helicopter pilot and his passengers"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interviewing soon. This could be for you...

for what it's worth, here is my take on your upcoming interview...

The DO and CP are actually really good guys. The company is in the midst of huge turmoil right now, and the constant change has everyone trying to figure out what the heck is coming next. People are on edge - from the top to the bottom. Profits are down and heads are rolling.
All this means diddly to you - you just want to earn a paycheck.
Do your best during your interview. Study up on the CFRs. Be slow, deliberate, and humble if they give you a flight eval. Heck, do that anyway.

Do demand at least 55K to start, more for a crappy remote location. You might not get another raise for years, and you will be pissed when you discover that one of your coworkers who got hired after you is making that much, so impress them with your stuff, and hold fast to your salary demand.

If they won't pay that right now, be extremely polite and professional and let them think about it (and you) for a few days. If a week or two goes by and you are panicking, you can always call back and renegotiate starting salary. They are paying for your license, period. You invested an assload of time and money to get it, so don't give it away! This is the voice of experience speaking, I hope you are listening.

Remember that the people you are interviewing with have to pay peanuts (because thats what the owners dictate), and then they (the interviewers) have to deal with the consequences (the monkeys that work there). There is no pay scale, no union, no guarantee that your job won't change for the worse at any moment. Having said that, it is a paycheck that hasn't as-of-yet bounced. The job is mostly determined by who's/what's at your base. If you get there, you won't fly with other pilots, you will fly with nurses and medics. Don't be afraid to ask them to help you. And for God's sake don't scare them. A med crew on your side at an EMS gig makes life livable. A med crew trying to run you off usually succeed.

But I ramble....

Good luck and safe flights.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The best of Just Helicopters - THIS IS EMS

KLANK O'Matic "Don't Eat Lunch with the Med Crew"

Author: Klank repost #5/ Rothrhead173 Date: 5/22/2009 8:36:26 AM
DON’T EAT LUNCH WITH THE MED CREWSitting down for a nice lunch after our first flight of the day, the conversation turned to the morning events. “Did you get a load of the new nurse in the ER? Man, talk about green”, the medic was telling the nurse. The nurse smiled and said in a very loud voice, “I’ll get the Fully, the life saving Fully”. (I know its spelled wrong, but I’m not asking either. People been asking questions around here) I, wondering what this great miracle of modern science is, asked, “what’s a fully” as I take a big bite out of my sandwich. “It’s the tube that’s put in your dick that goes to the piss bag” the timid little medic replied eating her fries. The nurse with a mouth half full of food says, “Did you see the way she grabbed that poor guys thing, she grabbed it with a grip like my father in-law grabs the last longneck out of the cooler at one of our barbecues and shoved it in so far I thought it was going to come out his ass.” I think I’m full now.Mealtime was always a good time to sit and talk about work. It always seems to bring out all the most morbid details that one encounters in this line of work. I didn’t realize how much crap medical people have to deal with, and I’m not talking about paperwork, restocking the ship, and dealing with all the details of their job. I’m talking about real crap, somehow every one of them has a particular crap story that they have to tell.After some time in the saddle, I got my own crap story to tell one day. While waiting for the crew at the pad for an inter-facility I got a call on the radio to bring the something bag. (They name all their bags) Looking at the ship, I see enough bags to go camping for a week, I call back and ask, “What bag?” after a slight pause I hear “The blue one Klank” Ok, boy am I learning stuff now, wow, the blue bag, must get blue bag to the crew, stat. As I wander around the emergency room for a while, some kind sole takes pity on me and ask, “Are you looking for your team?” “Yes I am” I reply to this sweet little thing in her white smock with bunnies on it. “Their in the ICU”, I look at her with a glazed over look that must have been apparent, she points and says, “Just follow the signs that say ICU”. Ok, ICU, good, signs, good, follow good ICU signs, must get through with the blue bag to ICU to save the life of the patient, its all up to me.ICU, I learned is not a happy place, many sick people here, I guess that makes sense, never gave it much thought before. Walking down the hall, looking for the crew, I get this feeling of being unclean, that there are bad things in the air and its sticking to my clothes and I’m breathing it in. Must be strong, get the blue bag to the crew, code three. “Their down there honey, room seven” this rather large woman with kind eyes and a reassuring smile tells me. Rounding the corner in room seven, I see a curtain cracked open about four inches. I’ve made it; I can only pray that it’s in time.Sticking my head through the slit I saw what no person, in any profession, should ever see. Something so bad I cant, and shouldn’t even try to describe it, but let me try anyway. There was this woman, old enough to have babysat George Burns, lying on the bed, with a nurse attending to this little accident she must have had. Picture the changing of a diaper on a baby, and how you hold their legs in the air to clean a very messy number two. The nurse looks up at me and with the expression I must have had on my face, it almost made her smile. With a little smirk, she said, “Next one over” I will never be quite the same person I once was, I must regroup, and get the blue bag to the crew. This will be, after all, just like those things you see in combat, accomplish the mission and live with the pain, oh the horror. Carefully going over to the next bed, I slowly peek through the curtain, I see a flight suit, good, focus on the flight suit, and only the flight suit.“I have the bag”, I exclaim with great pride and sense of fulfillment, knowing that now I too have become a saver of lives in this noble profession. “Just put it under the gurney, we don’t need it now, but just wanted to have it, just in case” the nurse says calmly without even looking at me. “We’ll be about ten more minutes”.I feel the need to leave this place, this place of; I’m not sure how to express how this place makes me feel. I feel dirty, out of my element, and slightly dazed at the sight, sounds, and smells of this man, made, cold, sterile environment. I walk into the hall and first look right and then to the left, damn, how the hell do I get out of here? I was so intent on getting here; I didn’t pay attention to anything. Going to the desk to find my kind, caring nurse to get the directions I need, I see the nurse that I had the little encounter with in, now what is what has become, the horrors of room seven. “Could you please tell me how to get to the emergency room?” I say softly with a slight duress in my voice. She looks up, and with that same, you dumb ass, smirk of a grin, points and says, “Follow the signs that say ER”.Back outside, by my ship, in my environment, with fresh air, and no artificial lights, I clear my head, and think of what I have just undergone. First thing that comes to mind is the movie, Apocalypse Now, when the guy got away from the tiger and kept repeating, “Never get out of the boat”. I know, never go in the hospital, I hate hospitals, and I always have.That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve said today, hell who likes hospitals? Nothing good ever happens in a hospital, it’s always bad. Some would say, babies are born at a hospital, that’s good, well that might be true, but they make you take them home after a few days, hell they could at least keep them till they had a job. Also, what’s this no nooky for six weeks crap, I make one little off the cuff comment to the doc on how sore her jaw is going to be, and I don’t remember much about the next few days.I think if the hospitals did one small thing to improve their image it would make a big difference to future generations. I think if hospitals sold beer in the waiting room it would create a whole new feeling about the place. People wouldn’t mind the long wait when things got busy, husbands would volunteer to take the day off work to accompany their wives for appointments. (That would be a beautiful thing) hell men in general, would go to the hospital more often, and not just when their bleeding real bad, and that would improve health nation wide. I mean, how many of you would go to a bar that didn’t sell booze?Got off the subject, if there is on, ok, med crew, lunch, I’ve found that a blissful ignorance on all medical subjects is preferred. Most of the time they speak in their own language, and can say some pretty gory stuff, and as long as I don’t ask them to put it in a way that I can understand, I can enjoy my lunch and the company of the crew.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

KLANK's Komedy: "Night Shift"

Someone re-posted this to JH. Thanks to whomever. This guy was hitting this job on the nail back when I started - with a sense of humor. If you are offended by scatalogical humor, go no further!

KLANK's Komedy: "Night Shift"

Author: Klank Repost # 3 / RH173 Date: 5/20/2009 7:41:00 AM
NIGHT SHIFTFirst day back after a nice seven off, time to get my head back in the work mode, night shift this week. My normal game plan to get my body switched around to nights is to stay up kind of late the night before, with a heaping helping of barley pop, eating some jalapeno poppers that I squirt with Cheese in a can. Well its three am the British sank the Bismarck again (the black and white British version) and it was time for bed.Nothing like a good ten hours of sleep, time to get my shift bags ready, I’m a geographic bachelor for my hitch and after a three hour drive to the company provided pilot quarters, I will still have time to lay down for an hour or so before I have to go in. Woooo, a little gassy this morning, that one made the cat run and the dog give me a look of “Dude, stop eating the cat food”. Oh well, just a little air biscuit, no gravy. Something to settle my stomach would be nice, looking in the fridge, I spy six hardboiled eggs, score, left over from when mama made potato salad. That should do the trick, so I ate three of them and take the rest for later.Nothing better than a big cup of coffee with the tunes cranked to just below internal bleeding, cruse control set, beautiful day drive. Humm, a little bit of rumble in my tummy, as I do the butt cheek boogie, lean over slightly and Rippppppp, bounced that one right off the leather seat, I’d say about a 8 for effect. A little odiferous though, better crack the window and let that one go. Fly, be free, and away I go to my first pit stop.I always stop at the Taco Bell just a little over half way of my quest. The coffee has worked its way through and although the volume of my little gas problem has decreased, the odor has magnified tenfold, with a little more pressure in my belly. I make a beeline for the can, as I walk in I see its all clear. I hate having to use public rest rooms especially when I know it’s going to be loud and loose. In the stall I remove my pager from my belt, (ever deep six your pager when you undo your belt to take a dump) drop my drawers and prepare for a moment of meditation. Slam, as the door bangs open and a little voice loudly states, “Daddy, I can do it myself”, Ok son, but I’ll be right outside if you need me. It wasn’t that bad before, but now, in the position of evacuation the pressure builds. La, La, La, he sings as he flushed the urinal twelve times, splash, splash in the sink, four hundred paper towels, and then sink on, sink off, sink on, sink off. I’ve had all I can stand, and I can’t stands no more. Ripppp, Splash, Foosh, with the full echo effect you get in those little boxes they call rest rooms. I hear little feet running like hell for the door, Bang, forgot to open it, Bang, he swung the door open so hard it hit the wall and bounced back and nailed him on the way out. “I can do it myself Daddy”, ya right, hope he’s scared for life. Man I hate the one ply sh#t tickets those cheap bastards put in here.Two Burrito Supremes, but no coffee, can’t believe the coffee upset my gut so, and back on the road. The food is settling my gut, will be there in about an hour, settle in, quick nap and off to work.As I pull into the base I see some activity, cool a flight right off the bat. My co part tells me that we got an inter facility and the med crew is just getting ready to go, should have a good thirty to forty minutes. As I crawl around the ship giving it the once over twice, I get a real bad cramp in my stomach, damn that coffee. With the grip my bung hole has to keep it all inside, I’m sure it could crush a walnut, as I do the funny little walk that I’m glad nobody can see. WOW, Major Bowel Letting, woooo, I got sweat dripping of my forehead, and the smell is like a rotten piece of meat in an old boot buried under an old out house that is now used as a chicken coop. Oh Great, three sheets of toilet paper left, I stretch round and peek under the sink. Empty, Damn, I bet there are fifty rolls in the nurse bathroom but do we have any, NOOOOOO. Kleenex! Half a box, boy that’s smooth, need it all though, with the force that the oozing mass of fluid mix hit the water with, it splashed all over my goat smelling ass. Feels good to get back out in the cool fresh air, med crew on the way, ship looks good, nice night for a flight. As I help the crew load this poor old soul, I can’t help but wonder about him. Ten years older than dirt, eighty pounds, and all alone, could that be me someday?When done properly, this is the most boring flying in the world, everything went great. Got some time to kill, stomach behaving but still just a little uneasy. You know a soda and another hardboiled egg or two should just do the trick, so I go to the machine and get a Mountain Dew, pull out my bag and eat, aw hell all three eggs.A lot cooler now, about 2 C, beautiful clear night, plenty of illum and stars to boot. This is why I’m here, the crew is hunkered down quiet, this was their third flight today, and I’m just glad to be here.Grrrrumble, Bubble, Bubble, Hmmm, I can’t understand what’s going on, its been hours since I drank that coffee. Caution Light in my head, pressure build up, open relief valve. Man, I can’t let one loose now, the crew would throw me out if this is half as bad as that last one. Butt cheek clinched tight now, sitting up very straight, with my toes just barely touching the pedals, with about a five minute ETE. I’m ok now, but when I start my decent and have to start getting on the pedals, I’m worried that it will be running down my leg before it’s all over. Maybe I can wiggle out just a little, you know, just enough to relieve the pressure so I can land this thing and make it back to the john. Nice and warm in here, if I open the window the crew will bitch, if I try to turn up the heat a little, this damn bleed air heater is so sensitive it will blow us out of here. I’ll just crack the window a little bit, pinch off the top, and no one will be the wiser. Window cracked, lean ever so gently to the left and ooooOOOSPLA, BRAKE OFF, Wave off, Abort, Damn that’s going to leave a mark!!!! I wonder if the med crew will, Thump, Thump, I hear the pax windows sliding open hard. Over the intercom I hear a combination of profanity, religious and medical expletives, and something about my mother. Turn up the heat!! The nurse yells, not even using the intercom. I reply with, Close the windows. That is followed by #@$%^%#$@ and *$#@!$%$#!, Damn, and you use that mouth to eat with girl.Back on the pad not much is said, a few looks as they hurry of to finish up their work so they can crash out for a while. I wait so I can do my funny little walk back to the john, pressure really high now and I am in pain. Ahhhh back on the john, and yep, it left a mark, OOOOoh, ouch, that Johnny Cash song “Burning Ring of Fire” starts running through my head. And it Burns, Burns, Burns, Oh Sh#t, I was in such a hurry I forgot to get the damn toilet paper, Damn, Damn, Damn, now what? Extreme times call for extreme measures, lets see, 1997 May issue of People magazine, I was going to read that someday, wrong kind of paper, it will just smear it all over, Ah what do we have here? Trade a Plane, texture good, lots of pages, good. As I sit there ripping pages and crumpling them up, I just can’t understand how one lousy cup of coffee could do all this.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Helicopters Versus Healthcare

Close on the heels of the National Transportation Safety Board hearings on EMS Helicopters and the accidents they suffer, I can't help considering the unmentioned role that EMS helicopters play in our national healthcare effort - that of a "force multiplier." I don't believe anyone, at anytime, mentioned the extent to which helicopters act as a "crutch" to our deficient healthcare system.

Healthcare in rural America is in bad shape. Physicians and others, who possess the rational desire to maximize profit from their labor, often seek affiliation with or proximity to major health care facilities, as that is where large groups of better-paying patients can be found. The best doctors understandably want to work in the best hospitals.

Rural hospitals have limited facilities, limited availability of various medical specialties, and -most importantly - limited budgets. When acute (read - really sick!) patients present to rural hospitals, the staff on hand often decide to shift responsibility for that patient's care to a major metropolitan hospital. The reasons for this are varied, and sometimes have nothing to do with the patients best interest.

Sidebar: While the largest hospital in Florence, SC frequently receives helicopters for the purpose of transporting patients OUT, they strongly resist any helicopter service bringing patients IN. I find it fascinating that the same group of doctors who resist overtly and covertly the establishment of any helicopter service that will increase the size of the hospital's service area - since most of that population is poor and uninsured - embrace the same helicopters and crews when they land to take a patient away! This hospital recently gave up level-two trauma center status to "stem the flow". They have also excoriated a fine helicopter service in the press.

The movement of acute patients presents several challenges. First, the patients condition is often such that a lengthy transport by ground vehicle will greatly increase the risk of death or increased acuity - with corresponding increases in length of hospital stay at the receiving facility. Second, rural cities and counties have limited ambulance resources. Sending a patient to the big city might tie up one of a counties two or three available trucks for several hours. Repeat this scenario and eventually we end up with more patients spending more time in the rural facility.

This is where the helicopter comes in. Helicopter transport greatly reduces the out-of-hospital time, with the logical conclusion that there is a decrease in the risk of death during transport. I have to mention as well that helicopters, by and large - are staffed with both a paramedic and a critical-care-nurse. Taking nothing away from paramedics, nurses can and do offer skills and capabilities not available in the typical pre-hospital care setting. Very rarely do nurses staff ground ambulances (Duke University comes to mind as an excellent resource where they do). Transporting a patient by helicopter also means the ambulance does not need to leave a rural area (unprotected)for extended periods of time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Helicopter GPS approaches to hospitals

When a company, hospital, etc. wants to create an approach using GPS technology, they hire a contractor (STI comes to mind). The contractor "terps" the procedure by evaluating the terrain and obstacles and coming up with a slight variation on a cookie-cutter approach. The FAA does not flight-check these approaches as they do the ones at your local airport, with their aircraft and folks. I am referring to approaches to hospital helipads, often "point-in-space" approaches with a short VFR transition to the landing area. They terminate the approach at a PIS vice the helipad to get a lower MDA and a higher probability of breaking out.

Since towers spring up almost overnight, and buildings get built too, there is a need to periodically verify that the altitudes published in the procedure continue to offer safe obstacle clearance. For this to occur, the owner of the approach (or some other interested party) must provide an aircraft to fly an FAA rep. over each of the approach paths/segments. I got tasked to do this in Ohio a few years ago with Mr. Tom Bruchs (I hope I spelled that correctly as he is a heck of a guy). It was a good experience - if you get the chance, do it.

Per Mr. Bruchs, you don't need an IFR capable aircraft, or even an IFR certified GPS - but you do need a GPS that works. Having all the waypoints in a database does make things go faster.
You don't actually fly the approach as published - instead you fly slow at lower altitudes along the legs and note all obstacles (they are easier to spot from low altitude).

So, as you are motoring along, you spot a tower. You hover right up next to it, you listen to the nearest available ASOS or AWOS for a current altimeter setting, you verify the location from your GPS, you note the altitude with your aircraft hovering immediately next to top of the obstruction, and the FAA rep writes all this down on his data sheets.

They take the derived altitude of the obstacle, add (I think) 50 feet for altimeter error, add the appropriate altitude "cushion" for whatever leg of the approach you are on (the cushion gets thinner the closer you are to the FAF) and come up with the appropriate altitudes to publish for the approach. If nothing has changed, the approach as published is approved for use for another time period (1 year?). If there is a new obstacle, then a new text/graphic procedure must be printed.

If the approach you want to use has not been checked within the required time period, you are not authorized to fly the approach.

Now, if you are still with me, you will remember that I mentioned that obstacles spring up almost overnight, and flight checks occur but once a year. A prudent person with these approaches in his or her operating area might want to do a "self-check" in VFR conditions on a more frequent basis - say quarterly or semi-annually. After all, as I am sure you know, just because something is legal doesn't mean it's safe or smart.

safe flights,


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can we learn from this?

hgn crash pilot fault NTSB

Author: wasthere Date: 1/22/2009 1:07:45 AM
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND - Federal aviation investigators have determined that weather conditions and the pilot's lack of recent instrument flying experience contributed to last year's medical helicopter crash that killed three.The National Transportation Safety Board's official cause of the Feb. 5, 2008, crash of the Valley AirCare helicopter states, "The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control resulting (sic) in the helicopter impacting the water. Factors contributing to the accident were the pilot's inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions, the low ceiling, dark night conditions and the pilot's lack of recent instrument flying experience."The report was released Jan. 15.Pilot Robert Goss, 55, flight nurse Raul Garcia, 38, and paramedic Michael Sanchez, 39, died when the Eurocopter AS350 crashed around 11 p.m. into the Laguna Madre about two miles west of the South Padre Island Convention Centre.They were en route from Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen to the Island to pick up a 60-year-old woman complaining of chest pains and difficulty breathing. The woman was not on board the helicopter and was ultimately taken to the hospital by ambulance.The NTSB report states that a review of Goss' pilot experience "showed that his most recent actual instrument experience was in 1997 when he completed an instrument competency check in a single-engine airplane."The only instrument experience in a helicopter ... was two entries of simulated instrument time of .2 hours in September 2007 and .8 hours in December 2005," the report states.According to the report, the helicopter, equipped with a global positioning system, left the Valley Baptist Medical Center helipad around 8:40 p.m. It reported that it was at about 1,000 feet altitude when it was about four miles west of the landing zone on the Island.The National Weather Service said that a cold front moving into the area around the time of the crash produced winds of about 10 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. The weather service had issued a Marine Weather Statement earlier on the day of the crash, warning of possible sea fog with the arrival of the cold front.According to the NTSB report, the flight nurse transmitted the following radio recordings: "Uh, I got lights here ... Follow the uh lights out ... OK ... Follow the lights out ... We're in the clouds again. We're gonna abort. Transport patient by ground."Witnesses told NTSB investigators that they saw the helicopter's lights fall almost straight down, according to the report. The EMS personnel waiting at the landing zone on the Island saw the crash and called 9-1-1. Another witness, a resident of a nearby RV park, said she saw the helicopter's lights spiral downward and then heard the impact.According to the report, an examination of the helicopter's wreckage was consistent with damage from a "high-speed, port-side inverted impact with water."There was no evidence of mechanical problems with the aircraft's airframe, systems and engine, the report states.Sanchez's and Garcia's bodies were found shortly after the crash; Goss' body was found the next morning about 150 feet from the helicopter wreckage.The report states that the helicopter wreckage was found in 3 to 5 feet of water in the Laguna Madre. It was recovered by the U.S. Coast Guard and taken to the NTSB's Dallas office shortly after the accident.Goss was from Illinois where he flew a crop-duster plane, and worked in the Rio Grande Valley during the winter, Rene Perez, director of transport services for South Texas Emergency Care, said following the crash.Sanchez was from San Benito. Garcia, a native of Laredo, lived in Weslaco.The Garcia and Sanchez families have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter's operator Metro Aviation Inc. and South Texas Emergency Care Foundation Inc.The families' attorney J. K. Ivey said Wednesday that the NTSB report "confirms the findings of our independent investigators, that it was pilot error.""We are alarmed and concerned by the pilot's lack of relevant flying experience," Ivey said.Valley AirCare declined to comment on the report. Metro Aviation, which owned the helicopter and hired the pilot, did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Here's what I think....

Is sounds like the PIC was trying to fly VMC in IMC. It also sounds like someone other than the pilot was telling/asking the pilot "to follow the lights".

I wasn't there, and I don't want to be disrespectful.

Just wondering though, does it really matter how much instrument experience you have if you wait too long to use it? As for me, if I scew up and push to hard and far in crappy weather, and find myself in the clouds or fog I am going to:

Commit - to flight by reference to instruments. I will make the decision, and that's it unless I fly into severe VMC.

Climb - Wings level, maintain heading, climb power, climb airspeed. During the transition, turns can equal spatial disorientation so no turning unless absolutely required.

Confess - to ATC and the crew. "Guys, I screwed up. We are in the clouds without a clearance. I am flying on instruments and I am going to call ATC as soon as I get situated." I will use any and every resource available to me, including the warm body sitting next to me if there is one.

I ain't proud to be admitting this, but this event actually did happen to me 10 years ago. I blew into the clear at 5000' with sweaty palms, a dry throat, and tachycardia going on. At that point I had been flying helicopters on instruments for 15 years.

The sudden, unwanted transition to IMC is no cakewalk, but it can certainly be survived with the right choices.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

High Wind Heebyjeebies

So there I was - today, flying towards a rural hospital in winds gusting to 30+ on the surface and tossing us around in the BK. Frontal passage this am. Gotta love a BK in turbulence. Thanks to a hingeless rotor, the aircraft will occasionally jump sideways.

The pad I am going to is a small fenced-in ground-level slab immediately downwind of a multi-story building. Pretty much one way in under current conditions. So I get slowed down and plan a steep approach to clear the pine trees on final, growing up close to the pad. Who designs these places anyway?

We intercept the approach angle, and start down. Nice and slow, power in, ready for the potholes.

At about 300 feet the aircraft stops descending. Huh?

Okay, reduce power, forward and down. Lose another 100 feet or so. Aircraft stops descending.

It won't go down. Push the collective further down. Aircraft stays put. Getting bounced around pretty good now. Hair starts standing up on back of neck. Okay, we are obviously in an updraft coming off the building - what happens when we drop below the updraft and out of the wind? Or worse, into a downdraft, and the collective is almost bottomed out. Turbine-lag? Rotor Droop? VRS? Will it stop?

A little voice inside says "do a go around". I listen. Ain't messed with no mountains or concrete canyons lately.

As luck would have it, there is a big flat airport two miles away. We go there instead.

I heard once that a superior pilot is one who avoids putting himself in a position where he has to demonstrate his superior skills. Sounds reasonable to me.