By Staff Writer | February 1, 2008

Maintenance Bias

Regarding your recent Eye on Maintenance column, I am one of those airline mechanics ("Bristow Takes on a Big Bias," November 2007, page 58). I have been trying to get a job as a helicopter mechanic for 10 years, to no avail because I don’t have any helicopter time. So I have decided to fly helicopters. The companies hiring helicopter mechanics ask for specific training and factory schooling. How are you supposed to get that? Pay for it yourself? If I have to pay for training, I’ll learn to fly. Helicopter companies are so biased about airline guys it’s not even funny.

Chris Whitt Lake Forest, Calif.


Navigating in the Gulf

I read with interest Pat Gray’s debut Offshore Notebook column ("Stars in the Gulf," December 2007, page 58). I joined PHI Jan. 25, 1967 with about 365 civilian hours in helicopters. I remember during my checkout period having to make up a special chart based on a standard sectional and a block chart of the Gulf of Mexico with every platform on it. This block chart was gridded in, I believe, in roughly 3-mi squares.

That was grafted onto the water part of the sectional and became the prime chart for navigating the Gulf for daylight VFR, which is all I ever flew. Night flying was for emergencies only, mostly medical evacuations flown by night-rated pilots with Bell Helicopter 204s or 205s. Indeed you had only a compass, a timepiece, and that chart. Communication for the small helicopters, such as it was, was a Brelonix clone, PHI-manufactured HF transmitter/receiver.

Pat says: "Not too many years ago, a compass, a clock and — to a lesser degree — a map... were the only navigation tools available." I take issue with the implication that the map was less important. It was as essential to fly offshore. You simply did not cross the beach outbound without the map! Without it, you could not check your position as your compass heading took you near enough to a platform to see the platform identifier. When visibility was really reduced, as it often was, it was crucial to know what platform you were going by.

The map was not relegated to "a lesser degree." It was equally important to make a successful flight.

I hate to be picky but, Loran C is in the 90-110 KHz range, not MHz, 110 KHz being well below the broadcast band, even below NDBs.

Thanks for taking me back to the Gulf, which I left in 1972. I’m pleased to have spent five years of flying in the Gulf when it was as much fun as circumstances permitted.

John Phillips High River, Alberta

Please note the error on KHz vs. MHz was an editing one, not Pat’s. — The Editor

Fly Neighborly

I enjoy your monthly columns, Ernie Stephens’ writing especially. He is adept at bringing life to what many consider boring topics. He is particularly skilled at making the reader see things from a different perspective, sometimes making me do an about-face on an opinion I’ve had for years.

I have to add my thoughts to his most recent column ("Police Aviation vs. NIMBY," January 2008, page 24). The airport manager did a great job defending against the accusations made by neighboring residents, but that is not to say that they did not have valid concerns.

I live in a neighborhood 10 miles from the nearest airport. Being a pilot, I enjoy most everything about aircraft, helicopters in particular. You’ll find me looking up to the sky every time I hear something fly over. But for several months last year a helicopter would fly directly over my house several days a week at 4 a.m. at around 300 ft. I understand that pilot had a job to do. But you would think that common sense would prevail and he would regularly alter his flight path slightly, just enough so that he didn’t disturb the same people at that hour of the morning.

It is actions by pilots like this that make people overly concerned. You can’t fault them for wanting to protect themselves from that situation.

Gary Unterschutz Columbia, Mo.

VRS Vs. Settling With Power

Maj. Devasish Mishra of the Indian Army, in asking Ray Prouty about vortex ring state (VRS) and gross weight, referenced a "commonly held belief" that higher gross weights make an aircraft more prone to the condition ("Vortex Ring State and Gross Weight, January 2008, page 26).

The major never expanded on that belief, with which Ray said he disagreed. I think the confusion is due to the fact that VRS is often used interchangeably with settling with power.

I believe that while the lighter aircraft will begin to encounter VRS earlier, the same aircraft will encounter settling with power later. This is because there is more power (remaining collective pitch) available to change the rotor wash velocity and arrest the rate of descent.

While VRS onset is a precursor to, and a condition of, settling with power, it is not settling with power, which is a combination of conditions in which the additional application of collective pitch is ineffective or accelerates the rate of descent.

CW4 Steven G Kersting Jonestown, Pa.

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R&W’s Question of the Month

What are the most troubling or curious mistakes you’ve observed (or committed) in flight training?

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