In the Carson Helicopters S-61 case (see “Hersman: Public Use Aviation’s Orphan,” January 2011 Rotorcraft Report, page 10), you have a certified operator operating a type-certificated aircraft contracted to a government entity, so it isn’t a true “orphan,” just a single parent.
The true “orphan” is where a government entity is operating a non-type-certificated aircraft (military surplus). This is more like a street orphan, as there is no oversight in maintenance or operations, no requirement for certified pilots or mechanics, maintenance programs and TBOs are whatever the operator says that they are. No one is responsible for oversight. Most operators in the public use sector follow the manufacturer and FAA recommendations but without oversight.
Government agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state and local agencies have been contracting with “legitimate” commercial helicopter operators for decades. This is not a case to point fingers at public use operations as the “party at most fault.”
This accident occurred because of faulty oversight by the Forest Service. This is an agency that does not seem to be held accountable for its actions or in this case, inaction. The FAA most likely had regular visits to Carson as they held certificates in all of the major areas; Parts 133, 135, 145, etc. The aircraft they operated were civil certified. The reason they were classified as “public use” is because of the definition in FAR 1.1 regarding exclusive use to a government entity for more than 90 days.
I think that the Carson accident (see “NTSB: Weight Miscalculations, Improper Oversight Led to Crash,” January 2011 Rotorcraft Report, page 10) can be explained by organizational culture! And I would also like to share the idea that: “All helicopters should be picked up like an old lady.” Always!
Luis A. Martins
Brazilian Air Force/MI-35m
Could Mr. Coultas be correct? (See “Co-Pilot Disputes NTSB Report,” January 2011 Rotorcraft Report, page 11.) Perhaps, but that still doesn’t explain several of the findings by the NTSB.
Senior Pilot (Ret.)
Los Angeles County Fire Department
A flight that did not involve a hover check almost ended in disaster, circa 1970 (see “The Ever-Stylish Hover Check,” Safety Watch, October 2010 page 60). It was my last flight on the job, taking off from a confined area in the Canadian Arctic. I was so relieved to be going home after three months of work flying a Bell 47G-2. Up collective to climb vertical above the trees at less than gross. The right skid hooked a stump and the joy ride started—full left cyclic and heading for the trees, full right cyclic and heading for the trees. After three of these I was above the trees and traveling sideways at great speed. Finally able to control flight, I returned to the main camp and landed very shakily. I vowed never again to leave without the hover check and when I had a flight school this was one of the necessary checks students were trained to perform.
Consultant, Vega Helicopters and Gem Air
Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba
Responding to “Year in Review: Looking Ahead” (December 2010 issue, page 22), General Atomics’ Jeff Nash submitted the following list of subjects that he’d like to see in the coming year:
• Aircraft interior completions (completion centers and MRO in general);
• People (Who’s who at various aerospace companies);
• FAA Safety Team-related items;
• Night vision developments;
• Cool new avionics;
• Updates from AgustaWestland, Sikorsky, Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter, American Eurocopter, Robinson, Schweizer, etc.
• HAI events;
• Glass cockpit stories;
• Foreign operators;
• FAA & NTSB news (required inspections and accident findings); and
• Flight training and simulators.
Technical Writer/Editor, Specialty Engineering
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems