Reliance on UAVs can be a bad thing (see “Training to Fight: Thinking Ahead,” April 2011, page 30), just look at what’s happening in theater now with regards to the U.S. Air Force and the number of “bad shots” taken. I’m a little concerned with Golson driving towards the UAV helicopter too much. For example, the statement on page 33: “The conclusion we came to then was whenever we can virtually place a pilot in an air vehicle forward, then we will do it unmanned.” The helicopter is a unique machine that requires manned intervention at all levels in order to be used in the FLOT/FEBA (forward line of troops/forward edge of the battle area) effectively. Even though a computer just beat two humans in the game show “Jeopardy,” and they have had great success in chess, I doubt if a computer can get an inherent feel of the battlespace in a dynamic situation. And this is where the helicopter excels.
The ability of a helicopter to provide point fire power/danger close and single ship rescue will never be mirrored by an unmanned helicopter. I was an LOH scout pilot in Vietnam and I can speak from experience that you have to have a feel for the area of operation (AO) that you are working. And it appears that the operations that we now find ourselves in Afghanistan are much like the ones we had going on in Vietnam. Tribal knowledge is vital to survival! With regards to hostile fire indicators (HFIs), too much time interpreting an indicator will have a negative effect, its intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer when you are being shot at!
Col. Clyde Romero, USAF (Ret.)
R&W’s Question of the Month— What unusual or unique steps do you take in your pre-flight checklist?
Let us know, and look for your and others’ responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information below.
In response to Keith Cianfrani’s November 2010 column, “Who is Teaching the Teacher,” I would say to him: Experience is no substitute for sound decision-making. Of course, I didn’t coin that phrase, nor do I remember where I recently read it, but its simple truth cannot be denied. I don’t see how it is fair to put the blame on civilian flight instructors for the woes of the medical helicopter industry, or for that matter, the future woes. I haven’t done any research on the ratio, but I would be willing to wager that military-trained pilots make up a large percentage of the civilian EMS pilot pool. So, if my guess is correct, should we then be calling into question the lack of good instructor pilots in the military? Are the majority of all the sad, preventable accidents occurring only with civilian pilots at the controls? I doubt it.
I’m not degrading military training, nor am I saying civilian methods are in any way superior. Where the industry should focus is on a pilot’s judgment and decision-making, and not on where the pilot received his or her initial instruction. And let’s be clear, we all know that once our initial training is completed, the learning has just begun, military or civilian trained.
How do companies teach good judgment? How do they monitor good judgment? I don’t know, but what I do know is that many accidents might have been prevented if for better judgment. Let us not confuse good stick and rudder skills with good judgment. Does the pilot who flies an underpowered aircraft in mountainous terrain who can repeatedly place an external load at the end of a 150-foot line inside of a five-foot target in 20-knot winds have good skills? Absolutely! Does that same pilot have good judgment? In most cases yes, but how do you know? In my opinion, one should not immediately assume a strong correlation between being highly skilled and making wise decisions. The problem facing employers is not where the pilot was trained. The problem for employers is how to identify pilots who will make good, sound, safe judgments each time they are PIC.
EMS Pilot, EC145
Falls Church, Va.
Saved by Angels
After reading “MASH Angels,” (See March 2010, page 44), I had the privilege of speaking to Mr. Kirkland on the phone—a very nice man. I told him of the respect I have for helicopters and the pilots who fly them. My life was saved when airlifted to a hospital after being electrocuted at work. Thanks to pioneers like Mr. Sikorsky and Mr. Kirkland, I’m alive today to see my daughter grow up. God bless all pilots.
The incorrect helicopter type was listed in the headline of a Uniflight newsbrief on page 24 of the April 2011 issue. The correct helicopter model for the Uniflight Rolls-Royce engine upgrade is the Bell 206, as listed in the main text of the newsbrief. We regret the error.