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By Staff Writer | July 1, 2015

Question of the Month: What do you consider to be the last successful commercial helicopter put into service by Bell? Let us know, and look for responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information below.

The Weak Link:

I enjoyed your article and the history behind the single-engine instrument flight rules (IFR) helicopter (“Whither the Single-Engine IFR Helo?,” R&WI, June 2014, page 22). I submit that inadvertent encounters with instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) accidents in most cases are not due to the pilot flying a non-IFR-certified helicopter, but rather the lack of IMC flying experience. Most VFR-certified helicopters are equipped to handle IMC flight.

For a pilot to be comfortable in the actual instrument environment takes well over 100 hours of instrument time (either simulated or “under the hood”). It is better if it is actual time. How many helicopter pilots flying today have more than, say, 200-300 hours of actual instrument time?

The transition from visual meteorological conditions to the instrument scan required in IMC has to be second nature. The pilot has to be able to trust himself to fly the instruments.

Given the accident rate (IIMC) you posed in your article regarding multi-engine IFR-certified helos, it would be very telling to know what experience level and background those accident pilots had. It is clear that the weak link is the pilot, not the aircraft.

Having experience in both single-engine turbine helicopter and single-engine piston fixed-wing IFR flights, I have to say that it is not the most comfortable bit of flying one can do when one thinks about engine failure as compared to multi-engine flights. Though equipment prices may be coming down, how many passengers (read “wealthy owners”) really want to get into a single-engine helicopter to do a hard IFR flight with their pilot?

Steve Padget
Broomfield, Colo.
ATP MEL, Commercial SEL; Rotorcraft-Helicopter with Instrument

Engaged or Not:

I’m confused. Your web brief on the first flight of Sikorsky Aircraft’s S-97 Raider says the aircraft’s aft propulsor was not engaged during the flight (“‘Quite Aggressive’ Card Marks ‘Big Bet’ S-97 First Flight,” http://www.aviationtoday.com/rw, May 22).
But the accompanying photo seems to show the propulsor turning, and the video released by Sikorsky clearly shows it spinning at a high rotation rate. Was it engaged or not?

Israel Hernandez
Maspeth, N.Y.

Editor’s Note: Sharp eyes, Mr. Hernandez. We checked with Sikorsky and we’re told, from one of the pilots, that the propulsor was freewheeling in the photo and video and was not engaged. Thank you for the question.
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