After conferring with an Essex Police spokesman, we reported that the police forces of Essex, Cambridgeshire, and Suffolk in the United Kingdom scrapped a plan for a helicopter maintenance consortium ("U.K. Police Drop Maintenance Plan," June 2007, page 13). In fact, the Eastern Counties Police Maintenance consortium, a European Aviation Safety Agency-approved Part 145 organization, started operations in April and has been "very much alive and well since," said Sgt. Russ Woolford, deputy unit executive officer of the Essex Police Air Support Unit, who contacted us after the item was published. We apologize for our role in this erroneous report. — The Editor
In response to your July Question of the Month, I believe the biggest single obstacle emergency medical service (EMS) helicopter operations face in the coming year is the lack of true remote-area experience in their pilot ranks.
Vietnam provided a unique opportunity for pilots to learn about remote-area ops. Pilots who survived that learning experience are now retiring and the ones replacing them have had only two sources of experience. The first is what they learned in formal training, but safety constraints and insurance limits impose severe restrictions on how far that training can go in approaching reality. The second is what they have learned on the job as copilots and, hopefully, whatever the Vietnam veterans passed on to them. However, watching someone else do it is just not the same as doing it yourself.
In EMS ops, we have pilots with limited experience flying in one of the most challenging environments. It would be one thing if every pickup was at a football field. Many remote pickups will be at landing sites that the pilot has never seen before and may never see again.
You can accrue thousands of hours flying from helipad A to B, but that provides little in the way of preparing for true remote-area ops. On-the-job training is not the greatest training environment, but unfortunately it is all too often the only option.
J. Norman Komich
Retired Military and Commercial Pilot
At work today, my dispatcher handed me my copy of Rotor & Wing. I saw Pete Gillies’ letter ("AS350 Hydraulics," August 2007, page 7). What a coincidence! I had just had a hydraulic failure in my AS350. I agree with Mr. Gillies that the AS350 is a solid aircraft, certainly one of the most popular out there. I also agree that the AS350’s weak points would be the hydraulic system and its characteristics in handling when that system fails or is off for training.
In the course of my hydraulic failure, all the other accidents and incidents came to mind. I have a habit of constantly reading NTSB reports to learn from others. That information is gold if you ask me. I took no chances and made an emergency running landing at a nearby airport, with fire/rescue there to greet me. Everything turned out very well. The passengers were relieved, although understandably a bit shaken up.
I highly recommend pilots read the NTSB reports weekly to learn situations other pilots have been placed in. Fly safe!
Long Beach, California
Don't Forget Aerodromes
Congratulations to R&W on your 40th year. Just a minor complaint though. You welcome my good friend Todd "Stalker" Vorenkamp to the magazine ("Meet the Contributors," August 2007, page 8). Yet you neglect to list him as a contributing writer on your masthead on page 6.
Like many other helicopter pilots, I totally relate to Todd’s article about folks calling these beautiful machines airplanes ("For the Love of Igor Sikorsky, Stop Calling It an Airplane!," page 52). In my post-military career as a civil aviation inspector, I am responsible for all heliports in our region. I really empathize and I have a parallel concern.
In trying to educate the public about safe helicopter operations and their benefits to society, both commercially and for lifesaving, I am always championing our heliports as aerodromes. When governments or groups refer to "airports" and do not include heliports, it really frustrates me. When dealing with aviation in the big picture, such as traffic volumes and the design of approaches, we must consider all aerodromes, including heliports, blimp ports or water airdromes.
My point for the public and for us as aviators is to start referring to every place helicopters may operate as an aerodrome. Airport conjures up visions of runways and those funny things with non-rotating wings. Blah. An aerodrome is any area on land or water set aside for aircraft to land and take off. When we are dealing with public support for aviation, funding from private or government entities for aviation resources, and city growth planning, we all need to ensure that those responsible consider all aerodromes.
Welcome to R&W, Stalker. All the best in your second aviation career. And remember, kids, to hover is divine.
Civil Aviation Inspector, Aerodromes and Air Navigation
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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R&W’s Question of the Month
What has been the most useful new product or service you’ve encountered in the last year? The least useful?
Let us know, and look for your and others’ responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information at the bottom of the page.