We’ve been in the Solomon waters for a few days now, it feels like, and we’re having a whole lot more action than we were having in Tuvalu. The schools are back, or more accurately, we’ve caught up to the schools and that means more flying for me – which is more than ok in my book.
I’m starting to get a feel for the Hughes 500C which is nice for me, as a pilot. I like to have confidence in the machine I’m flying. I felt that the R44 (which I was flying for the last few years) and I were a very capable team, and I really love the 44 I think because it’s a solid, reliable and capable helicopter. Now, I know there are Robby haters in the crowd but I’m sticking to my guns on this – the R44 is an awesome machine. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t flown one, or at least flown it enough to realize what it is capable of.
The limitations? Low-g? Mast bumping? Any two bladed teetering rotor system helicopter is susceptible to the same things, the difference is the amount of flying happening in Robinsons by casual pilots led to a high accident rate. If all of those people had been flying the Bell 206 the stats would have been the same, just in a more expensive helicopter. The carb ice slip up in the R22 design…ok that sucks…but anyways…this isn’t about those helicopters, I got sidetracked.
My first flight of the day involves a daily trend check that goes into my report and log, watching the N1, TOT, and OAT and logging it all at 55% power at 1000 feet ADL (Above Deck Level) so that the maintenance team can track the trend of performance for the helicopter. It’s an interesting concept and I like it, it’s something I think every operator should implement. Greg Whyte wrote in his book, Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots, about engine failures and one of his case studies involved as AS350 that had an internal component failure that would otherwise have been entirely undetectable. I wonder, and I’m not saying it would have, but I wonder if a daily trend check would have given them some sort of precautionary warning to a change in the performance of the helicopter.
That’s purely speculative on my part, as far as I know they did do daily performance checks at that operation. Anyways, back to the Hughes 500C. I’m starting to get a feel for the vibrations and noises the helicopter makes now that I’ve got more time in it. Little changes in the hum of the engine through my helmet perk my ears up, or vibration changes in the pedals do the same thing. I feel those pretty well now that I fly barefoot. I think that is going to be a hard habit to give up when I go onto my next company and the require footwear because this whole “shoeless” pilot thing is pretty awesome.
A close friend of mine, we’ll just call her AP, flies barefoot almost all the time. I recall poking fun at her for doing it on more than one occasion and she gave me this sage advice that I’m going to share with you now. If you haven’t flown barefoot “you’ve got to try it, it’s the best.”
I think I owe her a beer when I get back to the states for all the jokes. But she doesn’t read this blog so she’ll never know she has one due (haha!).