Every year I get asked a version of this question: can an owner use an FAA annual inspection on a turbine-powered rotorcraft? The short answer: You bet!
While an annual inspection may not be advantageous in every case, it is a legal and viable method to maintain the airworthiness of most turbine helicopters. Airbus AS350s, Bell 429s, and even Sikorsky S-76s are eligible, provided they’re operated as a private aircraft under FAA Part 91.
What follows is my version of the long answer via a brief overview of the annual inspection process: [Read More...]
From a density altitude perspective, what Miami lacks in elevation, it makes up for in heat and humidity. While shooting photography and video last month at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Air Rescue Bureau (Air Rescue), it was in the mid 90s and the humidity was so thick in the air that my videographer from arid Arizona looked at me and exclaimed, “I think I’m melting!”
Combining the challenges of this operational environment, the ops tempo, and the variety of missions that Air Rescue may be asked to perform, both human and machine are constantly tested at this county government helicopter rescue operation [Read More...]
For a man who sports a flamboyant Burl Ives beard and moustache that gives the impression that he sings Silver and Gold every Christmas, and for a man who focused on sales and marketing promotions as he worked his way up to vice president of sales and marketing at Dallas Avionics, and for the co-owner of up-and-coming record label, State Fair Records, Scott Davis has a surprising flair for understatement: “I have a one-line resume. I got out of high school and went directly to work here at Dallas Avionics.” When asked where he grew up, Davis, as if to emphasize a limited background, doesn’t answer Texas (That would be too big!), but instead he says, “I was born and raised at Dallas Avionics.” If this multitalented aviator, musician, and businessman only wrote his resume with one line, then Harper Lee only wrote one book: To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, we discovered that the Monroeville, Alabama, author quietly penned Go Set a Watchman, and maybe a few more surprises that will surface posthumously. [Read More...]
RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?
My first flight was at age 13 in a Enstrom. I lived near Ft. Lauderdale International Airport and handed some tools to a guy working on his helicopter. He asked if I wanted a ride; I couldn't refuse that offer! Fast forward a few years I earned my fixed-wing rating at 17, and a couple of months later I received my gyroplane rating in a McCullogh J2. (Yes, it was made by the chainsaw company.)
RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?
In 1987 I received a $2,500 grant to go to school. I had an interest in helicopters and was curious about their operation. I didn't intend to complete the course due to the expense ($130/hour) and I really had no need for a helicopter rating, however when the fund money was gone, I was having too much fun to quit, so I pulled out my credit card and exclaimed, “Let's do this!” [Read More...]
meet a rotorcraft pro
It may seem odd that in a helicopter magazine, we are going to talk about fishing. Not with nylon and hook, but with helicopters. Behind the tuna we buy in supermarkets, helicopters are critical to getting tuna from the sea to the table. And for those who love the sea and its marine life, this job is a perfect adventure.
Since tuna is such a popular food worldwide and commands a high price, the use of expensive helicopters is cost effective for commercial tuna boats that use large nets called purse seines. Helicopters are extremely useful for spotting tuna, since these fish gather in large schools or shoals to cooperatively hunt vast areas for smaller fish prey. Helicopters takeoff early in the morning and fly long hours before parking on the ship overnight. R-22, R-44, B206, and MD500 are the most commonly used helicopters for this type of fishing.
It’s not unusual for pilots with relatively few hours of flying time to join tuna operations. These jobs allow pilots to accumulate hours quickly, earn a decent paycheck, and work with fishing crew members from around the world while visiting exotic ports of call. It’s a bold alternative to the common practice of starting a career as a flight instructor. [Read More...]
Tuna boat helicopter flying
I’ve always felt the shapers of the American experiment from the late 1700s were not only exceptional, but brilliant thinkers. Their ideas and ideals still guide our success in the 21st century. Take Adam Smith for example and his theory of the “invisible hand.”
Investopedia says: Smith’s theory of the invisible hand constitutes the basis of his belief that large-scale government intervention and regulation of the economy is neither necessary nor beneficial. Smith put forth the notion of the invisible hand in arguing that free individuals operating in a free economy, making decisions, primarily focused on their own self-interest, logically take actions that result in benefiting society as a whole even though such beneficial results were not the specific focus or intent of those actions. [Read More...]
Helicopter Law Enforcement
Many of the helicopters utilized in today’s training market are equipped with an engine governor. The governor assists the pilot with managing and maintaining appropriate engine/rotor RPM to safely operate the helicopter. When conducting system failure training, the engine governor will be turned off and the pilot will be required to manipulate the throttle manually. In situations where the engine governor fails and mismanages engine/rotor RPM, the pilot may be required to isolate or turn off the governor. Adequate training and proficiency is critical in these situations. [Read More...]
What do you do when a friend asks you to build a helicopter tug for his aircraft? Well, the answer seemed quite simple for Steve Hill: he started Tiger Tugs.
Hill had a company that specialized in airplane tugs, so when he received the request for the helicopter tug he felt it was a natural expansion. Hill asked his friend about existing tugs on the market and why he didn’t purchase one already available. His friend listed all the faults of existing tugs. Hill went on a road trip to visit helicopter companies and mechanics to find out what worked and what did not. He returned with a plethora of information. So, his tug design began with the recommendations of the rotorcraft pros he surveyed on the road. Once Hill and his team felt they had a product ready to debut in 2010, Hill started going to industry trade shows to promote his new Tiger Tug. At the first show, he walked away with two new orders. [Read More...]
“But all twins are not alike”, I said to the air medical flight doctor who is very keen to make it mandatory that all air medical programs in America operate twin-engine helicopters. He replied, “I wasn’t aware of that.”
So, what are the differences? It all has to do with the weight-to-horsepower ratio of the machine and the ability to either land safely on one engine or fly away. Helicopters are categorized by the FAA as Performance Class 1, 2 or 3.
Performance Class 1 is defined as those helicopters with performance such that, in the event of failure of the critical power unit, the helicopter is able to land within the rejected take-off distance available or safely continue the flight to an appropriate landing area, depending on when the failure occurs.
To be operated in Performance Class 1, a helicopter must be certified in Category A, which is a design requirement meaning it must be equipped with at least two engines, and also have a certain number of safety-related equipment items, as well as redundant backup for control, lubrication, etc. Category A helicopters must offer the performance needed to guarantee that, in case of an engine failure, the flight can continue safely.
Under Performance Class 1 conditions, the helicopter can manage the failure of one of its two engines at any given moment while maintaining satisfactory safety criteria, especially during the takeoff or landing phases.
My 2 Cents
Sometimes a small airborne law enforcement unit can make a larger impact than its size suggests. The Imperial Valley Airborne Narcotics Enforcement (IVAN) Air Support Unit makes such an impact. IVAN operates within Imperial County, which covers the lower east corner of Southern California and is bordered by Mexico to the south and Arizona to the east. Most of the area is low desert with a few small cities and many thousands of acres of farmland growing many types of produce. The area is warm all year, but during the summer months it is always hot; temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees for consecutive weeks.
IVAN Air Support is a part of The Imperial County Narcotics Task Force (ICNTF),which originated in 1973 to combat local and regional drug trafficking and gangs. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies take part in the task force by sharing information and intelligence from many sources. The task force is governed by a board of directors chosen from participating agencies that include the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office, the Imperial police department, Imperial County Probation, U.S. Border Patrol, California Highway Patrol, Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and Homeland Security Investigations. ICNTF’s chairman of the board is District Attorney Gilbert Otero, and its commander is Mike Loyd. The IVAN Air Support Unit formed in 2011, with the purchase of a Robinson R44 LE helicopter. Since the program’s establishment, its chief pilot has been Donald Wharton. [Read More...]
Imperial County Aviation Unit
IVAN Air Support
Law Enforcement Helicopters
The Imperial County Narcotics Task Force (ICNTF)