I'm sure every last one of you has heard about the argument of: When Does Pilot Flight Time Begin For Helicopters? It's a controversial topic that always generates strong feelings one way or the other.
The FAA states that as far as logging time on life-limited or overhaulable components, it's simple: Skids-off to skids-on. Some companies use a Hobbsmeter connected to a switch on the collective to enable tracking this function.
Pilot Flight Time is something else. In airplanes, pilots are allowed to log as "flight time" anytime their aircraft is moving with the intention of flight, both before and after. So if you're an airline pilot at JFK and you leave the gate and find yourself #30 in line with a ground-stop for Atlanta departures, all that taxi time is "flight" time, baby! Land in Atlanta (finally!) and have to wait 30 minutes for a gate to open up? More flight time, baby!
In helicopters, the FAA says component flight time (i.e. skids-off to skids-on) shall be used to measure pilot flight time as well. The nitwits in their Legal Department have even issued a decree to that effect.
There are those of us who disagree. Our (my) main contention is that the main rotor blades are an airframe part. Hence, anytime the airframe is moving, the aircraft can be said to be moving. Our (my) contention is that if the aircraft is moving, you can log flight time, baby! Furthermore, if it ever came to a challenge in a court of law, I believe my position can be successfully argued.
But like I say, not everyone agrees with me. They take the FAA's position and that's that.
Soooooooo...I was talking with a friend of mine recently. Said friend is working for a large helicopter operator now - I won't say which one and won't say what type of helicopter he flies. But on the phone he sort of casually mentioned that at his company they log "blade-time" for their pilot flight time. I noted that such a procedure is contrary to FAA policy.
My friend said that their POI "forced" them to do it that way. It's in their Operations Manual. His reasoning? According to my friend, in the POI's opinion, when the rotor is turning, a major airframe part is moving. That being the case, the aircraft is moving and you're meeting the definition of "pilot flight time" in the FAR's.
I was, like, wh-wh-WHAAAAAT? You mean to tell me that there's someone in the FAA with half a brain?? I was stunned...gob-smacked (no, not God-smacked, that's a subject for a different post). Knock me over with a feather. I was delirious, drunk with passion and success. Okay, part of that might have been because of the number of Rum and Cokes I'd already consumed that night. But still... Vindication! Validation! And some other V-words I can't think of right now.
At my friend's company, they still log skids-off to skids-on for components and customer billing. Logging "blade-time" for pilot flight time obviously means that pilots will "time-out" sooner on a busy day than if they logged flight time the archaic, old-fashioned way. Bad for the company, good for pilots! Needless to say, my pilot friend did not argue with the policy.
However! The opinion of one POI at one FSDO in some Podunk town does not settle the debate. But it's a step in the right direction, I think. Let's hope this smart, forward-thinking POI gets to become CEO or president or whatever of the FAA. He sure gets my vote! Do we even vote on such things? I forget. Anyway, good on him!