ED NOTE: This forum has been pretty dead lately. So I thought I'd post something that's been on my mind for a while. It's only 1,700 words, so don't get your short-attention-span panties in a wad because it's too long for you to concentrate on. Just read the damn thing. Or don't. Heh, might be a good experiment to see if there's any life left in this forum at all. Let's see who's still reading!
(Big Sigh) Well, she’s making videos again. Some of you know who I’m talking about. There’s this…woman…she owns and flies an R-44 which she keeps at her house. She lives in Wenatchee, Washington, just down the Columbia River from where I work. For the last couple of years or so she been doing cherry drying (among other things). And she likes to hang GoPro cameras in her helicopter and make videos which she publishes on her YouTube channel. She stopped making them for a while, but now she’s back like Joe Biden. Don’t ask me why; there are some things in this world even I don’t understand.
In one of her recent videos, she chronicles a short flight from a cherry orchard over to the Wenatchee Airport. The camera captures it all. And some of it of it is good! But some of it, well, isn’t. Let’s start with the isn’t.
One continuing beef I have with many of these YouTube pilot “content creators” (videographers) is that they never use a checklist. This woman is a good example. She goes through the entire starting and takeoff procedure in her R-44 without so much as mentioning a checklist, as if they haven’t been invented yet. She does briefly mention that she has a “flow.” Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of pilots make this weak, you might say “pathetic” excuse. “Oh, I don’t need to use a checklist, I use a flow check!” BS. Total BS. I disagree. The FAA would disagree.
“But Bob,” one of my snarky, smart-ass friends said to me. “We don’t always use the checklist.” I don’t know if he meant “we” as in “him and me” specifically or “we” as in “most pilots who fly simple, uncomplicated helicopters. Whatever. What you do in the privacy of your own cockpit is your business…unless…unless you’re putting up a YouTube video that might have FAA people watching.
Checklists were put on this earth, invented by Wilbur and Orville because our human memories are faulty. Even if you have a “flow” you can forget things. Trust me on this. And so if you’re going to put up a video of yourself flying that everyone including God and the FAA can watch, at least give lip service to using a checklist.
Moving on… This woman doesn’t even do the bare minimum of a pre-takeoff check. Most good pilots I know at least do a quick check of the instrument panel. For instance, many say something along the lines of, “Gauges are up, lights are out, RPM is in the green and we have plenty of fuel.” Not this woman!’
From the earliest days of my flying, it was drilled into me like Kevin Spacey drills an aspiring young actor that upon lifting to a hover, you DO A HOVER POWER CHECK! If you don’t know how much power it’s taking to hover *here*, how will you know how much reserve power you’ll have *there* at your destination (assuming similar LZ elevations)?
The hover power check is just a good practice. I insist that all the cherry drying pilots in our company lift to a hover and STOP! Then take a moment to look at the manifold pressure (or torque) gauge, and maybe even the oil pressure gauge. Note your hover power. Then take one last look around the cockpit and see if there’s any reason to *not* go flying. Don’t take all day doing this – it shouldn’t take more than a second or two. *Then* go flying!
But no. Many helicopter pilots use the “pull and go” method of lifting to a hover and taking off. Including this woman. I’ve complained about this before. In my opinion, it’s horrible airmanship.
The FAA seems to agree. They even published a SAFO (Safety Alert For Operators) on the subject. If you want to look it up and read it (and you should) it’s SAFO #16016.
In the video I’m talking about, as she is en route to the Wenatchee Airport another airplane calls on the radio inbound. This woman tells us about helicopter minimum altitudes. She says she likes to stay at between 500 and 1,000 feet AGL, and notes that right there she was about 700 feet AGL. I know it’s hard to tell from watching a video, but to me she sure seemed a lot lower than that!
When she landed at Wenatchee I noticed that her altimeter said “1,300 feet.” Curious, I backed the video up a bit. When she said she was at “around 700 feet AGL” (and about a mile or so from the airport), her altimeter read 1,400 - 1,500 feet. Wenatchee is not up on a shelf. She was *low*, baby.
Me personally, I like to fly at an altitude that will at least let me do a 180 degree turn back into the wind if the engine quits. If you fly at 300 feet AGL or lower and it quits, you are GOING to land straight ahead no matter where the wind is coming from. Don’t even pretend that you will whip it around into the wind, Mr. Yeager. That ain’t gonna happen. It is not good airmanship to get down in the trees, just over the rooftops simply because you’re approaching an airport, controlled or otherwise. There’s hardly ever any need to do that. I mean, it’s like masturbation for married men: Yeah, it might be fun now and then, but why do it routinely when you don’t have to? Unless you do. And if you were married to my ex-wife, you’d understand why one of my arms is disproportionately bigger than the other. But never mind that!
Okay, where was I? Ahh, back to the video! When she gets to the airport - *IF* she checks the wind at all, she doesn’t mention it. In fact, in two videos that I watched of her landing at Wenatchee, in neither did she land into the wind or make any mention of the wind. "Now, really Bob, does it matter in a helicopter…especially when there’s not much wind and you’re landing at a big, flat airport where having some ground-run at the bottom of an auto is really no big deal?" No, it probably does not – at least to lazy, complacent pilots. But it matters to me. *You* could land downwind every time for all I care. I just don’t do it. And *apparently* this woman’s attention to the wind is nonexistent. And again, that’s just bad airmanship. Hey toots, I’m from the FAA and I’m here to help: Hows about tuning up the ATIS once in a while?
Okay, look, not everybody flies exactly like I do, and I don’t insist that everyone subscribe to my particular fantasies, philosophies, procedures and techniques (which I might add are born from over 35 years and 11,000+ hours as a professional pilot). All’s I’m saying is that if YOU are going to put up a video on YouTube…if YOU are going to represent yourself as an expert…or not even an expert, maybe just some average schmuck who flies with a GoPro attached to his plane, then you better assume that the FAA is going to watch it. And me. Along with them will be a whole bunch of impressionable people who know nothing or next-to-nothing about flying and will assume that YOU know what you’re doing because YOU have a YouTube channel!
I know that there are a ton of people who love this woman…who think she’s the greatest pilot to ever walk the earth – on water yet! They ooh and ahh over her mad skills and kiss up to her like Leftists swoon over Alexandria Occasional-Cortex’s every burp and fart. And even I can admit that some of her videos (this woman’s, not AOC’s) are entertaining - especially those about cherry drying where her skids are down in the trees. But her procedures suck. Her airmanship is weak, bruh. And if *I* were going to put up a bunch of videos that show me in the cockpit, by God I’d pull out a checklist once in a while and pretend to use it.
I would say these things in the Comments section of her videos, but it’s not my intent to throw her under the bus in front of her subscribers and followers and potential customers. That would be needlessly cruel. She probably makes money off those videos, and I’d hate to jeopardize someone’s livelihood. See, I’m a nice guy like that! And non-pilots wouldn’t know what the hell I was ranting about anyway. They’d think I was bashing her simply because she’s a woman. Other male pilots won’t say anything to her, mostly because they don’t want to be perceived as sexist or misogynist, or maybe because she’s the Queen Bee of Wenatchee...and you don't mess with The Queen! But you jokers…I assume that most of you are all pilots at some level of experience and can relate.
I’m not saying that this…person…(and you know I really shouldn’t identify the pilot as a male or female… Please disregard everything you might have read above.) Anyway, I’m not suggesting that (ahem) “this person” should not make videos. I am saying that he/she should just be smart(er) about it!
So use your heads…use your checklists…do a goddam hover power check…do a wind check!...and don’t fly at 200 or 300 feet over houses. Me, I’d rather assume that the people below me hate helicopter noise and be wrong, than assume that they love helicopter noise and be wrong. Think about that. Then again, I fly a big, manly Sikorsky helicopter (which we call “the overcompensator”) which has a huge, 800-horsepower radial engine (with pistons as big as those big red Folger’s coffee cans) that roars and belches fire like the very dragons of hell, not some little pipsqueak Robbie that sounds like a ceiling fan on “high,” a swarm of angry bees or a Quadcopter with fresh batteries. But still. You know what I mean, amirite? Why make enemies needlessly?
I never do.
Edited by Nearly Retired, 20 August 2019 - 12:41.