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Robinson Safety Course


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Robinson Safety Course, October 19 thru 23, 2008

 

Robinson Helicopter provides a Factory Safety Course which is held every two weeks thru-out the year. It is a very cool course, with emphasis on helicopter safety. It is designed around the Robinson helicopters, but would be beneficial for Pilots flying any type of helicopters. The class consists of four days of training; three days of class which includes a tour of the amazing factory, a flight in a helicopter with a factory instructor (either R22 or R44), and a final half day of lecture and test. This was a terrific experience for me and I would say the best $500 I have spent on my training thus far! That’s right, the course costs only $500 and I flew for 1.2 hours with a Factory Instructor with over 6000 hours… you just cannot beat it! The time in a helo would cost you that much, and the R44 I flew had under 4 hours on it… brand new! Unfortunately the course is usually full for months in advance, so if you decide to go, call soon and book a spot. There are only 70 openings in every course. You can get information, schedules and much more on the Robinson Helicopter Web site here:

 

http://www.robinsonheli.com/cgi-local/sched.pl?file=ssched

 

I will do my best to tell you about the experience, it will take some time so I plan to write a few installments over a month or so… Hopefully the guys and gals that were at the course with me will add here and there.. so here goes;

 

The course is held in Torrance, California at the Robinson Factory. Torrance is about 15 miles south along the coast from LAX. It was very easy to find with the map that Robinson sends you in the course packet. The drive is nice with not too much traffic for California standards and you basically stay on one road the whole time.

 

I rented a really nice mustang convertible from Dollar for about $180 for the whole week, this was the cheapest price I could find on line. It is interesting the way that Dollar works now, you go thru the line, do your paper work and they say, “go out to section three and pick a car, any color any car!” The mustang was pretty dirty on the inside but it ran like bat out of hell and I had a blast driving it. I kept the top down 100% of the time that I drove it and felt right at home in California! ☺

 

I chose to stay at the Ramada Inn since it was so close to the Factory. When you look on Robinson’s web site to sign up for the course they give you info on local hotels in the area with prices and directions, which is very convenient. I was thinking I would walk across to the factory, and in fact many participants did so, but it’s about half a mile so we ended up driving the car. On that note, there is an area inside the gates by the class door with about 20 parking spots reserved for the class which is also really nice. They do fill up tho so you have to get there early to get one. The room that I had at the Ramada was clean, but I didn’t find the guy that checked us in on Sunday to be very nice. Also the phones really sucked and there were only four or five good channels on the TV that worked well. That being said, they are close and convenient, and they do give a discount for the room. Mine was $72 per night. If I return for another course I will definitely stay at a nicer hotel, especially since I will have a car and it’s so easy getting around in Torrance. I believe you can also get shuttles to LAX from Robinson, one guy said you could even get a ride in a helo if you schedule it early enough and have little baggage.

 

There are tons of places to eat, some easily within walking distance. There is a Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel, I would rate it a 6 out of 10 (remember I am from Hawaii so i’m picky when it comes to Asian food). There is also a Pollo Loco right next door (fast food, chicken Mexican style, pretty good). There is a Starbucks about a mile south!

 

The course starts on a Monday and ends Thursday. The first two days are classroom and factory tours. Then on Wednesday some will fly so the maintenance part of the class runs for two half days.. if you fly early you come to the second half of the class, fly late you are on the class schedule for the first half of the day. They teach the same section both times… some pilots flew on Thursday so they had the option to make both of the classes which most did. Unfortunately I flew on Wednesday so I only made one class, I would have loved to sit in on both as our instructor Daniel was terrific!! If I return for another course (I know guys that have gone multiple times), I will request to fly on Thursday so I can make both classes. Thursday there is a short lecture and then a test, which is serious but most passed with flying colors.

 

Mr. Frank Robinson made and appearance on the Tuesday morning of our class and I was touched by his sincerity and honest concern for the people flying his helicopters. Every one was thrilled to see him, especially after seeing the factory and how it is run. The whole factory is simply amazing, and I’ll get to that later, But I have to reiterate that it was clear that it wasn’t about the money for Frank, but about the people; both the ones flying his ships and the ones involved in development and building them… he is truly a nice gentleman.

 

Much more to come folks, when I can get to it… in the mean time here’s a link to some photos of the trip!

 

 

CHAPTER TWO !!

 

 

The First day of class:

 

The first day started off with people gathering around the door. The very first thing that I noticed was that at 7am things were already hopping at Robinson. Helicopters were already on the ramp, many helicopters, the pilots and work crews were moving back and forth from one building to the other… it was clear that they had been there for a while getting things started. While we waited for the doors to open we watched about 12 guys doing the morning FOD walk (http://www.fodnews.com/article0q.html), while the rest of the ramp personnel were running up a couple of R44s. To our left were about ten other ships, R22s & R44s getting ready for paint.

 

When the doors opened we were greeted by Nancy with paperwork and shown the classroom. There was coffee and doughnuts in the entryway and everyone picked up their badges and visited for a moment.

 

In the classroom are 70 small desks, all but one were filled in our class. Nancy said that the past few classed had some openings, but mostly they are always full! There were three female pilots in our class. The ages of the participants ranged from 20 to about 60. With 50% being 30 or younger, 30% being between 30 & 40 and the rest over 40 years old (estimates). I was surprised at how many older guys were there.. and the ladies seemed to be all under 30.

 

The average experience level of the class was surprising too, most had around 120 hours of rotor-wing time (I expected to see many more experienced pilots there). There were some gents with much more time, especially the guys from Europe (about ten pilots; Germany, Norway, South Africa, Italy, Australia), but for the most part all were generally new pilots or new CFIs (There were around 20 CFIs in our class). The majority had experience almost exclusively in Robinsons, with a large number of those only flying R22s.

 

Our first instructor was Tim Tucker, he is the Chief Pilot for Robinson and has worked there for many years, starting as a test pilot on the R22 I believe. He has over 20k hours of RW and knew his stuff to say the least. He travels all over the world holding these same factory courses and had just returned from Greece. It was cool to hear about the early days at Robinson, and what they all had gone thru to get to where they are today.

 

The first part of the class we went over the history of the R22, and the changes over the years. Tim started with accident percentages and why most occurred. They tracked these numbers to improve safety. There are tons of numbers in my notes, but basically they all pointed to lack of experience in both the instructors and the students. The helo was also a bit underpowered and the blades light, so they increased the horsepower of the engines and added weight to the blade tips for more inertia. Then they created the CFI Safety Program in the 80’s and things changed dramatically for the better.

 

One of the things I appreciated most from this portion of the course was that low-g mast bump was actually fourth on the list of major causes of fatal accidents in Robinsons, not the first. Over the years I have heard horror stories of how bad mast bump is, and how easy it is to get into and not get out of. I was really surprised to find that it isn’t on the top of the list at all. The first being wire strikes, second weather (flying into IMC), third low rotor rpm (MR, not getting collective down fast enough after engine failure), and then low-g mast bump. So many people are afraid of Robinsons because of this fallacy. I know that in the past I wouldn’t get into one of them because of it.. only to find out that it’s not as bad as I imagined. (Now, that isn’t to say that you don’t have to be concerned with it.. of course you do, but that it’s not as bad as the uneducated might lead you to believe it is).

 

Another very interesting part of this section was the explanation of the de-rating of the engines in the Robinsons.. another illustration of Frank’s genius. This section actually has two parts;

 

First, the thoughts in the industry that turbine engines are so much more dependable than piston engines. This was true in the early days, when piston engines were ran at higher and higher rpms to get the maximum power out of them needed for helicopters. These engines failed a lot due to the stress from all the high revs. Now days, piston engines have the horsepower needed for helos, and they are much more dependable for many reasons… better ignitions, stronger alloys, etc. So, the difference between turbines and pistons are not that far apart when it comes to dependability. In fact, in ten years there has been only one accident related to a piston engine failure in a Robinson. (now, I hear the gears grinding in your head.. that’s not “engine failures” as there have been more of those, but accidents attributed to engine failures. There have been other failures, but those ended in successful autos to safe landings). I would like to know the numbers industry wide of engine failures, both turbine and piston to do a comparison. (The numbers that I wrote down from the class are: in a 5 year period there were 13 turbine failures in Bell 206’s, 9 turbine failures in MD500’s, and none in the R44).

 

The second part is the fact that Frank de-rated the engines from the start, that is to say, for example, the 540 engine in the 44 is capable of producing almost 300 hp at max rpm, but in the Robinson helicopter it only uses 240 of those at max performance (lower rpm). Most of the time you are only using 208 hp in the R44. Because of this, the engine manufacturer has allowed 2000 hours before tbo on the engine instead of the 1500 on the fix wing engines, realizing that it is not stressed in the R44 like the same engine used in fix wing aircraft (the fix wing run the engine at near max rpm most of the time). In fact, there is talk that the manufacturer will soon up the hour limit to 2200hrs for Robinson helicopters!! It is a no brainer that the engine ran at ~75% will last longer and be more dependable than one ran at top speed all the time. Not to mention the cost savings… Genius!

 

Wow, two pages already… well, there is no way that I could cram all that was covered in a few pages, but I wanted to touch on the most interesting.. I will get to the rest when I can.. but for now I will say that if you haven’t signed up for the course.. then do it.. there was so much to learn (and not just about Robinsons), and for the price of $500 you just cannot beat it.

 

 

Once again the disclaimer; remember that there was tons of info, and I took notes best I could but may have missed a number here and there.. please keep that in mind and be constructive with your criticisms. ☺

 

And if you’ve been to the course please feel free to chime in!

 

More later,

 

Aloha,

 

dp

 

Photos taken at the course here: http://s298.photobucket.com/albums/mm243/R...afety%20Course/

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Also the phones really sucked and there were only four or five good channels on the TV that worked well.

 

 

I didn't realize that there were more than a few good channels until I plugged the cable back into the jack in the wall.

 

Ditto on the rest. I had a good time, but the water in the pool was a little too cold fer me and the water in the hot tub was too hot. Maybe they ought to put the water in the hot tub onto the pool and warm it up?

 

And that Mustang was faaassssstttttttttt.

 

Later

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Yeah, you summed it up very well. The only thing I can add is that the sandwiches are phenomenal for the first two days at lunch. I had a blast out there, even with the Ramada being a 5 out of 10.

 

And yes, that Mustang did have a bit of "oomph" to it.

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I must admit I miss flying in the So Cal area. The course is great, been there. I too was amazed by the factory. One thing I was told about the factory is the air the put back into the environment is cleaner than what they take in. Then again, it is L.A. so that can't be to hard right?

Edited by JDHelicopterPilot
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One worthy note from when I attended(June this year)...

If you pack light/small(fits under the set of a R44), they offered a free shuttle flight back to LAX.

I have no idea if they still offer that or not, well worth the packing effort though.

 

Another note, the hotel across the street from Robinson(I forget the name) was the cheapest in the area, within walking distance and clean but that's about all the recommendation I can give it.

 

I'll second the comment on the course being one of the best $500 I've spent in a R44.

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  • 2 weeks later...

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

The First day of class:

 

The first day started off with people gathering around the door. The very first thing that I noticed was that at 7am things were already hopping at Robinson. Helicopters were already on the ramp, many helicopters, the pilots and work crews were moving back and forth from one building to the other… it was clear that they had been there for a while getting things started. While we waited for the doors to open we watched about 12 guys doing the morning FOD walk: http://www.fodnews.com/article0q.html, while the rest of the ramp personnel were running up a couple of R44s. To our left were about ten other ships, R22s & R44s getting ready for paint.

 

When the doors opened we were greeted by Nancy with paperwork and shown the classroom. There was coffee and doughnuts in the entryway and everyone picked up their badges and visited for a moment.

 

In the classroom are 70 small desks, all but one were filled in our class. Nancy said that the past few classed had some openings, but mostly they are always full! There were three female pilots in our class. The ages of the participants ranged from 20 to about 60. With 50% being 30 or younger, 30% being between 30 & 40 and the rest over 40 years old (estimates). I was surprised at how many older guys were there.. and the ladies seemed to be all under 30.

 

The average experience level of the class was surprising too, most had around 120 hours of rotor-wing time (I expected to see many more experienced pilots there). There were some gents with much more time, especially the guys from Europe (about ten pilots; Germany, Norway, South Africa, Italy, Australia), but for the most part all were generally new pilots or new CFIs (There were around 20 CFIs in our class). The majority had experience almost exclusively in Robinsons, with a large number of those only flying R22s.

 

Our first instructor was Tim Tucker, he is the Chief Pilot for Robinson and has worked there for many years, starting as a test pilot on the R22 I believe. He has over 20k hours of RW and knew his stuff to say the least. He travels all over the world holding these same factory courses and had just returned from Greece. It was cool to hear about the early days at Robinson, and what they all had gone thru to get to where they are today.

 

The first part of the class we went over the history of the R22, and the changes over the years. Tim started with accident percentages and why most occurred. They tracked these numbers to improve safety. There are tons of numbers in my notes, but basically they all pointed to lack of experience in both the instructors and the students. The helo was also a bit underpowered and the blades light, so they increased the horsepower of the engines and added weight to the blade tips for more inertia. Then they created the CFI Safety Program in the 80’s and things changed dramatically for the better.

 

One of the things I appreciated most from this portion of the course was that low-g mast bump was actually fourth on the list of major causes of fatal accidents in Robinsons, not the first. Over the years I have heard horror stories of how bad mast bump is, and how easy it is to get into and not get out of. I was really surprised to find that it isn’t on the top of the list at all. The first being wire strikes, second weather (flying into IMC), third low rotor rpm (MR, not getting collective down fast enough after engine failure), and then low-g mast bump. So many people are afraid of Robinsons because of this fallacy. I know that in the past I wouldn’t get into one of them because of it.. only to find out that it’s not as bad as I imagined. (Now, that isn’t to say that you don’t have to be concerned with it.. of course you do, but that it’s not as bad as the uneducated might lead you to believe it is).

 

Another very interesting part of this section was the explanation of the de-rating of the engines in the Robinsons.. another illustration of Frank’s genius. This section actually has two parts;

 

First, the thoughts in the industry that turbine engines are so much more dependable than piston engines. This was true in the early days, when piston engines were ran at higher and higher rpms to get the maximum power out of them needed for helicopters. These engines failed a lot due to the stress from all the high revs. Now days, piston engines have the horsepower needed for helos, and they are much more dependable for many reasons… better ignitions, stronger alloys, etc. So, the difference between turbines and pistons are not that far apart when it comes to dependability. In fact, in ten years there has been only one accident related to a piston engine failure in a Robinson. (now, I hear the gears grinding in your head.. that’s not “engine failures” as there have been more of those, but accidents attributed to engine failures. There have been other failures, but those ended in successful autos to safe landings). I would like to know the numbers industry wide of engine failures, both turbine and piston to do a comparison. (The numbers that I wrote down from the class are: in a 5 year period there were 13 turbine failures in Bell 206’s, 9 turbine failures in MD500’s, and none in the R44).

 

The second part is the fact that Frank de-rated the engines from the start, that is to say, for example, the 540 engine in the 44 is capable of producing almost 300 hp at max rpm, but in the Robinson helicopter it only uses 240 of those at max performance (lower rpm). Most of the time you are only using 208 hp in the R44. Because of this, the engine manufacturer has allowed 2000 hours before tbo on the engine instead of the 1500 on the fix wing engines, realizing that it is not stressed in the R44 like the same engine used in fix wing aircraft (the fix wing run the engine at near max rpm most of the time). In fact, there is talk that the manufacturer will soon up the hour limit to 2200hrs for Robinson helicopters!! It is a no brainer that the engine ran at ~75% will last longer and be more dependable than one ran at top speed all the time. Not to mention the cost savings… Genius!

 

Wow, two pages already… well, there is no way that I could cram all that was covered in a few pages, but I wanted to touch on the most interesting.. I will get to the rest when I can.. but for now I will say that if you haven’t signed up for the course.. then do it.. there was so much to learn (and not just about Robinsons), and for the price of $500 you just cannot beat it.

 

 

Once again the disclaimer; remember that there was tons of info, and I took notes best I could but may have missed a number here and there.. please keep that in mind and be constructive with your criticisms. ☺

 

And if you’ve been to the course please feel free to chime in!

 

More later,

 

Aloha,

 

dp

 

Photos taken at the course here: http://s298.photobucket.com/albums/mm243/R...afety%20Course/

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dp,

 

You are right on about the mast bumping and MR seperation. Many were suprised it's not a number one cause of accidents. After all it's talked about greatly. A lot of that happened early on. The reason is lack of understanding of a light weight underslung system. So they came out with the SFAR 73. When that first came out CFI's were actualy required to demonstrate Low G. Which we all know can lead to mast bumping and MR seperation if not corrected properly. As a result the accidents continued. Now a days they are not allowed to demonstrate Low G only discuss it. Since, accidents of that type have gone down greatly. It's very rare you will get into a great enough Low G which will result in mast bump. Avoiding severe weather/high winds and turb. help a lot. So does aft cyclic of course.

 

Obstructions and weather will be number one in the industry and may always be. I only hope we can reduce the numbers with better decision making.

 

I'd love to hear more about the course. It sounds just like it was when I did it. The reason so many young pilots with low time are there is because it is normaly required in order to flight instruct. This is an insurance requirement. Since there is such a long wait time most schools tell their students to sign up as soon as the have their PVT or close to it.

 

Keep the info coming. For those who haven't done the course and don't plan to, I hope you change your mind. It's well worth it and the factory is amazing!

Edited by JDHelicopterPilot
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