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Landing on a ship at sea?


permison
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I have a contract opportunity that has landed in my lap through a friend which would have me flying a small helicopter (R22 or Schwitzer) off a ship at sea. I've never done this before but the contract would pay for me to be trained. For those of you who have done this what training did you get? Where and what was flying off a ship like? This would be something like working with tuna boats.

Permison

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I have done some flying off ships. Not very tough, but these ships have huge helidecks. They are usually pointed into the wind and the deck has been in front, so always a crosswind approach. I recieved no special training. They are a little tricky to pick up and set down on if the ship is doing much pitching and rolling. I really enjoy going to ships as they always have nice accomodations and good food. Now barges...

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Boat flying is just like everything else in this business. Once you get the hang of it, it’s no biggie. However, one should NEVER become complacent no matter what you’re doing…. This is extremely true for boat operations.

 

My initial training for tuna boat flying (with a 500 on a 250' Martinach(sp?)) was essentially, “go do it”. Although, I was mentored by an experienced tuna boat pilot, all of my training flights were conducted over the ground. Basically, we did simulating deck landings to the ground. This was due to restricted helicopter operations while the boat was in the port.

 

While I consider deck landings in the top 3 most difficult things I’ve done with a helicopter, after a while, it did become routine. To a newcomer, these are a few things I’d suggest based on my opinion rooted though my experience.

 

If you have the ability to practice, these are a few things I taught to aspiring boat pilots (disclaimer; the information below is to be used at your own risk).

 

• Shoot an approach to a predetermined designated spot and land the helicopter without hovering. Meaning, as you approach the spot continue to lower the collective and when you contact the surface lower the collective completely. Sounds easy, but for most, it takes getting used to because our automatic desire to hover. The reason for this is, hovering around a pitching/rolling deck can be fatal. At the termination of the approach to the deck, you need to get the helicopter on the deck and strapped down. If the helicopter starts to slide because of the boat pitching or rolling DO NOT raise the collective. Repeat, DO NOT raise the collective. This is critical as this creates a potential for roll-over, ground (deck) resonance and/or (if deck crew are present which they should be) personnel rotor blade contact. How critical is this? We manufactured collective locks which we engaged once the helicopter was on the deck. With the lock engaged, I could take my hand off the collective to eliminate any temptation to “yank” off the machine off the deck.

 

• Practice down-wind and x-wind approaches. If you’re quizzy about down wind approaches I suggest on passing on boat op’s.

 

• If you have a large body of water near you, go out on a windy day and hover directly over the water at a height of approximately 20 feet. Do this with a shoreline out in front of you within 3 to 4 rotor diameters of your hover point. Here, you get an idea of the disorientation which occurs operating over what appears to be moving water. You’ll fight off the disorientation by focusing on the shoreline or better said *your reference*. Every once and a while look down at the water and you’ll see the need for a reference point. Out at sea, the reference IS the deck. The sea IS the moving water so don’t focus on it. When landing on a pitching/rolling deck you concentrate on what you see between your feet. Not on the horizon. Get used to this… And setting the helicopter down nice and soft, forgetaboutit........

 

• Practice max performance x-wind take-offs by pulling max power. Yes, up to the red line, every time. When departing off a boat you must get away from the boat as quickly as possible and off the starboard or port side (depending on deck set-up). You don’t want to depart out over the stern because if you have an issue, you’ll be setting down in front of the approaching boat. Not good.

 

• Prior to heading out, tell whoever is in charge, “when the sun hits the horizon I’m landing either in the water or on the boat, it’s up to you to have the boat under me. Otherwise, we can take the time to hoist it out of the water hopefully not damaging it in the process. And, that’s if it stays afloat. Same goes for fuel”. For the 500 it was 2 hours. I told the Captain, after 2 hours I’m landing and it’s up to you to have to boat under me. Thankfully, he did.

 

Please consider this as what would be considered as the first baby-steps to LEARNING boat ops.

 

Fee free to email me if you have any specific questions and I'll to my best to help in any way I can.

 

Good luck.

Edited by Spike
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I have a contract opportunity that has landed in my lap through a friend which would have me flying a small helicopter (R22 or Schwitzer) off a ship at sea. I've never done this before but the contract would pay for me to be trained. For those of you who have done this what training did you get? Where and what was flying off a ship like? This would be something like working with tuna boats.

Permison

 

Get some actual training from somebody who has actually done it. There's a very good reason that Navy wings are gold.

 

I've landed on boats, barges, and and ships up to super tankers, and yes, some of the big boats, on a calm day, aren't that hard, but never as easy as any other landing.

 

Just a guess, but if the contract is for something as inexpensive as a Robbie or Schweitzer, they're not going to be throwing money at the helideck either.

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Just a guess, but if the contract is for something as inexpensive as a Robbie or Schweitzer, they're not going to be throwing money at the helideck either.

Or the pilot, or the fuel, or the maintenance, or much of anything else. Be careful.

 

I've landed on a lot of seismic boats and other smaller vessels, and my technique is to get over the deck and land more or less normally, while looking directly down at the deck. Trying to look at the horizon while landing on anything at sea won't work, because the horizon is so far away, and may be moving. You have to look at where you're going to land, directly through the chin bubble or out the window, never through the windshield. I just match the movement of the deck, and it becomes pretty much automatic, as long as you don't look at the water, just the deck below you.

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I have not found it much different than landing on a platform. For me, I have a hard time holding a nice hover while looking through the chin bubble. To tell you the truth I really don't know what exactly I focus on. I actually find it harder to pick up because the motion of the boat screws around with your equalibrium. As for set downs, I just hover, then set it down slow. The boat may be coming as you're going down. I haven't found a way to time it. If you go slowly and the boat is coming up, you're just on the deck a little sooner than expected. Hovering during take off can also be disorienting. High hover, low hover, high hover, low hover...as the boat pitches. Sometimes it ain't pretty, but not much you can do about it.

I don't know why you would want to pull the guts out it every time you take off. Get clear

of the deck and build some airspeed. Just like any other take off. Take off sideways into the wind until you are clear. Taking off with a lot of torque into a cross wind is a very good way to get into LTE.

Edited by helonorth
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  • 4 years later...

From past experience, I would say (and this depends a lot on the vessel, deck arrangement, masts & rigging placement, etc.) do your approach with the vessel heading into the wind if they can do it. Also they may be able to alter course temporarily to decrease roll & pitch of the vessel until you can get on board. If the roll and pitch is considerable, I would advise doing the approach to a hover right over the desired touchdown point. Hover height only enough to keep clear of any obstacles. Wait it out (only takes a few seconds) to size up the roll and pitch and pick a favorable time to put it down. This is important: While hovering as described, don't use the vessel for your hover attitude reference, watch the horizon instead. Otherwise you will end up trying to follow the vessel and get into an overcontrol situation, like a pilot-induced oscillation.

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Taking off with a lot of torque into a cross wind is a very good way to get into LTE.

I have nothing to add about landing on a boat. I've flown at sea level maybe 20 of my hours. But that last sentence makes me want to slap my hand against my forehead. Your at sea level for gawd sakes! I don't care if you have 50kts of crosswind you would have one hell of a time getting into LTE at sea level. Your obviously flying a 206. If you have that much wind the 206 will weathervane into it and your fine!

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I have nothing to add about landing on a boat. I've flown at sea level maybe 20 of my hours. But that last sentence makes me want to slap my hand against my forehead. Your at sea level for gawd sakes! I don't care if you have 50kts of crosswind you would have one hell of a time getting into LTE at sea level. Your obviously flying a 206. If you have that much wind the 206 will weathervane into it and your fine!You

It's all fine and dandy until you stick your tail rotor into an obstruction!

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The higher the seas are the harder it will be to make a smooth landing. If you want to increase your chances of a hard landing, chase the deck when it's going down.

Rather than doing that, try to be patient, keep all your lateral motion zeroed out and try to catch the deck near the top of it's next peak. If you miss it even slightly, try to keep that same absolute altitude and let the deck drop away again. This time you should be much more near to it when it nears it's next peak.

Also, when the ship is rolling it was easier to land for me when the roll puts the deck upslope to the nose.

As for what helonorth said, I agree. You had to keep the aircraft from weathervaning because the deck was only usable without obstructions on the centerline of the landing area.

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This and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee...

 

Different techniques for landing

 

 

;)

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Obviously, but you're the one who brought up LTE. LTE can be stopped before begins. Use that round thing on top of your shoulders...

Yes I did. I thought it should be pointed out that crosswind take offs with high power settings should be avoided (stopping it before it begins, as you clumsily put it). Sometimes you can't avoid those situations. My point is that I like to minimize my exposure. I'm not going to get into the the whole LTE thing. If you want to, there are plenty of threads that discuss it.

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Yes I did. I thought it should be pointed out that crosswind take offs with high power settings should be avoided (stopping it before it begins, as you clumsily put it). Sometimes you can't avoid those situations. My point is that I like to minimize my exposure. I'm not going to get into the the whole LTE thing. If you want to, there are plenty of threads that discuss it.

Well good luck to you and fly safe! It sure would be nice to have movable landing pad in the mountains to avoid the dreaded crosswind.

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