Jump to content

Safety: Rotor vs Fixed Wing


Recommended Posts

I have been wanting to start helicopter flight training, I will just have to start applying for loans soon. that amount of debt kind of scares me but I am thinking I am not going to be able to save enough to pay as i go.

 

A friend at my present job she gave me a comprehensive book of fixed wing educational DVD's that I have been checking out and after studying a bit it seems that in a plane, everything has a backup system, and if you lose power you are built to glide. Are helicopters just as safe? How effective is doing an auto rotation, if one of your rotor blades fails are you just done? The question might sound elementary but I was just curious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd have to estimate the safety is about the same. If you want to do helicopters, then do helicopters. You'll kick yourself for settling for second best (fixed wing).

 

Yes fixed wings are built to glide. But how does that help when you're flying over an urban area? You're still going to wreck into something at at least 40 knots depending on the stall speed of what type of plane you're flying. At least in a helicopter you can auto rotate to a general point on the ground. Another perk of helicopters is that if you recognize a problem early (i.e. you're running low on fuel / you inadvertently fly into IMC / you start to feel a severe vibraton) you can put the chopper down somewhere safe BEFORE you're forced to do an autorotation. In a plane, you're still pretty much limited to trying to glide to the nearest airport (good luck). But if you're flying over flat farmland kansas, then maybe a plane's emergency landing would be safer and simpler/easier. In my opinion, it all averages out, so fly what you really want to fly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think helicopters are a bit safer. There are more small tight spots that I can auto to than long, wide spots I can glide to in a Cessna.

 

And I mean, if I have a structural failure in either bird, that's it. If you lose a wing, or a main rotor blade, things are going to get ugly fast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think helicopters are a bit safer. There are more small tight spots that I can auto to than long, wide spots I can glide to in a Cessna.

 

And I mean, if I have a structural failure in either bird, that's it. If you lose a wing, or a main rotor blade, things are going to get ugly fast.

Yeah, any bird without wings is pretty much useless in the air, kinda like a rock.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, any bird without wings is pretty much useless in the air, kinda like a rock.

 

Just playing Devil's Advocate here, but I think a lot of fixed-wingers would argue that it is quite more likely/common for a helo to lose a blade or two than an entire wing to come off a plane.

 

That said, I'd sure as hell like the freedom to land damn near anywhere in case of an emergency instead of having to worry about finding some sort of deserted, flat, wire-free, long strip of ground in the middle of a city/mountains. Helicopters for the win, please and thank you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just playing Devil's Advocate here, but I think a lot of fixed-wingers would argue that it is quite more likely/common for a helo to lose a blade or two than an entire wing to come off a plane.

 

I've heard of more planes falling apart mid-air then helicopters...

 

It seems to me that planes don't crash as often, but when they do there are usually fatalities. Where when helicopters go down people usually survive... :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Helicopters are the only vehicle that has saved more lives than it has taken."

 

Not my quote, and can't remember the source. But that doesn't really answer the question.

 

The books say that close to 80% of all accidents occur due to pilot error, rather than malfunctions. That's incentive to do everything you can do to be prepared, and maintain situational awareness. Then again, that may be a fixed wing stat since a lot of the books are fixed wing oriented.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of opinions, no facts yet.

 

I just read where GA helicopter fatals were actually less than FW fatals for the first time. I'll dig thru the 20 magazines I read each month and try to come up with that source for you.

 

However, when flying a FW, which I do very little of....I am concious that I will probably ball the thing up but walk away. You have to be willing to crash often times to save lives....just look at any accident on take off where they lose an engine and then do what? Turn....with no altitude, low airspeed and a high angle of attack you're going to try to TURN ?

 

But its an attempt to preserve the airframe that ends up costing lives, and airframes as well.

 

Just put the nose down and put her down. Whatever is under you thats where you are going to land.

 

In a helicopter, I think in many situations I could get it on the ground with no damage...wires and rough terrain under me excepted.

 

Whatever you fly, its more important how you train and what you do in an emergency than the type of aircraft you fly. Thats what made Sully's landing so classic...he knew early on he would have to sacrifice the aircraft to save lives, so thats what he did.

 

Fly safe,

 

Goldy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is that career path for helicopters really a lot harder then FW? I hear a good amount of negativity in the forums about the money you owe vs the money you make and job competitiveness. I doubt I can save enough at my current job to try the pay as you go route. After you CFI and get your first job to build hours is it like FW to where you can still pretty much pick what geographic region in the US you want to live in and work?

 

I guess I was a tiny bit sketched cause 2 people died in Hillsboro a few months back, and that's the school i wanted to go to and what I wanted to do. Also I hear Hillsboro is laying off CFI's after they hit 1000 hours which seems kind of weak, that's means I'd have to check out precision or another outfit. I been set for awhile on going rotor wing but I guess i'm going a little back and forth again. I'm 31 so i'm starting to feel old to start out.

 

Oh and is there way to change my handle name without starting all over again, i thought of a better one =)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been wanting to start helicopter flight training, I will just have to start applying for loans soon. that amount of debt kind of scares me but I am thinking I am not going to be able to save enough to pay as i go.

 

A friend at my present job she gave me a comprehensive book of fixed wing educational DVD's that I have been checking out and after studying a bit it seems that in a plane, everything has a backup system, and if you lose power you are built to glide. Are helicopters just as safe? How effective is doing an auto rotation, if one of your rotor blades fails are you just done? The question might sound elementary but I was just curious.

 

My opinion is that helos are at least as safe as fixed wings, except for mission profiles. The Bell 206 series was arguably the safest single engine aircraft in the US for a while in spite of that.

Helicopters are typically used to go where infrastructure is minimal, and operate from those sites. Helos typically fly shorter legs, too, increasing risk exposure because you're more often in the historically, statistically situation of most frequent accident. The more frequent landings result in lower cruise altitudes, also a more critical situation. What this all means is that a lot of the hazard in helos is very much under your control- it will be as safe as you make it. Autorotations are as successful as you make them, especially if you have someplace survivable to land.

And- Yes there are critical structural failures in the rotary wing world. Losing a wing is a very bad thing for a helo (rotor blade) or an airplane. I worry more about hitting big birds, as hazardous in either fixed or rotary wing, if you think about it.

Edited by Wally
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have VERY little rw training as of right now(will be starting full time later this year), but I will give my opinion coming from fw's. I believe that, from what little I know, that a rw would be safer in a forced landing situation. Like others have said, even with the slowest of fw's, like a cub or c-150, your still gonna be doing anywhere from 30-45mph at touchdown to keep from stalling. Whereas with a rw, you should theoretically be able to come to more of a 0 airspeed situation upon touchdown. As far as wings coming off, well alot of that can be contributed to pilot error(cranking the yoke over or back too far!) or overlooked spar damage during annuals,etc.. At night, you can forget about me flying a piston single fw unless I absolutely have to, and it's gonna be in VMC..haha! I believe I'd feel MUCH safer at night in a rw simply b/c of the lack of a long "runway" to land in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Birds have downed homebuilts, airliners and F-16's... Birds and wires prob pretty high on accident reports with helo's.

 

You can search youtube for the F16 crash, complete with in cockpit cam view.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Two things-ok 3.

 

1. Send a pm over to 67NOVEMBER on the changing your handle thing...he's an admin and can tell you.

 

2. I like the idea of kicking CFI's out of the nest at 1000 hours. The thinking is we've got you to a place where you should be employable. I know there are exceptions out there....guys with 5000 hours looking for a job...but thats the exception. And I know of several CFI's with less than 500 hours already in a full time spot, not teaching, to offset those. Some people are just more likable, more committed to thier job, with less drama in their lives...and they get the job.

 

3. I found my source for the FW vs. helo safety statistics.

 

AOPA Pilot Magazine, March 2010 issue, page 18 discusses the infamous 2009 Nall report on aviation safety. To quote- On the fixed wing side, the accident rate for non commercial flights declined slightly, while the commercial flight accident rate hit its highest level in 5 years- which was still 1/3 lower than the accident rate under FAR PArt 91. Helicopter accident rates have decreased sharply since 2003 and were similar to fixed wing rates in 2008. Commercial helicopter flights actually had the lowest rate of fatal accidents in all of general aviation.

 

So there you have it.....fly by helicopter. Actually it goes on to say that pilot error caused 60% of all commercial flight accidents and 80% of all fatal accidents were pilot error.

 

So, we are always flying thinking that something may break at any second. We all train to react when that something breaks....but chances are....our own decision making skills, is what will be our undoing....or our saving grace. We need to challenge our minds as well as practice our auto's.

 

Fly Safe,

 

Goldy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like the idea of kicking CFI's out of the nest at 1000 hours. The thinking is we've got you to a place where you should be employable.

 

I really would have to disagree with this mindset.

 

Being a CFI is a job, and CFI's should treat it as such. Being a CFI should not be a 1-3 year black hole where a person tries to suck every possible hour out of their poor students so that they can then be employable. A student is a customer who is paying serious money to a school expecting a CFI to do his job and provide a service. Students should be thought of as customers and not just a way to fill up a few more pages in a logbook.

 

But I digress.

 

As for the 1000 hour mark, that number of hours does not mean what it used to.

 

Yes, perhaps there were 15-20 jobs, or 150-200 jobs this season for pilots with 1000 hours.... I really do not think that is a good reason to fire everybody that has a thousand hours.

 

That's like McDonalds firing all of their assistant managers who have been working for a year to encourage them to go get jobs at Outback.

 

...what's next? Firing all of the people who work in Vegas or the GOM when they hit 2500? By that time they should be able to do EMS or perhaps Logging. But wait, there needs to be openings, so the EMS and Logging pilots should be fired when they hit 5000 hours. At that point, those pilots should be ready to retire. So whenever a pilot hits 5000 hours they should be forced to revoke their commercial certificate.

 

That would fix this whole issue of pilots not being able to find jobs.

 

For some reason, I can't quite find the logic in where that path leads.

 

Just my two cents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pohi Posted Today, 02:12

Being a CFI should not be a 1-3 year black hole where a person tries to suck every possible hour out of their poor students so that they can then be employable.

 

It shouldn't be, but unfortunatly, it is!

 

Instead of kicking CFis out at 1000hrs, they should need 1000hrs to teach. How can you really teach someone when you have no experience? :huh:

 

Unfortunatly the industry doesn't work that way, and entry-level jobs require years of experience, whereas one of the most important ones reqires none? I must say though, kicking these poor guys out at 1000hrs is pretty messed up, and I would never recommend a school that did that!

 

On the original question, I like being able to land on a dime without the engine, but we do have a lot less time in which to do it. ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really would have to disagree with this mindset.

 

Being a CFI is a job, and CFI's should treat it as such. Being a CFI should not be a 1-3 year black hole where a person tries to suck every possible hour out of their poor students so that they can then be employable. A student is a customer who is paying serious money to a school expecting a CFI to do his job and provide a service. Students should be thought of as customers and not just a way to fill up a few more pages in a logbook.

 

But I digress.

 

As for the 1000 hour mark, that number of hours does not mean what it used to.

 

Yes, perhaps there were 15-20 jobs, or 150-200 jobs this season for pilots with 1000 hours.... I really do not think that is a good reason to fire everybody that has a thousand hours.

 

That's like McDonalds firing all of their assistant managers who have been working for a year to encourage them to go get jobs at Outback.

 

...what's next? Firing all of the people who work in Vegas or the GOM when they hit 2500? By that time they should be able to do EMS or perhaps Logging. But wait, there needs to be openings, so the EMS and Logging pilots should be fired when they hit 5000 hours. At that point, those pilots should be ready to retire. So whenever a pilot hits 5000 hours they should be forced to revoke their commercial certificate.

 

That would fix this whole issue of pilots not being able to find jobs.

 

For some reason, I can't quite find the logic in where that path leads.

 

Just my two cents.

 

It's simple.

 

Flight schools must have a constant flow of students passing through their doors. They are obviously looking for ways to attract new people.

 

McDonald's, Vegas, GOM, EMS and other companies aren't in the business of selling training and have no problems persuading people to knock on the door. If an employee leaves, there are 1244 people waiting to fill the vacancy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's simple.

 

Flight schools must have a constant flow of students passing through their doors. They are obviously looking for ways to attract new people.

 

McDonald's, Vegas, GOM, EMS and other companies aren't in the business of selling training and have no problems persuading people to knock on the door. If an employee leaves, there are 1244 people waiting to fill the vacancy.

 

True.

 

Flight schools sell training. The people who perform this service are their employees, who are the CFI's.

McDonald's sell hamburgers, Vegas sells tours. Neither of these places have problems attracting customers.

 

I still, however, fail to see why firing any of the employees for doing their job could be a good thing.

 

A flight school that has the policy of firing their students might want to be avoided, IMO. One of the reasons for this is because if all they are concerned about is trying to get people in the door with a promise of a job, then they obviously do not care about anything but saying whatever (and doing whatever) to make money.

 

Where does that stop? Saving money by cutting corners on maintenance, employee wages, or things along these lines? As a potential student the promise of getting a job as a CFI sounds great, but the realization of the cost by which this promise is made would be unsettling. I would see the situation as far as the school having absolutely no loyalty to the people who work there, due to their willingness to do whatever it takes to their employees in order to create business.

 

I would rather get a job based on knowledge and ability.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

True.

 

Flight schools sell training. The people who perform this service are their employees, who are the CFI's.

McDonald's sell hamburgers, Vegas sells tours. Neither of these places have problems attracting customers.

 

I still, however, fail to see why firing any of the employees for doing their job could be a good thing.

 

A flight school that has the policy of firing their students might want to be avoided, IMO. One of the reasons for this is because if all they are concerned about is trying to get people in the door with a promise of a job, then they obviously do not care about anything but saying whatever (and doing whatever) to make money.

 

I don't disagree with you. But, to play Devil's advocate...

 

It's not much different than parents telling their teenage son/daughter that they'll support them through college, but the kid is on the street on his 23rd birthday. Not what I plan on telling my own children, but it's not uncommon (or even unreasonable).

 

As a potential student the promise of getting a job as a CFI sounds great, but the realization of the cost by which this promise is made would be unsettling. I would see the situation as far as the school having absolutely no loyalty to the people who work there, due to their willingness to do whatever it takes to their employees in order to create business.

 

I would rather get a job based on knowledge and ability.

 

 

Why would a student be attracted to a school that will fire them at 1000 hours? Because, a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why would a student be attracted to a school that will fire them at 1000 hours? Because, a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.

 

You, Sir, bring up a very valid point. True, 1000 hours is better than 200 hours.

 

But, if a person cannot get a job at 1000 hours, then what's the difference? No job is no job, no increase in hours per month is no increase in hours per month. There are some jobs that want 1500 hours now, or 1000+ XC, Night, instrument, etc etc.

 

I guess my point is that the bar is constantly changing depending on supply and demand. If a school has a cutoff point on their instructors, that cutoff point should reflect the current benchmark of hours that is required for an entry level commercial job. Unfortunately, at this current time, 1000 hours is a wee bit short of the mark.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You, Sir, bring up a very valid point. True, 1000 hours is better than 200 hours.

 

But, if a person cannot get a job at 1000 hours, then what's the difference? No job is no job, no increase in hours per month is no increase in hours per month. There are some jobs that want 1500 hours now, or 1000+ XC, Night, instrument, etc etc.

 

I guess my point is that the bar is constantly changing depending on supply and demand. If a school has a cutoff point on their instructors, that cutoff point should reflect the current benchmark of hours that is required for an entry level commercial job. Unfortunately, at this current time, 1000 hours is a wee bit short of the mark.

 

You're right, but you can't do anything about supply and demand. Until the demand for pilots increases, there will remain a pool of pilots sitting on the ground waiting for a job - whether they have 500 or 2500 hours.

 

I'm not a CFI and I have no idea how long it takes to reach 1000 hours teaching, but I'm guessing these schools just had to pick a number - a number that would give the CFI's a shot at moving on, while at the same time, keeping the flow moving through the school so the new guys can get their turn teaching.

 

There's a reason why the military has no trouble reaching it's recruiting goals right now. This is a time for thinking creatively and considering possibilities that were previously off the radar.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is any career path any harder than the other, FW vs Rotor.. I hear a lot of negativity in the forums about the money you owe vs the money you make and how most don't make it or get a job etc etc

 

This is bound to get some responses- but generally FW training costs 1/2 as much as helo, and they make twice as much money with half the hours. They just dont have as much fun climbing into the cockpit and they have difficulty hovering.

 

Goldy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, I always understood it costs less to train FW and you make more money, I wanted to fly helo's for the day to day adventure instead of driving A to B.. but when i hear all the negativity of "making it" in the forums, I was wondering if any path was easier as far as getting a job and starting a career.

 

And once you CFI, get your first job and build hours, do you have the freedom to live geographically pretty much anywhere you want like you can with FW or are you usually just chasing the next open job wherever it may be. I'm open to relocation but there are only a handful of places I would care to live for more than a year or two.

 

I'm looking to apply for a loan soon, I have a good credit score but I have one judgment that will come off my credit report in June. I was thinking of applying anyways now, but maybe i should wait. I'm 31, I just don't want to wait till July to start. Or I only have a few grand saved maybe i should save 5 or 6 and start working on my PPL first. I don't know

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, I always understood it costs less to train FW and you make more money, I wanted to fly helo's for the day to day adventure instead of driving A to B.. but when i hear all the negativity of "making it" in the forums, I was wondering if any path was easier as far as getting a job and starting a career.

 

And once you CFI, get your first job and build hours, do you have the freedom to live geographically pretty much anywhere you want like you can with FW or are you usually just chasing the next open job wherever it may be. I'm open to relocation but there are only a handful of places I would care to live for more than a year or two.

 

Just shooting from the hip here, but...

 

I don't think it's necessarily valid to compare FW and RW from a work point of view. Sure, both require similar training and both fly through the air, but in many ways, I think the RW career path is more similar to being a truck driver than an airplane pilot.

 

With airplanes, you carry people or stuff from point A to point B. Usually on a fixed schedule, sometimes at the beep of a pager from the gazillionaire who owns the Falcon you fly.

 

With helicopters, we do grunt work. We fly shuttle vans, dump trucks, water trucks, and tour busses. We lift stuff, haul stuff, inspect stuff, dump stuff, and transport people/things to remote places.

 

Also, I don't think it's fair to say that FW pilots earn more than RW pilots or have better job prospects. Sure there are still a few senior Captains flying for the Majors earning over $140K/year, but there are also helicopter pilots earning that much. Like RW pilots, most FW pilots get their ratings, teach for a while, then haul mail for $20K/year. If they're lucky, they can eventually hire on with a Regional and earn $35K-60K/year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...