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Hi Everyone,

 

Some of you may have known my Fiance, Andrew Ridge - known on here as ADRidge... and if you are unaware, he was killed a few weeks ago in a wire strike accident up in Washington state while riding along with another pilot to review what he'd be doing there. It's a devastating loss as he was so young, so talented and had such a bright future.

 

I am not a pilot, and that is why I am here - I need the advice and information of some of you. I'm aware that wire strikes are some of the most common and fatal accidents that occur in the helicopter world - and I want to know more about what improvements can be made to save people's lives and make flying around power lines safer.

 

I've read and seen some videos of the WSPS, Radar and Laser based systems, The Powerline Detector System, and power line markers etc - I could not find any up-to-date information however and the FAA safety documents I did find were from around 2005. At that time - it said many of these safety measures could not be implemented on smaller civilian helicopters due to weight, cost, and the power they pull. Does anyone know what systems are currently available for small civ helicopters or where I could get that info?

 

What I also really want to know is whether there are any laws or regulations currently in place that require any of the above safety measures for cherry drying and other ag/utility work that specifically requires pilots to fly near power lines as part of their job?

 

I don't know nearly as much about the aviation world as all of you - but I do know this seems like an area that has some room for improvement... and as someone who has just lost an entire future with her pilot, I am willing to do whatever I can to help make sure it happens to as few other pilots and their loved ones as possible.

 

I appreciate any information, advice, or resources you can provide me with.

 

*Sarah (ADRidge's Girl)

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You may want to contact the Dryden Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base. They are always looking for research and development ideas. Ive recieved several calls from them wanting to strap stuff to our helicopter for testing. Ill see if I can locate the information and the guys name. Once he emailed me and asked if I had any ideas for projects.

 

But before you make any calls, let me see what I can find and Ill PM you the guys contact info.

 

Sorry for your loss.

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Firstly Sarah, so sorry for your loss.

 

I think one of the most important parts of wire strike avoidance is training and knowing what to look out for when it comes to the wires. I work for a powerline company that deals with inspections, patrols and maintenance of powerlines. I am around lines everyday for 6 hours a day so as you cn imagine it takes a constant knowing of your surroundings and knowledge of that environment.

I knew virtually nothing about wires when I started out in this line of business (only to stay away from them) and I think training pilots at an early stage in some detail would surely help out. There is a company called UAS (Utility Aviation Specialists) that deal with very in depth courses on wire strike avoidance. They teach many simple things that have saved my life and others I know. The thing about wire strikes is that the majority of pilots that hit them knew they were there in the first place. Again, this puts your situational awareness in to the mix.

If you have any questions or want to talk in more detail please don't hesitate to send me a message.

 

Stay strong,

 

Damien

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I wrote a pretty long reply to this last night and then deleted it. I was very tired and did not want anything to be misconstrued as this is a sensitive topic.

 

Let me start by saying that yesterday I spent 2 hours drying cherries 1/8 of a mile from where Andrew was killed. Like him, this was my first experience drying cherries. It is very dangerous and challenging work. I found myself frequently in precarious positions due to bad combinations of wind direction and obstacles (trees, wires). With rain on the bubble and poor lighting due to overcast, it can be impossible to see wires that you KNOW are there. And judging distance to the wires based on poles can be deceiving.

 

I actually met a guy at the local FBO that talked with Andrew before he went on that final flight, and we talked for a while about wires while I waited on a phone call to go dry. He had several good ideas for wire detection, but I shot all of them down. Wire DETECTION is a moot point when you are at 10-20 feet above a cherry orchard and there are wires everywhere. You KNOW they are there. And your detection system could be buzzing away at you, but if you STILL have to get close to them then all it would be is a distraction. Yep, there's wires nearby... Tell me something I DON'T know. A lot of these accidents happen when re-positioning to another field, or misjudging the distance to an obstacle while doing a pedal turn. Another pilot hit a tree the other day. Wire cutters only work if you happen to be be flying perpendicular to the the wires. If I'm hovering parallel to a set, and I have to get close (often there are trees growing right under the wires), then cutters will do me no good if I get too close.

 

My point is this. The only effective way to avoid wires in this environment is to be vigilant and to have a very in depth understanding of the danger and some tools in your mental toolbox to mitigate those hazards. I watched several videos in wire avoidance before coming out here, and though I have no formal training on this, I have picked up some very simple techniques: always cross wires over the poles. Look for the poles, not the actual wires. If there is a pole, there IS a wire, even I you can't see it. Keep in mind that there can be wires in places you wouldn't think there would be. Know exactly how much room you need from obstacles by putting the tail and the rotor disc over a line on the pavement (at the airport), then get out and verify your judgement (this is a training technique I teach my students). Know where the wind is coming from and position the aircraft in such a way that you can maintain positive control when close to wires. And most importantly STAY VIGILANT! Don't fall into complacency. The hazards don't go away, so the pilot shouldnt relax until the job is done and the blades have stopped turning. I also would not recommend this work for younger or inexperienced pilots (even though I am both). Drying cherries is not a safe job. And I think a lot of young pilots come out here every year with some misconceptions. They usually learn pretty quickly how challenging this job can be (I sure did), but others don't last long enough to learn those lessons.

 

Back to the topic of what to do to prevent accidents like the one that killed your fiancé; I have never been a fan of mandatory requirements being imposed on pilots before they can do a job. Why? It's not always necessary. But familiarizing yourself with the hazards of a job and how to mitigate risks is always very highly recommended and should be up to the pilot/owner/operator. And in all honesty, I don't think mandatory training or equipment would really lessen the number of accidents in the fields. When you have to work within feet of lines constantly, one gust of wind not caught immediately by the pilot, or a misjudgment of distance and it is all over. No equipment can prevent that, and though training on awareness can mitigate the risk, it can't prevent it from happening. Vigilance is the only solution, and even that can fall short in this environment.

 

Finally, I recommend to all those cherry driers flying in shorts, a t-shirt and David Clarks put some Nomex on and invest in a helmet. The Nomex may save your skin, and the helmet may save your life.

 

I am very sorry for your loss. Drew was well liked and respected around here. His loss will be felt by all of us for a long time. And every day that I am out here in Wenatchee I think of him.

 

Take care of yourself and take comfort knowing he died doing what he loved.

 

-Scott

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Thank you all for the replies so far. I don't think he or I realized just how dangerous this type of flying is before. Flying Pig, thanks for the info.. I will hold tight to hear more back from you.

 

Scott, I can understand your aversion to having more regulations or requirements. And your explanation of what it's actually like up there does put some things into perspective. Although hard to read right now, I thank you for that. It does sound like training is the most important method for safety with wires. Whic just makes the whole thing sadder, because I know Andrew read and researched everything he could find on wire safety before going up there. He was always so serious about safety and wires were his number one priority to be mindful of up there. Which is why it's so much harder to swallow the fact that he wasn't even the one flying. of course, it could have happened to anyone, but I will still have my opinions on that which I will keep out of here.

 

I still feel even something simple like orbs or other markers on the wires could help, and be probably the simplest and least invasive measure to improve visual of wires. I know ultimately it's up to the pilots, but why not give you guys as many possible visual indicators as we can? Would love to hear opinions on this.

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I have often thought that making wires a high contrast color like neon orange might also help make them more visible. Not sure how feasible that is though as it would cost the power companies thousands (if not millions) to put a high viz coating on every line. And there are so many small wires on these properties, it would cost a fortune to put balls on all of them. I think it's a great idea and we would all love to see it but I doubt it will happen. As does most everything else, it all boils down to money.

 

I know from reading Drew's posts that he was a very safety conscious pilot. It pained me to hear that there were two people in the helicopter and he was not the one flying. And honestly, there is a possibility that two people in the cockpit could have been a contributing factor in the accident. A sterile cockpit is critical for maintaining vigilance outside the aircraft. Even though two pilots means another set of eyes, discussions inevitably occur and can lead to momentary loss of situational awareness. This is acceptable in most flying situations, but not in agricultural flying. Andrew and the other pilot probably thought they were doing the safe thing, and it may have actually been the straw that broke the camels back (accidents are usually a chain of events that string together). And even if this was not the case, it could happen to any of us (as you said). Awareness does not make us safe. It makes us safe-ER. But not safe. Wires can get the best of pilots of all experience levels.

 

Once again, I'm sorry you have to go through this, and I am sorry if this is difficult stuff to read, but I'm afraid you opened pandora's box. These are the hard truths of the industry your fiancé chose. I just hope that you can find some comfort in understanding what happened.

 

Trust me when I say that wire awareness and training is a core part of this industry, and it has been pointed out that helicopter pilots are more aware, and safer, around wires than fixed wing pilots. But when you dance with wires on a daily basis, your chances of a strike go up exponentially. Avoidin wires altogether is the choice most pilots make. When you don't have that luxury, all you can do is be careful. For all my talk, I could hit wires tomorrow. We all know this, every time we go out.

 

 

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There is this system in use called "HELLAS" it basicilally detects powerlines and other obstacles in front of you, warns you and tells you where to turn to avoid it. It has been our for many many years but somehow it never made it over to the US.

 

its build by EADS in Europe

 

http://defensehightech.blogspot.com/2009/10/hellas-helicopter-obstacle-avoidance.html

 

 

 

http://www.asdnews.com/news-11626/HELLAS_Obstacle_Warning_System_Increases_Safety_in_Emergency_Services.htm

 

 

http://www.asdnews.com/image-11626/HELLAS_Obstacle_Warning_System_Increases_Safety_in_Emergency_Services.htm

 

http://www.helihub.com/2010/04/30/eads-to-fit-hellas-obstacle-warning-system-royal-thai-air-force-s92s/

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The best wire marking I have ever seen was for cranes working a new overpass on an interstate. They used a high vis flouroscent tape-style laid on, along and around along the conductors. I suspect that this could be had reflectorized for night ops. Only seen it once, but much more obvious than the "balls", which are invisible unless they're against an absolutely featureless background.

 

It's scant comfort with the loss, but one pilot mistake can be enough for any of us, even the best.

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Sarah,

This is a hazard that has been around for over 100 years. Every possiible technological device that has been emloyed to mitigate the risk has had limited to no success.

 

Many such systems are database oriented, Like a GPS a database is outdated by the time the box hits the market. Even if the manufacturers were able to keep up with all 4300 power comanies in this country there are still privately built and owned powerlines, like those built by drilling and mining companies, tram lines, telegraph lines, high lead logging lines etc. There is no complete database out there.

 

A database that has only 98% accuracy, or 99%, or 99.5% creates a false sense of security, You get used to relying on it and when you come across the one line thats not in the database it gets you.

 

Those systems that actually detect are designed for coporate and EMS flight profiles and typically detect only forward. They would be useless to someone operating at that hight, Its like putting a fire alarm directly over your stove, it would run all the time, you'd either shut it off or learn to tune it out.

 

As others suggested, many pilots hit wires that they know are there. 60% of interviewable pilots that had wirestrikes knew the wire was there beforehand. They either lost it momentarily mis-judged their distance from it or did not excercise good control of the aircraft.

 

There are laws that require powerlines to be marked. It is FAA advisory circular 7460-1k. It basicly says any wire over 200 feet agl should normally be marked. Also wires that pose an "Extra ordinary hazard to airmen" should be marked. That ambiguious second part is usually interpreted to mean those lines in the vacicinty of airports/ heliports etc, but there is some room for debate.

 

At any rate, there are 4.6 million miles of overhead powerlines in this country, Even if power companies were told to mark every span every 250 feet that would be roughly 120 billion dollars at $1000 a ball. (a common price including installation) That does not factor that most small lines cannot support balls and the immense costs of taking the wires out of service for installation and repairs. Also evidence shows it would not help in many cases, theoretically 60%.

 

Wirestrike protection (WSPS) can help but only on certain wire sizes (Small ones), only if you hit it with a certain part of the helicopter (a large portion of the front surface area) with high forward speed (I believe its about 40knots). As you mentioned it is not available on many helicopters including the R-44 and all otehr reciprecating helicopters for that matter. A large portion of wire strikes are main rotor strikes which WSPS would have no effect on.

 

Training is the best answer we have. As others have attested, the course by UAS is a good one, many pilots swear by it, many power companies teach it every year. Some companies have their own in house training.

 

As a pilot, and safety director I've done a lot of research on this one. If I can be of any assistance PM me.

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Man, I disagree with so much of what Scott said. It's like...wow.

 

It sounds like Scott (who is admittedly low-time and in his first season as a cherry drying pilot) is a graduate of the Maria Langer School of Cherry Drying. Nomex and helmets? Just exactly how many accidents in the last couple of years were there in which those items contributed in a positive way to the outcome? I don't know about you, Scott, but my helicopter gets HOT as I'm hovering around with no air moving by. Heat equals fatigue, buddy. Perhaps the best tool in avoiding injury is to avoid the darn pilot-error crash in the first place. And let's call a spade a spade: wire strikes during cherry-drying are pilot-error accidents.

 

A second pilot is not always a bad thing. When done properly (without a lot of hotdogging around), cherry drying can be tedious. I like having a qualified copilot along who can fly when I want to take a break (or who can fly until *he* gets tired and asks me to take the controls)...a copilot who can call out "RPM!" if I let it droop a little (and sometimes I do).

 

Having said that, two pilots may be a bad thing in a helicopter with limited power margins such as the R-44. I simply cannot imagine how pilots do the cherry-drying job safely in single-pilot R-22's, R-44's, and H-300's, much less with a second guy aboard. Double-yikes! These helicopters are, in my opinion, totally unsuitable for the task of cherry-drying in the first place. There is a picture of Maria Langer on her website drying with her skids down nearly in the trees! And some pilots think this is safe?? Not me, bro.

 

I fly the Sikorsky S-55. We stay WELL ABOVE the wires and obstructions. At least I do. We had a fatal wire strike accident last year in which the pilot got tangled up in the wires from below the powerline. He was a young pilot, but it was not his first season drying cherries. And he was solo at the time. Neither a flight suit or a helmet would have saved him. We've looked at this crash a million ways and cannot figure out what he was doing down that low.

 

We also had a second crash (that same day!) in which the pilot got into classic settling with power. He was one guy who likes hovering low over the trees even in Big Bertha. You won't find me down there with no margin of error. Nope, me and my helicopter are a rotor disk OR MORE above the treetops. ...And my rotor disk is 53 feet in diameter! I get four rows of penetration even at such height. How much do you get with that R-44 with your skids in the trees?

 

As has been said, all the wire detection devices in the world will not help cherry-drying wire strikes. We know the wires are there. They do not take us by surprise. Jeff and Andrew certainly knew that they had TWO powerlines to deal with: 1) the one that ran along the perimeter of their field along Rock Island Road, and 2) the huge 100kv line that bisected the field from north to south (which is the one they hit).

 

Look, it may sound callous, but flying in general can be risky and hazardous and at times dangerous. I feel that cherry-drying is *not* a particularly dangerous job...unless you're doing it in the wrong aircraft, as Scott evidently is. There is one main rule: See the wire; don't hit the wire. It's pretty simple.

 

Finally, pilots sometimes need to tell farmers "no." Certain fields are simply unacceptable for drying. I've looked on Google Maps and Bing at the field Andrew and Jeff were drying when they crashed, and I don't know that I could have done it safely even in the S-55 (depending on how tall that 100kv line was). I'm sure Jeff honestly felt that he and Andrew could safely dry that field. I think the tragic results speak for themselves.

 

Sarah, I know this is an extremely difficult, painful time for you, and reading all this internet crap is probably just a lot of blah blah blah. Bottom line is that Andrew knew that flying is risky. He willingly took those risks and sadly it cost him his life. He is not the first pilot to die in such a way, and he won't be the last. I know it sucks, but it is what it is. I am so very sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the hole that Andrew's death leaves in your heart. I hope you find a way to process it and move on with your life in some manner. I'm sure it will take time. But I wish you the best. We all do.

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Wow, I guess we are at odds then. You must be from Versatile. Didn't another one of your ships catch fire recently? Glad that guy got out ok. And no, I am not from the Maria Langer school of cherry drying (although I am acquainted with her). I learned about nomex and helmets from the worlds leading rotory wing operator, the United States Army. And yes, Nomex does get warm, that's why I take the doors off. And you can't tell me that a helmet never saved anyone's life. There have been many many accidents where the pilot suffered head trauma that killed them and if they had been wearing a helmet, they would have walked away.

 

You spout off about how much garbage my posts were, then you go on to talk about how many accidents you have had in your aircraft... :huh: How does that help your argument?

 

Also, we DO know how to tell farmers "no". I had to say no to a corner of one field that has two wires crossing it. Our other pilot also had to say no to flying at dusk. He offered to take the farmer up with him, and the farmer declined and told him to pack it in for the day. They don't want us crashed in their cherry trees any more than we want to be crashed in their cherry trees.

 

And finally; Shame on you for turning this horrible situation and a serious discussion about power line avoidance into an ad for your company and your choice of aircraft.

 

I would say a few other things to you as well but this is not the appropriate forum for such language.

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Sarah,

 

I am so sorry for your loss, I know many people on this forum including myself were hit hard by the terrible news. Me and my wife saw Andrew dragging the helicopter towards Washington, at the time I didn't realize it was him but the news and that realization really hit a nerve.

 

I really commend you for researching this topic, it takes a very strong person to immerse yourself in this topic given the circumstance.

 

Although I do not feel qualified to provide adequate data for your research, I do want to give my condolence, and share my thoughts as I really have no experience. I do think training is key, reason is I have attended HAI safety classes which really focused on wire strikes. They provided a very informative DVD (if Mikemv didn't already send you the link I can send you a DVD). The class pointed out many reasons and/or excuses there is not a better system being used. It is sad, but $ and who would pay for it was a big part. Another was the fact that more lines and towers go up than new roads are built. If you have ever owned one the store bought GPS units, I'm sure you noticed how fast it became "out of date". Add to that, there are not very strict regulations for height and marking of these structures. Another alarming thing I have witnessed is that the people on the ground have started demanding that these huge structures must blend with the natural landscape as much as possible. I learned this due to the huge power lines installed above my house a year or two ago. Sad thing is, they are still ugly and obvious as they ruin my mountain view from the ground. I am almost certain that all they accomplished was making them all but invisible from above. I know there has to be an efficient answer with the technology we have these days, keep up the research, you are not alone in this endeavor.

 

Sorry you had to endure a heart felt thread turn into an argument, most people on this forum are professional adults that understand the sensitivity of the topic and would never do such a thing.

 

Again, sorry for your loss and please accept my sincere condolence. ADRidge is dearly missed by all that knew him here on VR.

 

Mike

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I agree with Gary-Mike, and I apologize for letting Nearly Retired's remarks spark an emotional response from me. But a lot of what he said was either irrelevent or simply not true. And Gary-Mike: Someone had to call him out on it. I may be young and inexperienced, but Nearly Retired seems to think he is immune to human error and that his choice of machine is the only way to go. In my opinion, neither one of those is true. Comments like "There is one main rule: See the wire; don't hit the wire. It's pretty simple." Are a complete falsehood and he has obviously lulled himself into a false sense of security. I have video that I will post that shows how deceiving wires can be and how they can literally "disappear" right in front of you and how trying to guess where the wires are by looking at the poles can also be deceiving. As for the choice of aircraft, my opinion is this, if it puts down rotor wash, it can dry cherries. As for height and proximity to wires, OBVIOUSLY the S-55/S58s are not immune to this either as they have had several accidents over the last couple of years. I am simply incensed at the attitude he displayed and the callousness with which he dismissed my points. If avoiding wires was really as simple as "See the wire; don't hit the wire" then accidents like this would be much farther and fewer between. I can hardly believe that I am reading what he wrote... I have read it again and again and it just makes me furious. The fact that others have agreed with him just makes me sad. Once again, I DO feel bad that this thread turned into an argument, but I can't stand by and let Nearly Retired get the last word with his brazen "I'm a REAL pilot flying a REAL aircraft" post. It's a load of steamy horse-manure. I'm sorry, but let's call a spade a spade here.

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Well Mike, Sarah did not intend this to be one of those sappy "tribute" threads about how wonderful her fiance was (and by all accounts he was a great guy whom I'm sorry I did not get a chance to meet). She asked some legitimate questions about wire-strike avoidance devices and perhaps new laws which would require them on certain helicopters. If she walks through that door then she must be prepared for an honest discussion of things that might be painful to hear. For instance, I think that most of us understand the things she asked about would be USELESS in the task of cherry-drying by helicopter. Furthermore they would not have prevented her fiance's accident.

 

Those of us with specific knowledge of cherry-drying have tried to let Sarah see that no amount of increased legislation of equipment is going to change the fact that if you, Mr. Pilot, deliberately stick your rotor blade into a wire, the results are going to be bad, WSPS kit or no WSPS kit, high-viz markings on the wire or no high-viz markings. And if you, Mr. Pilot, fly so close to a wire that you hit it, it's nobody else's fault but yours. You can't try to shift the blame and say, "If only the wire had a high-visibility coating on it, or marker balls!" or "If only my helicopter owner had been required to a install wire-detection device and a WSPS kit!" Here is the answer: DON'T HIT THE WIRE WHEN YOU KNOW ONE IS THERE.

 

Scott, I did not call your posts "garbage." (In fact, I went back and reread my post to see if I attacked you in any way. I did not.) I merely said that I disagreed with you and that I think you are wrong, which is natural given your inexperience. There are plenty of self-appointed experts in every field. You are just one of them. I am another - oh, except that I've been flying helicopters for money for over 30 years. In the end, people have to make up their own mind about stuff.

 

For the record, I do not work for Versatile. I work for a legitimate, legal, long-standing company with many years of cherry-drying experience that is owned by an actual American citizen (not a Canadian) who operates safe helicopters that do not explode and catch fire in the air. I even described the embarrassing accidents my company had last year. But yes, one of Versatile's S-58's caught fire in a hover the other day at the Brewster Airport. The pilot put it down and jumped out and ran away like a red state politician caught in bed with a male prostitute. But this fire could have happened to *any* round-motor S-58 doing *any* type of work. The fact that the pilot was departing to dry cherries had nothing to do with it. Had the event happened a minute or so later when he was up at 500' enroute, the outcome might have been tragically different. So the boy was lucky.

 

My post was not an ad for my company (the name of which I have not mentioned), other than that I think small helicopters are unsuitable for the job of cherry-drying, and that I'm happy to be flying a bigger one that I personally think is safer. Maybe that's where the legislation should be, huh? A new law that prohibits R-22's and R-44's and H-300's from certain jobs? Who's with me?

 

If you want to wear Nomex and a helmet because it makes you FEEL "safer," go right ahead. I don't feel they're necessary. I don't fly at low altitude/high speed, going to places where people are shooting at me. I don't do the risky things with a helicopter that the Army does (or even a cropduster or longliner or powerline patroller for that matter). If I have a problem while I'm slowly hover-taxiing around my field (that is, if I don't hit a wire) I'm going to land between the rows of trees, level. Depending on the height of the trees, I might not even clip a main rotor blade. (Our second accident last year - the SWP one - did not destroy the ship or even damage it heavily; it is out flying again this season, good as new. Neither of the two pilots got so much as a scratch.) From 50 to 75 feet up, I have plenty of options, as well as power and performance to spare.

 

I asked you, Scott, to document a cherry-drying accident in which a Nomex flight suit or helmet would have made even a small difference. Not hypothetical cases. You can take the doors off your 300, but that does not alleviate the heat we feel in a hovering helicopter with no airflow. These things are convection ovens, man. Tell me this: If the helmet and Nomex flight suit make you hotter, sweaty and therefore distracted during the course of a 1.5 hover, how is this increasing safety if you DON'T crash? Of course it does not. Nomex and a helmet only...maybe...come into play if you DO crash.

 

I do not intend this to be an interminable angry back-and-forth internet flame war. But certain uninformed declarative statements by inexperienced people who are admitedly new on the job should not go unchallenged. Sarah asked some genuine questions, which should be answered with calm reason and facts, not emotion and misinformation.

 

After such a tragic event, people often feel the need to *DO SOMETHING* to prevent these sort of things from happening in the future. But just because somebody "feels" that certain equipment should be required does not make it so in fact. Similarly, just because somebody "feels" that an activity is dangerous does not make it so. By you, Scott, claiming that cherry-drying is dangerous, people like Sarah might get the impression that it is. And I just disagree, is all. If it was dangerous I wouldn't do it. I'm not an idiot, contrary to popular belief. Can I die doing this job? Well sure, if *I* screw up. I could die doing my "real" flying job back home as well. I accept these risks.

 

As I said, all flying is risky. Cherry-drying brings with it certain increased hazards which must be dealt with. But no amount of new or extra legislation...no amount of mandatory wire-detection equipment...no amount of high-visibility markings on wires...no helmet and/or Nomex flight suit is going to make a difference in the accident rate if pilots continue to stick rotor blades into powerlines.

 

My solution is to fly a helicopter that lets me stay comfortably above the powerlines. What's yours?

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Scott, you are incorrect yet again when you say things like:

As for height and proximity to wires, OBVIOUSLY the S-55/S58s are not immune to this either as they have had several accidents over the last couple of years.

Several?

 

There was ONE wire-strike pilot-error accident last year in the S-55, none in the S-58. No wire-strike accidents in either type the year before.

 

Please do not let your emotions seep into your posts. It diminishes the value of your responses and will only confuse Sarah.

 

Aircraft crash for many reasons. There is no excuse for a hovering cherry-drying helicopter pilot to hit a wire. None.

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On some subjects, we are clearly going to have to agree to disagree. I am not a 30 year veteran like yourself, but I am not exactly a newbie either. I've been flying/fixing/crewing helicopters for 10 years. In those 10 years I have seen a fair number of accidents, incidents, and even more close calls. I have formulated opinions. I have learned quite a bit about the industry and the dangers involved, and I have accumulated a few tools to use to mitigate risks (helmet and nomex for certain types of flying being on the list). I am not going to drop my opinions just because a 30 year veteran with a different mindset disagrees with me.

 

On the other hand, as I read your responses, I can see that if you go back through both of our posts, we could probably agree on more than a few points. Obviously, the safest option is to stay as far away from the wires as you can. If you operate a helicopter that affords you the luxury of staying clear of wires, great! Perhaps from your elevated vantage point it is easier to discern wires and other hazards than it is for those of us that are forced to operate down in them. And perhaps because of this, the s55 is a machine better suited to drying cherries. However, there are a lot more of many different types of helicopters out there drying these cherries, and most of them have to be between 5 and 10 feet above the tops of the trees. Right at power line level. And when you are parallel to a wire, they can simply... vanish! We both agree that it is no one but the pilots fault if they hit a wire. I agree whole-heartedly on that. And I agree that the cost vs benefit of markers and high viz paint on wires is not worth the benefits. If you re-read my post, I thought I made that pretty clear (we would love to see it, but it's not going to happen). As far as cherry drying accidents where a helmet may have saved a pilot's life... well lets see... how many of those pilots died of some sort of head trauma? The accident reports are usually not very clear and put the cause of death as "pilot died due to injuries sustained during the crash sequence" and other such ambiguous statements, so it is hard to determine if a helmet would have helped or not. I do know a few pilots that feel that they are alive today because they wore a helmet, and I believe that they can make a difference.

 

As far as legislation that only large helicopters be allowed to dry cherries... I have to chuckle at that remark. I am sure you would love to see all the little guys go home. Cha-ching! But it's not going to happen. And so pilots like myself and Andrew will be out there in our S300s and R44s, and these accidents will continue to happen if we are not careful.

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Scott, the only thing I'd "argue" with you is the number of fatal cherry-drying accidents there have been. It's not like this business is so dangerous that we have many fatalities per year - which, considering the number of little helicopters out there hovering over the trees, it's amazing.

 

And you know, I don't care if a wire "disappears" on you. YOU KNOW IT'S THERE, don't hit it.

 

I get it, man. I know that sometimes you're hovering in a field with a wire to your immediate left, and the wind is off your left and you just know your downwash ain't hitting that last row of trees under the wire. So you try to inch just a little closer...and...BANG! Repeat after me: THE CHERRIES ARE NOT WORTH DYING FOR. Leave that last row wet. Big friggin' deal. Or get up over the wire (if you have the power) and dry that row tree by tree (let's hope you're billing by the flight hour- as you should be- and not by the acre). I mean, there are ways.

 

I dont intend this to be an instruction book on cherry-drying, but we pilots have to be smarter than the wires and figure out a *SAFE* way to get the job done without killing ourselves. That's our responsibility...to ourselves and to the loved ones who wait and want us to come back to them at the end of the day.

 

You be careful out there, Scott. As I look down from my high Sikorsky on all the little helcopters scurrying around in the treetops, I'll be thinking of you and praying for your safety.

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Guest pokey

FIRST ,,,, i must say i know the feeling of losing a young loved one,,,,,AD'sGIRL---i know your hollow feeling and your anger and,,,and,, and. Time will smooth the rough edges, but you will never forget.

 

SECOND,,,,,,,,i am apalled by the behavior of the way this thread has progressed

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While, I’ve never conducted any cherry tree drying, I do routinely operate in the low-level environment and have done so for many years…...

 

In my opinion, wires are everywhere. With that, it becomes the pilot’s responsibility to find the wires and avoid them. No black box or wiz-bang instrumentation will replace this responsibility. Ever. Furthermore, knowing the operational environment is critical to survival. Consequently, no safety seminar or DVD can substitute this knowledge. Therefore, a recon (reconnaissance) by any means is an absolute. From there, it becomes a matter of paying strict attention and never assuming. Simply put, the job is to remain clear of the wires, not to dry cherries or put out the fire (in my case).

 

Lastly, wires do not disappear. They appear to disappear due to illusions. If the operational area contains illusions, you need to avoid that area. As pilots, we experience of many types of illusions while flying. Our training teaches us how to mitigate illusions mostly through techniques and avoidance. Wire illusions are no different……

 

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Agreed on all points. I also think that considering the high concentration of helicopters during the cherry season, it is a testament to everyones skill and professionalism that there are so few crashes and even fewer fatalities. It's a steep learning curve at first, but once you see the danger first hand and adjust your flying to mitigate the risks, I think it's a job that can be done safely. But there is always human error, and even the best of us can get caught by surprise.

 

Stay safe.

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Spike. Perhaps it was silly for me to assume that anyone would mistake my description of wires vanishing as anything other than an optical illusion, but thanks for clarifying it anyway. And again I apologize for my nature. I am very opinionated and passionate. Sorry if that offends anyone.

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