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R22 down in Riverside County, CA


Goldy
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I flew with him on my first ride in an R22 in that same area around French Camp and Lake Skinner back on June 6, 2006 (first official log entry in my book). Very sad indeed, I really liked him, and his wife Monica was a blast.

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FROM THE ARTICLE:

"Nurmi is a world-class helicopter pilot and owner of USA Academy of Aviation, a helicopter flight school that is based out of the county-owned French Valley Airport.

"On the company’s website, Nurmi is listed as being a part of seven American and five world helicopter speed records. His biography says he has more than 24 years of experience, is a FAA Gold Seal helicopter flight instructor and has more than 11,000 hours of flight time."

 

THIS IS THE KIND OF THING THAT FLUSTERS ME AS A NEW HELICOPTER PILOT (300-hours). When I see a very experienced pilot who -- not only went down -- but was killed ... I wonder: "Why?"

Obviously there are thousands of things that could've happened ... and no skill level can help if certain structural components fail. But what about engine-outs ... shouldn't most experienced pilots be able to handle them without loss of life over open spaces? Or can experience work against some by allowing "complacency" to creep in?

Edited by MileHi480B
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Dynamic rollover? We had an instructor at Cairns let his student do it (not on purpose). The IP has a gazillion hours, Vietnam scout pilot, IP forever, etc.

 

I will just stay out of R22s :)

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Here is the thing you MUST remember if you're going to fly these things: Helicopters are VERY EASY to crash. Easier to crash than airplanes, believe it or not. Because as even ABC newsman Harry Reasoner figured out in his famous, "The thing is..." essay, airplanes *want* to fly, and if left alone and not monkeyed with too much, will fly. But helicopters don't want to fly. And no matter how many hours you have, no matter how many years you've been in this business, they don't get any harder to crash; they stay just as easy to crash as when you first started. Doesn't matter what type of helicopter it is, either.

 

What?

 

Consider this. I've been flying for a living for thirty years. I have...let's just say "lots and lots" of hours. And yet every time I fly I realize that I can crash this helicopter so easily that it's not funny. All of my flight time does not give me any immunity - it gives me no assurance that I won't make a simple screw-up that'll have everyone wondering, "How did a guy like that do something SO STUPID?!" Easy...a momentary lapse of attention or concentration can spell disaster. The helicopter does not care how many hours you have, how many landings you've made, or any of that crap. Hopefully, all of my experience will *help* me not do anything really stupid, but as I said there are no guarantees. This point is hammered home painfully every time I see a pilot with more experience than me crash and die in a "pilot error" accident. And oh yes, I've seen it.

 

So repeat after me and never forget: Helicopters are very easy to crash. That never changes.

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I just read the story, I just love this quote "The way he died, it was the perfect way for him," 'Reid said. ' What udder BS, there is no perfect way to die, you just do, and who ever was his family has to deal with the loss. As my friend Nearly Retired as said, anybody can crash a helicopter. I will go one further, your career goal should be not to crash one while you are flying one. The dam things will kill you if you give them a chance. So don't give them the chance, its easier said than done for a lot of pilots.

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I'll disagree with Nearly Retired's statement that it doesn't matter what type of helicopter it is. I have just a tiny fraction of his experience, but here are my .02:

 

The two helicopters that I have tried to hover are a 206B3, and an R22, the 206 being first. The 206, I guess because of its increased mass (inertia) and its bigger downwash/in ground effect results, was giving me the impression that it would stay up there, unwilling to touch the ground no matter how bad I was making it bounce up and down. Which is definitely not the case with the R22... And that is just one small example of how different type of helicopters can be easier or harder to crash.

 

Unfortunately, one bad thing about fatal accidents, particularly in helicopters, is that we do not know what really happened in the cockpit. So it is very hard to find the actual reasons of the accidents. We can be here speculating about what could have happened, but it is quite possible that we will never find the truth.

 

So here is my take, just for the sake of conversation: One of the things I have noticed is that the more experienced a CFI is, the further away he/she is keeping his/her hands off the controls. Usually fresh CFIs guard the controls all the time, and they intervene a little more than they should, but this is a different issue... Anyway, they are learning, too....

 

A very experienced pilot/CFI is quite probable (for me) to be way more relaxed, to know how much a helicopter can take, to know how much it can roll and pitch before he has to be concerned or freaked out, so maybe if a student does something completely unpredictable (for a student, that is), it can easily be too fast too late...

 

On the other hand, from a student's perspective, you definitely don't like it when the CFI guards the controls all the time....

 

oh, last but not least: helicopters are very easy to crash.

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I see what you are saying Jim, about the 22 vs the 206. The 22 is a bit touchy, but so is the 407 vs 206, or the AS350. The first time in any new type of helicopter might be a little strange and take a little bit to get the feel of. I flew the crap out of 22/44's but if I jumped in one now, I'm sure I would suck the seat up my butt for a bit.

 

Beyond that, wires don't care what you are flying, they will catch a 206 as easily as a 22, or a 407, or a S76. Same thing goes for crashing due to IMC, being disorientated and loosing control due to not using instruments can get just about any helicopter in a world of trouble. Just a few examples.

 

If one helicopter vs another is more susceptible to crashing, that's an interesting question. I'm almost inclined to believe that two different pilots, both qualified and familiar in their different specific model helicopters, doing the same operation are about as equally at risk of an accident. There are some stipulations though, one has to compare apples to apples. A S76 doing cherry drying vs a 22 are not good comparisons.

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As you say, if any valid verdict has to emerge, it has to be from an "apples to apples" comparison. And that's gonna be hard to do achieve.

 

The example I mentioned though had pretty much everything the same, the only thing changing was the type of helicopter. Meaning I was a no-time pilot in the first occasion, and I was a no-time pilot (ok, maybe a 0.3 pilot in the second, but that was 10 years later after the first occurrence). And it was the same basic maneuver, hovering. Honestly, I was impressed by the fact that the 206 "wanted" to stay in the air, versus the R22 which was just trying to kiss, quite passionately, the ground.

 

You are right that a wire will probably with the same ease destroy a 300, an R22, a 206, a 407, or an S76, and maybe a CH-53 (although I wouldn't be surprised if it took the wire and the neighboring 3-4 poles for a ride). On the other hand, the 300 doing 70kts, will probably have more time to see, avoid, react to it, versus a 407 doing 140kts.... So it is more of a philosophical discussion... in my opinion.

 

edit: grammatical error

Edited by jim_222
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Nearly Retired can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he was pointing out; it boils down to the person behind the controls of any helicopter….. That is, all helicopters crash easily when it comes to pilot error….

Edited by Spike
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The two helicopters that I have tried to hover are a 206B3, and an R22,

 

That's like a night and day difference!

 

Unfortunately, one bad thing about fatal accidents, particularly in helicopters, is that we do not know what really happened in the cockpit. So it is very hard to find the actual reasons of the accidents. We can be here speculating about what could have happened, but it is quite possible that we will never find the truth.

 

In this case there was a survivor, the student, so I would expect that we get to find out exactly what happened firsthand.

 

On the other hand, from a student's perspective, you definitely don't like it when the CFI guards the controls all the time....

 

I'm guessing you have not experienced a low G roll in an R22.....if you had, you would wish the CFI would be a bit closer on the controls. You can't even say Oh Sh*t, and you're already rolling right and looking down!

 

oh, last but not least: helicopters are very easy to crash.

 

There's something we can both agree on....safe flying!

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I'm guessing you have not experienced a low G roll in an R22.....if you had, you would wish the CFI would be a bit closer on the controls. You can't even say Oh Sh*t, and you're already rolling right and looking down!

 

well, your guess is wrong... I have experienced a low G roll in an R22, actually both of them were demonstrated to me: one were you go straight and push in a dive, and the one that you are climbing and you level out too aggressively. I took my PPL checkride with a Robinson helicopter test pilot, and I was told that if I asked him he would show them to me, and he was very kind to do that, indeed.

 

Anyway, I know what you are saying, and it is a very valid point. Hopefully though, you know what I am talking about, too, for we have all been in that position (i.e. the student's) and we have experienced the differences between experienced and inexperienced CFIs. I mean we both probably agree that the best/safest practice would be for a CFI to always, constantly guard with his hands the controls. But we both know that this is not happening, and the amount of that proportionally changes with the experience and level of comfort of each CFI.

 

As far as the French Valley accident is concerned, you are right, hopefully we will get to know what happened. I meant to say that "most of the time" we do not get to know what has actually happened. :)

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"...the best/safest practice would be for a CFI to always, constantly guard with his hands the controls."

 

Well, I don't know about ALWAYS! You have to consider who you are flying with. Once, well after my ratings, I went on a check flight with a cfi (who actually had less time then me). As I went to pick up into a hover, I looked over to notice that she was guarding the cyclic. I couldn't help but feel a little insulted (I mean come on, I'm not a student, and its just a pickup!).

 

I can certainly understand new cfis feeling as if they need to treat everyone like a pre-solo student (for their own safety), but its one reason I prefer to fly with more experienced pilots/cfis. When they're relaxed, I'm relaxed, and when I'm relaxed I'm less likely to screw up!,..plus I fly better!

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Dear 398,

 

that's what I said earlier, too. At post #10 I said that as a student you don't like it when the other pilot is guarding the controls (especially if he/she guards it all the time). And that's what triggered Goldy's guess that I haven't experienced a low G roll.

 

Still, I think that few would argue it is not the safest practice to guard the controls all the time. It's common sense. If for some reason you were to screw up that pick-up, and had she not guarded the controls, she would probably not be able to help in avoiding an accident.

 

A 70-hour pilot could fly with an 8,000-hour pilot.... Who would argue that it is not a safe practice for the 70-hour guy to guard the controls? Should he do it though? Well, it would, probably, not be in his best interest to do so... for a variety of reasons.

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Dear 398,

 

that's what I said earlier, too. At post #10 I said that as a student you don't like it when the other pilot is guarding the controls (especially if he/she guards it all the time).

 

Actually, as a student I had no problem with my cfi guarding the controls all the time. However, in my example I was not a student, but a 400hr pilot, just doing a check flight.

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Only the PIC should determine who is at the controls, and when and if they should be guarded. In some situations the 70 hour pilot just might be the PIC, and the 8,000 hour pilot SIC, in that situation the 70 hour pilot would be prudent to use the 8,000 hour pilot as a valuable resource.

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IMHO, there is quite a difference between "guarding" controls and manipulating them, or to be "light" on the controls, or the classic "I'm just going to follow you on the controls".

 

The way I look at it is that when I am flying with somebody as a CFI, regardless if they have zero hours or 10,000 hours, should an accident occur (and god willing we survive) its my butt that's on the line and the accident goes against me. I therefore will guard the controls like both my life and my chosen career depend on it, because they both do.

 

I'm not saying I hover an inch from the controls for the whole flight, waiting to pounce. I use my judgement to guard controls as the situation dictates. I've talked about this before, but I won't touch or manipulate anything without saying so first (except when time doesn't allow). I had an instructor that constantly made adjustments to the point where I sometimes didn't know who was the one doing the flying.

Edited by Pohi
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Actually, as a student I had no problem with my cfi guarding the controls all the time. However, in my example I was not a student, but a 400hr pilot, just doing a check flight.

 

just to clarify, I did not say that I have a problem either. I said I do not like it... but I guess no body does. However, the safest thing is for the other pilot (PIC or SIC) to always guard them.

 

Aeroscout, the 70-hour pilot should use any-amount-hour pilot as a valuable resource, because everybody has to learn something from everybody. And probably that 70hour pilot has a lot to learn from that 8,000 hour pilot, indeed. My point was though that if I go and fly with a 8,000hour pilot, and when he takes the control for the pick up, it's not really prudent to put my hands a couple of inches off the controls, and I tell him "well, I have to guard them, just in case something happens."

 

To get back on track though, and to the accident we are talking about, what I said is: it is a possibility that the CFI, experienced as he was, was a little more relaxed with how much space allowed before he intervened on the controls. Which, if that was the case, apparently was not safe to do. But, this is just a speculation, cause I have no idea of what really happened in there. As Goldy mentioned before, there is a survivor, who will hopefully shed some light on what actually happened.

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there is a survivor, who will hopefully shed some light on what actually happened.

 

I'm curious as to whether the survivor would come anywhere near a helicopter ever again, and

subsequently whether the actual truth would ever come out.

 

Speaking of, does anyone know how they investigate this stuff, how do they determine what actually happened? I presume they go over the airframe with a toothcomb looking for all sorts of indications, since a R22 doesn't have a blackbox or flight recorder, how do they actually figure it out? Would love to hear from someone who knows / has experience.

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