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Would You Feel Comfortable Flying This Helicopter?


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I just wanted to see what everyone's thoughts were on flying a particular helicopter. I'm still new to everything and it would be great to fly brand new equipment, but I know that's not always the case or practical. I don't want to be overly cautious, as I've already developed that name for myself, but I don't want to let things slide that could be potentially hazardous.

 

It has had a thorough preflight and flies, which I know doesn't say much. In my gut it feels like the school just acquired an old used Buick, and who knows what the history is or what is lurking on the inside. Maybe the school and chief pilot know exactly where it came from and who they are dealing with, but I feel like this thing could have been oversped on on the daily and nobody would be the wiser.

 

I'd like to open the discussion and see what everyone thinks. Maybe I'm just being too picky for being a bottom rung student. I'm wide open to that, I just don't have enough experience to really feel out when something isn't right.

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1) Engine gauges have an aged yellow coating over them.

Doesn't seem like an issue to me, as long as it doesn't effect the ability to read the gauges, and they still work properly.

2) Blade tips and leading edge have the paint wearing off, showing the silver metallic color.

How far back the leading edge strip are they worn? I'm not a Robbie tech, but usually, worn paint isn't an issue on the leading edge of rotor blades, actually normal depending on where the aircraft is operated, and what kind of aircraft it is, until it gets out of hand and/or reaches a certain point on the blade. Is it enough to expose the line where the leading edge strip meets the rest of the spar? I'd refer to the maintenance manual for that one.

3) Absolute bare bones avionics, with the previous owner saying the transponder can have "good and bad days".

If the transponder is truly not working, and it's required in the airspace you are operating in, I would indeed have it serviced or replaced.

4) Side window glass scratched.

Unless it impairs vision through the window day or night, I'd be fine with it. If it does impair vision, replace it. Or try some plastic polish. A good plastic polishing/scratch removing kit can work wonders on abused windows.

5) Torque stripes hardened and broken off (everything feels tight though, most likely from age and sun wear)

I'd be fine with this as well. Maybe torque check items that have broken torque stripe that is falling off from age/uv/heat exposure.

 

6) Exposed bolts (i.e. pitch link bolts and lock nuts) show signs of corrosion (i.e. brown)

This one is an issue for me. Corrosion on the surface leads me to wonder/worry about corrosion in hidden areas where it can be a factor, big or small.

7) Droop stops show some signs of wear.

I'd also refer to the manual on this one. Is it out of limits? Cracked? Something I'd look into just to check.

8) I don't know what the total time on it is, but the hobbs meter is back to all zeros.

Back to all zeros as in no longer counting hours? Does the time on the Hobbs match what is in the records?

9) Overall look of a used and abused R22.

I'd have to see the aircraft for myself, but aircraft appearance plays a big picture in the overall condition of the aircraft, and how well it was cared for. I can't say without looking at it if I'd fly it, but, if after looking into the things above, that could be a firm no if things don't check out. Does the aircraft feel low on power? Do you have reason to believe the Mp gauge is incorrect? Does the Mp it pulls in flight vary compared to other R22s the school flies, under the same conditions(temp, humidity)?

 

FAR 91.7 b

 

The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

 

If you are uncomfortable with it, bring it up to a mechanic. If it is a legit discrepancy, log it. Again, I've never been or have worked on a Robbie before. Maybe someone with more experience on that airframe can chime in. Does the school review/audit the aircraft records prior to using it for those remaining hours left on it before it times out? I would hope so, but figured I'd ask.

Edited by superstallion6113
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Impossible to say without actually seeing and touching the helicopter. None of the items you listed would definitely ground a machine. Well, the corrosion might possibly but that depends on how bad it is. An inaccurate or otherwise disabled hour meter on an R22 could be a sign of someone under recording hours. What was the previous owner using it for?

 

Who was the last maintenance provider that signed off on a 100hrly? Your school obviously has an engineer, did he have a look at it and sign it off as "airworthy"?

If so, chances are that it is, in fact, airworthy. There are exceptions to every rule, but under normal circumstances engineers don't knowingly sign off stuff that isn't safe to fly.

Edited by lelebebbel
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If I have questions like you asked, I bend the mechanic's ear a little. Offer a cup of coffee, or whatever breaks the ice. Mostly I find them very willing to illuminate their decision making and the grounds for it. The more trust and understanding between the two departments, the better everybody does.

You'll see a fair few rags and dogs in your professional career. If you have real objections to flying any of them, that decision is always yours. Know what you are talking about when you make the call.

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I just wanted to see what everyone's thoughts were on flying a particular helicopter. I'm still new to everything and it would be great to fly brand new equipment, but I know that's not always the case or practical. I don't want to be overly cautious, as I've already developed that name for myself, but I don't want to let things slide that could be potentially hazardous.

 

The particular helicopter in question is 90 hours out from major overhaul and came from Florida.

 

I'll describe the helicopter, and I'll see what everyone's reaction is:

 

1) Engine gauges have an aged yellow coating over them.

2) Blade tips and leading edge have the paint wearing off, showing the silver metallic color.

3) Absolute bare bones avionics, with the previous owner saying the transponder can have "good and bad days".

4) Side window glass scratched.

5) Torque stripes hardened and broken off (everything feels tight though, most likely from age and sun wear)

6) Exposed bolts (i.e. pitch link bolts and lock nuts) show signs of corrosion (i.e. brown)

7) Droop stops show some signs of wear.

8) I don't know what the total time on it is, but the hobbs meter is back to all zeros.

9) Overall look of a used and abused R22.

 

Like yourself, most at this point in their career don’t have the prerequisite knowledge to differentiate between minor defects and potential airworthiness issues; therefore, they work from the overly cautious end of the spectrum. The items you’ve listed don’t seem to be much of an issue. Get to know your local A&P mechanic. Go up and introduce yourself.

 

If you’re concerned, talk with the school’s owner, A&P mechanic, or an off-staff A&P mechanic. To ease your mind, below are cited NTSB cases and an FAA interpretation about aircraft wear and minor defects. Such are not airworthiness issues.

 

While the statute sets forth the requirements for the issuance of an airworthiness certificate, NTSB case law has recognized the difference between a new aircraft and one that has been in service, i.e., an aircraft may have accumulated a certain amount of wear and minor defects and still be considered to substantially conform to its type certificate and therefore be airworthy, if it still is in condition for safe operation. Administrator v. Clavier, 5 NTSB 1099, 1101 (1986)

 

However, we do not agree that every scratch, dent, 'pinhole' of corrosion, missing screw, or other defect, no matter how minor or where located on the aircraft, dictates the conclusion that the aircraft's design, construction, or performance has been impaired by the defect to a degree that the aircraft no longer conforms to its type certificate.

 

Important in the NTSB's reasoning was that the FAA had not shown that "the alleged defects or discrepancies had had an adverse impact on the level of safety that an aircraft's conformity with its type certificate is intended to insure, or to counter the substantial evidence adduced by respondent that they had not had such an impact." ; Administrator v. Calavaero, 5 NTSB 1105 (1986). See also Administrator v. Frost, NTSB Order No. EA-4680 (1998).

 

An airplane that has been in service a number of years clearly is not in exactly the same condition as when it left the factory. Nevertheless, if the airplane has properly been inspected and maintained in accordance with 14 C.F.R. parts 91 and 43, it should substantially conform to its type certificate to the extent that will provide a level of safety that conformity with its type certificate is intended to insure.

 

The determination of when a mechanical, electrical, or structural discrepancy is sufficiently serious to render an aircraft unairworthy is, in many cases, a judgment call. If the defect is an obvious safety issue, the air carrier regulations noted above provide procedures that a pilot in command must follow if an unsafe condition develops during a flight.

 

Request for Interpretation of 14 C.F.R. §§ 91.7 and 3.5(a)

Edited by iChris
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When you mentioned "torque strips," your description suggested you were talking about torque seal or the paint that is placed on nuts that are torqued in place. You should know that this lacquer seal isn't required, and the presence or absence doesn't tell you that the part is properly maintained.

 

The bolt heads and components you saw which were rusted are a concern. If I were working on that aircraft, I would replace them, as well as inspect the underlying surfaces and components to which they were attached.

 

When you indicated that the aircraft is 90 hours shy of overhaul, did you mean shy of TBO, or Time Before Overhaul? TBO is a recommended interval, and means nothing. It becomes mandatory when dealing with charter and airline operations, but on aircraft operated under Part 91, it's not mandatory. An an engine may fall well short of TBO, or operate successfully long after TBO.

 

An engine which has been run before no longer has TBO attached, nor should it be an expectation. This is to say that TBO is predicated on a remanufactured engine, or one rebuilt to factory specifications is the only engine for which a basic expectation should be had respecting TBO. An engine which is "overhauled" may have all the original parts inside; it may have only been inspected and found to fall within tolerances, to be considered overhauled. One should use caution, and certainly shouldn't expect to go the full term of TBO again.

 

The short story is take what you are told with a grain of salt. Be suspicious. Aircraft talk to you, and often the only warning you're given of impending problems is subtle. It may be a few drops of oil. It may be a smoking rivet. It's something, somewhere, and it may be all the warning you get. Lack of care or extreme wear are signs of hard use, perhaps lack of upkeep, but should be warning signs none the less. When you see unusual manifold pressure signs that don't coincide with the performance you expect from that machine, then be suspicious.

 

Manifold pressure isn't very well understood by students or instructors, or it seems, by most mechanics. Most seem to think it's the amount of air pressure being forced into the engine, but much of the time (and especially in non-turbocharged equipment), it's just the opposite. Until manifold pressure is boosted by a turbocharger, the highest it can go is ambient, or barometric. At sea level that's just shy of 30" After that, barometric drops about an inch per thousand feet of pressure altitude, which means that maximum manifold pressure at 5,000 is about 25".

 

An engine is a vacuum cleaner as far as the induction manifold is concerned. Put your hand over the end of a shopvac hose, and the engine whines and strains, and the pressure in the hose drops. Same for closing the throttle on the piston aircraft engine; low manifold pressure is suction from the engine drawing the pressure in the induction down, when the throttle plate is closed. Closing the throttle is like putting your hand over the end of a vacuum cleaner hose. The throttle isn't putting air in, it's reducing the restriction over the intake. We don't think of it this way, because as we increase throttle, we're used to seeing an increase in power. The increase in power is because we're allowing more fuel and more air for combustion.

 

Unusual power settings not aligned with performance or expectations should always be suspect. Look over the powerplant: leaks, wear, and anything that stands out to you as trouble could very well be. Don't take an aircraft into the air of which you're unsure. If you have a funny feeling about the aircraft, listen to that feeling. There is no flight which must be made. You can always fly again another day, in another aircraft, but the wrong choice may prevent you from every flying at all. As the movie says, "choose wisely."

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The particular helicopter in question is 90 hours out from major overhaul and came from Florida.

 

I'll describe the helicopter, and I'll see what everyone's reaction is:

 

6) Exposed bolts (i.e. pitch link bolts and lock nuts) show signs of corrosion (i.e. brown)

 

 

How’s this link in comparisons? It too is a little brown.

 

 

{Click photo to enlarge}

 

Rodendandwitnesshole_zps54fc36c7.jpg

 

This is more of what you normally see:

 

20071231-DSC_0184_zpsff6b62c6.jpg

Edited by iChris
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Thanks everyone for your responses.

 

If you look at the helicopter piece by piece there is nothing that would make it unairworthy per say, it is just the overall feel you get from looking at it.

 

In regards to the torque stripes, I tend to think of it in terms of "if it wasn't important they wouldn't put them on there". So if they are burned off or broken in anyway, if people just disregard them and make sure they are finger tight, then I guess I don't understand why the checklists asks for them. But again, I'm the first to admit I'm inexperienced, and the nature of helicopters makes me want to make sure everything is right before I leave the ground.

 

Also, I'm not sure of the actual maintenance schedule. I've just heard the phrase "90 hours out from overhaul and we are going to fly that time off".

 

On a side note also, I feel like I'm spending good money, and the fact that I'm going to be flying the run down and timed out helicopters of others, doesn't exactly feel right. When I first flew there the helicopters looked nice and were well kept, but as you can see they are combining maintenance with the training and using helicopters just on a leaseback.

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How’s this link in comparisons? It too is a little brown.

 

 

{Click photo to enlarge}

 

Rodendandwitnesshole_zps54fc36c7.jpg

 

Chris,

 

I don't recall the actual condition of the pitch link (hopefully I describe the names of the parts accurately). It was the bolt that was holding the link on the ball joint pictured above. The head of that bolt looked brown and if my memory serves me correctly looked something like this (in terms of color):

 

stock-photo-old-dirty-rusty-screw-heads-

 

That may be incorrect as I just remember pointing out and saying "hey that looks kind of brown".

 

So is that bolt going anywhere? Most likely not, but if you start to spin in rapidly, throw in some turbulence, and have it be constantly under load, I then start to think, I'm not sure.

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I flew it once and the collective and cyclic feel somewhat "loose". The collective will drop 2" of manifold pressure within 1 second, but this can be corrected somewhat with the friction increased.

 

We've got two 22s, both with "out of wack" collectives! One pops up, the other falls down (2" in 1 sec,...easily)! Personally, I prefere the one that pops up, (its easier to push down, than hold up!)

 

As for torque stripes. I haven't seen many of those in a long time!

 

I see what you're getting at though. This second helicopter we got fairly recently (the one with the falling collective), is pretty beat up looking (paint wearing off the blades, flickering gage lights, a few dents here and there, etc...), and too seems like and old worn out Buick,...I never thought I'd miss its predicessor, that one really sucked! As long as the mechanic says its ok, then I'm ok,...for the most part?

 

Some schools just can't afford the bright and shinny new ones!

Edited by pilot#476398
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The head of that bolt looked brown and if my memory serves me correctly looked something like this (in terms of color):

 

stock-photo-old-dirty-rusty-screw-heads-

 

That may be incorrect as I just remember pointing out and saying "hey that looks kind of brown".

 

What was their reply to your "hey that looks kind of brown"?

 

Check it out on your next visit and take a photo, could be noteworthy.

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In regards to the torque stripes, I tend to think of it in terms of "if it wasn't important they wouldn't put them on there".

 

Torque seal, or lacquer seal, is a small tube of paint that individual mechanics can (but are not required) use after applying torque to a rotating fastener, most usually a nylock nut. It does not tell you what the torque is on the bolt.

 

Torque is bolt stretch, not tightness of a nut. This is something not well understood. Torque can and does change with time, and the presence of lacquer seal on a nut doesn't tell you anything more than the fact that there is lacquer seal on the nut. You have no idea what the actual torque value was that was applied to the bolt, or what shape the bolt was in before it was applied.

 

Just as importantly, do you know what you're seeing when you examine the fastener during the preflight? How many threads must protrude from the nut? (at least one full thread) Most instructors don't know what they're seeing and don't pass it on to their students. How about the condition of that rod-end? Know what to look for; it's much more than torque seal.

 

Bear in mind that whereas mechanics in the past may have used the torque seal, it doesn't mean the last one did. There's also no telling how recent the seal was. When was the last inspection required of that bolt? Has it been done? The presence (or absence) of torque seal doesn't tell you that, and it doesn't tell you if the bolt shoulder has been examined, if elongation or stretch has occurred, or even if its an approved part in there. Do you know what markings to look for on the bolt head to identify the part? Preflight item.

 

Some fasteners such as castellated nuts, don't get torque seal; they have a general torque value applied, but its through a wide range, and varies as needed to adjust the nut castellations to line up with the bolt hole to install the cotter pin. When you see those cotter pins, how do you know if they're properly secured (there's a wrong way to install one)?

 

AC 43.13 should be required reading for all students, as should the maintenance publications for the aircraft being flown.

 

That may be incorrect as I just remember pointing out and saying "hey that looks kind of brown".

 

Cadmium plated, painted, or rust?

 

If the aircraft is questionable, don't fly it.

 

Even a well-used aircraft should be kept in fully airworthy condition. If it's raising red flags, don't fly it.

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Understandably though I know they can't force me to fly it, but I know that everyday is an interview, and if I'm declining to fly a helicopter because it doesn't "feel right", its most likely going to make some heads spin. The way I see it in my head, I'm expecting some subtle ridicule and feel I'll likely be talking myself out of a potential job as they want this thing to get to maintenance so that money will be made.

 

On a side note also, I feel like I'm spending good money, and the fact that I'm going to be flying the run down and timed out helicopters of others, doesn't exactly feel right. When I first flew there the helicopters looked nice and were well kept, but as you can see they are combining maintenance with the training and using helicopters just on a leaseback.

 

You are a paying customer. If you are not happy with the product then don't accept it. If they don't want to hire you later down the road because you refused to pay to fly a clapped out helicopter, then is that really a company you want to work for? It's one thing if you were working there, but like you said, you are paying for these flights...

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What was their reply to your "hey that looks kind of brown"?

 

Check it out on your next visit and take a photo, could be noteworthy.

 

I think its of the attitude of looking at any bolt that is slightly off color and asking the question "is that bolt ok"? I think it just elicits the automatic response of "yea it looks fine".

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Guest pokey

How’s this link in comparisons? It too is a little brown.

 

 

{Click photo to enlarge}

 

Rodendandwitnesshole_zps54fc36c7.jpg

 

This is more of what you normally see:

 

20071231-DSC_0184_zpsff6b62c6.jpg

that pitch link is the strangest combination i have ever seen,,,,pal nuts, jam nuts nylon/hi temp? locknuts, Does that safety wire even do anything? Must be a robinson with the pal nuts, but the 204 P/N ? & the painted safety wire,,,??

 

All i like to see in a control system is good old cotter pin, an art to bending them tho, and so is safety wiring..

 

and this person needs to have his torque stripe laquer confiscated ! or learn what it is for and how to use it

Edited by pokey
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My next reservation is that I'm pretty much ready to solo, and this helicopter will likely be the one I'll be flying, which again sits even worse with me, that I've only flown it once and have the feelings that I do about it.

 

Understandably though I know they can't force me to fly it, but I know that everyday is an interview, and if I'm declining to fly a helicopter because it doesn't "feel right", its most likely going to make some heads spin. The way I see it in my head, I'm expecting some subtle ridicule and feel I'll likely be talking myself out of a potential job as they want this thing to get to maintenance so that money will be made.

 

Sometimes it comes down to this: I don't want to fly that/now/there. Explain your reasons and if convincing responses are forthcoming, you go. If not, you don't. Either way, it's your decision, your call and your life, if you get right down to it. Be wrong on the ground.

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Guest pokey

i vote to: GROUND IT !! you can ya know ,,,,,,,,,,,,,, :blink:

 

 

we all know you cant do that,,,(well some of us)

 

as far as the bolts go?,, in corrosive enviroments, alot of operators use cosmoline (aka par-al-ketone--((blackbear)) on the exposed heads and nuts, & assemble the parts with mastinox.

 

i personally assemble just about every bolt with mastinox, & if corrosive environment, everything that may rust gets a light coat of black bear,---it looks like a rusty mess, but ? underneath is a brite shining bolt.

 

Some bolts and assemblies cannot be assembled with mastinox tho,, in those instances i use zinc chromate, or even anti-sieze compound. Just because the bolt looks "rusty",,, consult a mechanic that knows a bit about corrosion, or do your research--which is what the original poster is doing here in the 1st place.

 

edited for practical reasons

Edited by pokey
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Pokey, they very well could of used some sort of anti corrosive coating to keep everything nice underneath. The issue is, is that I don't know and nobody else seems keen to find out, unless it is in the logs somewhere. I think the main overlying issue I have is that it was just dropped off by two people nobody knows that well. They could be excellent caretakers or the absolute worst. Considering that the general condition of the helicopter can be categorized as beat, I am assuming the worst; especially being as cautious as I am. Combine that with the environment that it came from and having already been wrecked before puts me over the edge to say "no" and stick to my guns.

 

As mentioned before though, this likely means I don't fly, which will start to anger everyone else, since its a go go go type of school.

 

Quite the predicament, make my potential employer and fellow coworkers happy, or err on the side of caution.

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If your school is comfortable sending students up in it, but you aren't comfortable flying it, then you should probably find another school? This issue will come up again, and there is always someone else willing to fly what you're not!

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If your school is comfortable sending students up in it, but you aren't comfortable flying it, then you should probably find another school? This issue will come up again, and there is always someone else willing to fly what you're not!

 

I completely agree, that's where I don't know if I'm just being a baby or not.

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I completely agree, that's where I don't know if I'm just being a baby or not.

 

I know how you feel!

 

Two weeks ago I interviewed for an R44 tour gig. They operate out of a confined area, surrounded on one side by trees, the other three by wires, one of which includes a huge transmission tower who's practically invisible guy wires stretch well into the landing area! This place screams WIRE STRIKE especially since they insist on coming in over the wires near the tower, which also makes the approach the steepest choice, which is perfect for hot and heavy Raven Is! On top of that, I would have been required to hot fuel (something I was told never to do with avgas)! I took one look at this place and said to myself, "This operation was set up by a complete moron"!

 

I would not have felt comfortable (let alone SAFE) flying in and out of this all day, every day, for the next 4 months! However, if he'd offered me the job, I'd of felt pressured to take it (despite my missgivings) because, as its been said, if I'm not willing to fly, there's always someone else who is!

 

sh*t like this is why I don't believe commercial flying is for me!,...and it would seem you have a similar decision to make, because beat up looking choppers are just the beginning!

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I know how you feel!

 

Two weeks ago I interviewed for an R44 tour gig. They operate out of a confined area, surrounded on one side by trees, the other three by wires, one of which includes a huge transmission tower who's practically invisible guy wires stretch well into the landing area! This place screams WIRE STRIKE especially since they insist on coming in over the wires near the tower, which also makes the approach the steepest choice, which is perfect for hot and heavy Raven Is! On top of that, I would have been required to hot fuel (something I was told never to do with avgas)! I took one look at this place and said to myself, "This operation was set up by a complete moron"!

 

I would not have felt comfortable (let alone SAFE) flying in and out of this all day, every day, for the next 4 months! However, if he'd offered me the job, I'd of felt pressured to take it (despite my missgivings) because, as its been said, if I'm not willing to fly, there's always someone else who is!

 

sh*t like this is why I don't believe commercial flying is for me!,...and it would seem you have a similar decision to make, because beat up looking choppers are just the beginning!

 

That's exactly how I feel. The stretch I make between safety and succeeding. Perhaps the question should be asked if I'm cut out for it if I can't handle a rough robbie, but then I immediately think well why should I if I'm the one paying for it.

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maybe there is something to say for learning to fly on the farm... you'd be better prepared for the real world equipment...

I suppose I'd be real suspicious of a shiny new helicopter... means nobody has tested it out to see if it will stay in the sky... I'm comfortable in rust, dirt, 12000 hour airframes and hot fueling avgas.

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