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Would You Feel Comfortable Flying This Helicopter?

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I know I'm making a name for myself here as I'm constantly pointing out things that are wrong and incorrect albeit usually minor (loose beacons and things of that nature). I'm most likely digging my own grave, but I don't want to be put in one by overlooking something or flying when it isn't right.


You're not necessarily "digging your own grave," but the manner in which you go about handling a maintenance discrepancy can have a big effect on how you're viewed. If you're working toward an instructor position, you may be putting yourself out of the running if you insist on being a problem man. Conversely, you may guarantee yourself a spot if you come across as a solution man.


I have no use for people who constantly find a problem, try to shoot everything down, whine and complain about every little thing, without offering a solution.


I'm all ears for the person who meets the challenge head on, reveals the deficiency openly and honestly, and who has a solution in hand.


If you're renting, its very simple. You see a squawk, you report it. Your school or rental facility probably has a company squawk sheet for reporting maintenance irregularities or discrepancies, and that's the place to start. You can do better than just reporting it, however, and you can use it to your advantage in several ways.


If you determine that a radio is intermittent, for example, you might just write it up and say nothing. That leaves it a surprise for maintenance, the next renter, the next instructor. Or you could tell someone about it and also write it up. You might look to see how long the aircraft has before the next rental, even have a suggestion handy on an aircraft swap, and a way to get it squared away before the next rental period. You might do a little trouble shooting, find out what's causing the problem, if you can, or try to duplicate it, and determine the exact conditions under which it occurs.


If its the beacon you mentioned, you might write it up, and visit the mechanic to talk about it. Ask him if you can participate in changing the light, or fixing it. You learn something, it gets done faster, you see it through. Everyone is happy, and you get recognized for being proactive with the problem, and taking a hands-on approach. There are various ways you can handle it; some of them will work well for you, some won't.

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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.


The catch is that I want this thing looked through down to the last bolt as if I were buying it since its neither mine nor the school's helicopter, but that would be counter to the idea that they want to just do the overhaul and send it back out.


That's exactly how I feel. The stretch I make between safety and succeeding. I know I'm making a name for myself here as I'm constantly pointing out things that are wrong and incorrect albeit usually minor (loose beacons and things of that nature). I'm most likely digging my own grave, but I don't want to be put in one by overlooking something or flying when it isn't right. You're absolutely right though; all of the instructors are all willing to go at a moments notice. 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.


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

or not.


Once again, get to know your local A&P mechanic. Go up and introduce yourself. Talk with the school’s owner, A&P mechanic, or an off-staff A&P mechanic. Take some photos and review these issues with an A&P, so you can wrap your mind around the maintenance side of the house.


There are some bottom feeders out there; however, most operators do their best to provide their students with a safe and reliable aircraft. They don’t benefit from you having an accident on their watch.


Playing devil’s advocate on the side of the school, here you are still short of your first solo flight, second guesting the integrity of the maintenance department. Sure we’ll take your money and get you through all you’re certificates, but you’ll never see employment with us as an instructor. You have “Problem Employee” written all over. Not Feeling comfortable with that aircraft and refusing to flight it is your option; however, don’t do so in ignorance.


Ease-up and get the facts (Sound Information) before you start making demands. Remember, the interpretation required that an airworthy aircraft meet its type design and be in a condition for safe operation. The maintenance rules do not require that an aircraft that has undergone maintenance be restored to a new or like new condition.


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 something to think about too.

Edited by iChris
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Playing devil’s advocate on the side of the school, here you are still short of your first solo flight, second guesting the integrity of the maintenance department. Sure we’ll take your money and get you through all you’re certificates, but you’ll never see employment with us as an instructor.




I just want to point out that nobody has looked at the helicopter from the school's maintenance department. There is actually an equally as old R22 owned by the school, but this other one came in out of the blue without any sort of inspection by anyone. I think the maintenance here is great and I'm not doubting them at all since I feel comfortable flying a helicopter with equivalent time and age, however the two helicopters are very different when you look at them more closely.


I guess I'm doubting the maintenance department of where this helicopter came from and what its real history is. If it was inspected and looked over as one would do with a 100 hour and signed off, I would feel much more comfortable. The fact that it just got brought in from two unknowns and is considered perfectly fine to fly is questionable in my mind.


As most recommend, it goes along the lines of when people say to check out the equipment and the maintenance of the school you want to fly at. I did that many months ago and their own personal helicopter is great, and their maintenance is in house and apparently has a good reputation. However, now I'm flying one that is extremely ragged out without any connection to the school's maintenance. Decisions Decisions.

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First of all, if any of you newbies out there think you're always going to fly pristine, perfect, just-from-the-factory examples of any make or model helicopter you're going to be given to fly, you better get ouf of avation. Get out now. Just do yourself and everyone else a favor and leave. Out there...you know...out there in the "real world" there is some crappy, crappy equipment. But there is a wide range between being "factory new" and "not okay to fly." And that's where we pilots live.


Having said that, are there lines to be drawn when it comes to what's airworthy and what's not? Of course! Are you, at this stage of the game prepared to draw those lines? No, of course not.


Look, aviation is based on trust. "We" (pilots, mechanics, operators, passengers, and the general public over which the aircraft will fly) trust the engineers to design a robust, durable product that will survive for its intended service life and not spontaneously self-destruct. We (pilots, mechanics and operators) trust the factory workers to assemble it properly. We (pilots) trust the mechanics in the field to maintain it properly. Finally, we (passengers and mechanics) trust the pilot to fly it properly and not abuse it beyond published limits or crash it outright. Lots of trust going on there.


So. Are people who are more experienced than you flying this helicopter? Do you not trust them to make airworthiness decisions regarding their own safety and well-being? Do you not trust the maintainers who've been operating this helicopter prior to its arrival at your school? Sounds like you do not. Sounds like you have some trust issues, bub. This could be a problem.


Okay, you're just at the very start of your career. You may know something about mechanical things, but unless you're an A&P mechanic you are particularly UNqualified to say with certainty what is airworthy and what is not.


So here's what you do: If you have questions, as you evidently do, then before throwing a hissy fit about something...like, oh, low tire pressure in the main landing gear of that Robbie, go find a real mechanic. Engage him in a non-confrontational, non-threatening way. Make a lot of inappropriate eye contact. Offer to buy him a beer after work (all mechanics are heavy drinkers) at a little out-of-the-way place where you two can be alone and "talk." Admit to him that you're a total idiot when it comes to things mechanical. He probably assumes this anyway, as most mechanics do about pilots but he'll be glad if you say so first. Then tell him you want to learn about what's acceptable in the Real World so you won't make any goofy writeups in the future like, "Magnetic compass seems to be filled with some sort of clear fluid," or, "Directional Gyro won't stay on stable heading during cruise flight, constantly varies ten to twenty degrees either side of desired course." Chances are he'll be so thrilled at your openness and eagerness to join his world that he might actually perform oral sex on you while running you through the intricacies of the mighty R-22 helicopter. (All mechanics are closet homos anyway.) Hey, maybe you'll get lucky (no pun intended) and find a female mechanic to ask! You never know ;) (All female mechanics are smokin' hot and NEVER, ever homos.)


But wait! Sometimes the "other people are flying it so it must be safe" attitude is not foolproof! There are a lot of total idiot pilots out there who'll fly some seriously unairworthy junk. So how does one know?? Experience, man. Always keep learning as much as you can. It never hurts to ask questions, but at this stage just be circumspect about drawing any hard lines in the sand. Sooner or later someone will tell you to cross that line or get the f- out. If it happens to be an employer, you better be prepared to be unemployed. Which, come to think of it is probably the best advice I can give you: Always be prepared to be unemployed in aviation.

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When doubt, there is no doubt- chicken out. I think the decision is made, just looking for a way to wrap it up real pretty.

Edited by Wally
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I think Nearly Retired pretty much hit the spot.


You are not a professional A&P; what you see as a mechanical problem may be absolutely nothing. Or it could be...


So, when in doubt, verify w/ your maintenance team. Talk to them. Politely. Don't attack them, and admit that you're not really sure if there's a problem but you would appreciate their expert advice.


There are good pilots and there are bad pilots. There are good mechanics and there are bad mechanics. You could have a legitimate concern, but due to your lack of mechanical experience, you are better off assessing the characteristics of your schools maintenance personnel to determine if you really have a problem.


If the A&Ps at your school are organized appear to be thoughtful and careful in their work, keep the log books up to date & seem genuinely interested in the aircraft and the success of the operation... well you should be OK. The aircraft may seem like a bit of junker, but they are legitimate professionals and you should trust their judgement.


If the A&Ps at your school are a bunch of sleazy a-hole's who leave the Mx log books in disarray, leave tools in the aircraft after inspections/repairs, and could be generally described as unprofessional... well now you've got a problem.


The appearance of the aircraft can be deceiving. I've flown in 'junkers' that were actually solid, reliable machines.


I've also seen 'pristine' looking aircraft that were actually repainted turds dipped in gold.

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If the company puts the machine on the line, then you should be good to go. If you have a doubt with its condition, then bring it to the company’s attention. With that, the items (previously) mentioned seemed to be in the normal, wear-in-tear category. Even so, get used to flying machines which are questionable as most “working” machines are nowhere near “pristine”.

Flight schools tend to do things right as they are ‘usually’ easy targets for the Feds. Mom-and-Pop, Po-Dunk commercial operators have the experience to cut corners and therefore operate with a lot more latitude.

Additionally, there is a difference between "utilized" and "neglected". For you, you'll need to learn the difference between the two. Such as: previous deferred squawks not addressed. Tool marks on hardware and on surrounding structures near components. Loose or missing hardware. Broken clamps. Overdependence of tape and zip-ties. Sagging landing gear. Unaddressed fuel leaks (oil leaks within limits are expected). Inconsistent use of torque stripes or indicator marks. Unaddressed corrosion (know the different types). Unauthorized hardware. And, the true signature of any maintainer; the quality of safety wire and cotter pins.

Furthermore, the easiest way to know if the machine is well maintained is; is it clean? It’s been said before, a clean aircraft may be a well maintained aircraft but a well maintained aircraft will always be a clean aircraft……

Lastly, in this business, if you find it hard to trust those around you, then seek an education. That is, I trust no one and is one of the reasons why I obtained an A&P certificate. Otherwise, you’ll need to learn to trust and trust in the realm of big-time……

Edited by Spike
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Couple quick items on an R22.


Lots of ships coming out of Florida are imported from other parts of the world, or maybe it was just flying in Florida, plenty of salt air to go around.


Collective creep up or down can be easily fixed and should be. While it may not be an airworthy issue, these are students we are talking about, and collective friction should not have to be used (Goldy's opinion). Losing or gaining 300 feet while you change a transponder code isn't a great feature on an R22!


Look at the tail from the back of the ship....do the skids smile as the cross bar is bent? You can compare it to another ship next to it. Also look at the distance from the bottom of the tail cone to the top of the fan shroud and compare that.


Having an accident isn't the end of a good helicopter as long as you have a good mechanic working on it!


Not having a lot of instrumentation is a good thing. It's just more weight, wear and money that you don't need in a VFR ship. (exception is a G420 or 430)


You should know what is acceptable wear on the main rotor blades since you have to sign off on them before the first flight every day. Bond line exposure is not allowed and will require a tap test and re-painting, just don't let it get there. An inch or so of wear is quite normal.


Easily knock on the tailboom to see if the tail rotor drive shaft seems to wobble or if the mounts are loose......common with overspeeds.


Look at the scroll fan nut to see if the paint stripe lines up, engine overspeeds cause the fan to spin and the mark will be off.


Last is the spindle bearings. Nothing beats a full inspection, but if the ship is less than 100 hours from its 2200 hr overhaul, which I suspect, they are going to be fairly worn out anyway.


Does the cyclic stir excessively in a hover, or especially in an auto? Suspect the bearings getting flat. The newer sets have an extra bearing which makes them more resilient to wear during an overspeed, and of course the newer blades are awesome. Does the ship lose it's track and balance within 5 or 10 hours, then the bearings are shot. Do you have a hard time getting the ship to forward flight and up to 80 or 90 knots?


Like everyone said, walk your mechanic over and ask questions. In the end it's your ass and not mine.


Fly safe!



Edited by Goldy
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