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So I've been paid to fly helicopters for two years now and recently had my third engine failure. All three times I managed to put the helicopter down with no damage. The first two times left me a little rattled but I was back up in the air in short order no worse for the wear. This last time however it didn't really phase me at all. I'd been through it twice before and each time had a positive outcome. This time was different though in that I had a junior pilot with me along for the ride and it left him extremely shaken up. To the point he was fighting back tears later that evening and was seriously considering getting out of this business all together. And that made me take a step back and wonder if my response to it was inappropriate? Have I developed a dangerous attitude that to me this has just become a part of flying? And now as I think about it I'm left wondering how many times can I get away with this before there is an unhappy ending? I believe I am flying safely. The reason why it's turned out well each time is I pay close attention to what my machine is telling me and I make sure to have a forced landing area at all times. The first one gave no warning but this most recent gave me a few subtle hints so I was doing a flat pitch approach when the engine actually gave out. I hope those reading can take something away from that. I don't have any specific questions and I apologize for my rambling post (I'm not much of a writer). But after reading the feeling lonely post I'm just hoping this can generate some positive conversation about some of the dangers we face.

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People react to traumatic events in different ways. I say as long as you take these failures as learning experiences that reinforce good habits and not a testament to how you are invincible you're fine.

 

We had a fatal accident in my neck of the woods where another companies helicopter went down over an area we frequent and it affected everyone a bit differently. It gave me pause but I tried to learn what I could from what went wrong and move on. Fly defensively but you can't live your life in fear.

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Complacency in the reliability of your skills, your aircraft, the weather, or even ATC is the danger. Confidence that your skills and abilities are sufficient to overcome the challenges of the job is completely appropriate for a professional aviator. Read the NTSB reports, learn from others, and make a commitment to yourself that you won't ever allow yourself to be rushed or pressured into a bad situation.

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Three different companies and three different aircraft. Two were problems internal to the engine that couldn't be seen on preflight. The other was a flame out caused by a new hire I was training in our mission who allegedly had 7000 hours more than me and 3000 in type.... I call bull sh!t on that.

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In the ten years since I got my Commercial certificate I have had two brushes with death. Both were during "pay-to-work",..."opportunities", while trying to build R44 time and get something to put on my resume.

 

The first had me patting myself on the back for my awesome ADM skills. The second had me hunched over trying not to puke while seriously reconsidering my ability to make any good decisions! My faith in my ability to handle Commercial pressure was shaken so badly that when (shortly after this) someone contacted me saying they could get me in with their company for an actual paying job, I turned him down!

 

Of course "time heals all wounds", and eventually the memory of being lucky to be alive faded and my confidence returned, so I began searching for work again,...though in light of recent events I have come to accept that some of us are better off just flying on the weekends for fun!

 

You my friend though,...

 

Three engine failures in two years! Either The Fates really like you, or they are trying to tell you something?

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It happens.

 

Stack the decks in your favor by making a concentrated effort to have a viable place to put the aircraft at any given time. Beyond that, train and prepare so that an emergency becomes simply an abnormal procedure; the professional strives to make the abnormal seem routine.

 

If others become rattled, it may be their inexperience, bad day, external factors, or perhaps they're just not up to the task. Or it may be that you scared them.

 

You ask if you're doing something wrong because you didn't become worked up over handling a problem in flight. You shouldn't get worked up when handling a problem in flight. That's what you're paid to do: exercise judgement and handle problems.

 

Keep on trucking.

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Well I'm trying to stay as anonymous as possible so I'm sorry for the vagueness. The first one was instructing in a robbie the other two were in turbines. I just started this job and that engine failure occurred about a week into it.

Didn't mean to pry, I just didn't want to be the less than thousand hour Robbie Ranger giving the, "hang in there buddy" emotional type advice to a retired Blackhawk pilot flying 92's in the GOM.

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You've had as many engine failures in your short career as I have had in 48 years. Don't get all invulnerable behind your success so far, but don't hide under the bed either. You've had the opportunity to learn by the most effective instructional method known not to casually put yourself in non-survivable situation.

 

This can be very hazardous business in that it's very unforgiving of carelessness. The profession can be magnitudes safer if you are careful, rational professional every time.

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You've had as many engine failures in your short career as I have had in 48 years. Don't get all invulnerable behind your success so far, but don't hide under the bed either. You've had the opportunity to learn by the most effective instructional method known not to casually put yourself in non-survivable situation.

 

This can be very hazardous business in that it's very unforgiving of carelessness. The profession can be magnitudes safer if you are careful, rational professional every time.

You've been flying for as many years as Avbugs had engine failures...

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The people on this forum must attract engine failures like mosquitoes.

 

I have flown for 45 years, done 15,000 hrs, and never had one. Worst was an N2 runaway in a BK117. The engine in a Huey coughed once, not quite a compressor stall. That's it.

 

A rabbit's foot is supposed to be lucky, but maybe not for the rabbit.

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Astro, that's part of the reason I don't post normally. It seems like the thoughts of people without significant experience aren't valued here. 1500 ish here just fyi

 

Adam32 and Helonorth, not trying to start anything but Avbug had something constructive to say and you guys are going to poke at him? Sure he can be obnoxious sometimes but he hasn't been here. This is why meaningful discussions aren't being had. Unless thats your goal, in which case good work trolls.

 

Eric, would you mind having some engine failures please? I'm tired of carrying your statistical weight in that department. (that's a joke)

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Well I'm trying to stay as anonymous as possible so I'm sorry for the vagueness. The first one was instructing in a robbie the other two were in turbines. I just started this job and that engine failure occurred about a week into it.

 

As already mentioned, we need context to relate accordingly….

 

For me, these types of events can define you as a pilot and actually make you attractive to potential employers ala, use it to your advantage (did ya get any extra $ for saving the machine?) With that, document what happened as your memory will distort the actual events over time..

 

However, without knowing the specifics, it would appear your unfortunate outcomes might be reflective of the operators you seem to be attracted to simply because I would find it hard to believe that over 3 operators their only failures occurred when you showed up….

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Fair point Spike. I did end up leaving one because of terrible MX. Ironically though that was the one where a much more experienced pilot shut the fuel off on me. As a low time pilot though its not a matter of being attracted to them, its a matter of options. Of course we should all refuse to fly for the shadier operators, but reality doesn't allow us to be that picky when 5000+ hour pilots are flying in the ditch because oil crashed. Didn't you once say you flew for the tuna boats? How was the MX out there?

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Fair point Spike. I did end up leaving one because of terrible MX. Ironically though that was the one where a much more experienced pilot shut the fuel off on me. As a low time pilot though its not a matter of being attracted to them, its a matter of options. Of course we should all refuse to fly for the shadier operators, but reality doesn't allow us to be that picky when 5000+ hour pilots are flying in the ditch because oil crashed. Didn't you once say you flew for the tuna boats? How was the MX out there?

 

That was my point. Some sectors, like some tuna boat operators, are more likely to cut corners. One of the worst ones I experienced was an Ag operator. Like you, I quit because the limit was crossed and my life was worth more than building time… At that time, my strategy was to take a step backwards and return to flight instruction. This allowed me to continue to build time in better maintained machines….

 

Your options will be what you make them. It’s a simple formula. Don’t want to risk it? Don’t work for a shady operator. If shady operators are your only choice, you'll need rethink the endeavor or hit the pavement and find an up-n-up operator. Additionally, chasing turbine time can lead to working for a shady operator. For now, maybe reevaluate that path…….

 

And, thank you for the post. For some of us, it generated a legit discussion….

Edited by Spike
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FWIW, I think the "have you had any incidents or accidents" question on an interview is the perfect situation to seal a job interview, and it's a question you know you're going to get.

 

I haven't seen it in the helicopter industry, but I know of bush plane operators that won't hire a pilot if they HAVEN'T had an accident yet. They figure that you need to have one in order to know your limits, and they don't want you finding yourself, as it were, in their aircraft.

 

I'd say not only learn what you can from these situations (like it's always the ones you trust that will try to kill you), but also use these situations as a way to define who you are as a pilot: calm and competent under duress.

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Great discussion question by OP "my controls".

No engine failures, but some eye opening system failures.

Fire light no secondaries, had to land immediately at abandoned strip.

2 complete electrical failures(day).

Numerous gear issues.

Pressurization failure.

Numerous birdstrikes, the worst of them was a shattered windscreen.

I remember one of the electrical failures left me a little maudlin, but my instructor complimented me, so I got over that quickly.

I just try to be mentally prepared for what may come my way, and handle what comes up without too much panic or emotion.

I only lost it once and tried to track down the culprit later, only to get shut out.

I suppose if I had kept my cool the guilty party may have come forward for detente.

I think some people's temperament, disposition, and character make them more suitable for handling situations where the chips are down, while others are great during ops normal.

Great discussion to my fellow forum members.

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Engine failures:

 

First, UH-1H on a tactical strip, middle of the night, Vietnam. Landed for fuel, SIC took the controls and idled back, and it stopped. No engine noises at all, rotor coasting. The Cobras I was with worked a few more calls in the area and then left me... The VC came to visit and all we had was 2 pintle-mounted 60s. You feel kind of exposed sitting in a stationary Slick behind the 60, so we took'em off and laid behind some gravel while the fight went on over the road that paralleled the strip.

 

Second, Twinstar, Gulf of Mexico, with autorelight. Normal start, takeoff from land base, cruise established. Bang, yaw 90 to the right, and then returned to trim... gauges normal?!? Everything responds normally, but I ain't going offshore with this. Land at base, shutdown, maintenance crew. An hour later, they can't find anything wrong, let's fly it and see what happens... Well, number 1 clicks but no starter rotation. Look down the intake and there's a stator vane laying into the axial compressor mechanically stopping everything. The vane had failed in flight shifting enough to disrupt the flow and compressor stall the engine and then slid into the taper and held clear of the whizzy bits until I shutdown. It had auto-relit just like nothing happened, it was at speed with fuel, and everything was hunky-dory...

 

The third was not technically an engine failure but a drive-train failure in a 300. New bearings on the drive pulley, cross-country over a national forest. Smell rubber burning? There's a nice big cow pasture, descending turns, decel, and power stops and the engine surges, hover auto from a highish flare. Student jumps out, sticks his head back in "There's a fire!" Grab the extinguisher! He says "I blew it out." The rear bearing had failed, allowing the belts to lose tension, and the bearing packing seal was burning when we landed, which the student blew out. The worst thing was the bearing assembly shed ball bearings into the cooling fan and broke several blades, had to be replaced too.

 

Like Aeroscout, lots of other stuff that isn't covered in school:

A zillion bird strikes. Bird are bugs with feathers. A gull punched a hole in the nosecone of my Twinstar, but otherwise they just leave smears and feathers. Flying foxes vaporize when hitting a Huey main rotor.

Throttle cable broke on 206BIII, engine remained at full power until I closed the fuel valve at maintenance. Feels real odd to have control loose and sloppy...

Engine condition levers, rotor brake lever broken at various times on the Twinstar. 100 landings a day...

MGB suspension bar bearing separations (3), Twinstar.

Tail rotor "spider" Twinstar.

Pick any electrical system/component, failed- Twinstar. (I hate Twinstars)

Cyclic friction plate jam, Astar. (ALWAYS run your controls completely through all axis before you start, this one would have killed me in flight. Also had a friend who had the cyclic break off, Jet Ranger, prestart.)

Countless generator failures. They can be sneaky, not always annunciated by a light. Once, at night, the lights just got dimmer... Once, day time, the first indication was that I got lost. Without current flow, your mag compass corrections don't have anything to correct, the whisky compass is just inaccurate. (Compass, pronounced "kuhm-puh-s"- an archaic instrument for determining direction)

 

I'm not scared, I'm careful.

Edited by Wally
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Generator failures can be particularly interesting; it's not just a loss of electrical current. A generator bearing failure may be a generator putting out acceptable voltage, but can result in an engine fire. Same for generators using a reduction unit which may or may not be lubricated by the aircraft oil system. This is true of constant speed drive units, which may have their own system not monitored with a chip light.

 

I have had to do CSD disconnects and engine shut downs on perfectly functioning engines, but with a generator bearing failure, or CSD issue.

 

A generator failure, especially on a magnesium frame generator, can result in a fire that can't be extinguished (Class D fire).

 

It may not be the engine that requires the shutdown, but it still needs to be shut down.

 

I've also experienced a low grade or incipient compressor stall in which the engine wasn't shut down, but which I continued operating at reduced power. In that case, I knew the cause and knew that I could continue operating the engine safely at reduced power, and did so from Arizona to South Carolina, where the aircraft was put in for repairs. That aircraft was a multi engine airplane using a PT6A-66 (Piaggio Avanti).

 

I have shut engines down due to large oil leaks, fires, compressor stalls, power loss, fuel leaks, generator issues, vibration,and other reasons, and in other cases, kept engines running under similar circumstances due to necessity. In most cases, the engine shut downs and engine failures have not constituted emergencies.

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A lot of made-up stories on this forum. I've flown for 44 years with one drive train failure and one partial-power and one shut-down before the engine self-destructed. Makes for conversation, though.

Edited by Rupert
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