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GOM pilots?


Bear19
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"Slow down, slow down, SLOW DOWN!"

 

There are a lot of riffs on the theme, but a platform approach is usually on the steep side of normal, and keeps a nice, low ROD through the last 50~100' of the approach. Remember that you are making an approach to a deck which is anywhere from 100 to 200 feet above the water, and often as smalll as 25x25. That kind of "adjusts" the H/V curve a bit and persuades you to set up so you could miss the deck for as long as possible in the event of an engine failure. Once you are committed to the deck, you want to be sure you would stay ON the deck in the event of an engine failure, so you want to have a low rate of closure.

 

Right now, I'd characterize my approaches as a normal approach that morphs into a steep approach by slowing down and reducing ROD in the latter phases. Not FAA-spec, but it reduces as much as possible the kinds of trouble you can get into.

 

Weight? Well, you can get away with bigger mistakes when you are light, but I don't change what I do.

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Every approach is different out there. The wind direction & velocity, the temperature, the obstacles, and your weight are different every time. It's always a pinnacle approach, but if you plan it right you have an out by turning and missing the platform, with 100' or so of clear air below you for the go-around. I agree with the somewhat steep approach, but not everyone does. A shallow, hot approach is terrifying for me, but lots of guys do it that way. Personally, I put the pitot tube on the far edge of the helideck, keep the rate of descent between 200 and 400 fpm, and keep it all there right up to a hover. This gets the power in early, with almost no flare on the bottom, and to me is the safest way to do it. It also gives a slow airspeed and groundspeed, with time to look out for obstacles the critters may have placed around the pad. I've seen all sorts of stuff sticking up around offshore helipads, and those will kill you faster than an engine failure.

 

Pretty much the same for takeoff. The wind makes a big difference. In the winter with 40 knot winds in the right direction, you can get off easily at max gross weight. In the summer, with zero wind, or wind blowing down on the helipad, coming over obstructions, you may not be able to get off even with reduced weight. It takes experience, patience, and a very steady touch, and it also depends on the aircraft model. In a Bell, the secret is to get the rotor disk over the edge of the fence, and hold an absolute steady hover. Moving any of the controls will result in loss of lift. Keep it steady, and eventually you will get enough lift to go over the edge, and use the height above the water to gain airspeed, while missing the edge of the fence with the tail rotor. It can be a delicate maneuver, especially in a 412 really loaded up - and a 412 is almost always really, really loaded. An S76, OTOH, won't screw itself into the air that way, and you have to just pull to max power from the deck, and get it going. Experience will tell you if it's going to work or not before you are committed. Not much before, but enough. Doing this with a newly-minted copilot is really nerve-wracking, and we usually don't let them try it until they've seen it done a few times. If you can't hold a stationary hover, in gusty winds, without moving the controls more than a fraction of an inch, you're going to have trouble flying offshore.

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