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THE BLACK HOLE


drlostboy
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Hi,

I just wanted to share this with you guys (or girls out there).

Recently I made a ferry flight from the top of the north island down to the Hawks Bay (unfamiliar territory) in New Zealand to pick up an R44 that had been left there on standby for frost work.

Flying down in an R22 with another pilot we picked up the R44 and started back, heading for Taupo just before dark. Flying the 22 out about 15 minutes before the 44. In my path the Kaweka and Kaimanawa mountain ranges (rugged native bush) the sun setting behind them, moderate winds, turbulance, and scattered cloud. Approaching the base of the rangers ECT had passed and I was left with a big confidence building exercise. Believing in my training, a very important factor sitting at the bottom of my stomach. I planed on heading straight over following a reverse bearing from the way I had come that afternoon. How things change. Climbing up over 4000ft entering a blackness not experianced before I felt like I was sinking out of my depth and started questioning my ability. Add to this the worry of getting the job done at the cheapest cost (commercial ops). I had a decision to make.

Out to my right I knew was the Napier Taupo Road. So with blackness ahead I altered heading and a couple of minutes later car lights were below lifting the stress out of my gut. Now the only worry was what the boss was going to say about taking a little longer to get home. Following the road home safely I felt good as the sparkling lights of the city came into view.

Sitting back later, over a beer the boss asked how it went.

Telling him my story.

After my worries about what he would say.

You did well. Safety first!

Were the words that he spoke.

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Edited by drlostboy
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Safety first is always good - but seems like you might have set yourself up with a bit of poor flightplanning?

 

But even if that is so, you did the right thing and ended up with a good save...

 

We all make mistakes, but being able to quit or change the events before they get to far out of hand, is always the safe thing to do. Good choice.

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I've done a lot of night flying over the years, mostly over water, where it's really black. I promise you, if you get into a situation where there is no outside reference, you will die, and quickly, unless you're qualified and current on flying instruments, and the aircraft has the proper instruments. It makes no difference at all whether you're inside a cloud, or inside a black hole, it's the same thing, and your life is measured in seconds. Many, many pilots have died under these conditions, and unfortunately many more will in the future, and even more unfortunately, with innocent passengers.

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I've been in the same situation and I have my instrument rating and am current according to regs, and after doing about 15 hours of simulated inst. (in an actual heli, not a sim) with in week or so, i was scared shitless in the same situation and had to opt to follow a road. Black holes re very scary. think about what you are doing before embarking on a VFR night flight cross country. Definately won't be making that mistake again.

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If the helicopter isn't fully equipped for instrument flight, with everything working correctly, you're going to have problems even if you're current and qualified. It takes time and experienced to be able to fly instruments competently even in something like an S76, nevermind an R22. I consider all night flights offshore to be IMC, and we fly accordingly. The Era S76 crash a couple of years ago, with an IFR crew, illustrates just how dangerous flying without good surface reference can be. This isn't something to be taken lightly, no pun intended. You had better have all your stuff in one very small pile.

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I do that for a living, and it's not so bad if you know what you're doing, have a capable crew, and pay close attention all the time. I flew SAR for that Era S76, and they weren't in the clouds, at least most of the time, because the clouds were pretty high. It was as dark as the inside of a black cat, though - no moon, no stars, no horizon, no nothing, just black. We flew around for hours at 300' on the search, and it was very stressful; all we could see was an occasional whitecap in the searchlight. It would have been very easy to join them if we hadn't been concentrating all the time.

 

It doesn't really matter whether you're in cloud at night offshore, because you can't see anything most of the time anyway. If you get one light in sight, you have to make sure it's not a star, and it often develops into autokinesis. It looks like it's moving around, and the effect can be very strong. If it is a star you see, and think it's a light, you can easily fly into the water or ground. As Gomer said, lots of pilots and passengers have died while trying to fly visually at night when there was nothing to see. I've had a copilot try to fly into the water doing that, and I was very lucky to catch it just before we hit, with a high rate of descent. He had no clue that he was diving, because he wasn't watching the instruments. More pilots will surely die in the dark this way, and I just hope I'm not one of them.

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im about half way through an instrument rating and it has definitely made be a better, more confident night pilot. i think that even the occasional recreational flyer would highly benefit from one.

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Yeah i guess i was ambiguous to the fact that the ship was equiped with sufficient IFR instruments and a GNS430. I don't disagree with any of you though, the fact of the matter is that if you don't have a reliable visual reference regardless of the situation, you'd better be a qualified pilot in a qualified ship. even witha CFII rating I don't feel that i have sufficient experience nor knowledge to actually fly IFR when my life depends upon it. Hopefully I'll get pleanty of SIC time in preperation for this as the current method of "simmulated" IMC training leaves much to be desired.

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Our company motto was in fact - "Safety First, then Customer" - Arlo Livingston of Livinston Copters, Alaska 1972. From 1969-ERA buyout in 1982 not a scratch on a single customer. Alouette's. My attitute is, every flight is a training flight. Learn something from that. Always fly with an "out" in weather. I have had some great times sitting out bad weather, night etc.. Use flight following, talk to someone when you foul up and swalllow your pride. Beleive me your boss has been there! Good job!

 

mrose

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even witha CFII rating I don't feel that i have sufficient experience nor knowledge to actually fly IFR when my life depends upon it.

 

 

This is not ment as a bash at all, just an observation and opinion from me not directed towards you at all but the industry.

 

The above comment is exactly why I don't understand how it seems to be the norm that the first job for someone flying helicopters, at least in the civi world, is that of an instructor. How can someone teach to any great level how to do something, if they themselves do not feel comfortable enough to use the knowledge for themselves that they are teaching you? It really seems backwards to me that 300 hour pilots are teaching folks how to fly and only making 15 maybe 20 bucks an hour. It would seem to make sense to me that the only folks truely qualified to teach should have 1000's of hours under thier belts and should be making top dollar for thier expert knowledge. I just don't understand it.

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This is not ment as a bash at all, just an observation and opinion from me not directed towards you at all but the industry.

 

The above comment is exactly why I don't understand how it seems to be the norm that the first job for someone flying helicopters, at least in the civi world, is that of an instructor. How can someone teach to any great level how to do something, if they themselves do not feel comfortable enough to use the knowledge for themselves that they are teaching you? It really seems backwards to me that 300 hour pilots are teaching folks how to fly and only making 15 maybe 20 bucks an hour. It would seem to make sense to me that the only folks truely qualified to teach should have 1000's of hours under thier belts and should be making top dollar for thier expert knowledge. I just don't understand it.

 

This is a great point and maybe why some higher time pilots should spend time mentoring these intructors. Look at the accident stats in Robinsons. An acception to this issue is the CHI Canadian Mnt Flying School in BC. Led by Jan Rustad, they have, as you sermized "flipped" the standard. Jan is a fine person and pilot, passionate about training and realworld in their approach.

 

MROSE

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The answer is, as always, 'money'. Schools want to attract students, and students want lessons as cheaply as possible. Thus schools hire the cheapest instructors they can get, because the students want the cheapest lessons they can get. And they get what they asked for. It makes sense to use 10,000+ hour pilots as instructors, those with many hours of actual instrument experience as CFIIs, but we aren't going to work for $1000/month. If you want experienced instructors, you have to be willing to pay them a fair wage, and no schools I know of are willing to do that. The capitalist system has produced the current system, and it's not likely to change in our lifetimes. Or in our great grandchildrens' lifetimes. People want cheap, and they get cheap, at the airport or at WalMart. You can have cheap or you can have good, but you can seldom have both.

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You are correct, but every pilot out there should seek good mentors and stick to them as much as possible, that doesn't need to cost much more.

 

Here is the link to Heli Expo Orlando; http://www.heliexpo.com/tabid/980/Default.aspxo Jan is giving his course again in Feb. There are others also.

 

Safe Flying to all -

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You've either got the young new CFI that is looking to build time so he or she can go into the corp. world, or you've got the old farts that have been there and done that and are looking to keep flying and extend some knowledge to the up and coming. Hopefully it is a mix of the two that makes a good flight school. Not all schools are looking at the almighty dollar. Some actually want to teach because it's what we know and love.

Mike

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Yeah learning from someone with much more experience than yourself definately helps immnesely. I'm going to start flying fixed wing at least through my private/instrument rating, just so i can actually see what is truely involved with flying actual IMC conditions. And as to what FUSE said I totally agree with him, but that is just the way things are i suppose. If you ask me the Helicopter industry could use a major revamp on many levels, and only us as the pilots can change that. will it happen? doubt it, but hopefully i can wade through some of the more treacherous parts and stick on the good side of things.

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I am sitting my C Cat instructors flight test this Sunday and what you guys are saying has been going though my head for a while now. I have been trying to focus on points that require thoughtless reaction, more than before. Dynamic Roll recovery & Low Rotor RPM recovery, I would say are the top two. I guess all the other stuff feels a little further from disaster. Decision making would run the next place similar to the choice I made back on that lonely night crossing the rangers. Choosing when to change things. I have a way of looking at it right now. How's it look? How's it feel? If there is doubt there is no doubt. change it. Nothing wrong with going around. The first two give me that same feeling I had on that night. I wonder. Am I getting in the deep end? I think so. 350TT is it enough to teach? I think so. Is it enough to avert anything that destiny might throw my way? Time will tell. Once again we have to rely on our training, take a good look at our own ability, critique ourselves and make sure we are ready. Know our own limits, don't let things go beyond those limits and continually extend them further with experiences and knowledge.

Then become one of those who we say should be teaching.

Never stop learning!

I know students are going to be teaching me a few things soon, and they don't have any hours.

Oh!

That's if I pass and then the boss want's me around.

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Edited by drlostboy
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350 hours is legally enough to teach, but it's not enough to be a commercial PIC in the US. I wonder why that is. If you can't be trusted with passengers, why should you be trusted with students? Oh well, there are lots of things in US CFR Title 14 that I don't understand.

 

I think back to when I had 350 hours, and I was flying passengers, some of them rather high-ranking, but there is no way I was ready, or able, to teach anyone how to fly. I was still learning myself. After passing 10,000, I might have been starting to get close, maybe. I've also flown with copilots who were CFIs, with ~1,000 hours, and they were usually barely able to function as a competent IFR copilot, some not even that. I don't like the current system, but I seldom complain about it because I have no solution to offer.

Edited by Gomer Pylot
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