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Would you fly this Helicopter??


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Hi. I'm a fairly regular poster here on VR but have created a new username specifically for this post so that I may remain anonymous for the purposes of this discussion as its a small world.

 

I recently got a job instructing at a school that is also an Authorized Robinson sales and service center in the US. 1 of the R22's at this school is an Alpha that was re-built at 2200 hours with a Beta engine. My employer tells me that it is pretty much a Beta except for the Manifold Pressure Guage and a few other minor parts. The Low Rotor RPM warning system consists of the usual warning light and instead of the usual horn, a little voice in your headset telling you that the rotor rpm is low(repeatedly). This system also tells you when the MR and TR chip lights come on among other things. Up until now I had never heard of such a system and I prefer the alarming sound of the horn, but if it works, and is legal, then it should be no big deal.

 

Yesterday I attempted to take a student up for a flight. When we were on the ground at 75% the Audio warning system came on to tell us we had low rotor rpm, it also told us that our MR & TR chip lights were on( all lights were off). It had done this before and I was told by the boss that it operates fine in flight which it did. As we ran the helicopter up to 104% and tested the Low Rotor RPM Warning system by slightly raising collective and rolling throttle down to below 97%, the Light came on but the audio didn't sound. I checked this a few times to no avail. I then picked up into a hover and checked it by rolling off to below 97% in the hover. It still didn't work. So we shut down and took a different helicopter as I felt the helicopter wasn't legal to fly due to the limitations in the POH.

 

Upon speaking to my boss today I told him about the problem and he told me that I should have flown it, and that he would have flown it as the light was working, I had the engine/rotor tach and that I was a flight Instructor, not just a private pilot!!!

 

Unfortunately I have to fly this helicopter tomorrow morning and I'm not sure if I want to now. In the limitations section of the R22 POH, it says "low rotor RPM warning system". Would you guys consider this aircraft legal to fly with just the light working? What are your recommendations on how to handle this problem? Am I being too much of a "sissy" here?

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As a STUDENT, I would NOT want to be in that thing. In my inexpereinced interpretation, the "Low RPM Warning System" is just that, a SYSTEM that includes a light and a "horn" (or voice recording). To me, the "system" is not 100% function, and per the POH, the ship is not legal to fly.

 

 

I think you did the right thing, and I would be very comfortable with you as my instructor.

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Tomorrow will be an interesting day, as I know that the owner of the school will be putting pressure on me to fly the aircraft. It's the only instrument ship and I'm the only CFII in the school, but this guy is pretty stubborn. He had all day to fix it today yet he told me that it was fit for flight and that they wouldn't have time to look at it. This place is an Authorized Robinson sales & service center and the owner is an Designated Mechanic Examiner (DME) who has been in the business for over 30 years so it's kinda hard to argue with him on matters of technical knowledge. I've just been using the "POH limitations" argument with him but he sticks to his guns and says that the aircraft is safe for flight.

 

Watch this space, I may be out of a job tomorrow evening!!!

Edited by Unhappy Pilot
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Safe for flight and legal for flight are two completely different things. The system may work perfectly fine, and it may not. I would point out (not in a snide way) that it is your life and certificate on the line and you aren't willing to fly the aircraft in that condition, even if it is safe. If the boss continues to pressure you to fly it (and doesn't fire you) then it might be time to start looking for another boss.

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I know nothing of Robbie's but if that is part of the warning system it should be functioning properly. You made the right decision, after all you are teaching students the right and wrong way to do things. If you were taking a ride from an FAA examiner what do you think he would say if you said you werent going to take it...or if you WERE going to take it.

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My vote is you made the right decision. Of course this is all easy for us to say because it's not our butt in the hot seat at this time. I'm sure their are people reading this right now totally understanding the position you are in thinking back on all the times that they have made such decisions during their flight career.

 

I would not feel comfortable flying the R22 without the low RPM horn. My brain is trained to drop the collective as soon as I hear that horn go off. If it was a voice I would probably hesitate for half a second trying to figure out what it was and where it was coming from and anyone who has practiced simulated engine failures while pulling say 22 maybe 23 inches of MP in an R22 knows that half a second just cost you your life.

 

I have a little time in the R22 but most of my time is in fixed wing. When I stepped up to flying large scale photo flights in my fixed wing days I soon discovered that their is the type of flying that they teach you in school and then their is real world flying which puts you in a position to make decisions such as what you are facing to meet the demands of the aviation business.

 

Good call on the decision you made today and I wish you the best on your decision tomorrow. I know CFI jobs were a dime a dozen not long ago but it's my understanding the market is flooded with helicopter CFI's now so your power to pick up and leave may not be as strong as it use to. Thing is though it's not worth your life. In the helicopter world you will always be able to get another job. It might not be as convenient as you have now but keep in mind in the helicopter industry if you don't like what is going on or the situation you are currently in just wait about 90 days and either it will change or you will have a reason to chase something else on down the road.

 

Take care

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Remember that it's YOUR butt flying up there in that machine, and not his. If you don't feel safe, then don't go. If you got to CFII in one piece then more than likely that little voice in your head is doing something right. Keep listening to it, because it sure hasn't lead you astray yet.

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I would not have taken that aircraft up. After my conversation with the boss I would have made a phone call to Chris at Robinson Helicopter (310) 539-0508 ext 208 explained the problem got some answers if they did not jive with the Boss’.

I would call Stan the FAA man and tell him all about my troubles. This may not be an option for you Stan is a long time friend who now works for the FAA . So call the Safety Hotline at (800) 255-1111 to report: Maintenance improprieties. Aircraft Incidents, Suspected Unapproved Parts, Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) violations

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My eyes are outside of the cockpit 95% of the time. I rely on the horn most of the time (although the light will *probably* catch your attention). I don't know how I would feel about the same "voice" telling me what is wrong for several different emergencies. Horn sounds - lower collective/roll on throttle. Not hear a voice and search for which light is illuminating. I personally would not fly the helicopter and think that you made the right decision. Don't fly it if you are not comfortable with it, legal or not.

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Trust your instincts....

I know everyone is saying, its your life...but also remember, there may be another person in the copter with you, and there are people below the helicopter... can you live (or die) with the consequences of being responsible for another person's injury, death.

Your boss may be right, it may be a glitch, but then...isn't it his responsibility as the owner to have that glitch fixed so he doesn't have to explain why it happens etc.

If you are not comfortable, then dont do it. You are in a tough spot, I dont envy you, but a heck of alot of us will definitely wish we were you, respect you, and want you to be our instructor if you put safety first... good ethics, good call...

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Hey guys,

 

Thank you for all the support. It really has helped me to stick with my instincts. As it turns out, the boss agreed to fix the problem and the helo should be up and running by tomorrow. This was after some mumbling under his breath and some grunting!! My student wasn't too pleased to have his flight canceled either.

 

Having come from a school where maintenance was taken care of rapidly and efficiently, I never thought that I would encounter so much hassle to have something like this repaired. It has been a learning experience for me, and hopefully I won't encounter so much resistance next time.

 

As regards the whole "Voice Recording" replacing the horn, which is startling and gives us a real sense of urgency. I think it's a really stupid idea to replace something that we have all been pre-programmed to react to by lowering and rolling on with a recording that sounds drab and unremarkable.

 

Again, thank you for your support.

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Glad to hear you stuck to your guns. I would have no-go'ed that ship as well. Thanks for upping the standard of starving CFII's just that much.

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Are you sure the boss wasn't testing you? This does not sound at all like what a boss of a flying operation would say/direct, at least not out loud.

 

Also, tried to find a system that "talks to you" vs. a horn for low rotor RPM for the Robinson...no luck on finding anything that has been STC'd. Just because I could not find anything does not mean it does not exist...still looking, but be careful.

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Hey guys,

 

Thank you for all the support. It really has helped me to stick with my instincts. As it turns out, the boss agreed to fix the problem and the helo should be up and running by tomorrow. This was after some mumbling under his breath and some grunting!! My student wasn't too pleased to have his flight canceled either.

 

 

I know it's tough and I taught as a FW CFII and faced some of the same pressures at one place but got NONE at a good school.

 

Yes, the RW world is smaller than the FW (I work in both) but there is ABSOLUTELY NO reason to risk your life for some CFI job. Regardless of the SS flood. This is a TEMPORARY JOB. Your life/career is so much

 

I am not being over the top when I say this:

DEAD is DEAD. Your present boss may make getting the next job difficult but he Can NOT make it impossible.

 

Congrats on standing your ground I know it's tough but I still remember the BS pressures the weak businessman tried on me when I was a new CFI.

 

Maybe you set the standard now, but keep an eye out. This guy has played his cards and you are forewarned.

 

Good Luck

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Good on you for sticking to your instincts. Personally my take is this, that ship had a 'system' in it which was not 100% reliable. Sometimes it'd work, sometimes it wouldn't, regardless of what that system is, if it doesn't work 100% for 100% of the time it ain't worth flying.

 

You mention the student being unhappy about the cancellation - fair call, but it's a good learning situation for them too, it lets them see that all aircraft should be maintained to the highest level. That student witnessed someone sticking to their guns and making sure corrective action was carried out before flight, I reckon s(he) will remember that for the rest of their flying career - who knows, it may even save THEIR life one day!

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Yeah, I think the studant was more pissed that he had to travel an hour and a half to get to the school only to find out he couldn't fly. But he'll get over it! Heck, I had to ride a train for 2 hours to get there.

 

I was wondering if anyone has heard of this voice warning system before now and is there any kind of special certification that is needed in order to replace something like the standard horn in the 22?

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...is there any kind of special certification that is needed in order to replace something like the standard horn in the 22?

YES!

I found this Installation of a low rotor RPM voice warning system STC. I'm not sure why anyone would want it though? If you read it, Limitation #1 is: "Howard J. Fuller, Jr. Rotorcraft Flight Manual Supplement No. VWS22, rev. 2, dated July 2, 2004, or later FAA-approved revision, is required and must be carried in the helicopter during all flights." Have you checked Section 9 - Supplements of the RFM and is that present? It must also be documented in the aircraft log(s). If it's not, I don't think you are flying an aircraft that is legally airworthy.

 

Why don't you get your boss to show you through the paperwork and explain to you how STCs work?

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Wow interesting. I have never heard of that either until now. I honestly don't like it. I perfer tones or gongs.

 

I had been following this thread but didn't add to it since you had already got great advice. I am glad you stuck to your guns! Remember you are the PIC and final authority as to if the aircraft is airworthy or not. If you are not happy with something it should be fixed promptly or before next flight.

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Kudos for having both backbone and brains- you did well.

 

Here's a suggestion for resolving maintenance issues when the boss suggests one fly with known issues- write it up. It's been decades since I flew instructional, and I know some operators don't make it easy to do this. But if a maintenance professional will clear a write up as serviceable, I'll think about flying the aircraft with the signoff or with documented deferred maintenance items. Heavy emphasis on "thinking about flying" it. I can get another job, but getting another ticket is a hassle, and really tough if you're in a smokin' hole.

It's better to wish you were flying than wish you weren't.

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That is interesting. I'm gonna check the RFM tomorrow for that supplement. As far as getting the boss to explain that stuff to me, that will be a no-go. When I first started working there, I asked to see the aircraft log books the day before my first flight to make sure everything was in order. He told me that I didn't need to see those and walked away from me. I told this to the other CFI's that were there and they said to wait until he went home and then go to his office and look through the logs then, which I did and everything was in order, on paper anyway.

 

With an attitude like this you would wonder why anyone would want to work for this guy, but this area doesn't have any other schools and my personal life has me stuck here for a while. I'm only working with these guys part time anyway as I'm studying for some other aviation ratings also. As soon as I get even half a chance to work for someone else I'll be outta here. Then I may or may not publicize this company's treatment of their CFI's and students. I say "may or may not" because if I do publicize their actions it then gives them a chance to destroy my reputation which I have seen happen before.

 

As they say, Aviation is a small industry, and your reputation precedes you.

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I also followed along but didnt say anything...because I agreed with the posts. Just 2 weeks ago I called to fly the R44 and was told the low RPM system was not working.....it was grounded, no questions asked (and fixed the next day).

 

Personally, I hate the idea of having a voice system, I also think it would delay your response while you first listen, then respond to the voice. Give me a horn, and I would drop collective before you can say "Low" !!

 

Goldy

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