Archive for November, 2009

Copter ILS

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I remember in the mid-1990s Copter ILS approaches began showing up in the New York area. They came from an interpretation by the FAA’s Eastern Region of the Part 97 U.S. terminal instrument procedures (TERPS) that granted helicopters lower minimums. The prevailing thought was that because of a helicopter’s unique maneuvering capabilities the craft could safely operate with lower minimums. I had flown these approaches a couple of times and they seemed to work well.

The Copter ILS approach used the existing ILS, but allowed helicopters a DH of 100 feet and an RVR of not less than 1,200 feet. Although this was basically CAT 2 minimums there was no aircrew qualification required. Moreover, pilots were flying below 200 feet without visual reference to runways that did not have CAT 2 certification. So in 2000, (Copter ILS approaches had been flown for years without incident) citing concerns over technical issues such as signal strength and reliability below 200 feet, threshold clearances and lighting, the FAA issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that terminated the Copter ILS approaches.

Various industry groups worked with the FAA to help re-establish the lower minimums. Today there are Copter ILS approaches; however, they overlay CAT 2 approaches as this solves the technical TERPS issues. They also require special aircrew and aircraft qualification. An example is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) Copter ILS or LOC RWY 1 approach (www.aopa.org/members/airports/ustprocs.cfm?ID=DCA).

Lyn Burks

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

 

Lyn Burks has a passion for the helicopter industry. His aviation career began in early 1991 at the age of 23. Although he was a U.S. Marine from 1985 to 1989, he is civilian trained in Robinson Helicopters. During his initial years in the industry, he worked full time for a municipal fire rescue department. In 1999 he retired as a fire captain and entered aviation full time. Burks holds an ATP/CFII helicopter with nearly 6,000 hours of flying experience and recently he semi-retired from full- time employment as a corporate pilot flying an Agusta A109E. In addition to corporate flying, he has experience in several sectors of the helicopter industry including ENG, charter, utility, instruction, and a five-year stint in EMS flying the S76C+. Burks also is a helicopter industry recruiter who has written several online EBooks and articles about helicopter careers and organizes an annual career development and networking seminar.

Lyn Burks with an A109E

Lyn Burks with an A109E

Burks’ Web site, JustHelicopters.com, has become an industry icon. The site was created in 1998 by retired helicopter pilot Bill Kellogg as a small free access Web information center and a place for people interested in helicopters to exchange ideas. In 2001 Burks took over the Web site and has expanded it into a leading online resource for the helicopter industry. He is also the owner and developer of another popular helicopter Web site, Verticalreference.com.

JustHelicopters.com hosts and administers two forums. The original one does not require a login and is very loosely moderated; nevertheless, professional courtesy is strongly suggested. However, beware that the discussions can sometimes be very heated and some of the posts are can get very critical of others. Although there are rules, rumors and gossip show up frequently. It can be very entertaining at times, however if you post something even a little controversial you should be thick skinned as some of the responses can be harsh.

 

The second forum requires a login, username, and password. As such, the topics and posts are much more professional and technical in nature. According to Burks, it is more suited for first-time users.

 

Burks recently expanded his network in two new directions with different media content. The first is the addition of Justhelicopters.TV, which is a Web site dedicated to helicopter industry related video content. The second is a media partnership with Rotorcraft Professional magazine, which is a popular helicopter industry trade journal. Burks says, “From print to Web to video, our goal is to offer something to everyone who enjoys and works in the world of helicopters.”

 

JustHelicopters.com is an ongoing project and has remained a free access site. The site contains a comprehensive list of helicopter resources, including articles, photo galleries, job postings, operator directories, flight schools, and salary information. Burks is continually adding and updating content and relies upon input from the helicopter community to keep the information current and pertinent.

 

You can visit the site at www.justhelicopters.com

Rotor downwash

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Jim Thomas asked, “Are the hazards of a helicopter rotor blast taught to new students?” The answer is sometimes and sometimes not. Being dual rated, I understand the affect the rotor down wash can have on an airplane. As an instructor, it is always something I teach to students.

Wind direction and strength must be considered when hovering near other aircraft. For example, when hovering with a strong right crosswind, leave more room between other objects and left side of the helicopter. The rotor downwash will be very strong on the left side and very weak on the right side. I have had line personnel direct me to park too close to another aircraft that was downwind of the rotor wash. I would just touchdown in a better suited area and explain why once they approach the helicopter.  Some understood, some did not.

However, it’s not just parked airplanes that can get tossed around. I was on a hospital helipad with another helicopter when the other pilot needed to depart. While he was starting up I was busy finishing some paperwork. There were no obstacles and the wind was calm, so the last thing I expected was for him to depart directly over top of my parked helicopter. That’s exactly what he did causing the blades to flex down, and the fuselage to shake. I was sitting in the helicopter with the door open and fortunately was able to get it closed. If I were to guess, he couldn’t have been more than 10 feet above me. I never understood why he did that.

On another occasion, I was hover taxing along the edge of a ramp to parking when I noticed some smaller airplanes rocking a little and in front of me was a pilot with an open door. I moved out toward an empty taxiway and ATC immediately told me I was too close to an active taxiway. I explained why and he said, “Understand, but you can’t say there.”

It’s unfortunate that students are not taught more about this subject. However, many pilots are aware of their prop or rotor blast and act courteously and try to minimize the impact on others. However, some either don’t understand or care. To protect yourself and your aircraft around an airport or heliport, I think the best advice is to always assume you could be subject to a prop blast or rotor downwash.