helicopters and fixed wing aircraft may differ in form and function,
many basic principles of safe operation apply to both breeds.
No matter what sort of rig you're driving, everyone in the outfit
should be able to wrangle a lesson or two from this roundup of
ASRS helicopter reports.
Fence Me In"
caution was required when these two "...cowpokes went
riding out one dark and windy day." Perhaps they figured
only tinhorns make errors in judgement. Fact is, we all can make
mistakes. So, stay alert unless you want to be out in the
cold mending fences.
were asked if we would like to reposition to a spot closer
to a passenger pickup point. I agreed to do so. We elected
to air taxi instead of ground taxi. The wind was off the nose...at
20 knots gusting to 30 knots. During the reposition, we both
felt a buffeting of the helicopter, followed by a command
from the heliport to "move up." We landed and found
that the tail rotor had impacted the top bar of a chain link
fence at the perimeter of the heliport landing area. This
occurred at night, with gusting winds, in a confined area
that was known to both pilots. Both pilots were fully qualified,
highly experienced, and had elected to air taxi to the new
spot. I believe that...the gusting wind, contributed to a
backward drift of the aircraft that neither pilot perceived
until radioed by the heliport operator.... The helicopter
had four tail rotor blades replaced....
rotor tie down prevents unwanted blade movement in an unmanned
helicopter, but when it comes time to fly, a hobbled helo has
a hard time hovering.
had completed a preflight of the helicopter four hours earlier
and did notice that the rear rotor blade was tied down. I
connected the battery cart to the aircraft and got in. I cranked
[the engine] while monitoring the gauges and occasionally
looking outside. At 50-55% N1 the cyclic moved forward and
to the right, the helicopter simultaneously
started shaking violently. I shut the engine down. This whole
sequence occurred within about 40 seconds.... The main rotor
blade was tied down and had broken about three feet from the
tip. That was the cause of the violent shaking.
on a Hilltop"
the rig and cinch up the gear,
Before you mosey down the line,
Or you might be put out to pasture,
A little bit before your time.
Approximately six miles northwest of the airport, we heard a
"thunk." I looked into the mirror and saw that the
starboard engine cowling was loose. I immediately made an emergency
landing on a hilltop in a horse pasture.... Upon shutdown, I
could see that the lower third of the cowling had been torn
away and that the rotor blades had been scratched near the blade
root. There was no evidence of any contact or damage to the
tail.... [and] no evidence of foreign object ingestion into
we had [engaged] the starter, nothing happened. We ran through
the procedure again and once more it didn't crank. I...then
remembered that there is a micro-switch on the rotor brake
that will not let the starter engage if the rotor brake is
on.... It occasionally sticks. I took the plastic end of a
screwdriver and tapped the switch then lowered the cowling
without latching it because I wasn't planning to start. I
just wanted to tap the starter switch to see if it would engage.
It did.... I forgot that I had left [the cowling] unlatched.
I broke a fundamental rule of mine, which is to always walk
around the aircraft just before getting in to check obvious
things such as latches, fuel cap, tie-downs, covers, and rotor
of this writing, the helicopter is still on the hilltop.
So) Lonesome Cattle Call"
you're out rounding up strays, keep an eye out for Tractors, Cats,
Thrushes, and even Pawnees. That duster on the trail can ruin
your whole day.
were hovering at approximately 10 feet, between 30-foot tall
trees, looking for cattle. We were completely surprised when
a crop duster appeared and circled approximately 200 feet
above us as he prepared to begin his spray run in the cotton
field adjoining the pasture we were in. It seemed as though
he was just as surprised as we were. He immediately began
his runs on the field and we stayed in the trees until he
was a safe distance away. Had we come out of the trees a few
moments earlier, the result could have been catastrophic....
This emphasizes the need for pilots to be constantly vigilant,
even in the "middle of nowhere...."
low flying aircraft, particularly a helicopter, can be an imposing
and sometimes unsettling sight to observers on the ground (even
when the aircraft is conforming to Federal Aviation Regulations).
Some flights, such as emergency medical operations, don't allow
much flexibility, but whenever the job permits, an extra margin
of clearance can minimize the concern of folks and critters down
was hired to provide a helicopter platform for shooting video
footage of a rural site... surrounded by open fields and ponds.
We made several low-level passes.... I believe that I conducted
this mission safely... however, subsequent complaints suggest
that I may have passed too close or above people or houses
that I was unaware of. One man claimed that I scared a bull,
and that it has not
and others claim that I scared their children, and came very
close to their houses. I believe that they were simply disturbed
by my noise and may have exaggerated. Many people perceive
a helicopter as inherently dangerous....
initial pass over the field with the cattle was at about 20
feet AGL. The nearest
cows moved away, but the herd did not appear to be concerned.
We made several similar passes from various directions, all
over open fields. We made
one pass for some treetop shots at about 30-40 feet with nothing
else below. At no time during any pass did I observe people
or houses that I could
have missed during the reconnaissance. I believe that I was
well away from any areas of concern. I will certainly be more
aware [of possible conflicts]
on my photo flights from now on.
it for this roundup, folks, "until we meet again...."
And remember; if you get your procedures down and keep your
RPM's up, we won't have to keep singing these "unhappy
tales to you...."
Review of ASRS Reporting Guidelines
sincerest thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat with the ASRS
representatives in the NASA pavilion at EAA's AirVenture 2004.
In discussing the program with people involved in many different
aspects of aviation, two common misconceptions concerning ASRS
reports were noted.
A number of people thought that direct involvement was necessary
in order to report on an incident.
Many people expressed a belief that only one ASRS report could
be submitted within a five-year period.
do not need to be directly involved in an incident to submit a
report. Everyone is encouraged to submit reports to the ASRS when
they are involved in, or observe, an incident or situation in
which aviation safety was a concern or in which safety was actually
the second misconception, there is no limit to the number of ASRS
reports you may file in any given time period, nor is there is
any minimum time restriction between submissions. You may file
as many reports as you think necessary, as often as you think
only restriction that applies to ASRS reports is the number of
times that Transactional immunity may be exercised in a given
period of time. Let's discuss immunity.
are actually two immunities that apply to ASRS report submissions,
specifically, "Use" immunity and "Transactional"
immunity. Simply stated, Use immunity means that your report,
or information contained in your report may not be used against
you. The restriction to Use immunity is that the event must not
have been an accident or a criminal act.
immunity means that penalties assigned by an administrative law
judge as the result of a violation will be waived. You may only
exercise Transactional immunity once in a five-year period. If
you have not been found in violation of an infraction in an administrative
hearing, in front of a judge, then you have not used your Transactional
immunity, so the five-year restriction does not apply. Even if
you are found in violation in a hearing, you may still submit
as many reports to ASRS as you want, but you would not be able
to exercise your Transactional immunity privileges to waive a
penalty for five years. One final requirement for Transactional
immunity is that the ASRS report must be submitted within 10 days
of becoming aware of the event.
information regarding ASRS immunities can be found in FAA Advisory
Circular 00-46D (online at http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/overview/immunity.html).