Read More: Annual Aerial Firefighting Safety Conference Concludes in Boise, Idaho
December 10, 2019

HAI recently completed the annual AeriaL Firefighting Safety Conference, putting a wrap on what has traditionally been the end of the fire season in the Northern Hemisphere.

Over 250 people registered for the two-day event in Boise, Idaho, representing nearly 150 companies, organizations, associations, and agencies involved in aerial firefighting, making it one of the largest such events yet. Representatives of 23 companies associated with the firefighting sector also exhibited at the conference.

“While we didn’t have any vital issues to address this year, it was still a very good conference,” says HAI Vice President of Operations Chris Martino. “Many of these people are competitors in the field, but this event brings them all together for the common goal of safety. They take significant interest in flying safely and professionally, collaborating on best practices, and the opportunity to network away from the fire lines.”

Day 1 of the event began with a meeting of HAI’s Aerial Firefighting and Natural Resources Working Group, led by Chairman Brian Beattie of Croman Corp. This was followed by safety briefings by Keith Raley of the US Department of the Interior (DoI) and Eric Shambora and Michael Reid from the US Forest Service (USFS).

After lunch, Vince Welbaum, representing the state of Colorado, held a presentation on the use of night-vision goggles (NVG) in aerial firefighting. John Shea, HAI’s director of government affairs, then spoke on how legislation can affect safety. Michael O’Shea of the FAA made the final presentation of the afternoon, speaking on unmanned aircraft systems.

On the second day of the conference, the USFS and DoI held their semiannual aerial firefighting interagency meeting and briefing. This twice-yearly event is also held at HAI HELI-EXPO®. Both events provide a forum where helicopter operators and other contractors can meet face-to-face with government officials to discuss safety, contracting questions, and other issues facing the firefighting community.

Read More: Mars Helicopter Coming to HAI HELI-EXPO
December 10, 2019

HAI HELI-EXPO® has long been a platform for the debut of new aircraft and new technology, but a special presentation at the 2020 show in Anaheim is sure to be out of this world.

Through the efforts of NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the NASA Mars Helicopter is going to make a special appearance at HAI HELI-EXPO in advance of its July 2020 mission to explore Earth’s next-door neighbor. The NASA Mars 2020 mission will carry the one-of-a-kind aircraft, designed specifically for flight in the special conditions posed by the Martian environment.

Read More: Helisim Opens Grand Prairie, Texas, Training Center
December 10, 2019

New center expands US-based simulation training offerings for Airbus customers.

When veteran French helicopter pilot and training expert Jean-Charles de Troy informed his wife in 2018 that he was being sent to Texas to manage the launch of Helisim’s new training center at Airbus Helicopters’ North American headquarters, she laid down only one condition. “‘OK,’ she said, ‘but when we move to Texas, I want one thing: I want to drive a big red pickup truck,’” de Troy says, chuckling at the thought of his wife behind the wheel of the big red Ram truck she now drives like a home-grown Texas cowgirl.

Helisim (pronounced HEL-e-sim) was formed 19 years ago as a partnership between Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters), Thales (the European aerospace and defense system maker that makes, among other things, helicopter simulators), and Défense Conseil International, a company that provides technical training to the special forces of France and other nations.

Helisim already trains around 3,000 pilots of Airbus-made helicopters a year at its training center in Marignane, France. Now it’s taking over Airbus’s own in-house pilot training at the company’s North American headquarters and engineering and service centers in Grand Prairie, Texas. The facility also serves Airbus’s primary helicopter support center in the western hemisphere.

De Troy recently visited with ROTOR and shared his thoughts on the new venture.

Read More: Onboarding the New Guy/Gal
December 10, 2019

1. DON’T rush the settling-in process. Switching jobs is stressful, especially for young employees or recent graduates; others may have moved spouses and children across the country to take the position with your organization. You don’t want your people to be distracted by these myriad administrative and personal issues, especially for flight- and ­maintenance-related positions that require a high level of attention to detail. Help your new hires settle in and then focus on the job.

2. DO make a good first impression. You only get one chance at it. The modern workforce places value on how their organization makes them feel. Quite often, this is ranked as high as compensation, and it certainly can be a factor in retention. If you value this new hire, then act like it. If you assign a mentor, make sure she or he is there when the new employee arrives. If the individual will have an assigned workspace, make sure it’s ready and supplied appropriately. Make him or her feel like a valued member of your organization, beginning on Day 1.

3. DON’T forget to include the boss. Top-tier leadership can play an important role in the onboarding process. Besides peers and first-level supervisors, new employees should also meet with your organization’s senior leaders. Through direct interaction with top management, employees immediately gain an appreciation for their value to the organization. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity for them to hear about essential topics such as your safety culture and core values. If it’s significant enough for the boss to stop in and discuss with them, it must be important.

4. DO provide opportunities for feedback. You’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your processes if you’re not asking the new guy or gal for feedback. Scheduling meetings at preset intervals provides you with an opportunity to check in and see how they’re doing. These meetings also offer a chance to evaluate the effectiveness of your onboarding program. Asking open-ended questions and being receptive to candid feedback will help you and your new hire establish a relationship of open communication.

5. DO offer follow-on training and supervision. A lot of “stuff” gets thrown at new employees when they first show up; it’s nearly impossible for them to absorb it all. A “one-and-done” style of training is insufficient, particularly for flight- or safety-critical processes. Supervisors should expect that new hires may need extra monitoring. Provide follow-on services that reinforce that initial burst of training. Most importantly, make this a positive experience. Praise new hires who seek follow-on training; their initiative and desire to get it right demonstrate their alignment with your organizational culture.

Read More: Community Engagement: The LA Helicopter Success Story
December 10, 2019

Southern California rotorcraft operators, pilots address community concerns over noise.

This is a good-news, everybody-wins success story in an industry that needs one. Once operating under a congressional mandate to address helicopter noise issues in the greater Los Angeles area, the LA helicopter industry has successfully staved off the looming threat of being regulated out of existence.

Led by volunteers from the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA) and the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Operators Association (LAAHOA)—both proud HAI affiliates—LA-area pilots and operators accomplished this victory the hard way: They listened to what the other side had to say. They documented the problems. They conducted extensive outreach and education efforts with homeowner groups and legislators. They also worked to educate the LA rotorcraft community about the importance of minimizing their noise impact—and provided specific techniques for how to do that.

Hard work, yes, but with a big payoff. The once-tense relationship between homeowner groups and the helicopter community has improved so much that in April 2019 they joined together to request that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors allocate funds to continue operation of the Automated Helicopter Noise Complaint System (ACS).

You are likely asking why on earth any self-respecting helicopter pilot would advocate for a way to make it easier for people to complain about their flights. To understand this, let’s look at how we got to where we are today.

Read More: Helicopter OEMs Bring Aviation Experience to UAM Arena
December 10, 2019

Flying taxis in 2023? Aircraft manufacturers say, "Not so fast."

Not since the 1940s and 1950s have so many companies been working so feverishly on new ways to fly from one place to another.

Around 70 years ago, dozens and dozens of companies—from well-established manufacturers to thinly financed entrepreneurs working out of their barns and tool sheds—were rushing to bring to market workable and economically viable vehicles called “helicopters.” What that new aircraft would look like and how it would operate was still very much in flux. (You can read more about that period in helicopter history—when a collective might be a ­re­purposed motorcycle grip or resemble bicycle handlebars suspended from the roof of the cockpit—in the Trailblazers section of the Helicopter Foundation International website,)

Now, a similarly large contingent of companies—more than 150 at last count—is seeking to build what will be the first successful “flying taxis,” or urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles. These efforts range from shoestring attempts mounted by experienced but cash-poor engineers to the self-financed passion projects of billionaires to high-visibility programs mounted by Fortune 500 public companies.

Not all of these would-be makers of flying taxis will succeed. But perhaps a half dozen or more may introduce vehicles capable of flying one or two people, or some relatively light cargo, around major metropolitan areas. Other companies now toiling on potential UAM aircraft almost certainly will be able to sell some of their expertise, research findings, and technical innovations to better-financed, more experienced companies that eventually will become serious competitors in the fledgling market.

There’s also substantial likelihood that long-respected and deep-­pocketed aviation manufacturers—particularly those with considerable experience building helicopters—will take over development of UAM aircraft or otherwise acquire the technologies necessary to mass-produce them. In any case, however the market sorts itself out, it inevitably will take a few years longer than was originally forecast.

Read More: One Flight at a Time
December 10, 2019

It’s early June in Orem, Utah, 6,000 feet above sea level, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, and a warm day barely breaks 70 degrees. To the northeast, rising another mile into the clear blue sky, is Mount Timpanogos, second-highest peak in the Wasatch Range, its rocky slopes speckled with trees and still draped in snow. I’m too far away to smell the Great Salt Lake, but not so far that the sky doesn’t sport clusters of gulls riding a breeze from the north.

Occasionally, a helicopter takes people to explore the mountain.

For some, it’s the start of a journey.

Read More: Understanding Your Aircraft Systems
December 10, 2019

Knowing how your ship works gives you more options when mechanical issues arise.

During my time as a helicopter flight instructor, I stressed to my students the importance of learning, in great detail, the systems of the aircraft they were flying. Pilots who know their aircraft’s systems are better equipped to both detect and troubleshoot mechanical issues.

This belief stems in part from my own training, both flight and A&P, where many of my instructors were seasoned World War II pilots and mechanics—two piloted Boeing B-17s, and another served as a flight engineer on the massive Convair B-36. (If you have a chance, take a look at the flight engineer’s panel in the movie Six Turning, Four Burning to grasp the complexity of the B-36 systems.) My instructors’ knowledge of aircraft systems was extraordinary, and they would regularly share with student pilots and mechanics the importance of knowing all you can about aircraft systems.

Aircraft Systems and Components

Let’s start with the basics. You should be able to answer the following questions about the function and operation of each of the essential systems and components listed in “Light piston helicopters,” below:

  • What is it?
  • What does it do?
  • How does it do it?

Read More: From One Extreme to Another: Ultimate Heli (Pty) Ltd
December 10, 2019

Planning is key for operations in austere, distant environments.

Finding an untapped niche within an industry is generally a path to success. It’s just a little more unusual to find a niche that spans two continents.

HAI member Ultimate Heli (Pty) Ltd has found a role working “the hardest aviation jobs in the toughest places,” as the company’s tagline says. Ultimate isn’t only succeeding but growing from its main base in Waterfall, South Africa. Located between Pretoria and Johannesburg, the company’s own purpose-built heliport is expanding at the same time its helicopters are operating across Africa and seasonally in Antarctica.