Flying through

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Dubai Heli Show Mark 4

For some reason my server in the hotel will not let me bring up the pictures I want to use on my blog, which rather encapsulates everything about the Dubai HeliShow.
To give an example of the lack of forethought by the organizers I would show - if the server had let me - rows and rows of empty booths, most of which were for companies who had told the show some weeks before that they were not coming to Dubai. In between these empty booths are occupied ones with so little space that their posters are crushed and their magazines sitting on top of each other....
I could also show you a static park with only 3 helicopters in it, or halls with exhibitors talking to each other because there are no visitors - but apparently I cannot .

On the good side there was a press room which had wifi for a day - sadly it broke down on day two. And there were ample amounts of coffee, though the buns ran out on day two.

For me, I was able to talk to anyone I wanted because they surely were not busy. That at least has allowed me to discover what is happening in the helicopter market in the region which is interesting and will be good for the magazine. So, I am not unhappy, just puzzled why a little bit of care and attention, which could have turned this from a disaster into something understandably quiet in a recession time, was not given to the show and its exhibitors.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Flying with AeroGulf over Dubai in the LongRanger

Went flying with AeroGulf today in their B206 LongRanger. We took off from the airport, but in future AeroGulf is moving its sightseeing helipad to the golf course, this is because there is (and there was) a certain amount of difficulty accessing the main airport for tourists. Anyway, I got through eventually, and was able to go flying.
My pilot was Steve Johnson, a civilian trained Australian who has been flying at AeroGulf for 17 years, during which time he has seen some changes.
AeroGulf started as an oil and gas transporter, taking oil workers and others out to the rigs. They then added construction work, much of which takes place in Oman and the other Emirates, and are now building up a tourism fleet. They fly Bell 212s out to the rigs at the moment but will in the next few months bring AW139s on to the fleet for the oil and gas work, while keeping the 212s for construction and leasing them out to other companies. The tourism is done in the JetRanger and LongRanger.
For more on AeroGulf and its work see the winter 2010 issue of Helicopter Life magazine out in December 2010.

AeroGulf pilot Steve Johnson in the LongRanger

Sarah Currie and Dave Butler, Chief Pilot AeroGulf
  It was a good flight, although a little hazy. We flew over the coast, seeing some construction sites that had failed to make a success and others, like The Palm, which were very successful. The well-publized World, wherein Michael Jackson and other celebs had been going to have a retreat, did not look anything like the world of my atlas, and has not been a great success. I guess the timing was a bit off. We flew over the former camel racing course and the present horse racing course - marvellous as you would expect of anything to do with horses belonging to Maktoum. Back over the foreigner freehold area, the creek and home.

 Sarah is one of two female pilots at AeroGulf. Interestingly she says there has been no local opposition to her as a pilot and the only sexist remark she ever had was from a British oil worker. Humm, makes you proud to think these male Brits can come half way round the world and still stick to their cultural attitudes don't it!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Come to Dubai for the Helicopter Show

Arrived in Dubai this morning - staying Al Bustan Rotana, which is near the Airport Expo where the show is being held.
Swimming, sightseeing and resting today, tomorrow I hope to go flying in the AeroGulf JetRanger over the city - should be good if the weather isn't too hazy. It was hazy when we arrived this morning but by 10 am that should have burnt off - I hope.

The show starts on Tuesday.

More to come....

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Bond seen at Battersea

Nothing scares a Yorkshireman
Sean Connery uses the rejuvenation spar at the Verta Hotel in Battersea

Monday, 18 October 2010

Why you should not answer a mobile phone in the cockpit

Last week I was flying the JetRanger with a new student. I have quite a few hours on the B206 but I still use the checklist when I start-up as I always impress upon my students the importance of doing so: that you do not miss items. I was a few lines from turbine start when the phone rang and I answered it. My mother, who suffers from dementia, had gone missing and the lodger had phoned to tell me. We reconciled the mother problem and then, apologising to the trial lesson, I returned to start up.
I pressed the start button and nothing happened. Uhh? I looked up at the circuit breakers and discovered I had not put in the start circuit breaker. I tried again. Start ok. Got up to 15%, put in the fuel, but then I could hear the fuel sloshing and no ignition.... Uhh? I kept motoring the turbine and closed the throttle. Once I reckoned the chamber was empty I looked up at the circuit breakers again - the ignition breaker was sitting out like a wagging finger - and yet I had missed it when I pushed in the start breaker. I pushed it in.
I started again and this time the turbine spooled up in the normal way. There was no damage done, apart from looking foolish in front of the Trial Lesson,  but...  well what a fool! I must have started this engine a couple of thousand times, and yet a little distraction on the phone made me miss essential items... It is something I would impress upon a student!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

EH 101 Merlin

Day three at Heli Tech Portugal. I was thrown off the Merlin by a member of the Portuguese Air Force - mind you I was sitting at the controls going vroom vroom, so you might sympathise with him!
Fully digital displays, which I was surprised about given its first flight was in 1987. When I admitted that I was a pilot, the PAF man, who was about 12 years old, said, "I believe you!" Cheeky monkey. Not many female PAF pilots, I guess.

Also, interviewed Pedro Silveira, the President of Heli Portugal, part of the recently created United Helicopter Services. UHS is a company covering a myriad of aviation services, mostly helicopter, through Europe, Middle East and Africa. Interesting interview. He gave his opinion on the difficulties and advantages  of merging several companies under one banner- read the next edition of Helicopter Life for full text.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Heli Tech Cascais day two

Day two started with pouring rain, which has now been replaced by low cloud and mist; disappointing for all - will there be another fire fighting demonstration this afternoon?
This Kamov was tantalising us this morning by starting up and shutting down innumerable times - so far all they have done is a compressor wash.... I hope it will flying this afternoon and perhaps do some fire fighting demos.
It is quiet here, but there are some potentially interesting things - for example there is a new concept helicopter HAD + T, a three blade small turbine helicopter. If it makes a prototype or more then it will be interesting - at the moment they have the assembled parts but have not yet done ground runs, which are scheduled to happen in November.
I will write more about this in the print version of Helicopter Life out in December.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

HeliTech Cascais, Portugal

Good day at HeliTech in Cascais, with an excellent fire fighting demonstration. Two very colourful  Squirrels helped the ground fire fighters put out the fire -  it was fun, the only drawback was that they did a very similar demo two years ago. None the less, enjoyable and good pictures.
Not enough people at the show though - at least the weather was lovely - it is worth leaving the UK and coming here for the sun alone and dinner on the beach...
Sadly, thanks to the recession there are no parties this year at HeliTech....

More tomorrow.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Eurocopter Innovations X-3

This is the new Eurocopter X3 - high-speed, hybrid long range helicopter. It has two turboshaft engines and a 5 blade main rotor, with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings.
They have done a test flight and it has reached 180 knots. They are aiming for 220 knots.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Alan Mann Open Day

Alan Mann had an open-day this week to let the world know they are still there (there have been lots of Pprune rumours) and bursting with new ideas.
They still have the Bell 47, they have now also got a Schweizer 300 for training and they have R44s, a Bell 407, a JetRanger, Agusta 109, plus a Twin Squirrel and a simulator for IR training.
Alan Mann is now merged with Fast Helicopters (Thruxton and Shoreham,) Sterling Helicopters at Norfolk and Skydrift, a jet company also in Norfolk. They are now opening at weekends as well as during the week, and lobbying the airfield to try and get a R22.
And they still have the Bell 47, (did I say that already?) for which Alan Mann has always been so famous.
They say their doors are always open for anyone to drop in, so go and visit their base in Fairoaks.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

EFIS on the Cessna 172

Today I did my fixed wing instructor renewal. Normally I fly the Tiger Moth, so it was a bit of a shock to fly the Cessna 172 with EFIS. However, it was great - someone designed that very well and it is extremely user friendly. I only fly 50 or 60 hours a year on aeroplanes (compared to some 300 - 400 on helicopters) so any aeroplane is a novelty to me, but I found the whole EFIS system easy to understand and use, and in fact, with the enormous artifical horizon in front of you, it was actually easier to do instrument flying...
I am thinking that the new Sikorsky X-2, with its recent speed of 250 knots in cruise flight, will now also use EFIS or some varient of it, and it will be no problem to change to using it instead of analogue instruments. I really look forward to the day when that will be available for us (journalists/pilots) to fly. OK 250 knots is nothing in an aeroplane but in a helicopter there is something exciting about the extremes - from a fast speed to nothing and all in the air.

Friday, 10 September 2010

You learn a lot from students

As an instructor you never know how much a student understands or remembers what you say. But sometimes they show you in quite dramatic fashion. Yesterday a student of mine was starting the 300 ready to go off solo. He is a high time student, has already completed his Qualifying Cross Country and is someone who understands engines and technical matters. However, when he started the engine he inadvertently left the throttle slightly open, the engine started and then began to surge as the rpm soared and was reduced by the starting governor. After a few surges the helicopter gave a huge back-fire and the engine cut out. The poor student was totally bemused, but this would not have happened if he had started the engine with the throttle closed, or closed it when the governor started to cut in. He won't make that mistake again.
Interestingly, another instructor was standing nearby and he suggested a new starting technique after this kind of problem. He said, don't prime, mixture fully in and start it as though it was a carburettor engine, instead of fuel injected. It worked.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Flying the Bell 429 with Henry Wilson

I flew the Bell 429 just after Farnborough. What a brilliant powerful machine that is. It feels like a JetRanger but it is a twin, has FADEC and, of course, has bags more power - flying it you feel like you can do anything.
Bell took a long time to bring out the 429 because they were asking pilots, mechanics, engineers and owners exactly what they wanted in a new helicopter. The result was this composite body helicopter with four blades, very unusual in a Bell, and a four blade scissor tail-rotor, which makes it a lot quieter than most helicopters of its size, while not reducing the manoeuvrability. There are a lot of special features too, for example the fuel system which allows all four tanks to flow into both engine, so even if you lose one engine you won't find yourself running out of fuel on the other engine! For the full test flight have a look at my article in Helicopter Life magazine.
And if you get a chance to fly it - grab it, you definitely will not regret it.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Instructor renewal

Yesterday I did my helicopter instructor renewal. This has to be done every three years, to keep the rating current and while I don't like tests any more than anyone else, I do find I always learn a lot. Yesterday, in spite of the 30 knot winds, I learnt a couple of very interesting things. One was how really difficult wires can be to see.
We were doing confined areas, the subject of my main brief, and the examiner was sitting in the student's seat allowing me to patter him through Exercise 26. As we recced the area we noticed wires to the side of the  landing area, but nothing appeared to go across the actual area. The sun was positioned so the field was slightly in the shadow, and we made a note of the possibility of wires and the position of the nearest pole (in the trees abutting on the area). However, even on the lower recce the area looked clear of wires. Then we made our approach, there, suddenly, about 40 or so feet above the wires it was possible to see them, and they went right across the descent path (luckily we had remained high because of the possibility).
This was made particularly poignant for me as I had just put an accident report in Helicopter Life magazine in which the highly experienced pilot hit wires because they were hidden in trees. He was not hurt, but the machine (a Hughes 500) was written off. At this time of year, with leafy trees and shadows, wires are really, really difficult to see. Take care.

The other interesting point we discussed and practiced was power settings on coming out of confined areas.
I tend to teach using full-power leaving a confined area, this is per the CAA standard. However, the examiner said; WHY? You have done a power check, you know how much power you have in hand. Why not take note of those margins and use the power you need, instead of getting the student to use everything, when he may over-torque and certainly will have his head in the cockpit worrying about RPM rather than outside - which is where the trees are going to hit you. It was a good point, and we flew it gently right along the trees - no hassle.
So, sometimes I ask myself - why do we worry about tests, they are good learning experiences. Thanks.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Ozzie sniffs at the chance of learning to fly

Although Ozzie thought flying was well lekker she opted for map reading as the easier option

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Helicopter Life Autumn 2010

This is a sneak preview of the next magazine, out in September.
Articles include: Helicopters in Haiti - how a German team of helicopters went out to Haiti after the earthquake to help the survivors by Rainer Herzberg.
Fire-fighting training in the Kamov Ka-32.
Matt Conder writing about the helicopter pilots work on the power lines.
Alan Norris on the SAR competition in Kiel-Holtenau.
Arjan Dijksterhuis on the last competition in Kiel-Holtenau.
Ralph Arnesen on his time as a military pilot in Vietnam.
Dino Marcellino on SAR training in Ireland on the AW139.
The highlights and spills of Farnborough.
My test flight of the Bell 429 - great little machine with bags of power, especially for someone used to the Bell 206.
Answering a question from Henny Fagg, Do I need to get an Instrument Rating to work in the helicopter industry.
And all the regulars such as House and Helicopter - the new hotel at Battersea Heliport- book reviews, helicopter shows past and future etc

History of Helicopter Life

Helicopter Life was started in 2004 by my husband, a graphic designer and author, and me, an instructor pilot and a part-time writer. Our aim was to get people who had never even thought about helicopters interested in the subject, and perhaps even encourage them to learn to fly. I had been flying since I was 20 years old, and I loved it. I taught my husband to fly, although he never got a licence, and he realised how much more there is to flying than just going from A- B in more style than the train - he never learnt to drive either!

As the magazine grew we found more and more interesting subjects to write about, all involving helicopters. There were the US helicopter teams out in Laos who were searching for any remains of Americans who had fought in the Vietnam War. This was following a promise made by the US government to the war widows that Americans who fought for their country would always be returned to US soil: alive or dead. There were fire-fighters, all of whom were so modest - we only support the real ground fire-fighters, they insisted: and yet helicopters do make a great deal of difference. There were the medical pilots, flying the EMS machines, sometimes in the deadliest of weathers, many of whom lost their lives determined to save others. Coastguard, Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue, Military pilots on both war and peacetime missions, police pilots, corporate pilots, film pilots - the list is endless.
We also discovered people who just enjoyed playing with helicopters: 'gamers' taking part in Helicopter Championships, just like tennis! People who flew back and forth from their work. Schools, trainers of all types and levels. Different attitudes to flying in different countries, different regulations, different politics.
There is so much more to helicopter flying and the uses of helicopters than most people realise.

Then, in the summer of 2006, my husband suddenly began to get tired. At first he thought he was just ageing - a little earlier than most people. He began to have difficulty walking, breathing and even eating. He went to the doctor, and they sent him for various tests. No one told him what it might be. Eventually, he went to an acupuncturist and she said he had Raynaud's disease, associated with something else - as we were in Japan at the time she wasn't able to tell us the English name. I looked it up on the internet. Raynaud's disease is often associated with Motor Neurone Disease, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He died a month later, in October. Before he died we decided I would continue the magazine in his memory.

Since winter 2006 I have brought out the magazine myself, with the help of some excellent people including Dave Smith, a pilot on the oil rigs, Malvina Nicca, a jet jockey, Robert Edmonds, an airline pilot and many freelance writers and photographers, and many supporters and friends. No one works full time on the magazine, but we all love aviation and want to infect as many others as we can with the delight of flying. This is the reason for bringing out the magazine. I hope you enjoy it.