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How High Is Too High


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Just another topic Folks


Lets say you are doing the Trans Canada Air Race[fire season] and Ontario is burning up.Your coming from the west and first come ...first on hire.So you climb up to a high altitude to get the high favourable winds.....Your thumping along....and you notice Transmission pressure fluctuating....temps rose lots since your last check........aaahhhhhh.....Trans chip light on.......ahhhhh weird noises behind you.......ahhhhhh......load your shorts with a mega amount of excretement..Gasp....Whew.....Look over at your engineer and realize , he bailed out long ago....probably at start up.......Would you break out with a nervous rendition of "THANKS FOR THE MAMMERIES" or"HAPPY TRAILS TO YE"........If that Tranny lost all it's oil .......would you be able to get it down.......Just another thing that's crossed my mind thru the many ferry flights across Canada.......Otooley. Bet if that happened,"It'll Make Your Brown Eye Blue"

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I gave up flying high a long time ago. Through countless ferry trips through the US I flew at 1000 - 1500 ft tops.


I have dumped the oil out of a transmission, and depending on where the leak is, it can take seconds. I've seen a 412 dump all of its xmsn oil while at idle, waiting to start #2.


A good buddy (who is on this forum) can tell you how long it takes one of these things to come apart....


FYI - the temp will likely not rise in the oil systems of most of the helicopters we fly, in the conditions we fly them - that's a myth.


The fastest way back to Canada is a Vne power-on dive. Or to pull the rotor brake; your choice :D

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I love flying choppers but if the good Lord meant for them to go high he'd have welded the wings on'em.


Helos have no business above 1000 AGL, my thoughts. Not convinced? Look in your checklist for emergencies and try to find an emergency that tells you to climb for a glide home. Every single one for every single helo in the world, western or Russian (no offense meant I grew up in the Cold War) says the same thing, LAND.


Always easier to walk around the beast admiring just how much of that darn fluid came out or why it was making such a racket.


Fixed wing pukes will never get it. You can put two, three, heck put 10 motors on a helo, it will still only have one, two at most, massive gearbox(es), when they go, it's all over.


I try to explain it to seized wing guys that it would be like your A310 having a Wing Spar caution light and when it came on you were restricted to maintaining no more or less than the 1G you are at and that the spar was going to fail within 30 minutes of the light coming on and you don't know why.


:blink: :shock: :wacko:

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Here's what I've heard.......

Because of the perils of running out of oil in a transmission, they are built relatively tougher than an engine. This costs money and weight, but is worth it.

The Astar has been run for 45 minutes without oil in the tranny...........but don't try this with an engine or gearbox.


As far as flying high........sometimes I choose to fly high, sometimes not.

This is determined by a whole bunch of factors, dependent on the usual few........what are the chances a certain event will happen, what will the consequences be, what is my gross weight, my density altitude, my location etc. etc.


P.S When I fly ferry flights (especially in the U.S.!!) I do it at 'offset' altitudes i.e. 1227' or 3569', just to avoid the goons at the 500s and 1000s. I also like to stray off the centreline from point to point because GPS puts too many clowns on a straight and narrow path. I'm so sloppy I could never pass an IFR ride!!

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Guest graunch1

Ask the two Dome Pete pilots years ago in Beaufort in their S76A when #2 engine came apart. The shrapnel took out #1 and the DC junction box.

As they plummeted to their doom from 3,000 ft AGL, the captain said afterwards that things seemed ok until they filled up with smoke at 1,500 ft. They climbed out of the cockpit as the a/c stopped sliding across the ice just in time to see the tail boom burn off. You can bet if they were a few feet higher they would have not been around today.

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Have to agree with you on flight altitude, sometimes is better to take the high road, don't think Astar ever ran 45 minutes no oil, but the flight manual"used" to say that it had been tested with 0 pressure to run at MINIMUM POWER REQUIRED FOR FLIGHT SPEED for 30 minutes. It was removed probably due to two things; liability reasons and that most pilots didn't understand the minimum powered rule(55kts) and thought it was ok to zoom around with a load on with no pressure!!


As far as the goons at 500 & 1000 feet, take into account that most aircraft do not have the same pressure settings as others and altimeter may be off a tad, so don't think you are safe from goons who are actually doing the professional thing of being where they are supposed to be. By flying the 5's and 10's you should be safe from running into opposite direction traffic, having someone meadering around at random altitudes is not great. Remember that these altitude tracks are above 2200' along airways and above 3000' in uncontrolled areas, this is generally fixed-wing land and they move fast, if you are at roughly the right alitude there is a better chance of seeing and being seen. Last place you want to be is between altitudes where the is a greater chance of being smoked by another aircraft climbing or descending to the proper altitude, remember vis from most planes sucks looking down or above.


The clowns on track, well you can offset your gps so that you can follow it accurately and still go in a straight line.



Have worked many a fire where this type of discussion has broken out as there are quite a few pilots who feel they are immune to the rules of the fire agreed upon by the rest of the pilots. No one intentionally runs into someone else and it usually happens on a clear day when complacency kicks in, so some kind of set agreements should be followed otherwise is just caos. Have been in both situations and believe me when there are guys doing there own thing they add a ton of stress to everyone else involved.


Not meant as personnal attack so please don't take offense, it just seemed like an opportunity to bring my thoughts on subject out in open.

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  • 2 weeks later...

No offense taken, I fully agree with you about following the rules on fires, airways, controlled airspace etc.


Your points about low level, uncontrolled ferry altitudes are also valid, but they are dependent on a 'see and be seen' attitude, and unfortunately there are many pilots floating around out there that aren't 'seeing' very well. The IFR/commercial guys and those up on airways are pretty vigilant and are not the ones I am talking about here.

From my personal experience, I have had less close calls when I am away from the 500s and 1000s than when on them.


The problem of seeing descending or climbing aircraft has been around since the second aircraft was built, and I don't know what the solution is there.

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Alas, this is the age old problem. If everyone is at proper altitudes, and obviously if you are not then it is doubtful you will ever have a mid air. So what do you recommend the rest of us do, as if we follow your lead then we will all be at the same altitude again. TCAS for all!!!


Having being involved with setting policy for pilots within companies it becomes very had to find a policy that will fit all needs and have all pilots comply. All you can do is set some perameters and hope they will work and inforce them when necessary. The really hard part is not allowing what is seemingly a good idea become just another rule with a different shade on it. Alot of us like to do something new and want changes, as the old saying says "be careful what you wish for" which I believe in very much as most of us loose site of the issue just to get to the goal and forget what will happen if in fact what you want does come to be. This is something that plagues many of the rule makers in our industry as what works flying in northern Ontario may become a serious safety issue somewhere else. An example is the monitoring of 122.8 in Ontario used to be(and may still be) normal and was the safe practice to know where other a/c were. Whereas in the west it is 126.7 as per the book. I am definately not saying one is better than the other here am just pointing out that with the conjestion of fishing lodges and lakes that it makes sense to use 122.8 and in areas of less conjestion 126.7 works better. The point is that making general statements for the supposed good of all is alot harder than it looks.


An openmind is like an openbook, it is alot easier to understand and learn from. And if we communicate our intentions and truly listen to one another it becomes fun and interesting to work out these differences.



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