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So There I Was...

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Okay, just to change the pattern of the last few weeks I thought I'd share a story of something that happened to me when I first started in helicopters. Everything is completely factual, with names and locations changed or ommitted to protect the innocent (I.E. Guilty!):


I was flying in my first season after getting my licence. The machine was a turbocharged piston that actually was a good performer when it wasn't overloaded (which pretty much meant when I was alone). I had just dropped off some native trappers at a fishing camp and had to take a guy and his wife back to the community we were working out of. This was all taking place during "freeze-up", when many of the northern communities of central Canada rely on helicopters for almost all transportation.


After I unloaded the guys I brought in, the people I was to bring back to town showed up with all their stuff. I stood there using four-letter words as I surveyed the pile of guns, beavers, ducks, geese, moose meat and fish that I was somehow supposed to take-off with and fly 50 miles to town. Finally, muttering under my breath, I started loading the machine... luckily(?) I had utility baskets on the side of the machine to handle the bulky articles. I quickly noticed the pile didn't seem to be diminshing as the baskets filled up... then I found out why... every time I turned my head to load the machine, someone threw more birds on the pile! When I caught them at that I swore loudly at everybody for about five minutes... the placid calm that they exhibited at my, very vituperative, onslaught told me they'd heard it all before.


So, I was finally loaded up and ready to go. In a move that preceded air-bags in cars by several years, I had securely packed ducks and geese around the front seat occupants to protect them in the event of a hard-landing. With all secure I went to full-throttle... this apparently was a signal for everyone in the camp to gather in front of the helicopter grinning toothily (some of them anyway). Brimming with confidence I calculated how many "extra" RPM's I might need to clear the trees in front of me (at this point I had such a death-grip on the cyclic I could barely squeeze the trigger due to cramping), inhaling deeply I pulled pitch, rotated and "went for it" (a very exciting if not-recommended departure procedure... however, very necessary in this "situation"). As I climbed, all the people ran underneath the helicopter spinning and smiling like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. "Oh well" I muttered, "it'll be a soft landing if the engine quits". As the trees approached I started to worry a bit, as it appeared that the tips of the blades were barely going to clear... confirmed seconds later as the fuselage passed through two tallish trees like Lui Passaglia kicking a field goal. Suddenly the low-rotor horn sounded, "right on schedule" I thought as I lowered the collective slightly to recover RPM. As I "milked" the collective, at tree-top level, with all those people still running beneath me, I felt a bit like Wile E. Coyote, cranking that hand railway cart as he chased the roadrunner. Finally, the trees gave way to lake and I could dive, get some airspeed and silence the horn as the RPM came back into the green. I leaned back and smiled with pleasure at another successful take-off.


So, after an uneventful flight :wacko: , I landed to disgorge my passengers. It wasn't until I walked around the front of the machine that I discovered (by tripping on it) a steel wire, roughly the size and consistency of very thick guitar string, hanging off the pitot tube. It was wrapped very tightly around the tube, and then trailed over the toe of the left skid and thence down the left side of the aircraft for about 40 feet. Since this put this wire well past the tailrotor... which was on the same side... I had a moment of pride that I always flew in trim :blink: .


At this point was where my finely honed "pilot instincts" took over. I ignored the wire while the people were still there... I looked around furtively when they were gone and disposed of the evidence... and began to plot the cover-up. If you're wondering where the wire came from.... so was I. After some surreptitious investigation (the band constable came over and told me that there was no communication with the camp I was just at over the HF radio), I brilliantly deducted that I now owned an HF antenna.


Unfortunately, I had to go back to the camp to pick up the people I had dropped off that fateful day... or it would have been ok with me to fade from the memory of people around there. As I landed at the camp I was rehearsing the explanation and apology in my mind to make sure it all came out right at the camp. As everyone gathered around I did my best to put on a brave face (and decided to play dumb). The head of the camp (who had been my passenger of a few days before) walked up to me. The dialogue went something like this (names omitted... and you have to do his voice in a northern aboriginal accent):


Him: "Uhh...You make a lot of work for me!"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Him: "You see those two trees?"

Me: "Yes, I flew between them when I left here the other day"

Him: "..... We know.... Our trapline radio antenna was between those two trees..."

Me: "Oh? Did I hit it?"

Him: (looking me straight in the eye) "Uhh...You hit it alright.... and the radio was yanked from the tent and went bouncing through the camp... and we all try to catch it but it gets away... and then Hector", at this point he points with his thumb at a young man who has bandages all over his face and an arm in a sling, "tackled it and you dragged him through the camp and then over all the logs and stumps between here and the lake....it's a good thing he got wedged under a fallen tree or you would have taken him water-skiing!!!"

Me: "(speechless)"

Him: "Anyway, are we ready to go?"


In retrospect, that take-off was even more of an accomplishment than I'd thought!




P.S. This story was intended to amuse people with the details of one man's folly. I don't condone any of the actions that took place here... with the exception of Hector tackling the radio... that was a good move... or I might have landed with it.



P.P.S. I would like to invite others to share their stories. I have heard so many over so many pints... it's good to get them recorded for posterity... I may have already broken the rule with my story, but "brevity <being> the sole of wit", a short rendition of what happened and how it wasn't your fault would be welcome.





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Well I guess it is my time to open the GAB i s'pose...


This one time, doing some agricultural work (fine name for frost patrol over cherry trees) in a light piston machine.


I got up in the wee hours of the morning, trying to stay awake, doing the preflight in the dark.


I determined that I needed a quart of oil, and proceeded to remove the rather long dip-stick (newer 300C) and placed it below the cockpit, filled the oil, and cmopletely forgot the stick!


So two and a half hours later, land for some fuel, and do a quick 'run around' and there is no OIL DIPSTICK!!


I immediately felt like ####, and knew my days as a company pilot were over, so I refueled my two cans of fuel, and proceeded to go to the staging field to atleast look for the dip stick.


Arriving there, i promptly shut down and looked for that dip-stick, and lo and behold if I didn't find it, nicely camouflaged, on the yellow centerline stripe of the taxiway!


I stuck it in, found the need for a little more oil (less than 1 quart!) and a light clean up on the side of the aircraft.


Needless to say, I did NOT tell anybody about my stupidity, but I am still flying, checking ALL fluid levels, and ALL CAPS before I go flying, every time! :shock:


That is the worst I have EVER felt like when flying, and I hope I'll never feel the same again!

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You broke me up with that one sir....very funny, :D


You mentioned wires and it reminded me of my wire story....which has no humour whatsoever......so here goes.


Location: Saguenay River, PQ.


The river in question is very large and wide with very high banks on each side. I'm attempting to get my butt back to Montreal after release. The wx gradually deteriorates from light rain, to heavy rain and fog. The ceiling gradually starts to meet the trees and I decide to divert course and use the river to make my way out of this crap. All goes well until the visibility starts to disappear on the river. I knew that there was a high KV power line crossing the river up ahead, but there would be no problem because I would pass at least 250'-300' below that line. I get to the point where I am low over the calm waters, but making "diddley" for forward speed (Ya I was wearing floats on a Jetbox). I finally say to myself..."Self, just what in the **** are you trying to do...kill yourself? Get your *** over onto the shoreline and call it a day until this crap clears up". I pull back gently on the cyclic so that I can come to a hover before I make my turn to shore. AT THAT INSTANT the aircraft feels as though I have landed on a bed of feathers or a trampoline and I stop even quicker than I wanted to. Everything is fine so far and I hover my way to the shoreline, crawl in the back seat and grab some shut-eye.


I awake three hours later, around noon, to a wonderful sunny day and not a cloud around. I remember the weird stop I made and get outside to check the a/c. I see on the outside of both floats a thin black line going up about half-way. I check the inside of both floats and see the same. I stand there scratching my head trying to figure out where they came from. I glance out across the river to the approximate point that I had stopped and IMMEDIATELY a cold chill runs down my spine......,.I had ran into a static line that was sagging down into the river gorge from that big KV power line. I had gently pulled back on the cyclic to come to that hover mentioned before and did it only nano-seconds before I struck the wire. The very action of coming to that hover had presented the bottoms of my floats to the wire and between the slack in the wire and the cushioning effect from the air in the floats, I got my "trampoline effect".


Lessons learned here: 1) If I feel "uncomfortable" doing something I CEASE and listen to my "hunches"; 2) just because lightning static wires in BC go OVER the towers, does not therefore mean that ALL lightning static wires go OVER towers of high KV lines everywheres else; 3) "experienced" really means that you have scared the "complete sh*t" out of yourself more than some others with less "experience" and contributes towards having a few more gray hairs in later years that you didn't get because of the aging process.


To those that are tempted to pass UNDER power lines for whatever reason and don't know the area well, take note of this "adventure".

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To stay on the topic of wires, here is a word of caution regarding low level flight in river valleys, although you may have flown low level in the river numerous times and know that no wires exist, watch out especially in North East BC or Alberta where a Seismic crew can show up over night and string cable across the river, I have seen cable across the Sikanni in BC, and as anyone famliar with this river knows the banks are pretty high up.



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