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A Few Closing Thoughts For The Year

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Well,

 

First off, it's nice to be back home on the patio after a safe summer! Beer is cold...!

 

Other than the tragic accident with Campbell this May, I think it has been an unusually safe summer on the fire front, despite many of the agencies best efforts to the contrary, and a great deal of pilots these days who seem utterly incapable of standing up for themselves, their employer, or the safety of those in their care.

 

Before I launch into my assessment of the general failings of the Fire agencies we work for (another post to follow up on the ASRD one earlier this year), I feel it is really important to highlight the absolutely appalling behaviour I have witnessed these past months from pilots and engineers.

 

It seems to me that the simple concept of "pilot in command" has become muddied to the point of obscurity. Let me re-iterate: It is you, the PIC, to whom which all responsibility for your aircraft, its operation, its safety, and that of the people in and around it, lies. This has never been more true than now in this modern world of SMS and the ultimate passing of the liability buck by the operators onto the shoulders of the PIC. Yet, it seems that with each passing year the idea, or more accurately, the reality of this concept has become lost on the crews operating helicopters across the country.

 

The serviceability of the machine is your responsibility. Flying machines that are "Flyable" but not legally serviceable is not only wrong, but illegal and hangs your *** out to dry, nobody else's. This means failing power checks is not on, this means flying with defects that have not been rectified save popping the caution segment is wrong, this means when the machine is not performing within the limitations set out in the flight manual, it is not serviceable and you guessed it, wrong. It is wrong and illegal, and it is stunningly unprofessional. How many threads do we see here lamenting the wages and working conditions that exist in our industry? How the **** can you expect to have a bargaining position of strength with employers when so many of you seem unable to understand these very basic concepts and operate aircraft that are LEGALLY unserviceable? I am flabbergasted by what I have seen this summer in several notable instances.

 

We haven't even left the ground yet. You are responsible for your aircraft, full stop. Blades not being tied down, doors not being closed, buckets being punched, crews causing damage when loading/unloading, plugs not being pulled prior to starting, the list goes on, but in the end it is the PIC that bears the responsibility. Many of you would be well advised to take this to heart.

 

It should also go without saying that when the aircraft is in flight, you hold the sole authority to its operation and the safety of those aboard. Unfortunately many of you seem utterly incapable of saying "no" to inadequately brushed out and constructed pads, flying in visibilities that are below either legal or "safe" limits given the situation, and flying in a manner that lends itself to accidents or incidents. It is the customer's prerogative to ask you to do things so they can accomplish their goals for the flight, and let's face it, compared to drilling, geology, seismic, or many other private section applications, forestry is a cake walk in this regard. It is your responsibility to evaluate those requests and say "yes," or "no." It's that simple. So why is it that so many of you merrily launch yourselves into precarious situations time after time, day after day? How many times does a helicopter have to land on an unsafe pad before someone finally speaks up and says "no?" How many times can we fly around in suspect visibilities before people start saying "no?" We see this every summer.

 

Moving on.

 

I am lucky, well maybe "lucky" is the wrong word. I work for people who take care of their hardware, and their software, that being us. Money comes in, money gets spent on machines and crews, and the operation ticks along nicely. Pilots and mechanics are supported in their duties, and aircraft that are broken get fixed.

 

Sadly, over the course of my career this seems to be an anomaly. Judging by some of the rat bagged pieces of #### flying around on fires this year, I have to question where the priorities of the crews working for these companies lie, no to mention the owners? This is not to say many of these ships are not shiny and pleasant to look at, because many are, but start digging a little and it's truly shocking at how some of these ships are maintained. I ran into a young guy the other week who lamenting his time wrenching at a particular outfit spoke of the "kool-aid" mentality often on display out there in the field. I thought it was a fitting description!

 

One fellow I worked beside in BC last year on a medium had a mechanic who couldn't even do a proper DI each night! I saw the same thing this season, guys putting big hours on Bell Mediums and the mechanic spending more time sleeping than wrenching. Yet nothing gets said, and the status quo carries on, the pilot jumps in the machine every morning and goes merrily to work. It is a testament to the original engineering of these machines that they fly in some cases. Many operators seem more intent on wringing out the last red cent from the aircraft than putting a well maintained machine in the field. Yet, many of these same crews stand around the coffee pot telling all who will listen how great their companies are! "Kool-aid" indeed!

 

 

I could go on and on as any you can imagine, but I'll leave it here for now, the coffee pot is calling. The point being, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your aircraft and its operations. Take responsibility for who you chose to work for, vote with your feet if it is not acceptable. Call out those doing poorly. Stop being terrified of the customer, it's embarrassing and unsafe.

 

Enjoy the beer this Fall, you've earned it.

 

AR

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Given the variety and vast number of sins to which you profess to have been witness this summer, AR, I'm not sure how you can make the statement we/they have 'earned' the enjoyment of the beer.

 

Undoubtedly, there are too many of those operators and employees out there who totally fail the tests of integrity and professionalism, but I take exception to your parroting of the boring saw "passing of the liability buck by the operators onto the shoulders of the PIC."

 

Surely, in fairness, both the literal and figurative liability should be shared, and companies certainly aren't sheltered from liability if the fines levied by Transport Canada and the insurance rates offered by underwriters are any testimonial.

 

But when the time comes to address real responsibility and accountability, surely, while operators must stand liable for ensuring their aircraft meet the airworthiness standards and their crews are adequately trained and equipped, those same crews must stand liable for their decisions and performance, including the legal right of refusal to do work they believe risks their wellbeing. Accepting less to 'keep my job' is exactly what's at the root of our problems.

 

I've been around this industry, either flying, managing or owning, for the large part of its several decades, and continue to be chagrined by the ever-present degree of unprofessional, immature and immoral activity that goes on. I find it particularly sad that our marketplace has had to assume de facto responsibility for our regulation but, then, we're reaping what we've sown, aren't we?

 

Will the industry ever clean up its act? Probably not while you and I are still around, and maybe never. However, there's been plenty of upside to enjoy and hold my interest and, obviously, yours. So, let's those of us that care 'suck it up' and individually do what we can 'one on one' to instill better attitudes and standards because, so far, those with the reins seem incapable of doing so. B)

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Very well said AR. I'm finally home after having only 2 weeks here since the middle of June.

 

It's amazing the disrespect these days given by customers especially the young and educated ones. They seem to have no clue in regards to how helicopters operate and the effort we put into getting the job done for them safely while at the same time efficiently. One company (geology) would talk the safety talk but when it came to them trying to overload the aircraft or make me do the impossible there safety policies were just paper and talk. My thanks for keeping them alive and able to complete their missions were numerous letters of complaint to our operations dept. Thankfully I work for a company that stands behind their guys. Err on the side of caution, it will keep you alive, be assertive and professional when dealing with arrogant and ignorant customers. In all fairness most of the folks I dealt with this summer were respectful and understanding but all it takes is one azzhole to push you into a regretful situation. There is a lot of work to do still till the snow flies and more after that so stay safe and remember who is boss... YOU!

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Closing thoughts.....

 

AR great thread as I'm sure this will be a hot topic and cause a little bit of controversy and thats what this place is made of. However, I do find it disappointing to see though we are always so quick to jump on the negative! Ya sure all summer long there seems to be these individuals and companies who are constantly struggling with there "professionalism" but most of us seem to know or soon come to recognize who they are quiet quickly.

What we should be doing is talking about the positive experiences! The good crews and good equipment we spent time around this summer and some of the positive things you may have seen. I spent part of my summer in Ontario working with some great aircrews with top notch machines (almost as nice as the machines I get to fly), every one did there job profesionaly and rarely had an issue. If there was an issue sometimes we could even help eachother out. At the end of the day we all did our job, had some laughs and made some money :up: Thats a good time!

 

 

IceMan

I think you might have to check with the owner of your company, ask him who the BOSS is ;) I think your the PIC

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Given the variety and vast number of sins to which you profess to have been witness this summer, AR, I'm not sure how you can make the statement we/they have 'earned' the enjoyment of the beer.

 

Undoubtedly, there are too many of those operators and employees out there who totally fail the tests of integrity and professionalism, but I take exception to your parroting of the boring saw "passing of the liability buck by the operators onto the shoulders of the PIC."

 

Surely, in fairness, both the literal and figurative liability should be shared, and companies certainly aren't sheltered from liability if the fines levied by Transport Canada and the insurance rates offered by underwriters are any testimonial.

 

But when the time comes to address real responsibility and accountability, surely, while operators must stand liable for ensuring their aircraft meet the airworthiness standards and their crews are adequately trained and equipped, those same crews must stand liable for their decisions and performance, including the legal right of refusal to do work they believe risks their wellbeing. Accepting less to 'keep my job' is exactly what's at the root of our problems.

 

I've been around this industry, either flying, managing or owning, for the large part of its several decades, and continue to be chagrined by the ever-present degree of unprofessional, immature and immoral activity that goes on. I find it particularly sad that our marketplace has had to assume de facto responsibility for our regulation but, then, we're reaping what we've sown, aren't we?

 

Will the industry ever clean up its act? Probably not while you and I are still around, and maybe never. However, there's been plenty of upside to enjoy and hold my interest and, obviously, yours. So, let's those of us that care 'suck it up' and individually do what we can 'one on one' to instill better attitudes and standards because, so far, those with the reins seem incapable of doing so. B)

 

 

Now you know why I am so Jaded! professional! Ya right what a joke! Well said Terry! You AR great post!

 

P5

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However, I do find it disappointing to see though we are always so quick to jump on the negative! Ya sure all summer long there seems to be these individuals and companies who are constantly struggling with there "professionalism" but most of us seem to know or soon come to recognize who they are quiet quickly.

What we should be doing is talking about the positive experiences! The good crews and good equipment we spent time around this summer and some of the positive things you may have seen.

 

KiloMike,

 

But if we just accent the positive, the other will never fix its self! There is a lot of good things out there, but they never seem to stand out as much as the other...:(

 

If the status quo becomes the "constant struggle with their professionalism", then the bar is set pretty low.

 

I spent all summer in Ontario and had a great time. But the younger crews, crew leaders and what not, going out on their 1st fire, is a thing to behold!

 

Only book learning and pep talks to make it happen.

 

One of the things that I found frustrating, was the lack of 'respect' if you will, for my 35+ years in the industry, and the assumption that I had no idea of how to bucket, operate around a fire, or many of the other tasks that are a part of our world.

 

These young crewmen do not understand the wealth of knowledge that is often sitting in the seat next to them. While this may be their 1st fire, it certainly isn't mine!

 

And yes, while I can't change any other A/C crew members, I can certainly help with mine, (thought we already have some pretty good ones!) to operate in a professional manner. Maybe it happens one crew at a time.

 

But then the almighty buck, and the king size ego, says I can do it even if no one else can.

 

What's the saying: "Hold my beer and watch this?"

 

So some will never refuse a pad, or turn back from weather, or say you have to take some weight off of the A/C, etc, because that makes you less of a (man/women) pilot. And I won't quit my tour when I'm tired because I'm getting $XXX.XX a day (but still not as much as P5! :stupid: ) and I'm going to stay longer than anyone else because I am so great!

 

It's sad that I saw a bit of that this year:( Safety first, unless it interferes with my status as a super pilot, money maker, and the example of the aviation world.)

 

It seems we still have a ways to go to being professional...

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KiloMike,

 

One of the things that I found frustrating, was the lack of 'respect' if you will, for my 35+ years in the industry, and the assumption that I had no idea of how to bucket, operate around a fire, or many of the other tasks that are a part of our world.

 

These young crewmen do not understand the wealth of knowledge that is often sitting in the seat next to them. While this may be their 1st fire, it certainly isn't mine!

 

 

 

While I do agree with you that sitting back and listening to your more "experienced" peers is a huge advantage. This goes both ways. Respect is earned, not handed out like service medals. Just because you have 35 years experience doesn't mean you are good at what you do, or that your way of doing something is the right way. That being said, this accounts for a very small percentage of the industry, and without the knowledge of those who went before me I would be a pretty useless tit.

 

A great thread AR, its has sparked some excellent conversation.

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Given the variety and vast number of sins to which you profess to have been witness this summer, AR, I'm not sure how you can make the statement we/they have 'earned' the enjoyment of the beer.

 

I do not "profess," I am relaying concrete observations. Also, the statement you're referring to was an online attempt at sarcasm... guess it did't quite fly? Other than this, I think the rest of your post holds a lot of valuable discussion material, thanks for contributing. The only part of it I will talk about is this:

 

Surely, in fairness, both the literal and figurative liability should be shared, and companies certainly aren't sheltered from liability if the fines levied by Transport Canada and the insurance rates offered by underwriters are any testimonial.
'

 

"In fairness," indeed. However to borrow a tired cliche, but an apt one, "Life is not fair." Nor is this industry. It is about money, and while this may be a morally disagreeable viewpoint, and one that cannot be fully placed on the shoulders of owners, it is the reality. We have seen pilots prosecuted in criminal court recently, and given the advanced state of litigation we find our society in these days, it is logical that insurance companies and customers will do all they can to shift responsibility to the companies, who in turn shift it to employees or contractors. Make no mistake, the SMS system has once and for all passed that liability buck to the pilots and mechanics IF there is any deviation from arbitrary procedures devised by consultants, Ops Managers, or Chief Pilots. This is not to say the we should not be held responsible for negligence, of course we should be, but that is not the environment we operate in anymore. The stakes with litigation are too high now. Unfortunately, TC and CARS are playing an ever shrinking role in our industry, as you observed. They are the least of our issues.

 

 

However, I do find it disappointing to see though we are always so quick to jump on the negative!

 

Kilo Mike, thanks for the reply. As SkidsUp points out, it is not the positive that needs to be accentuated unfortunately, it is the negative. There were certainly some positive aspects to the summer's flying and my experience of it, but sadly, the negative stands out far more dramatically and is where attention and energy should be focused.

 

I do have challenge your implication that because you've worked

with some great aircrews with top notch machines (almost as nice as the machines I get to fly), every one did there job professionally and rarely had an issue
that the rest, or even the majority fall into that category. Nice people and shiny paint do not make professional pilots and well maintained aircraft. The are some real POS flying around in the medium world these days, offset by some stunningly well maintained and kept machines. It is not all junk, but I think if you look closely you will find there are some glaring examples of shoddy maintenance. The number of disgruntled mechanics I've spoken to this year is profound, perhaps more than I remember. I will not name names, or discuss specifics for obvious reasons, but there have been some jaw dropping examples of companies leaving their crews out to dry with recurring defects, slow delivery of parts, and lack of support. Unfortunately there are also some notable examples of these crews NOT grounding aircraft that are unserviceable, but continuing to fly out of limits or with u/s systems. This is not right.

 

Ran across a particularly nasty rumour this year, that a certain company had pencil whipped a medium pilots mountain course. Now, I cannot confirm that, nor will I hint at the company, but given what happened in 2009 south of Lillooet among other accidents, I am flabbergasted that this may be true. This is not a game. People are put in positions of responsibility and must be given the support, training, and tools, to do their jobs safely and satisfy the customer. If this is true, I hope the company is banned from flying for BCFS, full stop. But we all know they won't be.

 

 

Respect is earned, not handed out like service medals.

 

Glad you are enjoying the thread Three Per. You hit the nail on the head here, and I think we would all be reminded to remember this a little more often. How you conduct yourself and carry out your job is what earns you respect, hours in a logbook do not. Flapping one's lips in the bar is a time tested method of losing respect.

 

Hope everyone is enjoying the nice weather this long weekend. (Not sarcasm ;-) )

 

AR

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