Do you guys know that old helicopter joke: “What is that big thing on top? A fan. The moment the thing is turned off, the people inside start sweating.”
I think once again, Chuck may have been taken things way to literally. Please don’t try this at home, no matter how hot it gets. It’s just a cartoon!
Even though the joke probably refers to the rotors turning in the air (which is always a good thing and we go through great lengths to make sure they keep turning), there is some truth to it that relates to reality. Imagine, during fire season, having your car parked in the sun until noon (You can use window shades, that’s fine. But you need to take them out when you get in the car), then get in wearing a flight suit and helmet and wait about 10 minutes before you turn on the AC in your car. That is about how long it takes going through the check list items in a Skycrane before you start turning rotors and the AC doesn’t turn on until then. Those 10 minutes feel pretty long, let me tell you 😉 And some of our machines don’t even have AC, like the one I’m flying this summer.
Also, almost all smaller helicopters I have flown for fire and utility in the past don’t have AC either to save on weight. They get off the ground quicker most of the time where the “FAN” will move some air bringing a little relief together with gaining altitude, but not if you are stuck on the ramp in North Las Vegas for example, waiting for clearance through Nellis Airforce Base airspace during Red Flag Operations. But we do it because we love it 😉
When passengers suddenly get quiet, it is almost never a good sign. In this case Chuck lucked out but in general my experience has shown it means that they are getting sick. I have been flying for way over half of my life and over time it seems you develop a second sense about these things. I can often just look at a passenger and will know if he/she is a puker or not. And it is usually the ones who are way too excited when they show up and talk way too much. It shows that they are nervous even though they don’t even know it yet. I have surprised a few when I gave them an extra bag because they thought for sure they could handle the mission but were glad later on that I prepared them.
What seems to be the worst part (I know from watching since I don’t get sick myself) is that once you get sick in a helicopter (or plane for that matter), it will take you a long time before you recover from it long after landing.
Kids are more tricky. I usually did better not ever bringing up that there is a possibility of getting sick. That way they don’t think about it, have no idea they COULD get sick, and just enjoy the awesome ride while you keep them engaged. It almost always works. But if you mention it they start thinking about it. They get scared “Wait? I can get sick?”, and you almost guaranteed have a puker who, which makes kids worse than adults, NEVER give you a heads up 😉
The story continues almost how it happened in real life. These hot shot movie producers came from New York and had never been in a helicopter over LA at night. They showed up with Hawaiian shirts because that is what they thought we would wear in LA. I showed up with my flight jacket having an understanding how the weather works in LA in April. Initially they laughed at me when I asked them if they brought any more clothes which then quickly changed. Especially in the spring it can be very mellow in Southern California on the coast but as soon as the sun touches the horizon it suddenly gets pretty cold. Now imagine sitting in a helicopter with the doors off right when that happens! You make that particular mistake only once, let me tell you 😉
Yet, even with me having that problem solved ahead of time, it still wasn’t a very comfortable flight for me. The mission was to take black and white footage of the rough neighborhoods for some sort of documentary. Having flown in the area before and knowing helicopter cops I knew that these people don’t necessarily want other people peeking into their backyard. Low circling helicopters get shot at sometimes in LA but that is another story for another time …
Just in case you were wondering: This little story here is what happened to me as a young charter pilot pretty much exactly like we drew it. The only difference is the aircraft was a Jet Ranger. I have dealt with many low budget film crews in my life and they are very hard to work with. Most of them are way too excited about their cause and they expect you to do a lot of additional stuff they didn’t pay for. And somehow a lot of them had it in their minds that a Jet Ranger would cost the same amount as a taxi cab and they are always shocked about the real price. One company I worked for learned the hard way to collect the money BEFORE we did the flights.
Working in Hollywood is not always as glamorous as it may look on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” …
And if you are wondering why Chuck is wearing a jacket instead of his usual pilot shirt, you may need to tune in again this Friday. 😉
So Chuck just got back from the Heli Expo 2015 in Orlando and told me about yet another change at Airbus Helicopters, formerly known as Eurocopter, formerly known as Aerospatiale. Now they are changing the name of the iconic helicopter, known in the States as “AStar” or “Squirrel” from AS350 to H125!
Uhm … what?
To me personally, naming a helicopter “Airbus” already doesn’t make sense and we poked plenty of fun at it last year. But even changing the designation? Well, I’m sure the highly intelligent marketing people have a really good reason for this which just isn’t easy to understand for a simple helicopter pilot, and the costs of changing marketing all the way down to re-writing the manuals and checklists will be absorbed somehow… probably by the customer.
Here is the Vertical Magazine article that was the inspiration for the current strip:
Paperwork and aviation, my favorite topic! 😉
The company I used to work for had a whole library full of helicopter log books and that was only for a few helicopters they owned and a few more for helicopters they maintained. On top of the maintenance logs you have log cards for each critical component. A log card is kind of like a birth certificate for the component, when it was born, when it was installed, removed, overhauled, reinstalled … you get the point. And as you can imagine, there are many “critical” components on a helicopter.
My favorite part was when we overhauled and US certified aircraft that came in from Japan. Some of the logs were in Japanese, some in English, many in some strange language hybrid in-between. On top of that, getting the dates right was more complicated since some of the logs used a Japanese calendar. We had many people involved in this with mountains and mountains of paperwork. So, not only would the aircraft not take off, in some of them you couldn’t even physically put all of their paperwork inside of them and still close the doors.
This seems something that wasn’t mentioned to me when I first became fascinated with aviation. 😉
Oh, and in other news! We’re having a contest! Check it out HERE!
I am sure it was really hard for Julio to admit to Chuck he needed help. I guess we’ll see if Chuck brings up this moment in the future. I wouldn’t put it past him.
I got myself in all kinds of tight situations back in my mechanic days. What didn’t help was the fact that I am a short and skinny guy. So whenever it came to somebody having to climb into an airplane tail or helicopter tail-boom, it somehow always ended up being me. I don’t remember actually getting stuck but I got close to panicking a few times, HAHA.
And then there are the airplanes for which you have to be triple-jointed for to work on them. The worst plane I have ever worked on was an air-conditioned Cessna Skymaster with retractable gear. Try changing a vacuum pump on the rear engine on that sucker! This might be where Julio’s disdain for Skymasters comes from (we might never know).
What’s the worst aircraft fixing experiences you guys have had? And other nightmare planes out there?
And the mug goes to …
William Vergonet! (Boy, I hope I spelled that right)
Thanks for playing, guys! We’ll have another contest soon. I think it’s great that a mechanic won the Julio mug! The runner up and winner of the CW book is Adam Jacobs. Please write us a PM or email with your address and we’ll have the prize to you in no-time!
Speaking of Julio, this is another of my favorite strips because it’s very relate-able and I may or may not have lived this moment in my aviation career (strongly leaning towards “may”).
People who know me know that I used a Muppet Show ring tone for certain individuals and a company I used to work for. We also used to listen to music while working with Panaca Jane and even had dedicated playlists for going to a fire, returning to base, or recons for example.
Of course Chuck, being the aviation movie fanatic that he is, has to play “Ride of the Valkyries” every time he goes out flying the helicopter. I’m guessing it’s followed by “Fortunate Son” and “Paint it Black”….
Which songs do you guys think are on his Fixed Wing playlist?
Where I used to work we flew right over a golf course if we were departing southbound. Being the cartoon-type creative mind I had always wondered what would happen if we “picked up” a golf ball on departure. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been pretty in real life.
Still it didn’t seem as threatening as what we had near our practice area where we did a lot of our training. There was a skeet shooting range close by so I always made sure I gave that one a really wide berth …
Speaking of golf balls: I just recently learned that the snorkel heads on our Sky-Cranes had to be re-designed at some point so they don’t suck in golf balls which then would ruin the tank doors. I guess engineers originally didn’t think about the possibility of the Crane dipping out of golf course ponds. But then again you can’t think of every scenario ahead of time …
Decisions, decisions. I might react similar to Chuck here, because as a libra, I tend to be indecisive. Fortunately my ascendant sign is sagittarius, which means I don’t believe in astrology!