Impressive maneuver

I swear, my first ever ILS approach in a plane felt a little like this guy describes Chuck’s approach. Coming from the helicopter side, where you can fly the whole maneuver at 90 knots or less, everything “came up on me a little fast” the first time I tried this with a plane. On top of that, we were flying a friends Bonanza which is way too much airplane for the old Cessna 172 private pilot that I am. But somehow it all worked out by the time we ended up around our decision height.

Or have you ever felt like you accidentally did something that worked out really well in the end even though you didn’t quite mean to do it that way initially? Did you fess up to it, or did you tell people you meant to do that? 😉

One event from a long time ago sticks out in my memory. I was slinging a crashed helicopter out of the mountains to be loaded onto a waiting truck. It is often a gamble how an external load on a long line will actually fly underneath the helicopter and I have been surprised a couple of times in my career. We all know a helicopter body is somewhat aerodynamic, but when it is all crumpled up, all bets are off. This wreck lifted off ok, the skids were still intact, but the blades were off and the tailboom got chopped off by the crash landing, so it was missing. Getting some forward airspeed the load started to spin. That didn’t really worry me since the whole thing was attached to a swivel hook. I started to worry when I was about to bring in the load near the truck. I initially had planned to set the load either directly on the truck, or next to it first, depending on how things went. However, that plan was forged before I knew how much this load was spinning in the downwash and under forward speed.

So here I am flying in this load and it turned out that the location of the truck was a lot warmer than anticipated even though it was down the hill from where I picked the wreck up from. And there was a tiny bit of a breeze. I was able to arrest the decent at the end of my approach in what seemed thinner air because of the increased temperature, but that was all the power I had available. Now we’re just hanging there with the helicopter at 100% and nothing left to maneuver and drifting towards the truck with the load still spinning. “I guess we’re going for the truck” I thought hoping not to put the skids from the crashed helicopter through the windshield or something. Somehow, the load stopped spinning right over the truck and the skids lines up with the truck bed perfectly making everybody think I timed all that perfectly or meant to do it that way. In reality, it was almost all luck. We could have drifted past the truck, or into the cabin of the truck, or slipped the load off the truck; there are a hundred different ways this could have gone wrong.

I didn’t admit to everybody there that day, that most of it was a lucky shot. But I did tell my crew about it later since there was a valuable lesson about density altitude in there for all of us …


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6 comments on “Impressive maneuver
  1. M Mitchell Marmel says:

    I’m minded of my first (inadvertent) solo night landing. It was still light out, so I decided to do a couple pattern runs before meeting my instructor for some night flying.

    I forgot the airfield was in the shadow of the nearby mountains…

    Mercifully, some kind-hearted soul turned on the runway lights, and I touched down just even with them.

    I forgot they were eighteen inches off the ground.

    Four or five bounces later, I slunk off to the tiedown, glancing over to the instructor at his shack trying (and failing) to hide a case of the giggles…

  2. whitepines says:

    So Chuck is Jerry’s pseudonym?

    Don’t try this at home kids…

  3. J Z says:

    In reply to whitepines’s comment –

    I know this is a comic strip, not an aviation forum (well, it sort-of is), but this comment is dedicated to the students and PPLs out there. Seriously folks – DON’T try this at home. That was illegal in at least two separate ways, maybe more, not to mention quite dangerous.

    If you review the original video and the plates, he was down to LPV minimums, flying an LPV approach, off-scale on the vertical aspect (well above ‘glideslope’, which any IFR pilot will tell you is…bad). If you want to argue that he was flying the LNAV or LNAV/VNAV approach, the audio callout was set to the LPV minimums, and his claim was that he broke out ‘right at minimums’. I didn’t see the runway environment myself from even the forward cameras, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. [Hey, wasn’t there a comic about that in here?]

    Additionally, that approach is Cat A/B only. Cat C+ is not available, i.e. not legal. He shot that approach between 125-131 KIAS at least through the ‘minimums’ callout. I quote Section 5-4-7 of the AIM: “If it is necessary to operate at a speed in excess of the upper limit of the speed range for an aircraft’s category, the minimums for the higher category must be used. For example, an airplane which fits into Category B, but is circling to land at a speed of 145 knots, must use the approach Category D minimums. As an additional example, a Category A airplane (or helicopter) which is operating at 130 knots on a straight−in approach must use the approach Category C minimums.”

    I don’t know if he has cleaned up his act a little since then, but just in case any of you think that that was fine, it isn’t. Punching an approach to (below?) minimums, with a Flight-Path Vector showing 5-8 degrees down before crossing minimums, does not usually end well. Heck, do poorly enough, and even Chuck might take note!

    Ah, almost forgot – did I mention that in the beginning of the video, he had to copy back a phone number from ATC? I know it probably didn’t relate to this exact approach, but…

    Fly safe – and smart — JZ

    P.S. And here I thought I was taking a break from my FIRC by looking at the comics!

  4. whitepines says:

    J Z Very nice breakdown, even I (a mere instrument student) could tell that approach was dangerous in multiple ways, hence the Chuck comparison, but seeing it all listed makes me wonder how he’s still alive if he does this on any regular basis.

    I didn’t catch the Cat C issue at first (didn’t pull the plates), but that also goes some way to explaining why it could be hard to maintain the glideslope. Then again, he seems to have no problem with 1000+FPM descents in other videos, so it’s probably more lack of control / understanding than some desire to stay at a reasonable descent rate.

    We now return you to scheduled programming, with indestructible chickens that can fly this way all day long and still go home in one piece every night!

  5. J Z says:

    A direct reply to whitepines’s second comment –

    Thank you very much, your comment means that at least some good is done by my getting into the fray. No idea how he’s still around myself – or with a license for that matter. I’m surprised that with videos like that *routinely* being published (I did a little research after I posted), the FAA hasn’t torn his paperwork into shreds. They have changed recently into not being retributive, going for remediation and retraining whenever possible; but this is getting out to a large and dedicated fanbase who may think that they can do this too. Chuck is an anthropomorphic dish who should by rights have his goose cooked more often, but that’s not ideal, as then we’d run out of comics. At any event, despite the clothes, the swagger, and the fact that he talks, we all know that he’s not real if only because chickens can’t fly (*especially* Chuck), so no harm done other than to our funny bones and…ahem…pride, ego, sense that nobody ever saw us make those mistakes, etc. Seeing someone really do it on video, therefore ‘it’s doable’, acting like this is perfectly normal, can cause serious problems. Think about it like this – it only works as a meme if there’s no chance it can be taken seriously or there’s a useful ‘good idea/bad idea’ lesson embedded.

    An explanation on the descent rate. The point regarding a Flight Path Vector (not to be confused with yellow ‘pitch bars’; see the synthetic vision display) was that a typical approach has a 3-degree glide path, maybe give-or-take a little. For comparison, the ‘steep approaches’ into Aspen and London City – both of which require special training for both aircraft and aircrew – are in excess of 5 degrees (not 7 or 8). An approach deals with angles, not descent rates; on a typical 3-degree glideslope, an aircraft pulling 60 kts (groundspeed) will descend at about 300 fpm; an aircraft at 120 kts (GS) will descend at about 600 fpm; etc. If this were for a 4-degree glideslope, 60 kts GS gives around 400 fpm, 120 kts GS gives around 800 fpm…you get the point. Let’s see…reviewing the plates, he’s got a 3.00 degree glide path published and pulling an average of 1300 fpm (+/-200) descent prior to reaching minimums, at 125-130 kts…I don’t need a calculator for that one, unstabilized from the circling minimums practically all the way down to the ground – so you’re quite right, chalk up serious mistake #3. And you say he does this all the time?

    Anybody out there who wants to argue that it’s both safe and legal, go ahead, but you’ll need to prove both.

    Getting away from the nonsense and back to other nonsense, you’ve succeeded in making me hungry. Chickens in one piece…mmm…

    Hey, speaking of chickens, any chance that you guys will ever get a crossover between a flying chicken who should be grounded and a grounded duck who should be flying?

  6. Stephen Casciotta says:

    all good thanks usn ret a/c mech

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