The fan isn’t working

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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜‰

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16 comments on “The fan isn’t working
  1. Bernd says:

    A good thing I can leave my canopy open during engine start. On a warm day, I close it once the engine runs, and on a really hot day I only close it right before takeoff. Even if I leave it open by accident, that’s fine, the machine is certified up to 130 km/h (it’s a French thing) with the canopy fully open, halfway open up to 150 km/h, and a small gap of some 3 cm or so is permissible without flight envelope restrictions. (To be honest, it doesn’t go much faster than 150 km/h anyway.)

  2. JP Kalishek says:

    The ceiling fans they were going to install at work are almost big enough to fit to a 500.
    one of the many clues to our impending shutdown was every quote to improve the cooling at work was shot down by corporate. Finally they announced that in a 12-18 month period things would end at our location.
    My job moves to Northern Wisconsin (I plan to live in Michigan if I last that long … things are bad right now). Well, heat there will certainly be less than here in Texas.
    I just hope I survive working with too many Chucks at the moment.
    Actually Chuck is better … He does know how to fly and these guys you’d not ever want to have near an aircraft.

  3. Peter says:

    Plastic bubble canopies are great for visibility, but also an oven during taxi…

  4. reynard61 says:

    “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.”

    Why not simply run the checklist *first*, then put on the flight suit and helmet, and start up your bird? (Unless certain items are time-sensitive, in which case you could just put on the bottom half of the suit and then put on the top half *after* engine startup.)

  5. thisguy says:

    Not a helo pilot myself, but i do know that a lot on the list is time sensitive. You HAVE to get the engine running within a certain time after you flik the battery switch before you drain the power and need a gpu. As for putting on the flightsuit after lighting the fires, not as easy to do as you may think. You cant leave the seat and the cockpit is not all that roomy on most helicopters

  6. TigerCat says:

    I can relate to this one really well. Many hot Texas summer days on the ramp at Ft Hood going through starup in an AH-1 Cobra. However AC works great once you get to that point. Been many years since but remember it well.

  7. Trantor says:

    Plus, “timing” canΒ΄t be predicted, at least not on the non-FADEC jet-helis i know. Especially Turbomeca Arriel turbines have a life of their own. You have to have an eye or two on the instruments all the time. Absolutely impossile to step out of the seat.

  8. mike says:

    Ok guys, speaking from a Skycrane view here first: It’s not as simple to get in and out of this thing. Kind of a climb and then you need to put on your life vest (for picking up water, in case something goes wrong and you fall into the lake, it’s a USFS requirement). You have to squeeze past the center and overhead panel to get in and out, so all the switch position you have just checked and correctly switched could be all off again.
    And as soon as you start you first engine, you can’t leave your pilot station anymore (monitoring temps, pressures, and so forth). That is specific to the Crane where you have an auxiliary power plant that runs some of your systems and helps with the main engine start (kinda like in an airliner) and where you can run one engine without the rotors turning.

    In every other helicopter, you will need to be on the controls when the blades start turning. It’s a USFS requirement. And with most helicopters, ESPECIALLY the Crane, you don’t want to be walking around the outside much without a helmet. They are LOUD!
    It gets more intricate depending on helicopter type but this is the short version.

    However, we do actually run through “first start of the day” items in the checklist every morning when it is still cool outside and check the tank operation every day to get a few things checked off early in order to cut down start up time in case of a fire launch. It is a very neat concept and allows us to not only be faster with the start-up but ensures everybody has their head in the game, helmet, gloves, PFD’s, iPads, checklists, and everything in the right place. Game face … That kind of stuff.

  9. reynard61 says:

    Okay, thanks for the info. I stand corrected.

  10. mike says:

    I wouldn’t say “corrected”. More like “better briefed” πŸ˜‰
    Ask away any time. We love to share helicopter stories and knowledge!

    I had already been thinking of posting a start-up video before actually since so many people seem to wonder why it takes us so long to get off the ground πŸ˜‰
    Gotta make one first though….

  11. mike says:

    A thought just occurred to me:

    You guys all know what the “TIC TIC TIC” sound is on a helicopter, right?!

  12. Firefox says:

    I’d guess that noise is the ignition , but I’m not certain. Can’t remember hearing the HC at my field making that noise. Could be that the FADEC just times it so it’s lost in the other noise.

    You can hear it quite nicely in this video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me4r-sDDdR0
    It does not seem to have the desired effect though. Running the starter till the blades turn enough to create wind will probably also melt it.

    I read somewhere that the RAF SeaKings were sometimes started in the hangar and rolled out rotors turning when winds were above rotor start limits. I’m not sure if that is just a legend or has really been done. It would definitely require a large hanger, but helicopters have even been flown indoors.

  13. mike says:

    You’re right, it’s the igniter firing off. This is a pretty cool video, you can tell how much slower the igniters are popping at attempt #3 when the battery is already worn down….
    Not every helicopter sounds like that, btw. The French engines (AStars, sorry “Squirrel”, I mean uhm … what are the now? H-125?) have igniters that fire a “shower of sparks” and you don’t hear the rhythmic popping.

    Here is a video of a Hughes 500 similar to Chucks. Listen at minute 2:20 – ish
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE56Nf6lsSQ

    And yes, the starter will not be your friend in this venture. I once again would like to caution everyone not to try this at home. Lets keep in mind this is a cartoon with chickens flying airplanes please πŸ˜‰

  14. Trantor says:

    The “tic tic tic tic” is what made me chuckle instantly. Yes, VERY familiar. πŸ™‚

  15. SAS7 says:

    Trantor: I agree, I could guess what was about to happen!

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