Helicopter Check Ride Part 13 Kenny's Stupid Weather Decisions

Aug 18, 2017

Helicopter Check Ride Part 13 Kenny's Stupid Weather Decisions

Helicopter Check Ride Part 13 Kenny's Stupid Weather Decisions

      I will have to say that I have done all the dumb stuff myself. I have done some things that, afterwards, I thought, man was that stupid! – I will give you an example.

      When I was a brand new Helicopter EMS pilot, I heard all the horror stories when I was at the company basic training. We heard about all the Helicopter EMS Accidents with many caused by pilots taking off in less than desirable weather!

      Then I go back home and get started flying at my assigned base. I go out and we go land at a hospital. Then a storm comes through and I have a problem with the engine starting. The patient goes by ground, and the crew goes with the ground unit. The mechanic comes out, takes care of the aircraft problem. I check the local weather and it is reporting a 1000-foot ceiling and several miles of visibility!

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     Oh okay, a thousand feet, you know, that's good. Two or three miles, okay. It is at night and I am thinking, “It sounds like it's going to be alright.”  Well, between where I was at, and home, the cloud level was low. I do not know what it actually got down to along the route of flight, maybe four or five hundred feet. I was not expecting that. I take off with the right intentions thinking, “Oh, I'm going to be okay.”

Helicopter Check Ride Part 13 Kenny's Stupid Weather Decisions

      The further I got out to the middle of nowhere, somewhere between where I was and getting back home, there is no weather reporting stations. After flying about forty-five miles, I am halfway in the middle of nowhere, and there is almost no ground reference lighting. I keep coming down and I keep coming down. I do not even remember how low I got (I do not want to admit how low I got), but I know that I kept flying, and I kept getting lower.

      What I should have done is just land. I should have landed the helicopter, shut it down, called and said, “Hey, I've got some bad weather, I'm on the ground, and I'll sit here until it clears; so you know, in the morning we'll do whatever.”

      The problem is, we do not want to admit that we are wrong. We do not want to go through the embarrassment of landing out in a field somewhere in the middle of nowhere and putting an EMS ship out of service because we made some stupid call and flew in some weather we should not have. The right thing to do is to just land, shut down, and wait for better weather.

      We do not want to do that, and that is why people get themselves into trouble. We are macho and we do not want to say no. We get ourselves halfway involved into a flight and then it turns ugly, when we should just turn around or land.

      When working for Omni flight, in the beginning, they would say “Make a 180 turn and just get out of there.”  They changed their tone at a certain point and say, “You know what guys? With everything going on, all these helicopters crashing, if you get into nasty stuff, we want you to land. We do not want you to turn around; we want you on the ground.

      If you start getting into the soup, land, put it onto the ground. Have the guts to shut it off, call your base, and say "I just landed, I'm on the ground, we're safe, here's where we're at, we'll wait for the weather to clear.'”

      You know, we make these decisions, for all kinds if stupid reasons, even though we know better. It is very easy to be thinking you are making the right decision and think, “Ah, the weather is good enough. I can do this.”  Then you run into stuff that is not forecasted, or you are just in between weather reporting stations and the weather is lower than reported.

Helicopter Check Ride Part 13 Kenny's Stupid Weather Decisions

      There is no way really to teach new students – I mean you can put them in a simulator and teach inadvertent IMC. That is good training, but I just wish there was a way that we could take students and show them in the real world how scary it can be and how quick it can happen. However, there is no real way for you to take an aircraft out, a VFR aircraft, and put it in almost IMC conditions and still be safe.

      I thought about it for a long time now. What can we do to really train students like that? Yes, there are simulators, but, again, it is a simulator.

      There is no real fear of crashing because you are in a simulator. You can give somebody an idea of how scary it could be, but it is not the same as being out in the real world and getting scared half to death that you're going to wreck the aircraft and or lose your life, or the lives of others.

      When I was in that soupy stuff, and I started sifting through this low layer of clouds forming, my God! It's just going to get worse before it gets better. I'm thinking, “Here I am; I'm going to be this statistic that everybody talks about.”  New EMS pilot, going out being brave, you know, flying when he probably should not have been. I was almost that statistic. 

Helicopter Check Ride Part 13 Kenny's Stupid Weather Decisions

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