Is It Better To Be Lucky Or Good? Yes
I learned to fly out of Elmendorf AFB in the early 70s, and many of our “sorties” in the 150s were to Fort Richardson’s then towered single airstrip. In fact, that’s where I solo’d. I remember early on my instructor warning me to beware of two things, Beavers on skis and helicopters of any size.
I don’t know where the 3x the rotor diameter thingy came from, but in my view, that’s not enough. In recent years, I’ve been pummeled by the helicopter down wash of a relatively smallish Bell that was hovering a goodly distance from the taxiway, far more than 3x the rotor diameter, as I taxied by. I’ve watched a civilian Huey toss large portable plastic barriers around as he hover-taxied—because one of those barriers nearly hit my tied down airplane, its pilot and I had a relatively pointed discussion after he set down. He had hovered directly over a line of parked aircraft (including mine), all of which were fortunately tied down, without any recognition of the potential for damage he had caused.
A situation similar to the one at Cable involving an ANG Blackhawk and a Cirrus at KFNL a few years ago had the same results—and again a trashed airplane without serious injuries to the pilot. My observation is that helicopter downwash is less predictable than wingtip vortices—and those aren’t nearly as predictable as the FAA would like us to think.
So my personal practice has evolved into avoiding being anywhere near any size helicopter. I’m happy to get out of the pattern, or if I’m taxiing, to hold in place, to avoid being blown around. It’s not worth pushing it.
I flew helicopters for the US Army for over 20 years. It never ceases to amaze me to see helicopters, especially single engine, hovering around at twenty or thirty feet above the ground. When I first learned how to fly, it was in the OH-13 E & G models, admittedly there were some engine reliability problems, but we were taught to hover 2 to 5 feet above the ground. There were reasons for this, 1) develop and maintain precision hovering skills, 2) when the engine craps out, not if, a successful hovering autorotation is far easier from three feet +/- than twenty, and 3) the rotor wash is much less at the lower altitudes (safety for others in the near vicinity). Had that Huey hovered across the runway at three feet, the Cessna 210 “may” have been able to successfully complete his go around. Just another point of view.
Short Final: Information Whiskey
Related anecdote–I was flying our King Air, N22WC–and had a passenger ask if he could occupy the vacant right seat. I put the headset on so he could hear the conversation. He was having a good time on the flight–and once up at the flight levels, I took the time to explain the airplane to him–this would be a 3 hour flight.
About half way through the flight, he said “All the controllers seem to know you”–I replied that I flew this route often. “I thought you said your name was Jim.” I replied that I was indeed “Jim”–the passenger got serious and asked “Why do they call you “Charlie”? I replied that “Charlie” was the phonetic pronunciation for “C”.
He replied–“I have to ask–do you have a drinking problem?” I was surprised, and asked why he had asked me. He laughed, and said “I was getting a little nervous–I’m up here all alone with you–the controllers all called you “Whisky Charlie”–I didn’t know if you were a bootlegger, or had a drinking problem!”
Sometimes, maybe it’s BETTER that passengers don’t ride up front!”
Poll: Have High Gas Prices Caused You To Curtail Flying?
- Although fuel prices might be a small component of the cost / hour, it causes a shock when a four-hour flight results in $400 at the pump. It causes one to question one’s sanity. – Dana N.
- Here in California, auto fuel is only a bit less expensive than avgas, so if I avoid running the tanks down all the way, psychologically a fill-up of the plane isn’t much more painful than gassing the cars. – John W.
- On my weekly flights, I’m throttling back and flying slower with the mixture leaned as much as my old GO-300 will run. So, I’m burning about 1 gph less. With avgas at $6.99, the cost is $18 per hour higher than last year. – Jim
- Being a rental pilot, the fuel is factored into the rates. However, said rates have gone up more than my paycheck has. So I in turn have flown less this year. As well as I have made other arrangements. Not what I had hoped for, but I still fly when I can. – Karrpilot
- I own an FBO. In addition to selling fuel and maintenance, we also crew aircraft. Our fuel sales are tracking about where they have been for the past 5 years. Hours flown on our corporate aircraft are actually UP. We don’t do charter (though we have a lot of demand for it–but it’s just not worth the hassle).
- Actually, I am flying more, but driving to the airport less often.
- I fly more slowly and cut consumption by 1/3.
- Yes, but the heat wave has done as much to curtail my flying as the gas prices.
- Not really – at 4gph – it’s not much of a difference.
- It has certainly put a damper on any $100 dollar hamburger flights!
- No. I just crossed the country and back (45 hours).
- Local weekly flying is not affected. Long trips are being canceled.
- I retired from flying anticipating higher costs.
- The unreliability of scheduling is too much since I travel a route which is habitually unreliable in best of times.
- I’m roughing it out through planned trips and Oshkosh but plan to cut back substantially from our normal fall through winter.
- I’m in my seventh month of the conga line process of a 2022 engine overhaul. No gas bills, but an increasing, screw the gas prices desire to fly.
- That’s dumb. Gas is literally the cheapest part of flying.
- I get annoyed at the cost of driving to the airport but flying is still worth it.
- Only the rich can afford to fly their own planes.