Flying Fails and Airshow Considerations
Long-term readings of Fear of Landing know that my favourite aerobatics show of all time is Kyle Franklin’s Ben Whabnoski Comedy act. Just in case some of you haven’t seen the 2009 video that Kyle gave me permission to share, I’ll include it here (if you are reading from the mailing list, click through to the website):
And if the above video is old news to you, then maybe you’ll enjoy this 2022 video from the cockpit taken at Oshkosh! As one of the commenters there says, the hardest flying ever is flying badly, safely.
The point is, when I saw he’d posted on Facebook saying, How NOT to drag your wings, I immediately had to click and find out what he was talking about.
The video was accompanied by this unattributed photograph:
The aircraft is a Van’s RV-7A. The JST (Junta de Seguridad en el Transporte), posted that the incident happened at the Allen Aeroclub Air Show and confirmed that they have opened an investigation.
Speaking of flying fails, this helicopter video was posted on Reddit and is the type to make me cover my eyes as I watch.
I still find helicopters to be a mystery, so I was particularly happy to see that helicopter pilot CryOfTheWind wrote an explanation of just what went wrong on this video.
So the whole thing starts off wrong. The hover work prior to lifting the crew off the ground wasn’t steady and the pilot wouldn’t be able to see them so far to the right without a bubble window or their door off.
Then you have the line hooked over the right skid for some reason. On a larger helicopter having the hoist off the side isn’t as big a deal for the centre of gravity but for a small gutless one like a 206 you’re gonna want the line on the belly.
To make it worse they didn’t even pick the crew up vertically, probably cause they couldn’t see them well if at all and as a result had a swing on the line immediately which probably didn’t help the centre of gravity issue with them now tugging the machine as well. I’ve worked at a place where an overloaded basket was enough to make a Bell 407 (much better more powerful version of this) spin down and crash with full opposite control inputs.
Since they are pulling the machine to the right the pilot was probably trying to correct with a ton of left pedal as well as cyclic but it wasn’t enough. A 206 has poor tail rotor authority so it’s likely they quickly ran out of left pedal (hit the stop) while also being in the most power intensive regime you can fly in, that being an out of ground effect hover. This also means they needed more left pedal input just to keep it level normally let alone with a load tugging you the right. Once the spin started they had absolutely nothing left to stop it.
Tail rotors also take a lot of power to spin especially if you’ve just slammed it full. This eats into the power keeping the machine up so even if they pull more power they might already be at max. This is also just possible because we see what looks like at least 3 people maybe 4 if there are two in the cockpit plus the sling gear which is a lot for a 206 depending on the conditions and fuel on board. When I flew 206s 2 workers and gear was about all you can carry with fuel to go anywhere for reference (tours you can fill all the seats but have only enough fuel for 20 minute flight before refuelling).
Once you go over your max power available what will happen is the rotors will slow down or droop. Only thing you can do then is reduce the collective which will reduce the pitch of the blades and thus lower the power needed to spin them. It appears they didn’t even do this as you can see the blades are at a very high pitch and the sound changes that show the rotor rpm is decaying before going back to normal on the ground.
Take some of this with a grain of salt since I’ve not seen a report about this and videos are not always as cut and dry as they might first appear. Just trying to give some context to help you out!
Finally, I’ve been pondering what I might do as a holiday until I saw some photographs of Axalp Fliegerschiessen, an annual airshow where the Swiss Air Force show off their flying skills.
The location is the Axalp firing range, where Swiss pilots have been training their mountain flying skills since 1942. This year, the flight demonstration is on the 18th and 19th of October. I’m thinking I might go by train, crossing six countries as I travelled from Tallinn to Brienz. And then I could spend three glorious days in the Alps watching planes. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
There’s a shuttle bus from Brienz to the village of Axalp and from there, it’s a two-hour hike to the watching locations.
However, I’ve discovered that if you know the right people, you can get onto a VIP list and the Air Force will take you to the peak by helicopter.
So, um, if any of you happens to have connections to the Swiss Military and would put in a good word on my behalf, let me know!