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Written & Video Feature!

Article. photos, and video by Lyn Burks

I remember when I was a much younger helicopter pilot clawing my way up through the helicopter world, one airframe and one mission at a time. Training, ENG, Utility, EMS, Corporate, you know, the usual stuff. I recall the first time I saw the term GOMER on the Justhelicopters.com message board and thought, “what the heck is a GOMER?” Frankly, it doesn’t really sound all that cool!

By William T. Winn - Anyone who has read Professor James Reason’s writings on human factors in accident causation is familiar with his well-known model of how causative factors can line up like the seemingly random holes in slices of Swiss cheese to result in a mishap or in a serious accident. Dr. Reason is professor of psychology at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. He has published books on motion sickness, human factors in transportation accidents, absent-mindedness, human error, and on identifying and managing organizational risk factors.

In the world of public safety, there are few resources in the government and law enforcement toolkit that serve a more varied, impactful and “game-changing” role than the aviation division.  Whether providing security for high profile events, performing search and rescue after natural disasters, covertly tracking the movements of suspects or protecting borders and coastlines, aircrews play an increasingly critical function in maintaining the public’s security.



At the heart of this growth is the ongoing development of new and more sophisticated aerial surveillance technologies that continually raise the bar for what air crews are able to accomplish.  Yet even as capabilities that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago become more commonplace, police departments and government agencies find themselves facing a new challenge.  Namely, how to successfully navigate the marketplace blizzard of complex options, technologies and device makers as they work to develop and/or maintain a robust solution.


It wasn’t too many years ago that most helicopter operators in the US conducting EMS operations would hire a pilot, then in company training validate that pilot to commercial standards per the Federal Aviation Regulations, and quickly send him to a field base to conduct EMS operations for a customer without so much as telling him what the EMS mission he was about to perform was all about. It wasn’t a FAA requirement to train to the mission, but it was a requirement to train the pilot to operate the aircraft safely while conducting the mission, whatever that mission might be. That is where a major problem lied and many operators didn’t realize it was an issue that needed to be dealt with.

By Jenna Shepard - There are two main threats to EMS helicopter pilots – weather and darkness, but this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 1988, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated 59 helicopter emergency medical services accidents and concluded that low visibility, often caused by poor weather conditions accounted for 61% of all crashes. Since then, little has changed.Although the commercial aviation industry requires that an aircraft be outfitted with everything from weather tracking technologies like onboard radar and GPS to collision avoidance tools, these same requirements are not made of the medical helicopter industry. Furthermore, at a time when air medical companies are being scrutinized due to the sheer number of EMS helicopter crashes and a lack of critical onboard technologies not yet mandated by the FAA, one company is making big strides in the right direction by focusing on weather safety.

By Kerry Sullivan - The article by Susan Parson in the March issue titled “Personal Minimums: A Development Guide” provides a systematic way for pilots to determine realistic safety margins for weather. The EMS operator I fly for requires its pilots to develop their own personal weather minimums which are to be more restrictive than those contained in the Operations Specifications. I have found more restrictive minimums necessary because I do not believe the generally used weather minimums are adequate to keep me out of Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IIMC). Despite strict weather minimums, detailed weather products and annual training in weather and pilot decision making we still have all too-frequent incidents of IIMC. As we are all painfully aware, some of these IIMC occurrences result in fatal accidents.

While a number of members of the National EMS Pilots Association have been involved and have made contributions to NEMSPA’s activities through years, the strength of numbers continues to be a challenge for this EMS pilot’s professional organization. Regardless of the number of awards obtained, initiatives launched and regulatory actions influenced, we believe we that our effectiveness will not rise to the level that we all need and desire so long as there are so many EMS pilots who choose not to be involved, in some way or another, with the workings of the association that represents them on a daily basis.

For those law enforcement agencies that operate in cold weather environments, winter adds dangers we must consider before launching.

Winter brings a combination of high moisture content and cold temperatures that pose a threat of engine, airframe, and blade icing. During day and night operations, snow and ice become significant threats in many ways.

Water Drops By Ken Carlton

Dropping water on a fire is nothing new. I'm sure the cave men knew how to do it; it's just that fire fighting with a helicopter has elevated and complicated the art. Water gets expensive when picked and dropped by a helicopter. Fighting a large fire is more expensive yet.

The Life of an EMS Pilot (emergency medical services) By Dan Lassner

I became an EMS pilot last July. This is a short story of what I went through.

I was trained to fly helicopters in the Army at Fort Wolters , Texas (Hillers) and Fort Rucker Alabama in 1971. I learned to fly helicopters in Viet Nam in 1972 (C Troop(AIR)/ 16th Cavalry/Darkhorse11). I learned I didn't care for the peace-time Army at Fort Knox in 1973.

The Life of an Army Helicopter Pilot by CW3 BERNIE SMITH, US ARMY

I offer this article as an Army UH-60 Blackhawk pilot since 1990, therefore my views are that of the Army and not any other Service. I will give information as accurate as I can. Pilots of other Army aircraft may disagree on some details, such as the Blackhawk being the finest helicopter ever produced. Thanks Igor.

The Life of a Test Pilot by SHAWN COYLE

Test Pilot Background

The first thing that has to be made clear is that Test Pilot refers to Research and Development, Certification or Engineering flight testing. The US Army has a course they call the Test Pilot course, but it should be more properly called the 'Post Maintenance Check Pilot (PMCF) course. The two are completely different.

Offshore Flying in the Gulf of Mexico by Stan Grossman

What We Do
Helicopters have been serving the oil industry for over fifty years. From humble beginnings they've become an indispensible component in the support of offshore oil and gas production. At last count the Gulf of Mexico oil field employed some 600 helicopters. The great majority of offshore flying involves transporting personnel and cargo to and from the specialized vessels, drilling rigs, production platforms, and pipeline terminals where the work of producing oil and natural gas is done. We're also often tasked to patrol pipelines for signs of leaks or damage. There's an occasional requirement to sling a load, but very infrequently and almost never with a long line.

The in's and out's of becoming a Firefighting Pilot

So, you're interested in flying fires? You want to know how to go about it, and what to expect, but all the different terms, requirements, and conditions are confusing. This article is meant to help answer your questions. It applies specifically to pilots, but you can find references and requirements for maintenance personnel and fuel truck drivers in the Interagency Call-When-Needed (CWN) Contract reference shown below.

The Big Fire by Ken Carlton

As you well know this year has been an active and dangerous fire season. Four USFS Fire Fighters were killed in Washington and two CDF pilots killed in California. The only difference in combat helicopter flying and helicopters fighting fire is we're not getting shot at now. We tried to hit them hard and keep them small, and for the most part that worked. We all worked hard, but no summer fire season is really complete until you've had the "Big Fire."

 OAS Carded Vendor Helicopter Pilot Requirements by OAS Department of Interior

Vendor Pilot-in-Command (PIC) Helicopter. Pilots shall meet the PIC requirements of 14 CFR 135 and the following for helicopter VFR and IFR operations. All PIC time listed below listed below shall be in helicopters.

MILITARY to Civilian Flying. Advice on making the jump by Anonymous Visitor

At the request of many JH visitors, we have extracted this post from the forum as a resource for those in need of some advice on making the transition from Mlitary to Civilian flying. The post was made anonymously.

...I have a few words for those who are trying to start a civilian flying career.


Combat Versus Fire Fighting by Ken Carlton

Several people have asked me lately if flying on fires is "pretty tame" after flying a helicopter in combat operations in Viet Nam. I've thought about it a bit, and I have to say, "It's incredibly similar!" Ever present in both is the excitement, the danger, and the adrenaline rushes everything, I suppose, except the shooting. And if you REALLY miss the shooting, you can always amend that by flying "low and slow" over someone's marijuana garden, and someone is bound to fire a few rounds at you just to make sure you don't miss Viet Nam TOO much. The similarities abound, and as I've done both with a helicopter, I thought I'd point out a few of them.


By Ken Carlton -  A Noodle in a Wildcat's Ass

The other day I flew a long line mission. Forest Service smoke jumpers had jumped on one of our fires and had put the fire out. Now they had to hike out six or seven miles to the nearest road. They notified us that we needed a 150-foot line to reach down in the tall trees on the side of a steep hill. They also said they had 650 pounds of equipment that needed to be slung out.


By Dana Raaz - 

A DAY IN THE LIFE.....a deep-water pilot in the Gulf of Mexico

The 4:00 AM beeping of the alarm clock signals the start of another day for Jayne Brodie, a helicopter pilot assigned as an SIC (second-in-command) on a PHI Bell 412SP based in Morgan City, Louisiana. Like most of the 1,000 + Gulf Coast helicopter pilots, Jayne works a 7 day on, 7 day off schedule and stays in company-supplied housing while at work. She makes the weekly commute from her home in Pensacola, Florida on Thursday afternoon and starts her work hitch with a 5:30 AM Friday morning briefing. Since Jayne’s customer wants the first flight to depart the heliport at 6:00 AM she and her PIC (pilot-in-command) have already done the preflight, checked the weather and filed their IFR flight plans before the 5:30 briefing begins.

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