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FROM THE DESK OF THE EDITOR My first shot at utility work was in a 206B on fixed floats.


After proving myself in the sectors of flight training, charter, and ENG (and by “proving” I mean not breaking anything or killing anyone) I was asked to fly a Bell 206B on fixed floats in a utility role. The contract was with a government agency responsible for projects in the Everglades National Park, one of the largest subtropical swamps in the world. Biologists, scientists, and engineers would use helicopters for construction projects, research, and testing to monitor the health of the park.

Utility work is not something you are just thrown into.

The people you are

working for want to pile in, pile on, and hang from your helicopter all manner of things to get the job done. Then to add insult to injury, they want you to land or hover in very, very tight areas that are downright hostile. “Keeping your head on a swivel,” as one of my old Chief Pilots used to say, was the absolute key to survival. Landing in the Everglades dozens of times per day also had its own challenges. Not only was it extremely hot and humid, but also encounters with large snakes and alligators were a too common occurrence.

There are hundreds of little docks built through- out the Everglades. We used to land in the water next to them so that researchers could climb onto them to monitor data. If the water was high, that caused us to float higher and there would be plenty of clearance between the main rotor blades and the dock. If the water was low, the opposite was true and there could be only four-to-

five feet of clearance. On low water days we would float up

to the dock. The researchers would liter- ally crawl from the helicopter onto the dock with their gear, and then stay lying flat on their bellies. Then we would pull away from the dock to a safe distance, and stay running until they completed the work. I was as nervous as a cat the first time I was responsible for this operation! The three keys to safely operating a helicopter as a “tool” in very harsh, low- margin-of-error environments are: train- ing, communications, and planning. As you will see in our utility feature, every job is different and there is nothing stan- dard – or forgiving – about the environ- ments we fly in to get the job done. We asked Aris Helicopters to walk us through a lift job in downtown Los Angeles so that we could learn how much planning is involved. They also shared with us why, and how, they came to use the half-centu- ry stalwart workhorse – the Sikorsky S58T.

Fly Safe!

Lyn Burks, Editor In Chief


PUBLISHER Brig Bearden




Rick Weatherford



Clay Branum / Rick Weatherford CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Rick Adams James Careless Steve Goldsworthy Caterina Hessler Matt Johnson

Rotorcraft Pro®

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2 November 2013

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