People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones

The last couple of days people in various helicopter groups on Facebook have been quick to judge the pilot of a helicopter that strikes a palm tree as seen in the video above. And I will begin with stating a disclaimer for myself. Like most of the people in the comment sections of this video in various groups, I have no factual information about this incident. My observations are therefore based solely on the video.

Before I start my rant I’d like to give you a few of those comments here (unedited):
“What a moron!”
“Idiot, guess flight controls and CG felt fine haha”
“Fuckin chimp…..where and how to idiots like this get a licence”

Apparently none of these guys have ever made a mistake in their entire life. Which I guess makes them aliens, since it is a FACT (a word that actually had meaning up until recently) that ALL people make mistakes from time to time. This is widely recognized as one of the aspects of human performance. Everyone will mess up from time to time. In aviation we have recognized this fact, and have embraced the principle of “Just Culture”, which recognizes this flaw in human beings. Instead of trying to blame incidents like these on “morons” and “idiots”, we ask ourselves how did this happen? That is the ONLY way we can prevent another incident like this, because at the end of the day we are all “idiots”.

Was/were the individual/crew rested? If not, how does the operator handle fatigue?
Has/have the individual/crew undergone confined area training recently?
Does the operator have procedures in place for confined area landings?
Was the pilot by himself or was he a part of a crew, and if so, did they have CRM training? And to build on that, does the operator have procedures for confined area landings that utilize CRM? For example having other crew members check sectors not immediately visible to the pilot.

And these are just a handful of questions, there are many more that can be asked. But the gist of all of these are focusing on the system in which the pilot or the crew play their individual roles, and not solely on the individual. Sure it may very well lead to the point where it was a single rested pilot, having all the required training and experience to do this, that still forgot that he had a palm tree at his 7 o’clock. Does that mean I think he should lose his license and never fly again? No. Because he was human, and to err is human. Had he been doing something that he knew to be a clear violation of procedures or regulations, THEN we could start talking about repercussions.

To me it LOOKS like the drift is too big to be anything but conscious, and that the pilot have focused on clearing the obstacles he sees in front of him and to his right, probably having forgotten that there was a palm at his 7-8 o’clock. These are my ASSUMPTIONS. And I know to assume is to make an ass out of u and me, but seeing all these other couch pilots out there I’d like a jab at it too. Some have also commented that he should have landed as soon as possible, and I agree. We don’t know for sure though what he did after the video cuts out, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I can understand however that he doesn’t land at the same spot he just had a rotor strike, for obvious reasons.

All I am trying to get at here is that we are all brothers and sisters in rotary aviation. How about showing some common courtesy until the facts are in? It may very well be you next, and if you think this could never happen to you, Human Performance has a diagnosis for you, and that is “invulnerability”, look it up!

Into the Ice

This March I had the pleasure of being the pilot for a research expedition to the ice just east of Greenland, led by the Institute of Marine Research.

We landed onboard the Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker KV Svalbard in Tromsø, then steamed west for roughly 750nm to the West Ice. We were close enough to the coast of Greenland to see land in the distance most of the time.

Our objective was threefold.

1. Locate Harp and Hooded seal breeding patches.

2. Place GPS markers around the patches. This would make it easier for the fixed-wing asset responsible for aerial photography to locate the seals. The pictures from that is used to count the seal pups.

3. Staging. Flying transects through the patch where the researchers note the age of the pups. This is possible due to how fast the seals grow over a limited period of time. Harp pups are left to fend for themselves after 12 days, and Hood pups after 5.

We only had 6 days in the ice, so we were quite busy when the weather was on our side. Unfortunately the last round of staging had to be cancelled due to extremely poor visibility and low ceiling.

Though a short trip, it was a really nice experience, and I would like to thank all those who participated.

Article in Aug/Sept 2018 issue of Vertical Magazine: Into the Ice

Cameras and Cockpits

I’m frequently asked about how I’m able to capture some of my pictures when I’m flying. In this post I’ll try to explain how, and the considerations I take to do so safely. First of all I want to make it clear that one should always follow company procedures and policies and any regulation that may apply. However if no such guidelines are in place in your company, or you are flying recreationally,  these are some basic principles that I adhere to. I’ll admit when I started out in this game I wasn’t as disciplined as I am now, but that is also why I have denied requests from various helicopter media sources to have pictures published that are not in line with what I stand for now. Continue reading