A dangerous business….Indeed.

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Mr. P, Dec 11, 2006.

  1. Mr. P
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    Mr. P Senior Member

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    A dangerous business….Indeed.

    My story I told a few years ago here. This tragedy in California (link) prompted me to repost it.
    http://www.usmessageboard.com/forums/showpost.php?p=514040&postcount=1

    *******************************************************************

    I was working with and EMS (medevac) company flying a twin engine
    helicopter. The crew consisted of a Nurse, Paramedic and Pilot.


    I was working the night shift, 7p-7am.
    We received an alarm (a call) at about 10:30p to an MVA (Motor vehicle accident) scene about 45 miles away.
    It was on a major highway between Athens, Georgia and Atlanta. It's a 4 lane divided highway with a large grass median but no controlled access. Maybe you know the type, intersections along the way with stop signs only no lights.

    We were off the ground in less than the target 7 minutes for night flights and on the way...I programmed the GPS coordinates
    for the scene and the Paramedic was attempting contact with the folks on the ground to receive the patient report, condition, age, sex and injuries. All standard procedure. He made contact and we were to pick up a 3 year old male. It always broke my heart to deal with kids...this one was worse; the report included the boys mother was killed in the accident. He however, didn't know that, he was unconscious. Some people say sometimes the medical folks are cold hard uncaring callus people...believe me they’re not, really...it hurts to see these things, and it hurts a lot...so some just emotionally shut down, you have to...to survive. It’s a good coping mechanism but it’s like filling a cup with water eventually it overflows and you break down. It happened to me, but not on this flight.

    Anyway, we arrive at the scene and I circle to evaluate the landing area...the best way in to the LZ (landing zone). I’m looking for power poles, trees, wirers etc.
    On the approach everyone is watching for wires they can sometimes be invisible during the day light hours, at night it’s much worse....Helicopters don't do well with wires. We land on the highway without a problem; all traffic on both sides of the highway is stopped by the Sheriff Deputies on scene.

    While the Nurse and Paramedic are attending to the child in the ambulance, I'm planning our takeoff. Using a very high powered light (call a night sun) to look for obstacles and wires, I find wires everywhere ahead, so many it looks as though spiders had woven a web from one side of the road to the other, I decided the best thing to do was turn around and leave the way we came in, since we didn't see wires on our approach.

    The Nurse and Paramedic return with the baby (I call all kids baby, cuz they are) secure the stretcher while I power-up the engines, and we're off. We lift off and I turn the aircraft around to depart in the direction we approached and begin the takeoff, emergency vehicle lights flashing through the cockpit...*From here on we're talking 5 seconds max*....I began the takeoff, alternately looking in at the instruments, looking out in the darkness, moving forward and accelerating ...before I had the takeoff power set...I saw a flash ahead... a horizontal flash, bright silver! It was a wire, one of those large power line wires, and there was another above it!
    At the same time the Paramedic shouted "Wire, WIRE”! Then he started shouting “UP! UP! UP”!....I had a thousand things running through my mind. I know there may be more wires above the two I can see, but the ground no more than 25 feet below!
    I don't know if it was training, fate, luck, intervention or a miracle...In a split second I made the decision to descend. It was a rapid major control input, so much so I caused negative Gs..something you should not do so close to the ground...but I did, just then the bottom strand of power line fully illuminated by the ‘night sun’ flashed above my head, I cringed waiting impact, none. The control input was so fast and massive it overwhelmed the hydraulic system illuminating a Hydraulic system Failed WARNING light in the cockpit. SHIT! The loss of hydraulics in this aircraft is like losing power steering in a Cadillac. I began and immediate climb, there’s not telling how close to the ground we came, my guess is just a few feet. Then we were on the way to the hospital with the baby.....*END OF 5 seconds*

    The WARNING light remained on, however all flight controls were normal. Procedure dictated a landing at an airport for this warning light. That would have delay this baby getting care for maybe 40 minutes. Sometimes experience and circumstances trump procedure. Rather than divert to an airport and make a landing there I elected to continue to the hospital. The aircraft was operating normally. After the two week investigation was complete this decision to proceed to the hospital was very gently questioned by the company Chief Pilot. Never pursued though, he understood why I made the decision I made.

    After unloading the child, I was alone on the heliport...I inspected the aircraft.
    I did find damage! A small cut, about 1/2 inch deep and 1/4 inch wide in one tail rotor blade about 4 inches below its tip. It was caused by a wire strike.

    I know, your saying so what? Well...without explaining all the aerodynamic operations of helicopters, I’ll say, it's a BIG deal. I almost pooped my pants when I saw it.
    We missed disaster by 4 inches! We were extremely lucky, we missed the BIG wires, and we didn't hit the ground, when I went down instead of up. The tail rotor wasn't destroyed by the small phone line we had hit but never felt. And hey, we didn't crash. Had that phone line been 4 inches lower it would have wrapped around the main rotor control system and destroyed any ability to control the aircraft. We most likely would have crashed then.

    Now...was that a Miracle, Intervention? For who, the baby, Nurse, Paramedic...Me? I don't know. All I know is I can still tell the story and that baby should be 11 years old now.
     
  2. 90K
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    Well a number of years ago a medivac jett took off at night and flew into a mountain. Now when dealing with helos a lot of factors now come into play. Clearly a tail rotor strike is gonna leave a mark and you are going to crash. I’ve been working with helos from a manufacture point and in our group we just turned over 8 craft to the Navy to do dust off missions. And overall these missions have proven themselves as highly reliable given the airspace they work in on a daily basis. Nevertheless a said situation today.
     
  3. Mr. P
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    Mr. P Senior Member

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    We didn't.:)
     
  4. 90K
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    and we have cable cutters to help prevent said accident today
     
  5. Mr. P
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    Mr. P Senior Member

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    Had em
     
  6. 90K
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    uhmmmm pilots were drunk! Not really I hope it was just one of those things that have to happen after so many thousand flight hours...
     
  7. Dr Grump
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    Dr Grump Gold Member

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    The odds of something like that happening are probably higher than you think. For every "miracle" like that, there are probably dozens of fatalities. Sometimes the rub of the green goes the right way...
     
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    When accessing risk in flight hours you have to have a accident/mishap in order to properly keep risks in alignment. It is the way it is we are human and we are mishap prone.
     
  9. Mr. P
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    Mr. P Senior Member

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    Oh yeah. I cheated death that night and I know it. It took five days before I could strap back into a seat and fly again. It was a life altering event for me. You're right about the fatalities too.
     
  10. pegwinn
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    pegwinn Top of the Food Chain

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    Mr P.

    I'm really glad you got your miracle. The only Helo experience I have is as self loading cargo :)

    Hate to admit it, but Helos scared hell out of me. Give me a 747, first class, free booze, and a friendly stewardess any day.
     

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