13 December 2010

Mitigating Risks

***** Community Airport, Automated Weather Observation-
0-6-1-1 Zulu Weather-
Wind 3-0-0 at 1-3, Peak Gust 1-niner,
Visibility 1-0
Clear below 1-2 thousand
Temperature minus 1-2 Celsius,
Dew Point minus 1-7.
Altimeter 3-0-1-0.

When I left work this morning the helicopter was safely in the hangar.
It was snowing. Ceilings and visibilities were below our flying minimums and the temperature was just below freezing.

The snow stopped just as my shift started tonight but the temperature has been dropping all day. I've left the machine in the hangar and notified my dispatchers to add 10 minutes response time to any call that might come in so we can push the bird out.
That minus 12 celsius temperature converts to ten degrees fahrenheit, but the sky is clearing so that's probably not our coldest temp. of the shift.
If the telephone rings it will be decision time...
How cold is too cold?

We take this job knowing there are inherent risks and we accept those while trying our best to mitigate them. But the fact of the matter is that there are situations that could present themselves where even a successful landing after an emergency could put me, my crew, and a patient at risk...
Loss of transmission oil pressure is one of them.
The book says, "Land as soon as possible".
Under the best of circumstances I'd let my dispatchers know I was landing, relaying a set of coordinates so they could get help on the way.
But what if that landing is in a place where it's difficult for ground vehicles to reach us?
We're dressed warmly, but how comfortable will we be under those circumstances if the temperature continues to drop? And what about the patient?
Thirteen knots of wind gusting to 19 knots is gonna suck the heat out of the helicopter's living area pretty quickly.

When I made my "check-in" call to dispatch tonight I warned them-
"I won't be taking any long flights tonight due to the cold. I'll probably decline any flights longer than 30 minutes."
That restriction will keep me fairly close to towns, roads, and help if necessary.

Old pilots and bold pilots...
I'm no longer bold.


Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Good for you.

That's also filed under the tab of "COMMON SENSE."


Any possibility of getting photos of yourself "at work" or in the cockpit? Or standing next to your sled? Or is that strictly verboten?

The Old Man said...

Good on ya, mate. You're bound and determined to show some maturity before they issue you a walker, aren't you? I imagine Sara Jean appreciates your outlook almost as much as the patient would.
What was that WW2 saying? "Fly 'em low and slow and stay within gliding distance..." doesn't quite apply to autorotations, but the 7 P's (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) do. Waiting for the FAA to yank your license due to flunking the physical beats the coroner doing it...