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  • Safety Matters

    Running Rotors

    The recent tragic suicide of ‚ÄčNicholas Hawkings-Byass, former MD of MFH Helicopters in the UK, is perhaps an opportunity to reflect upon the vital importance of practicing constant personal vigilance around the helicopter - especially with rotors in motion. The immediate vicinity of any helicopter with rotors turning should be a controlled environment.

    It isn't that we aren't aware of the need for vigilance but, perhaps just the opposite, that we are very much aware of the risk and that sometimes in our 'awareness' fail to remind ourselves of just how close we (and our passengers) are to potential harm.

    A couple of points to bear in mind:

    1. Always encourage your passengers (even those you fly privately) to seek the pilot's 'thumbs up' signal before walking under a running main rotor. This gives you the opportunity to 'control' the environment - for example, if you aren't yet ready for them to embark you can communicate this.

    2. Keep all loose/light items such as hats, magazines baby blankets etc., firmly gripped or, better still, packed away.

    3. Never lift anything above waist height within the vicinity of the aircraft until the blades have fully stopped.

    4. Carry any long objects such as umbrellas, walking sticks, crutches etc. horizontally (ie. parallel with the ground) and below waist height until the object is inside the cabin or luggage compartment.

    5. Ensure that everyone who is going to fly is properly briefed about exercising caution if they are to enter or exit the helicopter with blades running - giving special attention to factors such as potentially sloping ground and the area of the tail rotor. As silly as it may sound .. make sure they actually know where the tail rotor is.

    Remember that these briefings are vital if you do not have anyone assisting you on the ground and which may often be the case when flying passengers to various off-airport locations.

    Remember too that as a pilot (or even mechanic) you should never ever become complacent around the aircraft .. especially with rotors turning (even if they are just milling down after shut-down).

    Over the years both pilots and mechanics have been been caught-out by main and tail rotors - sometimes paying the ultimate price for their mistake.

    Get into the habit of remaining constantly aware of what is happening all around the aircraft when the rotors are running and when and wherever possible try and allocate someone who is trained in ground handling to oversee passenger embarkation and disembarkation. Even (or perhaps I should say especially) in private operations this is important. You could even teach your spouse or sufficiently mature child (ie. 18 years or so) to assist in handling passengers/friends on and off the aircraft. You never know, it could save someone's life.

    Final responsibility is with the PIC. Take control, remain vigilant and keep everyone and everything away from moving rotors.
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