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Friday, October 5, 2012

Bad weather

The best place to be in bad weather is on the ground.  Most people in the industry has had a near escape with death, some live to tell the tale and others are not so lucky.  If you've ever been the position where, the blood drains from you head, your mouth goes dry and your heart rate doubles you may be in mortal danger. If, when you look out the window of the helicopter and all you see is white, you may be in mortal danger. 

 In the past 30 years in the Helicopter business I've lost numerous co-workers and friends to bad weather. What drives people to push the elements?  Some want to get home, some want to do a good job for the customer, some want to be hero's, some don't want to sleep in the helicopter in the middle of the tundra, what ever reason it is, the odds of a potential disaster is increased.

Personally, I think the God complex is one of the main issues when it come to decision making in bad weather.  Nobody thinks they are going to die.  This is especially true for younger people since they don't have the years of wisdom under their belt.  As you get older you come to realize that life is finite and you are one step closer to finding out.  Would I do the same crazy things I did 20 years ago?  Would I take the same chances?  Not likely.  Am I wiser or just a little more afraid, perhaps a little of both.  The decision on bad weather shouldn't be totally left up to the pilot especially if you are a passenger.  There has been times where I've said, "This is not good, we should turn around."  Almost every time the pilot turned around, with relief in his eyes.

Never be afraid to say, NO.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tempest Hires new Customer Support Rep

Tempest Aviation Group has recently hired a new Customer Support Rep. Natacha (Mitchell) Parsons of Victoria, B.C has been involved in the Aviation industry for over 10 years and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Tempest Group. Natacha began her career working for Vector Aerospace, formally known as ACRO Aerospace in the purchasing department but quickly advance to the sales department. In 2003, Natacha was hired by PHP/PHI Canada as their sales manager where she excelled both in the Rotary and Fixed wing markets. Natacha's charisma and unique approach to sales makes her a great asset to the Tempest team. Welcome aboard Natacha.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Real Men don't Cry!

Have you ever done something in the field that you really wish you hadn't? I remember a fellow engineer who was much wiser say to me one day, "If it isn't broke don't fix it!" Well I think we all learnt that lesson the hard way. Everything is running fine on the helicopter and one night you decided to set the swashplate friction on a 206 and what started out as a simple job turns into a nightmare. You took all the necessary precautions and put all the bolts in your plastic jar and then just when life was going just fine you accidentally hit the jar and all the bolts go flying into the grass. That doesn't sound like a big problem except that it's raining outside and it 2:00 in the morning and your flash batteries are hovering on the point of failure. In typical fashion you find all the bolts except for one, so there you are on you hands and knees desperately searching for that final bolt. What's going through you head at this point? For those who may be religious perhaps a prayer to Saint Anthony, the patron Saint of lost objects may be a good idea. For some, a round of good old fashion cusing may be appropriate. Whatever the method of use, it all boils down to one thing! Are you going to Crack! Are going to break down and start crying like a child off the breast? Well I can tell you from expierence that there were times when I sure could of used a breast for good old fashion concilation. "Mommy." How did I keep it together when the times were tough and I really felt like throwing in the towel?

It all started when I was in college in 1979. We were all tasked with assembling a high pressure hose for shop class. We all got our hoses and fittings from the tool crib and began our assembly. I remember how people were cursing trying to get there fittings on their hoses but mine mysteriously when on with no effort, obviously I had the gift. After our assembly it was time to pressure test our lines. Our instructor, Mr. Chambers, was present to ensure everything when off without a hitch. All was fine until it was my turn to test my hose. I watched the pressure build until around 100 psi the thing began to spray like there was no tomorrow. What was going on? Somebody must have switch my hose. My instructor looked at the hose and told me that I had a low pressure hose instead of a high pressure hose. It wasn't my fault, the tool crib gave me the wrong hose! Mr. Chambers then said,"You should of known better" and then I said, "fine" and proceeded to leave the building. He asked me where I was going and I told him that I had had enough of today thank you. Then came his famous reply," So when your in the field and something goes wrong, are you going to go home?" That hit me like a brick! What can you say to something like that? So I put my tail between my legs and did an about face and went and got my steel braided line and curse because it was a pain, and install the fittings. Looking back it was a good lesson learnt. So when things get tuff out there and I'm about to start crying, those legiondary words ring out like the Liberty Bell and I see my old instructor in my minds eye. "Are you going to go home?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yukon here I come!!

One can only image the excitement as I boarded the Cessna Aztec on my way to Mac Pass, Yukon. What an adventure!! As we roared down the runway I couldn't have imagined what lay ahead of me in the wild Canadian North and how it would would leave a lasting impression on my soul. The flight up was amazing with thousands of lakes with brilliant colors ranging from deep turquoise to Sapphire blues. Mountain ranges surrounded us like mighty sentinels guarding their treasures. We flew down the Trench for was seemed like hours until we finally touched down in Watson Lake for fuel. As I later found out there isn't allot in Watson Lake except for the Watson Lake Signpost, which is something that everyone should experience. Signs from around the world are posted here and the collection grows yearly. Once we had fueled up we were off to our final destination, Macmillan Pass. Touch down!! We were finally home, at least for a couple of months. My home was a simple wall tent and the cook shack was a trailer, it appeared that our camp was the center of activity since were were stationed right at the landing strip. This was paradise. How could anyone ever complain about being in the bush for too long? Before I left to go on my trip someone mentioned that I might get bushed. Da?? "What is he talking about" When you come from a town with 100 people in it and spend all your time in the bush how can you get bushed? We had the best things in the world going on here. Our camp was right by a beautiful creek and there were mountains all around us and there were no beeping horns or traffic jams. This was going to be a great place to hang out and that's exactly what happened. I spent the next 4 years in Mac Pass, it was my summer "job".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just the Mechanic

How many times have you heard this comment? After telling someone that you work for a helicopter company, their immediate reply is,"Oh do you fly? ah..No.. "Oh I see then you just the Mechanic eh?" ARG..........Or better yet how about chopper Bob who introduces you as "his" mechanic. ARGGGGG!! As you get older it's water off a ducks back but there was a time where it use to get me a little upset. How could you be,"just the mechanic?" Don't they know who is really the MAN? The unsung hero who stays up till dawns early light, the person who goes to work when pilots are out for supper and having a drink! The guy swatting mosquitoes in the middle of the tundra, in the middle of a rain storm begin chase by a hungry polar bear. Well, that guy is not just the mechanic, he is a humble individual, who against all odds performs his job to the utmost of his ability regardless on how he is view by other members of society. So fellow mechanic's take pride in who you are and remember, nothing would get off the ground if it wasn't for you!
Picture of Mr. Clark Ratzlaff taking a well deserved break!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Absolute Fire Solutions new 2000 Gallons FAST Bucket begin assembled in Prince George is one of many state of the art fire fighting buckets in their growing line of Fire Attack Buckets. Gerry Bergeron, the chief operations manager in Prince George office, commented this morning, "This bucket can be easily disassembled so that 2 people can manhandle the bucket into a truck or helicopter, no forklifts required." "It's simple as pulling 2 pins on the actuator rods and the actuator splits from the bucket." Who would of thought that you could have a multiple drop bucket that's so light. The new FAST 2000 has reinforced arm assemblies with dual locking capabilities, additional straps have been added to the shell to help strengthen the overall bucket.
(Inset photo of Mr. Larry Boe, chief technician, assembling the FAST 2000)

The Yellow Floor

The first time I actually got to work on a helicopter was with Simon Fisher. There was an inspection due in Houston, B.C and I was chosen to be his apprentice. Well, like all apprentices in those days I got to start on the tail of the helicopter while Simon worked on the engine. From what I can remember I got really good on tailboom inspections and had it down pat. Drain oils, check for chips in the TR gearbox, check the light, grease, clean and inspect. Once I was done the tailboom area, it was my job to take all the interior panels off for Simon to inspect flight controls. This went on for most of the summer, there were many a days when we finished off as the sun was rising next day. Working with Simon was always fun, he had a good sense of humor and was pretty laid back. Simon and I still see each other and he hasn't changed, except for whiter hair, he's always cheery and pleasant to be with. After a summer of frolicking around central B.C, I was finally told that I was going to be sent to the Yukon. While engineers around me moaned and grumbled, I couldn't hide the excitement. This was going to be quite an adventure!